Wrnlrd – Pentagon
Pentagon, by one-man band Wrnlrd, is one of the most intriguing packages I've encountered in a while. The translucent papers and gray/silver tones of the CD jewel case suggest IDM. A single eye peers out from behind the back traycard. Lifting the tray reveals the number "21" written twice, as well as the the number "51090942171709440000," which is 21 factorial; the CD has 21 tracks. (Wrnlrd's website has a similar obsession with numbers.)
The liner notes include an antique map of Washington, DC, as well as a foreboding photo of the Washington Monument (see above), which recalls Fugazi's In on the Kill Taker; Wrnlrd lists Dischord among his influences. They also contain an aerial view of The Pentagon, located in Wrnlrd's native Arlington, VA. (The front cover is a Photoshop filtered image of The Pentagon burning on 9/11.) Finally, the liner notes include a dedication to an officer of a local Masonic Lodge. This leads back to the eye on the traycard - is it the All-Seeing Eye?
Perhaps surveillance is a theme here, an inverse of Isis' Panopticon. The photo of The Pentagon: watching the watchers? It's tough to tell if this record has a political subtext, as it's mostly instrumental. Black metal is the starting point from which it departs in a hurry. The guitar tone is the sonic equivalent of spilling beer on an old rug. Tempos hover around soggy, mid-paced trudges. Creaky banjo adds a woozy, back porch feel, while fuzz runs rampant like weeds. The record feels like a soundtrack, with lots of brief sonic vignettes.
It's all quite strange and a little paranoid - or perhaps I'm inferring that from the artwork. Even if one can't fully grasp the aesthetic, it's still thought-provoking. Pitchfork has a good interview with Wrnlrd in which he talks about his background in bluegrass and country blues: "I see ghosts of American music everywhere. I hear Dock Boggs in black metal, the droning banjo, voice like an earthquake. I hear Blind Lemon [Jefferson] pounding his feet on the floor, and I know he is my cousin... I think the essence of black metal is something that goes beyond geography and stylistic tradition, even beyond music."