Be warned: Christian Country Home is gonna bum you out. Over the course of these 29 minutes, It Only Gets Worse really live up to their name – at least, emotionally they do. Musically, as on previous release Love Songs, the duo of Matt (Secret Admirer) and Maurice (Gnaw Their Tongues) unleash a mix of electronic ambient and experimental sounds, with nods to hip-hop, dark ambient, and the bleaker side of dubstep (not the commercial shit; the original underground stuff that was full of danger and menace) being more apparent. Whilst Love Songs hit a sweet spot between sadness and a lovely loneliness, Christian Country Home contains moments of such sweet sorrow, but on the whole, this album is bleak as fuck.
Opener “Young” is a bit of a curve-ball to start the album off with. Heavy drum hits and a Young Thug sample (no, really) create an almost party atmosphere; albeit the kind where the room’s spinning, the walls are melting, and you’ve not even taken those cheap pills you picked up yet. From there, “Black Metal Imagery” takes things in an even darker direction, coming across like the bastard spawn of early Skinny Puppy and Aphex Twin’s ambient albums. The spoken word sections on top of the music add a key human element to proceedings, and help give the track (and others where they are used) an extra feeling of life, as if you’re catching glimpses of someone’s repressed memories and nightmares. Sure, there’s a hint of playfulness at times, what with the sample on “Young” and the title “Black Metal Imagery”, but it doesn’t mean It Only Gets Worse are making music that isn’t dark, serious, and a little bit disturbing.
There’s also some real moments of beauty though, made all the mark stark and effective by the horrors that surround them. The piano on “Late In The Game” is absolutely gorgeous, and made all the more so by Matt’s harrowing spoken words and the wavering drone behind it; whilst “Untitled” is the musical equivalent of a warm cocoon, and an utter delight.
It proves to be a false dawn though, with the title track following and taking the listener down some very dark, disturbing paths. Glitching rhythms and unsteady drones initially accompany haunting, emotional piano, but this is just scene setting. Around the halfway mark, the spoken word section starts to accompany the music, and it makes what has gone before seem like a fond memory. I don’t want to spoil anything for the listener, but it is bleak, it is horrific, and it is absolutely captivating, and repeat listens – when you know what is coming – only serve to heighten the tension.
Closer “Still”, doesn’t hit quite as hard, but it’s still far from a comfortable listen. That’s sensible pacing, though; another track of the intensity of “Christian Country Home” would have been too much, and instead the music of “Still” – which brings to mind some of Fennesz’s work, albeit with a much darker, haunting feel and aim – is exactly what is needed, and the perfect way to close the album.
Which hopefully goes to demonstrate that Christian Country Home is the kind of electronic album that possess huge heart, even if it is one that is dark, haunted, and with a long history of tragedies. Still, even if It Only Gets Worse is accurate as a lifetime narrative, the opposite is happening with their music. Christian Country Home will make you sad, for sure, but for music as good as this, that’s a small price to pay.
Christian Country Home is due to get a cassette release later in the year, though details are – as I understand – yet to be confirmed. Keep an eye on the Facebook and Bandcamp pages of It Only Gets Worse for details.