LLNN (Copenhagen) and Wovoka (Los Angeles, CA) may be 5,590 miles apart, but their collaborative effort, a split entitled “Traces/Marks” releasing June 16th via Pelagic Records, shares an overwhelming, spirit-crushing bleakness. Luckily, you won’t have to wait to lash your soul to ribbons, as we’ve got the full album for you to hear in its entirety right here.
Although they describe their music as “post-apocalyptic,” that doesn’t even begin to fully describe “Marks,” LLNN’s six-song share of the split. It’s a good jump-start adjective for sure, but you could easily augment it with other dismal soundtrack descriptors like “dystopian,” “cyberpunk,” and even “grimdark.” LLNN wastes no time subjecting listeners to the collapsing condition of their world with the grimy opener The Guardian. Vocalist Christian Bonnesen provides a potent, distinctly human contrast to the mechanized drone synths on songs like Swarms, his belligerent shouts drowning out pealing sirens like defiance against a machine god.
The heaviness on “Marks” isn’t just expressed through the pounding, bottom-heavy guitars — you can almost taste the existential futility stinging like battery acid on the tongue. The songs are short, yet honed to a needle-sharp point — each is a two- to three-minute declaration of dissension and mistrust, creating a seamless throughline of urban decay. The exception is LLNN’s last track, Gravitated, which drifts along like an embellished John Carpenter song, dripping with dystopian dread. It’s disquieting end to LLNN’s side of the split, and an effective segue into the grief-stricken song that follows.
A steady guitar with utterly arid distortion opens up “Traces,” Wovoka’s sole contribution to the split. At over seventeen minutes long, “Traces” is content to take its time dragging us through scorching passages of luminous intensity. Where the “Marks” side of the split had us fearfully peering into a darkened world, Wovoka’s realm is bright and fiery yet not an ounce less punishing. A severe 6/4 time signature drives the majority of the song’s first half, urging the listener ever onward… or suffer an end in a consuming blaze.
A break seems to appear around the nine-minute mark, but it too clangs and shimmers with discordant static, dispelling the illusion of safety. The bass guitar, which had previously grumbled along like a disgruntled sidewinder, takes on a quicker gait, building momentum toward an unseen destination. The vocals undergo a similar transformation — the parched screams you’d heard only moments before now sound ethereal and melodious, uplifting you from your despair… but that too is a mirage. As your inevitable ascension continues over the next five minutes, you are pummeled and whipped by increasingly harsh waves of noise — shattering cymbals, crashing snares, and throbbing guitars. Then, before you know it, it’s all over.
LLNN and Wovoka have come together to create a powerful piece of music in “Traces/Marks.” Both are phenomenal in their own right, but united they take the listener on an odyssey into distinct realms of hellish grief and loss.
“Traces/Marks” releases June 16th via Pelagic Records. Read our interview with LLNN here.