Label: Umor Rex
Matt Finney has worked with a lot of artists over the past few years, adding his spoken word passages to dark music to create records that are as unsettling as they are addictive. This latest though, in collaboration with Siavash Amini, may be the bleakest release he has been involved with. With a musical backbone of dark ambient and sparse drone, Familial Rot tells a story of a life collapsing in slow motion, picking out those small details which seem so important in retrospect. It’s incredibly emotional without ever risking becoming over-dramatic, and is perfect music for late-night/early morning introspection, regret, and melancholy.
Familial Rot is an album that is easy to grasp, but difficult to fully understand its depths and layers. Even on initial listens, the bleak atmosphere is impossible to deny. Opener “Whole Summer” is built upon gentle drones and waves, the sounds shifting oh-so slightly as if in a constant state of quiet anxiety, whilst radio static and the occasional hint of melody lends the track an added humanity and sense of things broken and not made whole. This is enhanced by Matt’s sparse spoken word section, speaking of his “desire to be at ease for a little while”. That the music then grows ever-more ominous and unsettling from then on is a heart-breaking response to such a simple, understandable want.
It’s with further listens, though, that the true beauty (if that’s the right word for such a bleak album) of Familial Rot shines through. There are plenty of small, subtle elements buried deep in the music – far too many to list, and to even attempt to do so would rob any potential listener of the joy of discovery. It’s an album that rewards repeated listens, and such is its addictive atmosphere it is hard to say no. It’s remarkably easy to sink in to this album, to find hours drifting by as its dark ambiance takes hold of you, making you a witness to the stories that Matt’s words and Siavash’s music tells. The way the sounds ebb and flow, build and collapse, unafraid to suddenly switch from a wall of sound to sparsity in a mere moment, is incredibly effective. Some atmospheric albums require you to be in the right head-space to appreciate them; others will pull you in, regardless of any protests. This is most definitely one of the later.
What is most remarkable about Familial Rot is the humanity present throughout the album. Even during the instrumental sections, there’s a sense of life throughout – not in the lively way that can often imply, but in the sense of something living that you can relate to. The half-heard voices buried beneath layers of the sound; the distant sounds of barking dogs; small aspects such as these all contribute to a whole, and when added with Matt’s spoken words, which are often very much to-the-point (“Write about not fucking everything up, because it’s easier than actually doing it”), there’s no disguising the humanity behind (and contained within) this music.
This might all make Familial Rot sound like a huge downer, but it’s that same humanity which gives the album one of its strongest points. As bleak and desolate as it all is, there’s also something hugely cathartic here, a release that comes at the end of these 40 minutes that is quite remarkable and unexpected. It’s almost cleansing, in a spiritual way. It’s difficult not to be impressed by both how evocative and spell-binding the record itself is, and how strong an emotional impact it has. This is definitely one to turn to when you’re going through genuinely bad times and need something to help you through it.