Gwynplaine de Pétroleuse
An absolute horror show of an album, Contact is full of sharp and painful noises, heavy Industrial banging percussion, and ear splitting shrieks and screaming. The atmosphere that Pharmakon creates is just absolutely unsettling and outright frighting at times. A true spectacle of raw energy, power and talent.
Favorite track: Sleepwalking Form.
The release date of Contact marks the ten-year anniversary of Margaret Chardiet’s project, Pharmakon. While working on her newest release, she began to evaluate the project as a whole. Though the content of each record has been very different and specific, the pervading question, which has underlined them all, is what is means to be human. Her last album, Bestial Burden, focused on the disconnect between mind and body, looking at the human as an isolated consciousness stuck inside of a rotting vessel. For Contact, she wanted to look at the other side of the spectrum – the moments when our mind can come outside of and transcend our bodies.
Because an album is itself an object, she struggled with how to convey the transcendence of the physical, through a physical medium. She started to study trance states and equate her live performances to them. In trance states, music and the body are used to transcend the physical form and make contact with some outside force. In the live setting, she used sound and her body to create an exchange of energy and make contact with outside forces - humanity, empathy, the audience. This energy/empathy exchange has always been at the heart of a Pharmakon performance, but she felt that on records, it wasn’t translating. They were one-sided and flat – declarations rather than conversations. She decided to structure the compositions of each side of Contact after the four stages of trance: preparation, onset, climax, and resolution. By using these stages as a biorhythm for the album, she animates it, and instills the intention of communion into the music.
Man is a rabid dog, straining at its leash of mortality with bared teeth. Snarling and clawing over each other, we aim to reach a higher ground to claim as our own. There are those who will attempt to exert power over others to attain it. They will sniff you out; lay claim over your body, your actions, your thoughts, your time. (How starkly human, so desperate for the sense of vantage over all versions of its own reflection!) Their aims are empty, because their power is a construct they created and gave back to themselves. They too are small and inconsequential. All people are only human and humans are only animals. The nature of existence and our sentience is chance, owing nothing to anything. Humankind is of no special significance to the universe. (Despite all our scrambling rejections, we cannot transcend all of our instincts — just animals, lost in a confused dream, where mankind is real and at the center of everything). We are each nothing but a single, short-lived cell in a vast organism which itself will one day die. If we accept that the only true claim sentience gives us is our tiny sliver of time, it opens us to revel in it, to make CONTACT. When we pick up on transmissions between the private rooms inside our heads and the flesh of our vessels, when thought escapes its isolation and is seen, heard and understood. When our mind uses the body in order to transcend and escape it! The moments of connection/communion/CONTACT, when the veil is for a brief but glorious moment lifted, and we are free. Empathy! EMPATHY, NOW!
Margaret Chardiet was born and raised in New York City. As a founding member of the Red Light District collective in Far Rockaway, NY she has been a figurehead in the underground experimental scene since the age of seventeen.