‘Conjoined’ is the auditory result of the meeting of minds betwixt Ukrainian composer Heinali and American poet Matt Finney, and the combination of the vast, cinematic scope of Heinali’s soundscapes with the close-to-the-ear intimacy of Finney’s spoken word performance makes for quite the intriguing listen.
The musical palette on ‘Conjoined’ primarily centres on vast, amorphously drifting cloud-beds of dense, roiling, murky guitar fuzz and minimalist percussion, shot through with distant-sounding heavily delayed quicksilver guitar embellishment. At a close remove from this, the voice of Matt Finney, sounding close enough that he could well be talking directly into the listeners ear from over a shoulder, intones his poetry in a hushed, urgent tone. These are the foundation upon which the entire recording sits.
The key to the shifting moods of ‘Conjoined’ lies with how Heinali pushes those sounds around within the wider frame of the album as a whole, and what moods can be evoked from his manipulation. So, on the title track itself, the sounds are cavernous and tense, lead by an insinuating bass drone that forms the spine of the composition, with tension created by shrieking guitars that sound like metal birds of prey, and on ‘Lifetime’ Finney is brought to the fore as his hushed urgency is backed by distant ebbs and swells that sound like the waves of the ocean crashing onto the metre-thick rock of a small cave, only to be brutally shouldered aside by a raging stormcloud of boiling guitar that replaces that intimacy with raging chaos that, upon subsiding, retreats back into the depths of that cave, leaving the crashing sound of distant waves once more.
‘Postcard’ takes a similar path to that of ‘Lifetime’, with the low-key breathy vocalisations of Finney hanging above a black abyss of muted sound and the sudden outburst of guitar screech, but this time ratchets up the tension into fight-or-flight full-on-adrenaline-rush mode by giving the piece a rhythmic spine in the shape of a prominent drum pattern, shadowed by nebulous surging bass. In contrast, ‘The Sun Will Rise Yet We Won’t Be Here’ mines a similar vein to Vangelis’ masterful ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack work, tonally, with beautifully spectral notes floating over a lush, almost bucolic, tonal bed of half-heard chord changes and the merest suggestion of a pulsing bass tone, emanating tranquillity as a whole.
Closing track ‘Under God’s Heaven’ throws everything so far heard together into a towering juggernaut of a number. Moving from distant tolling bells and Finney atop a bed of hiss, guitars of a less nebulous and infinitely more forceful stripe kick in and immediately dominate the sonic landscape, given extra kick by a breakbeat, and drag the track into borderline industrial territory. The thick fug of guitar and chiming bell sounds drives right through to the very end, providing a powerful finish to the proceedings.
Whilst certainly an intriguing listen, the most glaringly obvious criticism about ‘Conjoined’ is that Finney is barely used. His spoken vocal appears most often as a brief interlude during the introduction to most tracks, but either fails to reappear or is lost once the music shifts up a gear. This is most definitely a real shame and a wasted opportunity, as a more organically interwoven interplay between Finney and Heinali’s soundscapes would be most welcome, having listened intently to ‘Conjoined’.
On the whole, though, this is a dynamic and highly listenable – if slightly flawed – recording, and lovers of the ‘Doomgaze’ movement should find much to enjoy.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson