Matt Henshaw recently sent me a review copy of his album Bury Me Before I Die, one that I was looking forward to as I’ve heard some of his other releases like 320, Pull Him Along, and Hollow Stone Space. He uses a combination of noise, drone, and more “normal” guitar riffs in his music, along with what seems to be some improvisation.
When I received it, I immediately opened the package up to see the album’s packaging. Henshaw’s album has a very DIY feel, as it comes in a DVD case with a picture of a river running under a stone archway. He printed it himself, and even when the printing of the song titles didn’t come out well on the back, he wrote them down on a little note and attached it. Inside the case is a baggie of dirt and a sheet of paper, with a hand-drawn human form, and the note “Cut out the figure above, write on the figure the qualities/thoughts you want to move past, fold and bury.” And then I thought, “So THAT’S what the bag is for.”
Everything is hand-written, showing how much time and effort Henshaw actually puts into his work and his art. It also shows how much he cares for it.
The disc starts out with “Sergovkiln,” a fairly traditional guitar piece, solo-esque and resembling Henshaw’s work on Pull Him Along. The tune is fairly straight-forward, and creates a nice and catchy melody to have stuck in your head. Yet the guitar is slightly fuzzy, signifying that this experience isn’t going to be only improvisational soloing. And in fact, track 2, “Zamanzor,” leads us into a fuller drone that “Sergovkiln promised with its fuzziness.
“Zamanzor” features low, fuzzy pulsing drones, slowly working its way towards development. Its repetitive wah-wah like effects, its pulsation, and its ability to slowly build on itself create a hypnotic trance, where one reaches the end of the 5 minute song wondering where the time went. Its length seems shorter due to the trance it induces, and the wavering between highs and lows in pulse mimic that of a heart monitor of a patient undergoing frequent scares. It ultimately ends up fading out before the track can finish, reminding of Merzbow pieces that seem to go on indefinitely. “Zamanzor” remains one of the better drone pieces that I’ve heard.
This leads into “Tass,” a short inclusion of digital noise instrumentation. What this most reminds me of is a staccatoed aluminum can song, with cut-ups and a slight hint at an underlying rhythm. It’s an enjoyable little bridge of noise between two drone pieces.
I had a little trouble with listening to “Vyasovkha,” as the review copy that Henshaw sent me seems to have an error at 1:37 in the song. However, I was able to listen from 1:39 on, which uses a repetitive droning guitar pattern, with squelchy, crackling noise. It goes from low notes to high, piercing tones, and at times it seems like the crackling electronics will overtake the guitar and converge into one mass of noise. Yet once we hit the 6 minute mark, the noise seems to drop out a little bit, allowing the drone to continue without ending. Enjoyable and hypnotic, just like Zamanzor, it’s an interesting listen because of the battle between noise and guitar.
“Bissmillah” ventures into ritualistic chanting and electric fuzziness, the only track on the album to feature voices of any kind. The guitar is relatively distorted like the rest of the tracks, but what really adds to this track are the chants that really change it up from the other songs. While the song is short, it adds a flavor for me, one that signifies that Henshaw has really thrown tons of influences into this record. When the guitar drops out at around the 2 minute mark, ending with a lone chant, it feels as though what was important to this song was less the drones and fuzz of the guitar but the mantra of the voice, and the chants had been another instrument to create the atmosphere.
We move on to “Sokhir Bukh Alakh,” a static-y pulsing tune of feedback buzz, and come back to “Sergovkiln” via a reprise, yet it’s not the same guitar that we’ve heard in the first one. It resembles a circus ditty, almost bell-like and synth-y in tone, fading out but reminding us how far we’ve come into the stretches of noise from the first track.
“Enerhothar” again differs from the other songs in that we get a tinny, distant sound much higher than most of Bury Me. It most reminds me of bestattungsinstitut‘s foray into vibraphone on the self-titled LP. Again, the tones are coupled with background noise, but the sound is slightly clearer than earlier. It seems we move closer to the sound source, understanding that it seems to be some sort of altered guitar that we’re hearing. A clever use of distance in this songs keeps the audience listening, always on the verge of understanding but never fully. As we near the end, the noise becomes more prevalent, hinting to us that the noise is always forcing its way back to the top and cannot be transcended.
“Krasnorad” is a deep, dark abyss of drone, slowly shifting almost unnoticeably, slight pulses stretching out of the darkness. It is fuzzy, it is black, it’s the perfect song for a long ride home at midnight. And it shows that as we have moved along through Bury Me Before I Die, this is where we end – a dark crevice for us to lie in, the deepest depths of drone, neverending – a perfect, hypnotic sleep.
Henshaw’s ability to combine different forms of noise and drone, along with more conventional guitar, stand out here on this record because of how perfectly it seems to fit together. The short tracks, what one would call interludes on CDs in different genres, bridge the gaps between conventionality and droning noise perfectly, recalling to us that the noise could be our unwanted attributes – and yet the noise is enjoyable, always coming forth, and that if we don’t bury it in “Krasnorad,” we may keep them forever.
Oh, and the great packaging of Henshaw’s album doesn’t hurt to sell the album.