What does anger sound like? Is it thrashing and malevolent, is it entombed in the fixtures of of rock & roll, and of traditionally confrontational music? Perhaps it is something that can be left to simmer, that can be stepped away from and tuned out. Perhaps it is the crawling din of a Throbbing Gristle record, and not the berserker hammer-hits of punk. Margaret Chardiet’s voice is something to be contended with; hardly just a natural gift, this scream represents a nearly scientific dedication to rubbering boundaries, as well as a fairly intense emotional shotgun. If you’ve ever scream-sang so forcefully that you triggered your gag reflex (I can’t be the only one) you’ll know exactly the kind of futility with which one might attempt to replicate Chardiet’s vocal style.
I am reminded, as I often am when dealing with New York underground artists who have something to prove, of the (godawful) documentary about the no wave music scene, Kill Your Idols. The almost incomparably up-her-own-ass Lydia Lunch and her no wave cohorts make a halfway decent point when they argue that musicians in the 21st century making the same kind of noise music that their groups were in the 1970s isn’t really subversion or progress at all – it’s no better than a pop formula that has been rehashed countless times. Pharmakon doesn’t step out of the zone that has been (not necessarily comfortably) set by the industrial and noise acts that have been around for decades. As a result, her music – though very good and very interesting – just won’t sound challenging to the musically <erudite>. It’s not a leap of faith, but it’s resting in a genre that is based entirely around leaps of faith. Pop is meant to be rehashed and reshaped (a challenge in its own right), but noise artists must find new ways to temper the sonic seas.
What we are left with on Abandon is a very solid record, but one that I would have entirely believed was recorded in 1978 — if I can’t place it historically, how can I know what it’s supposed to be revolting against? That said, this is a teaser to a bigger product, and a more remarkable technical achievement – as well as a more studied one – than the moodier, less disciplined artists of the 1970s. For a first effort, and for such a young artist at that, Abandon is an almost heartwarming achievement in that it is a valiant attempt at breaking new ground.