We all have days where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. You know the kind of morning I am talking about. You swing your feet out of bed, yawn, and say to yourself: “Golly! My significant other sure is getting on my nerves! And those jokers down in tech support don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground! And these antidepressants are just not working very well anymore!” There are days in life where you just need to wallow in a seriously grumpy mood. Cheering yourself up with up with a strong cup of coffee and an old Erasure album is just not going to cut it; the only way out of a mood like that is to go through it.
That’s where Pharmakon’s new bit of nastiness Bestial Burden comes in. Here’s what you do with this record:
Step One: Call in sick to work.
Step Two: You know that really dank, poorly lit corner of your apartment that never gets any natural light and seems to be growing some kind of gnarly mold or something? That one little corner of your home that you have basically abandoned as a lost cause and just kind of avoid? Go slouch, or maybe squat down in that corner wearing nothing but a pair of filthy underwear that you meant to throw away a long time ago.
Step Three: Strap a feed bag to your face, the kind they use for horses and stuff, and fill it with some kind of nasty solvent or adhesive; modeling glue, or maybe spray-paint, any dangerous inhalant that might be abused by Romanian street urchins. If huffing dangerous inhalants sounds like it might actually give you some form of pleasure, feel free to just swig from a bottle of warm, cheap vodka.
Step Four: Listen to Bestial Burden repeatedly while scowling, huffing, and basically feeling miserable and disgusting. Continue doing this until your grumpy mood has passed.
Bestial Burden really knows how to work a mood, and beat that sense of claustrophobic misery right into the ground. Most extreme music that deals largely with negative emotions tends to offer some form of catharsis or resolution; the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Not so with Bestial Burden. There is really only one emotion being articulated here, at least to my ears, and that is hopeless, depressive misery. Noise music can express a whole host of emotions; the abstraction inherent in the genre allows for the possibility of depicting complex, auditory emotions in ways that more traditional, structurally based music cannot. Harsh noise and industrial noise music tend to focus on the interplay between intensity and abstraction; at its best, the results can be sublime.
Indeed, Pharmakon’s last record Abandon was rich, compelling, and unsettling. Bestial Burden feels rather one-dimensional in comparison; each track contains the same basic elements and expresses the same basic idea: this is what it feels like to be very, very depressed while dying of tuberculosis. Seriously, mid-album track ‘Primitive Struggles’ consists of nothing but someone coughing and wrenching, with some industrial type thumping and buzzing in the background. It is totally possible that Margaret Chardiet, aka Pharmakon, did exactly what she set out to do with Bestial Burden; articulate one, single very unpleasant emotion. There is something admirable about that; your average third-rate indie rock band or bro-step DJ fails to express any emotions in their music, positive or negative. There is very little doubt, however, that Bestial Burden is not much fun to listen to, even for those of us who take great pleasure in noisy, abstract, unhappy music. So if you really need to hit bottom and feel about as misanthropic and nauseous as possible in order to bounce back, Bestial Burden might be just the thing.