Opium Crop Airstrikes is a Vatican Shadow EP with long-form industrial tracks in the style known from Jordanian Descent (2012). A portion of the proceeds go to AYOK civil society volunteer organization for earthquake relief in rural Mexico. Cassette comes in oversized package; includes fold-out poster.
Before another Vatican Shadow release appears on vinyl for the first time early next year, Hospital Productions reissue a killer 2011 tape release on a 2019 vinyl pressing after appearing on a long sold-out LP edition for Type in 2012 Remastered and slightly edited from the original 4 x tape boxset, ‘Kneel Before Religious Icons’ reasserts its place in the pantheon of Vatican Shadow’s prized early releases which, with the benefit of hindsight, arguably amount to one of this past decade’s definitive projects.
Originally recorded in 2010, the album’s eight tracks revolve some of the first material recorded by Dominick Fernow in this mode, aside from his then better known work as Prurient. At the time, Fernow was still working under cover of anonymity and this release in particular only aided in heightening the intrigue and fascination surrounding this project and the way it eerily resonated with the both the redrawing of geopolitical borders and those between industrial, ambient, noise and techno styles.
The album contains one of the most valued VS outings in Worshippers At The Same Mosque’, with its pall of synth pads, needly harpsichord and stepping drums patently influenced by Muslimgauze, while the parade ground trample of ‘Church Of All Images’ – which would form the basis for a now classic Regis remix issued by Blackest Ever Black – adds up to one of the project’s most militant numbers along with the scudding, bombed-out terrain of ‘Gods Representative on Earth’ and ’Shooter In The Same Uniform as The Soldiers’.
As an historic document of the time and a gripping album in its own right, ‘Kneel Before Religious Icons’ holds tight among Vatican Shadow’s most crucial and convincing communiques.
The rarest of all Vatican Shadow’s tape releases (only 25 were made), Kuwaiti Airforce now appears on double vinyl alongside obscure cuts and previously unreleased collaborations with Silent Servant and Demdike Stare in the fourth vinyl collection of early, hard-to-find VS editions. Back at the start of this decade the underground conversation between noise, techno, and ambient music manifested definitively through Vatican Shadow’s eerily evocative glut of tape releases for Hospital Productions. Clad in militaristic imagery and titled after phrases lifted from media articles about the War On Terror, the project became one of very few to contemporaneously attempt to musically reflect the state of international geopolitics, and did so in a manner that resonated with the subversive post-industrial music and politics of Muslimgauze and Whitehouse — who were both key touchstones for Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Vatican Shadow, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement). The Kuwaiti Airforce tape which lends this set its title was only available in edition of 25 copies at Vatican Shadow’s September 29, 2012 show in LA with Silent Servant, Demdike Stare, Andy Stott, and Kangding Ray. Its two bombed-out blasts of rhythmic noise are now available on the first disc here, backed with two previously unreleased works written in 2012: a deep, rolling techno collaboration with Juan Mendez, lodged somewhere between his Silent Servant output styles for Sandwell District and the seminal Negative Fascination LP (HOS 357LP); and a more messed-up, sub bass-mired rework by Demdike Stare, who were still clearly in the mood surrounding their classic Elemental LP (LOVE 1077CD). The second disc however highlights cuts from earlier and more obscure releases, rounding up two powerful, even darkly romantic pieces of sturm und drang from 2010’s Around The Dragon’s Broken Neck… double-cassette, plus his opiated half of a split with Contrepoison and a cranky grinder that was only found on the White Eye Of Winter Watching compilation, both issued by Hospital Productions in 2011. Mastered and cut at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
