Category Archives: Cabaal

Kurt Vs. Bertrand

Featuring : Cabaal


When the wind ravages our coastal city, ripping the air from the streets and smashing it into your face, there’s a little part of you beneath coats and jumpers that starts to feel alive.  Planetary scale physics are trying to dislodge you from your journey, yet you persevere, at 45 degrees into the wind.  Your heart pumps faster and the additional effort required, while not much, is enough to laugh in the face of Descartes.  If he could hear you above the infernal wind.

If the violence of weather is life then the first half of Cabaal’s Altar/Ascent conjures a moment between the worlds of the living and the dead.  A purgatory, a land where all the noise of creation is trapped in ice, awaiting the arrival of Kurt Russell.  It is a period of waiting, of sacrifice and anticipation of the fruits that that might bring; of looped tapes and reverb heavy tones; of far off pianos buried deep beneath a blanket of soft white noise.

The second half of Altar/Ascent is the release, of sorts.  The arrival of a beat, hewing a stairway to the stars out of the ice.  It promises escape from this world.  This world of calm and ice and night and it does so by altering the very landscape that kept it all in check.  Now the noise of the world is freed from the ice as the stairs of ice rise ever upwards.

Cabaal – Altar/Ascent

Altar/Ascent is taken from Cabaal’s EP Apex, which is out today on his Bandcamp.

Shadow caravanseray


Three thin pale sisters welcome you in with melodious voices. It is warm and it smells of clean sheets, baked bread and burnished wood. They bid you to stay as long as needed, and rest and recover before venturing back into the wilderness outside.

They smile and they swirl and all of your wishes are fulfilled. Cream soup, a well-appointed library, good conversation and delightful entertainment every night, shadow puppets running through the walls with a fairy tale that puts you to sleep.

Some things you do notice.

There is a subtle whiff of something sour in the breath of the three sisters, of something rotten in the food that they serve you, of something crawling behind the florid wallpapers of their lounge, of something awful in the shadow puppets that stretch and linger over the walls.

Also, note that you have never seen these three sisters in the light of day. Wait. You haven’t seen the light of day since you arrived here. Wait. For how long have you been here?

Tonight (it’s always tonight) shadow puppets run over the walls, dangle acrobatically from the wrist of a sister around the neck of another, leap on the floor and scurry into the shadows where their little eyes glimmer luridly. They jump on your chest like cats made of mist, and stretch their paws around your throat.

As you start dozing off, they whisper a strange story.

About a house in the countryside and a God-fearing father, a silent mother and three daughters who liked to play in the forest behind the country-house. About the shadowy things they met in that forest and how the father didn’t like them.

About how he forbade them from playing with the shadows and what the sisters did about it. Blades in the night, a brief trial. Three ropes over the branch of an oak, their bodies so slight it barely creaked.

And then the house empty, save for the shadows. And then thin pairs of pale arms tearing a rend in the veil, crawling back into the house and its lonely limbo, waiting for visitors to keep them company in the shadows of a night that lasts forever.

The Coombe – Tierra Amarilla

Troller – Winter

The Knife – Without You My Life Would Be Boring

Cabaal – In Flux

Mayerling – La Mort n’en saura rien

You roam the shadows for an eternity. Eventually you find your bag, and strike a match. You slowly get your bearings.

Ahead of you, there is a tunnel dug in the rock that heads further down. Go there.

In the wall to the right there is a portal humming ever so slightly. Go there.

2013 References

Image from book cover for Shirley Jackson’s ‘We have Always Lived in the Castle’.
We loved The Coombe’s parcel from A. Machen’s country, and Troller’s glaciar-like ballads. The lumbering beast that was The Knife’s album could perhaps have done with some light editing, but we nevertheless surrendered to its claustrophobic embrace (and loved the Margaret Atwood references).

Thalia and Melpomene

Featuring : Cabaal

Sitting on a commuter train back from London, listening to the track I’m going to write about below, I slipped into the following reverie as I thought about music and drama (and the lack thereof):

Maybe the US endorsed ‘dubstep’ is onto something: maybe people want the drama back in their music? Although I hope it doesn’t all have to devolve towards the aural equivalent of Michael Bay — who shares a commercial interest in projecting the loudest shocks possible to a hungry audience.

This lack of drama: is it a post-modern thing? Has it been done so many times before that trying’s fraught with pastiche and failure? Drama after all relies on withholding information. If you can Spotify your way out of shock then maybe best to leave it well alone.

