It’s possible to listen to Organn, the debut release from Belgian artist Obsequies on Knives, and hear something entirely new each time. That’s in part because the EP is such a densely layered cacophony; partly because with each manipulation of sound the listener’s attention is diverted elsewhere – an aural sleight of hand. It’s in fitting with previous releases on the label from artists like v1984 and J.G. Biberkopf, not to mention its co-founder Kuedo. Having set out with the strange landscape of post-grime and manga sounds, it’s almost as if the label has burrowed down into a world of abstract confusion.
“I like to pervert things, especially beautiful ones. Destroying entire tracks in Ableton. Those are my main occupations,” Obsequies told us via email. This is evident from opening track “Grace”, which is awash with broken samples, melodies pouring out through strange effects. Rolling bursts of sound stir and falter like a waking child afraid to face the morning sunlight, not unlike the release’s artwork. Before arriving at a true sense of proceedings, the rug is pulled, the track dies away and it’s on to the next one. “Languish” is riven with similar ebbs and flows, but clattering field recordings and industrial effects loom heavy over any sense of melody. Imagine walking alongside a construction line with your earphones in but the volume way down, bleeps and glitches superimposed over the music like alien interference. The final minute offers blissful gleams of sound, crackles evoking vinyl playing or snow crunching underfoot. Industry is now far away, nature simultaneously present yet unreachable. Where is the ideal place to experience this music, then? “A place of refuge, a place where the listener feels safe enough to have an inner dialogue with themselves, be it in their bedroom, bathroom, or during their daily commute in a crowded bus. A place like that, preferably in the dark, would be the ideal setting to unveil Organn‘s guts and establish a dialogue with the listener,” the artist advises.
“Cell” starts with a gorgeous rumble of melody, which immediately gives way to digital eviscerations: momentary flourishes evoke everything from Kanye and Burial to spliced jungle and angry, action movie yells. Sounds hover overhead like bats or some other imagined tormentors. Nothing is for certain, there is no anchor point. Kanye is someone who’s particularly appealing to Obsequies: “It’s his will to bring his own existence to the edge. That’s at least what I hear when I listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus. But in reality, this extremeness is needed to unveil and attain an otherwise inaccessible vision and to draw from that something really sincere, that inspired me a lot.” This sincerity is pushed to the limit at on “Asthme”, where delicate piano chords appear next to hushed, warbled vocals that hint at “Rock the Boat” but could be anything. Those Burial-esque beats jump up again amid a clatter of indignant noise. It’s hard not to hold one’s breath and wait for it to pass. The mechanical orchestras of “Consumed” are perhaps most in keeping with the developing sound of Knives, but it is just as much a summation of the chaos at Organn‘s heart. Sounds come and go, colliding and exploding or deftly weaving around each other. “But Beautiful …” closes things in sparse and hopeful fashion, a stark counter to the clash of sounds before. Bright piano sounds bounce gently off echoed bleeps, while deep, uncertain chords hint at darkness. A faint pulse resonates throughout the track, and in its dying moments a brief flurry of beats hammer home, hinting at something defined, yet evaporating like everything else.
Obsequies – Organn is out now. Buy here.