Mist Clouds The View by KnifedoutofexistenceRelease date: June 13, 2022
Label: Outsider Art
“Sob, heavy world,
Sob as you spin
Mantled in mist, remote from the happy.”
The Age of Anxiety, W.H. Auden
There’s always been a sense of obfuscation with Knifedoutofexistence’s music. His vocals often appearing quite low in the mix, demanding that the listeners lean in to try and decipher his words. Then there’s the sound palette itself – bolshy, hardened distortion intermingling with struck metal, field recordings, and carved synths to create heady, shrouded atmospheres of loss and longing. Despite the eponymous allusions, Mist Clouds The View appears to buck this clouding trend.
This might not be initially apparent. Listening to ‘Blood of Conviction’, for example, is like wading through a thick swamp lit by a single, piercing beam. A muffled voice too distorted to comprehend fuses with sounds that shuffle and cavort. Anguished black metal howls akin to wind-whipped banshees bray for our attention. These competing voices rake one another in a bid to claim priority amidst burning feedback and tones that bore deep into your body. There’s a sense of personalities clashing. Then there’s the ambient decadence of ‘Inhabited Skull’, formed from fizzing electrics that shake just beneath the surface. Those emotional vocals reappear, pealing their way out of the dirge, leaving us to ponder if an inhabited skull posits the notion of an uninhabited skull. One devoid of thought, devoid of life.
And then we get ‘It’s Always Worse At Night’, its shrill combatant mesh caking snatched samples.
“Sleep evades me… I didn’t say goodnight… That will haunt me”. <
There’s a deep bellowing scud of distortion that muddies everything and then, slowly but surely, the sampled voice is pushed to the foreground, bringing clarity with it. Clear as a bell. It’s this clarity that Dean Lloyd Robinson (Knifedoutofexistence) allows us to latch on to.
For a record pieced together over the course of 3 turbulent years, this is tightly woven. Tendrils of sound loll from one track to the next. Tape loops, piercing feedback, and a nest of manipulated found sounds all lend this record a sense of cohesion. And, speaking of time, that stalking father has been a recurring theme in Robinson’s work. Records with titles like Reclaiming Stolen Time, The Future Grows Beneath My Skin, A Fragile Future alongside tracks such as ‘The Cost of Time’ and ‘Illusion of Time’ all point towards a concern for ticking seconds. Fifth track, ‘Cast A Shadow’, perhaps best illustrates this intrigue in the effects of passing time.
Previously appearing in different arrangements on both 2020’s Plague Mother split cassette and A Fragile Future, the iteration that we encounter here is noticeably altered, evolved even, from its original configuration. This time the sounds are more spacious, there’s a sense of dynamism and reduced claustrophobia. Shafts of hope puncture through via a tape loop of heraldic angels cooing amidst a blizzard of noise. Surrounding this optimistic choir are sheets of cataclysmic thunder built out of slapped and distorted spring reverb, gain-cranked vocals, and harsh shrieks of distortion. It sounds like the ambience of fellow time-inquisitor – William Basinski – clawing itself out of a gloopy quicksand sourced from the caterwauling minds of the Incapacitants. Compared to the original version this is limpid, crisp, and wide-eyed. Its mist has lifted.
Mist is a motif that has featured regularly across Robinson’s work as Knifedoutofexistence in sonic aesthetics, in titular form (recent collaboration with tour buddy, Cremation Lily, is a case in point), and as part of his trademark xeroxed sleeve designs. Here, however, it is not so much mist as smoke that is engulfing the sounds and senses. There is fire in this thing. Big engulfing flames that roar and lick at your eardrums. Sometimes they simmer down to little more than embers – glowing coal scattered on a clanking conveyor belt marching towards you. But, even at its calmest points, Mist Clouds The View feels like there’s a mounting pot of rage bubbling away, biding its time. It is untameable. Unstoppable. And, despite watchful eyes, it inevitably boils over, blisters and bursts.
The track ‘Flame’ needs little in the way of explanation. It is a musical battleground between soft guitar strings, caustic squeals, damaged feedback, and pained snarls. Field recordings are chiselled and torn creating uncertainty for the lifespan of that wholesome finger-picked sound. Similarly, on the title track, chopping guitar strums cry out through frazzled clouds and, in the distance, a fire seems to burn. Obliteration is never far. With it comes distortion, confusion, and doubt before harm presses in closer like a slow moving forest fire.
There’s further suggestions of flammable qualities on ‘Illusion of Time’. What begins with Cremation Lily’s vulnerable voice emerging out of a hazy mire, as if a radio tuned to mid-2000s Emo has been found still playing from a cracked open time-capsule, soon shifts into a flame of sound shoved earthwards. Bursts of demonic static saturate the vocals like they’ve been plunged into a highly corrosive vat that sears through wire, antenna, and radio waves like acrid toxic ephemera.
Whilst we’re caught up in these charred embers, there’s less the sense that Robinson wants this all to burn and more that he’s fighting to stop it from falling apart, from being overwhelmed. This record is about wiping the blur from your eyes, pulling back the facade, waiting for the mist, the clouds, to dissipate. It could be argued that the recurring use of this is to obscure details, to craft a shield to hide behind. That may be true of previous releases but for Dean Lloyd Robinson on Mist Clouds The View, the smoke is clearing and the mist has started to disperse.