Orlando’s Popnihill is on a roll. So far in 2019 the label hasn’t put a foot wrong. Ray Brazen’s sound collage of a 1988 trip to the West Coast was charming and disorienting. The lo-fi punk techno of Bacon Grease is a serious contender for album of the year and Formaldehydra’s Extirpate was dark and brooding electronica. Now Popnihill have released an album that defies genres and convention. Black Wick’s Fever Nightmare.
Three minutes into ‘The Line Goes Dead’ and you have no idea what is going on. Is this music? Is this performance art? Is this one of those ‘Halloween Spooky Sounds’ albums, but made by someone on smart drugs? Is this even enjoyable? Why am I still listening to this stuff? All of these questions are unanswerable, and this is where the true joy of Fever Nightmare comes from. As you have no idea what is going on, you have no reference point for it, so there is literally no real point turning it off as you don’t know if the worst has passed or if the worst is just about to happen. As ‘The Line Goes Dead’ nears its conclusion the tension ramps up through droney synths, ghoulish groans, creepy field recordings and that macabre voiceover that never really ends or finishes its tale.
The second track, ‘The Séance’, feels like Black Wick has reversed ‘The Line Goes Dead’. This is where the album really comes alive. In theory you know what to expect as you’ve just heard it, but reversed, everything takes on a totally different vibe. The backward samples are actually terrifying in places and bring to mind every trashy horror film/TV show involving possession you’ve ever seen. The fact that you know this is just ‘music’ and not the actual recording of a séance/possession, doesn’t detract from the feeling of unease that sweeps over you. There is actually something chilling and unsettling about listening to this, especially on headphones.
Fever Nightmare is the most singular and captivating release this year. It is unlike anything else. It is an album that lingers with you long after it’s finished, like a good horror film. You know it’s all made up and just the workings of a very talented producer/musician, but there is something about these disturbing and haunted sound collages that are hard to shake off.
Fever Nightmare is out now on Popnihill.