Metropolith by Mark Dicker

Release date: November 6, 2020
Label: Tesla Tapes

Here’s a battered box of tunes to match that dull winter sky for you. You might remember Mark Dicker from post everything doom titans Palehorse where he added power electronics scree and occasional shouting to their fiercely intense noise-scapes. On Metropolith he brings you icy fields of dark drone. The titles suggest a quick scout around a concrete plant and the music sounds like a night in an abandoned multi-storey car park. Mostly modular synth with some field recordings it’s industrial and desolate but not grindingly oppressive or hopeless. From the limited information he offers we know Metropolith to be “transmissions from within a concrete monolith” although whether that’s conceptual or literally the source of the material is left open. Musique concrète, that is about concrete, if you will.

I have no doubt Dicker sees the humour in that. Likewise the title mashes together metropolis and monolith to mildly absurd effect. Possibly the Metropolith is London. A vision of the city as a vast concrete hive. The cover features a seductive close up of a small group of ants busying themselves on a vividly coloured piece of leftover cake. Perhaps it was just a very striking image but it seems to resonate with the same ideas. Teem with them, even. It’s like an insect version of the cover of Who’s next. Although the sound is more like that wind blown, piss stained, concrete piling than a bright and sticky-sweet piece of cake. Maybe I’ve been indoors too long.

Just as a set of industrial drones about a concrete monolith seems more likely to feature an artful shot of a rain-streaked, brutalist, municipal building on the cover so Dicker sidesteps various sonic expectations for his project. It’s tempting to describe it as six slabs of sound but it doesn’t really have the weight that suggests. Its not rough cast, abrasive, or crushing, the music here is less like the actual structure and more like the dank atmosphere that swirls between levels. Often calling to mind the strange moaning the wind makes as it blows through a high rise car park.

On ‘Coarse & Fine Aggregates’ passing drones stalk an ominous irregular pulse. So far, so sinister but things become steadily more distant and still. ‘Extractor’ is a cloud of echoes dragging across each other while ‘Tankroom’ sketches out the dim perimeter of a large and disused space. Dicker leans away from the potential for gory horror soundscapes to something less tangible. It doesn’t feel haunted either, the dread coming not from what might be lurking but more from its certain emptiness. It’s self generated and existential rather than suffocating or supernatural in origin. You are completely alone in here.

‘Admix’ sees the return of an awkward mechanical rhythm and blasts of noise. In a competitive group ‘Expansion Joint’ takes the flag for least sexy rock ‘n’ roll title of the bunch but it may well be the most fitting. It expands the run time to twice that of most of the other tracks and aptly introduces a slightly warmer mood. Possibly the rosy fingered dawn limning the horizon. Not to get too carried away ‘Copper’ creeps uneasily, washed in heavy rain or running water. Sometimes you want music to help you escape, and sometimes you need a bleak mirror to gaze in. Sometimes those two things align. Metropolith is kind of like a dirty puddle on concrete, reflecting the sky, a diesel rainbow streak across its surface when viewed from certain angles.

Despite the overwhelmingly cold, grey, atmosphere and sense of isolation there is an odd form of comfort in this for those of a certain disposition. It’s not for everyone, this is absolutely the sort of thing that has my partner muttering darkly about ‘dirge’. Another release that landed last bandcamp Friday but got missed in the shuffle, I think you’ll need to be quick if you want an actual tape but maybe pop it onto your list for the next one if you’re happy with downloads. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to relax with an icy field of dark drone over the festive season? I might even try out the idea it’s a Christmas selection, how’s that go again “In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone”

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