ART AS a means of transforming experience and particularly pain; it’s a well-tested process, and one that Olin Janusz, the artist working as Bare Wire Son, knows works.
For his second album under that name (following on from 2016’s Gently), he decided to go investigate a certain and hugely traumatic period in modern history.
London born but nomadic, Olin Janusz was living in Poland in 2015 when he began work on the new album, Off Black; he stumbled upon and began poring over journals kept by the mothers of soldiers fighting, and dying, in World War I.
These journals, sometimes unearthed in libraries, sometimes passed along to Olin by his family members and those of his collaborators, provide the source material for every line, every note on Off Black. He took these passages, perhaps most notably from the journals of German expressionist artist Käthe Kollwitz, and wove them into a harrowing drama of sound, built from walls of cello, piano, guitars, synths, drums, and organs.
And so, over a period of five years, arose 14 tracks telling these stories of everyman, everywoman, plunged into the hell of the first industrial war. Made with a dozen collaborating musicians from across the globe, some of whom Olin has yet to meet in the flesh, Off Black towers with emotion rendered as slowcore; think Swans, a certain unrelenting unfolding at a pace which makes you catch breath.
Hell, it’s be easier if you heard for yourself; to which end we’ve embedded a first single drop, “Fingernest”, below. It begins in mournful organ and gentle guitar; feels like a battlefield dawn. And then it begins, the heavy march forward, mud clagging the feet, Olin’s voice so profoundly deep and baritone, down inside the thick, clotted heart of the experience. The song is not without its wistful delicacy nor its feeling; strings swirl and threaten dissonance; a very personal tale is woven into the unimaginable scale of that war, and after a pause the guitars and organ grind ever on, caterpillar tracked, picking up detonations of noise like later Low.
The truth may not be pretty and in this milieu very much isn’t; but it can be told with awe.
Bare Wire Son’s Off Black will be released digitally on May 14th; you can place a pre-order now over at Bandcamp.