Stephen ĀH Burroughs has a solid background in industrial music projects, thanks to his role in the influential Head of David, and further associations with Frag, Comicide and Sun O))).
However, there was a period of time when Burroughs set his work in music aside, before a return with his solo project Tunnels of ĀH in 2013. The new album Deathless Mind is, almost by definition, not for everyone. Discordant, pared-down industrial noise fractures into something new entirely here, largely disposing with vocals and recognisable samples to emphasise a rich, if menacing and discomfiting, often overwhelming soundscape.
Deathless Mind is divided into seven tracks, although there is a feeling of continuation across all of these; no one track differs significantly from another in terms of its atmosphere and style, creating a consistent tone. The overall effect of this is unusual: in some ways, it feels as though the album is accompanying a journey in some respects (or at least, some dark night of the soul). There’s a sense of being drawn onward to some place, almost against one’s will. As has been the case with previous albums, the titles of tracks relate to faith and ritual, but these spiritual phenomena are married with other, far more worldly and lowly concerns — ‘the dumb’, the ‘sewers’, ‘slaves’, the ‘sanitorium lawns’. If there’s a spiritual element here, it is perhaps to see that there can be nothing sanitised about the spiritual.
Because of the way in which Deathless Mind rumbles along through its heady, atonal track list, it is alarming when voices actually interject: “Saint of Slaves” does this, setting up a mantra-like repetition midway through which is quite disconcerting. Otherwise, recognisable sounds or sounds which stand apart are quite unusual here. There are only a few moments where the album seems to segue into something more akin to listening to a choir through pitch.
All in all, this is a challenging project, a recording which refuses to fade into the background. You can’t help but be absorbed by it and into it, whilst perhaps most interestingly of all, it has the strange feeling of a learning experience. Challenging to review, challenging to categorise and challenging to listen to, this is an album which both demands and rewards attention.
Deathless Mind is available via Cold Spring on 15 May. Buy it here.