This latest CD from the duo of Luke Tandy and Shane Church has all the hallmarks of an old school harsh noise record. With an instrument list consisting only of tapes and pedals, and right up front the obvious use of clattering junk and buzzing instrument cables, I thought it was going to be a mid 90s throwback blowout of distortion. Encased in Marble/Wrapped in Roots is, however, more of an understated work. That rough-hewn production and use of overdriven sound is certainly there, but Tandy and Church deliberate in their use of dynamics and space, giving a perfect sense of tension throughout.
On "Mind as Stone and Water," the duo use an almost musical phrase looped throughout, covered with layers of lo-fi analog crunch. "Message Infinite" may not have as much in the way of pseudo-melody, but does approximate rhythm via stabbing bursts of static. With a hollow metal hum giving a slightly dark ambient feel to the piece, it is understated and a bit too brief overall. There is also a rhythmic clicking throughout the closing "Clenching Sand," presented alongside windstorm noises and low end rumble. The piece is structurally tight overall, with some looseness towards its conclusion in the form of bent tape passages.
Harness never fully abandon their harsher roots, however. "Replaced Broken Relic" is constructed on a bed of pummeling, overdriven layers with clattering spring reverb tank abuse and wobbling, unstable sounds on top. There is a bit of rhythm via loops, but overall it is a lot of crunching texture punctuated with just the right amount of breathing room. With an opening that sounds almost like a distant chainsaw, "Traveling Along the Knife's Edge" ends up resembling an entire orchestra of power tools. Easily the harshest work here, it eventually relents to a space of heavy sub bass and reverberated clattering, resulting in a conclusion that less harsh, but certainly more unsettling.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Encased in Marble is how Tandy and Church use deliberately lo-fi sounds and production, but in such a way that it adds a massive sense of textural depth and complexity to the sound. The distortion and maximized, but clipped volumes give a brilliant added variety to the sound that, even at its harshest moments, seems carefully nuanced. That depth, and an overall structural dynamic of tension and release, results in an amazingly gripping album that hits all of the notes a good noise album should.
Samples can be found here.