Agitated Atmosphere: Providien – Followed by a Wraith

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Providien.

From the dingy basements of mid-Ohio emerge the duo of Nathan Reynolds and Mark Van Fleet. As Providien, they harness the madness Syd Barrett only alluded to in song, transferring nightmarish swatches of post-psychedelic sludge into their debut LP, Followed by a Wraith. Whichever haunted crevice of Columbus Reynolds and Van Fleet were birthed, Followed by a Wraith wears those scars proudly and loudly.

Released via Amethyst Sunset, Followed by a Wraith is not only a slight departure in aesthetic for the label but a darker, angrier visage when compared against Van Fleet’s other outfit, Sword Heaven. Providien borrows from Van Fleet’s older playbook but much of their debut twists an already strange coil into a gnarled mess of frayed endings and impenetrable knots. Followed by a Wraith trudges at the pace of a chained apparition, howling and rocking as it creeps up the stairs from its mortared crypt into the land of the living. The results are cold but Reynolds and Van Fleet embrace death only to regurgitate it.

Songs such as the forward-rocking “Seeker of the Sun” or the gruesome pop of “Sewer Animals” anchor the album’s more evil intentions. As accessible as each pretends to be, much like the imagination of Syd Barrett, they are nothing more than harmless gateway drugs that will ruin your spirit and shatter your hypercolor dreams. “No Other” is a heavy backpack, collecting more and more clutter as it breaks your back; “Group Birth” is the pain and agony of the Octo-Mom huffing and puffing without the pleasure of eight gooey faces to erase the misery. And yet, Followed by a Wraith is a present all its own, rewarding multiple listens as it slowly erases the masochistic exterior to reveal the two basement dwellers feeding off of their surroundings. Basements were once the stuff of sports posters and high school cover bands — Providien has made it a place to channel the real sounds of the underground, groovy ghosts and all.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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