It is often said that variety is the spice of life, and experimentation is often the means by which artists allow that variety to manifest itself. Scott Kelly is no stranger to experimentation, as Mirrors For Psychic Warfare is just one of many side projects that have burst out from the implosion of creativity that underpins Neurosis over the past few years. Two years on from the debut self-titled release that soared at times and lurched at others, I See What I Became (Neurot) is another step down the unnerving, anxiety-ridden path its predecessor alluded to but never fully realized.
Those who were expecting just more Neurosis from Mirrors For Psychic Warfare initially may have been left cold by the debut, as its over-reliance on building a tense and brooding atmosphere never evolved much past that. That’s still very much a factor on I See What I Became, as the rhythmic, machine-like ‘Animal Coffins’ kick-starts the record and we feel like we’ve been down this road before, but the focus this time around feels more like a personal attack to make the listener feel as uncomfortable as possible, rather than simply building tension with little to no pay off.
Scott Kelly’s daunting vocals ghost through the record as if they’re coming from inside your own head rather than your speakers, and the repetitive beats on ‘Tomb Puncher’ and ‘Flat Rats in the Alley’ do well to add to the claustrophobic environment the record is building to. It’s as if the walls are slowly closing in to smother you in a room you can’t escape from, until the painfully drawn-out process becomes almost too much and you start to wonder if the inevitably messy end would be a kinder punishment.
The record continues its unsettling nature when ‘Crooked Teeth’ opens with some rhythmic chimes that ring out, cold and unfeeling like the noise you really didn’t want to hear at 3 am the last time you were alone in the house. The tribal beats that follow only add to the creepy nature of the track before it starts to jerk around and crank the fuzz all the way up for some of the most oppressive noise committed to tape this year. It’s unpleasant and comes seemingly out of nowhere, taking a sledgehammer to the pacing and subtlety, but it’s deliberate so it’s not really a negative. It’s the horror movie argument; is it doing its job right if it purposefully disturbs you? That’s for you to decide.
A side project is there to flesh out ideas the artist can’t or won’t explore in their “day job”, and experimentation often means missteps or failure. I See What You Became builds on the ideas from the self-titled, perhaps not far enough as ‘Crooked Teeth’ almost rips off ‘Thing of Knives’ with its destructive attitude towards pacing, but for sheer ugly oppressiveness thanks to murky synths and chilling vocals, it’s an experiment worth exploring further.