QN Reviews: Raime – Raime EP (Blackest Ever Black)
The underground, for the acute lack of a better term, is in the throes of an industrial/Goth revisitation. In the indie/noise zone there’s the ▲-worshipping witch house groups (oOoOO, Salem, White Ring, Holy Other, etc.) and the coldwave folks (Wierd Records, Cold Cave, Xeno & Oaklander, Silk Flowers, etc.), as well as charming oddities like Zola Jesus and Sex Worker, who enjoy drifting around classification. In the techno and dubstep realms, meanwhile, a slew of producers are also busy dusting off their demonia boots (just a joke). There’s the Sandwell District/Downwards family: Silent Servant, Regis, Function and Female, plus their many related side-projects, most of which — Tropic of Cancer, The Grave Lady, Sandra Electronics, Dva Damas, Collin Gorman Weiland, Six Six Seconds and some others — eschew dancefloor groove research for electronic post-punk, with an unambiguous emphasis on punk. Then there’s the post-everything duo Demdike Stare, whose records contain about as many esoteric references as the collected works of Eliphas Lévi.
Generally speaking, the indie/noise folks are overtly retro. A band like Cold Cave wears its influences on its sleeve so proudly that calling them a nostalgia act wouldn’t be inaccurate, or insulting, really. The techno/dubstep peeps, in contrast, are more about cultivating a balance between engaging what came before and nose-diving into the future’s chilly waters. They are robust modernists, with one eye slyly focused on the rear-view mirror. Function’s Variance 1-3 12″, to cite but one example, feels intensely current and of-the-now, yet a palpably musty doom-n-gloom haunts its stripped-down, abstract rhythms. It’s a rusted specter of the despair and brooding that courses through Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, Cabaret Voltaire, Portion Control, Throbbing Gristle and other dystopian visionaries.
All of this leads us to Ramie’s debut slab of wax for the label Blackest Ever Black (a nomenclature that weeps GOTH). The Raime EP stalks the solemn antechambers linking dubstep, minimal techno (think Emptyset, TV Victor) and dark ambient. I’ve read numerous comparisons to Sandwell District and Demdike Stare. They are valid, definitely. Raime’s productions, however, feel more nostalgic. The duo, because of this, shares much in common with witch house and coldwave throwbacks, significantly more than most musicians from a dubstep/techno background share. The lead track, aptly titled “Retread,” is a nonchalant update of the late-1980s intersection of Goth, industrial and the Middle Ages. Remove the obsidian splashes of dubby bass and claustrophobic compression, both of which help hold together the choral-like vocal effects, and there’s not much difference between Raime and the new-age electronica of Enigma, or The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos for that matter. And just to be clear: this is not a put down; I dig the record.
On the EP’s latter two tracks, “This Foundry” and the strikingly spooky ” We Must Hunt Under The Wreckage Of Many Systems,” Raime raises anchor and sets sail for less surveyed waters. In the process, their sound turns impressionistic, less rooted in history. The voices on “Retread” continue their funereal chants, but they’re now dissolving, crumbling and clipping. They’re becoming creatures of rhythm. Bass and drums follow suit, embracing “the tribal” more or less: (1) a cooing union of humidity, metal and bamboo, and (2) the tar-flaked remains of Jon Hassell’s Fourth World Volume Two: Dream Theory in Malaya. That said, drums and bass, while multiplying during their decay, are still producing nothing more than a plod. Super low- frequencies do exist, and they create a base-level atmosphere — vibrating fields rather than a throbbing nexus of discrete coordinates. Raime, outside of these scant components, employs little else. We’re talking serious austerity.
When I first started spinning this 12″ I thought its three tracks would sound better broken up and worked into mixes, but I’ve since gone back on this. The Raime EP is a solid listen in and of itself. To listen to these three tracks consecutively is to witness negative space — a dead blackness caked to the duo’s skeletal and severely compressed arrangements — slowly eat-away at sound.
And ironically enough, the most consumed track of the three, that last one, “We Must Hunt Under The Wreckage Of Many Systems,” is also the most engaging and alive.
Raime on Discogs.