Damaged Lethal Harmonies by Rondel Kilgore, Heath Yonaites (Review)

A series of brooding atmospheric pieces that, upon closer listen, aren’t quite as brooding as initially thought.

Maybe it was the skull and crossbones and the radiation symbol on the front cover. Or maybe it was the presence of the words “Damaged Lethal Harmonies.” But whatever the case, I somehow got it into my mind Damaged Lethal Harmonies by Rondel Kilgore and Heath Yonaites would be one of those “extreme” recordings. Something akin to the Japanoise scene, or boasting a battery of power electronics. The truth is far more genteel, and, I suspect, more pleasant and interesting.

Utilizing sound sources ranging from banjo and charango (a guitar-like instrument from the Andes mountains) to the Melbourne Subterranean Children’s Choir, Damaged Lethal Harmonies offers up a series of brooding atmospheric pieces that, upon closer listen, aren’t quite as brooding as initially thought.

“Solenoid Entry” begins with the obligatory drone cloud, complete with Blade Runner-esque tonal shifts. But shortly thereafter, a rapidly strummed acoustic guitar and swiftly descending bassline break through the clouds, sounding quite at odds with the atmospherics before, and yet not sounding out of place at all. And that’s just the first two movements. Later movements include more distant, murky guitarwork and an almost folk-like chanting that wouldn’t be too out of place on a Woven Hand disc.

“Entirely Soon” gets my pick as the strongest track on here, simply because it has the bravery and intuition to combine shimmering strands of melancholy, 4AD-ish sound with the dulcet tones of a banjo. The two perfectly balance each other out — the banjo adds a structure and sharpness around which the layers of drones can array themselves. The piece feels like an endless denouement, always caught in the act of fading out, and yet when it does end, it’s rather jarring.

The disc ends with “Serotonin Delay,” a constantly shifting and spluttering mass of sound sources whose puzzling and kaleidoscopic nature makes it feel like several Susumu Yokota songs rolled into one (which, I suspect, is due largely to its origins as a remix and sample exchange project). All in all, a very strange yet beguiling recording that always keeps the listener guessing, from its title and artwork — which I can only assume was meant somewhat tongue-in-cheek — onwards.

Read more reviews of Rondel Kilgore and Heath Yonaites.
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