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KFJC 89.7FM
Album Review

SOOT – “A General Theory of Tears” – [Obsolete Units]

Lord Gravestench   7/27/2019   A Library, Cassette

SOOT (stylised in all-caps) is the experimental project of Oakland, CA’s James Livingston, who has enjoyed a long working relationship with KFJC as proprietor of the eclectic Black Horizons label, on behalf of which he has brought numerous exotic bands into our live pit. SOOT is a fairly new act, seeming to have debuted on a 2017 split with Thoabath, and although he has played in various bands previously, this is also a new direction for James’s personal musical endeavors— although by no means outside the aesthetic turf of his label. Keywords for this 2018 debut album could be Death Industrial, Musique Concrète, Dark Ambient, or Sound Installation. Influences might  include Brighter Death Now and Stratvm Terror, but not only these.

Power Electronics methodology but with a Dub-inspired low end preoccupation, generally eschewing harshness in favour of murk. Deep drones just above subsonic ranges, moaning cavern draughts, fidgety clanking of metal, and anguished vocals pitch-shifted down to inhuman levels, all creating an impression of some demonic creature shackled miles underground to bellow eternally for its revenge. Percussive but not rhythmic. Abstract but purposeful. Often quite minimal. Vocals on every track but A1, ranging in delivery from flat recitation to crazed scolding. “No more masks“ on the devastating finale, where he drops the heavy voice effects, then proves he doesn’t need them to make an impact, delivering a fiery and affecting sermon that smacks of genuine hurt.

As the title suggests, the album’s themes are dark and personal, but they are never presented overbearingly. Lyrics on several tracks are drawn from the writings of pessimistic philosopher Emil Cioran, and on A5 from tragic Austrian poet George Trakl. SOOT is not without a sense of humour, however — on t.7 (B2) he is joined by Echo Beds for a sonically perverse interpretation of a Ranking Dread song! Speaking of reggae, SOOT (in a double bill with Obsolete Units founder Rust Worship) played the KFJC pit on 4/20/2019 at exactly 4:20 PM.

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