Listen To: ‘Bestial Burden’ by Pharmakon

Listen To: ‘Bestial Burden’ by Pharmakon

Shane BarnhillFriday,17 October 2014

The Snap:

On October 14th, Margaret Chardiet — aka Pharmakon — released Bestial Burden, her second album with Sacred Bones Records. The release follows 2013’s Abandon, which received a strong 8.0 rating from Pitchfork, and came just prior to a sudden hospitalization prior to a planned tour to support the album. Chadiet’s hospitalization, in fact, led to a long recovery period, during which her latest release was written.

The Download: 

Bestial Burden opens with “Vacuum,” a song that is little more than a minute and a half of panicked hyperventilating over subtle keyboard sounds. The next track, “Intent or Instinct,” opens with ominously deep keyboard tones that could be straight out of a horror movie trailer, before evolving into an assembly-line like rhythm beneath shrieks that invoke memories of haunted houses on Halloween. Subsequently, “Body Betrays Itself” is punctuated by rage-filled screaming, and it paints a mental picture of violence and danger. Within minutes, Margaret Chardiet manages to raise your heartbeat and set a tone for the rest of the album that’s both grim and confusing.

Fortunately, this was Chardiet’s intent all along. Bestial Burden was inspired by her aforementioned hospital stay in late 2013, when Chardiet suffered from a large cyst that nearly caused an organ failure (and death). In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Chardiet recounts her hospitalization: “Being treated like a piece of meat while in the hospital had a huge impact on some of these ideas behind the album. And while I was there I saw a man dying next to me, and he was crying out for his daughter. She did not come. So it wasn’t just about the experience of what happened to me but also about being there—going under anesthesia and not knowing what was going to be missing when you woke up. Not knowing what to expect on the other side.”

It sounds like the other side, in Chardiet’s view, is a nightmarish place filled with primitive physical struggles, pain and fear. But somehow, she captures this raw emotion in a beautiful way that makes the album a pleasure to listen to. But Bestial Burden is also like a great action film that opens with a heart-pounding chase scene and doesn’t let up until a violent crescendo of gunfire before the closing credits: you may rave about it the first time through, but once you know how the story ends, there is little chance that you’re going to rush back a second time.

But the ride is a shocking adventure that’s worth the trip. There’s just something about primal screams of rage over the top of drums that sound straight out of a stereotypical scene about island natives from a movie. On Bestial Burden, Chardiet sounds like a caged animal that, through its guttural shrieks and growls, is promising to kill you if it ever manages to pop the latch. But somehow, it works: as a listener, I found myself vacillating between states that at times were trancelike, and at other times nearly brought out innate fight-or-flight reflexes. It’s a rare piece of art that can accomplish that feat, and for that reason, I strongly recommend giving Pharmakon’s Bestial Burden a try.

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Hat Tips:

Pitchfork, SpinImage Credit: Flickr

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