Contact Low wears his heart on his sleeve; less Red Badge of Courage, more merit badge. While self-described as “loud, sad music,” that fails to convey the intensity of the material. There is sad music, and then there is depressive suicidal black metal; there is sad music, and then there is delta blues. There is no pretense, only intensity. I Let This Turmoil Lead Me proves just as unrelenting. The mix of minor-key synth harmonies and heavy electronic grind is both haunting and aggressive. There are compositional hints in each track’s motif that recall Vangelis and Ennio Morricone, but the distorted vocals and electronic textures are as harsh as any other contemporary power electronics project. What sets Contact Low apart is the level of emotional sincerity.
Each track is an exercise in self-flagellation; I Let This Turmoil Lead Me is, as a whole, a veritable walk down the most dismal corridor of memory, heartbreak, and hopelessness. The amount of confessional baring of the soul therein could rival some of Morrissey’s bleakest lyrics—minus the wit. Without pop hooks and sensibilities, these compositions slowly bare down upon the audience. Contact Low manages to take the most basic notion of what constitutes power electronics and turn that generalized aggression inwards, provoking a visceral sense of self-reflected revulsion. Overall, the performance is impressive; even the live track (recorded at the 2016 Fargo Noise Fest) showcases the balanced interplay between heavy electronics and melodic motif. These backing elements give the vocals an edge of desperation, augmenting what otherwise would come across as barked cadences in the tradition of hardcore.
Selections like “I Want to Feel the Light Leave My Body” demand, but from a sense of desperation, not power. Contact Low differs from such a large body of “aggressive music (see also: metal)” in that they stand more in opposition to themselves rather than an outside body. While “In Closing” verges on being nearly hymnal, the piece is not “macho.” This lack of ego-based posturing gives I Let This Turmoil Lead Me much more of a sense of relatability. To listen to these tracks is to sit inside them, to be in the mercy seat for five to six minutes at a time; the eye to composition is what gives catharsis. This is a harrowing release of decayed strength, and one that’s held together on repeated sit-throughs.