2020 has already been a busy year for San Diego electronic darkheart Shrieking. Debut album Let the Galaxy Burn (Self-Release) was released in January; a single, Truth About Demons (Self-Release) appeared at the beginning of May, and is closely followed by this Split (Self-Release) with St. Louis Dungeon Synth project Puddleglum. It’s a curious and enticing prospect, enhanced by both bands weighing in with a healthy representation of the material.
The first of the Californian’s seven tracks, ‘Set on a Doomed Path’, sees a devilishly-plucked lead riff underpin eerie Gregorian samples and spaghetti western-style keys. It’s an enlivening sound which is followed by the contrasting dark chasm of ‘Yawning Maw’: a series of drawn-out, Low-end pulses adorned by haunting, synth-based atmospherics that passes all too quickly into the edgier, harsh Electronica of ‘Necromantic Druidism’, the sparing keys punching frostily into cold yet harmonic chords with a Japanese vibe.
Adding further variation on the theme, the ‘Bontempi organ’ feel of ‘Cliffside Knight’ loses none of the dark intensity: seeming to reach into Occult territory while possessing a dusty, innate charm. There’s a stunning, organic beauty to ‘The End is Always Quiet…and Yet’, its soaring airs eerie and heartbreaking as raindrop piano chords drop with tragic resonance: while ‘I Can Hear my Heart Beat’ at times resembles a bayou of frogs creaking in the unsettling midnight air. ‘Home is With Them’, the final Shrieking song, is a joyous, Prefab Sprout-tinged trip through childhood reminiscences, rounding off a staggering exploration of Black metal’s outer fringes and the creativity lying within.
‘Breaching’ the first track from Puddleglum, shows an even more emotive side: a low, mournful undercurrent supporting poignant, evocative melodies that are in turn both powerful and magnetic. The weirdly addictive feel of ‘Dig a Hole and Hide Myself’ – its bass and alto tuba sounds resembling a herd of noisy yet harmonious elephants, interspersed with the flickering wings of birds – continues that strange wonder. The Low-end fuzz of ‘The Cave (Not an Allegory)’ is juxtaposed with subtle drums and keyboard harmonies: while even the more hostile Industrial of the standout ‘Soma SemaSema’ is graced by moving pianoforte and the kind of Ouija-influenced warblings you would really expect from the description ‘Dungeon Synth’.
Puddleglum closes this enigmatic, quite enthralling album with the delicious ‘How Do You Know Which Trees are Which’, a blend of childlike melody and cosmic airs that epitomises the nostalgia coursing through the whole album. Whatever its intention, this creation thrills, chills, and charms in equal measure, while highlighting the unique and considerable promise of both artists in the process.
7 / 10