Release Date: Mar 31, 2017
Record label: Sacred Bones
With each of her releases under her Pharmakon banner, Brooklyn's Margaret Chardiet has reckoned with the burdens of physical existence, drinking in the horror of sentient existence through gritted teeth and barking back with hellish, blood-curdling shrieks and experimental, industrial electronics -- all to gut-wrenching, visceral effect. On 2013's Abandon, Chardiet grappled with the fleeting stability of the material world, while 2014's Bestial Burden diarized her experience with hospitalizing organ failure. Now, on the followup to the latter's bodily exorcism, Chardiet aims to leave the corporeal behind to focus on the spirit, and in the process, unearths some mind-bending, fundamental truths about the human experience.
According to statements she's released, Contact, Margaret Chardiet's third album as Pharmakon is about transcending the physical - breaking out of the prison of self to connect with the world outside our skin. Doing so at one of Chardiet's live performances is easy. Very little compares to the exquisite tension and harrowing release of seeing her live.
The world can be a terrifying place, full of pain, suffering and evil. Most of us shy away from that harsh reality. Margaret Chardiet is acutely aware of this, and she wants to make us aware of it, too. The human condition and its dual nature is a longstanding theme of her Pharmakon project. On ….
Margaret Chardiet, the uncompromising figure behind Pharmakon, has reached what one senses might be something of a crossroads in her career. Bestial Burden, her 2015 second full-length, was one of the best noise records of recent years. It saw Chardiet ably recapture the pure viscerality of Abandon, her debut, and strip it back into something more profoundly unsettling and, well, bestial.
To date, Margaret Chardiet’s Pharmakon project has been largely about confrontation. She takes themes related to her own life and the world around her, funnels them into electronic noise, frightening samples, and gutteral screams, and dares you to turn off the stereo. Memorably, her previous release “Bestial Burden” dealt with the fallout of a sudden surgery that resulted from the presence of a large cyst in her body; the album in turn focused on the fragility and failings of the human body, at one point sampling a harsh, nasty cough to extremely uncomfortable effect.
Through a decade of performing and recording as Pharmakon, Margaret Chardiet has made music that heaves, throbs, and decays. Harnessing the drilling power of electronics and the elasticity of her screams, she's concocted visceral noise in New York since she was a teenager--first on small-run tapes and CD-Rs, then on more widely-available albums for her hometown label Sacred Bones. As her profile has grown, her sound has remained physical, the aural equivalent of organs pumping life into a body while nature takes a toll on its flesh.
Herein, Margaret Chardiet celebrates a decade of her solo noise/industrial project's noxious squall with an album that seeks to facilitate the listener's mind transcending their physical body. A lofty goal for a harsh industrial record, or any kind of record for that matter, but if there are sounds which can create the necessary trance states to accomplish that goal, they're probably in here. Her synths and electronics create a formidable miasma, but as with previous work, her voice does much of the heavy lifting to make the music distinctive; it's an instrument whose use Chardiet continues to refine in increasingly musical, but no less terrifying, ways.
Noise is a striking mechanism for Margaret Chardiet to express her innermost anxieties. Her last full length, Bestial Burden, was a gutting response to how illness overcame her. She doesn't get pleasure in exploring any highfalutin concepts; instead, she's moved by human anatomy, what's ultimately the highest authority when deciding our fate. In Contact, she's now ready to face her surroundings.
Pharmakon's second full-length, the brilliant 2014 release Bestial Burden, dealt with physical pain and feeling betrayed by one's own body. On her 2017 follow-up, Contact, noise artist Margaret Chardiet aims to escape the confines of her aching frame and induce trance states, producing out-of-body experiences. This is Pharmakon at her most hypnotic and brooding -- there's nothing as immediate as "Autoimmune" from her previous album, and it couldn't possibly be as confrontational as her live shows, during which she physically engages with her audience, screaming in people's faces and getting them tangled up with her microphone cord.