You’re walking down a street and a panel van pulls up alongside you. The door slides open, and someone grabs you off the pavement and puts a hood over your head. You are driven to an unknown location, dragged up a flight of stairs and fastened into a seat. You start moving and when the hood is finally pulled off you are on a rollercoaster perched on the lip of a 200ft drop. You plummet, screaming, into a tunnel of blacklight, neon and flashing lasers and as you start pulling G’s at faecal-encouraging speeds, you feel sure you’re going to leave the tracks to your doom. The soundtrack to this experience is GHLOW’s new album Slash & Burn.
From the opening train-on-fire noise of ‘Not Fit For This’ through to jackhammer pounding of ‘Spit’ you are treated to a near-relentless sonic attack. You can’t fight it. It would be as pointless as a child going up against a bulldozer, so you go with it and get swept away on a wave of molecule rattling energy. There is the fuzzed napalm of bass and guitar which could melt a stack of Marshalls going toe-to-toe with flaming swirls of electronica that could cauterise wounds. Riding this auditory monster like a Valkyrie, with her graphene vocal chords, is singer Emile de Blanche. The Siouxse-like power of her voice is needed to hold its own against the production which feels like Phil Spector was operating the mixing desk from his place in Hell.
Despite sounding like a thousand guitar band, only two people make up GHLOW: Emille de Blanche and Nikolay Evdokimov. Their creative influences come from many areas; De Blanche has worked in sculpture and was a child prodigy on violin, whereas Evdokimov is a tattoo artist whose musical background was in Russia playing in bands while the Soviet Union fell. Although they moved in the same circles in Stockholm, a chance meeting while de Blanche was on the way to buy art supplies, ultimately led to their musical collaboration.
The eight visceral tracks on Slash & Burn make a complete experience. Every space on this record is filled with sound that is fuzzed, warped, reverbed, echoed, distorted, stretched and/or rubbed with sandpaper and yet far from being like tapdancing on razor blades this is a fully realised world that merits repeat visits and, just because your ears ring after a gig, doesn’t mean you ‘re not going back for more.
Review by Paul F Cook