CD Review

Law – “Vindication and Contempt”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Vindication and ContemptLet's break the title down: Vindication and Contempt. First, Vindication. For Mitchell Altum, the measure between this work from 1997 and his Our Life Through Your Death(1), is that whatever demons he was trying to exorcise on the latter recording seem to be realized by now, but only to an extent, which brings us to the next word: Contempt. Mitchell Altum has a lot of contempt. Seemingly wanting to impress mainstream society with his intellectual jargon while rejecting it in the same breath (consider the hilarious "All hail mini-van Wal Mart-America”), Altum is one pissed-off motherfucker. His seething hatred is not so much tongue-in-cheek as it is a loogie shot at the feet, when one reads this gem of a rant: "We live in a nation where the majority of the population define themselves and demonstrate their principles by their favorite stock car racer, Looney Tunes character, and sub-fad of clothing they wear." Contempt to its max. On Vindication and Contempt, Altum finds a way to corral his bitter coldwave craft and advance it. Perhaps one of the best realizations of coldwave's capacity, Vindication and Contempt is a huge progression from Our Life Through Your Death, albeit no less shocking.

Hollow pleasantly manipulates surf crash samples with guitar screeching and a digital death march. The computer-tweaked incantations sound like propaganda, but with all of the components mixed, it leaves for a dramatic-not pulverizing-effect. No One Will Find Them squeezes one's pupils a few centimeters with its horrifying edicts, yet the addition of acoustic guitar to the same elements found on Hollow broadens Altum's scope and execution, as he seeks the jugular with lyrics like "Let us rape, murder and rejoice, for tomorrow we die," as whispered echoes call out an unsettling homage to a "beautiful gun" and blades across throats. Disturbing beyond reason, the really disturbing part about No One Will Find Them is that it's pretty fucking catchy.

A Place of Refuge, A Test of Commitment features a sedate synth melody, another surprise of unimagined depth. Altum's coldwave progresses because of the carefully orchestrated compositions accompanying the racket. Said racket becomes more subtle, and therefore far more effective. You Have No Choice teases and fades with its whirling coldwave that gives way to a somber synth fugue, again with a tangible melody, proving again that the best way to make coldwave work is to give it ground to stabilize in. Not easy, considering it's an unstable medium. Take, for instance, Locked Down Solid.

Locked Down Solid begins with a Spartacus-like orchestra sample that feels majestic until it is anarchied by Alton's shrill coldwave and labyrinthine notes. The track is run over by a motor grating grind with only the slightest traces of notes to them. This track is more akin to traditional coldwave, which is aggravating in some aspects. Unknown Command is an orgasmatron with its vibrator delights that ring like a study of note stagnation through bass treatments. Fluctuating Tensile Strength has a doom melody that welcomes back a concrete structure and gets Alton's point across better than the shrill bludgeoning found on Locked Down Solid and parts of Unknown Command. Fluctuating Tensile Strength has more feeling with the strings of swaying notes that carry well into Titan, which crushes the listener into submission with its digital stomps.

A clever body of work, Mitch Altum dedicates Vindication and Contempt to "all the two-bit hobbyists and delusional thinkers who continue trying to impress their friends and kid themselves." An honest admission from someone whose anger is anything but two-bit. Something dark rules his mind, but at least this time around, Mitch Altum finds a way to properly vent his disenfranchisement. If others would only follow suit...

(1) Reviewed elsewhere in this issue.
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