May 092023

Once upon a time, before sound came to movies, pianists and organists (or phonograph recordings) would perform soundtracks for audiences in darkened venues, calculated to capture the changing moods of the silent footage or (as written here) simply to distract the viewers from the early unnaturalness of the larger-than-life two-dimensional medium and “absorb the shock” of it.

Those days are long gone of course, though (to quote the same source) “music eventually became so indispensable a part of the film experience that not even the advent of mechanically produced sound could silence it.” Witness the fact that almost no movies over the last century have been presented without a synchronized recorded soundtrack.

What you’re about to witness in this premiere is something like a throwback to the time of silent movies, even if it is a step forward into a dystopian future — though silent-movie audiences would have been horrified to see and hear this short film. The imagery is reality turned inside-out, and the music provides no real comfort, no “shock absorbers” despite its viscerally compulsive movements, but instead an ultimate reinforcement of fear.

The name of the song is “Population Compliance Attained Through The Dissemination Of A Psychotropic Agent”, a title that provides vivid clues about the psychedelic peril of the musical experience to come. It’s part of a forthcoming collaborative album named Sunyata Ontology from North Carolina-based Interstitia and New York-based Gridfailure.

The former is the ambient, electronic, instrumental solo project of Graham Scala (also of Bleach Everything, US Christmas, Harmonic Cross, Collapse Culture, and more), and the latter is the apocalyptic audiovisual solo project of David Brenner (also of Diminishing).

Sunyata Ontology is conceptually based in “a new Cold War”. Unfolding across ten movements it “envisions a disparate not-too-distant dystopian America, with military/espionage tactics, civil unrest, off-the-grid cults and militant factions, covert government police, the takeover of artificial intelligence, and the looming threat of nuclear catastrophe more realistic than ever”.

Population Compliance…” is the second track to be revealed so far. The first one, “Call of the Black Hand“, also emerged with a video. Like the one you will eventually see for the first time today, it was filmed and directed by David Brenner. The visuals are surreal, disturbingly out of whack with reality, but the figures are still familiar, and you can still tell that one of them is about to do something violent to the other.

You ought to listen to this as loud as you can stand it, so the syncopated sheet-metal smacks feel like skull-fractures and the sledgehammer beats make the floor bounce, so the deep groaning vibrations undulate like there is in fact a world serpent beneath the mantle. As for all the other clicking, pinging, and skittering pulses, and the scalding tones that sound like steel claws raking down a chalkboard, high volume will aid them in putting your brain in a blender.

And now we come to “Population Compliance Attained Through The Dissemination Of A Psychotropic Agent”. Graham Scala shared this thought with us:

Dave really ran with the visual component to this album in a way I’ve never seen with anything I’ve previously been a part of. This second video expands on the fragmented menace present in the ‘Call Of The Black Hand’ video we released a few weeks ago, but adds a more concrete narrative component. Between the song title and the video content we hope this doesn’t land the viewer on some sort of government watch list, but we make no promises.”

The visuals here are, if anything, even more surreal than in the first video, and the rushing collage of imagery turns life into an unprocessed negative, a swift hallucination, or a view through the eyes of an alien incorporeal witness, or maybe just your own vision after you’ve been dosed with what the track title promises.

The music ends in a way far different than its beginning, like an unraveling into a nightmare coma. At first it’s almost bright and jubilantly bouncy — almost, because the frantic shrillness, the slashing sonic razors, and the sulfuric-acid ambience within the music seem dangerously deranged and poisonous. But eventually a devolution begins, a side-step into a dimension of blood-freezing eeriness and hostility, no grooves there but only the psychosis of the future made manifest.


Sunyata Ontology will be released on June 9th through Pax Aeternum, and it’s up for pre-order now.






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