If you look at any band or label’s Bandcamp page you will normally see a sidebar on the right of your screen saying ‘Streaming and Download Help’. After listening to Bornwithhair‘s almost unlistenable new album, being able to potentially stream, or download some help understanding what has happened over the duration would be most welcome.
Essentially the music here can be summed up thusly: imagine a keyboard player, guitarist, bassist and someone with the cheapest drum machine possible with no sense of rhythm, all learning how to play their instruments in real time, while someone tries out a bunch of spooky voices and vocals effect pre-sets. Now imagine each of these parts were recorded separately and someone then layered different, seemingly random sections of each recording on top of each other.
You may feel as you listen to When The Witches Fall that perhaps the band are attempting a musical form of ‘Automatic Writing’, to try and access something deep within their own collective musical subconscious. At its best moments, the effect is like listening to someone melting copies of Cindytalk’s Camouflage Heart or Skinny Puppy’s Last Rites at the same time and recording the resulting din on a Fisher Price tape record. At its worst, which sadly is about 90% of the album, it’s a monotonous stream of gibberish. Songs begin and end randomly, often feeling like the players really can’t be bothered anymore and giving up at random points.
There is one genuinely enjoyable run of music on this album, the absolute horror show mid-section of Your Skull where from about the three and half minute mark, on where the pitched affected vocals turn from whiney sing song to growled demonism, and the random guitar noodling and synth samples temporarily feel like the sonic portrayal of a sleep paralysis episode. The clattering drums and static noise layers don’t add a tremendous amount, but it does actually work in this instance. It achieves the crossover from pantomime menace into the realm of the genuinely unsettling.
Bornwithhair’s commitment to releasing something they must know will be polarising to this degree is to be respected…
The following Nothing But Dread – arguably the most focussed song here – drifts in on a bed of gothy keys and breathy vocals that’s enjoyable for a minute or so, before the incessant guitar wanking starts again and kills the atmosphere. It’s honestly like the guitarist doesn’t understand that it’s perfectly acceptable to allow moments of the music to pass without their contribution. Let’s be frank: this could be an intriguing record were the guitar tracks removed from it entirely, as the sheer amateurishness of the playing takes the listener out of any kind of surreal musical nightmare world the vocals and synths seem to want to create.
Bornwithhair‘s self-tagging as ‘Arthouse Metal’ makes it quite clear that they have notions of grandeur from the offset. Perhaps unintentionally that tag also works as a clear indicator of how – like a fair percentage of what classifies as ‘arthouse’ film – their music here is ultimately superficial and tedious. This whole project feels teeming with artistic self-importance, like it’s sneering at an audience too embarrassed to admit that they can’t make sense of what the creators of the art in question intended.
Difficult, challenging music is always to be respected and can often, with persistence, make for deeply rewarding listening over time. There are infinite examples of improvisation, musical surrealism, collage, or straight up harsh noise that make for a compelling ride. But When The Witches Fall is not difficult, or challenging in the way it perhaps was intended to be. This may be avant-garde, but the truth is it’s really just boring.
For forty-seven minutes, it just rambles about, never clearly illustrating or even hinting at whatever point about the psyche of serial killers/cult members etc the band claim they are trying to make, other than perhaps these people’s minds are ultimately a lot less interesting than you might expect them to be.
Bornwithhair‘s commitment to releasing something they must know will be polarising to this degree is to be respected, and to have a home on a label as respectable as Trepanation Recordings will ensure they reach a fair chunk of hungry ears. But be prepared for a famine presented as a feast.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes