Pocahaunted / Robedoor: Hunted Gathering

Rutger Zuydervelt / Mariska Baars / Wouter Van Veldhoven: Zeeg

Turn Hunted Gathering up and drown in the black metal sludge that oozes forth like molten lava. The two-disc set is both a split disc and collaboration between sister acts Robedoor and Pocahaunted (two band members are married and manage the Not Not Fun label, plus the groups share amps and practice space), with the two alternating tracks throughout and uniting on the closing title track. With all pieces stretching out beyond the ten-minute mark (with one exception), the bands milk their doom-laden drones for maximum effect.

Robedoor's mind-melting sludgefest “Plague of Settlers” sets the mood with haunted guitars that writhe and moan while primitive drums pound out a deathly tattoo. Though slightly less lethal than the opener, Pocahaunted's “Roman Nose” bleeds black blood too while still allowing a bit of light to filter through the cracks. Two anchoring guitar figures repeat, shadowed by wordless howls and guitar shards that splinter off in all directions throughout. Peel away the blistered layers that scar its surface and the subsequent piece, “Crow Scout,” turns out to be rather meditative in spirit. Robedoor burrows deeply beneath the surface in the seventeen-minute outro “Spectral Outpost,” a shuddering dronescape that's uncompromisingly bruised and bleak.

Robedoor's “Ancestress Moon” opens disc two with a surprising episode of calm, suggesting that the second half may be less oppressive. Pocahaunted's “Warmest Knives” argues otherwise, though it's more phantasmagoric than funereal. Through the guitar haze, voices drift and a violin appears, lending a refreshing new voice to the sonic palette. Robedoor returns with a final, dungeon-styled gloom-fest before the collaborative finale kicks in. It opens placidly but slowly turns ghoulish, and makes one feel as if one is standing by the Gates of Hell, overhearing the agonized wails of the damned within. Leaving nothing to chance, the rotted skull gracing the front cover gets the point across too. File Hunted Gathering in the ‘Music to melt your speakers by' section.

Inhabiting another universe altogether is Zeeg, a single-movement, thirty-seven improvisation between Dutch sound-sculptors Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), Mariska Baars (Soccer Committee), and Wouter Van Veldhoven. In this July 15, 2007 live performance, Baars and Zuydervelt contribute placid guitar lines, accompanied by the constant activity of Van Veldhoven's tape recorders, metallophone, melodica, and music box (Zuydervelt also deploys a loopstation to manipulate Baars' voice). The mood is serene, the tempo unhurried, and the approach explorative as the three collectively weave layers into an engrossing meditation that seems to stretch itself out far beyond the visible horizon. Guitars merge into electrical wire drones and echoing tinkles add gamelan flavour until the piece reduces itself to its essence and undergoes a gradual transformation into a slow-burning style reminiscent of Eno and Fripp's No Pussyfooting.

December 2007