You know that moment around 3 AM when you’ve been up all night and your soul leaves your body? The point in time when static starts to fill your vision and The Smiths are on the turntable in the other room as you rethink your life over a cigarette? Maybe some of your friends are switching them out for another band with a similar tone, but the moment remains the same. That exact moment? ɸ Cygnid’s release from last December, Fleshself, encapsulates this feeling.
An eccentric from Rhode Island, AC Perry or ɸ Cygnid makes atmospheric and understated electronic with a serious eye for the surreal. It feels like if Eraserhead’s soundtrack was more explicitly dangerous, rather than just taking environmental noise and leaving it for the listener to interpret. Making heavy use of droning synths, Perry creates a notably paranoid and fearful atmosphere in his songs. His voice is like that of a cult leader with its unflinching cadence and heavy reverb, making it feel like it was recorded on a dying 4-track Tascam capturing the last moments before a mass suicide.
The opening track of this three-part affair, Renaissance Tactic, conjures familiar images of stepping off the train on a cold winter’s night and walking home, letting paranoia fill your tired body with each step. It feels so familiar to me, this soundscape. There are elements of mystery with its rising, fuzzed-out tones, but Perry’s vocals sell it. He calls out, “Where did you go…….?”. Something’s gone horribly wrong on this walk home and now the consequences must be faced. It’s terrifying to have that shift done so subtly. The fear continues to build as he keeps calling out the same, “Where did you go?” filled with static. The synths become harsher, more like foghorns and police sirens blurring together as everything seems to do this late at night.
Cautionary Magic certainly feels like listening to Marshall Applewhite telling you the Earth’s going to be recycled, except he’s gotten mean as the years went on. In the background of this track, a low beating noise continues like the heartbeat of a sleeping eldritch monster. Perry talks about the end of the world, the endless destruction and the fate of all living things to die. The whole song comes across grim as hell.
The final song, A Ritualistic Error, feels like a fusion of the previous two songs with the expert synth work of the opener and the grim poetry of the second. It is genuinely the end of the world, or at least the end of someone, a man being devoured. In my mind’s eye, all I can see is a pure white desert world filled with blackened trees and vultures. A man, insignificant in the grand scheme of things is beset by the vultures and his emaciated body is picked clean by them. He was on an errand but is doomed to never complete it. He meets his end, alone in the hollow shell of what used to be Earth. Near the end of the track, Perry’s voice becomes completely overdriven and static-laden. He drones on about warlocks, magic, and a hunger for flesh. He closes with the words, “Five horrors to snatch away human breath”. The man has met his end just as the album finishes. Everything is smashed together into a wall of sound, a chaotic fury to end the EP.
I found myself intrigued by this release. It pulls you in and keeps you there from start to finish. I couldn’t stop listening. It was the feeling of discovering some Lovecraftian knowledge. The grim visions conjured by the lyrics resonated deep within me. It was a powerful experience. If you want something short, dark, and captivating, give Fleshself by ɸ Cygnid a listen.