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Pharmakon's second full-length, the brilliant 2014 release Bestial Burden, dealt with physical pain and feeling betrayed by one's own body. On her 2017 follow-up, Contact, noise artist Margaret Chardiet aims to escape the confines of her aching frame and induce trance states, producing out-of-body experiences. This is Pharmakon at her most hypnotic and brooding -- there's nothing as immediate as "Autoimmune" from her previous album, and it couldn't possibly be as confrontational as her live shows, during which she physically engages with her audience, screaming in people's faces and getting them tangled up with her microphone cord. That said, it's still an incredibly powerful, bracing work. This is the first Pharmakon album to be recorded in a professional studio, and it's one of her most focused attacks yet. Contact contains some of Chardiet's most vicious vocal performances to date, as she snarls and exorcizes demons over a slowly pounding industrial death drone. Opener "Nakedness of Need" features throbbing bass and swarming electronics, while Chardiet shrieks her head off. "Transmission" is more nervous and jittery, with her machines pulsating and shaking and her delay-covered howls creating their own rhythm. "Somatic" forgoes vocals, building a loose structure out of feedback and erupting in blazing distortion later on. The album concludes with "No Natural Order," which features clanging metal chains (which she constructs sounds from during her live performances) and lyrics about how logic is a man-made concept. Everything is arbitrary, nothing makes sense, and there's ultimately no significance to anything. Chardiet alternates between harsh squealing and guttural growling, and the effect is equally oppressive as well as liberating. As grim and hopeless as the album may seem, it's ultimately about escaping day-to-day reality and entering a state of transcendence. It's startling and uncomfortable, but it's highly compelling.

Track Listing

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