2019 has been a truly exceptional year for the noise genre, with new releases from Merzbow, Lingua Ignota, Uniform and The Body and now Pharmakon’s fourth album, ‘Devour’. Margaret Chardiet’s output via the medium of Pharmakon has an iconic ability to unsettle – every aspect of each record is completely prearranged to perfect the effect, right down to the album artwork, which has always had an air of grotesqueness to it, without being outright gory or disgusting. ‘Devour’ is no exception, the cover depicts an up close photograph of a distraught looking Chardiet biting into what appears to be a wax casting of a face – a nod to the record’s title, which explores human nature’s natural inclination towards self-destruction.
Pushing the envelope further still, Chardiet recorded the entirety of this album as one continuous live take, with the intention that it be played seamlessly. This lends an additional air of rawness to the end product, it builds upon an intense feeling of dread that makes ‘Devour’ both suffocating and yet impossible to switch off from. With a run time of just 36 minutes, it commands your attention from the first jarring beat to the final fade out. Much of Pharmakon’s usual oppressive effects and pounding electronic beats have been stripped away, leaving the skeletal remains of a much more simplified output, allowing for Chardiet’s vocals to lead the way for the entire duration.
Tortured shrieks, feral shouts and frantic whispers assault the senses – a quick reminder that this is a live recording, which makes Margaret’s vocal range all the more impressive, as it ceases to waiver in intensity or volume. ‘Devour’ is without a doubt Pharmakon’s most ambitious work to date and it’s clear that she is looking to push her listeners’ boundaries every bit as much as her own. This will captivate, horrify and completely consume you – just as Pharmakon intended.
(8/10 Angela Davey)