Friday, December 12, 2008

Velvet Cacoon - Genevieve (Southern Lord, 2008; originally Full Moon Productions, 2004)


Four years down the line from the release of Velvet Cacoon's "second full-length album," Genevieve, and it still refuses to reveal its secrets. Not that this one is meant to be solved. I've read all the accounts of the fabrications propagated by sole member Josh (SGL) and his potentially non-existent bandmate Angela (LVG), and I'm convinced that the disinformation campaign functions as more than a publicity-driven hoax. Did the band's drummer really fall off a cliff and die? Does SGL really set his arms on fire at live shows? Was Genevieve actually conceived while Velvet Cacoon was high on dextromethorphan, and recorded with a homemade "dieselharp" through a 75-gallon aquarium? The truth doesn't matter. But Velvet Cacoon's dense web of self-mythologizing does, to the extent that it amplifies the murky obscurantism of Velvet Cacoon's music.

Velvet Cacoon - "P.S. Nautical"

There is none of the immediacy of a traditional black metal release on "P.S. Nautical," just a dull, repetitive roar of guitar, a lethargic drum machine gallop and some vaguely inhuman whisperings tucked underneath. Like Burzum's Filosofem, a clear precursor for Genevieve, the album envelops instead of drilling through, hangs fog-like instead of crashing down. There is resilience in Genevieve's opacity, but it also betrays an intense vulnerability. Wedged after such numbing guitar walls, the beautiful acoustic guitars that close out "Avalon Polo" feel frail. Same goes for the unexpectedly naked Gollum-voice at 1:48 in "Laudanum." Velvet Cacoon shines a spotlight on a creature that's hidden in the dark for eons, and it's pretty uncomfortable.

>Velvet Cacoon - "Laudanum"

Following with  the Filosofem comparison, the 17-minute "Bete Noir" is Velvet Cacoon's "Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität," the pure ambient track that defines the boundary lines of the band's vision. This creepy quiet industrial drone, punctuated only by soft static, might be Genevieve's defining track. It makes plain what the rest of Genevieve hinted at. Black metal is but the servant. Unsettling ambience is the master. 

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