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Devour Review

by Paul Simpson

Margaret Chardiet's albums as Pharmakon have always dealt with themes relating to physical pain and body betrayal, and Devour pushes this to the extreme, interpreting a vicious cycle of self-cannibalism. As Chardiet explains, this is intended as allegory for the self-destructive nature of humans, as we instinctively respond to a world of increasing violence and oppression by punishing ourselves. She recorded Devour live in the studio with engineer Ben Greenberg of Uniform, performing each side of the album as a continuous take. Coming closer to the sheer power of her confrontational live shows than her previous records, this is easily some of her most intense work. Chardiet's compositions are always carefully planned out, with no improvisation, but every development on this album sounds like it's occurring in real time, making it feel direct and spontaneous. There are several long stretches of queasy, gliding drones, sharpened by piercing feedback and frenzied shrieking, which sounds like Chardiet trying to break free of her body. "Self Regulating System" is the centerpiece, juxtaposing drilling noises with a slow, crushed rhythm, leading to a hair-raising conclusion of a roomful of Pharmakons screaming at each other. "Pristine Panic/Cheek by Jowl" is a ten-minute vortex of nauseous electronics and vocals that switch from sinister spoken word to venomous roaring. Like everything else Pharmakon does, this is almost unbearably intense, but in a way that resonates deeply and is almost soothing, as if the only way to justify the horrors of living is to elevate one's self into the most chaotic state possible.

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