Caaldruun is the sinister working of Eric Kessel (who may respond also to Eric Faustus when obscured by the veil of the Internet), a New Yorker with a penchant for the noise that exists beneath the deep sterility of modern life. His Caaldruun project has been around since 2008, gaining its foundation from field recordings and power from a grainy slab of electronics. Not only does he pull upon these mystical aural spirits in his personal sonic endeavors, but also in his engineering of experimental pedals and devices for Electro Faustus. Perhaps in looking through his notes you will find hand-drawn sketches and scribbles like those of a 19th century ecologist or a medieval alchemist.
An astute ear can easily detect the sorcery that goes into the work of Caaldruun. Kessel’s previous release, Headstone, imbued organic recorded souvenirs with crackling machine teeth, household sounds, and ominous synths. This composition carries noise from oft-unnoticed surroundings into a surreal and unsettling echo chamber. The follow-up to this record, Kessel’s fourth release from his personal imprint, Fox Den Recordings, is entitled With Broken Teeth. In order to explain how I feel about this record, and potentially bring to light any biases in my judgment of its merits, I’ll present the way in which I first listened to it.
The cover of With Broken Teeth is disturbing. It isn’t disturbing in a traditional sense; it isn’t gory, offensive, or satanic. Instead, it shows a smiling mouth, presumably a child’s, with gross, dark-colored protrusions between the teeth. To me, it’s the visual equivalent of having the type of nightmare in which teeth slowly loosen themselves and fall out. Needless to say, the album had been face-down on my desk up to the penning of this review. The reverse, much to my gratitude, shows a calm ocean and a much more abstract representation of rotting teeth. I first played the CD, cover image irrevocably in mind, with every light in the room extinguished save my computer monitor for note-taking. When the title track came on, I immediately realized that this album was far from the organic stability of Headstone. Instead, With Rotting Teeth is creeping, industrial mania in the vein of Zoviet France and Diagnose: Lebensgefahr. There is an immense chamber which houses the disembodied voices haunting the piece, echoing the spoken syllables into distant, abandoned realms. At this point, I could feel the thoroughly concrete setting of this release: squeaking wheels, grinding metal, and witchy cymbals in a lonely urban structure.
Next came the oppressive “Faustus,” harsh electronics that carry into the doom-ridden “Devoured I.” A synthetic gurgling passes rows of snapping, sparking electronics and indecipherable human speech before fading, leaving me alone in the dark with a strong feeling that something within myself was missing. It was around this point that I began getting chills. Alien, backmasked screams are smothered under a dense and enveloping static in a horrendously calming way. My computer screen started flashing off for a period of 5 seconds and then turning on again: a problem I have yet to diagnose or reproduce. With the ghost-sounds of an abandoned mall’s loudspeaker that lead into “Devoured II,” I was stuck with an apparently possessed computer and the terrifying ambiance of swarming, infected insects in a dimension that was once inhabited by humans. After the nine minutes of “Devoured II,” my PC returned to total normalcy.
Still rather uncomfortable about the recent transgressions, I listened on to hear the most surprising track of this release. “Keel” begins with a grim, danceable circus dirge over glass-bottle recordings and ends with an 80s synth-line reminiscent of Sinoia Cave‘s score for Beyond the Black Rainbow. The record closed following “Fountain of Knives,” leaving me with gooseflesh.
I find myself immune to most scares. I hold literary horror close to my heart and I find peace in night-time urban exploring. Despite this, something about the construction of this album tore at my nerves. I’ve experienced this before with Burial Hex‘s Fantasma di Perarolo. Perhaps it’s a certain time of night or a receptive mood that is to blame for my reaction to With Broken Teeth, but more likely it is the masterful coordination of noise which Eric Kessel possesses. From the very world we dwell in, Kessel makes his recordings and turns them into horrible manifestations of fear, anxiety, and suffocation. For the most part, this album could be described as Pan Sonic mashed into Jahktute‘s A Record of Things Gone in a most delightfully petrifying way. If there is anything more I could desire from Caaldruun, it would be an album exploring the corrupted march at the beginning of “Keel.” However, I can resign myself to looking forward to more music from Eric Kessel to never listen to in the dark. In With Broken Teeth, dark ambient meets urban decay with a brooding, industrial cloak. It’s chilling. It’s limited to twenty copies for twenty haunted individuals.
01) With Broken Teeth
03) Devoured 1
04) Devoured 2
06) Fountain of Knives