On his second full-length, ESA mastermind J. Blacker moves deeper into philosophical territory with a concept album exploring ideas of original sin and mankind's inherently dark nature. If track titles like "Principles of a Paradisic Resolve" and "Randomly Selected Drawbacks of the Human Condition" suggest a certain rarefied intellectualism, however, the beats and loops tell a different story. After "Dialogue" sets the tone with dark ambient textures and a spoken word performance establishing the album's concept, "Your Blood Is My Blood" immediately brings things into a more visceral realm with earthquake beats, though Blacker's more arcane thematic concerns are still in evidence via snippets of choir music. "Paradise Inside/Punishment Defined" and "Cursing" step things further, with layers of distortion, metallic clanking, and even a hint of what sounds like electric guitar adding brutality to an already aggressive power noise rhythm; then, just when things threaten to move from effective relentlessness to formulaic repetition, Blacker changes things yet again, dropping the four-on-the-floor groove in favor of harsh electro breaks and ominous synth lines on "Absolute Utero" and "In Lust We Trust." Toward the latter half of the album, things slow down, but the oppressive mood only grows heavier on "Randomly Selected Drawbacks of the Human Condition," with its grinding distortion and sinister percussion, and "Intense Deceit and a Thousand Empty Promises," which adds lovely wordless vocals (courtesy of folk/electronic singer Mabh Savage) to thick layers of stark, frigid ambience and echoing metallic clatter. "You Do Not Belong Here" finishes the album with quiet but melancholy contemplation, Blacker using simple layers of treble tones, their attacks and decays turned up so high that they blur together with the spaces between them, to create a sense of hopelessness that manages to be quite affecting in its own way. As a power noise act, ESA's work is quite suited to the dance floor, but to really appreciate what Blacker has done with this release one must listen to it from start to finish; much more than just a collection of club tracks, this album is a journey, albeit to a place you might be afraid to go.
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