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Vatican Shadow, "Kneel Before Religious Icons"

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As one of many of Dominick Fernow's many aliases, the debut of Vatican Shadow in 2010 could have ended up another one-off project to never be heard from again.  However, going in a rhythmic direction rather than just harsh noise made for a project that stood out among its peers.  Here, the second release and first full length is re-released on vinyl with a significant leap in sound quality.

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Kneel Before Religious Icons - Vatican Shadow

The rhythmic direction that Prurient went in on Bermuda Drain and Time's Arrow was attributed by a lot of people to Fernow's membership in Cold Cave, but those seeds were sown back on the first VS release, Byzantine Private CIA (which is also slated for a vinyl reissue in the near future).  Kneel Before Religious Icons is the first actual album, and like many Hospital releases, it was released in confounding format (four C10 tapes) and in an absurdly limited 33 copies, keeping out of reach of everyone except label obsessives and those who troll less than legitimate blog sites.

With a greater recognition from the less limited VS releases from late last year, as well as the parallels with recent Prurient, the project has received greater attention, and deservedly so.  Here on vinyl for the first time, the sound is great, a lot more so than the original tapes, and also the music simply benefits from the warm, crackling ambience of vinyl.

From the Middle Eastern imagery and looped, rhythmic structures, Vatican Shadow has been frequently criticized as ripping off Muslimgauze, and while there are definitely similarities, the two projects are rather different from each other.  VS has far more in common with the second generation of electronic industrial music (when it became danceable) than Bryn Jones' lo-fi endeavors.

"Chopper Crash Marines' Names Released" and "God's Representative on Earth" are both based on repetitive, metallic drum loops and pensive synth strings buried in the mix, balancing the melody with the clanking percussion and crunchy distortion.  It's on tracks like "Harbingers of Things to Come" that the actual parallels to Muslimgauze appear, with Middle Eastern tinged FM synths and crackling rhythms.

On "Shooter in the Same Uniform as the Soldiers" and "Church of All Images," the beats are much more danceable, exemplified by the booming bass on the former and more diverse loop juggling on the latter, keeping both fresh and compelling.  The more sparse and erratic structure and loping beats on "Final Victory:  Christ Became a Man and had Truly Assumed Human Nature" hint at the direction the project has gone in more recently, focusing less on repetition and more on structural variation.

Being that they're all made up of repeating loops, the eight tracks that album are pretty repetitive, with most songs abruptly starting and stopping seemingly at random.  It definitely conveys a specific mood, one of tension and conspiracy that would work well as film or TV backing tracks, but strong enough to stand on their own.  With its similarity between tracks and repetitive nature, this is just the right length work to keep things fresh, and the mastering for vinyl is a dramatic step up from the original tapes.  Of all of Fernow's projects, this one has been the most captivating since I first heard it, so I’m eager to hear what new work this wider exposure may lead to.

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Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 00:48  


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