Typically, having Aaron Turner on a band’s roster is a sign of unquestionable success. His work in Isis alone is deserving of endless admiration, let alone his output as a solo artist, collaborator and one third of the phenomenal Celestial-worshiping Sumac. Yet, Mamiffer may be an exception to this standard, but not for the reasons apparent from a surface-level understanding. Mamiffer’s music most obviously solidifies this observation, as the project’s headfirst foray into organic, droning ambiance resembles only the fringes of Turner’s typical work. But more importantly is the fact that Mamiffer is a duo, with Turner’s actual other half truly dominating the conversation. Faith Coloccia pours herself into Mamiffer, which is especially true on The World Unseen. The ambition of the album emanates from sonic and emotional channels derived straight from the depths of Coloccia’s soul.
Part of what makes The World Unseen so moving is its ability to be simultaneously expansive and immersive. In splicing the haunting death march of Mogwai‘s Les Revenants and the suffocating atmosphere of Grouper, Coloccia and Turner craft an environment that pierces the deepest fiber of one’s being from every possible angle. Backed with only a piano, subtle field recordings and echoing guitar, Coloccia subtly layers her vocals to balance the saccharine purity of her vocals with depth and finesse. As “13 Burning Stars” unfolds like a subdued version of a slow-burning Chelsea Wolfe track, Coloccia cautiously ventures out into the gnashing vastness with her delicate vocals, making an already thick atmosphere of dread even more dense. Vocally, Coloccia is at her peak on “Mara,” where a chorus of her vocals naturally crescendos alongside the music to build a joyous woodland theme, spreading a respite of sunlight just before the devastation to follow.
This is of course the three part dirge of “Domestication of the Ewe,” an EP within the album that acts as a fulfilling side quest within a larger journey. The trilogy’s introduction pulsates over ten minutes of swirling noise, appearing to be the result of heavily manipulated field recordings. It’s blissful, in a way; the kind of rushing sounds that submit the psyche into a meditative trance. Finally, the drone gives way to a massive swell of piano and the braying of noise and guitars, closely resembling the Jarboe-heavy segments on Swans‘ nineties output. The movement finally gives way to an eruption of Coloccia’s vocals, feeling like a reprise of the introduction now complete with the soaring melodies of her angelic tones. The piece concludes as it began; funneling an overload of sounds into the listener’s consciousness that, while multifarious, ultimately breaks down into multiple simple qualities blended and maximized in a dominating manner.
There’s always the chance that massive compositions such as these cause the following piece to underwhelm, a particular concern with The World Unseen since “Parthenogenesis” simultaneously acts as the album’s closer. But not only do Coloccia and Turner quell any doubt, they manage to churn out one of the album’s best tracks, capping off the experience in a fulfilling way. Coloccia distorts her voice through a digitized echo, matching a stunted, rolling sonic romp that collectively feels like a Tim Hecker-treated instrumental. It’s a fitting sonic exit; the appearance of Coloccia and her music with Turner fading away after a deep, internal struggle.
Each note of Coloccia’s voice and her and Turner’s playing rings with the pang of emotions not easily shaken. The World Unseen is exactly that; a glimpse into a soul’s inner depths, invisible to the naked eye. Massive compositions coupled with an earnest vocal delivery make The World Unseen a must-listen for anyone even remotely interested in any of the aforementioned genres which Mamiffer flirts with. It’s an exercise in stabbing at an atmosphere that so easily pierces the listener back, forcing them to confront a sonic void that massages their will into submission and consumes it in emotional strife.