Insect Ark are a project of multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter of Bee and Flower who has played with such luminaries as Swans, Zeal and Ardor and Årabrot. For the latest Insect Ark release, and associated touring, she has been joined by erstwhile Subrosa drummer Andy Patterson to make a truly formidable duo. The Vanishing follows two previous full lengths and builds impressively upon 2018’s Marrow Hymns. Schechter predominately plays lap steel guitar, with a range of samples and noise additions making for a heady mix of dark psychedelia and drone.
Second track Three Gates follows a steady drone and military percussion into a pulsing industrial riff that eventually opens out into the sort of spacious and glacial groove that is the defining feature of Insect Ark’s work. Patterson provides a bare beat that suits the desolate feelings that the samples and eerie guitar work produce.
Schechter’s day job involves composing soundtracks and scores for film and TV and it shows throughout this EP. Philae, a standout track, has just this cinematic approach, but we’re definitely not talking summer blockbuster work. Philae works off a slow building groove that is reminiscent of some of Dylan Carlson’s work with mid-era Earth. The comparison stands chiefly in how both musicians manage to create beautiful sounds from within a drone and instrumental doom aesthetic, but also in how the use of longer songs and a healthy amount of reverb creates a claustrophobic edge.
Philae never really ends up far from where it begins as the layers of Schechter’s strings wash together to keep the listener involved, no dramatic switches in tempo or style required or attempted. This is a consistent approach throughout, the repetition and space in the songs creating an emotional weight far beyond any traditional metallic heaviness. Recalling some of OM’s more meditative work, Insect Ark achieve their heft more through what they don’t do, as what they do.
the repetition and space in the songs creating an emotional weight far beyond any traditional metallic heaviness…
Like Carlson’s back catalogue, many sections of this record veers into Americana territory and The Vanishing could be a very suitable soundtrack for a doomed road trip across North America. Danube particularly has this vibe, while the synth work on Swollen Sun brings to mind arriving at a destination after a long and torturous journey, only to immediately regret all the effort.
The title track and album closer replaces a more conventional doom opening with anguished instrumental screams as the keyboard and strings duel with martial percussion from Patterson. True to the name The Vanishing builds a menace and brooding atmosphere only to abruptly exit and leave the listener not quite sure where to turn to next.
This is a complex and layered piece of work that will appeal to many fans of experimental music.
Insect Ark play Bristol tonight (11th March), followed by London, then Brighton before heading to Moscow followed by dates in around Europe. Highly recommended.
Scribed by: Ian M