For French noisemakers DIRGE, a new release is a big deal because nobody’s quite sure what they’ll sound like. Formed over 20 years ago, their first few releases were more industrial towards the sound of something like GODFLESH, but since the turn of the millennium they’ve become more melancholic, psychedelic and generally more in line with post-metal and the sounds of SUN O))). December sees the release of their new EP Alma | Baltica from Division Records, which they say is a ‘real, distinct experiment’ in the band’s discography.
It might seem like a cop out, but the best way to sum up Alma | Baltica is actually the name of this publication. That said, it’s a damn fine range of distorted sounds and is wholly uncompromising in its delivery. There’s barely any vocals, at least nothing distinct, and the album has this wonderful yet maddening way of ebbing and flowing without any crescendo, leaving you hanging on to every passage; the near ten-minute Alma which opens the record is the perfect example of this, with the sinister ambience and atmospheric feedback rising and falling in a nice repetition that never gets boring at all. Red Dawn Tibesti is more in line with DIRGE‘s industrial output with a certain thud about it, but this gives way to more looping and a hint of broken backing vocals that wash over you so easily and calmy, never at once jarring.
The middle point is the shortest track on the record in Black Shore, which displays more guitar than previous and yet somehow is the gentlest number of them all, although it never loses its sinister undertones that continue into Baltica (Sine Time Reoscillated) which cranks up the tempo with open guitar strings lingering over white noise and a hint of radio voices. Rounding things off is Pure, which offers the heaviest of opening so far, ominous and downtrodden, but then gives way to ethereal, almost angelic synths that are joined by a clean guitar playing the same tones; a rather lovely juxtaposition to end proceedings as the track fades out.
It’s a little surprising that DIRGE haven’t made more of an impact over here in their near quarter-century existence; they could have easily done something like Roadburn Festival or the now-defunct Temples Festival and gone down a treat. It would be a real delight to see them win a bunch of new fans with Alma | Baltica, because it’s a tidy EP with plenty of spins in it.
Alma | Baltica is out now via Division Records.
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