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“Ornamented Walls” by Vatican Shadow

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‘Ornamented Walls’ is the most intense, brutal and, in many senses, most substantial work from Dominick Fernow’s Vatican Shadow project yet. Released to coincide with his first tour of Europe, the album incorporates the live mix rehearsals of ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ with tracks made in their aftermath, recorded straight to tape and mastered by Matt Colton at Air Studios. Anyone familiar with Fernow’s live setup will recognise the distinct nature of this material – making use of stems and partial tracks separated into a cassette system which is then relayered and mixed, effected with electronic processing. In short – Fernow uses his tape machines like turntables in a mix, weaving a hazy and intuitive narrative of sounds that never quite head in the direction you expect, all imbued with an almost feral attitude that’s exhilarating to witness, their limitations (ever noticed how VS tracks end so abruptly? the tape ran out), and their mechanical machine qualities used to devastating effect. The inspiration for much of the sound here was partially inspired by a gift from a friend of Fernow’s who bought him a tape of Jordanian military music from his travels there. The voices and samples are directly from that tape – complete with military inscriptions in Arabic printed directly on the cassette which had a digital collage cover of Jordanian soldiers printed on color photocopy paper – looking pretty much exactly like the casette edition Fernow would go on to release. Side A features all three parts of ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ originally made available in a measly edition of 17 cassettes and sold at the first ever Vatican Shadow live show in L.A. back in May this year. Side B features an additional 25 minutes of previously unreleased work made in the aftermath of the show and using the same setup, including an astonishing revision of ‘Cairo Is A Haunted City’ dis-assembled and re-wired, lending it a shortwave quality that’s nothing short of revelatory. ‘Ornamented Walls’ is the fourth Vatican Shadow release to be made avilable on Vinyl, following on from releases for Blackest Ever Black, Type and his own Bed of Nails imprint.