An electronic composer who’s based in Angermanland in the north of Sweden, Maria w Horn has previously collaborated on releases with Mats Erlandsson and ambient doom metal band Insect Ark. This second album ‘Kontrapoetik’, a co-release between Horn’s own XKatedral imprint and the Berlin-based Portals Editions label certainly has a complex back story behind it, much of it centring around the turmoiled history of Horn’s home region, the site of both Sweden’s largest documented execution of women accused of witchcraft, and later conflict between the military and workers during the 1930s that nearly triggered a revolution.
If that’s not enough, during the recording of ‘Kontrapoetik’ Horn was part of an artistic research project in the form of a satanic feminist sect based around dismantling Christianity’s misogynistic traditions. While all of of the above influences certainly exert a palpable influence upon the six tracks collected here, you don’t have to be familiar with the thematic subject matter to fully appreciate this album. Working with digitally processed field recordings and vintage vinyl samples alongside mellotron, church organ and Buchla 200 synth, Horn creates dark immersive soundscapes that veer between ambient, noise and drone.
‘Atropa’ opens things with meditative ambience as slow prayer bell-like tones slowly reverberate out against warm cello-like drones and treated ringing harmonics, the manipulated modulated peaks adding a slight edge of queasiness that adds an ominous undertone to the solemn temple-like atmospheres. By contrast, ‘Stramonium’ ventures into more melodic territory, the rich intersection of icy synths, orchestral swells and echoing metallic tones calling to mind more occult church-like atmospheres as airy drones rise into the foreground against growling overdriven distortion, the end result falling somewhere between Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter.
‘Ave’ makes the occult connections even more explicit as sect member Michelle Jangmyr contributes a spoken vocal in Swedish, her words undergoing eerie pitchshifting against a gathering storm of oppressive electronic drones, crunching percussive textures and ominous sub-bass pressure, only for jagged guitar distortion to suddenly burst forward in the mix, disrupting the mood.
It’s the ten minute long ‘Angermanlandska Bilder’ that represents the centrepiece of this collection, spending its first section sending atonal howls of feedback ringing into the distance, before icy synth tones arrive to drag things out into funereal droning ambience, the distant sounds of birds and water providing a segue into eerie wordless vocals and ringing bell-like tones. As with the rest of this impressive album, it sees Horn harnessing the visceral textural possibilities of noise elements without ever losing sight of the wider emotional picture.