Hello and Happy Monday, everyone!
For those not actively involved with (or even lurking in the fringes of) the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club community … first of all, you really should check it out! It’s a bunch of kind souls who will buy you stuff from your Bandcamp wishlist on your birthday. All they ask in return is for you to do the same for other folks on the mailing list if you’re able to do so. Club members get great new music to add to their collections, artists make some extra sales, and everyone wins.
Anyway, the social interactions within the Gift Club frequently (and understandably) revolve around sharing music recommendations, and somewhere along the way this thing called “No Metal Monday” evolved. As the title suggests, this is an opportunity to focus on music of non-metallic varieties. And in that spirit, I’d like to share a collection of metal-free tracks with you fine folks on this fine, dreary Monday afternoon.
The Human Veil – Compilation (self-released, 25 October 2022)
Chicago musician Helena Ford has been releasing music, under her own name and a handful of others, for quite a few years. That catalog has run the gamut from experimental, harsh noise to serene, ambient soundscapes. What I’m presenting here today tends to lean more in the latter direction: instrumental, synth-based, droney and contemplative. This is a series tracks that were released individually throughout September and October, under the moniker The Human Veil, and then ultimately compiled into this album format with the title Compilation.
I often feel inadequate at talking about material that’s outside of my standard oeuvre, mostly because I feel like I don’t necessarily have the correct terminology or historical touchpoints to reference. Dungeon Synth, or most synth-based music in general, would fall into such a category for me. But something about the compositions here resonated with me, from the very first release (which was titled “The Human Veil” at first, and on this collection simply “I”): a very slow, mournful melody with minimal additional harmonic parts droning underneath. Most of these tracks are similarly orchestrated — rarely moving any faster than a sedate shuffle, and often featuring no more than two or three different tones simultaneously (not counting ancillary effects such as the rain sounds underpinning “II”).
But the most noteworthy thing about these Human Veil pieces, what kept me coming back as new installments would sporadically emerge, is the perfectly-encapsulated feelings of tension and unease they each seem to evoke. For the most part, the material is standard minor-key stuff, sorrowful melody and placid harmonies. (With some exceptions, of course: much of “V” and parts of “Now I May Be Finally Laid to Rest” have more of a major tonality, for example.) But every song introduces some element of harmonic tension, often in unexpected places or ways. Never (or almost never) veering all the way into discordant or disharmonious territory, but juxtapositions of notes (or even just faintly overlapping one chord as the reverberating echoes of another gradually fades away) that produce sensations of barely-perceptible discomfort beneath the listener’s skin, ever-so-slightly upsetting the pastoral balance of tranquility.
It feels symbolic of — well, everything. That undercurrent of discomfort and existential dread that seems ever-present no matter what might be happening at any given moment.