Label: Opal Tapes
Gospel is the third collaboration (though second to be released) between Siavash Amini and Matt Finney, and the combination of ambient/drone soundscapes and confessional spoken word is every bit as emotionally devastating as you’d hope and expect. It’s not a record to be enjoyed in any conventional sense of the word; instead, it’s music as therapy, as a means of confronting one’s demons and trying to put the past behind you, no matter how Sisyphean a task that may seem. It picks up the thread (both musically and emotionally) from Familial Rot and not so much runs with it as it does stumble forward, hands reaching desperately for safety, fighting off demons and trauma that are more spiritual than anything else. It is a haunting, uncomfortable listen; but also compelling in its own way.
Matt Finney’s work has always been rooted in the personal, using his spoken word sections to paint the bleakest of pictures, made all the more horrific for their matter-of-fact, autobiographical delivery. Gospel takes that aspect and ramps it up even further than before, with Matt delving in to topics that can’t have been at all comfortable to share. It’s almost a mercy that he steps back for most of the duration of Gospel, letting Siavash take the lead with his murmuring drones, electrical hisses, and hints of fractured rhythms.
What’s interesting is that these extended instrumental, dark ambient passages feel like a conscious choice – a way to make the listener reflect upon what has previously been confessed, and (try to) prepare for what is to come. Even during these sections, nothing feels safe or welcoming – there is a hostility bubbling beneath the surface. But at no point is this aggression directed outwards. Instead, there’s the feeling that any loathing or misery is directed entirely inward, as if those involved blame themselves for events they were powerless to stop, where they themselves were the victims in a long cycle of pain and abuse. This is often conveyed in the same details, whether it be the murmuring sounds buried in the depths of ‘Jesus Fish’, or the gut-punch of a line “he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing either” during closer ‘Cicadas’.
All of which makes Gospels a record that can be incredibly difficult to spend extended periods of time with, and its 36 minute duration feels like a small mercy. Whilst the album is playing, it’s hard to look away from it – and there’s something captivating about the way it expresses its pain and quiet, all-consuming horror. But there’s also the feeling that spending too long with the album would somehow be corrosive, and it’s hard not to want to spend time instead with something that feels comparatively cleansing. That’s not intended as a criticism – indeed, it’s a compliment. Gospels is not an album that is meant to make you feel good, or better, or clean. It is an album that expresses a fundamental sense of hurt and self-loathing, that bleeds from countless, invisible wounds, staggering forward as it tries to comprehend the terrible things it has had done to it. It is a remarkable achievement, even if it’s an album you might not want to visit often.
Gospel is available digitally and on CD via Bandcamp.