Not so long ago we wrote here that while many musical extremists add new layers of brick and mortar to old walls surrounding well-established genre structures, the anonymous Parisian duo Non Serviam take a wrecking ball to genre walls. Their music is about catharsis and confrontation, and to extend the alliteration, it can be confounding — because it goes where the creators’ passions and wild inmventiveness take it, outward into the world from a burning inner core of rage.
You would conclude that the music on their new album Death Ataraxia is confrontational even if you didn’t know what inspires it. It has the effect of getting in the face of listeners and shoving them out of comfort zones and off-balance, teetering but fueled. But what inspires the music is also confrontational, an anarchist and antifascist ethos that condemns the abuses of capitalism and hate-mongering directed against the least powerful among us.
Yet it would go to far to brand the music, or what inspires it, as nihilistic, even if sometimes it sounds ruinous or hopeless. In the midst of superheated resistance there seem to be goals beyond not surrendering or becoming complacent, beyond furiously swinging the wrecking ball at what confines our bodies and minds. Goals like embracing those who need support when we can, (furiously) seizing the opportunities for rapture when they present themselves (no matter how fleeting), or just letting your head spin away from the ugliness of the real into the very un-real.
Another way to put it is that in listening to Death Ataraxia you’ll find times when you might want to sway and bounce, or to let your mind wander in intriguing but dangerous dreamscapes, but plenty of other times that might make you want to put your head back and howl, or hurl yourself like a missile into violent collisions, or feel your brain spin (dazzled) through a kaleidoscopic sonic collage where nightmares thrive.
Death Ataraxia, which is set for release tomorrow (June 2nd), is labeled a “Mini-Album” on its Bandcamp page, but as you’ll discover through our full streaming premiere today, it’s 54 minutes long, encompassing 8 songs, each of which ends exactly on the minute. Three of those songs have been released in advance of the full album — “Mortrien“, “Apocalyptic Lust“, and “Prends Moi Dans Tes Bras” — and each of those was accompanied by a music video.
Non Serviam‘s videos are no more conventional than the music, and thus (perplexingly) they go very well together. We have another one for you today, a premiere of a fascinating film by Chariot of Black Moth for the new album’s title song, and it also makes a fine companion for the music, which is hallucinatory in both seductive and harrowing ways.
The throb of the bass, the glinting of the guitar, the rhythmic clatter of the drums, and the sheen of the organ-like keyboard provide the seduction. But those same ingredients, plus a heavy, undulating, lo-frequency presence, also create sensations of brooding, menace, and derangement, and rabid screams and lacerating electronics put nerves on edge. Wailing crystalline vocals haunt the music, and an accelerated speaking voice adds to the madness.
The title song might be the most hypnotic track on Death Ataraxia, though it’s a very uneasy kind of spell. Other songs are more explosively cathartic. “Prends Moi Dans Tes Bras“, for example, includes horrifyingly vicious vocals which maniacally come for the throat, and abrasive assaults of scathing riffage. It also includes bouncing industrial grooves, ginormous detonations, shrill sonic aberrations that sear the flesh, weirdly undulating tones, pinging electronics, and cacophonies of yells and screams.
The album opener “Apocalyptic Lust” is a bit of both — both mesmerizing and calamitous. It moves from dreamlike exotic melody and vivid clacking beats into a miasma of searing and moaning tonalities and wild howls. That phase of the music is disturbing and distraught. Deranged flickering tones and gloomy, wailing vocals deepen the mood of things falling apart.
The atmosphere of mental and emotional fracturing never really vanishes, but it’s also generated through bursts of maniacal percussion, grim slashing chords, and even more shrill and superheated convulsions of sound. The vocals spasm in savagery as well, but joined by strident singing that soars — in longing. The guitar also viciously gouges with corroded and corrosive claws above frantic double-kick bursts.
Due in part to the voices, which are both wraith-like and bestial, the experience becomes nightmarishly hallucinatory, distressing and afflicted, seemingly devoid of hope but with full reservoirs of rage. There are brief ebbs, but the music builds toward catastrophe.
To complete the video presentations we’ll mention “Mortrien“, whose video includes frantic fragments of “Burlesque Queen” (1961), “L’amour existe” (Maurice Pialat, 1960), and “À propos de Nice” (Jean Vigo, 1930).
In the music, Non Serviam indulge their affinities for industrial music and harsh noise, slathered with unhinged vocals and punctuated by crazed percussive eruptions, freaky pulse-pushing guitar arpeggios that have hooks, body-moving electro-beats, and spoken words.
Death Ataraxia (the album) includes a guest performance by Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Behold the Arctopus), performing a Warr guitar solo and ARP 2600 synthesizer on “World Eater“. How could we fail to single out that one?
This one is downright terrifying, cold and malignant in some phases and chaotically destructive in others, overlaid with the kind of monstrous roars and throat-ruining screams that put shivers up and down the spine. The snare-clatter can snap your head with its propulsive grooves, but immense bunker-busting bombs go off too. And the weird writhing whine of that guitar solo feels like a most perilous kind of exultation. A world eater indeed.
Dilek Sarmis is another guest on the album, contributing extravagant vocals on “Astres“. Fittingly, it comes after “Mortrien” to provide a contrast. Mid-paced in its heavy, thumping momentum, its own sonic collage (which relies on a brittle bass-toned riff) creates moods of gloom and despair on a desolating scale. Easy to lose yourself in it, heaving to its booming grooves, but too disturbing (especially near the end) to fashion a pleasant dream — confrontational in its own way.
Well, we’ve managed to single out all of the album’s first six tracks. There are two more — the three-minute “Ferme Bien Ta Gueule” and the 11-minute closer “Bonjour“.
There’s a dark post-punk flavor to the former, a chance to let your body shake, but of course Non Serviam mess with your mind along the way and sound like a ruinous excavating machine at the end. The latter… well, the latter we’ll leave as a complete surprise, and simply say that if you think by the time you reach it that you’ve begun to have a good idea of everything Non Serviam put into their sonic alchemies, you’ll have to think again.
Non Serviam are releasing Death Ataraxia on CD, cassette tape, and digital formats, along with apparel. It’s out tomorrow, but can be pre-ordered now.