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Track By Tracks: The Medea Project - Sisyphus (2020)

1. Prelude:

“Forget redemption, we welcome you to stay”: Prelude opens up the proceedings in a very sparse and dry way. The simplistic dirty piano coupled with the almost plaintiff gong tom sets the scene for the chaos to unfold. It is, in its purest form a challenge to the wanderer, as well as their last beacon of sanctity for what is to follow. Post vocal the piano begins to warp and decay, falling into ruin, a perfect introduction for what is to come. We’re quite literally welcoming you dear listener to the world of ruin and decay. What better way to start the soundtrack to the apocalypse than with a formal invitation.

This was originally written to be played on pipe organ on its own, but the layered dirty electric piano/upright piano just seems to carry the sparseness a little better. We decided to add the gong tom during our pre-production as it needed a heartbeat.

2. Babylon:

“Choked in dust, this is where you die”: Welcome to the beginning of the end, a spiralling, falling doom wheel, rolling for eternity, crushing all in its wake. Babylon hits you in the chest and does not relent until all is in ruin.

This was the first song we wrote as a duo, and the heaviness is in its simplicity, sparse primitive drums underpinning a droning guitar riff. Technicality is eschewed for something that forces you to bang your body, never mind your head. It’s an ode to ages past, forgotten gods and how progress has marched on leaving nothing but crushed civilizations and dust in its wake. We walk on the bones of our past.

3. To Know us is to Fear Us:

“Julle sal val, een by een”: Pure unbridled rage, this is us railing against the system in any way possible. It’s a direct challenge to the rules, that we as a society, have bound ourselves to. Technology, the accumulation of wealth and possessions, the fascination with celebrity, they are all fetters of own making, something we do not need to survive. We need to tear it down.

The core of the song was written on an acoustic guitar, when taken into the bandroom and it was dialled up to 11, the tribal drums just fell into place. We were in a very angry place emotionally at the time and it all just boiled through. To Know Us is to Fear Us is both our personal anthem, as well as a throwback to our angry youth. The decision to use Afrikaans in the bridges was a very natural one for us as well, part of being South African is switching language mid sentence to better express yourself, so this was just a continuation of that.

4. The Ghosts of St Augustine:

“In dream, he plants his seed”: Reality is dictated by perception. Normality is a product of mass perception, or possibly a mass hallucination, depending entirely on the observer's point of reference. On the fringes of what is considered normal we get the outsiders, people who act, view or dare to dream differently from the masses. Witches, visionaries, lunatics, they have many names and are all equally shunned or maltreated.

St Augustines was a condemned asylum building in Kent we originally went to, to try and use as a location for a photoshoot, we were unable to access the building unfortunately, however there was such a heavy presence of foreboding on the building and grounds it embedded itself on our conscience.

Like a proverbial seed it sat in our minds until one day the opening riff happened, from that the song just grew in the bandroom, starting as jams around the initial grinding riff and then breaking into different parts. The intro with the synthesizer just adds to the bleak atmosphere that the song commands, doubling the almost square wave synth guitar tones.

5. Gloam:

“Taint the love (that) on one depends”: Some things last forever, even from beyond; Why are things haunted, what happens if a spirit will not let go, and not in the normal shuffling of the mortal coil way, but in an unhealthy obsessive kind of way. Haunting and stalking an individual from the unknown beyond?

The initial seed riff for this song was planted many years ago, when I was stoned, feeling unwell and sitting in a shower with my friend’s guitar. I kept playing a chromatic broken chord progression over and over, and it just stuck, the original was recorded with a drum machine and felt very industrial, so Pauline and I worked through it to keep that harsh feel, but still have the more organic elements of the song emphasised. This is the end result, a song that is almost as schizophrenic as the subject matter.

6. Reaver:

“I am the antithesis of light”: Do we control our emotions, or do our emotions control us? Everytime we pretend we’re enlightened or in control, something happens that reverts us back to our base animalistic instincts. We are mere meat puppets dancing on chemical strings.

Reaver was written as a jam, it’s quite possibly our most traditional and straight forward song. The opening riff was something Pauline and I were working on in South Africa, but it was not a band track. The riff remained but the playstyle and approach changed quite drastically. So now we have something more aggressive, with more in common with modern blackened death than doom.

7. G.E.O.f.F:

“Strip away the rules and frames, the binding skeins of flesh”: We are always in search of more, never mind the consequences. Mankind has always poked their nose in where it does not belong. Many great discoveries have come from this, but sometimes things were opened that were best left shut.

It starts with a drum, and that is very true for this song. Pauline started with the opening drum pattern and we were playing around with a post-punk type feel, just seeing what happens in the band room. I think I had just bought a tremolo pedal at the time too, so that primal repetitive drum was a great counterpoint to the mechanical staccato of the trem. Throw in reading of Lovecroft at the time, mix well with straight 8ths on the bass, and et voila, we have G.E.O.f.F. Don’t ask about the title, that will go to our graves.

8. Fear:

“We’re the crawling silence, we’re the shadowed realms”: Fear dials back the gain, and sidles into a simpler time, one before most things were explained away by science, when one had to live in one’s mind; and the simple, haunting truth that one’s mind is their greatest asset, but also their worst fear. The fear of the unknown.

This song was written in our more traditional manner, Pauline and myself in a room, jamming around an idea, eventually the parts all fell into place. Originally the opening crash was played on a vintage swish-knocker cymbal with mallets, but Pauline then got a Feng Gong, and well, you can’t compare the sound of the two. Also with us being a duo, the gong has its own space on the stage and is an important part of our live setup.

9. The Desert Song:

“Forced to crawl,like the worms of the earth”: All is dead. All is dust. The battles have been fought, the world razed, all that is left is the broken corpse of what was before. The world will end in fire and this will be the soundtrack of what comes after. Imagine, if you will, a lone wanderer in a dust choked wasteland, forever moving, unable to stay anywhere for too long and in this you have the desert song. From the mournful and desolate opening guitar, to the storm of chaos at the end out of which rises a survivor, a lilting, hopeful refrain, all is dead, but all is not lost.

The desert song was the most challenging to record, we had it mostly figured out in the band room, however we only have so many arms so a lot of the ambient and percussive pieces were finally put together in the studio. We’d thrown them around in the band room, but this was truly the first time we’d actually heard the song as a whole. Now we need to get extra arms grafted :)

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