Siavash Amini & Matt Finney – Gospel (Opal Tapes, 2018)


“I never pray. Why should one pray? What do you do? Supplicate? Haggle? Haggle with God?”

Those are the words of Kathleen Jamie from one of her essay poems in Findings. I find myself thinking of it periodically, the effortlessness in which she summarises my own thoughts towards the unfairness of faith, the strange need to submit one’s self before a higher power. Worst of all, to feel the need to beg during the lowest moments of our lives, somehow hoping our troubles will be alleviated after some indeterminate amount of suffering has been endured.

“It was here I tried praying, although nothing came of it”

Matt Finney echoes Jamie’s sentiments in first of three tracks “Alone Together”, all haunted and haunting. This his third record together with Siavash Amini, it’s the most stark and raw of the lot, with only a few suggestive strokes of poignant spoken word shaping the much larger course of the music’s drama to follow. The opener bubbles and festers, static  thrumming like a bog, heady walls of sound that suffocate in disgustingly claustrophobic, proximal sweatiness. Matt’s voice rasps the humid air like dried bone, the skeletal form of a troubled past stripped down to its unsettling whiteness. The music to follow is agitated, angrier, synths cutting through the cavernous sound like razors, no words needed.

Secondary “Jesus Fish” seems to allude to religious consternation again, the bible being referenced in the ownership of some abusive family member. It suggests something of the juxtaposition of moral guidance held dearly within the Good Book, yet espoused by monsters, cherry-picked to justify their actions. If God is on their side, how could He possibly be on mine? Drone sweeps like clouds over the landscape of time, the music eerily reductive and shallow here, as empty as the words printed on the pages. Distant and helpless.

And then there’s “Cicadas”, the magnum opus. It’s immediately antagonistic and scouring, dipping only briefly to allow Matt to talk. His voice is clear, the clearest its ever sounded, the moment still fresh and visceral. He talks of wounds reopening out of the blue, the past ringing back around in sudden and horrifying terror. The cicadas serve to drown out the noise in his own head, and he notices his neighbour throwing out his recently deceased wife’s trash. They connect briefly, psychically almost, and it “seemed like he didn’t know what the fuck he was doing either”.

How do you dispose of baggage that can’t be seen, of emotional garbage that cannot simply be thrown away? The drones hover uncertainly, ungainly tones reverberating into a standing wave that hollows out and, for a few sweet minutes, the void fills the view. There’s emptiness, space to think and breathe for a shining moment in its cool dark throes before we’re sent whirling back into engulfing static and inescapably aggressive electronic destruction. It rises with horrifying clamour, an endless fever pitch of chaos and hurt ceaseless in its length and tireless in its ability to induce pain. We’ll never be free of it, it’ll always find a way to resurface, and no amount of fucking praying will ever stop that.