Human Greed - World FairHuman Greed, featuring the duo of Michael Begg and Deryk Thomas, return with World Fair which represents another bold step in their sound evolution. Earlier releases focussed on electronic and experimental sound composition, it wasn't really until Black Hill: Midnight At The Blighted Star and subsequently Fortress Longing where they began to include orchestration to provide shade to the bleak ambient compositions. Despite its 15 tracks World Fair plays out as one seamless track entwining ambient drift with orchestral flourishes, field recordings and sound treatments. The last couple of Human Greed releases, including a soundtrack to a Russian theatre/circus performance, have been solely composed by Michael Begg, but World Fair employs a broader line-up, assembling a cast including vocalists Chris Connelly (Ministry, Revolting Cocks), Nicole M. Boitos (artist, and cover artist for Fortress Longing), Sophie Bancroft (Scottish jazz singer), Sukie Smith (Madam), guitarist Steven R. Smith (Ulaan Khol) with Colin Potter returning to handle sound treatments. What's most apparent about World Fair is in the greater use of voice - putting aside the Omega: OST, the last Human Greed release Dirt On Earth was solely instrumental. Sure spoken word played a pivotal role in previous releases such as Fortress Longing and Black Hill: Midnight At The Blighted Star but this is stretched on World Fair to the point that spoken word sits besides arrangements for voices, as well as a reading of a well known traditional folk song. That's right World Fair even features songs, well at least one. There are even some small ensemble pieces as well as layered treatments of recordings of church interiors. Fortress Longing was a deeply affecting release, and World Fair is arguably even better. World Fair is a devastatingly beautiful release from a much under-appreciated group.
There is a loose narrative to World Fair, centring around a 16th century string quartet transported to the 20th century where they are ensconced in the upper floors of NY's Chrysler Building; where their faith is turned from God to science resulting in compositions devoted to entropy and the second law of thermodynamics. It is this consumption of energy that will culminate in "heat death" and the eventual destruction of the universe that inhabits the melancholic and morbid mood, that on World Fair Human Greed make so rich and varied.
The haunted atmospherics of the opener 'Invocation' rush through a passage of animal snarls, heightened voices, creaking, and distorted bleeps and electronic tones fading out into distant harmonics that drift into the orchestral tones of 'World Fair' where solemn strings are played against a brooding cello, with glistening electronic flourishes. Here the sound of World Fair is cinematic and sorrow ridden, the treatments seemingly transporting the listener back into times past. That flitting between the present and the past, is best illustrated by 'From Olden Disks' where creeping dark chords and strings lead into the voice of an old American timer reflecting on finding peace. Bells signal the passage of time as fragmented notes dance around a piano.
The first vocals on World Fair though are found on 'Waiting In A Car' where Nicole Boitos (who also appears on Fortress Longing) intones poetic words riddled with references to nature and the passing of time over chiming keyboard notes and subtle bell play. "I believe in heat death. I believe in counting stars, entropy, and lies. We aim so high", further cementing the inevitable outcome for human kind in the lines we are "No longer immortal". Somewhere amongst her soft American accented tones you'll find the meaning of the album, in lines that are continually referenced and reprised in subsequent tracks.
Human Greed's increased use of voices on World Fair is best represented by 'A New Bed', where a collection of voices including a child, a soprano and male, are mixed with a massed chorus accompaniment. Reprising lyrics from 'Waiting In A Car', the collage of voices sing, speak and chant over mournfully played cello and strings. The following 'Entropy Suite' swells from treated church organ drone into the hymnlike voice of Michael Begg, backed by violin, before the pure voice of Sophie Bancroft takes over, surrounded at times by violin and cello, and through passages of floating atmospheric synths. Chris Connelly features on 'Black Is The Colour, the first of two airings of traditional songs Human Greed include on World Fair. Normally performed in an acoustic setting, here his wavering warm tones bask over lilting synths and strings. In a Human Greed album carrying more vocal arrangements in the composition than before it's perhaps surprising to find the traditional Georgian chant 'Jvarsa Shensa' usually intended for massed voice reduced to cello, violin, viola and strings. Even without the expected chants, the Human Greed instrumental more than captures the devotional air that runs throughout World Fair.
Things gets more abstract on second half of World Fair. Utilising multi-layered treatments of a cathedral organ, the electronic and orchestral combine to great effect on the instrumental 'Lux'; draping serene strings over gloomy synth drones in awed anticipation of the impending bleak, desolate fate inferred by the following 'Heat Death Prelude'. From a series of whirring glacial tones springs an elongated angelic, string led drones punctuated by tolling bells, piercing screams which slip seamlessly into the drone of 'Chrysler' and the distorted scorched earth guitar twang of Steven R. Smith; the atmospheric drift builds into something momentous and powerful the tornado effected finale rejoicing in a windswept and desert stormed climax. It's the storm before the calm, replaced by the brief 'Finally, The Night Has Come' performed as a lament cut down to the alluring female voice of Sophie Bancroft backed by sorrow filled strings.
The final section veers from the rickety assemblage of bells and chimes of 'Fire' to the whooshing sounds of hailstorm on a tin roof of 'Heat Death', and the multi-layered voice of Sukie Smith as she sings "I believe in heat death" over fragmented piano notes and strings, as the closer, 'The Landscape' reverberates with turbulent field recordings.
In spite of its bleak hypothesis, World Fair centres around the present as much as the past. With tracks placed in the present that hark back to 16th century composition, on World Fair, Human Greed place themselves in a lineage, sweeping up traditional songs and present day field recordings, pushing vocalists such as Chris Connelly and Sophie Bancroft into new arenas. A devotional air, like previous Human Greed recordings, hangs over World Fair but on this one, drawing on small orchestral ensembles and the abiding drift and drone of Human Greed they have made the bleak and desolate sound alluring and inviting. And when entropy is dealt with as an end game, World Fair is doubly inviting. At the hands of Human Greed obliteration has never sounded so enticing. For more information go to Omnempathy