Bare Wire Son have shared the single Ends Below. The single is lifted from their album ‘Off Black’ which is an intertextual work that builds a towering, cacophonous response to the first-hand journals of mothers who lost their sons in the bloody battles of WWI. Listen to Ends Below via Bandcamp below.
The creation of art from the processing of traumatic experiences is an old endeavor. Olin Janusz knows this well. His project, Bare Wire Son’s second full-length LP, ‘Off Black’ proceeds from this truth. While the record’s generally mournful and massive sound participates in a similar alchemy of creation, it is at heart a dedicated, intertextual exploration of a certain history of trauma, processed and laid bare. Often, trauma like this can be found at arm’s reach.
The cascading and at times brutal orchestrations on ‘Off Black’ may call to mind the extended intensity of The Body with Assembly of Light Choir, or Godspeed you! Black Emperor, though shot through with the desperation of Michael Gira’s Swans and Angels of Light. But unlike Gira’s work, ‘Off Black’ is far from self-obsessed. It can’t even reasonably be called a personal record, for its historical concerns and direct engagement with source material have everything to do with a dramatized truth-telling and little to do with a songwriter’s introspection.
Bare Wire Son is the vehicle of London-born, nomadic songwriter Olin Janusz, who began work on ‘Off Black’ in 2015 while living in Poland. Here, Janusz started poring over journals kept by the mothers of soldiers fighting, and dying, in World War I. These journals, sometimes unearthed in libraries, sometimes passed along to Janusz by his family members and those of his collaborators, provide the source material for every line, every note on Off Black. Janusz took these passages, perhaps most notably from the journals of German expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz, and wove them into a devastating drama of sound, built up with walls of cello, piano, guitars, synths, drums, and – maybe most importantly – organs.
True to that drama, the 14 tracks that comprise ‘Off Black’ feel like scenes as much as songs, and Janusz is best seen as a director. Eduard Artemyev never trafficked in sounds this heavy, but something like Tarkovksy’s passion is evident throughout, as it is in the films of Carlos Reygadas. Arvo Pårt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten soundtracks the most memorable scene in Reygadas’s Japon, which is the real deal of human desperation and tragedy. And so is the work of Bare Wire Son. The truth may not be pretty but its telling can be breathtakingly beautiful, particularly when executed with such aesthetic precision.
‘Off Black’ was recorded across many countries and with nearly a dozen contributing musicians, many of whom have never met. But it doesn’t sound like it. Instead, ‘Off Black’ has the feel of a record made in one very big room, all at one time, Janusz’s imploring baritone uncannily close to the listener’s ear while the surging storm of strings and drums and organs threaten to overtake him. This coexistence of the intimate and the monumental might be the defining feature of ‘Off Black’ – it is an aesthetic analogue for the experiences at the heart of these songs. In human history, there hasn’t been anything much bigger than the Great War. And yet, nothing could be more intimate than the trauma of a mother’s loss. And so, like the trembling of a psalmist’s fingers on the keys of a tremendous organ, Bare Wire Son’s ‘Off Black’ creates an overwhelming sound from the most austere and intimate cues.
‘Off Black’ track listing
03. Saved Alone
06. Ends Below
07. The Gore
09. The Bellows
12. Heavy Grey
13. Red Glass