Album Review: Pharmakon – Contact

By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director
[Sacred Bones; 2017]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “Nakedness of Need,” “Sleepwalking Form,” “No Natural Order”

Pharmakon’s third release, Contact, is disgusting. It’s the gunk under your fingernails; the rotting corpse on the urban streetside; the smell of vomit on the bathroom floor; the most deviant side of society; the mini plague scare that sweeps through a foreign country every decade or so; the gas station bathroom stall; the week-old roadkill that vultures need to pick at to survive; the acid corrosion of this morning’s breakfast; the mangled skin of your knee after a fall; the President of the United States; the gore that is shared on the underbelly of the internet; the popping of pimples. Contact is the yin in the world blinded by the yang.

During the creation of the Contact, Margaret Chardiet, the brain behind the name, strayed from the nihilistic mindset which she undertook with past releases Abandon and Bestial Burden. Instead, Chardiet worked on the album under the influence of non-secular trances and meditation techniques, embracing the nightmarish sounds she’s known for as a form of self-discovery; the result is an album which puts space between the screams and the listener, as opposed to the in-your-face technique implored by Bestial Burden. A boxing match between avoidance and acceptance.

“Nakedness of Need,” the opening track of the album, holds no bars as Chardiet’s disturbing screams are layered under the industrial cloud of buzzing and grinding. Beating on and on, there’s no release here until the end of the track when only the sound of an electric razor buzzing in a large room remains.

From then on, Contact, much like a trance, builds upon its cruelties until all that exists is a pure wall of machinery and garbage. Near the end of “Sleepwalking Form,” and during all of “Somatic,” Pharmakon burns every bridge that would lead to relief. Any miniature melodies which may have existed early on in the album are lost. With nothing to latch onto, listeners will be forced to decide whether to turn Contact off altogether or embrace it.

But why would anyone push on? Every day more and more emotional bleach is created and delivered to the web, just a click away. There’s no reason to seek out troubling albums when the world is troubling enough, right?

Wrong. Contact is the dirt we need in our eyes. Pharmakon urges us to find zen in the worst places, in the situations we cannot change There’s absolutely nothing pleasant that takes place during the 32 minutes of Contact, but the idiosyncratic bliss that consumes the listener after “No Natural Order” ends is rejuvenating. We survived, and now we’re more prepared to handle what’s next.

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