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Il Vuoto : Senseless Painful Lives in Tears (Split with Failor)

Two lengthy Ambient/Doom explorations of depression fill this split offering from Il Vuoto and Failor.

Well, this is Doom: where a conceptually-linked, two-track, hour-long split centred around exploring the misery of depression and failure sounds like a perfectly reasonable proposition that only raises the question of how well it can invoke and musically encrypt those levels of bleakness and sorrow. 'Weakness', Il Vuoto's 2015 Funeral Doom debut, already took a pretty fair stab at that, with some well-presented Black-tinged cheerless sparseness. As Failor's first official release, they're more of an unknown quantity simply describing themselves as a 'Space ambient duo'.

Though a digital-only release thus far, both bands have provided a reasonable elaboration of their chosen themes via Bandcamp. Hence, 'Tears-I-Cleansing-Touch' "is a brief story of what turns around depression and self-inflicted pains. What flows along the twenty eight minutes and fifty eight seconds of recordings is the feelings and visions of a soul drawing near its mental failure" whereas 'A Week In Modern Life' "also deals with depression, but in a more materialist way. It is the tale of H, a man that works in a factory. His job is inhuman and alienating, killing him inside every day".

Il Vuoto start, leading in with a relaxed, echoing, almost dreamy, minimalistic guitar line and unobtrusive basic-timekeeping percussion: that pleasant and hypnotically tranquil element dominating the left channel, while the right contrasts with harsh bursts of fuzzed-out guitar, static, and various voice and sound samples. It's an interesting schizoid binaural effect, almost trippy with the surreality of maintaining focus on both streams. Disconcerting vocals, whispering or desperate, sometimes feed in and out of the centre, as does some more turbulent guitar. Twenty minutes in, the focus changes to a dark ambience underlying an excerpt from Mark Henick's 2013 speech "Why we choose suicide", then builds to a keening guitar solo that wouldn't sound out of place on Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'. The last spoken excerpt comes after a brief silence: "The only thing I could think in that moment: nobody would even know you're gone".

Okay, it sounds pretty clunky describing it, but something in there really works. Like a serpent in Eden, there's the constant feeling of wrongness: the promise of the delicate drifting melody tantalisingly close, yet irrevocably spoiled. Its almost-attainable relief has a deeper poignancy because of its closeness, but, in the end, only serves to emphasise the claustrophobic feeling of drowning only inches from salvation. It's actually quite a relief to surface to some sort of normality at the end of it, though the closing statement carries a disturbingly pervasive and enduring ring to it. I wouldn't know if that's an accurate representation of how clinical depression feels, but it does induce a genuinely powerful unease about how easily the good things in life can slip from reach.

Failor, in formally dividing their contribution "into seven parts, and every part is a day of the week. Every part is also divided in two: the half of the day when H is free but distressed, and the other half, when he is forced to work", have opted for a more prosaic, and perhaps therefore more restrictive, interpretation of their side of the venture. I don't necessarily disagree with their premise that Sunday can be the worst of days - though that's more shaped by my memories of the stultifying dullness of available entertainment or distraction that used to be Sundays in the '70s and '80s, with nothing to divert from another week about to start. Their low-key industrialised ambience follows through on that sentiment, regardless, built around comparatively soothing - if downbeat - synth lines with a few added choral effects and some low-key guitar. To be honest, though, I had some difficulty in picking out much of a distinction between the supposed fourteen separate themes - though there were changes of phrasing every couple of minutes, they basically alternated between the same couple of minimalist melodies, making it somewhat unclear where we actually were in H's week. Perhaps the intention was to demonstrate that the days blur into one, but it's rather labouring the point to stretch it out to half an hour of more-tinkly-bit/more-bassy-bit. Or not quite half an hour, since it does diverge at about the 22-minute mark (probably the start of the weekend: I had definiitely lost track by then). There's a certain injection of urgency there, and a rather more discordant, challenging section that's actually very welcome by then. Sadly, it doesn't really go anywhere much beyond ending with a few minutes of fairly unadventurous Dark Ambient sub-Noise exposition, perhaps rather crucially illustrating that any attempt to musically sculpt the ennui of a pointless existence runs the serious risk of ending up fairly boring in itself.

So, where does that leave us? On balance, I'm inclined to recommend it just on the basis of Il Vuoto's excellent and eerie segment. The Failor, I could simply take or leave: it's not terrible, and much of the content reminds me quite a lot of James Horner's haunting score for 'Gorky Park', but it's more background mood-music than all-absorbing. To be fair to the band, though, they're not claiming to be anything other than ambient, so it might be unreasonable to expect too much of a doomy emotional punch in the first place. Anyway, with the album available on a 'name your price' basis from either Bandcamp, there's no downside to satisfying any curiosity you may have about it.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
Il Vuoto
1. Tears-I-Cleansing-Touch
2. A Week In Modern Life

Visit the Failor bandpage.

Duration : Approx. 58 minutes

Visit the Il Vuoto bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-23 by Mike Liassides
Vanha - Black Lion
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