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400 Lonely Things - Apophrenia

400 Lonely Things - Apophrenia coverYou may have read our words highly recommending 400 Lonely Things' previous release Mother Moon, a William Basinski produced album we regarded as "haunting, captivating and original". Apophrenia is described as an "anti-conspiracy theory album, based on muscle-memory recollections of being subjected to the paranoid world of right-wing conservative Christian apocalyptica in the 1980s and early 90s that my father trafficked in. Then later, through my own times immersed in the inevitably overlapping apocalypse-culture psychedelic metaphysical occult conspiracies of the 90s that were so prevalent in industrial / experimental / art of the time." That's something that maybe chimes with a lot of us. The mainstreaming of conspiracy theory and its ugly effects have stirred up a lot of memories and on Apophrenia Craig Varian explores those feelings of anxiety, paranoia and distrust to great effect on these largely instrumental tracks.

The title merging apophenia and schizophernia is more than apt for 400 Lonely Things. Mother Moon evoked memories through a hazy, gauze of distorted spectral melodies and here they capture a response to hostile and paranoid delusions created from patterns and blocks of sound composed entirely from samples "sourced from obscure films about war and tribal identity, and from the obscure devotional music and philosophy of actual religious cults".

How they do it I'm not sure but Apophrenia continues with their melancholic drone woven with a myriad of textures and subtle manipulations resulting in an offsetting, mysterious, and quite beautiful listening experience drawing on experimental, electronic, ambient and hauntology. 'Alpheus' draws you into its clutches with a horror soundtrack styled track where synths shift, ominous piano notes tinker as it slides into a hazy, slipstream and a world of queasiness surrounded by ghostly atmospheric voices. The drooping piano notes and woozy synths of 'Beloved' are shrouded in a gauze veneer as sounds scuttle alongside processed voices transformed into screeching car brakes before settling into drone. The solemn organ drone of 'Ceased Omen' cut with whipping taps, almost reimagines the martial ambience of NON before it transforms into shudders and shivers punctuated with queasy grating effects and fizzing textures, the pensive rhythms accompanied by additional beats stomping like boots on the ground. If 'Ceased Omen' is earthbound, then 'I Am One Of You' looks upwards to the skies. Melancholic synths glisten and glide throughout recalling the sidereal sensation of Coil's 'Lost Rivers Of London', with a lone voice intoning the title, as glinting tones sparkle amidst flutters and rattles. This is perhaps 400 Lonely Things at their most electronic and it's a beauty.

A few tracks riddled in location recordings offer a brief interlude. 'Red Ilium' is a dreamlike collage comprising singing birds, a meowing cat, with feet shuffling through a woodland path, set to a backing of pensive bass tones and subtle unfolding chiming keys. A French voice reverberates through its haunting ambience, while through the hushed distortion of 'The Time Of Awakening' a whispered looped voice repeats "the time awakening" over rueful organ drone shadowed at times by electronic chug and flutters while birds chirp throughout.

It's not all pretty though. 'Thalassic' unfurls to a series of off-putting gnawing hums swaying between quivering tones and quavering drones. At times its interrupted by hysterical giggles which I've not encountered on a release since Nurse With Wound's 'Swamp Rat'. 'Torgo's Lament' rings out like a drowned nursery melody, submerged in hushed watery chimes and lapping clockwork thuds. 400 Lonely Things make clear that "there are no direct references to any specific conspiracy of any stripe" but I can't but help but recognise the voice on 'We Eliminate Our World' as being that of Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing ruminating on eliminating ourselves from the world and the world, itself amidst the ricocheting bowl rings and arching synths. That's before his theorising is reduced to juddering manipulated squelch over shifting texture and pattering beats. Apophrenia finishes on the looped forlorn guitar melody of 'The Blessings Of The Sun' where paused vocal intonations of the title, are shaded in the glimmer of shimmering synths. As if awakening from a bad dream, it reprises in e-bow and manipulations pulling it back into nostalgic realms ebbing out in drone.

I've been really impressed by 400 Lonely Things who are creating some of the most beguiling, captivating and haunting experimental and ambient music. If I've not called out specific conspiracy theories it is because within these tracks 400 Lonely Things are dealing with them subliminally in sound and textures. Following the Cold Spring released Mother Moon, Apophrenia is a stop-gap self-released album but it's no less stunning and is quite frankly experimental music at its best. Apophrenia is released digitally and as a hand-numbered limited CD-R in an edition of 50 from 400 Lonely Things bandcamp