When I was editor at Invisible Oranges, we covered the inaugural performance of something called Wrekmeister Harmonies — an ambitious and artsy project that combined avant-garde film with live music by a black metal/doom ensemble made up of some of Chicago’s most notable experimental/metal musicians. For us, the primary draw was Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, the man behind Leviathan and Lurker Of Chalice. Wrest is almost never seen live — Leviathan and Lurker are studio-only acts, and even the many other bands that employ Wrest — Nachtmystium, Hate Meditation, Chrome Waves, Twilight — either don’t tour, or tour with another musician in Wrest’s place. Wrest did indeed show that night, played drums anonymously for a segment of the performance, and drifted back into the shadows. However, the show — held at the Museum of Contemporary Art — proved to be much more impressive than its component parts, and late last year, many of those involved in the live performance convened at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio to record the composition, “You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me,” in full. Wrekmeister Harmonies is JR Robinson, a video and sound installation artist from Chicago; other musicians are present to help fulfill his vision (the lineup varies considerably from show-to-show). The current lineup includes: Whitehead, Drew Markuszewski of Avichi, producer Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, “harmoniumist/electronicist” Jaime Fennelly, harpist Chanel Pease, and violinist Julie Pomerleau. That’s the team behind You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me, which is both the title of the forthcoming album (to be released by Thrill Jockey) and that of its one massive track. While barrages of drone that last the better part of an hour can in many cases be wearying, the sound produced by Wrekmeister Harmonies is immense enough to merit such space. We’ve got an excerpt from “You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me” to share, and I promise, it’s worth your time; the music is a roiling blend of drone, funeral doom, and black metal that grows to Olympian heights, and as you wade deeper into the song, its undertow takes hold. The clip below is a time-lapse video of Simon Fowler hand-drawing the album art, and the disparate speeds — the video moving faster than nature will allow; the music as deliberate and dark as hot pitch — can be dizzying. Watch, listen.
You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me is out 6/11 via Thrill Jockey.