Energy (BIOMETRAX BIOM01) is the promise of Biomass, a Californian project put together by Walter Ovtha Woodz, and the title of a CD he released in September 2011. Tangible releases like this are probably just the tip of the biomedical iceberg; Biomass is more of an immersive experiment of sorts, involving meditation and intense concentration in something not unlike an isolation tank, use of headphones for enhanced focus and internalisation, and thereby arriving at the hoped-for “emotionally-dynamic energy field”. Sometimes Biomass does this in a live situation, with the help of the synth player Keyth McGrew, and you have only to imagine the primal forces thus released to bathe many healthy-looking bronzed Californian torsos with healing waves. Pretty good metallic, futuristic, richly-ambient electronic sound on this CD, sometimes propelled by the relentless chugging of sequenced digital rhythms; I’d like to imagine it as a stripped-down version of what you might have heard on any given techno dancefloor in 1995, only more mind-numbingly minimal and repetitive, and also contextualised within an artistic, scientific, and quasi-therapeutic exercise program for the inner raver. It’s not the first time a musician has pledged to mesmerise us into a state of higher being with their rhythmic pulsations, but Biomass has a very clean sound and an intelligent determination to stick to his grid-like plan of bold simplicity. ‘Serpent Sphinx’ and ‘Serpentetraspeed’ are probably the cuts most likely to get your inner vibrations warmed up to fever pitch, but the 22-minute ‘Minechamber’ wins for me through dint of sheer duration, and its highly immersive, claustrophobic characteristics – it’s a voyage inside a scientific chamber of the unknown.
The Norwegian drone CD Droneskvadronen All-Stars Vol 1 (DRONESKVADRONEN DS07) was assembled by Droný Skvadroný, presumably a pseudonym deriving from the title of this 2011 project which translates into English as “Drone Squadron”. It’s an evocative name, suggestive of Blenheim bombers over the skies of Europe in 1942. No warlike content on this somnolent record however, which is a single 73-minute track comprising a mix of all the contributors who sent in their piece of drone music to Droný for reworking purposes, quite a lot of them from Norway and some associated with the TIBProd. label. A very slow-moving deep-freeze sort of work, where the drones vary from near-musical whines with a sustained root note, to more emptied-out and atmospheric whistling noises. Where Biomass above probably intends his work to agitate and rouse the lethargic slug-a-bed from his armchair, this CD has the near-opposite effect, slowing down your metabolic rate to that of an Arctic snail sleeping in a bucket of library paste. Not bad; determinedly minimal, uneventful, and perfectly sequenced. Droný Skvadroný doesn’t so much edit soundfiles together as melt them into an ambiguous multi-coloured hybrid of candle-wax, melted butter and pemmican. Much like the contents of an Arctic explorer’s survival kit, in fact. Was released 1 August 2011.
I never loved a dear gazelle
We’ve been quite taken with cindytalk‘s brand of slow and fogged-out synthery since hearing Up Here In The Clouds and The Crackle of My Soul, both released for Editions Mego. On Hold Everything Dear (EDITIONS MEGO 122), the solo effort of Gordon Sharp has been supplemented with contributions from Matt Kinnison, the record was recorded in Japan, London and Essex, it took them five years to complete it, and it’s got some connection to the work of John Berger, the polemical left-wing writer and broadcaster. None of this might actually be relevant to the music we hear, but it bears Sharp’s signature traits: layered, slow-moving blocks of processed sounds, informed by a sense of authority and sternness of furrowed brow that verges on the severe. More romantic moments do intrude in the form of short and distant piano music fugues, and little excerpts of field recordings such as the voices of children which open the record. Yet for some reason, these glimpses of hope serve only to add to the abiding sorrow of this record, which seems to be taking universal pessimism about the state of the world into a metaphysical dimension; titles like ‘Waking the Snow’, ‘Hanging in the Air’ and ‘Floating Clouds’ are laced with the sort of cryptic symbolism you’d associate with an ascetic philosopher who has virtually withdrawn himself from all human intercourse and retreated into a world of private signs and meanings. Far more than producing vacant droning, cindytalk manages to invest his work with complex undercurrents and overtones. Where the Droneskvadronen All-Stars are content to issue largely non-associative sounds which allow listeners to project their own delusions and fantasies, cindytalk constructs his music to deliver all the intellectual content of an essay from a Marxist journal from the 1970s. Recommended to all fans of Zoviet France, Mirror, Rapoon, that sort of thing…also exists as a double LP set.
Yours is no disgrace
Quite different again to the above is the American Greh Holger who records as Hive Mind, but also has other aliases and has been a member of numerous electronic noise projects for the last ten years or so, besides running his own label Chondritic Sound in Ann Arbor. His Elemental Disgrace (SPECTRUM SPOOLS SP007) is just 30 minutes long, but is an exquisitely intense exploration of the sort of noise which I whimsically characterise as “subterranean burrowing music”. Another example of this micro-genre comes from the English duo R.Y.N., whose LP Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy is an unbeatable landmark of “S.B.M.”, although Zanzibar Snails are also eligible for inclusion with their Journey Into Amazing Caves CD. Both sides of Elemental Disgrace exhibit this non-stop relentlessly churning rubble of organic, earthy noise, and to listen to it is worse than being buried alive. Every cavity of your body appears to be filling up with soil and stone. What’s most sinister about Hive Mind is that his music here never breaks into a sweat or explodes into a tumult of angry, blistering noise; it just continues to abrade and wear away the soul through sheer dogged persistence, changing you into a spectre with the clammy caresses of a deathly grey hand. In this light, Hive Mind takes the form of a cosmic grave-digger working steadily through the night at his toil, with a very long interment list supplied to him by the sexton. I have a promo CD as usual, and it seems the yellow vinyl pressing of this LP (released 18th October 2011) is already sold out.