Aemae: Maw

Experimental provocateur Brandon Nickell (AEMAE) follows 2005's The Helical Word with the even more extreme Maw. AEMAE's seething sonic universe is so alien it either seems like it's emanating from some remote galaxy light years away or an amplified sub-atomic realm teeming with micro-organisms. In true throat-clearing fashion, “PDE” inaugurates the album with the merciless intensity of ear-shattering shards while scrapes, whistles, and creaks simmer alongside a softly churning mass of insectoid chatter in “Confound Me.” With elongated tones that suggest cello or vocal origins, “Spectral Psychosis” invites speculation as to Nickell's sound sources; regardless of their origins, the piece's writhing insectoid noises are harrowing. One of the things that distinguishes Maw is Nickell's carefully calibrated handling of space and dynamics. Instead of a relentless onslaught, he exploits contrast and consequently tension by shifting between loud and soft episodes, and also demonstrates artistry in the razor-sharp shaping of the material (the subtle modulations Nickell nurtures throughout the 11-minute “Bad Entity” are especially noteworthy in that regard). Not an easy listen by any means but an oft-remarkable one.

April 2007