Kreng KrengWorks for Abattoir Fermé: 2007-2011
If there's one artist capable of defining the darkest ambient sounds of Miasmah, the label directed by Erik K Skodvin, on his own; if there's any artist on the label's roster skilled enough to perfectly manage all the means of that dense and oppressive music, it is, without a doubt, Pepijn Caudron, the Belgian hiding behind the moniker of Kreng. Because few records released by the platform manage to ooze the levels of evil and discomfort of “L'Autopsie Phénoménale de Dieu ” (2009) and “Grimoire ” (2011), two albums on which Caudron showed the unhealthy ability to elaborate soundscapes like a musical and terrifying version of abstract expressionism, by mixing samples and sound fragments from very different origins.
When he made those records, Caudron was making a living as an actor and music writer for theatre company Abattoir Fermé; music that remained unreleased, and is now compiled under the title “Works For Abattoir Fermé: 2007-2011”. A box boasting five vinyl albums featuring the soundtracks of four plays, making for one of the biggest displays, if not the biggest, of dark ambient on the face of the Earth this year. The first, “Tourniquet”, starts lost between outpours of pitch-black drones. An asphyxiating, crushing atmosphere; tiny particles raining down on the listener like a waterfall, of alien samples, analogue crackling and looped tape fragments that advance extremely slowly. A mere five minutes are enough to completely submerge you in a nightmarish world surrounded by a strange current that drags you along. On the other side of the record, this mood continues, only with the addition of martial percussion and some odd, political speeches, which only add to the feeling of anxiety. Of course, it's no different on the second album. The soundtrack of “Mythobarbital” starts menacing and epic, with beating drums and trembling strings, but suddenly, a deep and dark drone appears on the scene and it all starts staggering towards the abyss from there. Violins trapped inside endless loops, mechanical percussion, a string quartet playing gothic horror melodies, and horns blowing in the distance, as if they were announcing the disaster hanging over our heads. On the B-side, the sound becomes somewhat more cinematic, at least until an unbreakable wall of drones appears, swallowing everything else.
The third soundtrack, “Snuff”, alternates compositions in the same gothic vein with tense, military-like marches, with orchestral blows booming, and the strings going in pursuit of the spirit of Ligeti. This is completed with some violin solos of an infinite sadness, port songs full of melancholy, winks to Balkan music, and fragments of pure ambient abstraction, blowing up the speakers and resounding in your stomach. And, saving the best for last, fourth album “Monkey” features two pieces that take shape from distant storms and mumbling drones that, little by little, become stronger and tenser. The tension doesn't blow up on the first side, in spite of the voices coming from the beyond and the monstrous horns towards the end. And on the second side, after a few orchestral interludes, the whole thing ends in an aggressive final part; an enraged and distorted EBM track, closing the record in an unexpected rave spirit.
All in all, you can imagine that “Works for Abattoir Fermé: 2007-2011” is anything but contained or moderate. It's rather monumental an effort, lasting over three and a half hours, with a packaging that does the contents justice: a black box with silver-coloured prints, holding the four soundtrack vinyls and a bonus 10” featuring the music our man wrote for “Monster”, a horror TV series also created by Abattoir Fermé . And I say “bonus”, because the ten short pieces it contains are, in a way, minor works: a style exercise, with a certain parody like feel, including a Danny Elfman pastiche, with ghostly voices and an orchestra at full throttle; a not very subtle symphony of grunts; and the inevitable pieces of jazz noir, fanfares and trembling strings, theremins, music boxes, and an weightless instrumental track with elf-like singing in the background. A friendly and entertaining collection, which shows just how versatile Caudron can be, but which also lowers the level of the whole box, as its quality pales in comparison to the other four records, which are simply majestic.