Abandon Your Burden: Pharmakon Debuts A New Track

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Vulnerability is a word often associated with 23 year old Brooklyn noise artist Pharmakon, really Margaret Chardiet.

Pharmakon’s excellent 2013 release Abandon caught me by surprise. Abandon is a blend of industrial noise and power electronics that is very immediate, but at the same time strangely listenable. That album put her on the map for many; it received accolades on prominent music sites and earned Pharmakon a spot opening for Swans on their European tour this fall. I really, really, really hope that tour makes it stateside at some point. I voraciously read everything I could about Abandon. She said Abandon was about “Loss. Losing everything. Relinquishing control. Complete psychic abandon. Blind leaps of faith into the fire, walking out unscathed. Crawling out of the pit.” Check out “Crawling On Bruised Knees”, the last track from Abandon sans the 27 minute bonus track “Sour Sap”.

Pharmakon turned up the intensity for her new single “Body Betrays Itself”, the third track from her forthcoming album, Bestial Burden. She said this album was inspired by a health emergency and a new perspective she gained from that crisis. With track titles like “Body Betrays Itself”, “Primitive Struggle”, and “Autoimmune”, these songs would be right at home alongside a collection of David Cronenberg films, and the music in this track fits the description. “Body Betrays Itself” picks up right where Abandon left off. It opens with a low end, wobbly bass, crawling synths, and a steady drum beat that keeps time for the first three plus minutes of this track. An electronic element is added that sounds almost human, then Pharmakon makes her presence known vocally; beginning as a distant, distorted groan before she eventually unleashes an inhuman shriek. This is all in the first fifty seconds of the song. The song repeats, sounding somewhat tribal, but builds and becomes more distorted while the screams at the end of each movement feel more drawn out. The music here is calculated and chilly, like hostile miniature robots inhabiting your bloodstream. The whole thing finally dissolves into loudening feedback halfway past the three minute mark.

This is not easy music to digest by any means. However, as mentioned, it can be strangely listenable and quite accessible compared to other artists under this sub-umbrella. If you have even a passing interest in power electronics, harsh noise, industrial music, or a host of similar genres, allow Pharmakon to be your training wheels.

Is Pharmakon’s rising profile indicative of some shift in public consciousness?

Preview Pharmakon’s new track here. Bestial Burden is due out 10/14/14 on Sacred Bones Records. Get excited. Give up control.

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  • Dang! This is angry as all hell!

    • Edward Meehan

      I would love to see her play live I have heard / read that the shows are super intense.

    • Christian Molenaar
      • Perkele

        Instant like for Whitehouse!

      • Edward Meehan

        Toilet Ov Pwver Electronics

        • Christian Molenaar

          F’real though, Pharmakon’s alright but it’s like saying The Doors are your favorite band or Hendrix is your favorite guitarist or Pac’s your favorite rapper. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just that there’s SO MUCH other stuff out there that is (in my eyes at least) way better.

          • Well. There’s a big problem there. The Doors are terrible. Surely they’re no ones favorite band.

          • Christian Molenaar

            You’ve clearly never met a stoned high school student.

          • They’re not real people yet.

          • Edward Meehan

            Bob Marley, brah.

          • JWG

            …House of Marley does make some pretty decent headphones and earbuds, though.

          • Edward Meehan

            … decent headphone and earbud music?

          • JWG

            Well. They’re great products only in the sense of durability compared to the usual market. Audio quality is not really different from other devices of that type, despite “better quality” occasionally being inserted into their marketing.

            I don’t think it’s possible to make headphones that don’t diminish the sound quality of a recording.

            Though it’s my thought that if one starts start from MP3/iTunes AAC it’s already poor by comparison to any physical media, so that shopper might as well leave ‘audio quality’ off their list of criteria for headphones. Hence, HoM make pretty good earbuds. Durable. Decent style. Earth-friendly.

            I’m going to stop before I come off too much like an adbot…

          • Edward Meehan

            I didn’t realize House of Marley was even a thing, let alone a company that produced headphones hence my confusion lol. I almost always listen to music in headphones (Skullcandy, but cheap ones I got from Target, they sound pretty good) or in my car. I have a nice home stereo, an iHome, it sounds sweet, but I rarely get to blast it out anymore cause of thin walls in my condo and a roommate that works graveyard shifts. I always thought being an audiophile would be tight though, I just haven’t actively pursued it, yet.

