Chilling, cavernous and seldom melodic, Ehnahre‘s new EP Quatrain will intrigue anyone willing to look deep into its twisted insides.

Release date: March 6, 2020 | Painted Throat Music | Bandcamp | Facebook

Ehnahre have been making people uncomfortable since 2008, when they released their monolithic debut, The Man Closing Up – a disjointed, unnerving and chaotic take on metal and drone. From this debut until now, only one of the original members remains, but he has kept the essence of Ehnahre very much intact. On their newly-released EP, Quatrain, Ehnahre dissect the individual things that make them the band they are – each one of the four current members wrote one song on the EP, giving them a chance to explore their own musical ideas, as well as showcase what they add to Ehnahre’s sound. Having always been inspired by poetry, Ehnahre chose to base Quatrain off Greek poet Sappho’s Fragment 16, an ancient piece of writing concerned with war, as well as love and beauty.

The theme of war is hugely apparent in the EP’s opening track. “Warriors, Columns of Infantry, Warships” begins with an abrasively noisy guitar part, behind which a scene builds, made up of dull, thumping synths, an uncomfortable drone, and various odd, metallic clangs. The guitar rises above this gloomy landscape and shudders, bathed in delay and reverb, in the stratosphere of its range. To the left, something groans, to the right, a guitar screams in agony; such simple elements combined into a crushing sonic experience. The screaming subsides, and we are for the first time given something that sounds vaguely like a riff in amongst the iron-clad din. It eventually takes the center beneath the ever-present wailing of the initial guitar, the whole scene narrowing as only these two elements remain. The ending dissipates like dust settling at the end of a battle.

By contrast, “The Shadowy Earth’s Most Glorious Visions” is not at all abrasive. It begins with a creak and a booming thump as though a heavy door has been dragged open, or slammed shut. In the foreground is a moaning, set in a world of cavernous reverb, deep throbbing heartbeats, and uncomfortable, distant metallic sounds. The whole track is like wandering around a twisted cave complex with a candle, a chilling breeze from deep inside disturbing the flame every once in a while. In the flickering light, a threat lies behind every rock, every turn in the path. I can feel my chest start to expand with anticipation, as the track rises in intensity and denseness, tearing itself apart ever so slowly, the cave shuddering, on the brink of collapse. But I am about to find the exit, surely, surely there is an escape from this threatening world? The song ends abruptly and vanishes into echoes, like a candle blown out.

“But I Say-“ is a plaintive double bass soliloquy, the amalgamation of harmonics and drone notes combining into something that can almost be a melody and is certainly charged with emotion. It is a lonesome song in a cold space, filled with darkness and fear. Occasionally, distorted shapes loom out of the shadows, reaching for something, threatening to swallow the solitary singer, then disappearing without a trace besides the lingering reverb. The song becomes distant, and eventually disappears into mist and mystery.

Perhaps the most excruciating song on Quatrain is “The One I Desire”. Made up almost entirely of strange, paranoid high register piano interrupted by muted stabs, it oozes desolation, but also a strange beauty. This beauty is destroyed by pounding, seemingly random cluster chords that go on for an uncomfortable length of time, with no sense of build or resolution, but these cut out as abruptly as they burst forth, leaving a strange landscape of almost jazzy chords and a few instances where we are almost granted release through resolve. A coin drops, gains momentum, and becomes a blur, shimmering around the outside, bores into the side of my head. The opening idea of the song makes a tentative return, a pearlescent pad hanging like mist over it, and recedes into silence.

Quatrain is not at all what I’d usually listen to, and it’s certainly not background music for dinner with your parents. I’m surprised, though, by how much I enjoy it. It grows on me the more I listen to it; I’m not sure I understand it, but I like it. The small array of sounds used to make something almost cinematic is amazing, the simplicity of the ideas executed in such a way that the end result becomes complex – I love it. The songs are long and slow-paced, and if you’re looking for catchy melodies this certainly is not the place, but if you’re willing to delve deeper than just the unsettling face of Quatrain, you might find something very special.

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