Tinnitus by Profond BarathreRelease date: February 26, 2021
Label: Hummus Records
Previously tending more towards the underground and dirgey, the Swiss black metal trio’s new record Tinnitus explores cleaner post-metal textures while conveying the same extent of atmospheric iciness.
I was familiar with the band’s previous tape Snaar, which has a more mist-shrouded feel, with the longform elaborations and shrieking vocals muffled and murky, buried under snowdrifts of static. So the clean and cold harmonic playing in the opening alerts to a change of approach, though happily still present is the same singleminded approach, patient unfolding of patterns and hints of melancholy in the grimness. It’s recognisably the same sound, but the changes in the production style from fuzzy-xerox-tape style to clear, clean and cold austerity mean that the different releases are a bit like looking at the same frosty landscape dimly lit by moonlight and then, with the new album, in the bitter brightness of dawn.
There’s also no vocals, adding to the balance of severity and expansiveness- five tracks and nearly an hour of music that is strictly restrained: no fancy diversity in effects, crunchy snow or thunderstorm samples, keyboards, folk instruments, voices, anything other than guitar, bass and drums. So the weight of the album relies on what interest they can summon in the composition of the five long tracks, which thankfully, is quite a lot. The patterns unfold slowly with the right amount of attention to harmonies opening up subtle depths in the music- the press release says it was recorded in the dark and that seems appropriate to the secluded, guarded but emotive feel to the record. Something about it feels almost like baroque harpsichord music, not at all in the sound which is pure stony-faced but poignant atmospheric post-metal, but in the way the structures gradually, painstakingly unfold according to designs that aren’t so much predictable as inevitable like grief or change and decay. A treading of familiar pathways perhaps, but with an intensity of awareness of detail and significance.
In a way it’s one of those out-of-the-corner-of-your-ear albums, where (maybe especially because of the absence of vocals) it doesn’t necessarily grab your attention, but provides a backdrop for a less showy but more reflective absorption. It’s accompanied me on several striding lockdown walks in the rain, providing a welcome opening up of atmospheric space in cramped and stunted times.