          • we may have already been best friends, but now we’re better than best friends.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            I wouldn’t call The Doors a general favourite of mine but I much prefer them to basically any other of the key classic rock acts. Despite all the druggy adolescent cod shamanic noodly bollocks I reckon they mustered some pretty evocative weirdness at times (like Riders on the Storm), plus consistently quality tunes. And they never give me a strong urge to take a nap like the Rolling Stones or Zeppelin or whoever.

          • Edward Meehan

            I also enjoy some material from The Doors. People Are Strange is my jam.

          • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

            It’s awesome because its true.

          • Scrimm

            So happy I’m not the only one that hates The Doors

          • Xan

            They’re not even in my top 100 but I like them. I’m not hard to please musically. Except thrash metal. I’m an elitist about what I listen to in that genre.

          • Edward Meehan

            The Doors aren’t in your top 100? I dunno what is in my top 100, that would be super hard to figure out lol

          • Xan

            Yeah. I haven’t listened to a whole bunch of them. I have 700-something bands in my collection. I own a lot of good music. I don’t think I actually own anything by The Doors.

          • Edward Meehan

            Lol, Christian, tons of people think Pac is still the best rapper but he isn’t my favorite (El-P probably still is). Pharmakon is tight, and, I mentioned at the end of this article it’s a good entry point for this sort of thing. Play some Pharmakon and then play some Sutcliffe Jugend. I thought about undertaking a massive ToH assignment to listen to and write about all of the works of Dominick Fernow. I dunno if that would generate much interest but it would be fun plus an exhaustive assignment, would probably keep me busy for months!

          • Christian Molenaar

            Those people make me sad. If you wanna hear power electronics just listen to SJ’s We Spit on their Graves or When Pornography is No Longer enough or The Victim as Beauty and be done with it! Also, Fernow shreds everything. Would be down to read or even contribute if desired.

          • Edward Meehan

            Ha! I have listened to When Pornography Is Not Enough (cause of the homey Max) and I listened to We Spit On Their Graves, or at least part of it, cause of that group you added me into on FB. I should check out The Victim As Beauty. We should keep this ridiculous Fernow project in our minds and revisit it soon, honestly it would be fun and I don’t know a ton about the dude’s music so it would be a learning experience.

          • Christian Molenaar

            @Tyree :disqus and I are going to attempt to review every Agathocles album, which at my last count is almost 300 releases. If we split it up into 5 segments it would still be like, 57 albums per post, haha.

          • Tyree

            It’s going to be a challenge. But a fun one.

          • Edward Meehan

            Christian by the way who is Agathocles?

          • Perkele
          • Edward Meehan

            By the gods I will check this out after work today.

          • Perkele

            Plz do.

          • Edward Meehan

            Playing some of this now MA… you’ll always be MA to me. Lol.

          • Metaphysical Anus

            I’m changing back. I don’t like being this thing. It was an experiment

          • Max

            What, because of me? Wow, I’m flattered if that’s true!

            In return, I have to listen to something you recommend. Anything.

          • Edward Meehan

            It absolutely is true, I listened to it late as hell one night and we chatted about it a bit. I was posting and starting writing articles on here under the name ‘Negrodamus’, I switched up the real me cause I kept writing articles for this site. You mentioned checking out The Sun Through A Telescope around that time, granted it was a couple of months ago, hell I’m not exactly sure when but that sounds about right. If I get another recommendation, have you heard Prurient’s Bermuda Drain? I’m not an expert on it but it happens I am listening to it right now and it’s pretty tight and pretty frickin’ weird lol.

          • Max

            Aha! The plot thickens; I didn’t realize you were the mighty Negrodamus in disguise! Yes, we did discuss Jugend, and I remember you did name-check me in your TSTaT write-up.

            Okay, well aside from the fact that I still have to listen to Pharmakon, which I will do right now, I shall certainly also give Prurient a go soon!

          • Max

            Update: I’ve now listened to Bermuda Drain at least three times. There’s some great stuff on it; the power electronics/’80s electro crossover sound is a good one. I particularly like “Palm Tree Corpse” and “There Are Still Secrets”. It’s funny how such off-beat music can actually be “easy listening”, but it really is. Thanks for the recommendation!

