With any Vukovar album there are layers; the layers with this album start with the title. If we explore what Immurement means; we come up – with a sense of unease – with this:
Immurement (from Latin im- “in” and murus “wall”; literally “walling in”) is a form of imprisonment, usually until death, in which a person is sealed within an enclosed space with no exits. This includes instances where people have been enclosed in extremely tight confinement, such as within a coffin. When used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die from starvation or dehydration.
I, for one, can see no way that this can be coupled with the word ‘great’; unless it is meant in a sense of almost countless immurements, or the immuring of a ‘great or important person’ However, considering track titles we can note this one ‘The Great Immured And His Sea Of Love’ and also this one ‘Cement & Cerement’(for those who don’t know a cerement is a shroud for the dead). And we can note additionally that the band say that this album is ‘the next step in their obsessive memorial device to Simon Morris’. The final piece in the jigsaw is placed to complete the picture encrypted in the title.
This explored we can move on to the sonic content of the album. I use the term ‘sonic’ because any Vukovar album is never purely a collection of songs.
The opening track ‘Your Icarus’ is in part a sweet synth pop song and in another part an epic sound sculpture. A lifting pure vocal over synth based alt-pop with something of a post-punk electronica feel provides the sweetness, a bitter-sweetness and this is gradually overwhelmed by washes of sound, pieces of spoken word that lie in the depths of the sound. It is a beautiful piece that conveys atmosphere and emotion.
The next two tracks ‘The Solar Anus’ Parts 1 & 2. Part 1 takes a post-punk electronica feel and pairs that with a loping rhythm. Part 2 is more complex sonically, although building on the feel of Part 1. Layers of sound – angelic vocals swoop, complex patterns of synth weave. The whole is much closer to alt-synth pop than a post-punk electronica sound. Hints of synth pop, Bauhaus, late period Tom Waits and many others two numerous to list. Taken together the two parts are mesmerising, hypnotic, music to immerse yourself in.
‘Psalm’ is a sound piece. A sound piece with the feel of a prayer, a plea. A wash of sound, impassioned vocals, stabs of a warped organ, sound on the edge of being unpleasant. It’s disconcerting, unsettling and, yet, strangely beautiful.
And then we are hit with the full force of ‘When Rome Falls’. A full on post-punk attack, more than a hint of Goth, a song that demands you get up and dance. A carefully crafted demand. A song that isn’t exactly what it might lead you to believe it is at the start.
‘The Immoral Hour’ is a dense, disturbing montage of sound. Vocals that are so heavily distorted they induce a sense of anxiety. Pure synths, heavy beats, sounds that are buried deep within the other layers.
‘Sculpt The Sculptor’ starts sounding like the purest pop there is before vocals layer one on top of another and then more and more until it falls apart. It starts again – that sweet sound, a heavy drum beat, psychedelic sounds. It has the feel of trance done in the style of Vukovar, Gong at their most freeform. It is a joy, a somewhat disturbing joy.
Having completed a number of tracks that are sound pieces with ‘O Eden’ we gain some respite with a ‘more conventional song’. There is a tune – honestly, a rhythm that is almost constant. In feel it’s 80s’ synth pop – the richest kind. A mutant OMD if you will. But still this is Vukovar so you’d expect spoken words, disturbing bright synths and yes you get those.
‘The Nurse’ is a spoken word piece with sound.
And then we come to the aforementioned ‘Cement & Cerement’; which given its title you might assume is something that is going to be hard to listen to. But far from it, in fact this is a surprisingly upbeat electronic pop track with what appear to be fairly simple words. And you can dance to it.
Every Vukovar album contains at least one epic track – in the case of this one it’s ‘The Great Immured And His Sea Of Love’ (which lasts over 12 minutes). Although you suspect that this will become something else; it starts as a beautifully tuneful, atmosphere laden, dark electronica pop track. Wonderful sounds underpinned by what I can only describe as a sense of anxiety, of being disturbed, of a darkness.
Partially this comes from the vocal which reminds me of The Associates in some ways, and partially from the dark sounds that lie at the bottom.
But then it happens, it changes. Voices take over, spoken voices. Skittering sounds. The voices by the way sound like phone messages – messages with an incredibly disturbing sense of being real, messages that are about Simon Morris. Listening you feel very uncomfortable, that they are something you shouldn’t be hearing but at the same time you can’t stop. It’s hard to put into words the effect of listening to this track. I feel it’s something best left to the individual listener to decide.
Given the overarching topic for this album it’s with a great deal of surprise that I find myself defining this as one of the more accessible Vukovar albums. Yes the band never do anything ‘straight’ but the way they ‘sculpt sound’ is mainly introduced in a gentle way.
And even if it is somewhat more accessible it still displays the usual obsessive attention to detail in the way the songs are put together. And perhaps even more care has been taken as the sense of darkness is more subtle than it has been in the past and this makes it, at least to my ears, all the more effective. There is a sense of holding back in the sound, a feeling that the layers of sound have not been taken as far as they could go, that the sound on sound on sound has not been allowed to overwhelm.
This is a thing of dark beauty. Of sound sculpted into something beyond music; into pure sonic expression.
The band say:
For Simon Morris; His Name Means First And Last.
Following ‘THE COLOSSALIST’ and continuing the death-life commitment to their grave loss, VUKOVAR’s next step in their obsessive memorial device to Simon Morris is ‘THE GREAT IMMUREMENT’. With the new, stable line up, here with Jane Appleby (CERAMIC HOBS), the NeuPopAct have collided and colluded to now present their 9th LP and part two of the Eternity Ends Here triptych; the most ambitious thing attempted by the group and the most wrapped in turmoil.
VUKOVAR formed in a crumbling placefiller of a town in 2014. They were always dying and reorganized after cease to exist in 2019. Effete artists pretending to be northern hardcases pretending to be uniform fetishists in iconoclast drag. “Do not trust us; we are fragile stars.”
Jane Appleby appears on ‘The Great Immured And His Sea Of Love’. Simon Morris appears on ‘Cement & Cerement’.
All songs written and recorded by the 5/5 of Vukovar.
- ‘When Rome Falls’ lyrics written by D. Tibet and music by Vukovar.
- ‘Psalm’ taken from ‘Psalm 142’ by David and music by Vukovar.
- Excerpt from ‘O Eden’ taken from ‘And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos’ by John Berger.
Engineered and produced by The Brutalist House & The Ghosts In Their Machine and Phil Reynolds. Mastered by Phil Reynolds.