Or not?

Drama in music is a powerful thing and I wish there was more of it. More moments of uncertainty; or apprehension and release; or holding on too long. I even miss the action movie explosion that was ‘the drop’…sometimes.

Which brings us to the music that inspired this navel gazing (while I should have been paying attention to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty streaming past outside).

Liminality cover

Today’s post is dramatic.  It has a drop, of sorts.  It is, in a way, vaguely cinematic (although that’s certainly not what is meant by ‘drama’).  What it does have though, is timing.

A tick-tock opening is always a good start.  Heavily filtered synths, rapidly repeating, burst in and frame the tension well.  But it’s the silence that ultimately spurred the ruminations above.  It’s a perfectly judged moment.  You expect something to change and then suddenly: nothing; and then, most satisfyingly of all, what returns confounds our expectations with quite how beautiful it all is.  A melody that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Hotline Miami epilogue, consisting of our masked hero journeying through the astral plane.

Cabaal – In Flux

This is taken from Cabaal‘s latest EP Liminality which is ‘pay what you want’ on bandcamp right here.

Alternatively, for an essay on how to keep your audience hanging on every syllable, perfectly deploying almost unbearable tension and release, please see:

Gnostic Synth Jams

Featuring : Cabaal

The beautiful SOMA was our first introduction to Cabaal at the end of last year.  Now they return, expanding on the Light Pollution EP with a whole album of gnostic synth jams.  Heavy and slow; delicate, like the best fucked-with RnB our friends at Tri-Angle have put out.  Bridging the gap between OPN and Brandy.

Maya arrives halfway through the album.  A chopped and screwed, Euro House casualty – 4am slow, dragging its melodic, synthetic self through the pre-dawn.  It manages to pull in Eno’s lunar ambience alongside the cloudy, pitch blended synths canonised by Board of Canada.  All introspection between the towering thud of hulking drums and reverberating bass.

Cabaal – Maya

Cabaal’s album Emanations is available from Bandcamp, for free, right now.  Go get!


Featuring : Cabaal, Moon Gangs + Peepholes

Been wanting to use this image by TagliaMani for a while — thanks to the ever wonderful 50 Watts.

Quickly (in 20JFG time*) following on from last week’s post about Peepholes‘ laboratory-fresh detour, Tunnels, comes the Moon Gangs remix.

Combining a decaying Techno drum sequence — seemingly heard from beneath midnight-black ocean waves — with reconstructed Chi-House synth hooks, Tunnels is turned from a cyclopean night drive into something (even) more cosmic.  Which you’d expect from Moon Gangs.  Katia’s vocal forced into a distant endless loop forming a hymn in some celestial cathedral that’s incrementally more disturbing as its grove remains locked.  The remix ends with a final breakdown that’s soaring and trembling and extremely delicate all at once; anchored with reverb heavy handclaps: an archeological reconstruction of pop played at entirely the wrong speed.

Peepholes – Tunnels (Moon Gangs Remix)

Cabaal are part of a thankfully pretty strong tradition of incredible records dropping, unheralded, into our inbox.  We do our best to scan through everything that doesn’t get filtered away by the legions of autonomous (and often rebellious) drones we’ve installed to keep the spam from the door.  And quite frequently we’re rewarded with records as good as Cabaal’s Light Pollution.

Light Pollution’s final track is called SOMA and it’s beautiful in a way Balam Acab’s Sea Birds (Sun) is beautiful.

Inescapably drawn to the points of critical comparison that orbit the mutant strand of modern music that Tri Angle have curated: this is vast, emotive music that owes as much to chopped and screwed epics as it is indebted to minimalist electronic compositions.

SOMA oscillates its way into being; gorgeous synth waves washing over a blank landscape.  Larger structures slowly appear: towers that provide some perspective.  Chimes orbit them, drifting and darting around them like playful spectres.  A bass throb rises up (relatively briefly) to clear the way for a vast, tape delayed procession to pass between our synthetic towers — both beat and vocal slowed to a narcotic drawl.  A plaintive torch song just about visible among all the temporal remapping.  And then the pixilated echo of a rave turns up and everything goes sublime.

Cabaal – SOMA

* which deviates from the logarithmic hype of internet time in that the distance between two points in real time rapidly decreases the further they initially appear apart.  Story of our life really.