Editor’s Choice #3: Tumble Dry on High (or Die)
These torpid nights coalesce and circularize like whirlwinds of dank laundry piling up after incoherent weeklong bouts of life-destroying depression, emanating fateful anxieties as odors that awaken the mind's most fanciful and dangerous monsters -- these foul beasts arrive from dimensions beyond to call this subconscious nocturne their home, dwelling and sneering and drooling manically, lured by sweat, excited by terror, on the hunt for hot blood with invincible strength and infinite stamina, occupied only with ensuring the permanent and painful death of all things living.
I'm too alive to sleep and too dead to give a fuck anymore, though. Let these fiends gnash and chew. I'll lay still.
And still I lay, imagining all the atmosphere's air transforming into an extremely viscous oxygenated liquid still breathable but entirely encapsulating, freezing humanity into a gelatinous skin on this hurdling boulder, immediately relegating all language to internal monologue, damning everyone to the wicked throes of a mind trapped only with itself. Entropy, all-permeating, demands a finality so cosmically gradual that it must be perfect, efficient, total -- it necessitates no input and no catalyst and rides effortlessly instead on the wake of time's flow.
And here we are, floating like desiccated turds in an unknowable cosmic ocean, bobbing up and down occasionally but consigned to the bleakest of reabsorptions all the same.
"Man, that is some stinky-ass laundry you're talking about."
Yes it is. Imagine a small doctor's office waiting room in full beige mundanity (complete with booger-crusted outdated copies of Better Homes and Gardens and People), and then imagine sitting there when 99 other humans walk in one-by-one until everyone's packed tight. It's weird that nobody seems to mind this arrangement, standing calmly, breathing normally -- when suddenly, the door locks and everyone self-administers a different recreational drug, from acid to blow to heroin to bath salts to salvia.
There are rare instants in time that feel frozen -- being told about the untimely death of a loved one, locking eyes with your freshly born child, when Bell Witch finishes a live set -- even though they're not technically standstill. But counterintuitively, almost like how velocity literally affects time, so do the other capacities of our mind literally affect our interpretation of temporal movement. What matters most is the absolute value intensity or magnitude of the situation at hand: when something feels ultimate, when something transcends profundity and becomes sacred, when something so monumentally powerful arrives that it blots out even things like self-preservation and conscious thought altogether.
The mind wants to imagine (read: it does) the murderous insanity that ensues in that small doctor's office waiting room, but that's not the point. It's the epiphanic moment that matters, the upending of all reality as you transform from Random Guy #74 into Mr. Really Fucked, the control, the sole observer, the sober, the chosen one. You are simultaneously imbued with great purpose and completely shitted out of luck; you are entwined and fated by this situation yet still completely apart from the most critical goings-on. Most importantly, and most oddly enough, you survive long enough to witness most of it.
It's an allegory for a stir-crazed mind trapped within itself, an entity eagerly attempting escape from a monster-filled cage floating in an infinite vacuum. You don't want to die, but you don't want to live here in dystopic fear of these gnarly manifestations any longer. There fucking must be a way out. You know with granite certainty there's nothing on the other side, though, so you conveniently forget your dedication to "reality as you know it" to imagine all kinds of elaborate secret escape routes and esoteric potentials that can never exist.
We sometimes think that there must be hope even if there is no hope. We sometimes think hope is okay and real even though we know we just made up the whole prospect. We sometimes think there's more than literally nothing outside the box.
What someone thinks and what they know are sometimes entirely different, and for good reason: it's another survival mechanism among all the countless others that shape our conscious and subconscious flow for the express purpose of ensuring against extinction. As a potential extinction nears ever closer, though -- as we systematically destroy this planet and each other -- our minds bear the concomitant mental brunt, one heretofore unknown and unpredictable, and we start to detune and disconnect. Edges in reality with once-sharp contrast start to desaturate and fade into a blurry soup that nobody can decipher; truth and fact become somehow variable, and a dour sense of dread begins to coat the ether among people who once relied on truth and fact to guide their trajectories. And it's not like losing the captain mid-air: we may have lost the engines.
I don't feel entirely purpose-built for this faulted world, which should come as no surprise because we all experience some type of maladjustment to things. There's a careful nexus where the onus shifts away from the individual and back to our environment -- maintaining face with myself in light of this environment has become incredibly difficult, and disconnections from it far more frequent. Sometimes when I floor it, and I mean really giving it the beans, my life fizzles out of the nozzle pathetically, like an old man pissing.
Sometimes, in the midst of it all, the laundry is the most you can do anymore. I already know I'm going to do it anyway, but I still have no goddamn clue why.
-- Andrew Rothmund
Im Wald comprises some of the most abstractly crushing and existentially upheaving black metal I've ever heard. Its two-hour runtime pales as news in comparison to just how much savage intensity Paysage d'Hiver maintains over that span, and how brief the project thereby makes this lengthy duration. This is black metal that can simultaneously accelerate and decelerate time: it's over in an instant, but somehow it feels like a centenarian's lifetime.
Submitting to Im Wald comes at the price of exhaustion and absolute mental fatigue. Blasting it into your head from start to finish effectively acts as a brain re-scrambler as its oceanic atmospherics and lightning-strike attacks cease only for ambiance of equal magnitude (just in the opposite direction). The album either pumps you chock full of frisson or absolutely voids your consciousness, if you let it. Degrees describe a lot when it comes to extreme music, but terms of profundity and auteurship are more precise here -- standing in this thing's presence inspires actual awe, and there's no doubting the painterly sonic effect the project easily masters.
I can feel my mind trying to measure this thing, trying to gauge its proportions in familiar terms and embrace its totality all at once. What an impossibility.
That's what makes Im Wald so difficult as a mirror of expression. I'm just too overwhelmed, truly, still, even after a dozen listens, to clearly formulate whatever obtuse thoughts might eventually come to me. I'm still stuck in that moment where it's all coming to be, flowering before my eyes as I am disarmed and drained of thousands of gallons of myself, and all I can really do is just flounder around with a ladle and retrieve what little I can.
This album came out at just the right time for me. Whether by planetary alignment or happenstance or fate or whatever you want to call it, I'm just glad it did. That's what matters most: that it did.