Matthew Bower has been evil for a minute or two, traceable in the lineage of British noise and power electronics as a shadowy figure with a guitar, lots of pedals and a dedication to changing minds and shattering ears. His Skullflower project has concentrated more on the industrial side of things, while retaining a natural beauty you won't find in much other work like this. On 'Draconis', he's joined by Samantha Davis, and together they take what's pretty in the world and drown it in white noise.
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I feel strangely cleansed after listening to this 2 disc set from English underground noise legends Skullflower. Featuring the same Voltigeurs partnership of Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies, it bears all the usual Bower hallmarks: dense layers of crushing guitar noise, feedback waterfalls, bowed drones and God knows what else.
While this is just as bracing a listen as you could ever hope for and as satisfyingly intense as anything else in Bower’s ever expanding catalogue, ‘Draconis’ feels a little more structured than a lot of his form-defying work. This is probably due to a pronounced use of looped textures, motifs and even melodies (yes, buried deep down under the raging torrents of noise there are melodies). These, along with hypnotic electronic sounds that often provide a vibrant, flickering rhythmic base for the tracks, gives the album a mesmerising quality; the rough patterns of the various layers of loops, electronics and distortion throw up a series of constantly mutating aural illusions. After you pass the pain threshold and start to immerse yourself in the sound, the music becomes hallucinatory as you hear human voices, orchestras, insects, motorways, bagpipes and birdsong among the billowing amplified waves. It also evokes a surprising variety of atmospheres; from the malevolent detuned gurgle of opener ‘Cauda Draconis’, which abruptly breaks off into seething Black Metal mids before moving into the sun-stunned modal mantra of ‘Dazed Nymph In The N.O.X.’. Likewise, the second disc scales the heights of thrilling sonic brutalism with the crude wah manoeuvers of ‘Alien Awakening’, which are cut short by the blissful malfunctioning drones of ‘Autumns Trinkets’. Yet another potent recording from a true visionary.
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