All hope abandon, ye who enter in
These words in sombre color I beheld
Written upon the summit of a gate
Like any new Krallar title, w/d (released at the tail end of 2017), is a scary proposition I approach with trepidation. To paraphrase Dasa Drndic’s from her novel Belladonna, which addresses some of the 20th century worst human atrocities, Krallar-land is a dark and neglected territory, sunk into a cataclysmic sepulchre. Warning signs sound off from the word go with the opener Generosity Crash Test, distress signals from a post-industrial wasteland resonate, while a disembodied voice, like a malfunctioning Siri with a hangover, briefly blips into action suggesting a panoptical world slowly disintegrating. Someone has abandoned ship a long time again, forgetting to disconnect electronic circuits that still capture radio signals. Treading on a carpet of static, Krallar touches on themes of addiction and withdrawal, as a life condition possibly unrelated to substance abuse, flicking switches, turning lights off and on in a void, whilst still moving forward with a gentle degree of tolerance for distortion, even when no exit sign is clearly visible.
The tension eventually eases off, with luminous loops that succeed in clearing debris from the horizon. Suddenly, I find myself floating above the abyss, becoming increasingly distant, growing smaller to the point of silence, to disappearance. I could be anywhere, it does not matter now. A becalmed sea sways once again against the walls of my skull.
Cruising at high altitude, I am eventually pulled back into orbit by the gravitational pull of language. Snatches from foreign language course tapes teaching pronunciation, allude to a communication impasse. “Siri” briefly returns, now sounding more distinctly like Sylvia Plath, as if detritus from Krallar’s 2015 album Dying is an Art, came crashing in bringing a sober reminder of past trials and tribulations like an unwanted comedown.
While the overall tone is still one of sombre acceptance for the inevitable reversal of fortune in life’s natural ebb and flow, for once, I was not left gasping for air with w/d. Krallar seems to have reduced the dark hue gradient to suggest, at least, the possibility of temporary solace.