“Strain/Galaxy” C50 (Hylé Tapes)

As an eight-year veteran of the scene, Mortuus Auris & The Black Hand (MAbH – that’s how it’s shortened), aka Peter Taylor of London, has crafted a fairly vast discography of uncompromising artistic vision. It’s not a stretch to say that he continues this trajectory with his latest release, Strain/Galaxy, on the inimitable Hylé Tapes. “Uncompromising” is definitely the adjective you want to use when describing MAbH work, because whether the music is quiet or loud, the compositions are assured, resonant, and contain an uncharacteristic depth an emotion that’s missing all too often from ambient/drone/noise artists. Here MAbH works the gentler side of this aesthetic, featuring piano, analogue synth, and tape manipulation. He has also eschewed straight improvisation for a change of pace, and although there is some live and on-the-spot revision and world-building, it’s obvious that Taylor’s favoring melody here more so than he has on previous recordings. You know what? I’m totally digging it.

Did I say “uncompromising” was a good adjective for this? Let’s also throw “expansive” into the mix, because Strain/Galaxy is nothing if not wide open, a vastness onto which you can project yourself and every thought that comes into your mind. “Strain” begins your travels with pensive accompaniment, a dawning, a realization, and an anticipation of endeavor. Waveforms activate themselves, but only when you’re ready, about seven and a half minutes in – Taylor knows when you’re ready, and does it right. The track decays into stark transmission, but ends with gorgeous piano. Twenty-five minutes of magnificence. I have to take a deep breath, because that was only one side.

The first 10 minutes of “Galaxy” is simple ghostly piano, piped in from another dimension. It disappears into nothingness, but is soon replaced by euphonic drone. By the track’s end, you’re awash in cosmic synthesizers, transcending physical existence. It’s something I strive to do every day, so I guess all I have to do is strap on some headphones and pop in some MAbH to evolve into Arthur Clarke’s space child. The wordless voices that end the tape are the angelic tones of extraterrestrial beings guiding listeners to greater planes of being. Don’t look now, everybody, I’m spirit!

You thought Mortuus Auris & The Black Hand was a black metal band for a second, didn’t you? I don’t blame you – I did too once upon a time, when I was a young whippersnapper. Hopefully by the end of this review you’re sold that Peter Taylor’s the musician for you, the man to soundtrack your future. Who needs all that noise? It’s all distraction. Strain/Galaxy is the cure for all that.

--Ryan Masteller