Review: Clawing / Offerbeest – Split

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Label: Nailbat Tapes

Even by the standards of extreme music, this split is pretty harrowing. Clawing blend dark ambient soundscapes with Matt Finney’s spoken word contributions, which – if you’re familiar with his work – you know means that you’re in for an emotionally heavy time. Offerbeest is one of the aliases of Maurice de Jong, perhaps best known for his work as Gnaw Their Tongues. His tracks here are no less devastating than those released under that well-known moniker, being filled with harsh noise and industrial oppression, conjured via analog synths. Hardly an enjoyable trip, then – but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it is a split that forces you to confront your demons, to face what is haunting you, throwing yourself into the nightmare and hoping to emerge on the other side.

Clawing take the first side, with four songs. As on Spectral Estate, it would be easy to focus on Matt’s spoken word sections, given that they provide the most obvious (“accessible” isn’t the right word) aspect of the tracks, and their heart-breaking tales give the songs a lot of their character. Yet to do so would be to overlook the excellent dark ambient soundscapes surrounding them, with their drones, echoing winds, and hints of almost-melody. It’s this last part that makes them all the more unsettling, providing an aspect that’s close to human to sounds that could otherwise have been transmitted from the depths of space. As that might imply, there is a coldness here, a vast sense of emptiness and yearning; and that there’s no resolution to any of Matt’s tales is, somehow, fitting.

Offerbeest’s side is much more oppressive in more obvious ways. Whilst Clawing are emotionally heavy, Offerbeest’s contributions are heavy in a more traditional sense – loud, claustrophobically dense, their swirling, damaged loops and drones are topped with voices that come across as though being projected from some alternative dimension. The effect is profoundly disturbing, as if looking into some uncanny valley of warped humanity – close enough to be recognisable, but different in some fundamental way. Maurice is well known for creating harsh, unsettling sounds, but he has really out-done himself here, conjuring up a true vision of hell, that is all the more effective for the human origins that still manage to come through.

All of which makes this split one that is hardly suited for casual, relaxing listening; but if you’re in the mood to be challenged, to face something musically and emotionally difficult, then this could be what you’re looking for. There are rewards to be found here, and some sense of spiritual cleansing for having weathered this storm; but none of it will come easy. Which is just how it should be.

Split is available digitally and on cassette via Bandcamp, and on cassette via Nailbat Tapes.

 

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