Titus Groan’s lonely island album

Hangin Freud – Sunken

So it’s summer and we all should be walking around half naked with piña coladas, wayfarers and a ghetto blaster (but staying away from pizza joints managed by Danny Aiello).

Instead, thanks to global warming, we got some freaky weather that makes Summer feel like October. On that sombre mood (it’s raining as I type this, monsoon season in England), Hangin Freud fits the bill perfectly with the odd, puzzle like Sunken.

Why call it a puzzle? Because it feels like it’s constructed from different pieces, whether they are found sounds, drum sequences and loops, the music is cyclical (although not droning all the time). Witness ‘We are not’, using some machinery sounds in the back and a creepy piano line that stops and starts, with a few moments to let you catch your breath. The slightly processed nature of the sounds make it even scarier.

There’s this moment in the very tribal ‘Keep it’ that works fantastically. The song’s basically a creepy drum and organ atmosphere that generates an uncomfortable mood (I picture a black and white film, candles and a creepy fuzzy monster larking about). That feeling of dread is elevated by the last moments, where an organ drones in a form similar to the sound of slow breathing. It’s a creepy moment and thankfully, the next song (‘Truce’) is more relaxed. Sure, Paula Borges‘ voice still is delivered in an otherworldly monotone (feeling pretty inhuman) that never lets you leave that feeling of dread behind. By the end, you still feel uneasy. This formula is repeated throughout the album.

So, if one adjective should be applied to Sunken is “unsettling”. There’s no screaming nor overtly darkness in the lyrics, but the choice of notes and instruments (courtesy of Jonathan Perez), combined to Borge’s whispers and wails (reverberated, natch) make it a creepy soundtrack that could sit well in a musty abandoned place decaying.

In plain English: it oozes atmosphere. It knows it isn’t a pop album and goes straight for a Gothic vein. Imagine the muzak in the dumb waiter used in Gormenghast and you get a rough idea of what Hangin Freud seems to be doing in Sunken. A special mention goes to ‘In the city’, which melts all the elements used in the album and abandons the minimalistic approach; with not a single space unfilled, the unearthly wails and saturated sustains march with the beat of the war drums.

The experimental nature of Sunken makes it a slightly difficult album to follow, but which ultimately rewards if you like your music on the darker, sombre side of the spectrum. It won’t work as background music as it’s not “quiet” enough (nor conventional), so it’s more of those ones you need to listen to with earphones and not much in your mind, except the mental image of a butler looking like Christopher Lee and a Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a scheming kitchen helper.

Words: Sam


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Pop culture references: Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast, Do the right thing, Doctor Who’s The Web of Fear.

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