Call Me Fishmeal

On Harpoon (CONRAD SOUND CONRD320 / PICA DISK PICA040 ), we hear a collaboration between the performing troupe Sult and Lasse Marhaug. to produce two sides of heavy-duty acoustic noise. Sult are a trio of improvisers, playing all acoustic instruments – guitar, bass and percussion. The percussionist is Jacob Felix Heule, who we have heard playing as part of the excellent combo Street Priest, and with Voicehandler, and most memorably with Beauty School. What I’ve heard from him always seems highly abrasive free-form spewage, not afraid to be considered ugly, lumpy, and indigestible. Sult’s guitarist is Håvard Skaset, who along with the contrabass player Guro Skumsnes Moe play in the Oslo trio Moe, also well represented on the Conrad Sound label with their take on punky, spiky avant-rock.

Well, the plan with Harpoon is to bring about a happy marriage of performance and post-production; Sult provided the basic source materials, while Lasse Marhaug did the construction of the work. It’s possible this has involved some editing or layering of the recordings on Lasse’s part; it’s evident that the intent was to intensify what was already a pretty demanding assault of dense, matted sound. No space left unfilled in this turgid orgy of writhing noise…it’s well-nigh impossible for a listener to find their way out of this thicket of metallic grinding, scraping, and groaning swirl-a-thon, and the overall effect is of a suffocating trap. It’s perhaps to the credit of everyone involved that this was achieved without amplification, feedback, or any of the other devices which table-noise artists fall back on to provide the surge of energy they crave. It need not be a suffocating experience, though; we are invited to enjoy the close-up examination of these acoustic sounds, to perceive the grain of the metal and the warp and woof of each juddering contrabass string.

A larger-than-life presentation, to be sure, and one that is not for the faint-hearted. In confirmation of this, the album is titled and packaged to convey the sensations of working on a 19th-century whaling ship, and it’s entirely legitimate to perceive the creaking sounds of this album as akin to the timbers of a whaler bound from Nantucket. The violence of whaling itself is also somehow implied in the sheer nastiness of the music, though the practice is not explicitly condemned, as it has been on a Merzbow release 1. From 3rd February 2017.

  1. Bloody Sea, VIVO2006022CD from 2006.

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