Thursday, March 7, 2013

100th Post Commemorative: A Retrospective Glance at A Pregnant Light's Discography

It's been just shy of seven months since I started this blog, and I realize I haven't had much occasion to geek out on one of my personal favorite artists, A Pregnant Light. Since this is my 100th post, I feel it's important for me to share something I love, regardless of ease of purchase. A Pregnant Light was one of the first artists that helped me rediscover my love of extreme music, specifically in the analog format, and their discography has grown rapidly over the past year or so. Initially I declined to review new APL releases, as they often sold out before I'd receive my copy in the mail. With APL's home label, Colloquial Sound Recordings, deciding to repress a few tapes and open up certain releases for digital sale, I feel that there is no better time than the present for me to do a retrospective review of this compelling artist's brief yet prolific career.

I was fortunate enough to discover this band before their first cassette, The Feast of Clipped Wings, had sold out. Upon hearing the sample of the opening track, "Under Consult of the Dragon," I was immediately sold on this band's ferocious mix of melodic hardcore and aggressive black metal. The urgent pace set on this album has its roots in hardcore punk, yet the jagged and beautiful riffs here seem to come from a darker, more introspective place. Another remarkable thing that caught my attention was the completely reckless and passionate vocal style, which has a cathartic intensity that is seldom found in black metal, more often reserved for masochistic groups like Pig Destroyer or Converge. Despite the sense of vulnerability I find within this album, I can't help but feel like these songs have become my own personal anthems of strength, helping to overcome things I had once imagined as insurmountable. While A Pregnant Light has released many fantastic cassettes since this first assault, this album still holds a high position in my heart and its personality and the quality of personal strength can be heard in most of APL's other offerings.

Following an album as fast and passionate as The Feast of Clipped Wings would prove challenging for most bands, but with the subsequent split with black noise artist SADOS entitled The Sky Conspired Against Thee Before Thy Bones Had Dried, APL proved to be a band with more than one voice. Rather than dialing in a track or two that might not have fit on the first album, APL offers up the monstrous "Draining Fragrance," which fills its nearly ten minutes in length with a sonic journey through a familiar ferocity and a new sense of self-restraint, tension, and uneasiness. The song begins as if it's caught in the midst of a storm yet soon finds a source of shelter, a place from which the song grows and climbs through valleys of ambiance and textured melody upward towards a massive peak before crawling away to die in solitude. While the b-side of the tape belongs to SADOS, to ignore their involvement in this release is folly. "Frail" is a beautiful yet chilling fusion of power electronics and fuzzy black metal that serves as a surprisingly appropriate pairing with APL's soaring contribution. The purity of the atmosphere SADOS craft is supreme and I'm eager to hear more from this artist, who seems to have been dormant since this mighty release. This tape is neither available for purchase nor download at the moment, but keep an eye out for this gem. It's well worth obtaining.

APL's third offering is another split, this time with UK horde Obscure Lupine Quietus. APL's two tracks here present more of the black metal aesthetic than either previous release, but are still distinctive much like any other APL work. "Burning Basin" opens things up with a relentless energy, and "On A Banquet Table" follows up with well-arranged majesty, presenting the closest thing to atmospheric black metal I've heard from thisartist. While not necessarily the darkest album APL has released, these tracks feel most appropriate when played after the sun has set. Flipping the tape over presents Obscure Lupine Quietus, who contribute two tracks of raw, mid-paced black metal perfection. "Ascension Through Cold Mists" lives up to its name with shrill aggressive vocals and icy leads carving themselves into memory with vicious precision. While this is the only OLQ release I've heard, I'm certain that their others are equally chilling and worth my while. The second edition of this magnificent tape is currently available, so snag it while you can.

