On last year’s Dylan Thomas-inspired addition to Phase Junk’s ‘Bedroom Solitary’ series, Silvia Kastel presented a furtive dread dub constancy revealing a private but consuming world where every utterance swelled with uncanny, prodigious reverberation. ‘39’ - the focal track – was a chilling ten minute lurk of monumental disused chamber echoes and brooding vocal death knells. It served as a compellingly tenebrous statement. With ‘The Gap’ – a longer cassette release on Berlin’s Noisekolln Tapes – Kastel continues where she left off, adopting dub as a haunting agent; utilizing oppressive bass pressure and gradually turning the vitality of its impact into a rippling eldritch aftermath. It’s as if the macabre theatricality of The Scientist’s ‘Rids The World of The Intergalactic Vampires’ has experienced not only an erosion of lucidity but a significant shift in tone, it’s heavy proportions taken from soundsystem muscularity and brash B-movie exuberance to disturbing monochromatic labyrinths where oneiric reiteration seems endless, like a dubwise ‘Last Year at Marienbad’.
As one half of Control Unit, along with Ninni Morgia, Kastel has already amassed a hefty body of work, often providing fateful wormhole electronics and a glowering vocal presence to the free firing noise of Morgia, situating indeterminate guitar rupture in uneasy dimensions. Yet it’s with ‘39’ and ‘The Gap’ where her singularity as a solo proposition begins to emerge. Throughout this recent material there’s an assurance in how Kastel lets charred reverb ring out, almost allowing the effects to accrue a wayward will of their own.
Although the execution is laden with heady treatments, the overall picture is a sparse one, evocative of a relentless atmospheric dusk achieved through the manipulation of a few figures of resonance, rather than some ‘Enter The Void’ bad trip maximalism. On the title track and ‘Drawing Lines’ in particular, Kastel draws a concerted power from the spaces that lie in between, from the power of suggestion, conveying a devastating imminence which remains unrelieved.
That feeling of menacing gravity pervades ‘39’ as well as much of ‘The Gap’ but there are subtle moments of departure. The ‘S Dream’ is a more amped up hallucination; a suspenseful dirge of off colour evisceration and fetid FX, as if this were the sonic equivalent of an altered state, characterized by semi-lobotomized paralysis. Conversely ‘Taped To Heart’ allows a faint glimmer of light into the equation, albeit one which is solemn, remote and tinged by hushed melancholia. Yet even with these dips and turns this variance feels consistent, fundamentally in keeping with the submerged sprechgesang and industrial strength expansiveness that proves defining. In centring in on a void music where dub becomes interminably apparitional, augmented by dark ambient immersion, Kastel has honed a distinguishable sound and on ‘The Gap’ offers an occultist trance of enveloped dread and utter disorientation; an elusive higher state amidst black skies.
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