The music that Marc Richter makes as Black to Comm often sounds like it comes from a harsh, harrowing, even supernatural place. On albums like last year’s Seven Horses for Seven Kings, Richter built textural dark ambient works from rusted metal and ectoplasm, performing musical exorcisms that revealed a sinister kind of beauty beneath their ominous post-industrial veneer. Though a human being was responsible for these compositions, you could convincingly reach the conclusion that they had materialized from some far-off dimension.
Oocyte Oil and Stolen Androgens doesn’t necessarily change that in a broader sense—its sprawling, side-long opening track “Gustav Metzger as Erwin Piscator, Gera, January 1915” is as unsettling and seemingly haunted as any track in Black to Comm’s catalog thus far. What separates it from prior works is the presence of actual human voices—bits of spoken word, poetry, layers of choral music—that give a human face to the apparitions creeping through the walls.
The added textural element of vocals on Oocyte Oil doesn’t necessarily make Black to Comm’s music any lighter or more gentle—Richter’s ability to wrench sheer menace from just about any possible sound is one of his greatest talents. But there are, at times, more meditative and less openly hostile moments. “Stolen Androgens,” for one, still carries a kind of eerie unseen force in its backdrop, but the interplay of piano and voice offers a place of rest and restoration. “Oocyte Oil” by comparison feels like one of the artificial landscapes of recent Oneohtrix Point Never works, not quite alien but certainly not real. And “Gepackte Zeit (für Hanne Darboven)” is a dense array of distorted organ sounds and synth pulses that mirror the sonic decay of Tim Hecker at his poetic best.
Though it’s markedly different in sound than the pair of releases that Richter issued last year, Oocyte Oil and Stolen Androgens shares an important thing in common, that being a willingness to explore a vast array of sounds and approaches, no matter how far from the center they might spiral out. There’s more of a playfully mischievous streak here, however, even humor. Black to Comm hasn’t transitioned into lullaby ambient or oddball plunderphonics, but the menace is a bit more contained. For now.
Label: Thrill Jockey
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.