As if the many faces of A Pregnant Light aren't already apparent with the first three releases, the fourth tape, entitled Live to Tell, pays direct homage to one of popular music's most polarizing divas, Madonna. While the second press of this tape is now available with a fourth track, I don't yet own a copy of the newer edition and am therefore not qualified to discuss the nature of this newest offering, but the three tracks on the original version show a band just as unafraid of criticism as Madonna herself. While the black metal community might shun an artist for releasing a tape like this, I've always viewed extreme music as a place of both rebellion and acceptance. If our community cannot embrace an act of rebellion against itself, perhaps we're becoming a bit closed-minded. The two original tracks here highlight a dark beauty that is commonly found in post-punk and new wave, as shown on "Possession of Diamond," which incorporates these uncommon melodies without losing sight of A Pregnant Light's trademark intensity. The Madonna cover features guest musicians from Amber Asylum joining in to create a stunning rendition, complete with haunting organ and female vocals exploring another new territory for this adventurous band.

After a tape like Live to Tell, A Pregnant Light had pretty much set a standard for unpredictable yet high quality music. While anything would seem expected at this point, the bar was raised yet again shortly after with two new tapes released at the same time. With greater quantities than the other new release, Death My Hanging Doorway, is a 21 minute offering of futility and passion. If previous epics hadn't already made it apparent that A Pregnant Light exists with the primary purpose of generating pure expression, this album takes all prior sonic blueprints and melds them together into something so intense that it leaves me exhausted. This album makes a stronger representation of unified sound, with the drums showing more clarity and variation than ever before, creating the sensation of a full band more than many solo artists could hope to achieve. If any album from A Pregnant Light sounds like inner turmoil, this is it. There's an almost ambitious element to the pain presented here, a ritualistic negativity of sorts, but not necessarily a release from whatever suffering is at the music's core. The first edition came bound with rope in a unique and beautiful presentation, and is available from Handmade Birds. Copies of this tape's second edition are available again, and I strongly recommend purchasing one while possible.

Released at the same time as Death My Hanging Doorway, but in a limited edition of 33 is quite possibly A Pregnant Light's most surprising release, Most High Place. The three tracks on this cassette are by far the darkest things I've heard from this artist, although anything resembling the punk and metal aesthetic is absent here. If Death My Hanging Doorway was a self-punishment of some sort, Most High Place is where A Pregnant Light has hidden away to recover in the shadows. The disarming quiet here reminds me of The Cure circa Faith or perhaps even the most reflective moments of early Nine Inch Nails. Stripped electronic percussion and sparse guitars provide a smoky backdrop for distant vocals that exist somewhere between a whisper and a distant rasp. Black metal fans might scoff at this album, but I find it to be a dark refuge from all chaos outside of myself. No samples of this album exist for the public's ears, nor is this tape available for purchase. The first edition came packaged in an envelope with cards hinting at the album's message. Perhaps a second edition will shed even more light at some time.

Not two weeks after the dual release, A Pregnant Light released St. Emaciation, which is something of a return to the style presented between the first two releases.The fur-clad woman on the cover hints at the dichotomy of beauty and ugliness presented within as she wears the skin of another creature while attempting to convey sensuality. The two tracks here are melodic and swirling pieces of gorgeous, mid-paced black metal. "Creation Rhythm" has the steady pace of a heartbeat driving its beauty onward. "Fertility Cult" is even slower, a crawling testament to A Pregnant Light's mastery of extreme atmospheres. This is currently available as a digital download and is well worth the investment.

The most recent output from A Pregnant Light is the brief and ferocious album, Hear the Slow, Slow Shadow. Recorded in the haze of a drunken afternoon, this is possibly the most stripped down and aggressive thing I've heard from this project to date. Every song flows together, yet each individual piece is abrupt and urgent. Songs like "Down Sanity" linger around long enough to tear out your throat and leave before you've had the chance to realize it. This one's also currently unavailable but will probably see a second release in some format given enough time.

So there you have it. I'm super stoked on this artist's work. Colloquial Sound has always impressed me with the consistency of their artists, but this one in particular has a very special place in my heart and in my music library. The picture above is my complete APL collection. See that shirt? Those are still available as well, and are super comfy, so grab one if you're into it. Anyway, thanks to all of my readers for sticking around this long. I didn't expect to write more than five posts before giving up, but clearly I've been on a bit of a roll. Maybe we'll see a few hundred more in years to come. Thanks everybody, I'll be back with a series of posts very soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment