Delving right into the experimental underground it would not be surprising if Psicopompo was a completely new name to you as it was to me when I was asked to cover their new release ‘Seven Sermons In Stone.’ This invitation came with an apology that due to the limited nature of the recording (just 100 copies on vinyl) it would be impossible to send it on to me in a physical format. Fair enough, but why review something that is so limited? It’s not like it is to help sell copies as it should sell out in its own right. Well under the circumstances it comes down to my personal interest I guess and interested I certainly was as this was something I really wanted to hear. Psicompopo is a collaboration and meeting of two dark minds. The first of these is an “Italian-based noise artist and sound engineer from Torino” Lorenzo Abattoir. Looking at his blog-spot he has been involved in harsh and static noise techniques under the name of Nascitari as well as sound instillations, gigs and performances, including the UK, under various project names. I have previously reviewed a collaboration by Abattoir and Satori so it is not my first traipse into the artists nightmarish void. It is the second name involved in Psicopompo that really had me intrigued though being German composer and musician Hermann Kopp. If his name rings a bell you no doubt have a film collection of a dubious (although I should point out now completely legal in the UK) nature, as he participated on the striking soundtracks of director Jorg Buttgereit’s seminal arthouse horror films Nekromantik 1 and 2 and Der Todesking. It’s only now I discover that Kopp who apparently resides in Spain was in a German industrial act Keine Ahnung in the 80’s and has a sporadic discography to date. Although his soundtrack work is what he is renowned for, certainly by anyone who has seen the films and loved them like the dead themselves, it was intriguing to me to hear something outside that particular field.
As alluded to in the title here are “seven sermons.” The first ‘He Lived His Life Backwards’ is a sinister and gloomy sound collage of strange noises and effects with a shrill tone running through it. It puts you in mind of an underground warehouse or lab where ghastly experiments are being made on human flesh and the slimy slithering sounds most definitely unsettle. What exactly is occurring is left to the most dangerous weapon available, your own mind. Something seems to be crawling through it sloughing off mutated flesh and it could easily be a soundtrack to your worst fears and phobias. Some may want to turn it off after a few minutes and go and take a cold shower to recover… this is not music for the masses. The strangely entitled ‘Obelisk Valise’ has that devilish violin stringed sound that Teutonic terror fans will quickly identify as being the signature sound of Kopp. Like the devil’s tritone it infects the main sound whilst industrial steam and electronics fill the spaces. It goes very medieval sounding with an orchestral drive pulsating behind it taking you back to early classical renaissance music along with images of black death and disease. The ‘Tattooed Woman’ takes us to a nightmare in noir and surprisingly for those expecting this to be a purely instrumental tells a tale whispered out in whilst the music gently pulsates. Given the title and what I can make out of what is being said including the line “the dying elephant is bleeding from its stumps” and the description of a woman tied to a chair I have to wonder if this takes inspiration from Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre. It definitely takes me to that universe and with the final words “your teenage daughter is deaf and mute” rasped out I have my answer. ‘Stone God’ livens things up with more traditional sounding musicality, drums slowly pound and a piano is played, the beat almost trip-hoppy. I am kind of in a Perdition City era Ulver sort of place now and the late-night noir vibe is further fleshed out with maudlin string work.
The b) side begins with ‘Fenix’ as if further proof of being in the universe of Holy Blood was needed. You can hear a lone strum that also collides with the Kopp’s past soundtrack work and vocal chants fragrantly catch me off guard. We have now taken a sidestep and are nearly in world music territory, this turn of events strange at first but perhaps making more sense on repeated listens. ‘Cult Of Skulls’ is trance inducing and very dark ambient nightmare music that seems to tie everything together. Watch the video below and the combination of audio and visual will make much more sense than any words I could add; “macabre and “ritualistic” are two though that kind of sum it up. ‘Nichtlicht’ sucks all light out and wraps this strange and immersive world up with clanks, clicks and mechanical sound recordings. Piano notes are hit and melody and structure are added and somehow it makes some sort of sense.
I generally like leaving a review like this with a link to hear the whole album via a medium such as Bandcamp and am hoping one may well be added in the future. For the moment though it seems 2 video track representations are all that is available. Music like this is something that needs to be sought out I guess and even though the internet has broken down barriers there is a certain amount of work needed to do so. I’m glad it found its way to me as it proved to be a strange and fulfilling experience.
(8/10 Pete Woods)