Self-Extinction by InhumankindRelease date: March 30, 2018
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
I, Voidhanger takes big swings, and we should all be tremendously thankful. Case in point: Inhumankind’s Self-Extinction, the weirdest album I’ve heard in a good long while.
Made up of a double bassist and a flautist, Inhumankind play an especially idiosyncratic blend of ritualistic minimalist music, drawing freely from black metal, choral music, and free jazz. In such a sense, I suppose you could loosely group Inhumankind alongside Dead Neanderthals as two bands that are making minimalist music weird again, and that’s a very good thing.
You might think that you’ll know what to expect when you read the above description, but I guarantee that you don’t. This is brutally pared down music. There really is just the pure prowess of the musicians putting together a strange, scruffy listening experience that is truly haunting. If the minimalist power of black metal often derives from its low production values, where riffs turn into drones, the minimalist power of Inhumankind is based on the fact that they sound genuinely possessed by the spirit of ritual, engaging in a sort of potlatch of melody. In such a way, you get the controlled anarchy of John Zorn with the power and DIY feel of Yoshi Wada.
If so much music associated with “ritual” is unnecessarily baroque, Inhumankind serves as a sort of corrective. The music here is not overwhelming, it doesn’t foist modern melodies onto an imagined past, and you won’t find bizarre odes to pagan ancestors. Sure, there are the normal types of occult references, but, in general, they are applied in such a way that seems to resonate much more strongly with, for example, their deployment in the actual writings of Crowley than their almost campy use in plenty of other “dark” music. This is an extended way of saying that there is no misplaced nostalgia.
And isn’t that precisely the point? Inhumankind follows in the very modernist project of exposing the singular ego, the ideated singular person, as the mere adumbration that it is. We are far more fragmented as beings than we are often comfortable with admitting. Oftentimes, this manifests in a searching for a glorious past or a search for a lost authenticity. But you’ll find no such comfort in Self-Extinction, the goal of which is precisely its title. The album is very spaciously produced, leaving many moments (mere moments, to be sure) where you are left only with the crinkling of your own skin and the beating of your own heart ringing in your ears before you once again are unmoored in the beautiful exploration of the fragmented, fractal world, carried along by the flute towards what Pharoah Sanders called “freedom.”