Apr 2023 07

Album CoverDivingstation95
Album: The Death of Sporus (Part One)
Category: Progressive / Experimental / Post-Industrial
Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2023-03-19
Author: Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)


One should not expect an album whose central themes revolve around sexual violence to be an easy listen. Such is the case with this latest album from Memphis based artist Divingstation95, whose title addresses the historical figure of Sporus – a young boy who was castrated and forced to live as the wife of Emperor Nero, treated as an object of derision by subsequent emperors, only to die by suicide to escape a life of continuous humiliation and degradation. It’s a sad enough story to serve as the basis of a concept album, but Divingstation95 infuses the album with additional contemporary references, such as murdered math teacher Colleen Ritzer and Geneva Ayala, who had allegedly been beaten while pregnant by a famous rapper boyfriend. The frequency with which such incidents occur throughout history is certainly disheartening and lends to the air of despondency that permeates through the disquieting lyrics and dialogue samples of The Death of Sporus (Part One); as stated, it’s not an easy listening, nor should it be.

Musically, Divingstation95 concocts a curious amalgam of styles that can only be described as experimental… a term that seems hardly satisfactory. For instance, the title track begins with martial drumming and squelching static noises underscoring throbbing bass, shifting into a perplexingly lithe but disturbing lullaby of chiming synths and light beats, finally returning to the beginning motif to gain in noisy intensity before dissipating into nothingness. Others like “And Where Do You Think You’re Going?,” and “Brokencoathanger” (just try to process the meaning behind that title), and the “Concubine” triptych continue in a similar melding of post-industrial instrumentation with lushly symphonic arrangements. The metallic beats and processional organs of “For Colleen Ritzer” somehow recall Wendy Carlos’ synthesized rendition of Purcell’s “Music For the Funeral of Queen Mary,” famously featured in A Clockwork Orange, while the psychedelic shoegazing of “Mailbox” feels like something out of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks; these cinematic juxtapositions are perhaps no accident given the prevalent themes of sexual violence within those works.

Distorted guitars and haunted keyboard layers coalesce into a disharmonious, almost gothic atmosphere that might seem campy without the record’s context, which may perhaps limit its impact on those simply disinterested in a deeper dive… but then, that’s part of the social and cultural critique at the heart of The Death of Sporus (Part One). Once again, the use of sampled dialogue – perhaps created specifically for the album – adds to this, examining the degrees to which humanity has simply tolerated such cruelty. Statements like “There is nothing we can do for you” in the “Impatient, Inpatient” interlude, to the automated true/false test that eerily adorns “Divingstation25,” to “We are halfway… do you want to stop?” concluding the album resound with an abhorrent resignation. The musical and sonic explorations rampant on The Death of Sporus (Part One) may perhaps be too esoteric for even the most ardent fan of progressive styles, while the harrowing subject matter might be perceived as too repellant to have the adequate effect. Sometimes, the truth does hurt.
Track list:

  1. An Incredible Void
  2. The Death of Sporus
  3. Every Goddamn Night
  4. Impatient, Inpatient
  5. And Where Do You Think You’re Going?
  6. Sunlight Like a Hail of Bullets
  7. Mailbox
  8. For Colleen Ritzer
  9. Brokencoathanger
  10. Concubine (I and II)
  11. Concubine (III)
  12. Divingstation25
  13. Intermission A (Thank You Shannon)

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