Meiosis: junk metal noise metamorphosing into a dark and powerful beast

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Ferial Confine, Meiosis, Siren Records, CD 022 (2014)

Ferial Confine started out in the mid-1980s as the junk metal noise project of Andrew Chalk and this CD is a reissue of an album originally released as a cassette by the UK noise label Black Flag in 1985. “Meiosis” certainly is a noisy scrapy affair, very unlike the kind of extreme squealy power electronics noise of fellow Brits Whitehouse or the more socially conscious metal bashers Test Department: it actually sounds like the kind of recording Merzbow might have put out once upon a time when that Japanese powerhouse was issuing albums at the rate of one every couple of days or so and if he missed a week, that was a major headline in itself.

The first three tracks, of which two are the title track in two parts, are absolutely pissing down with full-on metal junk shrapnel precipitation: mechanical drilling and wood-planing noises rain down in steady torrents and steamy lava-frying grind is sluicing into gutters and stormwater pipes. A high-pitched drone keens away in the background while scratchy, wonky noise worries its way into the space between your ears.

After that early start which would have winnowed out the children from the adults, the album enters a quieter, more contemplative phase with birdsong field recordings and a strong emphasis on dark deep-space ambience and drone. The sub-bass aspect of FC’s style comes to the fore and a very forbidding and potentially powerful and menacing creature it threatens to be. The junk metal noise, when it raises its head, is a more subdued, caged beast. A number of tracks are quite short and static, content to present their full range of sound and mood at the outset and continuing to blare merrily that way with no further development. The recording finishes with a solo droning bass rumble in “Gothic Window”.

The album does not come across as very unified but it was made in the days when concept albums had a bad reputation and the emphasis was on experimenting with sound, texture and atmosphere. Not that this matters: the album presents a range of soundscape scenarios and lets them sink into the listener’s mind at their own pace; some will be noisier than others and some are very quiet but all have their distinct style and sound. For a recording made nearly 30 years ago, “Meiosis” sounds quite fresh, in part thanks to a clean production, and for new explorers about to rummage in the annals of the UK noise scene of the 1980s, you’ll be surprised to discover a solo project that doesn’t aim to shock people out of their complacency or despair about Thatcher’s Britain but instead bores holes in their brains and fills them with mind-bending sonic wonders.