Golem Mecanique - Nona, Decima et Morta [Ideologic Organ - 2020]Nona, Decima et Morta is abound with signifiers of occult thought, feeling and esoterica, an album that reaches for transcendent drone, wrapped in a title that references the Roman mythological ‘personifications of destiny’ and arriving with a press release that begins with a quote from William Blake.
Released on Ideologic Organ, the album consists of two long tracks both just short of twenty minutes in length; I am reviewing a download version, so I can’t speak to the physical presentation. Golem Mecanique is the work of Karen Jebane, here aided by Marion Cousin, and constructs dark, perhaps plaintive drone from vocals, harmonium, drone box, and organ.
The first piece of the album, ‘FACE A’, begins with delicate a cappella vocals before rudely jolting into a buzzing drone with a shimmering but sturdy bass undercurrent. This is soon joined by a more precise drone, searing and skyward, high and strong, after which obscured vocals washed in reverb enter, soon accompanied by a forceful low throb. At this point, the ingredients for the entire album are now essentially laid out, and the rest of Nona, Decima et Morta consists of variegating constructions using them - not that this is a criticism in any sense: drone is drone. Thus, ‘FACE A’ moves through several fluctuations of thick drone, before building to panning, swirling movements, and cutting to an a cappella vocal coda. ‘FACE B’ starts with a simple, more minimal drone, overlapped with call and response vocals from Jebane and Cousin; the tone here is more spacious, less aggressive than ‘FACE A’ - arguably even akin to an austere ambient record. Halfway through, though, the track builds into a slowly modulating malevolence before becoming outright seasick and unstable, ending with further call and response passages.
Although apparently aiming at transcendent, esoteric conjurations, Nona, Decima et Morta falls somewhat flat for me, never really fulfilling the gravitas suggested by the album. It’s rather cold, academic, even flat; it’s not soulless - that’s far too strong - but there’s a distanced, formal quality that, for me at least, works against any sense of the uncanny. From one direction you might imagine a declawed, languid Diamanda Galas, from another, Jessica Bailiff abstracted and pared back. Nona, Decima et Morta is not remotely a bad album, but it failed to connect with me.Martin P