REVISITING: THE BLACK PHELGM - MUZAK FOR ABATTOIRS
Label: Magic Mushroom
The Black Phelgm’s 1989 masterpiece Muzak For Abattoirs is both a savage and tender record. When these elements meet in the same frame, it makes for absurd and visceral viewing. The exoticness of these brutal passages of music are commendable for their tonal richness and seeming resourcefulness. There is the feeling of both a limited palette and also a wide breadth of horrendous sounds screaming over a ridiculously sentimental backdrop. Much of the record is like this, moving psychotically between the laughable and visceral, the parody and sympathy. These alternating states seem to point to a hypocrisy that exists between the way we emotionlessly execute some animals whilst canonising others.
The presence of these more peaceful musical moments offer a deeper dimension to the suffering that the creatures in the record experience. The more melodic moments express the release of death, the strangeness of it from a first-person perspective - being hung upside down and then cut… After the screams, the fighting and the terror, there could be a moment of letting go - a more sanguine transition to the abyss. Beyond the first person, the music pans out, almost like a piece of performance art or studio production. You can see the abattoir at work - a full image, as the rudimentary processes and conveyor belt predictability of pain and death pass through, ‘two by two’. AG