The built environment seems central to Locrian’s ‘Territories’. Track titles talk of geographical positions such as ‘Between Barrows, a ‘Ring Road’ and a ‘Columnless Arcade’, while ‘Procession of Ancestral Brutalism’ refers to the functional/industrial architectural movement of the mid-Twentieth Century. But the sound made by Chicago’s André Foisy and Terence Hannum seems to describe the decay of such structures as opposed to their construction. The monochromatic improvised interplay of Hannum’s analogue synths and organ with Foisy’s guitar feedback and fretwork has seen them aligned with the often dystopian-sided genres of noise and drone. But with ‘Territories’ they open up their sound with a selected guest list of collaborators that sees them slip in and out of their discomfort zone.
Mainly culled from improvised sessions, the album seems to have been prepared for vinyl, whose two sides enjoy three tracks a piece, each culminating in a black metal climax featuring Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd on guitar. This immediately recognisable genre sound, full of tinny and tensely strummed axe work, wraith-like vox plus alternating pummel and plod percussion, contrasts strongly with the outlandish experimentation that precedes each act’s finale.
Side one opens with ‘Inverted Ruins’ whose dilapidation is depicted through a repetitve, delayed and dirty bass riff, reminiscent of early TG, pitted against distorted layers from a grainy amp with winding feedback so shrill it seems designed to attract stray dogs. It feels like a meditation on abandoned houses, where injured vocals, buried in the noisy rubble, complain of the failure of traditions that has lead society to decline. But here, Locrian’s spiralling pessimism is held together by the strong rhythms of drummer Andrew Scherer (Velnias), somehow channelling the duo’s depression into an acceptance of fate.
‘Between Barrows’ continues the solemnity as a ritual of crashing cymbals punctuates a slow melodic passage of deep extended organ tones underneath the saddest of sax solos by Bruce Lamont (Yakuza). Again, a vivid sense of grieving is kept dignified through an elegant, tempered accompaniment. So, while not unenjoyable in its own right, a segueing into black metal’s more predictable ingredients disturbs the first side’s otherwise powerful atmosphere.
And the same happens on side two, but not before Territories’ bleakest track, ‘Ring Road’, winds its way around bursts and squeals, aided by power electronic stalwart Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded), encountering what sounds like a momentous avalanche all but obscuring a feral guitar on the way. While ‘Antediluvian Territory’ seeks to calm things down with a Floyd-ian delayed guitar and warm bass, the final track builds a wall of guitars for four minutes or so before heading into a powerful but standard black metal form.
‘Territories’ shows how working in collaboration can both enhance and detract from Locrian’s wildly experimental, unpredictable inclinations. But while the sequencing of the tracks seemed spell-breaking at the end of each side, most tracks taken individually are truly spell-binding, possessing a rich, resolute display of the evocative power of the sound of decay.