Elif Yalvaç’s “Diaries of Destruction” Fights for Survival Amid the Wreckage

Elif Yalvaç started work on Diaries of Destruction during Turkey’s oppressive summer heat in 2020. Stuck in a small room during the lockdown and the brutal temperatures, Yalvaç observed a building being demolished opposite of her window and began to record its sounds.

Released March 21, at the spring equinox of 2022 — when light overtakes darkness in the Northern hemisphere — the resulting album draws from Yalvaç’s journey through personal circumstances as well as the more general threat of the coronavirus and its unprecedented effects on our lives. The project became an escapist focus for Yalvaç while confined inside, unable to meet up with people or travel. Collaborating from a distance, the album also features contributions from Arber (guitar, found sounds, synths, drum programming), Michael Bearpark (guitar, Morleytron), and Bryan Beller (bass).

Indeed, Diaries of Destruction captures the palpable tension of forced stillness that the lockdown put upon many of us. Gentle ambient pads weave through compressed rhythms, stretching out the literal sounds of destruction. The weight of the world passing by as we all sit, confined indoors, is softened by the passage of time.

Elif Yalvaç--Photo by Michael Bearpark

Elif Yalvaç–Photo by Michael Bearpark

The LP begins with “Tone Proem,” a blistering bed of tools cutting through metal, reverb-laden glissandos on the guitar, and deep, vibrating tones swelling underneath before fading into near silence. The summer heat feels palpable, and the visualization of sparks flying off the teeth of saws comes to mind.

Melting into the next song, “Defences Against Emptiness,” Yalvaç draws the listener back into the empty, long expanse of time during those first days of the pandemic. Ambling directionless through distorted soundscapes, one feels almost lost in their own mind. A slow beat floats in, followed by samples of dogs barking, a reminder of the sounds of our neighbors that pulls us from the far recesses of our minds and back into the physical space we occupy. As if to channel the emotional shift of painfully returning back to reality, anger fires up in the form of angular guitar riffs in an almost math-rock style outro.

“The Everyday Gets In The Way” carries the angular guitar tones back into the dreary abyss of stillness. Stretched-out guitar notes are swallowed by waves of distorted sound. “Insisting On Existing” captures the weight of having to fight hard just to stay alive and sane through compressed and glitchy drums that cut through the heavy weight of dissonant tones. The muffled and reverberating percussion calls to mind the band Coil, especially as the track drifts back and forth from the drive to survive to letting go and embracing the weight of sweeping tones as they wash over us.

“The Fate You Can’t Negotiate” begins with a staticky modulation from a GameBoy before a rhythm like a steady heartbeat begins to pulse. An electro-style beat cuts in through the crackling frequencies, harkening to the early era of Detroit techno that emerged in the void left by hollowed factories. Much like the sudden disappearance of the auto industry in Detroit in the 80s, Yalvaç aptly captures the ghostly feeling of vacancy in cities across the world created by the pandemic.

Diaries of Destruction – Defences Against Emptiness from Phantom Limb on Vimeo.

“Fighting The Lightning” marks a shift from floating adrift to bubbling bursts of anxious energy, while “Erutrevo” forces us to settle as comfortably as we can into our deep fears. The final song, “Attacking the Vacuum,” brings together the entire album with an uneven, stumbling rhythm that reflects the discomfort, pain, and difficulty of surviving in this new normal. This global catastrophe has disrupted so many lives, and yet we still somehow must figure out a way to carry on into the future.

This is the point of Diaries of Destruction, according to Yalvaç — choosing a way beyond what has been destroyed, surviving and finding the will to fight through, rather than giving in to despair. Traversing into the darkest depths of our own minds and back out into an emptied and quiet world can break even the strongest of us. Learning not just to survive in this new reality, but to embrace this unsettling and downright terrifying mode of existence, is a powerful theme of Diaries of Destruction. But the world keeps slowly turning, and we all keep being propelled forward.

Diaries of Destruction is available as a “pay as you want” download on Bandcamp, and all donations will be sent to UNICEF, the United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to children worldwide.


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