Music Reviews

Artist: Shroud of Vapour (@)
Title: Suicide Forest Sessions
Format: CD
Label: 4iB Records (@)
Rated: *****
Shroud of Vapour is the work of four musicians: Hiroshi Hasegawa (Astro), Hiroko Hasegawa (Rohco), Daniel Sine (L’eclipse Nue), and Yoshiko Honda. I was already familiar with Hiroko Hasegawa and Hiroshi Hasegawa’s work in the legendary noise ensemble C.C.C.C., but the others are new to me. I must admit that my first thought on seeing the title and the cover art was that this would be pretentious neo-folk or worse, but it seems that the title is drawn from the actual place in which the recordings took place, The Suicide Forest in Aokigahara, Japan. According to the label, “The dense forest and its still quiet void of almost all wildlife bring out the very nature of the artists’ true intent, reflecting the atmosphere of desolation and despair of a haunted suicide ground. The weaving in and out of distant female wails and ambient like soundscapes seem to echo the lost spirits of those that have chosen to take their own lives here.” Sounds promising, so let’s get into it. “In Memory Of” is a 49 minute slab of intense soundscape. It opens with a woman singing simple tones (rather than words) This continues throughout the track, giving the composition an otherworldly, mournful feeling (which complements the title well). The music, however, becomes increasingly more forceful, with waves of gritty noise threatening at times to drown out the vocalist. This ebbs and flows, with noise giving way to burbling electronics and static. This track does a lot with the tension between calm, peaceful passages and static-laden, aggressive noise. In some ways, you know that one will follow the other; it’s just a matter of waiting for it to happen. The vocalist gives no clues either, as I could not understand any of her words, making it just more of the composition. Later on in the track, we have some male chanting, but this is just as difficult to decipher. The track eventually ends with a slow decrescendo of noise. Well done, if perhaps a bit too long for my tastes. “If it Pleases the Deceased” keeps the female vocals, but then buries them under a nice wall of noise. Like the previous track, there is a battle between dissonance and quiet, and although the winner seems to be static, the calm wins out in the end. Overall this is a nice blend of noise and ambiance, with just a hint of dread thrown in for good measure. This album weighs in at around 67 minutes and is limited to 250 copies.

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