Mastery ov the Arcane Crafts by Poppet

Release date: March 18, 2019
Label: Self-Released

Often, the best dungeon synth, such as Til det Bergens Skyggene, draws you in with its roomy production. Even as the music is often cold, discordant, and/or in the minor key, it is welcoming and warm, like a dream. Tape warping laps up against your ears like a musty and dusty painting of a river. The evocation of the old and the broken is the sub-genre’s raison d’etre. Poppet is… not that. On some of the project’s earlier releases, the fact that they were created almost entirely on Garageband ultimately hobbled the horizons that it could reach. While the music itself was well-composed and interesting thematically, it was hard to square these points with the sterility of the production. I admit that perhaps this was an artistic choice; I honestly could not tell you if it was. But it didn’t exactly work for me, even as much as these albums ticked most of my boxes.

The project seems to have finally found its sweet spot by expanding out of the dungeon synth confines towards something akin to black metal on Mastery ov the Arcane Crafts. As with many of the albums I review and enjoy, it’s hard to figure out what I’d classify this as. Its compositional style is definitely in the vein of black metal, with tremolo riffs and screamed vocals… but the riffs are constructed out of digital blips and you can actually occasionally understand the lyrics. At times, the songs approach something akin to a tremolo fugue, a spiky and undulating sonic attack. Approaching levels of alienation that most black metal projects can only hope to achieve, this album diffracts its religious subject matter, turning it against itself in a strange materialist thought experiment. Ritual without god or man. It’s a project of the digital age that actually forces one to interrogate the survival of ancient tropes in modern times.

It’s an album for precisely no one, a fleck of digital detritus, like a half moth-eaten book discovered in the soil where a monastery once stood. This is the future we confront when we have killed god. Unlike digital collage projects or plunderphonics, Poppet here doesn’t draw attention to the fact that, yes, we are living in a more connected age and isn’t that weird how we can make connections in ways that eluded us in the past. This album is not that; it’s the accidental deletion of old websites and digital data that even the Internet Archive can’t uncover. It’s the yawning of the void of half-forgotten blogs and projects that persist on the edge of the abyss: I am the digital and I am dead.

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