Those familiar with the Midwestern American noise scene know Climax Denial. Alex Kmet has been releasing dark dispatches since 2005, broadcasting tenebrous missives of psychosexual perversion into the ether regularly. In light of his recent tour, now feels as good a time as any to revisit In the Absence of Self-Control, from February 2015.
In the Absence of Self-Control serves as a solid, stylistic precursor to Dehumanizing Environments (September 2015, which I also reviewed here). While Kmet’s vocals are much more at the forefront of this release, the synthesizer (a Roland Gaia, I believe) is the primary lead in his sonic arsenal; all the creepy and unsettling textures and warbling synth lines take on a depth that earlier discography elections eschew in favor of scalpel-sharp harshness. Despite a liberal application of effects, the vocals are surprisingly clear on cuts like “With Drink in Hand (How Much Blood I)” and “I Always Get What I Want.” Perhaps not entirely intelligible, but recognizable as a human voice; muffled like a person in the trunk, or behind a false wall. The purely instrumental selections are what help cement this release as a stylistic bridge, though. For anyone caught off guard by the almost entirely instrumental dread of Dehumanizing Environments, this release serves as a perfect touchstone to guide the path of Climax Denial’s development.
What sets this release apart, however, is the sense of restraint that most of these tracks highlight. Multiple synth lines creak and groan, buzz and shimmer. Think cicadas at night near an electrical substation or old wooden bridges on state roads with numbers but not names. In other words, the sort of geographic locations that pop up on the news when the bodies of missing people are uncovered. Yet, none of these tracks dive headfirst into any sort of bare-knuckle overdrive that is usually associated with the power electronics genre. “Until I Die,” for instance, is a capella for almost half of the track; even then, the electronics are steady and minimal. Their purpose is mood and texture, and in Kmet’s hands, they perform expertly. The joke has been made multiple times—by and to me—that noise artists all really just want to do sound design for horror movies. With albums like this, the observation feels justified. There is very little that falls under traditional headings like “melody.” Rather, each selection has its own tone and range—an atmosphere wherein it operates and moves; a territory, as it were.
Long-term fans know what to expect from Climax Denial. For newer converts—especially those coming to the project from more recent titles like Have You Died (Angst, 2016), Repentance in Ecstasy (Bacteria Field, 2016), and Finishing Touch (Fusty Cunt, 2016)—this LP will feel very familiar. The only real complaint that can be levied is that, while lovingly crafted in the signature Urashima style (silver ink screen printed on black card stock), the limitation of 99 copies means grabbing a copy of this LP may prove difficult. In the Absence of Self-Control is well worth the search though. This title, like several others, proves why Climax Denial still matters just as much (if not more) now than twelve years ago.