Hwyl Nofio
Hounded by Fury
2006
B



steve Parry, the ringleader of the Hwyl Nofio project, has got some funny ideas about what a hook is. Hounded by Fury expends most of its running time wallowing in its own existential dread, a humid, eye-tearing, bog-like gloom. Fascinating stuff. But for some reason, he and his cohort truck out about 12 minutes of what sounds like the Halloween soundtrack; right at the off too, which is why I assume it must be the hook. It’s fine enough, compactly put together, with appropriate amounts of around-the-corner fear and strings scraping along the air vents just above; senescent moaning and a little music box, to represent… the horror of memory? Or something? Anyway, one track is more interesting than the other, and neither are anywhere close to the remainder of Hounded by Fury, which is often truly terrifying, more so for its complete inexplicability.

Sounds like a horror movie for the ears? In a way, perhaps. But those first two tracks notwithstanding, it’s horror in the manner of, say, a Jodorowsky or Carax; a deep, inchoate brain-haunting, placing ghosts in your head that weren’t there before. (Or were they?) The album is made seemingly entirely out of the screeching, bowing, and cracking of its own structural elements, a Peter and the Wolf for an ancient abandoned house sinking into its foundation, one protracted death rattle trying desperately to claw its way back out. Yes, it’s slightly overwrought at times, but that’s what grand guignol is all about, and this is high-order stuff.

The centerpiece is the magnificently over-the-top death-minimalism of “The Darkened Windows of a Ghost Train North” and “Child Woman,” a pair of extended deep-body shivers of endless repetition. Neither of them lead anywhere but to their ends, with not even a hint at resolution. The former creeps along on scraping strings and a humming bass, like an old work tune lost in the afterlife. Back-masked samples and static gently ebb up and gently back away, as the scrapes and squeaks phase slowly out of each other’s orbits, and just keep separating, for nine minutes of forlorn longing. The latter is all moaning strings and simple, stately melodies, reminding one not a little of Bryars’ Sinking of the Titanic in its wrenching, seemingly-endless sprawl. Both are the immensely melancholic core to all good horror, the elegiac past to the trembling present. That they’re followed by the lightly playful and even slightly upbeat guzheng stylings of “The Fish in the Tide” is appropriately inappropriate; its lovely waft feels like the calm before a storm.

But this isn’t that kind of movie. The storm never comes, just hints of it on the wind, a smell in the air. The closest we get is right at the unofficial beginning: “Sanctify”’s slow-burn hellfire of churning bass, sax, and bowed guitar is as frothy as it gets, and even that only barely rises above a lurch. The remainder is gently crushing drone, the sort that slowly ramps up the air pressure and lets it out, again and again, until the final, “Chapter 27,” in which a choir of artificial angels hums silently to itself in the void, as it must do into eternity, as if wholly unaware of a listener. True horror-art, that chilling stuff that shades your dreams for weeks, never jolts, it doesn’t shake you violently in your seat, it isn’t even the death of a thousand needles; it’s the cold, hard stare of the unknown, the arbitrary twists of the world, drawn out into slow motion so you can see every link in the chain and silently fear its inevitability. After its false start, Hounded by Fury becomes the crawling under your skin, the thickness in the air, and the hook in the shadows.



Reviewed by: Jeff Siegel
Reviewed on: 2006-06-27
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