Pharmakon - Devour

  • An uncompromising portrayal of despair from the noise artist.
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  • Margaret Chardiet's work as Pharmakon has always been confrontational. But none of her previous albums hit as hard as her newest, Devour. Largely responsible for this is how its A and B sides were recorded as continuous takes, effectively translating the unyielding severity of her live performances to the LP format. Given the underlying conceit here is to present what Chardiet calls "the self-destructive nature of humans; on cellular, individual, societal and species-wide scales," the experience of hearing Devour is defined by incredible exhaustion. Chardiet wants you to reckon with the fragility of human flesh and society, and how self-destruction is a natural response to a world filled with misery. With Bestial Burden, Chardiet asked listeners to consider how the mind is shackled to a body that's prone to failure. Contact, meanwhile, posited the mind's capacity to transcend despite the body's deficiencies. Devour is concerned once again with life's frailty, but Chardiet seems intent on pushing people beyond simple recognition of it: she wants people to accept the smallness of their existence, and she drags listeners along these five tracks until they get to that point. On the opener, "Homeostasis," a continuous three-beat thud represents the oppressive forces that people face regularly. Its mechanistic strikes portray unceasing pain, and Chardiet's warped shrieking acts as the expected response to such overwhelming stimuli. By the time "Spit It Out" begins, the beat's transformed into a looser groove. The shrill, droning noise that surrounds it eases listeners into the intensity of her caustic power electronics. At the beginning of "Deprivation," a warbling synth plays, then makes way for a brooding beat. The song's crawling pace underpins a sense of fatigue, and Chardiet's voice feels less like a set of vigorous attempts at overcoming pain than continued cries of desperation. In the track's final minutes, her voice fades away, and all that's left is blaring, discordant noise. It sounds like she's given up. That same powerlessness becomes the only thing felt on the album closer, "Pristine Panic / Cheek By Jowl." That Devour is such a tiring album is a testament to its cohesiveness. These tracks flow elegantly into one another, and the attention to dynamics and tension allows for seamless listening. Beyond the abrasiveness of the music, what's most affecting is how Chardiet allows you to experience constant sensory overload as a means of enlightenment. The inevitable response that one has to this album—and to the violent, distressing state of the world—is of weariness, but there’s an understanding that, for some, it's the only response possible.
  • Tracklist
      01. Homeostasis 02. Spit It Out 03. Self-Regulating System 04. Deprivation 05. Pristine Panic / Cheek By Jowl