Conjecture - Hydra [Zoharum - 2021]
Formed in 2013 by Greek Avant-Garde visual artist Vasilis Angelopoulos, Conjecture is a genre-defying audio project that draws influence from across the musical spectrum to create unique sonic experiences. Angelopoulos utilises synthesizers, sheets of metal, piezo mics and DIY impulse responses “collected” from abandoned buildings to create the sound of Conjecture, whilst he is also influenced by his own ideas about human existence, religion, folklore and murder among other things.
Hydra is designed to pay homage to his own country’s distant past, by rooting the whole thing within the pantheon of Greek mythology. Each of the album’s nine tracks is named after characters found within those stories and are designed to tell the tale through the use of weird electronics and ambient field recordings. The album opens with the title track "Hydra", a spooky ambient number that evokes memories of Nate Young’s Demons project. There is a creeping darkness that I adored about that project that lives on in this latest offering from Conjecture. The track builds in intensity across it’s five minutes, peaking with some frantic sounding electronic drones before dropping right off towards the end. "Cerberus" starts slowly, building into a full-blown horror-inspired industrial nightmare. The whole thing is quite cinematic and you can’t help but imagine these tracks being used to soundtrack a horror/fantasy movie. "Chimera" heads back into the same creepy territory as the opener, dank and atmospheric, the audial equivalent of creeping around underground tunnels in the pitch black. "Ladon" is up next and takes things down a notch, very minimal and atmospheric, it almost feels like the calm that descends before a big storm. "Atlas" is next and while it certainly isn’t the storm I was half expecting it picks up the tempo with some nice industrial synth lines. "Orthrus" continues in a similar vein, heavily inspired by ambient industrial music, the sound of clanking metal harks back to the heady days of 80s industrial pioneers like SPK, Coil or Cabaret Voltaire. "Centaur" sticks with the industrial sound but utilises the cinematic quality that can be heard on some of the earlier tracks. "Greae" starts off fairly minimalistic and builds into something that is rooted in the sound of Skinny Puppy, distorted voices and reverb-soaked synths are the order of the day here. This leads us to album closer "Cycnus", a sinister minimalist nightmare, largely made up of creepy field recordings and some of the most melancholy trumpet you’re ever likely to hear.
Overall, Hydra is a dark, sinister, ritualistic set of songs that evoke the creepier and more cinematic aspects of industrial and ambient music. Genuinely unsettling in places it is a fine album that will keep the listener enthralled from start to finish. Angelopoulos has produced a masterpiece that conjures up images of the monsters of Greek mythology the songs are meant to portray. The whole thing is rooted in a fairly oppressive atmosphere that draws inspiration from the sleazier end of the horror spectrum. Darren Charles