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Review: Rabit Finds the Beauty and Horror in Religious Ritual on ‘Communion’

8
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Label: Tri Angle

Since joining up with Tri Angle Records last year, Texas-based producer Eric Burton (who records as Rabit) has fixed his eyes on God. He called his first release  a short-form collection of alien boom-baps and rifle cracks  Baptizm and his debut full-length comes bearing the name Communion, both of which underscore a fascination with sacrament, ritual, and ceremony as a means of marking growth. In a recent interview with Dummy, Burton explained that he grew up in Catholic school, but said his main feelings associated with that period of his life — as a non-religious queer person — were of “fear and shame.”

There are heavy doses of both of those emotions across Communion (he says our culture is “driven by fear”), but it also has moments of overwhelming brightness and peace. It’s a beautiful chiaroscuro reflective of religion’s confusing dualities, both for those inside the tradition and those watching from afar.

This collection starts in the depths with “Advent.” In Catholicism, it’s a season of celebration, a period of triumph for a coming king. But Rabit’s subterranean kick drums and steel-wool-in-a-paper-shredder samples make up pitch-black cryptology reflective of his latent Aphex Twin obsessions, burdened of knowledge that even the hero of the season — that’s Jesus Christ, God’s son himself, for the uninitiated — will one day be executed. But these moments come with levity too; just when “Snow Leopard” settles into its mechanized funeral marches it’ll let loose a synth line that spills onto the bleak proceedings like sunlight through stained glass.

Communion’s compositions are, by and large, circular and unending. Droning vocals double back on themselves as a grid of gunshots and digitalist errata settle in around it. It’s these characteristics that have typically found Burton tagged as a sort of futurist grime producer, but these compositions feel far more devotional than such a banner suggests. Tracks like the chattering “Artemis,” the hallucinatory “Ox” and the inflammatory “Pandemic” build their tense energy out of the regularity of their purges. The latter track shudders into a particularly buzzy bedlam, cracks and fissures forming in stony samples as if ripped in two by pure Old Testament fury. There’s overwhelming anxiety and disorder, and then just when you can’t take it anymore, the clouds part, the track ends, a brief respite.

While he’s tugging at strings that have been otherwise picked up by the stable of Berlin’s PAN (M.E.S.H., Helm, and Visionist) or his Tri Angle labelmates past and present (Arca and Lotic), his extreme repetition of these familiar sounds pushes them euphoric (see: Deafheaven’s Sunbather, their 2013 collection of black metal revisions, for similarly ecstatic effect). Even in the midst of chaos and confusion, doing the same thing over and over starts to feel comforting, even if here — or say, at church every Sunday — it can look to outsiders like self-flagellation. Rinse, confess, repeat. Just like the almighty himself, Burton will never give you more than you can handle.

Tags: Rabit, Reviews