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Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, "The Recounting of Night Time" and "Archeological Testing..."

cover imageThis inscrutable cabal of post-industrial scavengers continues to burrow into our murky cultural subconscious with a pair of minor new releases. Characteristically, both albums are heavily conceptual and mystery-shrouded, but The Recounting of Night Time at least volunteers that it "focuses principally on a certain piece of German gothic cinema made during the late 1970s." That certainly seems to suggest that a badly worn VHS of Werner Herzog's Nosferatu is at the heart of the sounds, but Fossil Aerosol Mining Project are (as always) far more interested in what time has done to the physical media than than whatever that media's original intended content was. About the superior Archeological Testing in the Land of Monkeys, even less is revealed ("A fatigued response to reminders of a cyclical past, surprisingly exaggerated in the years of the rooster and the dog"). Both releases offer their flashes of inspiration, but it is the digital-only and conceptually vague Archeological Testing that unexpectedly feels like some of the collective's finest work to date.

Helen Scarsdale/Bandcamp

The Recounting of Night Time's opening "An Unexpected Appearance of Folkway" is both maddeningly deceptive and weirdly perfect at setting the stage for the album to come, as its initial fanfare of sickly and smeared violins quickly gets mired in a noisy loop that continually restarts itself.Then it disappears completely to reveal a new theme that sounds like a distant fog horn melody.As it turns out, those brief flirtations with melody are arguably the album's last.The "fog horn" sounds, on the other hand, are an apt harbinger for an album that feels like a supernatural fog slowly filling my home in the night.It is not a particularly evil fog though: aside from an omnipresent backdrop of ominous, murky drones, the atmosphere never darkens beyond "vaguely unsettling."In fact, I would describe the aesthetic as lying somewhere between "time becoming frozen in a single repeating moment" and "being briefly haunted by a very lazy poltergeist."Almost all of the sounds evoke the sense of a darkened room where all of the electronic devices have quietly flickered to life, but all get immediately fixated on a single action: the record player skips, the VCR keeps failing to eject a tape, and the TV screen just shows crackling static with occasional mysterious glimpses of something more. That is a genuinely unique and fascinating atmosphere to conjure and Fossil Aerosol Mining Project do it beautifully.Unfortunately, they are quite content to stay there and the album feels forever stuck in that same moment pregnant with deepening events that never come.

To some degree, the album's lengthier pieces stretch a bit beyond that monochromatic, hypnagogic spell of eerie emptiness, but they usually just do so by slowly building to a somewhat higher pitch of textural intensity.The only real exceptions come near the end of the album.In "The Retelling of Fragmentary Legends," all of the initial themes of Night Time are reprised in a surreal miasma of creaking, hissing, and whooshing noises en route to a brief but beautiful passage of ghostly synth chords."Emptying the Village," on the other hand, features a blearily somber chord progression right from the start, then embellishes it with a warped, quavering melodic fragment.By default, it is the album's strongest piece and I am quite fond of it.If a few more pieces had cohered into some semblance of rhythm, melody, or harmonic activity, The Recounting of Night Time probably would have been a much stronger release.I suspect that was simply not possible, however, as Fossil Aerosol Mining Project seem like they are EXTREMELY invested in the thematic purity of their work.As such, it is likely that this album had an extremely constrained palette and that its artistry lay in making something compelling from those unlikely and unmusical fragments.Few other artists would use a thirty-year-old "field recording" of a poorly attended screening in a mildewed movie theater as one of their primary sound sources and I cannot blame them.I am delighted that this shadowy mass of weirdos is more than happy to take on that challenge though, even if it does not always yield the most dynamic music.The Recounting of Night Time is almost pure atmosphere.

Samples can be found here.

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As far as I know, Archeological Testing bears no intentional relation to The Recounting of Night Time, yet it weirdly feels like a willful return to the same territory with some significant improvements. The mood is certainly a similar one, even if the sound sources are completely different.In the case of this release, however, there is not a sense of endless suspended animation, as a jabbering cacophony regularly and gleefully breaks through the fog of hiss and subterranean drones.Even the drones themselves are more vibrant this time around, as "A Poorly Remembered Decade" feels like it is permanently at a low boil.The artists also make especially effective use of vocal samples, alternately using them as a narrative tool (of sorts) or for pure distorted and demonic mindfuckery.Impressively, the opening "Armassist" uses them for both purposes at the same time, as a pitch-shifted voice with a vaguely Southern accent kicks off the album by proclaiming "Somethin's wrong somewhe-uh!"That 'somewhere' is arguably the world of this album, as I often feel like I am surrounded by gibbering, skittering chaos as I hallucinate screams and strange voices emerging from the static of my possessed television set. However, that infernal scene is endearingly undercut by the delightful lunacy of some of the sounds and voices.There is a perverse element of humor that surfaces throughout the proceedings that the band's spiritual forefather George Romero would appreciate."Disco Stones" is an especially fine example of that exquisite blend, mingling smeared and delirious funk Muzak with something resembling strangled walkie-talkie transmissions.

For those amenable to Fossil Aerosol Mining Project's post-modernist celebration of the lingering physic residue of forgotten culture, there are an impressive number of highlights to be found throughout Archeological Testing.My favorite of the lot is "Nowhere Near (11th Month Remix)," which resembles an inspired variation on the classic "sci-fi tribal" aesthetic of FAMP’s erstwhile collaborators Zoviet France (it sounds like a series of reality distorting, extra-dimensional howls reverberating through an abandoned space station).That deliciously creepy and unreal atmosphere carries into the following "Aocean" to some degree as well, though its simmering dread feels more akin to Solaris than Alien.The final moments of that piece also feel like the album's haunted and enigmatic heart, as a distorted voice repeatedly intones "With each word, with each breath, with each moment."That hot streak remarkably continues for the entirety of the album's second half, as the bleary kitsch of the following "Disco Stones" gives way to the dynamic phantasmagoria of "The Night Roar" and the eerily lovely coda of "Ruined Melody."The unpredictability and variety of these pieces truly brings out the best in Fossil Aerosol Mining Project’s aesthetic and I am curious to know if that was a deliberate choice or just a happy accident.After all, this album is described as "unplanned and largely unannounced," so it could very well be a collection of unrelated recent (or not recent) pieces that did not fit with one the band's more rigorously themed formal albums.It is perplexing that such a fine album was allowed to slip into the world largely unnoticed, though I suppose self-promotion has never exactly been one of this collective's greatest strengths.In any case, I am delighted that Archeological Testing surfaced despite its lack of planning and fanfare, as it is one of Fossil Aerosol Mining Project's most dynamic and compelling releases that I have encountered.

Samples can be found here.