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The Whip Angels – Death is Coming

Whip Angels

The Whip Angels – Death is ComingThe title sets you up. Death is Coming, cumming… come in; the water’s lovely. La petite mort, sex and death, and rebirth. This is an audio slice of an audio-visual feast, best savoured whole. It is music and it stands alone and proud, but it’s also part of a wider project, one that takes in Surrealist and Goddess Erotica, a religious sex-cult, Divinity and the relationship of the modern to the Sacred. Words flood images flood words. The whole world is here, spinning.

The woman behind it all, Joan Pope, is something of a phenomenon; she uses her voice and her body to altogether hallucinatory effect. There’s a touch of Nico about the intonation, with perhaps more than a sideswipe of Lydia Lunch, for those who need relations, but there’s a genuine warmth, sexual and otherwise, in the way she responds to her influences, most of them literary. The New Weird Britain stuff is all over the place at the moment (AJA, Lone Taxidermist et al) but, while Joan deals in superficially similar terrain – the erotic, the absurd, the surreal – the sex in these seams is entirely other, in the sense that it’s clear there’s real theory behind these glistening loins, which brings to mind the best solo work of Cosey Fanni Tutti. It’s American with a huge glance across the pond and a kind of in-built Europhilia. There is transgression, for sure, but less as a mirror than as a clock, a timer for humanity to slowly descend into either bliss or depravity. Or both.

The lyrics are stuffed with Biblical and literary allusions, Georges Bataille looms large, as does Laure, his lover and confidant, his muse and his downfall. Bataille’s group, Acephale, is key here; a secret society, a refuge, a life/death-cult. Eros and Thanatos as rough twins. Laure’s prose poems are littered throughout, and to some extent, explicitly or not, this album acts as a testament to a mostly lost female genius. There’s also an thrilling sense of submission within all these songs, which stands her apart from the usual powerful woman archetypes; this is a Goddess who serves, open-mouthed, kneeling, full of the majesty of the moment and unafraid to give up power in a way that seems positively ancient. Out of the strong, came forth sweetness. The Old world reborn.

The submission here is a core element rather than an (un)fashionable accessory. Almost all the tracks are collaborative, and you can tell that she’s immersed herself into each artists’ sounds, and found communality where perhaps others would find (in)difference. There’s slow and haunting violin melodies, not dissimilar in parts to the scary / beautiful work of Laura Cannell and abstract electronica and blood-pulsing krautrock and eye-popping noise, all working together and against each other, like she’s riding several huge metal machines, all at once and occasionally letting them collide.

She’s rubbing everything up the right way. Primitive Knot, Buried Things, IX Tab, Wizards Tell Lies… a who’s who of the no-audience underground. Joan slips between these sounds, always making them her own, but always utterly in thrall to the collective vision. Each track is like a sigil, and the half-heard lamentations and instructions are born of humming flesh and communion. It’s breathless at times, a woman straining at the leash; reserved, contented, aroused. Maybe I’m hearing things.

This is serious stuff, but also manifestly light; while some of this sounds to these ears a little like, say the Clock DVA of Buried Dreams, it has a kind of Ubu-esque glee around the edges; this is not negative music, it’s full of love and light, even if the lights are sometimes dimmed. It’s an album that works as well in Nature as it does in the City and, while you can follow the tracks into dark dark woods, you might equally find a beautiful sunlit gap in the trees.

To fully understand these prayers is to understand that sex and the sacred have always been entwined; Joan is simply showing us what we already knew, and this is a work of devotion and worship; of words, of light, of colour and sound.

-Loki-

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