Locrian: Confronting Urban Decay with Ambient Metal

Locrian: Drenched LandsLocrian: Drenched Lands (Small DosesAt War With False Noise, 2009)

Locrian: “Epicedium”

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Andre Foisy and Terence Hannum are pleased that their band Locrian defies musical categorization. “We’re not completely at home in a metal scenario or ambient or experimental,” Hannum says. “We’re in a weird place, and I like it.” In addition to playing synth and providing vocals for the band, Hannum is an installation artist who has exhibited at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and many other galleries since 2003. He and guitarist/bassist Foisy both teach at Columbia College Chicago as adjunct faculty.

As teenagers, Hannum and Foisy gravitated to local punk and hardcore scenes as a way to buck the status quo. Foisy grew up in a small town in northern New York state, and Hannum hails from the stifling retirement town of Naples, Florida. Through their respective ventures, both became fans of the French Canadian band One-Eyed God Prophecy. “Hardcore was a revitalization or a conscious effort of the people in my culture to create a more satisfying culture,” Foisy says.

Following their introduction through a mutual friend and subsequent collaboration with their respective wives in the dark-folk band Unlucky Atlas, Foisy and Hannum joined forces as a duo in December of 2005. They established a name by playing at small DIY venues such as record stores, lofts, and art spaces as well as rock clubs and the DNA Test Fest.

The band’s first studio release, Drenched Lands, is a polished journey led by dissonant guitar, wicked synths, and anguished vocals. In contrast, another recent release, the intense, droning, noisy Rhetoric of Surfaces, a compilation of previously unreleased and out-of-print cassette tape and CD-R tracks, reflects the sound through which the band has gathered a following during the past four years.

“The failure of urban planning, environmental collapse, and general decay is what is behind our music. Something we hope to reflect is a journey through a dormant landscape where you’re the only occupant.”

“I don’t think that we fit in anywhere, but we feel most at home in the noise community in Chicago,” Foisy says. Gaining support and encouragement among such varied noise groups as Bloodyminded, Face Worker, and Winters in Osaka, Locrian developed its own aggregated sound.

“Most people [in the noise community] are coming from, or really interested in, different places in music, from krautrock to power electronics,” Hannum observes. And within its music, Locrian utilizes varying strains of music in order to make a statement. “The failure of urban planning, environmental collapse, and general decay is what is behind our music,” Hannum says. “Something we hope to reflect is a journey through a dormant landscape where you’re the only occupant.”

Part of the journey to create this discordant sound is channeling ambient and black metal through each other. “We’re approaching black metal through the lens of what Brian Eno and Robert Fripp were doing in the ’70s, and the last song on Deluged (“Greyfield Shines”) we’re approaching through a riff from Obituary,” Foisy says. By dipping into multiple musical genres and communities, Locrian pushes boundaries in the quest for exploration. “Our goal is to bridge the gap between experimental and black metal,” Foisy says.

In comparison to previous works, the tone on Drenched Lands is darker, with longer, more organic drones and sharp pieces of feedback entering the frame. “The vocals are pronounced, which has to do with black metal and power electronics, and finding a happy medium between the two,” Hannum says.

In similar fashion to Locrian’s archetypal themes of cities on the decline, the album revolves around the state of the world as a result of war, poverty, and other ills. Hannum and Foisy got the idea for the album’s title from a line in William S. Burroughs’ bleak novel The Soft Machine. “We wanted [the album] to be a memoir of some hazy civilization that’s gone,” Hannum explains.

Like a novel, the album has an introduction, middle, and dramatic ending, taking the listener on a devastated yet addictive trip through a wasteland. “Like a noxious fog that erupts in the passages of more song and guitars washing up on a dingy shore,” Hannum says.

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