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Bitter Harvest
Ritual Music For Broken Magick
Gaijin Records

There has long been a link between experimental music and the mystic arts. While not a practitioner of magick myself, I've always enjoyed music that has dark mystical and ritualistic qualities, such as Vasilisk, early Current 93 and Coil, and the Hybryds, the latter being a project often considered to be the epitome of "music for rituals" - so much so that they entitled one of their albums exactly that.

As with much of the electronic music spectrum, most of the works in this area have been produced by artists from England and Europe with occasional bursts from Japan and the United States. Canadians have been pretty quiet in this field, with just a few releases on obscure but well regarded labels like Freedom In A Vacuum popping up on a semi regular basis to be snapped up by those enlightened few scattered around the world who are "in the know" about such things.

The latest Canadian to foray into this scene is Scott Righteous (aka Scott Mackay) with his Bitter Harvest project. While this is Scott's first full-fledged BH release, he has been involved in various forms of electronic and experimental music for some time now, releasing many demo cassettes touching on everything from harsh noisescapes to angsty electro-pop, and also participating as a member of the Montreal based music & multimedia terrorist crew, Phycus.

Righteous has carried some of the sound exploration that Phycus is known for into this solo effort, although the absurd humour often found in the work of the collective is absent. In it's place is a solemn intensity and a sense of the mysticism suggested by the album's title. Electronic washes and drones float through the mix while various percussive instruments - hand drums, gongs, bells - build upon each other to produce a magical and hypnotic soundscape.

The centrepeice of the album is undoubtedly 9 Degrees Of 23, a 15+ minute epic that combines looping tablas and trance-drones with squelchy analogue synths and electronic beats, all melding to form a unique electro-acoustic mixture. Also a highlight is the track Rebirth, a work very reminiscent of O Yuki Conjugate's classic ethno-ambient album, Peyote.

All in all, Ritual Music For Broken Magick is a fine release that easily rivals the output of such "dark music" labels as World Serpent, Soleilmoon and Staalplaat. Recommended even to those not inclined to partake in any sort of ritualistic behaviour, magickal or otherwise.

Bitter Harvest c/o Scott Mackay, PO Box 18, 354 1/2 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON M5B 1S5, Canada

Copyright © 1997 Greg Clow

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