Trhä/Careus - Abcu (Self-released)

Trhä is a project with a daunting discography, yet remains consistently entertaining. After dropping the landmark “fairy punk” double LP Vat Gelevna! last year, Damián Antón Ojeda has shifted from releasing full-lengths to splits, collaborating with a diverse array of unconventionally raw musicians, from the black metal (BM) noise of Μ​ν​ή​μ​α to the sylvan dungeon synth (DS) of Acheulean Forests. This time, he seems to have found a kindred spirit in Victoria Carmilla Hazemaze, an artist whose project Careus also brims with twinkle and flair.

Trhä’s side of Abcu is perhaps his most exuberant music yet. The cheerful DS flourish of the self-titled opener breaks into a galloping BM section that strafes from traditionally vicious riffs to a chug that whiffs a little of nu metal’s pop sensibility. Every incarnation of Trhä is different, and here the project’s pre-existing tensions between aggression, obscure production, and earworm hooks are exaggerated yet reconciled. Rather than making lazily “kvlt” pop covers, Ojeda annexes playful melodies into his compositions like a vaporwave artist, enhancing the resulting nostalgic comfort with the borderline-blackgaze combination of sparkly synths and weighty distortion. It isn’t all sucrose hyper-activity—the introduction that opens the same track invokes the sullen swells of depressive BM sister-project Sadness. Sleights of hand like these keep things fresh, Ojeda keen to mutate and tweak the constitutive parts of his now well-oiled fantasy machine. 

Careus’ response tugs at a sentimental vein akin to Trhä’s more serious works. But this fellow fae is not simply a copycat; her approach dips into a subaqueous atmosphere that contrasts against Trhä’s lantern-lit forest. Cuts like “Melancholia” and “Aeternitas” lull listeners into a trance, Bríi-style, keyboards soaring above the soft thunder of her guitars as she ratchets up the synth-fantasy suspense and plunges into murkier waters. “Pulchra”, a totally disintegrated version of the Careus sound, inhabits a similarly disorienting space as Sunken Basilica, albeit less alienating and ornate. If Trhä utilizes DS and raw BM alongside each other, Hazemaze often blurs the distinction entirely, her vigorous riffs sparse and tempered by oceanic internment.

From their spectral residence in shimmering murk, this dynamic duo prove that lo-fi doesn’t mean low effort.