Vatican Shadow: Ghosts of Chechnya
Hospital Productions (2012)
I’m going to kick this off with a shameless plug. Dave over at Ducks Battle Satan and I have started up a noise and experimental music podcast called The Antidote. Check out our site or download the first episode from iTunes. Expect discussions about new records, and even some older ones, along with interviews and other junk.
Dave and I live at opposite sides of Australia, so we’re recording via Skype which means one of us is always going to sound a bit tinny. But you know, if you’re a noise aficionado then I reckon you can handle a bit of digital decay, right? Especially when two eloquent and though provoking individuals are waxing lyrical about music from the outer fringes… umm, yeah, whatever. Check us out.
Of the three records we chat about in our inaugural episode, Ghosts of Chechnya is the one that’s ended up staying on my mind. Vatican Shadow is the new incarnation (another one!) of Dominick Fernow, he of Prurient fame. But if you’re expecting feedback screwed, hellish emo noise……don’t be disappointed. Vatican Shadow is like dance music for vampires in dank basements with mouldy walls and overflowing sewage drains. Ambient rhythms pound aimlessly, while synthesisers and aural scuzz float around in blackened clouds. Industrial percussion enters the mix at odd intervals and gives things a Warp-label edge.
Fernow’s change of direction isn’t all that surprising when you think of his involvement in Cold Cave, and some of the latter Prurient records such as Cocaine Death, Rose Pillar and especially Bermuda Drain. Instead, it was the military imagery that confounded me for being so at odds with his past aesthetics. We discussed this on The Antidote and afterwards I did a little extra research, which encouraged me to pay closer attention to Vatican Shadow’s track titles. “Snipers as a Breed tend to be Superstitious“, “Voices Came Crackling Across a Motorola Hand-Held” and “Chechnya’s Ghosts Loom Large in the Death of Former Spy“. The Vatican Shadow aesthetic stems from the media’s portrayal of war in the Middle East. The absurd way that war is horrifying, but also somewhat glorified. Fernow wears Middle East Camouflage gear when he plays live as Vatican Shadow.
I realised the synth lines and metronomic beats, which I originally thought were borrowed from 80’s horror films, are actually the soundtrack to some fucked up first-person warfare computer game. Lets all connect online and virtually shoot the shit out of the bad guys, who ever they are. Lets blow all those motherfuckers up, and dance a little while we’re doing it. Dominick Fernow isn’t angry and depressed about his insides anymore, he’s not making noise as a form of self-harm. Now he’s very aware of what’s happening in the world around him. He has made this shift very subtly, without any blatant statements. Does that make him some sort of weirdo artistic genius? I don’t fucking know. But there’s a whole ream of Vatican Shadow releases out there, and everything I’ve heard so far has been pretty great. So go buy some