With this album, the Chicago-based duo of JR Robinson and Esther Shaw continue to draw upon their rawest emotions without making any concessions for the faint-hearted. They are assisted in this resolute quest by Thor Harris (Swans) on percussion and Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) on electronics.
Influenced in part by Marcus Aurelius’ 'Meditations', the driving force is stoicism which Robinson defines "as hanging a more positive frame on the circumstances through the practice of negative visualization". In other words, you have to confront your demons if you want to overcome them.
In the five tracks, the epic industrial drones and doom metal crescendos are underpinned by Robinson’s brooding half-spoken baritone vocals which sound like a cross between Ian Curtis or Nick Cave at their most tortured. You strain, mostly in vain, to catch the words yet are left in no doubt that the lyrics mirror the stark mood where pale moonlight offers the only illumination.
Shaw's delicate piano and violin refrains on the opening track (Midnight To Six) initially offer some moments of respite but these are effectively cancelled out by the prevailing atmosphere of introspective despair. Still Life With Prick Cancer is every bit as bleak as the title suggests.
Spring or Summer seem a long way off as the sonic narrative follows a wintry road which "is dark and hard with frost" (The Rat Catcher) and the sonic journey culminates with Immolation, where Robinson observes dispassionately: "there's blood on the tiles, a bruise on my cheek". There's no room for the weak here.
Wrekmeister Harmonies take their name from a Hungarian film by Béla Tarr based on the 1989 novel, the Melancholy of Resistance. Roger Ebert wrote of the movie that it is "maddening if you are not in sympathy with it, mesmerizing if you are", a statement that also serves well for the savage beauty of this album.
Listen to the album on Bandcamp