When did people from South Carolina get into industrial beats? The easy part would be calling this an instrumental hip-hop album, because, well, it's what it is, and getting away with it. But the numerical rating I've given to this only begins to scratch the surface of my thoughts for Imagery, So Dark. Julian Mentch prefers to toil near the dangerous side of things. His world is powerful and confrontational. There's a relaxed approach to music making here, and yet the tracks shiver with energy. "Murdered Imagery" gives off the air of a futuristic speakeasy, bursting with saloon-style piano riding neo-noir fuzz and being supplemented by a choir from more pure parts. The "I'll bleed you slowly" aesthetic is achieved by running the sounds through makeshift microphones. This is the definition of a bedroom album. Hell, Mentch isolated the guitars in a bathroom so he could record them at high volumes. The lo-fi approach was done more out of necessity, but the syrupy tones work with the music.
There are 11 tracks (12 including the 30-second opener), of bizarre and wonderful tape and sample experiments. He sets these back to foggy beats and live instrumentation. The samples and synthesizers sound disjointed or like they're being asphyxiated, and there's usually some evil electronic background grind like in "Water from Glaciers.” Yet the music as a whole possesses an almost narrative flow. Especially when Mentch enters jazzier territory like in the urban decay of "God Noise,” the labored layers of noise and dead-leave detail of melody leaves little question of how on the fly this music was conceived. Mentch chooses left-field samples, some which are downright alienating, but boy does he know how to use him. "Pure In Form" cuts off a preacher's "Up on High" and puts the bite through the blender. The result is a jarring but jazzy gospel hymn for the modern Manson. Relaxed beats played against reversed guitars and international music samples only add to the dreaminess. Note also the Arctic machinery on "Pain" with sawed-off bagpipes. Some songs lose steam: "Drapper" the closer sets up stoner metal riffs over cavernous beats, and I suppose the intended effect is to frighten but it comes off plodding and trite.
There's a calm depravity found throughout Imagery, So Dark, a willingness to confound and the biting feeling that Mentsch knows a thing or two more than you about how rotten life is and this is his way of letting you know. The music knows how deep it can take you, and Mentsch is sane enough to pull off the riskier moves that are often the pitfall of new MCs. As it, he's setting himself up for a fruitfully barren career.
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