Allow me, if you will, to get esoteric and mystical on your collective ass. Indulge me. Listening to The Clearing within the wider context of Locrian’s career thus far puts me in mind of the Qabalistic Tree Of Life.
Stick with me here, this does have some bearing on the subject at hand.
The Qabalistic Tree Of Life is a glyph, symbolically showing how the energy of creation enters the universe from the godhead and filters down into matter, condensing and purifying, winnowing out any flaws or weaknesses, before solidifying into matter.
What we’ve seen over the course of Locrian’s career to date is this process in action. The streamlining of their earlier, more nebulous, material across the years and over their recordings began to solidify, to coalesce, into something recognisably ‘Locrian’ around the time of their 2009 album Drenched Lands, gaining mass via their collaborative effort of 2010, Territories, and coming very much into their own on that same year’s The Crystal World set. The Clearing feels very much like the culmination of this process, foreshadowed as it was by the Dort Ist Der Weg 7” with its more recognisably conventional instrumentation and somewhat more ‘grounded’ approach.
‘Chalk Point’ begins to coalesce from the aether, a distant haze of echoing atmospherics and piano, congealing and thickening into a downbeat, morosely brooding number driven by a melodic bass figure, cavernous drums and droning vocals as heavily delayed and sustained guitar circles above the body of the track, squalling and swooping like a hungry seabird. The sense of despair that runs through the track is palpable and alive.
The idea of something coalescing from nothingness, or a raw state, into solidity seems to thread through each track on The Clearing, creating microcosms within the macrocosm of the body of the album as a whole. As above, so below.
‘Augury In An Evaporating Tower’ materializes from out of a fizzing, swarming cloud of insectile static, shot through with sparks of squelching, piercing analogue squeal, becoming a thrumming, throbbing black metallic beast, propelled by a tsunami-like blown-out guitar miasma and pulsing, surging drums. Harrowing screams pierce the muggy vale, howling out into the frothing hurricane of sound as though from the depths of the pit. The whole thing collapses into itself, leaving only a loop of carnival organ, oddly contemplative guitar and filthy, filthy bass to hang in the aftermath.
‘Coprolite’ is the one exception to my theory as it feels somewhat like a chunk of something more substantial. From out of fizzing static come acoustic guitars – a first for Locrian I think – playing out a simply strummed pattern which, in turn, is subsumed by an ebbing bass drone and that sea of crackling static. Tonally and texturally interesting, but seems not to go anywhere unfortunately.
A coprolite, incidentally, is fossilised animal dung. So now you know.
‘The Clearing’ itself is utterly sublime. A steely pulsing spine worthy of prime John Carpenter supports the entire structure, around which circle drones of varying pitches and throat-tearing, screaming howls. The entire thing just oozes menace and dread. Crushing sub bass creeps in over time and the track begins to warp under such heavy gravity. This feels elemental, like the crushing, severe force of Geburah, fifth sephiroth – sphere – of the Tree of Life, bearing down upon the raw energies of creation in an attempt to destroy all impurities. ‘The Clearing’ sounds and feels like the grinding of worlds, the cosmic gears of Jack Kirby’s vision, vast and awe-inspiring.
Beautifully minimal, perfect in construction, devastating in execution.
The trio of Hannum, Foisy and Hess have truly found themselves with this recording. The slight weakness of ‘Coprolite’ be damned, The Clearing IS Locrian.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson