LINGUA IGNOTA- ‘Sinner Get Ready’

No one is ready for this. Not us sinners, not anyone else. Those who fell under the spell of Lingua Ignota’s previous album might recognise small parts of ‘SINNER GET READY’, but even they’re not really ready. Because while there’s some sonic connective tissue to what came before- Kristin Hayter’s powerful voice remains up close and in sharp focus. And there’s some familiar subject matter- passion, anger, and despair. But where twisted metal, in-your-face electronics, and other experimental extremes were the delivery system of choice for those things before, now there is minimal, measured dread. Now there is eerie organ and Appalachian folk. Now there is ominous silence. And where before there was exploration of Hayter’s personal trauma, an album of revenge anthems, now there is a focus on shared trauma, on the power, influence, and flaws of faith.

Prior to recording this, her fourth album proper, Hayter relocated to a rural, isolated region of Central Pennsylvania. There she was inspired by the area’s traditional instruments- banjo, psaltery, and dulcimer- but also by its varied, intense versions of Christian fervour. Yes, Hayter grew up going to church and has quoted bible verse in her lyrics before, but here she stages some kind of new, ugly opera, creating voices for both an indifferent god and their desperate, still-devout congregation. She sings of revelation and repentance and “holy swords”. At times, her words feel like diary entries, like a… I guess like a confessional. Certainly like something that shouldn’t ever have been prepared for public consumption. Hayter continues a dramatic push and pull with god (or maybe gods) throughout, but these could easily be words aimed at old friends or ex-lovers too. I wince while listening. My heart breaks. It’s devastating stuff.

The music is equally intense. ‘THE ORDER OF SPIRITUAL VIRGINS’ layers dark drones, desperate wails, and a ghostly chorus under harsh crashes of piano. It’s only the first song but if you have not been sucked in, enveloped in the tar pit of Hayter’s sound halfway through its nine-minute span, just back away slowly. 

‘I WHO BEND THE TALL GRASSES’ uses church organ and shaking bells to sound like the blackest sermon ever. ‘MANY HANDS’ is hypnotic, slithering folk music, warped like a record left out in the sun. And ‘MAN IS LIKE A SPRING FLOWER’, combining synths, clarinet, and strings, feels almost upbeat- although it does finish with Hayter repeating “Love is not enough”.  Rarely is there any booming, doomy climax. No screech of metal. But ‘SINNER GET READY’ (which, just like ‘CALIGULA’, easily earns its capitalised titles) never feels lacking. In fact ‘PENNSYLVANIA FURNACE’, a pop song from another dimension, from an ever-burning fiery pit perhaps, is so quietly compelling and truly beautiful that, damn it, turn off all of the amps, I want a whole album just like it.

After ‘CALIGULA’, Lingua Ignota’s element of surprise should have been shattered. And yet, once again, she has conjured up another unique, intense and arresting sonic sculpture that routinely shocks, and amazes, and defies expectation. ‘SINNER GET READY’ isn’t just different than what Lingua Ignota has done before then. I think it’s different than anything that anyone has done before. I don’t know how many more times I will want to listen to it, but I know it’s impossible to do anything else but listen while it plays.

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