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Pharmakon | ‘Contact’

Noise, when correctly harnessed, can be the most cathartic form of music imaginable.

Quite often, throughout our days, we face battles. Sometimes, this can be due to the office grind. Sometimes, it’s family politics. Sometimes, it’s deeply personal.

And the best noise records channel all of these battles into an evocative, powerful sonic event that feels like being kicked in the face. Puce Mary, Boyd Rice/NoN, Whitehouse and Pharmakon all achieve this.

Based in New York, Margaret Chardiet has been operating under the name Pharmakon since 2007. Producing a series of CD-R’s, she graduated to putting out full albums in 2013. ‘Abandon’ was one of my favourite albums of that year and for good reason.

It was brutal. It was evocative. And it felt real.

All too often, tapes/CD’s of noise acts are simply people mixing distorted vocals, feedback and a Wasp synth into a bland pool of nothingness. Of course, some would argue that’s the point: to heighten the absurdity of the genre.

But ‘Abandon’, and it’s 2014 follow up, ‘Bestial Burden’ were, and remain, the real deal.

Chardiet has been quoted as saying that “there’s this sort of sterilised, plastic outlook, that a lot of Western culture has, where you’re not supposed talk about certain things. You’re not supposed to engage in negative thought. Everything’s supposed to be copacetic all the time, you’re supposed to ignore the fact that you die in the end, or you’re supposed to ignore the darker side of the human experience.”

This world view is what informs her work as Pharmakon.

Flesh Crawling

Death and decay are ever present themes, especially in the covers to the albums.

This particular one I find quite flesh crawling. From a distance, it could be mistaken as brain tissue. But, upon closer inspection, it’s the grease on the hands that cover Chardiet’s face that gives it that feeling of creepiness.

Definitely a step up from the previous two, which certainly stood out. But didn’t really induce any particularly strong feelings other than “hmm, looks cool.”

‘Nakedness of Need’ is such an evocative title. And, luckily, the track lives up to the title.

Beginning with a lone synth, the track descends into harsh noise. Add Chardiet’s screaming, and we get an indication that we’re about to enter a personal hell. The slightly muffled delivery of the vocals (just before the screaming) make the listener envisage Chardiet trapped in a room, banging her hands off the door in the vain hope that someone will hear her.

There’s very little point in breaking down the other songs, as they’re variations on these themes. Nonetheless, that doesn’t make them any less powerful. It just means you don’t have to read me repeating myself over and over again.

Although not as full on as her previous two releases, ‘Contact’ is still an album that demands the listener to immerse themselves in Chardiet’s world. Sonically, it’s brutal enough to match her back catalogue, eerie enough to give the album an extra dimension for repeated listening, and layered enough for the really big moments to have their proper impact.

Once again, noise acts as a soundtrack for our rage.

4 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 30/03/17

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