          • Edward Meehan

            Sure, happy to do it. I was wondering and I will probably attempt to confirm this at some point, but my suspicion is that when Prurient started doing dance music many of his fans or many people in that scene started hating his music lol, like what has happened so often in heavy metal.

            If you have any other recommendation for me I would gladly check it out provided I can listen to it on one of the regular channels. I am playing a Prurient / Kevin Drumm split right now that is pretty interesting from 2008.

          • Perkele

            Mikko Aspa has a nice side project as well.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iuq46_ElL60

          • Edward Meehan

            If I did one a week it would actually probably take more than a year.

      • This is why no one likes you, Christian.

        • Perkele

          I like him. Don’t put words in my mouth!

        • Christian Molenaar

          I’m pretty sure it’s illegal for me to see someone mention a band without listing a million other projects that did the same thing decades before. Anyway, Pharmakon is totally peaceful by most PE standards. Remember this Swallowing Bile track?
          http://www.toiletovhell.com/the-newest-noise-vol-1/

          • Edward Meehan

            I remember that Swallowing Bile track I went down the rabbit hole that day and got a little creeped out by the things I was reading on his Bandcamp.

      • Bözlinger©

        Go back to “Finland”

  • Perkele

    This pretty good, man. But it ain’t Whitehouse.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Is it possible to love a song in under a second? Because I just did with that first track. That’s some supremely cool Author & Punisher-type stuff.

    • Edward Meehan

      I loved Gorguts “An Ocean Of Wisdom” in about one second so I do believe it is possible.

      • What did u think of that Essence of Datum?

        • Edward Meehan

          Is that the instrumental track I played last night? I enjoyed it. I thought they were excellent musicians but / and I would have likely preferred something with vocals and arranged to suit vocals.

          • Yea that was it. They would be better with vocals but I feel they are also good without them. Something most instrumental bands fail to pull off.

  • Hey, I wasn’t expecting to like this!

    • Edward Meehan

      Ha! That’s the weird thing. It’s pretty likable.

  • Guacamole Jim

    This is awesome. How have I not heard of her before??

    • Edward Meehan

      Guac she has released some local stuff on cassette and CD-R but I am under the impression that the first album of her’s that got any real attention outside of her scene was last year’s Abandon. It was, however, picked up by prominent (and often hated, at least around these parts) music sites like Pitchfork, Noisey, etc that sort of thing. I should note that I have not heard any of those previous releases only read about their existence.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Oh that makes sense. Thanks for the article! I was overdue for a noise music kick… time to make my roommates hate me.

  • Tyree

    When her vocals came in I feared for my life. This gave me shivers. Awesome find Edward!

    • Edward Meehan

      If I can find any piece of music that scares or intimidates you Tyree, I know I have done my part. She does have a hell of a voice.

      • Tyree

        I tried to find her on bandcamp but came up short. Shakes fist at clouds!

        • Edward Meehan

          That’s interesting, cause she used to be on Bandcamp by the gods but I think they took that down. She is on Spotify though, and her label promotes her stuff on Soundcloud. Between Abandon and now she also did a cool cover of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).

          • Tyree

            I keep forgetting that I have Spotify now. Lol

          • I think I have Spotify premium?

          • Edward Meehan

            I have Spotify Premium. $10 a month, I love it.

  • Tyree

    Pharmakon is also a sludge band from my hometown in Binghamton, New York.
    https://thesemachinesny.bandcamp.com/album/pharmakon

  • Randall Thor

    I heard something.

  • Howard Dean

    I hate to be the guy to bring this age-old question up, but I think it needs to be asked, and this is the perfect place to do it: Would she be receiving this much attention (as well as the much coveted spot opening for Swans) if she weren’t a (relatively) attractive female in a genre dominated by males, and instead was a random guy that looked like this?

    http://www.planetcalypsoforum.com/gallery/files/2/7/5/neckbeard.jpg

    • Doubtful.

    • Christian Molenaar

      Definitely not. But that’s Pitchfork for you…

      • Edward Meehan

        Not just Pitchfork, “sex sells” in all businesses, markets, and industries, ever.

    • Edward Meehan

      HD I agree with MLSD 100%, Christian and I have actually talked about this before.

    • would The Oath (RIP) have any fans if it wasn’t fronted by two attractive females?
      (later tonight we’ll get some pics from Conan)

    • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

      bro wtf you stealing my pics from Tinder for?

