Now, this is quite a meeting. Experimental artist and dark ambient legend Lustmord have been known to spread across different genres and sounds, seeking collaborations in unconventional places. So, apart from working heavily in scores for films and TV series, as well as having an extensive discography, Brian Williams has also crossed paths with an array of forward-thinking artistic minds. From weird rock legends, the Melvins to John Balance of Coil, and the one and only Jarboe, Lustmord have been able to merge their protean selves to accommodate everything from noise rock, tribal music, and dark ambient. This time around, his partner in crime is Karin Park, known from the uncategorizable Norwegian act, Arabrot. Together, they plunge into a stripped-down abyss with Alter, offering a lengthy escape from reality.
This is an immersive experience with a deeply cinematic quality. The mood is imperative here, and Lustmord and Park make sure they hit the ground running immediately with opener “Hiraeth”. Minimal electronics slowly fill the space, nominally giving a presence to the abstracted themes before Park’s heartbreaking performance enters. The ethereal presence that Park can unleash, her voice seemingly floating in space almost absent of a physical form or source, coupled with Lustmord’s transcendental applications, brings to mind the experiments performed by Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard.
From there on, Alter plays with variations on that theme. Always retaining its light touch with the compositions being stripped down to their bare bones, Lustmord bring together stunning sceneries. “Perihelion” sees a magnificent desert coming into view, slowly resolving around the sparse drone interactions. A truly desolate and yet majestic place, where no light can be found. Traveling to the other end of the spectrum, “Sele” sees the desert at night transform into a glacial, crystalline world. Icescapes cover the horizon, setting a bleak tone perfectly suited for a moment of introversion.
Still, on top of the broad brush strokes, Lustmord and Park further explore their structures. A grand essence is awakened in the funereal presence of “Kindred”. Here, it’s Park’s keyboards that lead the march into the unknown glowing in the darkness, surrounded by Lustmord’s oppressive soundscapes. It proposes a sense of ritualism, yet this procession doesn’t have a succinct form. It’s not of the earthly domain, but rather something almost alien. That’s what the duo build upon with “Twin Flames”, a track defying an easy structure while also performing an obscure ritual.
Alter succeeds in being a meeting place for Lustmord and Park. The two of them have found a fine balance, playing on their strengths while complementing each other. The astounding vocal delivery, an amanés echoing through the halls of eternity, finds a home in the dark, obscures constructs. Sceneries come and go, landscapes evolve, and time loses its meaning through the passages of Alter.