There’s a moment in time, at a certain point and it doesn’t even matter where, when one starts to wonder: how big is this machine? Does it have thoughts of its own? Where does the medium start and the human mind end? But does it matter, after all? Author & Punisher is a true son of post-industrial America: one of those people who may end up living their entire lives without having to turn the handles of a proper mechanical apparatus, smell the iron, wonder why its aroma is so similar to that of human blood and confuse form with substance. Machines – greasy joints dripping oil as if it were sweat – belong to zoos together with those strange animals (cows, goats, donkeys, etc.) young kids rarely see.
Tristan Shone,the only human being behind Author & Punisher, is the demiurge who builds his own material universe: an engineer repairing expensive microscopes during the day and a creator at night.
If the previous album, Ursus Americanus was a compromise between doom and industrial, Women & Children simply ceases to be ‘between’ this and that to become ‘something else’. This something is probably closer to musique concrète than it is to industrial: Edgard Varèse, rather than Throbbing Gristle and Ministry.
It’s true, one can hear the influences of acts like Godflesh and Sunn O))), but these are altered beyond recognition: diluted, disjointed, drenched in drones, ultimately destroyed by a medium, the pure machine, whose original purpose was utilitarian and therefore light years from the realm of creativity. A sound that is ‘something else’ can be whatever it wants to be and, for this simple reason, a track like “Tame As A Lion” may somehow remind us of Ulver’s Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven & Hell minus the ambient feel but with the same elegant melodic patterns. Or Coil’s experiments with pop aesthetics in Horse Rotorvator. But does it matter?
Overall, this is an album which, especially compared to its predecessor, toys with down-tempo in a more sophisticated way by introducing more orthodox means of expression like the piano in the beautiful “Melee” or the synth in “Miles From Home”. It is undoubtedly a more organic and accessible record not only because Shone’s vocals are more present and less distorted, but because the sound of the machines has been perfected to such an extent that it is almost in-discernibly similar to what the average listener recognizes as industrial or even EBM. Being too good is not always a good thing.
Women & Children is an example of music without instruments, of rock without the blues, of electronic music in an analogic nightmare, of substance without form and of pure sounds in a spurious environment. The blood and the grease, the sweat and the lubricant. The soul in the machine.