Fusing the organic with the industrial is not a new idea, but few have done it as convincingly as Liberez. Pieced together in composer John Hannon’s studio, this fusion of found sounds, programmed drums and deliberately terrifying orchestration for strings is intriguing, dense and frankly, scary. With collaborators Nina Bosnic (“vocals”) and percussionist Pete Wilkins, Hannon plots out an album that, much like The Haxan Cloak‘s Excavation, has the semblance of a plot, that moves the listener from one state of distress to another with considerable aplomb.
A delicate piano motif opens the album on Of Milk only to be cowed into submission by threatening string interjections. This leads into 3AXBAAHA NOPOANUA’s loose beats and squalls which swamp Bosnic’s utterances entirely as the violins scream as if trapped in a feedback loop.
419 Chop Your S is the sound of a musical box suffering with with severe interference. Here the spoken word passages bear a resemblance to Throbbing Gristle‘s Hamburger Lady (in tone if not subject matter), which is disturbing enough, but when the track opens out into a curious pagan folk dance it becomes truly ominous. Bosnic’s invokation “let’s twist again” is delivered in such a way that it is clear there is not option but to join her in this skronking dance of death. How Much For Your Brother is deeply unsettling, with a persistent noise that sounds a little like a gurgling baby constantly whining like something from Eraserhead over tribal drums and fizzing electronics. Yet as disturbing as the track is, there is still a danceable element here, a repeated motif that insists on movement and abandonment.
Some respite appears during the opening section of Grease The Axles, which gallops along in a reasonably understated manner. Just as the track is swinging towards lax however, thundering drums make an appearance and pull the song back onto a high tension line. There are moments of genuine tranquillity though, most notably on the title track, which whilst still rather melancholic, offers a haven from stabbing violins and over violence. Once again, it’s the piano that offers a port in the storm, as barely audible voices drift along with delicate synth lines and gently undulating drums. There are slight washes of industrial noise that lurk around the edges, but they remain on the periphery. It’s only the swells of strings that begin to creep in as the track reaches its climax that threaten to puncture the relative safety of the track, but for once, they pass without incident. The cavernous tribal pulses of Stop Your Breathing also offer a little reprieve, but even here there are random stabs in the gloom and a creeping undercurrent of menace that never quite allows for restful sanctuary.
Closing the album is Of Blood, which is possibly the most focused and direct track here, and serves as a form of light at the end of the tunnel. All the elements that make the album such a harrowing listen are here, but somehow, this searing jig makes everything seem ok. There’s not much in the way of lax to be found here, Liberez are for the time being, geared towards building tension continuously without ever letting go. Of Blood releases some of that pressure, but really, when an album is as effective as this, it’s best to get swept along with it.