There are loads of artists out there that are classified as ‘genre defying’ for mixing influences and elements from multiple genres and creating something that’s not easy to label. Few artists, however, look at the concept of genre and disregard it completely. The Australian duo Divide and Dissolve are one of those – they don’t care about what they’re labeled as. They care about ideas, feelings, and atmosphere, something that Systemic delivers by the dozen.
While it does feature elements from many types of music, it can be classified as part of the noise/drone scene. Personally, I’ve never been that into music that’s in that spectrum (bold words coming from a guy writing for a site called Everything Is Noise, right?). Most of the time, this type of stuff fails to actually grab my interest for more than a few moments before I go for something else. Systemic, however, managed to retain my attention for its entire runtime. A lot of instrumental stuff can work as background music, but this one just seems to naturally put itself on the central stage of your brain as you’re listening. Right from the first eerie notes of “Want”, followed by the mysterious, beautiful strings that seamlessly give way to doom infused noise in “Blood Quantum”, I was completely hooked and in for the ride.
As artists, Divide and Dissolve aim to create music that, quoting from their Bandcamp, ‘honors their ancestors and indigenous land, to oppose white supremacy, and to work towards a future of Black and Indigenous liberation‘. This powerful goal deeply permeates the music, that is as heavy as it is overwhelming. There is much to be found here, ranging from unease, drea, and despair to hope and kindness in certain moments. It is a perfect reminder that art exists for more than just pure entertainment. There is a message to be found and a voice to be heard here, and even without vocals for most of it, you can feel the duo’s voice and intent in every note throughout Systemic.
One of the layers that quickly stood out for me is how many moments carry this feeling of cinematic introspection. It’s as if it functions like a movie soundtrack, with a story being told. But this isn’t necessarily your linear, fact-driven picture – it paints its story with emotion rather than logic. “Blood Quantum” sounds like there is something tragic slowly unraveling in front of your eyes, and you can’t do a thing about it other than watch. “Simulacra” treads in violent territory that seem to echo deep, deep pain. Music like this can connect with you in a different way, as you’re completely entitled to what you felt and visualized listening to it. If Ari Aster or Robert Eggers had a hold of this, they’d have wild ideas.
While this is better enjoyed in a full sitting, as each track functions better as part of a whole than as individual pieces, I do have a few personal highlights. “Indignation”, with its haunting strings and uneasy atmosphere, won me over in a minute. “Omnipotent” is, perhaps, the most ‘regular’ structured piece here, sounding like a love child of Sunn O))) and Russian Circles to me. “Desire” closes the heavy, disturbing journey with much deserved feelings of cathartic peace.
Systemic is truly a journey, one that is not necessarily interested in making you feel good about yourself. It asks you to think about things, to engage in feelings you’d avoid most of the time. But it is undoubtedly a journey that stuck with me; it moved me and I saw myself coming back for more. I’ve never heard anything like Divide and Dissolve, and transforming what I thought and felt into words was quite a challenge. Everyone can have a different experience with this album, and that’s what makes it truly special. With a short runtime of 33 minutes, even if drone/noise or experimental music is not your thing, there’s no reason not to check it out. Who knows, you just might come out of this one as impressed as I did, and find beauty among all the noise.