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Cloak of Altering – Plague Beasts

In Red Bull Music Academy‘s recently published profile of DJ deity Larry Levan, writer Peter Shapiro sniffed out a killer quote to sum up Levan’s allure and his equally strong potential to utterly annoy:

“There were nights when he came in, he concentrated, his mixes were perfect and smooth, and there were some nights he came in and he banged everything… because the banging is what made you shock people. You were dancing ‘bah, bah, bah,’ and then suddenly you hear ‘boom’ and you went ‘arrggh.’ Larry loved the reaction. Larry loved to shock, and he was controlling the dance floor. He did a lot of popping and a lot of banging in [the records] and he did things that made people constantly scream. Mixing, he liked when it got intense. When you mix beautifully from one record to another, in your mix you create a third record because they blended so well together. You could do that for a while, but Larry always felt if you did that all night long it was boring. It was like a six hour record was on.”

Cloak of Altering‘s[1] Plague Beasts, the newest album from Dutch nutter Mories, absolutely encapsulates Levan’s Hyde-side philosophy. It’s primarily in the trapdoor business, and business is good. As soon as you grow acclimated to your surroundings, woompf, out go the floorboards and you take a tumble into the next cube. In that sense, the only real difference between Levan and Mories — and it’s a teensy one — is Levan dealt in (mostly) dance music and Cloak of Altering is like accidentally hitting ‘open all bookmarks’ on a browser folder housing black metal, industrial, gabber, and drill n’ bass playlists.

You are now allured. You are now annoyed.

Not that this will come as a surprise to those familiar with Mories and his many offshoots. De Magia Veterum and Gnaw Their Tongues, but two sprouts on his brutal tuber of ludicrousness, both aim to induce chaos through highly-considered, constantly changing micro-structures. Par for the avant-garde course, right? Well, with a twist: Mories’ innovation is that the parts — the trems, growls, blasts, howls — are always recognizable, it’s the build which is bewildering. It’s Slaughterhouse-Five‘s sort of unstuck; the timbres are right, the order is random. You want to say chance operations are in play to create such a layering effect. Surprise: nope. Mories has been known to deny a Zappa-ian zest for xenochrony. To Mortem Zine in 2009, regarding Gnaw Their Tongues’ All the Dread Magnificence of Perversity:

Some of my music is improvised. It keeps things fresh and unexpected. If improvised, I play along with already recorded music/loops and then use the most interesting parts. But most of the time things are composed in a traditional way. Many different things can start compositions: a riff, a melody in my head, an atmosphere I want to create. Sometimes a sample, whatever. Often things get switched over completely. Like a middle part becoming the beginning etc. That’s what I like about doing music, the arrangement/composition side of it.

Hmmm. Familiar. . .

Speaking of familiarity, prior knowledge of Mories’ idiosyncrasies are a huge help if you’re compelled to unravel his mysteries. ‘Getting it’ requires a skewed worldview; spectacles smudged by Mories’ fingers. Going in blind isn’t the best option. The key is indeed, as the man himself said, in the arrangement, and that’s not a conclusion readily drawn. Repeat: It’s all about the engineering. Remember that line. You’ll say this often in between bouts of total bafflement.

Case in point, even though Cloak of Altering is regarded as one of Mories’ most accessible, it’s a P.K. Dick trip compared to the rest of the planet. Plague Beasts exists in the headspace of James Plotkin unwittingly fed edibles. For example, closer “Altering Forever” bubbles to life out of a kosmische fissure before it’s fried by a DSBM buzz. Then, millions of snare hits rain down, as if Venetian Snares and Igorr were arguing by way of drum signals. Of course, this onslaught occurs while a corrupted Emperor MP3 plays over a convention hosting Lovecraftian cosmic horrors. And that’s the first minute. Four more follow and it isn’t any easier to swallow.

That said, again, the nuts and bolts aren’t unknown quantities. They’re logical when used within their own little worlds. The black metal sounds like black metal. The nightmare fuel industrial wouldn’t grind on the nerves of dwellers in the Blut Aus Nord dimension. So, the input isn’t a brain-sprain waiting to happen. It’s just that things get screwy in the application. It’s comparable to someone spilling water on a machine printing Ikea instructions and using those guidelines to mistakenly make a portal to Tartarus out of loveseat material.

However, Mories isn’t ever over his head nor is he blessed/cursed by the kvlt equivalent of the handsome bubble. Plague Beast works because his guiding hand is always strong. He knows what he wants and he rules his land without other meddling minds. On the downside, his feedback loop consists of only one person and thus instantly justifies and codifies any decision. That’s an M. Night recipe for indulgence. And that can be especially grating to navigate if one can’t grasp the threads of the creator’s thought process. Those threads? Bit of a reach, honestly. The farther Mories disappears down his rabbit’s hole, the harder it is to receive the signal from his wavelength. Yet, once you zone in on something and align to his altered state, Cloak of Altering’s snarl morphs into a purr. Sure, there’s a chance returns diminish significantly when every inch of Plague Beasts is mapped, when the spontaneity is internalized. Be that as it may, that’s. . .a lot of inches to map, man.

In the end, if you’re coming in fresh, think: It’s all about the engineering. Or, to match that with a Larry Levan tenet:

As Depino says, “Larry wanted you to feel like you were on acid even if you weren’t.”

Mories and Levan? Peas in a pod. Yep.

Plague Beasts is out now on Crucial Blast.

— Ian Chainey

1. Cloak of Altering: Greatest unreleased Magic: The Gathering card or the Death Metal English translation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?

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