Most anything with the “dark ambient” or “illbient” labels can be traced back to Brian Williams, aka Lustmørd, even if he’s not all that thrilled with such a descriptor. He’s also managed to balance a career of providing scores and effects for Hollywood movies (hey, it’s nice work if you can get it!) with creating albums of music that summon the void in the space between your speakers. It wasn’t hard for me to become a fan of his work — it got to the point where all he had to do was wave a hand in the general direction of a record and I’d pick it up.
That explains how I ended up with some of the more truly curious records in his catalog. Exhibit A for the prosecution: his strange techno / dance / illbient (ill-beat-i-ent?) one-off project Terror Against Terror (Psychological Warfare Technology Systems) so named for a track from one of his earlier discs, and which due to record-label incompetence ended up floating around in limbo for almost four years. Exhibit B: this even more oddball disc, “an ode to the terrible cost of society’s love affair with cars”, as Soleilmoon’s press release put it.
Isolrubin BK and TAT have a lot more in common than the names in the credits. Both use minimal but occasionally danceable percussion, so most of TAT and a few tracks on this disc are club-friendly (provided your club also spins a great deal of Le Syndicat and Skinny Puppy). Both also use a good deal of thematic sampled material: with TAT, it was war / Hollywood action movies; with BK, it’s soundtracks from driver-education films, eyewitness and victim testimony from car crashes and traffic accidents. Everything’s been put through some degree of processing or reverb to create that trademark Lustmørd sense of infinite domains, even when dealing with as suffocatingly tiny a space as the driver’s side of the front seat. After listening, even the mundane sounds of cars going past the window bends quite sinister.
I’ve mentioned before how the best Merzbow records are about creating a state of mind or being, not about a specific concept or didactic message. The same applies here, too: this disc isn’t really about the levels of danger and death we tolerate as a consequence of relying so heavily on cars, or that cars are bad, etc., but rather the state of mind that goes with contemplating it all. The slow-motion throb that opens and closes the record makes you think about the human heart that might be beating in the middle of that horrendous wreck you glimpsed the other day while driving home from work. We built these things to serve us, but too often we end up being at their mercy.
From the sound of it, Isolrubin BK had been intended as a rubric under which to place other, similarly polemical concept records. In an interview, Brian put it this way: “There were plans to record an Isolrubin BK album that was to include religious elements, a holy/moral war as it were, and another that was to be overtly anti-racist. The projects were never canceled as such, but other distractions kept me busy, time passed, and I never got around to it.” (No loss, as so much of what else he has been involved in was more than worth the effort.)
The tough part, I think, would have been to also make those things more about the states of mind associated with them and less about what to do (or not do) about them. We all have our theories, but underneath all those things we need the raw experience, which is what this album provides. I should also advise you not to play it while in the car, ever.