Fine album of dark ambient weirdness from a veteran of the British and American Industrial scenes. The Scottish-born Connelly has been a persistent presence among these networks for over twenty years, having served time with Ministry and Revolting Cocks as well as racking up a not inconsiderable twelve solo albums. What I find most impressive about this latest effort is its unusual form, evidence of a distinctive musical intelligence at work.
The LP’s backbone is a prose piece of several thousand words, also entitled How This Ends, which is recited by Connelly himself and a cast of collaborators to a shifting musical accompaniment. The piece, which you might also call a prose poem, is printed in tiny type on the inner gatefold of the CD. According to the press release, its subject is “death, genocide, homicide by corrupt powers upon innocents”. It’s a good thing the label saw fit to divulge this information, as a simple reading of the text gave me no clues at all as to what the piece was about. The language is opaque, to say the least; sample extract: “Being followed To be followed, an exodus with the promise of roses at its conclusion But followed, insolent eyes snickering and clandestine A few miles further back Bodies under the bridge…” And so it goes on and on, an endless river of apocalyptic imagery with no narrative underpinning it and no concessions made to the listener/reader.
In the end, though, the fact that Connelly’s text is practically incomprehensible is no reason not to enjoy the record. The music makes its presence felt by other means, principally the way in which the soundscape varies from calm piano-driven interludes (courtesy of auxiliary REM member Bill Rieflin) to nightmarish ear-bleeding Industrial sections. As producer Connelly gives the acoustic instrumentation (saxophone, acoustic guitar and harmonium feature as well as piano) plenty of room to breathe, but he also clearly knows a thing or two about dissonance and tension. It’s as though Connelly is inviting the listener to walk with him in some green and pleasant meadow, then beckoning them to look under a vast rock which he reveals to be seething with unpleasant life on its underside.
The voices change as well, beginning with a reproachful female Scottish reader and continuing with a plummier lady, perhaps Australian, before Connelly himself emerges to half-sing, half-speak his sections. His voice is a highly listenable vehicle, falling somewhere between Scott Walker and David Bowie in its dramatic intonation and general air of windswept melancholy. The changes of reader contribute to the sense of fragmentation and dissolution implied by the text. This is a strikingly original album with a disquieting sense of foreboding that hangs uneasily over the whole activity.
(Originally published in The Sound Projector 19, 2011)