It is a sonic shift for the artist, a step away from the human condition, played in the outskirts of oblivion on which his name and influence reigned towards a pace which shifts between glacial and tar pitch while nodding caustically to no wave jazz hate experimentation, shoegaze sunscream epilepsy and the backwoods dirge of black metal bedroom tapes stolen from the crime scene and bootlegged by lunatics which is all well and inspired for a musical pastiche but leaves so much room for his unrequited roars and animal metaphors to creep and grow so menacingly grave that they threaten to turn this beast into a leviathan.
And, to be honest, I don’t know how long I can handle the weight. This record is so present, so fractured, stretched and fucking loud that after two weeks crawling my way through its mass just reciting its name makes my teeth crack with envy for those who’ve never known the dark night of the soul and I would almost gladly surrender the effort in exchange for one hour of saccharine, injurious pop were it not for a passage that appears roughly six minutes into opening carrion trip “Wings Blocking out the Sun.”
B L A C K I E calls it “None Above” (you’ll find its video at the bottom of this post) and it is one of the most beatific reflections of the living experience I’ve come across in a long, long while. A layered wall of white noise set before the aboriginal cries of man standing against himself, punctuated by back alley blast beats, shored up and scarred by horns, bells and textures otherwise indecipherable. The piece is a phoenix, pained and ascending. An apex, not just of the record but of the man holding the match.
In the ten years of his recorded history, this is the first time B L A C K I E has ever sounded free and you and I should listen to it endlessly.
Sadly, this zenith comes early and the rest of the album plays with the same turgid fury with which it begins. I’d say it’s cruel, some Dogme ’95 play on the naivete of pleasure and the bourgeois expectation that stories arc as expected with good things coming to stay through the end of the narrative but B L A C K I E is not an artist inclined to cruelty. Far from it. His work, though forceful and, often, off-putting, is designed to be uplifted and empowering. That being said, In a Free and Natural World strikes hard as the new century hallmark of “Entertainment through Pain” wherein entertainment is played as the everyday, remarkable that codifies the…no, no…forget it. I’m tired of trying to intellectualize this so I’m just going to go ahead and bastardize from those hippie kids whose prospects and progeny let the world down so egregiously by saying that B L A C K I E’s new (and perhaps, constant) liberation frequency can be encapsulated in the crass phrase, “Freedom’s a motherfucker.”
I mean, isn’t it?