      • Howard Dean

        Hahaha. I googled “hipster neckbeard” and got that as a result. I had a moment of pause where I was like, “what if this is someone on the ToH?”

    • JWG

      The problem with being ‘that guy’ (I was) is that if you get too wrapped up in it (I did), you can genuinely miss some legitimate talent (or at least a good time assuming you also shut down your inner hypercritic) that has little to do with the fact that the person front and center on stage just happens to have lady-parts.

      • Howard Dean

        I’m not that well versed in noise or power electronics, and knowing that a few others on here are (and seeing how a few of those well versed in these areas basically said this band isn’t really all that special), I figured it was a question that needed to be asked. If her band really isn’t anything special in the realm of power electronics, why is she touring with Swans? How come Mikko Aspa, an accomplished and well regarded musician in metal, noise, and power electronics, isn’t touring with Swans? We see it a lot in all genres of music. It is very relevant. If a band/musician is good, I will give them my attention. I will not support or vouch for a band that isn’t good just because they’re fronted by a woman. Perfect example: Cerebral Bore. Everyone was all over this band a few years ago, claiming they were the next best and biggest thing in brutal death metal. But they sucked. It didn’t matter that they had a female vocalist. They just were not interesting. They were a third rate brutal death metal band. They aren’t half the band that Deeds of Flesh is, yet they were darlings in nearly everyone’s eyes. It’s a relevant topic because it affects all bands and fans by extension.

        I’m not really a fan of this type of music (noise/power electronics), so I don’t feel I am missing anything.

        • Edward Meehan

          Tyree has found a number of female fronted grind bands lately that sound pretty solid. I doubt they’ve gotten any publicity, well scratch that I dunno Svffer might be kind of a thing, but he did say “hey check out these female fronted grind bands!” It was part of the reason I checked them out.

        • JWG

          I wouldn’t suggest it’s not a key factor in the overhype of some lady artists. And I’m not suggesting you or anyone else within proximity of this comment are guilty of making that assumption with plenty of reasoned justification. All evidence I’ve gathered so far indicates we’re all discerning listeners who can make up our own minds.

          I just get bothered by the tendency for anonymous keyboard warriors to assume that if the label (or whoever) is overzealously marketing the fact that there’s an attractive lady doing it/fronting it/singing it then it’s fair play to (a) write them off and (b) constantly insist that anyone else that found something to like about the band/artist must have done so because of the attractive female that just happens to be there doing her thing, whatever that might be.

    • Wizard Aura

      No.

    • Janitor Jim Duggan

      No. The only reason some bands receive attention is because there is an attractive female in the band such as Butcher Babies or In This Moment. The difference between In This Moment and The Pretty Reckless and most bands with attractive women in the band are they have actual talent and write good music. Butcher Babies and Halestorm are from the opposite end of that spectrum as they are only spoken of because there are attractive women in the band, not because of talent or good music. Sex sells in every industry because men like beautiful women. I think Taylor Momsen and Maria Brink are extremely attractive and I would spend a night with them in a heartbeat.

    • Max

      Maybe you’re right, but in this case I gotta say I don’t really see the issue. Power electronics is such a limited-appeal genre that even if she was a careerist trading upon the novelty of her gender, how far can she really benefit from it?

      A few support slots for more prestigious acts? Still only in small clubs, I’d wager. A record deal? Still only on an indie label pushing this kind of music. This is the sort of stuff you only get into because you enjoy doing it.

      The louder and less accessible any genre of music is, the more male-dominated it gets. So any woman who gets involved has got a point of difference just by showing up. You can’t blame female artists for following an interest; you can only blame audiences for paying attention based upon the differentiation. But all successful or noteworthy male artists have some sort of differentiation too; it just won’t be their gender.

      I suppose if we ever have a situation where a loud band with a female member achieves wild success and acclaim while managing to keep her gender under wraps until long after everybody’s formed an opinion and an artistic legacy has been built, we might finally get the definitive answer to this sort of issue.

      In the meantime, though not a PE expert myself, I thought Pharmakon was pretty good. I’d go see her.

      • Christian Molenaar

        I don’t think he’s saying she’s a careerist or in it for the money because, of course, there is none. I think what he means is that there is a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding her (probably more than any other power electronics act ever) and yet the music isn’t anything fantastic or even noteworthy.

