Post Mortem Photographs – Post Mortem Photographs

La Manufacture De Bruit (MDB03), 2009

This has old-school post-industrial written all over it. The self-titled debut from Post Mortem Photographs (David Vallee and Stephane Flauder) is thick with the ashes of those who’ve come before. Beyond the morbid name, so reminiscent of the heyday of Cold Meat Industry and Malignant Records, the sound here is snatched from the cold dark vaults of yesteryear, all ominous drones, tolling bells, metallic scrapes and clanks, looped German vocal samples, and a general sense of foreboding. It’s a tribute to shock value, in both concept and atmosphere, and it’s a fitting one.

Arranged into eight “Mouvements” and one thirteen-second “Interlude”, there’s little doubt about what this project is aiming for, and darned if it doesn’t manage to nail it between its staring undead eyes. Taking cue from the age of early German expressionist films, the album seems to be a soundtrack for those largely silent and starkly minimal affairs. The whispered vocals flit and flicker among the dread-infused electronics, which move smoothly from sampled noise to bonecrushing drums to drone and back again; there’s little variation in formula from track to track.

And yet, there’s aesthetic here, among the minimal synthetic wasteland of abandoned asylums and rain-soaked graveyards. The sampled monotone chant of “Mouvement 4” is flanked by piano and violin; it’s still dark, but it’s not the same cold doom and gloom pervading the bulk of the album. This track in particular strongly recalls the religious heights of raison d’etre, with its sense of isolated contemplation and introverted musing. “Mouvement 7” is similarly sparse and reflective, with the plaintive piano providing a human element to the synthetic instrumentation. The album really strips down on “Mouvement 8,” as mournful strings and spaced percussion are punctuated by the always-creepy sample of laughing children.

If Post Mortem Photographs was attempting to raise the ghosts of the post-industrial past, they’ve certainly succeeded. While there’s nothing really new here, it’s handled quite well, and may surprise with its range of projected emotion. This is a worthwhile trip through dim and haunted halls where many have walked, but it’s an effective and memorable reminder of what made the genre so successful, once upon a time.

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