An exclusive and outstanding Regis collaboration appears on the third volume of vinyl premieres for Vatican Shadow’s early and highly sought-after tapes, as originally dispensed in 2011 during the peak years of the War On Terror. Holding all six sides from 3x hard-to-find tape “deck” issues of Washington Buries Al Qaeda Leader At Sea, plus the previously digital-only track “He Ambled Down The Dirt Road For Visits To A Market” and the aforementioned Regis exclusive; the third instalment of the series definitively compiles Vatican Shadow’s impressionistic take on a turning point in 21st century U.S. geopolitics. Coupled with track titles lifted from the media and official government communiques on the subject, plus a full-length portrait of the Twin Towers prior to 9/11, the stark music suggests a perceptive void of detachment between reporting of the events’ objective reality and Vatican Shadow’s subjective response, beckoning listeners to read between the lines in a way that was previously deployed by two of Dominick Fernow’s (aka Vatican Shadow/Prurient/Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement) key historic influences; Muslimgauze and Whitehouse. From the offset clatter of drums evoking marching boots on “People In The Compound Kept Themselves To Themselves”, to the furtive pads that bleed thru “Supplying The Compound With Food and Medicine”, and the elegiac gloom cast by “Peace Be Unto You”, there’s a nerve-edged tension to the music which surely evinces its subject in an allusively classic style. And the two new parts succinctly fall in line, with the dusky stroll of “He Ambled Down The Dirt Road For Visits To A Market” marking out one of the project’s finest trip hop downbeats, while his collaboration with Regis on “See You Again Always” provides the project a new highpoint of guttural, militant, technoid pressure. With original tapes selling for triple figures on the second-hand market, this expanded definitive double-LP edition is unmissable for anyone with their head in the belly of modern electronic gloom. Mastered and cut to vinyl at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
The best Vatican Shadow release, bar none, finally lands on vinyl for the first time as part of a long overdue remaster/reissue series for the project’s earliest, fêted releases Originally slunk out on tape in 2011, Pakistan Military Academy sees Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement) calibrate his night-vision goggles to scan the most potent, affective visions of dark ambient and militaristic techno in his war chest. At the time of release, only months after the capture of Osama Bin Laden by US Army SEAL “Night Stalkers”, the project really came into its own as a form of impressionistic reportage, daring to grasp the nettle of contemporary US geopolitics in a way that, as music and art history will only make starker, everyone else broadly avoided at the time. In place of literal lyrics, a mix of quotes from newspapers and official government communiques, together with evocative photo documentation, supply the song titles and narrative/aesthetic framework for what are essentially abstracted emotions related to American military and foreign policy. Depending on how much you read or buy into it, for us at least the music rarely fails to evoke the shadowy unease and precarity of that era, as the sound betrayed an underlying mood contrary to the positivity of Obama-era politics, and that also spoke to the realignment of borders between musicks and socio-economics. The A side is worth the cost of entry alone for “Whitewashed Compound Stealth Helicopter Crash”, a spine-freezing tract of arcing synth pads leading to one of this decade’s most memorable codas, but when we factor in the scudding techno-stepper “Staccato Bursts of Gunfire”, plus the haunting late period Muslimgauze styles of “CIA Contractor Freed Over Pakistan Killings”, and the deep systolic thrum of “Prime Minister Defiant As Pakistan Outs CIA Agent”, this plate becomes an absolute essential for any and all connoisseurs of modern industrial and dark ambient music. RIYL: Muslimgauze, Prurient, Alberich, Raime. Remastered at Dubplates & Mastering.
