If there’s one name that should be on everyone’s minds when thinking of the progressive music emerging from Down Under, it’s DIY label Art As Catharsis. With this new surprise release, two of the label’s most revered artists have come together to unleash a split that’s truly formidable in its boundless scope. Though such splits can occasionally come across as something thrown together post-recording in an attempt to raise the profiles of the artists involved, there seems to be some genuine collaboration here. Though Uboa’s Xandra Metcalfe and six-piece outfit Bolt Gun each operate within distinct, unique styles on their respective tracks, they share a similar atmospheric tension that sees both artists somewhat alter their usual style.
The former builds to her usual harsh noise crescendos with a moody track that stutters forward, constantly threatening to unleash hell and often doing so, reaching catastrophic new levels of audial punishment before a dramatic finish. Perhaps inspired by some or all of the impending (and largely man-made) threats of climate disaster, social and economic inequality and the rise of neo-fascism, but most likely also by Metcalfe’s experiences as a trans woman stuck in world filled with those who would deny her very existence, it remains as existentially-concerned as the immensely revealing music found on her recent LP The Origin Of My Depression, though it is also seemingly intermixed with musings on the dismal future that mankind as a whole is currently barrelling towards. The track’s last few minutes divebomb into overwhelming dystopian booms and piercing shrieks that seem to signal this eventuality.
Bolt Gun, on the other hand, largely forego their proclivity for blackened post-metal on ‘Exorcism Refuge’, embracing jazzy textures in a cinematic piece that calls to mind the otherworldly synth of 2017’s Man Is Wolf To Man despite the lack of a more “traditional” sound. This shift is noteworthy but not in vain, as the piece instead embraces atmospheric noise and drone, with tortured cries emanating over morphing soundscapes that buzz like static and yet build steadily like a movie score. Instead of ramping up the tension, the track actually deescalates, kicking off with confrontational yells but ending on a seven-minute, saxophone-centred piece from the late Paul “Pax” Andrews, which offers alleviation from what came before.
Together these tracks provide an enveloping listening experience that flies by despite surpassing half an hour. As an added bonus, Bolt Gun have said that their earnings will help fund a new album, which surely can’t come soon enough.
Uboa & Bolt Gun is out now on Bandcamp. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr