Tristan Shore, the man behind the Author & Punisher project, has been on a warpath since the release of his debut, self-released record The Painted Army. By drawing inspiration from his background as a mechanical engineer Shore has created his own range of instruments for Author & Punisher, his infamous Drone Machines. As a result, these machines have allowed him to create a trademark sound and also explore more vividly aspects of sound design and sonic manipulation.
Through all his records Shore has produced an interesting brew of robotic experimentation filled with influences ranging from industrial music, doom metal and drone, while at the same time he travels to the extremes of the experimental spectrum to include noise injections and more ambient passages. Now, armed with a new generation of Drone Machines, Shore prepares for his Relapse debut record, Beastland, choosing to further explore one of his favorite topics: the blurry lines between man and machine, not unlike another Tetsuo, The Ironman exploring dynamically the extreme music spectrum.
The first thing that hits you in any Author & Punisher release is the ferocity of the project’s groove, and here it instanteneously drags you into the dark depths of Beastland. The first explosion of the opening track “Pharmacide” sees the slow rendition creating a solid momentum, as the mechanical edge and the industrial repetition take over and show a doom inspired foundation. Even more punishing is the approach in “Nihil Strength,” verging more towards the industrial edge and leaving behind the doom elements. The precision in terms of pace is relentless, and the more Shore gives in to his industrial side the more brutal the process becomes, with tracks like “Apparition” being prime examples of that attitude.
What enhances even further the solid groove that Author & Punisher display is the application of distortion and noise on top of the mechanical progressions. The distortion radiating from Shore’s Drone Machines take on many different textures and motifs, and their morphings allow them to create a rich texture for the project. What is more impressive is that even though the distortion is harsh, it never sounds unpleasant, and it has a very impressive fuzzy characteristic that produces a warm effect. The distortion on the vocals also shows a similar versatility. For the most part, the noisy application allows the delivery to pierce through the massive soundscapes of industrial bliss and arrive with more conviction and brutality. “Apparition” is an instance where the distortion mutates to fit the needs of each individual moment, starting with a crushing characteristic that evolves into a clean plateau before a lighter distortion is applied to add more weight.
When applied to the Drone Machines, the distortion results in moments of abstract, immersive bliss. The opening of “Pharmacide” is such an instance, featuring low, electrifying drones that begin from shapeless forms and steadily take on a more imposing characteristic. Similar is the case with “Nihil Strength” with Shore using a vocal sample to further enhance the atmospheric quality originating from the sonic mutations of his Drone Machines. It is a strange ambiance that results from this process, taking on urban characteristics but with a dystopian twist, and it is an aspect that has been defining the work of Author & Punisher since day one.
This atmospheric quality further evolves to highlight the intersection between man and machine, resulting in a strange coalition that brings out a spiritual element. “Ode To Bedlam” is an example of this methodology, with the vocal delivery becoming softer, while the imposing dimension is able to bring forth a more introspective quality. The result creates a strange dissonance in this meeting of opposites, and it carries over in tracks like “Night Terror”, with Shore presenting another distorted view of the world. The contradiction between the soft vocals and the brutal background is even more vivid in this instance, but then there are moments when the project tilts towards a more emotive end.
Despite the cataclysmic sound of Author & Punisher, there are moments in Beastland that deviate from the brutal modus operandi and revel in a different, more subtle approach. “Nihil Strength” introduces this aspect in a majestic fashion, with the ending of the track producing an impenetrable veil of noise with a melodic underbelly. Still, the most impressive moment of the record in that respect is “The Speaker Is Systematically Blown” with Shore balancing between different worlds. On one side the underground and experimental heaviness of Godflesh, and on the other the direct and hooky perspective of Nine Inch Nails. The chorus of the track is simply pure ear candy, while the reconfigured Drone Machines cause the whole sonic landscape to tilt towards its own destruction. The approach is similar with “Nazarene,” but Shore offers a more disturbing take, spreading dissonance and relying on the heavy, synthetic percussion while again unleashing pure ear candy with some great hooks.
Beastland is a step forward for Author & Punisher at a point where it seemed like Shore’s sound might become saturated. But, the focus that the producer displays on the record, combined with the new generation of drone machines and the adaptive mentality between extreme experimental sounds and a more direct approach pay off.
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