Magnolia’s grim dreams

GRIM: Magnolia’s Dream

Release year: 2022
Label: Steinklang Industries

For people into noise, power electronics and the harsher side of experimental music, Japanese Grim should be a familiar name. The one-man project released a small body of work in the mid-to-late 80’s, including the album Folk Music (1986), becoming thus one of the earlier proponents of harsh industrial in the country.

It took until 2013 for Grim to release their sophomore album, Psycho Sun. However, since then, the project has been making up for lost time, racking up an impressive 10 albums between 2013 and 2022 according to Discogs, as well as a number of smaller releases. Magnolia’s Dream bumps that count up to 11.

Fans of the project will not be surprised by the album, but anyone straying in from the outside will probably be. You see, whilst with broad strokes the descriptors noise and power electronics are applicable, there’s a whole lot more going on with Grim and Magnolia’s Dream. So anybody expecting standard noisy industrial music and nothing else will probably do a double take.

There’s of the noisy department too, naturally. For example IX, the ninth track of the album (all tracks are named only with Roman numerals) is a fine piece of haunting, disturbing death industrial supported by powerful percussion. The fourth track, on the other hand, kicks in with a wall of white noise upon which vicious, distorted feedback is layered in a rather classic manner. But other tracks consists of calm, even harmonious organ music with no kind of sinister undercurrent. The third track with its almost danceable beat and strange whirring sounds is one of the absurd peaks of weirdness on the album. And the last track, which sounds like a distorted, cracked children’s song. It’s just… well, weird!

Magnolia’s Dream is stylewise a truly mixed bag. From cacophonous noise to understated, foreboding death industrial, to harmonious organ music to whatever else the album has to offer, it is an experimental post-industrial version of that box of chocolates Forrest Gump spoke of. Imagine someone with a southern drawl saying “Grim is like a box o’ chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.” Because you don’t, and after any initial backlash, that’s a big part of the charm.

The album is eclectic, and probably a bit of an acquired taste even for fans of experimental music. But it’s obviously, in it’s own weird and indecipherable way, a thought-out album. Maybe not in the sense that there’s a common thread running through the tracks, but in the sense that there’s a balance here; the switches from harsh soundscapes to calm harmony, and the way that harmony is shaken up by weird vocals in the background, is both deliberate and skillful.

But, yeah, I admit: there are times when Magnolia’s Dream is just too much. Sometimes I much prefer putting on something that blasts me with crackling distortion and violent feedback for 45 minutes and doesn’t go all weird on me.

Though the release date of the album is still some time away – early August is the label’s best guess at the moment, but that is prone to change due to the sorry state of vinyl manufacturing these days – you had better hurry if you want to snag a copy. The label has already sold out on Bandcamp, but some copies remain in stock in the webshop.

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