More than five years after the first wave of so-called witch house artists popped up, caused a commotion in the independent music scene, and then soon faded into the ether, Mater Suspiria Vision remains one of the few still actively releasing material. Much of the appeal of witch house came from the fact that the musicians making the material were enigmatic to the point of being completely unknown. Typically hiding behind bizarre or downright unpronounceable nomenclature, witch house artists combined electronic melodies with hip hop beats in ominous and often downright frightening compositions. Mater Suspiria Vision, centered around producer and video artist Cosmotropia de Xam, was right at the center of the genre and arguably one of its most prominent artists – if for no other reason than for the fact that the project's name was readable and not something like (///???\\\).
MSV's latest effort, 2015's Antropophagus, is “dedictaed to italian horror movies (sic) by Lucio Fulci, Joe D'Amato and the golden age of italo sleaze:” every track here makes reference to some (probably jaw-dropping) Italian genre film. Having watched a fair share of those flicks over the years, an album based around them piques my interest already, but the album's overwhelmingly creepy and just plain strange atmosphere was also appealing: who doesn't like a record that sounds like a field recording of an occult ritual? Oh, wait...
Opener “Book of Eibon” starts off with an uncomfortably minimalistic mix of heavily-echoed foreign-language dialogue, scraping bass, an airy flute-like melody, and intermittent outbursts of laughter that are significantly unsettling in context. From here, hazy, buzzing chords emerge, the track trudging along in a manner that helps to explain de Xam's self-applied labeling of his music as “ghost drone,” “zombie rave,” and/or “haunted disco trance.” Subsequent track “Sette Porte Dell'Inferno” finds disembodied voices again echoing in the midst of dramatic, organ-like synthesizer drone, but a resonating, woody rhythm provides this track with a bit more life than was found in the previous one.
Dull, slapping rhythmic accents punctuate “Die 7 Tore Des Schreckens,” which also introduces tinkling music box melodies alongside a sinister, omnipresent low bass groan before more piercing organ chords join the mix. The German-language voice parts here almost sound as if they're being broadcast over a PA system, heightening the sense of separation from reality that permeates the track and the album as a whole. Pushed forward by a heartbeat kick drum, “Voices” picks up some wracky techno synthesizer and particularly agonized dialogue while “The Brain of Nikos Karamanlis” presents an unnerving mixture of whirring sound effects and melodic vocal choir.
Tortured screams heard throughout “Absurd” color the tone of the generally relaxed (if eerie) music heard in it and creaks and clangs penetrate the overwhelmingly murky ambiance of the album's title track. A gentle, wordless vocal motif pops up at the beginning and end of “Antropophagus,” but following the somewhat more flowing “Buio Omega,” any semblance of hope is dashed when lengthy “Anatomia Di Un Incubo” takes the listener to the brink and beyond. Mainly built around stammering pulses of electronic rhythm and lurching synthesizer hum, this finale disintegrates into pure noise by its midpoint. The introduction of a more melodic and I daresay pleasant instrumental theme again makes it seem like there may be light at the end of the tunnel, but the track's quietly foreboding, ambiguous ending doesn't come across as even vaguely optimistic.
Playing more like incantation or an apocalyptic sound collage than a straightforward music release, Antropophagus nonetheless seems to imagine what a darker, less dancey Crystal Castles might sound like. Mater Suspiria Vision (and witch house as a whole) has always seemed to be more interested in the establishment of a spooky mood than in conventional melody or harmony, and that seems especially true with regard to this album. Most of the tracks here sound similar – I might almost be convinced that the album was intended to be experienced as one, extended track – but Antropophagus is undeniably consistent, especially in terms of its prevailing ambiance. The effort won't satisfy listeners looking strictly for catchy tunes or lyrical prowess, but those who recognize any of the films or ideas referenced in the song titles (or who can appreciate that wonderfully macabre cover art) will probably enjoy the music on some level. I'd call Antropophagus an intriguing release that's perfectly suited for use as background music around Halloween.
7.3 / 10
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