The Absolute Elsewhere

The Absolute Elsewhere is haunted. Its opening war-cry consists of an oily horn, soaked in sweat and copious amounts of blood, and it splits the sky. The pounding drum is a relentless slow-march, full of doom and imminent bombast, gathering like an army of the undead. Neotropic’s anti-war music seeps with a lingering rage, and her seething, unquiet melodies demand to be heard. Riz Maslen uses her voice to create a tense and full-blooded record that takes a stand against injustice and shrieks at the futility of war, especially an illegal one. The consequences of that war continue long after the final bullet, and long after the final helicopter has taken off.

In spite of its simmering violence, it never condones the act. ‘Your war’s not over’, she sings, speaking of the damaging consequences, the PTSD, after the physical conflict has ended. But wars never end. A signed treaty cannot erase scars. For those returning soldiers, carrying the thunder of mental anguish and lost friendship in their hearts, the battle continues. Until the day they die.

Stitches do not always heal a rift, and wounds can remain open even after the grey poison of the shrapnel has spliced the flesh and the deafening blast of the hand grenade has echoed into oblivion. The ears still ring with the nightmarish memory; the stilted, unbalanced walk is another reminder.

“In 2003 I was part of the huge anti-war demonstration in London to stop the invasion of Iraq. Images were imprinted on my mind of the orphaned children whose families were the innocent casualties of this war. As a child growing up in the Wiltshire countryside living in a small village surrounded by an American air base, I would often see protesters outside the gates, and it’s here I believe my life changed”.

‘Wreckage of Dreams’ is seen through woozily-rising smoke, the flammable fuel creating a canopy of fire. Her voice is not really singing: it’s more of an anguished cry, a desperate second in which everything, and everyone you ever cared about, is obliterated in a cruel instant by a foreign invader, an alien of the same species sleeping in peace a thousand miles away; things are destroyed, gone, never to return. That’s her cry, and she weeps at this, at once struck by a venomous anger and at other times with compassion and surprising tenderness (something to which the attacking government appears immune).

The two polar opposites of compassion and murder bring conflict, and the music feels conflicted, at least to an extent, pulling at the heartstrings while putting a bullet into the heart of an enemy, not in a civil war with itself but fighting a just crusade against tyranny and the bombing of innocents, living in the tense underbelly of a dry, deserted township where trust has decayed. We don’t want you here, those stares say. You’re not welcome here. Like Massive Attack’s 100th Window – released in 2003, the same year as the huge demo – it’s an anti-war movement, the drums and electronics carrying a high voltage. Incendiary emotions bubble over, its lethal vocals tip over the side.

The restless; the grieving; the aching; the dead. The music’s a haunted survivor; to look into its eyes is to know of its pain.

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