Downwards’ deep bonds with NYC catalyse the immense debut LP by Jim Siegel’s Vivid Oblivion, a reveberating post-industrial salvo produced by adopted Brooklynite Karl O’Connor (Regis), and co-mixed by Anthony Child (Surgeon) and Simon Shreeve, who also mastered it. It’s a super deep, highly atmospheric beast somewhere between Valentina Magaletti’s most expressive percussion work, Bark Psychosis, and classic, moody 4AD, which is coincidentally referenced via the artwork, made by Chris Bigg - legendary graphic designer and longtime assistant to Vaughan Oliver.
Invoking the density, vertiginous scale, and dark grimy nooks of NYC, ‘The Graphic Cabinet’ was realised by Jim Siegel - hardcore legend and occasional/regular drummer with everyone from Raspberry Bulbs to Damo Suzuki and Boredoms, made in close collaboration with Karl O’Connor aka Regis during 2021.
Stemming from intently deep listening sessions immersed in LPs by Viennese aktionist Hermann Nitsch and the myriad eras of Killing Joke, while also absorbing the atmospheres of classic Tarkovsky flicks, the album began life as gonzo field recordings of Siegel smashing the f*ck out of his drum kit, zither, scrap metal and gongs in an array of abandoned warehouse spaces. The recordings formed the basis of Karl’s compound productions, which add depth charge bass and sonorous metallic atmospheres to the mix, along with birdsong and gibbon hoots, plus guitar textures by Nick Forté (Raspberry Bulbs, Rorschach) for a dread-lusting jag deep in the belly of the Big Apple.
With a palpable tang of rust and blood in the air and grime under the fingernails, the seven tracks evoke a resoundingly brutalist portrait of space and place. Siegel’s nervy percussive discipline is framed in alternating barometric and light settings from cut to cut, variously snaking from the poltergeist clang and haunted resonance of ‘Converging and Dissolving’ to slamming motorik thrum in ‘Oblivion’ via imaginative descent into cyberpunk simulacra of the city as jungle-at-night in ‘Remnant Corridor’, replete with animalistic atmospheres that recall Organum.
While the raw attack and devilish swerve of the rhythms are utterly fundamental to the record, Karl’s atmospheric content and the animist mixing magick of Anthony Child and Simon Shreeve most potently give flesh to its bones. Patently evident on the stepping pulse and searching zither that keens into detuned orchestration on ‘Immediate Possession’, the zoned-out klang of ‘Stand Aside’ or in the flooded warehouse chaos of ‘Test For Traps’. The attention to spatial, textural and proprioceptive detail is tightened throughout, peaking with ‘Bargemaster’, a dense slab of tension that sounds like Jon Mueller’s Silo recordings fed through The Caretaker’s fogged machinery.
It’s one of the most impressive records on Downwards for a long while, bound to gnaw and spark the nerves of experimental rock and post-industrial’s greats, anything from The New Blockaders to Faust, Flying Saucer Attack and into iconic Blackest Ever Black releases in the modern era.