Thursday, 5 July 2012

Vatican Shadow - Operation Neptune Spear

There was no advance warning that this was due a release and so I came across it by chance a few days ago. Operation Neptune Spear is a three track digital EP which was originally issued as a cassette via Dominick Fernow's Hospital Productions imprint in a micro edition of 17 copies. Fernow has described it as the “Live Mix Rehearsal For First Live Performance May 5, 2012 Los Angeles In The Shadow Of The KSM Trial At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” The tape, packaged in zip lock bag with an art insert, was sold exclusively at Vatican Shadow's debut live show with Tropic of Cancer and Demdike Stare at Los Globos in LA.

Dominick Fernow has been quite prolific of late, this release following rapidly on the heels of last month's incredible September Cell EP Earlier in the year he has also put out the Iraqi Praetorian Guard EP and the stunning Kneel Before Religious Icons album on The Records in addition to releasing a double 7" pack of ambient power electronics under his Prurient moniker in January.

Given that this is ostensibly a live recording made during a rehearsal session, the first thing to note is that the sound quality isn't perfect. The whole thing is veiled in a sheen of distortion and midrange compression but, rather than being distracting it actually imbues these three tracks with an spectral feel which more than makes up for the lack of fidelity. 

The first part comprises a drum loop and sweeping synth lines which ride the distortion to great effect giving the track an aggressive, caustic edge. Part two begins with a metallic, dub-like beat and is joined by a weighty bass rumble and flickers of the ghosts of Middle Eastern radio transmissions. Part three is the longest piece here with a running time of almost twelve minutes. Muezzin calls to prayer are mixed with droning electronics and reverberating drum machine hits going off like a sniper's rifle. As the track progresses, the rhythm track changes several times, seemingly reprising sounds heard on the preceding two tracks. The mood is barely controlled and bordering on malevolent, hints of Fernow's noise manipulation prowess as Prurient is in evidence everywhere.

This took a few listens to sink in but after putting the recording limitations into context it is as strong a release as anything under the Vatican Shadow name and is a fitting precursor to a series of three forthcoming live appearances in Europe during Autumn. Two of these dates have already been announced; London on the 13th of October as part of the Blackest Ever Black label showcase and the following week at the Unsound festival in Krakow, Poland. 

Download as either an MP3 or FLAC file via Boomkat.

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