[Reviewed by Damiano Lanzi]
Qual is the solo project of William Morris (aka William Maybelline) of post-punk duo Lebanon Hanover, where he sings and plays bass. Here Morris moves in even more gloomy territories than the minimal sound of his main project and delivers what he himself defines as “Vile visions, despaired in a frowning black tower of pain”. The formula that he chooses here is a vintage all-analog sound made of pounding drum machines and growling bass synths. You will detect dark-wave, EBM and industrial styles, all in an extremely depressive mood (it should be enough to mention titles as “Spit on Me” or “The Geometry of Wounds”). Obviously there’s nothing new to hear and “Sable” is a merely revivalistic operation, but the production is elegant and made with good taste. This record sounds pretty heavy and the mastering gives the right level of output that’s needed in tracks such as the oppressive industrial scenario of “Spit on Me” or the mechanical tour-de-force of “Benevolent Technologies”. The thing that at some points becomes hard to digest is when Morris’ voice indulges too much in the “80s baritone mode”, becoming at some point similar to Ian Curtis, Peter Murphy or the early Death In June. That’s what happens most of all in “Sable”, “Flay” and “Putrid Perfumes”. I think it’s evident that there is a huge amount of suffering that the author wants to communicate, in a somewhat therapeutic effort, and this surely gives strength to this album, but in my opinion the best results are obtained where he keeps his voice more natural and clean, without an excessive, inauthentic expressionism (“Benevolent Technologies”, “Luxurious Bleedings”). Besides that, I’ve listened to so many musicians that try to make a pale imitation of the dark-wave sound, totally misunderstanding it – often with pathetic results as it happened during the early 2000’s “post-punk revival” – to understand that Morris is not one of them. Also his precedent work with Lebanon Hanover shows that his interest in this obscure kind of music is firm and sincere. Here he has an occasion to also show in a more extended way his ability in sound synthesis, delivering some thrilling sounds. Just listen to the dirty analog organ of the opening track, the killer DAF-like bassline of “Flay”, the (indeed) geometric arpeggiators of “The Geometry of Wounds” or the sharp-edged sequencers in the frantic “Rip Doth Thy Scarlet Claws”. In the end “Sable” may be seen as a “best of” of all the styles mentioned before: if you don’t feel nostalgic or you’re not in the correct dismal mood, this stuff is probably not for you, but if you recognize the earnestness both in the sonic and thematic aspect of this record, you will surely appreciate it.