Lo-fi atmospherics is what we’re dealing with here, specifically those of photographer and musician Craig Taylor-Broad, who describes his music as “One guy, one bathroom, one mic, one take.”
The Noises We Make When No One Is Around is the moniker he has taken on in order to present these very noises to the world, and the four tracks on ‘The Black Box Contained Nothing But Our Deaths’ are every bit as bereft of warmth and light as one would expect from the description.
Taylor-Broad specialises in a kind of Gothic, claustrophobic folk music that adopts a glacial path, both in its tempo and in its isolating darkness. Playing Ghost deals with child abuse. A guitar leads in, joined by a high, airy vocal softly intoning “I can see you through the fabric”, and what at first seems a hymnal rendering turns to a sinister, childlike evocation of dread – “I can see that I’m not safe here”.
A simple four note guitar motif over the busy background thrum on Empty Houses continues the downbeat vein, and Three Years dispenses yet another eerie, ethereal vocal with a guitar that sounds like the uneven, metallic plunk of a music box being wound. From a throaty clicking comes a sudden screech, of vocal or scraped string, descending into a guttural gurgling to add to the funereal connotations of this dark, mourning lament.
The guitar becomes more prominent on Black Box, rising from a dense mass, but gradually becoming more of a scrape than a strum. A picked motif comes through with more clarity as the vocal leads the song, the organic voice tempering the urgency of the guitars beneath.
Atonal and dissonant effects abound on this release, with the thread of a high register, androgynous vocal binding the tracks. These are themes and bleak sounds culled from the dark recesses of the mind, an immersive gloom that calls to mind the singular ‘80s British horror film Paperhouse. Sonic variation between tracks is slight, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly an interesting trip into an opaque nightmare.