It’s an ugly day in New York. We were promised a blizzard, which evokes some sense of huddled isolation. Instead, the streets are filled with sludgy ice-mush that is made gnarlier than normal by the filth of peoples’ shoes as they trudge about on whatever tasks they feel are necessary. The city itself is essentially shut down for the day despite this small scattering of cold wetness, leaving your beloved (and recently absent, sorry) writer with nothing but this feeling of ugliness. On such an ugly day, it only seems fitting to approach and make sense of an ugly tape that’s been sitting with me for some number of months now. With an album like Sorry I Failed To… by Brown Snake Kills Dog, the ugliness is often more in the feeling than in the execution, but it sinks right to the gut either way, like a poorly made meal or regret.
This album’s slow burn is one of melancholy and uncertainty, a touch of isolationist folk and gnarled industrial grit that shouldn’t work but both come from the same hideous, personal place. There’s something about the pacing and feeling of the whole thing that makes it feel like a tiny eternity, one in which the listener can easily get lost. At the junction of self-loathing, anxiety, and the regret of time and age, Brown Snake Kills Dog buries its collective weary head in layers of static and hissing that hide the delicacy and nakedness of the root compositions that carry the album forth. It’s something that would feel so bare and raw, were it not for the density of the final output. Indeed, the noise that would normally make something unsettling out of a musical piece is the balm, the blanket, or the barrier that saves the listener from outright desolation. Still, in finding solace in such dark and ill-advised comforts, there’s a madness that grips and permeates all the same. It’s a ride, and that’s something I would rarely find myself saying about something so rooted in sparser composition. Listen at risk of your own sanity and well-being.
Another thing of note is that this offering of grief and discomfort was released by Black Horizons. Aside from the label’s commitment to releasing stellar music with little rooting in a specific genre, there’s an unparalleled commitment to the presentation. This cassette is beautifully assembled, with photography by the inimitable and often unsettling Gretchen Heinel adding its own strange edge. Despite my severe delay in penning my thoughts, these cassettes are still in stock with both the band (for those of you in Australia) and the label itself, so make haste if you so desire. The bandcamp sample only has a small segment of the music you’ll find when you have your very own tape on hand, so the gloom will only truly envelop you in the right format.