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Jute Gyte and Spectral Lore Meld Minds on New Split

"Tod und Mann" (Death and Man) by Egon Schiele.
“Tod und Mann” (Death and Man) by Egon Schiele

Considering the two categories of genius in experimental metal — collective and singular — there’s a marked difference between bands with more than one member versus just an individual themselves. The phenomenon of the one-person black metal act, for instance, drives a point home: we, as listeners, can champion singular genius over collective genius. It could be more impressive for one individual to excel at the various tasks typically handled by multiple musicians each with their own special skills (with some shortcuts, though, like drum programming). Or, maybe we gravitate toward the “unknown loner mastermind in the basement” stereotype, which is sometimes true and sometimes false, and sometimes relatable. This all isn’t to say solo efforts are inherently better than collective ones, only that we appreciate, interpret, and consume their outputs differently, especially when they turn out to be really goddamn good.

Cue Jute Gyte (Adam Kalmbach) and Spectral Lore (“Ayloss”), two solo outfits each with an impressive catalog of idiosyncratic, expressive, and challenging experimental metal all their own. The former has released 27 full-length albums over the past 12 years; the latter has splits with acts like Mare Cognitum and Locust Leaves to his name, as well as the highly acclaimed black metal magnum opus III. Both have dabbled in noise and ambient musics, both write cosmic and philosophical lyrics, and both have a special penchant for literature. Understanding the minds behind these monikers requires study, and a bit of hands-on work (or, talking to Kalmbach and Ayloss directly), but the potential payoff is a more personal and intimate connection than you’d make with a full band.

For your consideration on this topic, Jute Gyte and Spectral Lore have prepared a lengthy song each to form Helian, their new split based on a 1913 poem written by Austrian expressionist Georg Trakl. Stream the entire album below ahead of its Friday release date.

As expected, Helian‘s two tracks are at once similar and dissimilar. They’re centered on the same theme and inspiration, yet the musicians utilize entirely different methods — what’s more, the two artists dance in dialogue with each other. The dense and furiously complex cacophony of latter-day Jute Gyte gives way to doomier, more methodical progressions on the opening half. These movements are still rife with characteristic atonal sensations and layered rhythms (like a slowed and atmospheric version of Oviri or Perdurance), but the song’s structure borrows heavily from Spectral Lore’s insistence on playing the long game with build-ups and climaxes. Jute Gyte’s midpoint explosion feels refreshingly melodic while also devastatingly powerful, but structurally, it ties the abstract lead-in and balladic lead-out together. Zooming out, the first song also serves duty as introduction for Spectral Lore’s entry; so, while it contains its own “moments,” it must also be a moment unto itself, in the spirit of another musician no less.

Luckily, narrative is where Spectral Lore reigns supreme. Endemic to his style, atmosphere plays a key role (from echoes to delay effects, walls of sound to moody ambiance) in both tying the second song’s varying content together into a coherent story and resolving the tensions built by the first. Like Jute Gyte, doomy passages help generate a sordid, morbid mood; however, Spectral Lore foregoes mechanical complexity for more emotive songwriting. Vocals have an effect here — shifting from cavernous bellows to pained shrieks of total clarity — synchronous with the undulations in instrumental intensity throughout the track. Like background noise, your mind tunes out some of the atmosphere (a hushed-out guitar lick here, heavily fuzzed and phased screaming there), so active listening is certainly important. To this end, the two bands handle transitions differently: Jute Gyte feels like the smooth engagement of a mechanical gear while Spectral Lore blends movements together like mixing paint directly on the canvas (such that you don’t really notice the shift in color, it just… happens).

While both songs have their own climaxes, it’s Spectral Lore who takes on the duty of climaxing Helian as a whole. In that way, Jute Gyte sets up the story with aplomb, firmly establishing the album’s dark themes and introspective nature, and essentially giving Spectral Lore the clay to mold. Satisfyingly, Spectral Lore has mastered the art of enveloping musical content with grandiose atmosphere — Helian transitions from (relatively) concrete to abstract. This, evidently, mirrors our absorption of poetry: at first, you try to understand the “hard” elements (e.g. storyline, characters, locations), but after multiple reads your imagination takes over, and you become lost in your mind’s atmosphere while trying to personally relate to an interpreted meaning. You could consider this “guided introspection,” and it’s no coincidence that Helian seeks to sink you deep into your head.

Helian releases January 19th via I, Voidhanger Records. Follow Jute Gyte and Spectral Lore on Bandcamp here and here, respectively.

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