itsu jitsu ijWoO1, 2011, DD EP, 20m 17s
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The cover of this release shows a dead horse still harnessed to the broken cart before which it met its demise. This is a different sort of horse shooting than that referenced in the title: this beast was (one presumes) executed for its usefulness to its killer’s enemy, or simply killed as a byproduct of its proximity to a human participant in armed conflict. Applied to such a scenario, the question They Shoot Horses, But Why? seems to question the cruelty of conflict: applied to the stories told in the novel and film entitled They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, asking ‘why’ suggests a very deep despair, a sense of ultimate futility, in which even the point of a merciful termination to existence is questioned. Why bother to put a crippled beast (or person) out of its misery? Why not just leave it to suffer?
Neil Morrison, the man behind Word Or Object, is plainly a cheerful chap. Well, to be fair, simply because his work takes a particularly dark look at the world is no reason to make any suppositions about the man himself, but this certainly is very dark music. Utilising combinations of deep, tonal drones, and pads of white noise and distortion, this EP presents brief, disturbing soundscapes of an ominous character.
Given a beat, any of these pieces might become entertainment, and fit quite happily under the general rubric of ‘dark electronic’ music, although exactly where would depend on the type of beat. Without any such sop to our desire for an easy handle, the predominant emotional response this music seems intended to elicit is one step beyond despair: this is a music of spiritual and moral dissolution. It is an aural expression of deep horror.
The droning tonal elements of this music resemble the lower register of a pipe organ, or the sonorities of a choir, both elements much exploited in popular evocations of the demonic, of a darkness beyond the absence of light; its components of noise sometimes resemble the wordless whispering of an unseen malevolence, sometimes the ebb and flow of an otherworldly wind. It is audibly electronic music, which brings its own associations, and I was put in mind of science-fiction horror films, such as Alien, or better yet, Event Horizon. Tension is built, and built, and never released, until you are sure that something is going to happen, and that whatever it is, it won’t be good.
This music is less violent and abrasive than power electronics, a genre which it resembles in some ways: it shares with it a desire to disrupt and reshape the normal modes of listening. Ambience is usually something to be enjoyed; listeners will enjoy engaging with this music’s artistic vision, but they will not be gently soothed by its soundworld. It delivers its sensations of unease and suspense in short, discrete episodes, until its final track, a ten minute descent into a place which artists in many fields have attempted to portray, but which music has a unique power to evoke.
There is no hope or light at the bottom of Word Or Object’s pit, not even the false dawn of a dead cat bounce. There is just a gradual coming to rest, a submergence, an inevitability and a necessary acceptance. The music in these recordings is carefully and purposefully crafted, ruthlessly pursuing an artistic vision that few could see through to its conclusion, and it is impressive how precisely it invokes it. From this perspective, I would have no clue why they shoot horses.