For Oliver Jack and Tom Lenton, the devil really is in every detail of their jarring and evocative and debut album ‘Morning Pageants’. Inspired by a line in Wallace Stevens’ poem ‘Esthétique du Mal’ – “The death of Satan was a tragedy for the imagination” – they trace the history of the horned fella across ten sprawling tracks, exploring how his demise can help us to understand the world and our place within it. Not one for the faint of heart.
Jack and Lenton built the album layer by layer using analogue methods of self-sampling and tape degradation. Their technical precision and clever manipulations heighten the chaos and intensity felt throughout. Lacing IDM and ambient sounds with soothing alt-folk vocals and ethereal strings, they have created a vast and vivid aural landscape that perfectly captures this dark, yet utterly hypnotic tale.
Satanic intervention in the medieval world is examined in the album’s first half, adopting ambient sounds and low, humming percussion to conjure darkness and decay. Dread is palpable on tracks like ‘290 Recto’ and ‘Narrowing’, intensified by the wailing, industrial synths and crushing guitar on climactic tracks ‘Darkening’ and ‘Wildering’.
The second traces the Devil from 16th Century France to 1980s America, where his image is comically accused of being used in Saturday morning cartoons to turn children against God in closing track ‘Television’. Sonically, the fog lifts slightly, and light peers through – tracks flow into one another with a jarring fluidity and it becomes clear that, regardless of historic or religious context, Satan retains a powerful presence in our imagination, and one that can both inspire fear and offer direction.
Even the artwork plays a part. Designed by Jack, it is based on a series of 16th Century prints by Hans Holbein, and depicts Satan being led towards his death. Printed on Nepalese Lokta paper, a material commonly used for sacred texts, it embodies the duo’s fascination with Satan and the permeating effect his demise has had throughout history.
No stone is left unturned by the duo and it shows. ‘Morning Pageants’ is a thought-provoking and totally unique body of work, one that will likely continue to inspire and confound as much as its subject. The devil works hard, but Delmer Darion work harder.
- Release date: October 16
- Record label: Practise Music