        • Edward Meehan

          I think all the stuff we have talked about it true, she’s a good looking lady, Pitchfork / Noisey hype, etc. but it’s not all bad. It’s the same argument I would make about converting people to metal by listening to Heafdeaven (who I don’t hate at all). If someone listens to Heafdeaven and that gets them to listen to Deathspell Omega at some point, then it was probably good. If someone listens to Pharmakon and that turns them on to more legitimate noise / power electronics whatever, then it is probably good.

    • I don’t know much about the genre myself, but I clicked play and enjoyed what I heard, not even realizing that she looked relatively smashable (by that I mean, she’s tiny, has pretty hair, and no visible disfigurement; you can’t really tell how attractive she may or may not be) in the picture in this article. When the first song was over, I was more encouraged to click play on the next than to open up a new tab and search for her on google images. IDK, maybe that’s just me.

      Like, boobies are awesome, but they’re not the focus 100% of the time.

      Attractiveness is a double-edged sword for a lot of women. Either they are pretty and no one takes anything they put forth seriously, or they’re unnatrractive and everyone basically says that she’s not worth their time because she’s so physically unappealing that it doesn’t matter what she has to contribute.

  • Tyree

    I know I’ve been sharing this a lot but this is one of my favorite noise/electronic albums currently. Mories from Gnaw Their Tongues can do no wrong it seems

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QryKtaERXDI

    • Edward Meehan

      Tyree the dude from Gnaw Their Tongues / Cloak Of Avenging / etc a million other projects (where is Christian at? Lol) is a dude, like Throatruiner Records and many other things, where I have been meaning to check out everything like the whole back catalog.

  • Gorgasm

    One of my favorite of recent dark electronic stuff.

    http://youtu.be/jjlBOPLWZyw

    • Edward Meehan

      I have only listened to a little bit of Author & Punisher. I think it’s cool as shit though that he designs and builds his “instruments” himself.

    • Guest
      • Guacamole Jim

        THAT was a failed attempt.

        It was me, btw.

  • Gorgasm
  • CÖÄL RÖLL FRÖM THE TÖILET BÖWL

    FEELIN THE LOVE FOR THE LADIES BROS!!!!!!!!

  • I think I like this, but I don’t know why I like this?

    • Edward Meehan

      It’s probably the screaming.

  • Wizard Aura

    Sacred Bones is an awesome label in general.

    • Edward Meehan

      I’d like to check out some more stuff on there. Do you have anything you would strongly recommend?

      • Wizard Aura

        I was pretty into that Amen Dunes record “Through Donkey Jaw” for a while, Moon Duo is legit (although honestly I prefer Wooden Shijps), and also Holydrug Couple’s “Noctuary” is awesome. I guess the newest Marissa Nadler is good too and also was produced by Randall Dunn, so that is of note to metallers…

        • Edward Meehan

          Moon Duo is dark folky jams?

          What kind of music are Holydrug Couple?

          I have heard of but heard little of Wooden Shijps that’s why I ask.

          • Wizard Aura

            Moon Duo is like minimal krauty jams, but the same dude plays the guitar and sings in Moon Duo and Wooden Shijps.

            Holydrug Couple are from Chile and kinda sound like a super chill and more spaced out Tame Impala.

  • W.

    Good post, E. Also, I dug that Pharmakon album, as you know.

    • Edward Meehan

      Thanks W.

      I did, we have had that discussion, lol. Did you check out her new track?

      I have the evening relatively free so later I want to try to brainstorm something the kids might like.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Never been a fan of noise rock. It really irritates my ears and give me headaches.

    • Edward Meehan

      I can respect that. This isn’t actually noise rock, it’s just noise, so it would likely cause you more pain and give you a bigger headache.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        That’s even worse. I’ve tried listening to noise music and it gives me killer headaches. The only thing that hurts my head worse than noise music is alternative crap because it usually sounds so bad that I cannot enjoy it or even stand to listen to it. Saliva and other bands of their ilk basically kill my head and put me in a very bad mood for the rest of that day because of how bad they sound.

  • Crawling on Bruised Knees is what your hear as you’re splashing through the mud of an abandoned pig farm with a psychopath at your back, calmly trudging behind you in waders and a dirty apron, assured in the knowledge that you will not escape, that you’re only prolonging your own demise.