Lustmord/Void Ov Voices/Robert Piotrowicz
Unsound Festival New York at Abrons Art Center
Sunday, April 10
Lustmord has 300 types of rumble. Yesterday afternoon at his second American show in 30 years–his first in New York–he broke out the one that clears your sinuses, the one that itches the waxy parts of your ear canal, the one that sounds like it’s billowing up from the floorboards, the one that makes your vision blurry, the one that rattles your chair and tickles your easily ticklables.
The “dark ambient” sound Lustmord pioneered in the early ’80s is basically the foreboding murmur of a coming dusk or the droll hum of an especially slow haunting–and it was alive and scratching the inside of a coffin during the two opening acts. Polish noise artist Robert Piotrowicz dealt in distorted signals like ricocheting, speaker-panning ghost-lasers, which then congealed into a massive drone (think a church organ going through a Big Muff). Void Ov Voices (whose name is even stupider when you realize the project is primarily voice-based) was actually Attila Csihar of Mayhem in full robe. He did what could only be described as “black metal Julianna Barwick,” looping breathy groans, Tuvan-centric gurgles, and metal howls of agony into a ritualistic stew. He brought candles.
So yeah, the vibe of the evening was meant to be scary and unnerving, a message driven home by there being as much light in the room as one sees while in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison. (The room was also dark in between sets, so people still had an almost-funereal attitude toward conversing when no one was playing.) But neither Piotrowicz nor Csihar could even approach Lustmord for sheer, visceral, bloody chills. Though he’s famous for dealing in the sub-20Hz frequencies that poke directly at the primal-fear circuits, what really got the temples sweaty and heart rates pumping was his underrated knack for the art of surprise. For ostensibly ambient music, his sound was quite active, and you never knew when the next T. Rex roar or metal-on-metal clank would jar you from safety (though for me it was compounded by a dude nearby, illuminated by a flicker of light, rubbing his face in spastic, orgasmic bursts). When the bass got extra low, it was downright disorienting, with chairs shaking like a screening of The Tingler. Only this was a horror movie for the ears and/or bowels.
Critical Bias: My mom once said Lustmord “sounds like Jurassic Park” and she was totally right.
Overheard: Nothing particularly juicy, but I totally caught a dude flipping through the owner’s manual of a Yamaha RM1x sequencer.
Random Notebook Dump: Usually “dark shows” and haunted houses are made promptly unspooky by the glowing, required-by-law exit signs posted above every door, but there was something extra-creepy about how Abrons Art Center’s ancient exit sign with a sans-serif font.
Personal: If anyone picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD203 headphones, I’d kind of like them back. Hit me at email@example.com.