It’s been a little while since I’d heard something from Ajilvsga, the duo of Brad Rose (the Digitalis empire) and Nathan Young (who the press release states emphatically is “NOT the Wolf Eyes guy.”) So when I got this pretty LP, the debut release from Toronto-area upstart label, Near Passerine Devotionals, I was psyched check it out.
I’ll have to go back through my stack of Ajilvsga tapes cause I never remember these guys sounding this heavy and fucking desolate. I sure hope these dude’s lives are going well cause in this age of “hope,” these guys are nothing but doom and gloom. The A-side titled “Gnarled Roots, Leaves, Rushing Water” kicks off with layers of dense synthesizer that only gets denser by the second. Rose and Young forge such a monolithic maelstrom it’s difficult to actually pick out everything that’s going on. There’s usually a layer or two pulsing in various ways, keeping the track surging forward and there’s something I’m just picking up on this listen that has sort of a looped music box vibe which I like a lot. I’d say around a third of the way in everything slides up in pitch a little bit that, if it weren’t for the complete pitch blackness that came before and comes after, I might say I is a little uplifting. The duo riffs on this section for a little while whipping up some oscillator manipulations before a dive back down into the depths. This is a harrowing journey into an incredibly intense soundworld. One of the strongest elements is that as active as Young and Rose are during this piece and with all the electronic dirt they kick up, “Gnarled Roots, Leaves, Rushing Water” never loses its singular batholithic impenetrability. It reminds me of my favorite samurai flick The Sword of Doom where you are lead down an unrelenting path of such darkness that by the end you are crushed and broken by the shadows and unstoppable evil. So that said, it’s a damn fun listen.
I do, however, think the second side is even better. “Dead, White, Lifeless” creeps along with a sub-bass undertow and a looped percussive hit. This side is simpler, more focused and arguably more powerful. It’s hard not to get lost in this. Maybe “lost” isn't the exact term I’m looking for but it is difficult not to succumb to the track’s sinister, chilling vibe. The piece doesn’t change a whole lot throughout its runtime, and it doesn’t have to. The demonic dedication is the whole point. I dare you to listen to this and not get the shivers. Eden Hemming Rose pushes the track beyond its serpentine slither with her drugged banshee vocals. Her voice (and whatever effects she’s singing through) creates an eerie, gothic cathedral choir-like aura that just really elevates the creepiness of the whole affair. The last few minutes see the duo expand the scope of the track pouring on more white noise and splicing in a few slivers of melody. This record is like a natural disaster.
Props also go to Evan Caminiti (of Barn Owl) for the perfect, Medusa-like black/silver artwork. Limited to 300 so book your tickets to the underworld ASAP.