Over the past two years, Verge Bliss has gradually shifted her focus from experimental darkwave to harsh noise. Though she occasionally still picks up her signature autoharp to strum some gothic pop, her most convincing work as of late has been delivered by pedal chains, looped chaos, and homemade synthesizers. Her latest Dendera Bloodbath record, Hungry Ghosts, is proof that her energy and ingenuity have found the perfect outlet. The record is not only a heartfelt engagement with Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, it is in Bliss’ words, “an obituary to a lot of stuff I’ve let go of and stuff I’d like to let go of.”
One of the key aspects of inspiration for Hungry Ghosts is The Tibetan Book of the Dead (known as the Bardo Thodol in Tibet). It’s a guide for the experiences of a soul after death and as such is heady material to confront with noise compositions, but Bliss undertakes it with curiosity, freedom, and reverence.
Though the album was designed and created in a similar manner to Bliss’ January release Money Luck Grimoire, the underlying complexity and overt density of Hungry Ghosts lends it a more industrial feel than previous work. You won’t find any excessive drum machine action or funky basslines, however; it’s a noise record pure and simple. Still, the spare vocals and brooding feel reflect an album which goes well beyond the scope of many harsh noise projects which often devolve into simplistic proving grounds for sound creation.
Where Dendera Bloodbath’s previous expeditions in the world of noise have sounded cavernous and distant, each of these 8 tracks are striking in their immediacy. Even the simplest fluctuations in tone inflict immediate consequences to the striking sonic patterns. And consequences they are indeed, because Hungry Ghosts is a punishing record, especially to those uninitiated in the realm of harsh noise. “Bardo 3” comes across as particularly primordial, but it’s built on unhindered cosmic energy rather than any sort of negative aggression. In the Bardo Thodol, bardo 3 is the bardo of rebirth, and Bliss deftly builds a palette which reflects all the chaos, color, and sensuality inherent to renewal and regeneration.
Hungry Ghosts is a well-organized record, but encapsulating key tenets of an ancient faith is an ambitious endeavor. Like all such efforts there are moments where it threatens to spiral out of control, where the noise nearly mutes the footsteps of the journey. Yet Bliss finds balance in the face of the void. The record evokes remarkably thoughtful listening patterns, and is never claustrophobic to the point of spiritual deafness. This brings us back to the essence of Bliss’ art — dark yet therapeutic, personal and universal. If she can communicate ancient truths with the twisting of knobs, it’s no wonder she can make an often frustrating genre both accessible and engaging.
Hungry Ghosts is available on limited-edition cassette and digital via \\NULL|ZØNE//.
Dendera Bloodbath will perform on Tue., September 12 at 529 alongside A Deer A Horse, Twin Criminal, and Bellbreakers. Doors open at 9 p.m. Donations encouraged. 21+ to enter.