A couple of weeks ago, I published a lengthy feature here on Six Noises that looked at the outré music of New Zealand-based noise-maker Campbell Kneale. Kneale records under a number of different aliases, including Our Love Will Destroy the World (OLWDTW), and one of the reasons I enjoy his diverse outsider music is because it's often pitch-perfect for both soul-searching and galaxy-gazing. Harm is Kneale’s latest OLWDTW release, and it sees him twisting minds while defying expectations once again.
Harm is being released digitally and on a limited edition 10" lathe cut by well-respected Wellington-based label PseudoArcana. (The label curated by sound artist Antony Milton, who’s been active in experimental music circles since the early 1990s.) When I wrote about OLWDTW in the feature I mentioned above, I pointed out that the band’s music is difficult to succinctly describe. Of course, that’s no bad thing; there’s a lot to love about indescribable music. Especially today, when so many musicians seem to be stuck rearranging the same old tropes, time and again.
That’s definitely not something you could accuse OLWDTW of doing. Kneale’s released fathomless drones, percussive rituals, electronic whirlwinds and all manner of ambient, other-worldly, and psychedelic forays under the OLWDTW banner. And Harm falls into that latter spectrum of music.
Primarily recorded using vintage Korg synth, Harm is both an abyssal and firmamental release. It’s dark yet light. Vivid yet understated. And the four-song release recalls the starkest electronic journeying of Tangerine Dream, Cluster, or Klaus Schulze. It’s kosmische music, for sure, and duly mind-expanding. But Harm is also fairly raw-boned and unencumbered by the slickness or ego-bloat that haunts many retro-synth releases.
Opening track “Negative Veil and the Tree that Follows” begins with a vibrant pulse of sci-fi electronics, and then the song slowly morphs/spirals its way into the skies above. Follow-up, “Harm Enemy”, weaves birdsong, percussion, and murmured spellcasting around a shape-shifting core. And both of those songs underscore how harmony exists alongside an unnerving sense of disharmony in OLWDTW’s works.
More mesmeric and minimalist magic shimmers on “Doll Demise”. Woozy instrumentation fuels the track, which sways with an off-kilter gait. And the song could almost find a home on Vangelis’ Bladerunner soundtrack –– albeit, only after that soundtrack had been thoroughly warped by the sun.
Harm finishes – far too quickly, it has to be said – with “Still Vacant Symbol”. The song is comprised of gentle and subtly unfurling melodies chiming in the breeze. And “Still Vacant Symbol” features a transportive tenor (as does Harm as a whole) like the best Tangerine Dream drones offered back in the day.
Harm features some of the most ecstatic and immediately engaging music that OLWDTW has released – and I’d certainly have loved to hear more Korg-led expeditions. On the one hand, Harm’s warmth subverts expectations. Because there are definitely sonic challenges to be overcome on a lot of Kneale’s other releases. On the other hand, Kneale is almost predictably unpredictable, following his creative impulses wherever they lead. That means Harm’s enveloping electronics aren’t a surprise, as such, but they are unanticipated. Either way, Harm is entrancing. It’s unquestionably one of OLWDTW’s most sublime releases.