Release Date: May 28, 2013
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Noise
PharmakonAbandon[Sacred Bones; 2013]By Will Ryan; May 28, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetPharmakon’s Abandon opens with a scream. It’s bloodcurdling and brutal and naked in a way even most noise musicians wouldn’t dare, but the scream is somehow transformed as its processed and compressed down to a suspended screech before some shuddering machine textures start to unfurl and the listener is suddenly submerged. It’s Pharmakon in a nutshell.
It starts with a scream. Not just any scream, but one that sounds like it's shredding all the muscle tissue in the vocal cords of Margaret Chardiet, the 22-year-old New Yorker who records as Pharmakon. It's more a warning than an introduction, a line drawn in the sand that forces you to either cross and face the consequences or turn away and go about your pleasant day.
“The Socratic pharmakon also acts like venom, like the bite of a poisonous snake (217-18). And Socrates’ bite is worse than a snake’s since its traces invade the soul. What Socrates’ words and the viper’s venom have in common, in any case, is their ability to penetrate and make off with the most concealed interiority of the body or soul. The demonic speech of this thaumaturge (en)trains the listener in dionysian frenzy and philosophic mania (218b).
On her new LP as Pharmakon, Margaret Chardiet uses whatever tool she can to scrape the society off of your bones. Abandon, her first album with Sacred Bones, opens with a blood-curdling scream that blends into a burning wash of pitch-matched noise. The feedback and grime are extensions of the human, all in the service of people “relinquishing control” and “complete psychic abandon.” The four tracks of power electronics that follow burn and burrow, every gasp for breath filling the lungs with more soot and smoke, every exhalation fanning the flames.
There's comfort to be found in the familiar, but when the structures and traditions we find so soothing are twisted just so, they have the capacity to become truly unsettling. Such is the case with Abandon, the first proper album from Pharmakon -- aka Margaret Chardiet -- who twists the very building blocks of music into something altogether unsettling. In the harsh world that Pharmakon creates here, singing becomes an anguished wail, backbeats become ominous thrums of low-end noise, and rhythm sections are replaced by hypnotic surges of mechanical noise, making it clear to listeners that the structures they find comfort in have been corrupted; there is no safe haven here.
From that first glass-shattering shriek, held and sustained at its highest, most anguished point, it becomes readily apparent that this is not meant as an album to sink into. Margaret Chardiet has poured her whole being into the density of its energy, a pure and unbridled howl to confront any expectation for those expecting to dip a toe into the world of Pharmakon. Such a wail is an unavoidably bodily experience - throats ripped raw and screamed hoarse, whole physical weight thrown behind the roar, all rationality and psychological control forsaken in that moment of white-hot emotive exertion.
It struck me recently while listening to Abandon, the first widely distributed record by Margaret Chardiet’s Pharmakon project, that one of the keys to grappling with noise as an experience is to consider the inevitably of the genre as a concept. Ever since punk staked an ideological claim on the idea of reducing music to its base elements, musicians have been on a seemingly never-ending quest to locate the complexity in the elemental, the beauty in the horrific, and the transcendent in the forsaken. In makes sense, then, that a scream, the most guttural and cathartic of human actions, would announce one of the year’s most bracing records, one that brings many of experimental music’s recent fascinations to a new, logical plateau.
The Fall RE-MIT. Mark E. Smith’s ideas are getting less idea-like than ever. The songs on “Re-Mit” (Cherry Red), his 30th studio album with his band the Fall, resemble a row of unevenly smashed windows, or patches of broken concrete in a street — unsightly ruptures within a familiar context ….