Imagine a dream in which you find yourself in total darkness. You flail your way forward, attempting to take hold of anything you can get your hands on. You bump into a cylindrical object (perhaps… a barrel?), and hear just beneath you a constant hissing, bubbling sound. The stench hitting your nostrils is unbearable. You back away slowly, only for the back of your neck to gently bump against what feels like a ball of dripping smoothness. It swings backward gently, hitting your neck again. You scream, the sensation of complete and utter terror overwhelming your senses. You begin to run only to trip over a meaty-feeling object and fall directly on your face, splashing into warm liquid. You cannot see anything, only softly hear and briefly feel what could be. You cannot escape. You cannot decipher your surroundings. Your animal mind takes hold, and you are lost in the abyss of your own mental darkness.
Ethan Lee McCarthy is very good at what he does. His many projects (Primitive Man, Vermin Womb, and Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire to name but a few) have gained him notoriety in his local scene in Denver, Colorado, as well as on an international scale, and demonstrate audio torture better than or equal to anyone in the extreme music scene. His solo project, Many Blessings, continues this tradition of darkness, but in a deceivingly subtle and abrasive way with its debut record, Ripe Earth. It paints a menacing, monster-around-the-corner/in-your-heart kaleidoscope of sound that is part drone, mostly noise, and a great deal of texture.
The sounds conjured within Ripe Earth are a bit hard to describe. Think Gnaw Their Tongues with far less vocals and manic abrasion, and you’ll probably helm pretty close to the sounds being conjured here. Opener “Darkness In My Hand” is a buzzing, multi-layered affair that sets the stage for the remainder of the album with twelve-minutes of ominous noisemaking. Feedback, clicks, muffled chain-like sounds, and what may or may not be deeply buried guitar and vocal intonations ripple back and forth within a cavernous, echo-filled soundscape that feels emanated directly from the deepest, coldest cavern beneath the surface of the earth. This is all-consuming, thoroughly oppressing music to soundtrack the darkest nights of the soul, and this vibe continues throughout the remainder of the record. “To Serve” whips up eighteen-minutes of unadulterated loneliness, while “Rotten Leather” crackles and hums like a caged animal impatiently awaiting release, with McCarthy’s screams adding a level of unmatched psychological torment and violence. “4 Sisters” riffs off an electrical current so sinister that one wouldn’t be blamed for imagining a grim natural execution by lightning. “Infantile Wool” is a blast of extremely harsh noise rivaling the likes of White Suns or Endon in sheer intensity. These songs are evocative, densely layered and packed with detail, and horrifying on a mesmerizing level. From start to finish, Ripe Earth is nothing but enticing.
McCarthy displays a unique level of diversity and dexterity in his songwriting with Many Blessings. Rather than a one-off side project, Ripe Earth is rife with fantastic ideas that are given the time to run to their full extremity, leaving not one despair dripped note go to waste. A fantastic record for noise fiends, and anyone who has enjoyed McCarthy’s work so far. Listen and be destroyed by a unique audio night terror.