Michael Ferriss and Hedley Marks - Album Review: Interlude In The House Of Life
01 JUN 2020 // A REVIEW BY PETER-JAMES DRIES for MUSIC.NET.NZ
When released, Ghosts I – IV was one of the more obscure Nine Inch Nails releases in an expansive discography. Instrumental and cinematic, lacking the abrasive angst and grit of all that came before, it felt out of step compared to their previous releases. In retrospect, it was a step that marched Reznor towards his successful foray into film scoring.
To me, it felt like an album from a different band. It made me question if Shakespeare’s Romeo was correct in his affirmation that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If this wasn’t a Nine Inch Nails record, would I still enjoy it? Would it be received at all, let alone well-received? Would the Lil Nas X song Old Town Road still receive those Grammy’s without the sample from 34 Ghosts IV?
In lieu of a sojourn to a universe parallel, I’ve found a comparison in an album that is as obscure and esoteric as the artists behind it. And without the name of one of my beloved bands on the cover, I still enjoyed it, as much, if not more than Ghosts I - IV.
Suck it, Shakespeare.
While Ferriss and Marks have made their individual marks on the art scene, Ferriss with his sound project Shima and techno-futurist artworks, and Hedley as the videographer for Tides of Man’s New Futures, neither have made the same cultural impact outside their audience as thirteen time Grammy nominated Nine Inch Nails. Not yet at least.
The music of Ferriss and Marks is dark, pensive, and surreally psychedelic. In a near enough vein to Ghosts I – IV, Interlude In The House Of Life is an experimental mix of noise art and cinematic sound design. It’s like a soundtrack to life in 2020, isolated and almost devoid of evidence of human life, which anyone that looked away from the internet in April can relate to.
Unlike Ferriss’s Shima releases before this, where the music felt like a soundtrack to a space flight, Interlude In the House Of Life feels more grounded, or at least terrestrial. Like you’re walking an empty Cuba Street looking up at buildings, or flying a drone along the empty streets, as opposed to a stranded Major Tom compiling his taxonomy of celestial bodies as he drifts into infinity.
In lieu of vocalisation, a way to explicitly voice the tone and message of a song, drone music such as this uses a different neural pathway to convey mood and emotion, and illicit a response. The onus is on the listener to form their own story. As I listen to Interlude... I find myself remembering a book I was assigned for reading in primary school. It was a picture book, in which the reader was assigned to vocalise their own story to the scenes presented. One step above a Rorschach ink blot, really. Like an artificial intelligence describing the pandemic lockdown, the shifting synths of this album can’t tell you how it feels, but it can show you, and you can give it a story.
Perhaps I’m influenced by the album’s cover image (Richard Saul Wurman’s cartographic The City, Form and Intent) when I say in my story Interlude In The House Of Life feels like a bird’s eye view of a digital landscape; an aural map of Twitter, drone footage of Facebook, a lesson in geography via synaesthesia, a cheap Casio keyboard from the 80’s having an acid trip. It’s an amalgamation of technology and life, veering heavily towards technology, which is contrasted against the very human-feeling jam that forms the album’s hidden track.
Lockdown for some was an incubator for unbridled creativity. While I can’t claim the same, this is one example of the time used wisely. It is the product of circumstance, chance, and opportunity. Were there no pandemic, I would be in Japan right now, and perhaps Ferriss and Marks wouldn’t have used lockdown to sit down and put Interlude In The House Of Life together.
You can find Interlude In The House Of Life on Bandcamp. Five celestial bodies out of five.
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ ( 5 / 5 )