They Were Made of White Cloth
“Mission Rurale”, the opening track on Eostre’s debut They Were Made of White Cloth, kind of lulls you into a false sense of security. Only kind of, because it is still strange. An array of warped bleeps scuttle across the opening along with fading, metallic thwacks and a low, ritualistic chant. But with its solid rhythm and the persistent, if distant, hum of a deep drone, the track remains within the realms of the familiar, especially when it builds towards a close and introduces a steady, portentous beat and synth melody. It’s not a million miles away from some of Jon Porras’ solo work.
But it turns out that this is only the calm before the storm. Eostre takes a kitchen sink approach to making electronic music, with influences ranging from black metal, to krautrock, to noise-pop, to hints of early BBC Radiophonic Workshop experiments in some of the retro-futuristic wobbles and squeals. The cocktail comes out eccentric and esoteric. “L’Oracle”, as the title suggests, is particularly dark. It starts with a distorted, churning drone and staccato bubbles of sci-fi synth and then slows down into a drawn out growl and some cracked, stuttering beeps that sound like a dying computer trying to process the existence of witchcraft. Behind this is a short, repeated phrase of indistinguishable spoken word that gives the whole track an impression of futuristic incantation. Vocals are, in fact, a frequent appearance on the album. Mostly they come in this chanting, spoken word style, as on “Cruising”. Or they are a menacing whisper, which contributes to “Durch Die Meere”’s black metal feel along with a tremolo-style buzz and a repetitive pulse that might almost double for a slowed-down blast beat.
The weirdness rarely lets up, and so quieter moments like the end of “Ostara” are welcome. The rest of the song is a typically hypnotic cycle of a short, heavy synth line and shimmers of background noise, but the final minute-and-a-half or so are of surprisingly beautiful ambience. Oscillations bubble around the edges and a wave of denser drone surges but never breaks in fully. Of course, the calm is soon broken by “Tree Bark”, which goes full electronic noise-pop, not dissimilar to that popularised by Crystal Castles, albeit with a more austere, lo-fi edge. This is one of the few songs where the vocals might actually be called ‘singing’, with Sébastien Schmit – whose solo project Eostre is – whining nasally over the harsh groove. The song is introduced and concluded by what sounds like a piece of sheet metal being struck repeatedly, and that gives a pretty good idea of whole’s tone. Each hit of the pummelling beat is distorted and the airy, high-pitched washes that surround it have a tinny, semi-metallic sound to them, like you can hear something of the casing of the instruments from which they were made. And then, almost as quickly as it began, the song has moved into “(H)elling”, a slab of industrial drone with assorted twisted interruptions and the spoken, future-occult vocals are back again.
Apart from the vocals, there is little continuity to the album. The frequent jolts are exciting, but disorienting, and the two parts of “Durch Die Meere”, roughly at the start and end of the album, provide some much appreciated connection. “Durch Die Meere II” takes the black metal stylings of the first part and deconstructs them. The continuous pulse is repurposed as a repeated flutter, bursts separated by short gaps. The vocals seem more drugged-up than menacing, and the tremolo buzz appears as occasional squeals, but the similarities are still there. A disjointed synth strings part (more synth than strings, unsurprisingly) also vaguely recalls the symphonic aspects of some black metal. It has to be said, however, that the main connection is just that both tracks sound evil.
But, with They Were Made of White Cloth, you take what continuity you can get, and it’s just for the album to be intoxicating, rather than messy. Indeed, intoxicating is the right word – the whole thing feels like a lucid hallucination.