The Australian duo of Kane Ikin and Paul Fiocco have come a long way since the lovely Fyris Swan, released a few years back on the Hefty label. You certainly couldn’t describe Ritual as a lovely record, not by any stretch of a particularly feverish imagination: for Ritual is a journey into vast, dark empty spaces, both geographically and of the heart. Their more recent self-titled set for 12k left you for dead on the forest floor at night, this album feels like a drugged and disorientated attempt to find your way home. In fact the first time I heard it was through headphones at about one o’ clock in the morning, travelling back home through eerie North London streets; it was a terrifying experience that I’m not sure I could bear to repeat.
The problem was that this is an album made mostly of naturally-occurring sounds (some raw, some distressed), sounds which occupy a spectrum between the ominous and truly frightening, and sounds you don’t necessarily want to hear in a dark alley near Finsbury Park. Listening back to it at a more sensible hour, in a somewhat warmer and more comfortable environment, the night comes flooding back into the day. Ritual begins at dusk, with crickets singing into the evening sky, but the sun sets to a soundtrack of a thousand singing bowls, the night announcing its arrival to a chorus of electronic screams. Hello, night. This is some serious minimalist composition; indeed much of the first side of the album sounds like an extended version of Edgar Varese’s electronic interludes, a rush of wind on a barren alien planet, those insects and the burble of an unseen stream providing the only clues that it could support life. The entire second side is filled by the magnificently menacing “Incantare”. It begins with a trudge through rain-sodden streets, heavy heartbeat pulse, heavier breathing. A long underpass filled with electrical striplight hum, a dog barking at the end, a bark that scatters from corrugated iron surfaces. Finally you reach the sanctuary of a church, a bell tolls, the heartbeat quickens and, and, and, oh dear God, a woman starts weeping. Not just weeping, but howling, howling in terror, howling in pain. Take me back to the forest, please. I felt safer there.