Genre: Dark Ambient / Experimental Noise
02 No One Will Find Them
03 A Place Of Refuge, A Test Of Commitment
04 You Have No Choice
05 Locked Down Solid
06 Unknown Command
07 Fluctuating Tensile Strength
This was the second release to come from Triumvirate Records, which was co-founded and operated by Mitchell Altum (along with partners Eric D. and Erica H.), with LAW being Mitchell's own personal solo project. 'Vindication And Contempt' followed a long history of other releases, beginning with 1994's self-released pro-cassette 'Malediction', via multiple compilation appearances on labels such as Ant-Zen and Art Konkret, as well as full-length works on Ant-Zen, Old Europa Cafe, and Triumvirate (with LAW's 'Our Life Through Your Death' being the label's only other release before this one). Mitchell has now laid LAW to rest, with his newer project Citadel having taking over where the previous one left off, with an intricate mix varying from harsh ambient noise to powerful experimental electronica, and minimalistic unconventional rhythms. Mitchell's attitude towards his creations and their place within his chosen genre are clearly (if sarcastically) defined by comments from this work's accompanying boolet - 'dedicated to all the two-bit hobbyists and delusional tinkerers who continue trying to impress their friends and kid themselves' - obviously a man who has a healthy disregard for the mediocre and lacklustre.
The subsequent releases from Triumvirate also demonstrate his interest and support of other worthy experimental musical forms with artists as diverse as Geomatic, Veinke, and The Sword Volcano Complex (featuring legendary percussionist John Murphy amongst others). Here on 'Vindication And Contempt' spoken and neo-classical elements are added to the already heady combination of noise textures and ritualistic driving percussion to create a work that was to turn out to be LAW's final incarnation, and so hopefully the pinnacle of all the project's output to date.
Beginning with 'Hollow' we are introduced to LAW's sound - here a combination of oceanic sounding roaring noise, grainy electronic rhythms and industrial scraping noise. Heavily effected whale-like electric guitar chords herald rapid-fire stream-of-consciousness spoken lyrics that surface between blasts of electrical hum and feedback in a disconcerting and confrontational manner. Rapidly gated and delayed additional waves of noise descend the track into a controlled chaotic penultimate section of robotic frenzy that segues into more tranquil (yet far from restful) rumbling hiss. 'No One Will Find Them' is then constructed upon an initial marching beat of industrial fuzz, before being joined by the unexpected strumming of an acoustic guitar reverberating in the distance. Further random improvised acoustic riffs lead up to a spoken passage reminiscent of Boyd Rice's work with NON in it's misanthropic flavour and indifferent tone - 'Let us rape, murder and rejoice, for tomorrow we die - here on earth there is a sale on flesh and blood, everything must go...', all delivered over further jagged improvised noise. Rapidly modulating synth bass and deep stormy pads then twist alongside the guitar fragments in nihilistic celebration of the end times soon to come, and a holocaust wind blows over the barren deserts of Armageddon' all painting a bleak picture of human existence.
The classical string progression that then opens 'A Place Of Refuge, A Test Of Commitment' continues to evoke this apocalyptic mood with further cork-screwing phased storm-winds that project cinematic vistas of devastation upon the mind's eye.- the combination of just these two juxtaposed conflicting elements perfectly describing the lack of life to be found at the aftermath of a nuclear ground-zero. The piece's minimalistic nature also serves well as a springboard into the next track 'You Have No Choice', giving it plenty of compositional space to then fill with it's undulating sheets of static. Bell-like hollow synth pads emphasise the alien strangeness of lifeless glass-floored wastelands as ever-present radioactive gusts blow through the observer, after which terrified electric guitar cries scream out into the void, modulated into a dying heartbeat of woe. Deeper feedback fuelled drones and pulses also paint violent portraits of the end of reality, then described by distorted whispering voices forlorn of hope and the whining buzz of faltering machine tools deconstructing the fabric of existence.
