Music Reviews

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Artist: The Division (@)
Title: Mantras
Format: CD
Label: Lens Records (@)
Distributor: Lens Records
Rated: *****
I guess Lab Report is a name known to most Dark-Ambient-Industrial music enthusiasts, being one of the early pioneers of the genre with a rotating roster of guests, including- Genesis P Orridge, Lydia Lunch, Chris Connelly, Johnny Polonsky, Chris Blazen, Becky Allen, Kerry Simonian, Derek Frederickson, Tom Slattery, Dan Burke and many others. Of course, the guy who was Lab Report is Matt Schultz, the creator of the souped-up dulcimer-like Anti Tank Guitar, which you might have heard him guesting with on some early 90’s Pigface albums. Now Schultz has a project called The Division, which is supposed to be a musical reconstruction of ancient spells and rituals.

From the get-go, Mantras’ bears down on you with a searing intensity, with rather harsh sustained strings, the ATG doing a bit of a Middle Eastern sounding dance, whipping noise stabs and percussion in the background. Sounds like something, uh, dreadful is soon to be released. That track was called "Protection", something every Magus needs before working Magick. "Breathe" continues on with breathy synth over a rhythm that is both Middle Eastern and martial. Pretty impressive stuff as the preparation for the ritual begins. The Crowley motto, "Do What Thou Wilt" serves as the title for the next track. Tribal percussion and more Eastern mystic instrumentation. Gotta love this stuff! There’s too much going on to really call it ambient in my book, but maybe Atmospheric Occult might be a better term. Simple, but very effective in both rhythm and instrumentation. Just enough variation to keep it from getting stale, but not so much as to detract. Obviously Schultz’s creativity has not waned from his Lab Report days.

"Incantation One" is punctuated with some gonging, and has a more oriental flavor. Master Therion or Fu Manchu? I could picture Anna May Wong dancing to this. Absolutely inscrutable! "Incantation Two" features an exotic flute melody over a ritualistic rhythm. The track grows in feverish power as the Great Work begins in earnest. The air is thick with incense. Spirits are summoned. The gate is opened. "Life" has a sort of Persian/Turkish feel, with the ATG emulating a zurna or duduk over rhythmically plucked saz or tar with davul and darbuka percussion. The dervishes are whirling. This is perfect music for belly dancing. "Long Construction" keeps the exotic Middle Eastern feel going, although it was perhaps my least favorite track on the album, perhaps because it took more than halfway into it to really pick up steam. This is probably closer to what you’d expect of Middle Eastern dance music than anything else on the album.

"Monks" begins with the slowly repeated sounding of a struck Tibetan bowl and the emergence of a tamboura-like drone with castanet or idiophone clacking, and low thudding percussion. Ghostly voices quaver in the background. Spirit monks? Very eerie. Finally, we end journey through The Division’s Mantras’ with "999", a very enigmatic track. Interestingly, the first eight tracks are 6:02, and the last is 6:00. Hmmm... I’m sure there is some significance to that. All-in-all, this is great stuff, and you don’t have to be a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, or even a practicing occultist to appreciate it. There is more than enough interesting material here to warrant repeated listenings. Mantras’ is supposed to be the first of a trilogy of works by The Division. I can’t wait for the other two.



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