Every once in awhile, very infrequently, I come across something *(or it comes across me) so astonishingly unique, so completely original, that it actually takes me aback in the best possible of ways. 5 STAGES by audio art assassin NIHILUST is one of those rare listening experiences, a 24 minute Concept Piece consisting of 5 songs, each one of those songs made up of several other songs and pieces of sound, through the application of the BRION GYSIN/WILLIAM BURROUGHS Cut Up Method, here presented through the art of sound. And really, this is the most honest thing I’ve heard in some time. There are no pretensions, no particular genre affiliations, it’s not trying to be anything that it’s not, and is fully secure in that solitude.
The Concept driving these eclectic, swirl-form soundscapes is fairly interesting. DRAVEN ARCANE *(the being at the helm of this sonic Soul-Bomb), upon watching The Martian one night, began to ponder “What would I, an Artist at my root, do in such a situation to pass the time and maintain some semblance of sanity in such a situation?” He proceeds to explain it thusly: “It seems like such a pleasing environment in regards to what all working artists (who are NOT potato farmers) truly need, which is, time on our hands. Setting aside survival basics, here i am on another planet in solitude, with no musical instruments except my meager ingenuity with computer programs, no one to answer to and completely unrestrained by the confines of legality or career goals.” He’s not wrong, environments like that are what some artists not only crave, but desperately need. No career stress, no general distractions, solitude and most importantly, time *(I’d absolutely thrive in an environment such as that, the less people the better, but that’s a general rule).
Even more inspired, that idea is presented and adapted from the 5 Stages of Grief *(hence the album title), those being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, turning this into a stunning work of utmost depth and Soul, completely shattering any form of convention. The story being told is captivating, dark, stinging with a caustic pain of split-soul agonies and swelling, undulating tumultuous emotions. It sounds like when love eats itself, a beautifully ugly Oroborus of Pain. This is one of those things that the more I listen to, the more I marvel at the sheer immensity of, and being familiar with the Cut Up Method myself, I can actually feel the staggering amount of work that’s been put into this *(the PR sent with this states a minimum of 1200 hours went into putting together the 24 minutes of sound contained, and I don’t doubt it). This is true art in its most undiluted form, a true feat of full connection with one’s craft, a labor of love, if you will. Of course, being the art that it is, the story told becomes incredibly subjective, and each listener’s psyche will almost assuredly discern a slightly-to-highly different take, which is what great art does, is supposed to do. If you’re not being challenged, it’s not good art.
As to the songs themselves, my favorite is without doubt “Legend of the Heartache Revelator.” This is a piece that drags you slowly down into the pits of a pain so horrendous that only bad love could create them. Insidious and snide creatures taunt and laugh at the situation as a literal living shadow hurls poetic abuse from the darkness unseen. Repetitive reminders haunting and taunting as guillotine thunder pours from the heart of the one who cast this vile spell. This is really good stuff, and comes from a place so honest, it can only be commended. It’s not easy to just put oneself out there in this manner. “Moving Dust in Small Numbers” resonates a slow, jazz-infused constricted relaxation, layered with despair that burns like a suicide-whiskey inebriation. The opener, “Precursor: Slighted” fizzles in with sheets of wavering static, stuttering and spasming among night howls from Jungian demons unseen. Something is laughing at you. It all feels like panic. The album never lets up, being a steady bombardment of a sonic syntax that’s an autobiographical trip through Hells that very few experience in this particular way, as that’s usually the only way something this monumental and, dare I say, actually original, takes form from thought to physicality. Guaranteed, you have never heard anything quite like this before.
I loathe comparisons, and try to avoid them, but they do help with the ”but who may dig this?” anomaly. Though absolutely impossible to nail down into a genre *(good, one of the best things about this), throughout 5 STAGES I do hear elements of things that could possibly have influenced this, or seem to come from a similar idea pool in the not too distant past. There’s PREMATURE EJACULATION *(ROZZ WILLIAMS and RON ATHEY), WHITEHOUSE, J.G. THIRLWELL, GENESIS P-ORRIDGE, LYDIA LUNCH, COIL, all acts that featured a similarly true and forceful Will of their own, also employing very similar techniques when creating, and emanating a similar vibe, though each still it’s own Beast. If you’re someone open to performers of that nature, then this’ll be right up your alley.
DRAVEN ARCANE hails from the Boston area, currently thriving in Richmond, VA. Apart from doing NIHILUST, he’s an all around Audio and Visual Artist, Writer, Actor, and Costumer, as well as having been the Vocalist and Songwriter for Asheville, NC band THE DEATH OF ANALOG *(definitely something worth checking out). I don’t know what plans NIHILUST may ultimately have for the future, but I did have the opportunity to hear a newer track, and it was just as fascinating as what’s being presented with 5 STAGES. It’s the work of Soul, of experience hard won, of knowing thyself and proactively transmuting the pain, much the same way the culled sounds here have been transmuted into wholly new levels of vibration.
I may have been a bit hasty when I wrote the 2017 Best & Worst article, because this may just be the best goddamn album of the year, in my opinion. It really stands out, and though recommended above to a particular facet of niche music listener, I urge everyone to investigate and purchase NIHILUST 5 STAGES. Give it a shot. It’s brilliant, beautiful, horrifying, deep, caustic, and an hell of a lot of work was done to make it happen. If we don’t give back to the underground, the underground can’t give back to us. *(Keep in mind 75% of your modern culture was ripped right from the underground movements of 20-40 years ago, and largely why all of it kinda stinks now.) This is good to the point that it should stick around and continue to grow. I connect with this in a way I do with few things, with my own subjective view of what’s happening. It not only tells a story, it induces thought. Highest possible recommendation to 5 STAGES by NIHILUST.
DRAVEN ARCANE can also be found on Facebook.