For an album using a clinical term as a title (the nocebo effect is essentially the inverse of the placebo effect), 9T Antiope’s Nocebo is an intensely personal document—dense, visceral, and sensory. Across one five-part composition, split into two halves for cassette, vocalist Sara Shamloo delves into a deep narrative—something she and 9T Antiope’s other half Nima Aghiani adore, as seen on their previous album Isthmus—resulting from a path she began to take three years ago. “I eventually found refuge in writing about my relationship with death very openly and excessively,” she admits, having lost two brothers six years ago after “a time one of my brothers [was in a] coma after his accident, and the other in a comatose state after his cancer medications.”
Nocebo takes the idea of a coma and uses it to build an imaginative world, creating a story of beings who have given up on their time and space, eventually reaching a comatose state. It’s an emotional meteor of a concept, devastating and long-reaching, which comes across strongly in the lyrics. Shamloo and Aghiani provide the backdrop to this immersive story with throbbing, uncomfortable soundscapes created with a meshing of modular synthesizer, violin, saxophone, and field recordings. A prominent sonic motif on the album is taking field recordings and processing them heavily in Ableton, taking the original source material and curating it to 9T Antiope’s vision.
Nocebo’s uniform structure makes it difficult to perceive its nature other than as a whole. The narrative blends from one section to the next; the claustrophobic A-side transitions into modified choral vocals and throbs, before the B-side works into an uncomfortable cocoon through chants, spoken word, rhythmic passages, and manipulated acoustic recordings. By the end of the recording, the listener is spent, and the beings are comatose. It’s a light drop into unconsciousness, but there may be no gentler way to go.