Part feral provocateur and part suave, androgynous, erudite crooner, Aussie rocker Kirin J. Callinan's first introduction to the public was as the guitarist for Sydney-based indie rockers Mercy Arms, who were poised for early-aughts greatness but dissolved in 2009 amidst a toxic tonic of industry buffoonery and creative differences before they could reach their full potential. A true howler in the early, Birthday Party-era Nick Cave/Scary Monsters-era David Bowie mold, Callinan's solo debut, the equally exhausting and exhilarating Embracism, offers up ten slabs of electro/industrial/dream pop/experimental rock that invoke names like Chris Connelly, Trent Reznor, Iggy Pop, and John Grant while maintaining a fierce sense of individuality. Throughout Embracism, melody and dissonance are given free reign, sometimes leaning heavily toward the former (the lush and dulcet "Victoria M") and sometimes the latter (the steely, piercing, and erratic "Way II War"), but it's when they crash up against each other, as is the case on album highlights like the meaty opener "Halo," the stoic, hymn-like "Landslide," and the dense and propulsive title track, the latter of which wouldn't have sounded out of place near the back half of Bowie's The Next Day, that Callinan's formidable gifts become apparent. Throughout it all, his rich, lived-in baritone, which can go from a funereal dirge to a supernatural caterwaul in a matter of seconds, delivers the goods like the world's most demented herald, but even at his most fevered, he remains such an engaging figure, that it's nearly impossible to look away from the scene of the crime, even as the blood begins pooling around the listeners' feet. ~ James Christopher Monger
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