Ampyr – Your Punishment

Today, your punishment is to be administered by the album artwork for Ampyr’s Your Punishment… specifically, being unable to determine if the artist is going by Ampyr (everywhere on the bandcamp page) or Ampyre (according to the artwork).

Artist: Ampyr
Title: Your Punishment
Label: None
Cat#: N/A
Keywords: Experimental, Drone, Noise, Soundtrack, Weird
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

I like to imagine that Ampyr is like a cross between an umpire, a vampyre and an amplifier.

Vampyre, umpire, same thing basically.

But, amazingly, this music doesn’t sound at all like something such an absurdly terrible supernatural creature would create, but is instead, pretty good!

It gets started with something called ‘Place’. It’s not a place like any other, in that it is made of sound. It’s a soundplace. And, the way that it sounds, is like we’re at an opera in the basement of a very loud factory. It’s really lovely! There’s some static build-up… maybe it’s because the opera bunker is carpeted, and there’s a lot of electricity running upstairs. Needless to say, the opera is very shocking, and a bit charged, and our hairs are up on end. It seems at times that the whole thing is taking place on a turntable that keeps powering down randomly, so someone’s probably gonna have to call the city utility company about that. There are so many noises happening in here! I wish we had a couple broomsticks we could bang on the ceiling with, but they probably wouldn’t notice with all that racket. I think I hear a reedy wind instrument of some kind burst through the cacophony, which is really nice. We just continue rotating on the theme of everything being strange, surrounded by wild noise and ecstatic vocals, until the end.

I hope you’re a glutton for punishment, because ‘Your Punishment’ is next. It’s really not bad, so don’t sweat it. It begins like an ambient Eno composition for empty warehouses. The vocals add an eerie, almost ethereal quality to the piece. There are shimmers of feedback. Imagine a large, calm body of dark water, like a lake, filled with merpeople and faeries, but also an industrial workshop that’s been closed down, filled with turned over boxes, loose papers on the floor, and dust. It’s like… this piece is where those two worlds meet. I wasn’t paying much attention to the content of the vocals. There’s a cool sequence happening, like a synth or computer blip running on repeat. Maybe it’s a cleaning robot, sweeping through the floors of the warehouse. One of the things I enjoy about this album so far is how it is abstract and experimental, like many albums I’ve heard, but is very much carried by vocal utterances and sounds, which are woven like veins through the musculature of every piece. And by every piece, I mean just the two I’ve listened to so far, but I have a good feeling even at this early juncture that this theme will likely continue through the entire work.

Next up is ‘My Crime’. We talking theft? Larceny? Public indecency? I will stay tuned, to find out. Voices echo in a digitally void space alongside sharp bits of signal feed. A dirge breaks through occasionally. It’s pretty warped feeling, deranged. Deep in the background seems to be a strumming guitar with a bit of chorus. Farm animals. They’re in here, too. The distortion of frequencies is subtle, like a sizzle. Bit of croaking cavernous amplifier feedback.

Nothing quite like the smell of ‘Coffee and Razors’ in the morning. Yawning vocals, sharp hi-pitched tones, the percussive rattling of metal bits on grated floors, low key and Einstürzende Neubauten-esque at first, growing louder, more distorted. Formless guitar feedback. Those operatic voices. If you were feeling sleepy, this would probably jar you awake. I keep imagining someone beating amplified guitar strings across a Testla coil, recording the discharges. There’s a horn!.. or something. A goat, too, for a second. There might be a cloud of flies as we near the end.

‘Homeostasis’ is the next track, sounding like a bright, shining guitar with echoes or a harp, recorded in a room with surreal acoustics. It reminds me late Slowdive, harmonically. Whispered vocal noises, obscure. Plucking strings. It’s pretty, and swirling, and strange.

Then, it’s time for some ‘Hopeful Ghosts’! It feels at first like an exhalation… I hear traces of feedback pads beneath the surface, or orchestral tuning. Steel is ground down into powder… now, the avantgarde vocal stylings return, in agony. I decided to read the blurb on the bandcamp page about this, for a moment… “your Punishment’ is a 21st century hallucination of haunted cyberpunk soundscapes and transportational psychedelic vortices into creative realms. A sonic exorcism and spirit summoner, a psychic cleansing, a haunting vocal and guitar sonic mesh, at times distorted and at others quite clear.” Hmm, yes, that sounds about right! This musical odyssey goes into fever-pitch here, and it’s intensely noisy and bizarre. I hear a bit of bass guitar in the murk. The noise feels like a scalding hot shower of whirring mechanics, in which the vocalist is singing… which eventually begins to sound burbling, robotic.

The last track is ‘Ascending Escher’s Conscience’. Very brittle architecture of noise and feedback, dark choirs hiding in the recesses of mixspace. In many ways as ghost-like as the previous piece. These aren’t overly malicious ghosts… they’re alien, inscrutable entities, whose existence seems to involve the repetition of senseless sound activities with no apparent origin or regard. Guitar is a shadow. Machines and keys are moving like phantoms, choreographed as if by an unseen armature. This is one of my favorites here, and makes a great closing piece.

So, yeah, there’s probably very little left for me to say besides “go check this album out!”, but I thought about putting some other words here… like, “banana,” or “whadabudabbidaba,” which is a word I made up on the spot. Instead, I’ll just tell you “here’s a link to the place you can hear this album”:

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