“…like taking the drums and vocals out of the Velvet Underground at their darkest and leaving the remains to float in bilge water” – Ian Maleney on Sarin Smoke‘s Vent.
Sarin Smoke is the duo of Pete Swanson and Tom Carter, half of Yellow Swans and Charalambides respectively. Both men have distinguished histories in the art of tearing the electric guitar to pieces and stitching it back together again. Swanson’s work in Yellow Swans often saw him running Gabriel Mindel Saloman’s guitar through a host of effects and tape machines with dramatic, haunting and often beautiful results. Carter’s guitar work in Charalambides throughout the last two decades has gone some way toward reconfiguring how the instrument is thought of in a scene dominated by electronics, at turns delicate and harsh, moving from droning beds of sound to serrated blasts of noise.
Described as combining Carter’s scorching psychedelia with Swanson’s intentionally simple melodic playing, Vent really does sound like two distinct players working towards one abstract goal. On the surface, it’s a long way from psychedelic rock in the traditional sense but the dedication to tattered droning sounds often manifests an atmosphere reminiscent of the Eastern ragas that have influenced so much of modern psychedelia. The duo layer distorted, echoing guitars on top of each other, weaving patterns through the noise. Where one will contort itself into noise, the other will offer a glimmer of light. They trade these roles throughout, reaching a triumphant climax on the closing track, giving in – or reaching through – to the heavenly transcendence hinted at in snatches throughout the record.
Few people are better versed in the art of tempering noise for a desired impact the loose feel present throughout the six songs on Vent only highlights how comfortable these two are working together in this sphere of sound. The centre-point is the 11-minute ‘1.1.2’, which starts with the cleanest tones to be found on the record before abstracting into a crazed mesh of distortion and strangled melody, like taking the drums and vocals out of the Velvet Underground at their darkest and leaving the remains to float in bilge water. It slowly coils itself back up again as the noise fades, ending as it began with crystalline tones.
This is a record full of considered noise, featuring taking the electric guitar to new places and shedding it’s context in the process. It’s not rock and roll, that’s for sure, but it is intense and exhilarating and beautiful at times, even in its filth. The solo buried deep in ‘1.3.1’ is as close as you’ll come to tradition here. This is more of a divergence, taking the work started by the Velvets and drawing it out to another, equally logical, conclusion.