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Swamp Horse – Subtle Dementia

Swamp Horse – Subtle Dementia

Written by: Sage
Artist: Swamp Horse
Title: Subtle Dementia
Label: Husk Records
Cat. #: H#102
Format: 7″

Genre: Dark Ambient / Drone / Experimental Noise

Side A: Untitled
Side B: Untitled

Swamp Horse is a project from Husk Records co-owners Josh Lay (solo artist, Temple of Rot) and Morgan Rankin (Gnarly Sheen) that focuses on the dark ambient side of post-industrial electronics.  Both of these guys hail from Central Kentucky which gives me a relatively first-hand experience on the geographical surroundings that undoubtedly influence the recordings on this EP.  The record comes packaged as a burgundy / deep brown-ish red 7″ in a folded, printed poster-paper sleeve.  The front cover artwork has been created by Morgan Rank himself, further exploring his more serious artistic talents outside of the illustrations that he’s done of both himself and Josh Lay in Blondz in Heat as well as the disturbingly hilarious album covers for his incredibly offensive and apparently now-defunct hip hop project “Insane Diaper Posse”.  The back cover portion of the EP includes a picture of the two that pretty much paints many parts of Kentucky perfectly — an abandoned cement building with nothing but ruin and rubble to offer as the tree roots slowly reclaim the area once occupied by human progress.  The colors of moss on concrete surrounding the photo further dictate the abandoned dwelling type allure of the record.

Side A opens up with a repetitive, synth-based horror-themed melody that bases much of its sound around spherical drones that are placed in the foreground of the mix and flanging warm synths that, at a point towards the end of the track start to have a sound similar to the metal-on-metal squeal of old swinging gates.  As cheesily Halloweeny as synth-layered tracks like this tend to be, there’s a slightly more serious side to it.  You can’t help but hear the X-files theme play in your head as the primary synth melody of this track echoes the same high pitch of the show’s whistled theme though they’re completely different melodies.  Whether this does anything for you or not completely depends on your experience as a person.  Personally, it brings back all of those childhood memories of running around the Indiana and Kentucky forests at dusk and night, peering through the branches towards the sky because of paranoid parents that were interested in paranormal (how’s that for alliteration?).  Side B is of more interest to the serious field recording and drone listeners, though I don’t think anything here is actually based on found sounds.  The second track continues those Earthly impressions and memories through the sound of running water and gently howling wind that make up the beginning of the track.  Eventually those two sounds merge and form a strong, noisey drone in the background background that is fronted only by various circular noises that spin in sound much the same way that a police siren would.  Eventually even these collapse and are swallowed by the inevitable bleak darkness of the now swelling harsh noise.  In the end, that noise is all that is left, eventually evaporating in its own right and disappearing from existence.

The record itself comes with a screen-printed fabric patch and sticker, both white on black, as well as a black on mint green insert that includes production notes as well as the hand-numbered limitation to 100 copies.  Going back to the picture on the back of the release, it’s hard not to want to connect it to the theme and music at hand.  Subtle dementia implies the opening stages of the breakdown of the mind, creeping in unbeknown to the victim.  The decrepit ruinous building is a perfect metaphor for the onset of such a mental instability — an unstoppable descent into oblivion that may take years or decades of erosion and trauma to finally reach it’s conclusion, but when it does eventually meet the inevitable, all that is left is a barren shell of once was in life (the barren concrete walls), and crumbled, shattered bones in death (the eventual small pile of rubble that will endure long after).

Rating:  3.75/5