Warning: Harmistice is loud. In a perfect world, it should have the black-and-white dividing lines of a warning label plastered over its front cover, a temporary tourniquet in the form of a Parental Advisory message holding in a leak caused by its noisy onslaught. The blood, as well as the warning label, sticks to its sleeve. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
A high-pitched whine kicks things off, the record suffering from an ear-shredding and sanity-sapping tinnitus for which there is no cure. It only drains away the will to live, digging into the brain with the ease and relentless tenacity of Dig Dug, entombing itself in the deep trenches of the brain. With the steady rattle of gunfire, harsh electronics blast into the track. Vocals rise up, sighing a violent opera and singing lyrics of pain. A heavy bass pummels the track again and again, merciless in its punishment.
9T Antiope are based in Paris, but they’ve cultivated a special reputation within the experimental music scene of Iran. Harmistice is their debut release on Hallow Ground; it sees Sara Bigdeli Shamloo and Nima Aghiani teaming up with long-time friend Siavash Amini. Recorded between Paris and Tehran, Shamloo’s vocals writhe around bombastic levels of sound, coated in the war-paint of a renegade. Aghiani and Amini offer a visceral (and sometimes vengeful) sound, a present soaked in secret rivulets of blood, and a sound that’s made all the more intense for its restraint, pulling violently against the lyrics; alphabetical straightjackets in a malignant world of sound, wanting nothing but to obliterate the hope and resilience of words.
The sound wants to do away with the vocal asphyxiation, each word speaking a truth it wants to keep mute, repressing their letters like tanks supressing an uprising, even as the boa tightens and tightens around the lie. The vocal is in a fight against the soundscape. The soundscape looks for a devastating counter-attack, breaking up their chained words and scattering their letters until they resemble dazed and incoherent syllables without meaning.
Synthetic sound sources slither around acoustic instruments, creating a living nightmare. Shamloo’s lyrics – sometimes poetic, sometimes raging, and sometimes delivered in first person prose – speak of a living nightmare: the horrors of war. The drones hit hard, missile after missile rocking the track, exploding a wall of plaster and sending a plague of debris into the air, rising up from a shattered skeleton. The sound is alarming, like a sudden shellshock smacking a soldier. The sound drops out, and Shamloo’s words fill the space; the silence is deafening. Her ink spills onto a page as trauma spills out of an infected wound.