'Locked Down Solid' follows these final percussive industrial death-rattles with reverberating deep brass stabs of Wagnerian proportions, and a stately martial beating of a slave-driving drum. Rotary-speaker effects add interest and eerie impact to the slicing interlacing static that shifts and turns in upon itself in a cannibalistic feeding fenzy of energy. Reptilian croaks and rattles celebrate the death of warm blood with their unfathomable cries across a futuristic desert, slowly grinding all life into sand. The diving pitch of indistinct synth pads and chirping of unhinged synthetic effects slowly crunch the track to an echoing conclusion, and thus into the more sparse introduction of 'Unknown Command''s energy charged aum-like drones. This murmuring electric fizzing (as of a machine discarded halfway through it's useful functioning) morphs into harsher multiple streams of sibilant noise, all of which twist and shift against each other for dominance, yet which occasionally find brief harmonius accord. Chopping helicopter synth oscillations finally ascend to the top of the soundscape to herald a final burst accented by another brief vocal passage ('for we certainly will....') that (combined with the track's title) suggests the blind obedience of the masses along to a final screech of feedback.
Moving towards the ending of 'Vindication And Contempt' we then have 'Fluctuating Tensile Strength' and it's downright weird introductory keyboard pad seemingly constructed from low pitch-shifted church bells. Crawling above this eldritch foundation are further unnaturally treated FX samples that add up to a feeling of having walked into some strange rite of defilement that you have no right to view, with slow regular brittle grinding sounds reminiscent of some mangled giant's footsteps climbing out from the abyss. A momentary pause of silence marks a turn into a climbing intensity of the marching footsteps, and a claustrophobic rising in the pitch of the synth effects, until all combines into a pounding industrial beat threaded through with glassy feedback and cutting noise. This all falls apart then rebuilds itself multiple times before finally passing to a looped martial rhythm and filter-swept granular distortion.
'Titan' is then left to bring the album to an end, and does so with an initial treble-fuelled metallic smiting sample as of a blacksmith striking his anvil. Thunderous rumbles come and go while different combinations of struck metallic percussion interplay with threatening effected electric guitar that roars in a similar manner to the very first track 'Hollow', a fitting stylistic full-circle. Moaning ghost-like choir pads then seem to becry the fate of those smeared beneath the titan's colossal feet, until their cries are consumed into the passing noise of the giants murderous march. Screams can be faintly heard in the background, as can a fainter simplistic synth melody, but as the tread of the titan disappears into the distance, all that is left is the chaos of his passing slowly dying out to a still and vacant limbo.
After initial misgivings as to whether Mitchell Altum could live up to his own high standards, I have to admit that this he certainly does, and in an admirably confident and competent manner. 'Vindication And Contempt' seems to be well-named, as he definitely vindicates his own beliefs and standards, and so earns the right to stand in contempt of 'two-bit hobbyists and delusional tinkerers' unable to create work with as much self-assured conviction as LAW. Standing astride and reconciling the multiple genres of dark ambient, industrial and noise into a cohesive whole is not an easy thing to do well, but 'Vindication And Contempt' is immersive, engaging, and ultimately a sweeping narrative that carries the listener through violent misanthropic future realms of Armageddon. There is nothing here that grates or irritates due to thoughtless composition, and much that delivers an impact beyond the sum of it's parts, which is exactly as it should be in a release of this nature. As a final chapter in the history of LAW it is no wonder that Mitchell choose this as the final work to bow out on before moving on to sonic pastures new, as it is hard to imagine him being able to better it while staying within the confines of this project. I for one will certainly be seeking out previous works by LAW, as well as seeing where his new project Citadel may travel. I only hope that with Trimvirate now having ceased releasing new material (although seemingly still active in distribution), this does not mean the end for Mr. Altum's own creative output, as that would be a great shame indeed. Highly recommended for all misanthropes and noise addicts everywhere.