A Public Execution of False Morality, a recent full-length album from the Washington, D.C.-area ambient/ noise project Dead Flesh Nebula, feels immensely striking.
The record is like a soundtrack for a movie that doesn’t quite exist yet seems easily imaginable. The tracks outline an immersive journey into some kind of decrepit cityscape with few signs that anyone — or anything — is actively thriving in the area but plenty of markers that life once vibrantly filled the surroundings.
The project’s Bandcamp bio states that it was “conceived in desperate times,” and this feeling, in reference to the pandemic period in which creator N. Enet apparently began their work for this project, strikingly shines through in the music,.The songs capture a personal sense of something like resigned desperation while squaring off against a sort of grandiose uncertainty.
The teeming tracks feel quite dynamic, and the sonic movements feel like an exploration of that decaying and ominously empty cityscape or, alternatively, an examination of some inward emotional space that’s full of metaphorical rot.
In terms of the overall progression, the songs seem somewhat straightforward — when tempos are palpable at all, the music sticks to something between a mid-range and somberly slower pace, and the elements of the tracks frequently seem to build atop rather than replace each other, providing a sense of relative stability. Album opener “Unburdened by Grief,” for instance, features a siren-like tone that repeats for minutes on end beneath a growing blustery haze.
Track one in particular aptly sets the scene for the record. The tones feel boldly propulsive, and as elsewhere on the album, some of the sounds turn a bit abrasive and — in more metaphorical terms — chilly. As the energetic sonic wind grows across the track, which clocks in at over 11 minutes, there’s a feeling like standing in an ordinarily bustling train tunnel that’s suddenly inexplicably empty. As the tones grow and blend together, the music features a dream-like sense of surreality, as though tantalizing ghostly visages of past moments are emerging and quickly vanishing, subtly eroding any sense of naivete.
Although there’s a definite blanket of anxious malaise across the journey, and some moments like album closer “Fingerprints on an Abandoned Handrail” seem particularly mournful and even somewhat pained, there’s also an air of surety. The overall quite full sound features a sometimes dizzying array of flourishes, but it’s not entirely unstable, and it doesn’t hinge on chaos. The tracks move persistently forward, and in this movement, the album seems to capture a quiet exploration and strained acceptance of something like metaphysical heartbreak.
Although notably and compellingly dramatic moments appear across the record at moments like the track “Knee Deep in Hell Mud,” the music’s world feels desolate. Rather than billowing grandiosity, the textures stay more accessible, cultivating a sense of solitude.
The drama, though, is definitely rich — “Knee Deep in Hell Mud” in particular features a slow procession of earthily resonant and broadly reverberating key tones that evoke sci-fi/ horror soundtracks. The immediately preceding track — the ironically named “A Docile Statement” — also features some pointed drama, with an abrasive glitchy haze, like stumbling across some flickering power plant in a thunderstorm.
As a whole, A Public Execution of False Morality remains quite grounded — curiously, it’s not particularly unwieldy. The soundscape feels decidedly lonesome, like a persistently solo venture through an unfamiliar concrete-filled environment.
Listen to A Public Execution of False Morality from Dead Flesh Nebula below!