Sicko is the name of the new release from Beast Nest (Sharmi Basu) on Ratskin Records. Like most of this labels’ releases Sicko offers listeners a different take on electronic music. Even better is the fact the music is from a perspective we don’t normally hear: Trans, disabled and otherwise outside of what most consider “normal”.
Maybe that’s why Beast Nest’s music has an undercurrent making it different from other people’s work. While they use the same instruments as most other artists – a mix of computer software and keyboards – the sensibility they bring to their sound creates an atmosphere unique to themselves.
The opening track, ‘Relief-Refuge’, is a perfect example of how they flavour their music. Playing over a wash of music a sampled voice, distorted and crackling, sings out. The voice reflects Beast Nest’s South East Asian heritage in that it sounds like something from an old musical from that region. The voice is old and frayed – hinting at something in the past – while the music is modern to the extreme.
The music itself comes at us in waves rising and falling like an inexorable tide. At times, combined with the almost completely distorted voice, it becomes close to intolerable. Anxiety builds and builds – but then it crests and the listener is released. We come out the other side into a kind of calm.
However, it’s implied that this is only a respite. That more of the same awaits us. In the notes about the album Beast Nest makes reference to those, including themselves, who suffer from some sort of mental health issues.
Listen to the music in that context and try to imagine the pressures these people are under in our society. While the music won’t trigger anything in anyone, it does manage to recreate some of the atmospheres people with certain conditions experience. You may even gain some understanding of what it’s like to be marginal.
The whole album is lovingly constructed in a way to share an experience with listeners. Beast Nest does not create easy listening pop songs or dance music. Instead this is music reflecting the inner workings of a soul and a brain.
Few artists have the nerve to leave themselves this exposed. Beast Nest not only does so but creates great music in the process. Sicko is as fine an example of how so called emotionless electronic music can be used to communicate feelings as well as any acoustic instrument.