Vatican Shadow’s impossible to find early tapes finally arrive on vinyl, kicking off a completist series of new Dubplate & Mastering remasters with a first volume featuring: Byzantine Private CIA (2010), Mural of Saddam (2011), and Yemeni Commandos (2011). Arriving under a shroud of anonymity in 2010 with the four tracks of Byzantine Private CIA, Vatican Shadow has since become one of the most vital projects manned by Dominick Fernow (Prurient, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement). Daring to grasp the nettle of US geopolitics at a time when nobody else would (and that hasn’t really changed), Vatican Shadow hijacked imagery and text from a plethora of news articles, books and government publications, and used them to adorn and title his all-instrumental compositions, re-contextualising U.S. foreign policy in a way that recalls how original industrial, noise, and post-punk mutants used their art and music to express feelings towards the cold war and western socio-economics during the late ’70s and thru the ’80s — with a particular, explicit thread of inspiration coming from Bryn Jones’ prolific Muslimgauze catalog. The first LP contains all four cuts from Vatican Shadow’s first release, Byzantine Private CIA, taking in the cold thuds and clamoring background noise of “Deny Military Involvement” alongside highlights in the militant trample of “Cairo Sword Unsheathed” and the sludgy industrial dirge of “Gunman With Silencer”. The second LP follows with three tracks off Mural of Saddam, including the brittle, Muslimgauze-like stepper “Schwarzkopf Arc of Triumph”, and the furtive trip hop of “U.S. M1A1 Abrams Exhaust Rises Between The Hands Of Victory”, before concluding with some the project’s most sublime work in the opiated lushness of “Shadow War In Yemen” and “Asymetric Warfare Studies Group Double Game” from the Yemeni Commandos tape. Sounding more compelling than ever, thanks to the remastering at Dubplates & Mastering, and with original tapes now impossible to find for love nor money, these vinyl pressings of early VS gear are practically worth their weight in gold.
Dominick Fernow’s Vatican Shadow returns with a new double-pack for his own Hospital Productions imprint following on from the recent Rubbish Of The Floodwaters 12″ for Ostgut Ton (OSTGUT 104EP). Luxor Necropolitics was once again produced by Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv, and it includes a super rare remix from Female of Sandwell District fame. Clocking in at almost 40 minutes, this is the most substantial Vatican Shadow release since 2016’s Media In The Service Of Terror LP (HOS 472LP) and further develops Fernow’s creative collaboration with Eustis, who provides a much more lean and dynamic sheen to those highly atmospheric foundations. The opening, title track provides evocative exposition; this is Vatican Shadow at its most cinematic and unreal; before “Intel War” jolts with increased propulsion and bass pressure and a killer soundsystem focus deployed with precision and depth. “Crown Prince Hamza” is much more squashed and feral, before a new “Red Headband” version of “More Of The Same” takes the original into even more anthemic terrain; this is surely the most memorable, enduring, and club-focused Vatican Shadow track of all. As if to further etch it on your mind, the vinyl edition offers a final exclusive track, a reworking of “More Of The Same” from Female, who takes the original and duffs it up, completely discarding that synth hook and instead intensifying the menace, heading down a Sandwell-shaped cave that will reminds you why you’ve loved pretty much every Female production. Cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy. Edition of 700.
Just in time for the 20th birthday of his label Hospital Productions, Dominick Fernow released his first release under his techno alias Vatican Shadow on Ostgut Ton, following the last year of his Berghain residency and joining the Ostgut Booking Agency with his Vatican and Prurient projects.
The Cocteau Twins / This Mortal Coil-evocative, beat-free, opening play “They Deserve Death,” as well as the two collateral club / dancefloor-friendly tracks “Rubbish Of The Floodwaters” and “Weapons Inspection” are in dialogue with each other The tape processing technique, which laid the basis of Vatican’s first performances using analog hardware and minimalistic MIDI dissection. Produced in Los Angeles with Josh Eustis, Vatican Shadows’ Rubbish Of The Floodwaters EP is a picture of where the project began, and where the journey goes.
A special focus lies on this EP on the artwork, a work from the Softex series by Berlin-based photographer Christian Vagt . With Softex, Vagt documents the refugee camp of the same name, located on an industrial road near Thessaloniki. Vagt’s photography of Softex’s pervasive, yet transparent fence expands Vatican Shadows Recontextualization of quotations from news media, military and religious contexts, from the vinyl record vinyl becomes a mixed media art object, the Vags motif from Softex with Vatican Shadows concept of the media communication lock united.