Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing: Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr

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Russian auteur Alexei German spent 40 years planning and another dozen years filming his polarising masterpiece, Hard to Be a God. And then he died, before his final film’s debut. Still, German’s in-your-face odyssey was eventually realised, and Hard to Be a God has subsequently been hailed as:

“a kaleidoscope of squalor, fear and pandemonium”

“awe-inspiringly insane”

“a crawl through depravity”

“an unspooling nightmare”

Sounds great, right? Well, it is. And it isn’t. There’s no middle ground with Hard to Be a God. You’ll either think is utterly amazing or fucking atrocious. And that’s essentially the best way to understand the eccentric work of Auckland, New Zealand band Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing (GPOGP). Particularly on their brand new double album, Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr.

GPOGP’s deliberately provocative moniker signals their desire to transgress norms and explore taboos, and all of those quotes above highlighting the confronting nature of Hard to Be a God are also entirely applicable to GPOGP’s music and aesthetic.  

Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is being released in digital form, although it’s still a double album in the sense that’s it’s lengthy and conceptual and GPOGP favour the esoteric “rule of halves”. There’s a limited-edition tarot deck designed and illustrated by GPOGP to go along with the album, which is a crucial item of inspiration for the band, but it also allows listeners to visually explore the arcane realm GPOGP occupy.

That’s a world where GPOGP’s music is often vividly disconcerting. Their off-kilter songs ignore genre, and they’ve overloaded the senses with unnerving videos and artwork before now. But Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is GPOGP’s largest and most grotesque panorama yet — and it does Hieronymus Bosch proud.

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Like all of GPOGP’s releases, including their much-heralded 2015 full-length, Scrying in Infirmary Architecture, the band’s latest album oozes degeneracy and delirium. Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is like a danse macabre, brimming with phantasmagoric filth, chaos, and gnosis. But tidily summing up all the insanity is nigh on impossible.

For a start, Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr’s 16 deranged tracks refuse to be easily catalogued. That’s not unexpected, because GPOGP are markedly idiosyncratic anyway. But the schizoid songs on their new album are constructed from components recorded in the live environment and at GPOGP’s homebase, and that twofold technique adds even more bewildering unconventionality to their songwriting.

It also means Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is often a jarring journey. But strident and surprising exploits are nothing new for GPOGP.

They’ve always mixed sweet and sour ingredients — often blending the hallucinatory with the nightmarish and sublime. That friction sits at the very heart of their unsettling appeal. And on their new album they situate delicate audio apparitions in pounding factories of avant-garde noise, and they tarnish melodies with dissonance and concussive instrumentation.

It all makes for a harmonic horror show. (And, if we’re sticking with film metaphors, I’d say imagine Terry Gilliam remaking The Wicker Man, framed by capitalism’s rotting corpse.) Crooked/gothic post-pop scuttles through the innards of “Lustration”, and the bleak/shrill/sugary tone of “LVX” sees industrial clatter corrupting jangling guitars. The magnificent “Genuflect in Coma” sounds like a horde of daleks covering Einstürzende Neubauten. And hypnotic threnodies like “Iwa”, “Ixcuina”, and “Out of Zone” underscore GPOGP’s talent for writing “esoteric dirges”.

Elsewhere, “Dysentery Evangelism” opens hilariously only to develop into a terrifying track. And while GPOGP’s music has been loosely defined as folk/no-wave before, it’s definitely no-fucks-given-wave that guides the rhythmic mania and fuels the supernatural psychedelia on “NOX”, “Widdershins”, and “The Compost of Aethyr”.

Mesmeric brain-twisters like “Abomination of Desolation”, “In Circles”, and “LAShTAL” also push the musical madness boat way, way out — delivering the “psychotic transcendence” that Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr promises. (And that’s especially true on the album’s final evocative track, “Tenebrae”.)

All of Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is utterly uncompromising. But that also brings its share of challenges. GPOGP have been described as iconoclastic for a good reason, and their willingness to alienate listeners isn’t in doubt, but their unrelenting commitment to unorthodoxy is both a boon and a barrier.

Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is replete with mysterious magick musings and extremely unconventional music, and it’s up to you to try and make sense of the lot. Understandably, untangling and then endeavouring to decode 16 incredibly eccentric tracks isn’t for everyone. And Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr definitely isn’t made for passive, casual listeners.  

The album sees hubris and madness running riot. What mammoth double album doesn’t? But this is also completely outsider music, and there’s no way every serpentine song is going to instantly appeal. Some you’ll hate. Some you’ll love. Either way, Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr will leave you feeling disorientated and disordered — and it is, unquestionably, demented.

Admittedly, those are all major pluses in my book. But Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr still needs to be deciphered over time. It’s a cryptic long-form rite. So if you’re looking for an easily accessible album, this isn’t it.  

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what you or I or anyone thinks of Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr. You make outré art like this because you’re simply driven to create. Or driven mad. Or both. It’s got nothing to do with any commercial or critical yearnings.

The reward, for us, is an album of singularly creative music that’s as brilliant as it is bizarre. Surreal songs pierce the veil, making other realms manifest, and it doesn’t matter if you’re not au fait with all the esoteric know-how saturating Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr. Bathing in its muck and magick will leave you feverishly possessed regardless.

Songs of Sodomy & The Compost of Aethyr is monstrous vision, fully realised. And it’s deeply unsettling, and wildly creative. It’s musical sorcery, for sure, but also gloriously, wonderfully, fan-fucking-tastically unhinged.