Rat Catching is another project from the innumerable yet ever-growing class of artists that make up the post-industrial underground’s most eccentric aural borderlands; that is, the muse surrounding Rat Catching is born of the purely surreal tapped vein that bleeds life into the experimental genres of industrial ambience and outright noise. The releases from these artists often appear ephemeral, largely due to production limitations that leave quantities scarcely ever reaching even the century mark. For artists that are well-known, blinking often results in one missing the opportunity to experience a sought-after release, leaving us to wonder if these releases ever actually existed at all. Thankfully, at least for us, Rat Catching hasn’t quite caught on yet, and with Tristia, we’re witnessing just her second release in a three-year existence. The project is helmed by sole member J. Melinn, better known as the electronic half of Comoros, and also as a co-founder of Philadelphia’s beloved vinyl-only experimental label, Fedora Corpse. Thus, her activity with Rat Catching doesn’t even begin to hint at her experience level from other endeavors, and it all comes to a head with this impressive six-track effort.
Unlike many of her peers whom lately appear to prefer the fertile reaches of ambiguity and generic influences that range anywhere from esoteric spirituality to the simplistic alignment of ambience with the void and the dancing spheres within it, Melinn has a specific, albeit mysterious, academic influence for Tristia; that is, the collection of letters of the same name that are attributed to one of Classical Antiquity’s most iconic poets, Ovid. More specifically, the album is inspired by his exile during which the writing of Tristia took place — a compendium whose pages never offer an explanation for his departure from Rome (nor does any historical account). What Tristia does host, however curiously, is a canon of vivid emotion that has been pulled from within a man whom seemingly has no argument against his forced departure, but rather only personal reflection.
Rat Catching’s Tristia harnesses these raw sensations through the power of sound, sometimes by incorporating the familiar protection of a nearly vintage electronic warmth, sometimes by utilizing the tenebrous force of more modern industrial elements. “Oh my Gauze” is a beautiful representation of all of these elements within one track, from the hovering static nature of corrosive noise that pervades every crevice within the composition while never becoming all-consuming enough to dominate the other structures, to the ethereal feedback that defines the entire first half of its light atmosphere. The track is firmly situated between the two darkest on the album, the churning, industrial “The Malaysian Delay” with its subtle looped rhythms and reticent, seemingly listless abrasive stasis, and “Harbin,” a similarly unemotional, indifferent journey into the raw side of ambience. With this, side A is a bit of a roller-coaster, welcoming the listener with a cold hand before unleashing an intrepid squall of inspired electronic sound, only to usher them to Side B in the same mid-tempo malaise that they initially stumbled into. Side B follows suit almost to the point of synchronization, with the same minimal to atmospheric to minimal approach being utilized. With this, if there is a complaint to be had, it’s that Melinn didn’t take the secondary opportunity to expand on the ideas explored in the initial trio of offerings. Side B gives off the impression of walking the same path back to where the journey began, instead of reaching a conclusive destination of its own.
Regardless, the inspirations behind the album can be felt all too realistically, especially in “Oh my Gauze” and “Tanuga IV”, and the difficulty in translating such temporal understanding into abstract electronics cannot be understated. With that, Tristia left me impressed — certainly enough to hope that Melinn’s next offering will be available in an amount that will make available a larger capacity for discovery than the short limitation of 50 found here.
A1) The Malaysian Delay
A2) Oh my Gauze
B2) Tanuga IV
B3) Angle of Fuchs