Bruce Lamont’s first solo LP, Feral Songs of the Epic Decline, is actually a compilation of prior EP’s, Feral (2008) and The Epic Decline (2010). Together, they represent Lamont’s foray into sonic exploration as respite from his usual carryings on as frontman and saxophonist for avant-jazz rockers Yakuza, among other acts. The journey here is one into disquieting minimalism borne of drone, electronic effects and saxophone that come together with all the quiet comfort of a David Lynch movie soundtrack. Despite its two-fold inception, the pieces of this record follow in a contiguous arc of deconstruction. None of these songs is particularly comfortable and become decidedly less so as they successively fall apart, even if Lamont offers relative solace to close.
Albums of this nature work best when the resulting aural complex comprises something greater than the sum of its disparate parts. Feral Songs… succeeds in this regard, as best illustrated by its opener, “One Who Stands on the Earth.” Picture a solitary man kneeling in the midnight desert, arms stretched wide to the sky and naked, save for the glow of an iridescent full moon reflected in slim rivers of blood over deeply inked tribal design. A desperate communion with the Long Nights Moon is the essence of the opening twelve minute requiem, sung out in entranced vocals over looped drones, chimes, chants and lonely tom strokes. The eerie cry of a distant saxophone colors the air not so much with notes as with phantom brush strokes. Perhaps best with a big bowl of peyote, this is the sort of deep, trance-inducing ambient piece that’s going to play really well by the candle-lit haze of incense and not so much at a Venti Latte-fueled 85 on the expressway.
It’s an interesting aspect of experimental records that they require a good bit of extra work on the part of the listener, necessarily limiting their appeal. Without a doubt, Feral Songs… will click primarily with those who respect the context enough to integrate themselves into it. These are dispassionate pieces, drawn in shades of Lamont’s introspection. This means that a casual glance reveals very little, whereas immersion opens the floodgates of interpretation. Fragmentary sonics piece together prismatically, sometimes reflecting the quiet glow of Neurosis’ contemplative moments, other times coursing through the vexing dreamscapes of Popul Vuh, always signaling an impending wholesale disconnect. Indeed “The Book of Law” begins the album’s descent into madness with a schizophrenic’s discourse on solitude, utterly devoid of music and crippled by anxiety.
Fans of Lamont’s sax work might be left wanting by the sparseness of many of these tracks, but they are answered in the oddly titled, “Disgruntled Employer,” with rolling jazz-noire lines whirled against the backdrop of droned fuzz. That piece’s disintegration into nightsky alien transmission bleeds cleanly into the album’s most unnerving stretch, “Deconstructing Self-Destruction,” which blends the sickening screech of a bondage room’s rusty hoist pulley into the emotionally tortured orgasmic wails of the chamber’s maven. The one proper song on the album’s roster, “2 Then the 3,” then graciously coasts the listener back to the banks of reality on waves of soft acoustic strums and warm, if tentative, melody.
There’s really no denying that Feral Songs for the Epic Decline is a niche record. But these are among those that can be the most interesting as frontier for artists otherwise constrained by their predominant projects and listeners unafraid to venture with them. Bruce Lamont offers an intriguing meditation on psychosis to those daring enough to explore the borderlands of sanity with eyes open wide, so draw the shades, light the wicks, fire up your favorite psychoactive vehicle and enjoy the ride.