Joe Rainey‘s voice has the quality of fog. It can have the pea-soup thickness of Leonard Cohen’s, beckoning us to journey deeper into the secrets it’s concealing; within the same song, it transforms into a wisp of Pow Wow melodies that reaches for the sky like a warm haze over a cold lake. The gravity of his presence was underscored by the remarkable sonic experimentation of his debut album Niineta, a collaboration with producer Andrew Broder. With deeply distorted industrial textures, pristine cinematic scope, and recordings of different characters from Rainey’s environment, Niineta both relished and flourished in its outlier nature.
Rainey’s new song “once the reaper” is a forge of tradition, its molten core tantalizingly at risk of overflowing. The song was inspired by a desire for revenge against death itself (“When the reaper comes for me,” Rainey says in a press statement, “who knows if I’ll have a chance to punch him for the people he took too soon.”) The justified resentment translates in the song into ecstatic anger as raw as freshly peeled scabs.
Rainey and Broder’s song has the jet-black sensibility of The Haxan Cloak and the all-consuming rage of Nine Inch Nails circa Broken until we reach the sampled monologue of an elder who outlines a tradition, chuckling to his own jokes. Then, a flood of ambient synths breaks the fever, and Rainey’s song begins to feel more like a salve than burned flesh.