In auras of ancestral density can a primal human gnosis be discovered. In the droning wail of instrumentation from our distant heritage can a particular truth be found. It is a reminder that music can be so mesmerizingly simple, but equally carry the weight of universal truths that collectively touch the anachronistic spirit. The collaborative effort known as Preterite seeks to achieve this essence with “Pillar of Winds”, their atavistically, postrock-tinged experimental drone debut. With a few injections of modernity the listener is reminded that this is music out of time, boundless to any defined genre or period, existence beyond the conventions of what we would call contemporary music. Heavily dominated by warped medieval walls-of-sound and horrific caterwauling guitars, the hypnotic music is only enhanced by sharp stabs of peripheral instrumentation and spell-weaving vocals of some distant, black shaman. The psychedelic concoction is the result of combining the inexplicability of Menace Ruine with a seasoned veteran of experimental music at the helm. At once is a beautiful, turbulent, and terrifyingly woven tale, sending one into a fearful trance of ancient meditation.
Certain artists and performers are so nebulous, so untouchable that they nearly exist in mythology alone. Every music fanatic, regardless of genre preferences, possesses a short list of gods or goddess whom they revere. Then, it is indicative of earthly greatness when any contemporary siren can encapsulate even a shred of semblance to the majestic greats. In the circle of neofolk and experimental medieval music one mononymous woman still eludes most tangible consciousnesses to this day. Of course, the breathtaking and often frightening Alzbeth from Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud should need no introduction. The enigmatic, multi-linguistic singer’s voice and persona exist only on recordings of times past, and her complete departure from the developed scene, as it were, has added to her mystery. Here was a woman with a voice so powerful that it reached to the very root of culture and spirit. The truly striking impact of “Pillar of Winds” is found in Menace Ruine vocalist Geneviève Beaulieu’s ghastly similarities to the aforementioned enchantress. It is not merely emulation, but the Canadian’s own powerful vocal mystery is the closest thing to invoke these similar emotions. Her voice carries all the qualities found in a bafflingly beautiful lament, thick with feeling and honesty, but also commanding and even prophetic.
The perfection found in subtlety is the crux of Preterite’s reach into the evocative space they explore. Never is too much given away in any song, keeping a dominant theme throughout each piece and pushing it to its limits. Nearly an endurance per song, the listener must put in the work to achieve the fruits that offered up. Complexity is a sword only brandished in rare occasions, and it is through years of mastery that experimental heavyweight James Hamilton knows just when and where to strike. The powerful wall that such sparse instrumentation can achieve is inspiring, but only a few voices are needed to echo the experience and range of emotions intended. From percussive piano hits to shrieking noise, from Eastern tinged guitar drones to the ominous piping Hurdy-Gurdy, the musicality augments the sinister oral tales delivered through the warbling layer of voice, and pushes away from safer territory into something completely unavoidable. Where a moment of solace from the pervasive aural blanket is found, the duo never fails to deliver heavy doses of psychedelia so as not to return to normalcy quite yet. What is only a subconscious journey through an echoing past is strongly reinforced with a foothold in modernity: an instant reminder that this is memory and at the end we must inevitably regress back to reality.
Preterite have established a challenge in the form of “Pillar of Winds”. This is not music to put on in celebration, in the background while working, or even in calm contemplation. Its inescapable simplicity pervades and washes over the listener forcing a conforming ear. To say it is abrasive is to miss the mark, but rather the real quality that is on display is an ability to penetrate and surround at once. The constant sonar churn is enough to make any seasoned ear feel lost and confused. Most releases that fall under the umbrella of “experimental” meet with a small but dedicated audience; Preterite, lacking any instant gratification, too will go largely unheard. Like any true revelation, it must come after a trial of suffering or hardship, and only once the storm is weathered are the great rewards perceptible.
2. The Fourth Corner
3. Trial of Strength