I lucked out on being able to get my hands on Bestial Burden early, but upon listening, I realized that I had actually heard it before. If I'm not mistaken, other than the beginning song "Vacuum," seemingly sourced from uncomfortable, winding breaths, and "Primitive Struggle" sampled from victimized gags and regurgitation, I had actually heard this record before in a live setting. I noticed this from the rhythm section of "Intent or Instinct," which I remember hearing at Pharmakon's show with Haxan Cloak at the Church on York. Margaret had attached a contact mic to a heavy sheet and was beating it against her chest with her knuckles in the same pattern as is heard here.
Not to be crass and underhanded, but I think that as opposed to Abandon, Bestial Burden is more song-oriented or rather, focused on component parts. Miss Chardiet has been up front about some sort of physical ailment and resulting surgery that transfixed her mental capacity on a human body. It shows through the respiratory and digestive samples as well as her choice of artwork. Organs and flesh are strewn about in each piece of visual art from the alarming and strangely alluring cover art to the diorama-like cut-up inner sleeve. They make a person into not only its fundamental parts, but a commodity, like something you'd see at a meat-packing warehouse (trust me - I've been to them).
When I taught in Mexico, I had to manually slaughter, prepare, and dress farm animals for meals occasionally. It's more difficult than you would think from the killing aspect to the sectioning of different parts. For instance, when I had to kill a hog, it screamed like a human, which is a haunting sound that I will never get out of my head. During the preparation, I had to listen for where its heartbeat is and then stab the beating area with a serrated knife. But you can't just leave an animal alone when you need to make a meal for a family. So I had to pour boiling water over top and scrape off the hairs first before using a machete to physically separate what would be eaten at different times and every last part of that pig was eaten aside from its bones.
The art of Bestial Burden, and the title itself, reminds me of this. People are often too comfortable with seeing the casings of people or animals to know or think about what is inside. What makes an existence tick? I'm vegetarian and a lot of my reasoning has to do with finding our proximity to what we eat as inappropriate. An animal life becomes a commodity. I often hear someone say "Oh, I could never kill an animal, but I can eat this
burger." It doesn't really do the animal justice - it distances one being from the next and is disrespectful in my opinion. Having a neatly prepackaged meal or food item makes it easy for us to digest what maybe we should think about.
Margaret Chardiet is unfolding this thought diagram in Bestial Burden. It is uncomfortable and it is unpleasant, but it is also necessary.