Formication: Ghosts (Omnia Exeunt in Mysterium)

As they're occasionally wont to do, Kingsley Ravenscroft and Alec Bowman leave the charred womb of their Formicarium to infect listeners with another set of viral mutations. The duo describes Ghosts (Omnia Exeunt in Mysterium) as “a crackling electrical storm of an affair recorded at the foot of Helvellyn in the Lake District earlier this year”; we call it a seventy-six-minute journey through quarantined zones where lepers reign and cannibals feast. Using electronics, piano, vocals, treble recorder, and baritone guitar, Ravenscroft and Bowman give birth to “music” that's like the sonic equivalent to the torture apparatus in Kafka's “In the Penal Colony.” Formicarium's realm is ghoulish indeed, especially when the brutalizing crawl of “Rotten Skull” suggests a failed trepanning experiment distilled into aural form.

The album opens with four minutes of heavily distorted, bass-heavy garble (“Gathering the Storm”) that pours into a rhythmically feverish swamp of toxic oil (“More Joy Than You Could Possibly Know”) within which a blinded colossus writhes uncontrollably as it struggles to stay upright. In the seventeen-minute centerpiece “All Hell & Despair,” guitar fragments flicker like fireflies against a slowly undulating mass and voices slowly rise from some blackened pit before disappearing into the ambient undertow of “Underearth.” “The Mountains Are Machines” serenades with relentless tribal pounding, after which “The End of Things” caps the album by waylaying a gentle piano part with scattered noises and shredded voices. One never knows exactly what's ahead in the Formication world, though one knows it'll be disturbed and disturbing. Why Formication hasn't yet been tapped to provide the soundtrack to a Saw installment boggles the mind.

November 2008