Album Review: Jennifer Christensen/Twilight Fauna (Split EP)

twilightfauna_jenniferchristensen_split2015 has been a year of collaborations just as aurally unsettling as they are strangely fitting: The Body and Krieg, Dragged Into Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues, Thou and The Body (oh, hey!), and Satanic Warmaster with noise artist Moozzhead. It has been a year where seemingly, all at once, the worlds of metal and noise collided. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, rests this split between Jennifer Christensen (Disemballerina, Møllehøj) and Tennessee-based Twilight Fauna. Disregarding tropes of genre from their previous works, it is a brief but a certainly emotionally demanding and challenging listen.

Jennifer Christensen’s side of the split, “Sickness Unto Death,” is a string piece that, contrary to what metalheads are used to, is not a mere introduction; it is a fully realized, painstakingly constructed piece that utilizes dissonance to the greatest effect, probably more so than any metal band I’ve heard recently. Christensen utilizes both bow and finger techniques on the cello to introduce spiraling, unsettling melodies atop of blooming, crawling, staccato strikes on the lower registers. The menacing use of minor key figures and fleeting melodies comes off as what it’s like to experience a fever dream while teetering between the final moments of life and death. It’s a terrifying listen in the right setting and atmosphere, and without drawing comparisons, I’m reminded of the bleakest work of composers such as Krzysztof Penderecki and some of the works of Stravinsky.

Twilight Fauna’s side, “Crossing the Threshold,” is quite different from recent works from sole member Ravenwood; whereas his releases from the past year have brought in more of his roots in Appalachian music combined with cinematic post-rock, “Crossing the Threshold” is a hazy maelstrom of heavily layered tremolo picked riffs and ghostly screams that draw from the dissonance of black metal while not being constrained to that genre. If Christensen’s side symbolizes the last moments of life, Twilight Fauna’s side stands as a monument to the uncertainty and fear of eternity. There is a calm in the middle of the storm halfway through as swirling ambience and harsh whispers give a false impression of reprieve before the terror recommences, ending this very brief split on a note of dread and apprehension.

Short in running time though it may be, this split is not short on its ability to suck listeners into a vortex of hellish, nightmarish introspection and the dredging up of past griefs and pains. Highly recommended to those willing to take the plunge into challenging, painful territory.

– Dustin

The Jennifer Christensen/Twilight Fauna split is available digitally and on a limited run of 7” vinyl; it is available for order through Red River Family. For more information on either act, visit the Jennifer Christensen Facebook or Twilight Fauna on Facebook or Twitter.

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