Culver & Xazzaz “Skeleton Lake”


Cassette label Invisible City Records plays host to what might well be Culver and Xazzaz’s fourth full-length collaboration. It’s a ‘might’ because both these UK drone/noise artists’ discographies are so devotedly analog, with little to zero online presence. On this latest joint effort, 70s / 80s Horror soundtrack aesthetics are the order of the day over both sides of Skeleton Lake, consisting of two kind-of suites of heavy textural landscaping and restlessness. 

From the familiar background tape hiss beginnings (like many of Culver’s releases, this one won’t be getting a digital release), “Still Water” thickly spreads out into the mournful drone tones of murky wreckage. Moving like tar through sections of overlapping sound, the Super-8 drone of a rhythmless Throbbing Gristle ends up at a near finale that sounds like “Ride of the Valkyries” played via a prism of minor keys and buzzing flies. The whole side, regardless of where, has the air of colossal oppressive grind, an incoming fog bank with pockets of aurability that keep the listener reaching for description only to come up for air with the word – heavy, again and again. As with most of these two artists’ output, volume brings rich rewards. At a granular level, this type of analog offers up immensely satisfying decaying, drowning texture upon decaying, drowning texture. Even when attempting resolution or identification, there’s nothing solid; it just becomes a view that’s just that bit closer to the edge of the pit.

The flipside, “Still Grave”, keeps the same loose idea of a patchwork of conjoined elements. Beginning with rolling waves of gnarl, there are again sub-melodies that blossom the more you crank them up. Identifying actual sounds in this kind of aural half-light is near to impossible, could be Dungeon synth lines or could be strata of overloaded guitar. The only surety is the fact that it was recorded through ten feet of dirty water. Sitting submerged in this grey tone racket is like being blindfolded in the midst of a cumulative churn of sepia fairground sounds and industry plant system checks. Skeleton Lake is like being dragged through the troubled, shivering noise of the slow-motion demolition of brutalist buildings. Like I said, heavy.

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