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Deathprod - OCCULTING DISK Music Album Reviews

After a long hiatus, the solo electronics master returns with a mesmerizing, terrifying, and emotionally nuanced “anti-fascist ritual” of an album.

More than 15 years ago, Norwegian sound artist and Supersilent co-founder Helge Sten seemed to bury his Deathprod alias. For a decade, Sten barbed intricate drones with spikes of static, then stuffed it all into four essential discs in a 2004 box set that suggested a coffin. He went largely silent. Motivated by the recent rise of nationalists and strongmen worldwide, though, Sten has resurrected Deathprod for what he calls an “anti-fascist ritual” with Occulting Disk. The album is, as Will Oldham writes in the liner notes, a 10-track attempt to “address ... hatred and reduce it by its opposite.”


Sten launches Occulting Disk on the offensive with “Disappearance/Reappearance,” a digital battle hymn that pushes one distorted note past the point of collapse. For nine minutes, Sten oscillates between corrosive washes and bellowing foghorn blasts, stretching out the rests between them to make you fret over what comes next. It’s as forceful and finessed as the best of Birchville Cat Motel or Prurient, and it offers a welcome progressive corrective for power electronics, a world often hamstrung by its flirtation with or outright descent into fascism.

Despite the truculent introduction, Sten does much more than rage. His emotional breadth and nuance remind us of the heart required to fight back. “Occultation 2” suggests the onset of a panic attack, with meticulously nested layers of static and sustain closing in around you, cutting off your ability to consider anything else. With its delicate tones drifting above air-raid sirens, “Occultation 3” evokes a mourner’s wail amid chaos.

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Sten has often explored a sense of play with Deathprod’s concepts and titles. He’s got a beautiful track called “Orgone Donor” and an eerie drone dubbed “The Contraceptive Briefcase II.” The brilliantly ambiguous title Occulting Disk continues this thread. Is the music meant to conscript us into rebellions? Or is the “occulting” that happens here more akin to an interrupted signal, as when the moon occults the sun? Perhaps these tracks are acts of distraction, meant to be blasted at an enemy. Occulting Disk is somehow mesmerizing and terrifying—motivational for those who need it, a nuisance to those who don’t want it.

At 66 minutes, Occulting Disk may get tedious or even tiring. Its heaviest blows fling you against the ropes and leave you there. But the length and the range of these 10 tracks offer an implicit lesson in perseverance, a necessary skill when countering deeply entrenched, well-heeled oppressors. Sten emerges from the catatonia of “Occultation 7” with a 12-minute counterattack of a finale, a piece that overruns whatever space you give it. Looking from the edge of one decade where entropy has metastasized and into the increasingly anxious next one, Occulting Disk is a reminder to believe in rallying for the cause, no matter how long it takes or however hellish the prospect and process may sound.


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About Udara Madusanka

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