Live a few decades and you’ll begin to see the details of culture repeat themselves. Most recognizably, quirks of style in clothing, dialect, and music become popular again for a brief time, fifteen or twenty years after their original glory days. This is a known phenomenon, and it’s never surprising to anyone who is paying attention. What might be surprising, however, is the vigor with which all the dreck and pabulum of years gone by assert themselves into the public sphere. Suddenly, as if by malevolent design, C&C Music Factory and the Afghan Wigs are in heavier rotation than ever before.
So, it is amusing, even relieving to hear new music that takes a cue from the small but distinct clutch of industrial electro-rockers that made their stand in the nineties. Fake Snake, a Phoenix duo consisting of David Turner and Mike Warden, make the type of aggressive, nightmarish synthesizer rock first developed by the likes of Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, and Front 242. The resemblance to Skinny Puppy is strongest, as might be noticed in moments of “Buried in Sand” on the band’s Initiate release, echoing strains of Last Rights. But Fake Snake’s overlap with other acts is less in their sound than in their general attitude, choosing synthesizer sounds, vocal styles, and song structures to create music that is engaging and exciting, yet still entirely hellish.
At only thirty-five minutes, Initiate is only a blitz of this hellishness. In its brief time, though, the release packs in quite a bit with bursts of hammering drums transitioning into rhythmic segments of collage. Tension builds and releases frequently throughout the program so that there is no chance for tedium to develop. But, in the end, it’s Initiate‘s more slow-burning flavor of hell that makes the release worth listening to again and again. The depth and darkness of a track like “Sacred Feed” creates an immersive atmosphere for the multiplicity of weird details that live within it. It is a far more satisfying listening experience than the track that precedes it, “My Domesticated Cryptid,” which is certainly energetic and interesting but lacks anything to really set it apart.
Fake Snake has seven other releases on the Cryptic Passage Bandcamp page, including three live sets. These prove the duo is far more than a throwback act, but just one manifestation of what the two musicians can do together or separately.
A brief Internet search reveals Turner and Warden as capable artists beyond the Fake Snake project, with work in music and visual art that shows wider stylistic range than Initiate might showcase but also verifies the expected bad-trip psychedelic point-of-view. Releases by other projects involving Turner feature tracks of noise and ambience that delve into spaces little explored, even by other experimentalists. Meanwhile, Warden’s Facebook page exhibits a stream of well-honed hallucinations on canvas.
It’s common these days for independent artists to not develop albums as focal points in their bodies of work but spread their output evenly so that any given release is just one piece in a puzzle. In the vein of Arvo Zylo or Kylie Minoise, the two fellows that make up Fake Snake are building worlds out of their own imagination, and Initiate is a satisfying, if brief, look into those worlds.