In the world of Ambient Industrial music, the UK has some rather notable exponents. It’s a proud standard, maintained by – among others – ‘Wooly’ Woolaston, the sole member of Leicestershire’s magnificently-named Colossloth. His fifth album Plague Alone (Cold Spring Records) was devised prior to the heinous virus presently shrouding the world and in retrospect seems strangely prophetic rather than historical or imaginary.
The sound is immediately abrasive and grandiose, opener ‘Little Cups Of Grace’ fizzing and droning as spectral atmospheres float overhead in a form of terrible beauty. The ensuing ‘Dies Infaustus’ is a more chaotic beast, its sampled effects scarring the mind as it lurches from one beat, one scrape, one bleep to the next. Here metallic effects do come into play, yet with a strange Oriental feel that brings to mind former touring buddy Tim Hecker. ‘Naked Blooded and Witched’ commences with the mimickry of a jet engine, the deep growl oscillating through a maelstrom of digital bells and taking on both Blackened, robotic vibes, and Dark Country tinges, which nevertheless retains those reverberating synths.
This is the first occurrence of the album showing its potential to be one of the soundtracks for these sad, bizarre times. This continues and intensifies with the stunning title track: beginning with a profound, morose guitar, artificial swirls swell and wait to pounce in the background. It’s a bitter acrimony of looped feedback and clashing Industria, however, that shatters the mourning: an agonised wall of pulsing noise that grates, tortures and captivates simultaneously, fluctuating with those earlier, strangely moving auras toward an explosive coda of screaming horror.
However different tastes may interpret this often inhospitable style of music, its compelling nature cannot be disputed. ‘Scylla Is Rising’ relies upon eerie Electronica and Gregorian-esque moans to lift it above the growing undercurrent of warping sandpaper: and while the final two fifteen-minute epics, ‘Slit’ and ‘A Fuse Like This Has To Be Lit’, have different approaches to the sound, both display drama, delicacy and harsh bullets in abundance: the twists and turns both subtle and brutal, portraying both the overwrought empathy and ice-cold detachment of someone struggling like fuck with this new reality.
Whatever Wooly’s aim with Plague Alone, its accidental collision with the biggest crisis that recent generations have known means it has caught a possibly unwanted zeitgeist. Musically it’s a hell of a feat: but it may just turn out to be more important than that. For now, just appreciate this challenging yet absorbing listen for its ability to stun, ease, and terrify.
7 / 10