Album review: Vukovar – ‘Cremator’.

To move through ‘Cremator’ is to move through a mindset. Blurred anti-dream images, abstracted thoughts, a single aesthetic joins the unarranged dots while textures coalesce then unravel….

That aesthetic and mood, it permeates and penetrates. It bleeds out at dark angles and keeps out the light. It sets up an ether of industrial sounds like a backdrop to noir graphic novels.  We’re drunk from the lack of clean air, caught in the weight of the ink. At best we could swim at the speed of the sludge that we trudge through, that pulls at our feet.

Those industrial noises are hisses and grinds, scribbled electronics and reverberating scratches from strings, necks and heads of guitars. At times those guitars match John Cale‘s violin, at others a Sonic Youth scrawl. We’re deep down in drones, we’re washed up with shoegaze, we’re caught in a place where dreampop got stripped of its loose optimism and warped on a worn out cassette.

There’s a beauty out here in the grim, pretty almost as often as scattered and torn. Tracks like ‘Prurient’ and ‘Voices/Seers/Voices’  home in on dirt covered melodies that nag like a memory of once-clean post punk songs. Still drowned in effects and a salt crystal residue, we punch through with incessant rhythms, latch on to repetitive krautrock licked basslines and wade in the swirls of their unrefined synths. It’s moments like these, when I’m propelled from the start to end of a track, that I lap up all Vukovar give.

And these pleasures arent kept down to one type of pretty. Still in the bleak and ethos of the album, ‘Tomorrow’s Gone’ slides hypnotic and loose. In what could be an uncovered Skeleton Tree off-shoot, I’m freetime, I’m sprawling in clean strings and chimes. Ambient atonals and hushed spits of haze, they transport me away from my words as I type. A clean voice among clicks sings in a language I can’t understand and I’m thankful I’m able to draw my own meanings. He could say anything and I could be any place, at a new destination each listen. 

It’s hard to pitch just how engulfing this is, this mix of nihilism, desperation and texture, organic paranoia and synthesised claustrophobia. In the absence of light we feel around for shapes, forms that give some type of guidance. That’s why it’s so gratifying when something creeps up through the tatters that scatter the album.

‘The Cold Lord’ is pure reduced gothic experimentation, structure and form nonexistent. It’s a vapor, a slow building wash, there’s emotion and temperament only. ‘Interment By Mirrors’ folds in over itself; through reversed repetitions ground down vocals and whispers cling tight to each other and work into rough mesh wire networks. ‘The Orchids’ is stripped to the marrow of a bone; one organ throughout, intermittent layers of gristle. A vocal speaks slow, low and intimate, she moves back and forth out of focus.

This relentless approach to production and play in its rigid set shades of experimentation, left me weary upon first engagement. But it creeps in with every repeat. You choose to get drawn in or don’t. 

Cremator‘s an end to a phase of a project that shift names and aims and objectives. Little is known about how they evolve and I don’t get much more when I ask. But here they arrive at an album distilled and distinct by its singular vision, where hard work and reward come as one… where there’s patience in making and taking.

Vukovar’s ‘Cremator’ is available now on all hard and digital formats. Download and stream from their Bandcamp of order from Other Voices Records.

Fine my pick of these tracks and other featured artists right here on Rats on Run Radio.