After a few listens, it started to click.
Pharmakon is the solo sonic outburst of experimental musician, Margaret Chardiet, who has been crafting sounds of general discomfort under the guise of Pharmakon since 2013. Across her catalog, there has been a consistent analytical theme of fearless exploration of negativity within humanity and the physical bodies in which humanity resides. By utilising the perturbed conventions of underground electronic and drone, Chardiet is able to evoke these topics in a manner less poetic and more animalistic than most artists would attempt to achieve. Enter if you dare.
Devour is the fourth ravenous opus in this series. Though broken down into five marginally digestible tracks, it’s actually an album made of only two songs, both of which were recorded live in the studio with the vocals performed in one take. Via this structure, we get a tiny amount of breathing space between sides ‘A’ and ‘B’, though both are far from relenting. Murky shimmers of industrial noise cascade with ominous ferocity whilst the turbulent warped vocals of Chardiet holler above these tormented layers like an oration of the demonic underworld.
By large, the album is your own puzzle to solve, but a little context may help. Chardiet describes Devour as representing humanity’s self-destructive attitude towards itself, which is in turn a response to the equally destructive world around it. She dedicates the record to those who have been institutionalised, be it through psychiatric measures, drug rehabilitation, or imprisonment, and cites society as a whole to be the sole cause of these problems within an endless misgiving spiral.
All you really have to do is display a few fragmented images of these topics in your head, and the soundtrack of Pharmakon locks in nicely and does the rest. It does it, I might add, with a remarkable sense of intuition. Trust me on this – I’ve listened to the album a lot. The variety is there in the groove, the ups-and-downs and the ins-and-outs. Where you are at the beginning of opening segment, “Homeostasis”, is not where you are in the closing act, “Pristine Panic/Cheek by Jowl”. There is progression. There is a building up of intensity. There is a story and a narrative that may be construed as abstract, but what you feel on initial reception is most likely exactly what you are supposed to feel.
Through Pharmakon, Margaret Chardiet is an artist possessed beyond compromise. She utilises electronic noise to communicate emotion in the rawest possible sense. The masses may find what follows simply too unpalatable, but know this much: this type of music is no mean feat. It isn’t done on the sly by mashing a bunch of sounds together. It is the careful orchestration of controlled noise, designed specifically to place the listener in a state of vulnerability, and it works. If there’s any project to explain why droney electronic industrial has a necessary place in the world, then that project is Pharmakon. Given what Chardiet has already achieved in this guise, Devour also serves as a slick and technically adept addition to the archive. The ever growing expanse is not one to be ignored, and it sure as hell can’t be taken lightly.