It may be glib to assume that London-based producer Bobby Krlic dwells exclusively on the dark side, but given the evidence it’s hardly unreasonable. His alias references a 1922 Scandinavian docudrama about witchcraft and inquisition, and his 2011 self-titled debut album aligned him with avant-black-metal/doom acts like Mayhem and Sunn O))). And the sleeve of his gloomily titled follow-up depicts a single length of rope coiled into a noose.
However, The Haxan Cloak’s thrillingly dark and chilly aesthetic goes far deeper than the kind of parent-bothering occult primer these details might suggest. There are echoes of Burial’s cavernous dub and Demdike Stare’s haunted techno in Excavation, but its magnificently maleficent, post-dubstep soundscapes have more in common with musique concrete, Expressionist cinema soundtracks and medieval monastic cantos than so-called witch house or drone metal.
Krlic’s sounds are again rooted in acoustics (cello, violin, guitar, vocals) and field recordings, but this time they’ve been heavily processed — magnified, stretched, dissembled, reconstituted and rearranged — to produce nine micro-symphonies of stark beauty and extraordinary menace. Whether suggesting the dull throb of an old nuclear power plant, the spooked echo inside an abandoned iron foundry or the howl of an Arctic wind at a remote scientific station, they evoke a compressed anxiety that seeps into every note, causing the likes of “Dieu” to heave and quiver before it dies away and underlining the fact that despite its title, epic closer “The Drop” is concerned with something rather more ominous than build-and-break patterns.