Tagged: dark

Beneath The Foundations

EPAPR529

Ryan Huber is the American solo instrumentalist maverick whose work we’ve been following for many years now, and while he releases many records as Sujo or Olekranon, the Harken (INAM RECORDS 137) CDR is under his own name. None of his trademark steam-hammer heavy rock beats for this release, which is a more restrained and chilling sojourn in strange dark ambient territories. For fans who enjoy his over-loaded signature sound, tune in to ‘Blind Coup’ where the layers of processed abstractoid grind are flung together like ferocious storm-clouds and powerful tornadoes from a lost Norwegian myth, and pressed into a glass jar. Bleak, menacing, thickened and textured drone. Packaged in a hand-decorated brown paper envelope, and only 23 copies were released. From 19th June 2014.

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Equally “encoldening” and freezingly atmospheric is the split album Subterranean Transmigration (PHAGE TAPES PT:208 / ANNIHILVS APEX 2014-02), a showcase for two American solo dark-ambient menace acts Regosphere and Xiphoid Dementia. Both creators explicitly desire to explore “desolate, frozen, psychological landscapes”, according to the press notes which also hint at cavernous spaces in the earth’s lower depths. In fact, Andrew Quitter – the fellow who calls himself Regosphere – captured field recordings from The Devil’s Icebox, which is an underground cave in Missouri, and layers these into his harrowing and grim recordings. His grindey and droney synth pulsations are certainly unsettling, and his surface sound is rich and appealing, but like so many operating in this genre, he seems unsure as to how to organise or compose his materials so that they might have more force. Xiphoid Dementia, i.e. Egan Budd, also brings field recordings into his work, but rather than attempt to capture the ambience of an underground cavern to conjure Saturnine visions, he creates samples of rocks, earth, and metal, perhaps using these natural materials as rough musical instruments, and leans less heavily on his synthesizer set-up. His tracks too are textured and rumbly, and his sounds are equally lush, but he somehow leaves more space for the listener to breath. Consequently, the mind is able to explore his imaginary tunnels and crevices in more productive manner than we are the cluttered soundscapes of Regosphere. Xiphoid Dementia also seems to offer more than one emotional response to the work; at times we feel desolate and doomed, but we also feel intrigued and inclined to probe into this mysterious world, like a latterday Arne Saknussemm. And if the music of either musician fails to trigger the requisite moods, the album photographs should do the job; almost like treated images from National Geographic with additional blue tints added by Photoshop with creepy touches of the supernatural pasted in. From 3rd June 2014, sent to us by A. Foisy of Locrian.

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In same Foisy package we have a full-length (78 minute) broad canvas widescreen epic of solemnity by Requiem, the solo guitarist / musician David Graham from Pittsburgh who’s been recording under this guise since 1996, with many releases on (his own?) label Requiem Recordings.. His Provenance (COUNSOULING AGENCY CAGE0004) is not simply aiming for droney atmospherics, as there are tunes and anthems appearing throughout the glacier-paced music, and a thematic coherence to the work established by the artworks (an insert of a bare tree and its roots) and the poetic text which speaks in a quite heartfelt manner of finality and pointlessness, while indicating that “only ghosts know the truth now”. Stately guitars, synths, and ritualistic percussion all do much to draw us into this fully-realised and haunting world of futility and doom. The vocal additions of Joan Hacker and Melissa Kelly enhance the mood greatly on ‘Abeyance’, almost creating a sort of nocturnal version of Popol Vuh; and there’s a heavy apocalyptic spoken-word section on ‘Addendum Two’ which is enough to make the Book of Revelations seem like light reading. I admire the skills with which Graham builds his textured layers and creates his flawlessly burnished tracks, aided to some degree by a James Plotkin mastering job and the recording skills of Theologian, which ensures that Provenance glistens with the blackened perfection of a subterranean lair of which the walls are pure obsidian. But I struggle to keep in time with the unvarying leaden pace of this portentous release, and am left frustrated by the musical monotony; through the whole 78 minutes, we rarely depart from the one root note and all the tunes are pitched in the exact same minor key. However, this may be a deliberate strategy to bring home the abiding messages of despair. The “petal style” package, with obi and insert, is quite nice.

Four Vinyl Vargos

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Insect Ark is Dana Schechter from Brooklyn, who has lent her skills to Michael Gira’s Angels of Light and Bee and Flower. She’s good with keyboards, sampling, and stringed instruments on her Long Arms (GEWEIH RITUAL DOCUMENTS GRD006) 10-incher, where she uses these to work up three studio-based instrumentals. Things build well, from the uncertain droney beginnings to the more assured drum-programmed middle section, but I’m still sensing a lack of adventure, a scarcity of real ideas, as if she’s not sure what direction she ought to be heading in, or why. Her minimal guitar licks induce a sort of despairing melancholy, but are not especially inventive. She claims to “create her personal soundtrack to the human psyche’s underbelly”, but for me she doesn’t go far enough in her explorations of that underbelly. I’d like a taste of something so dark and occluded it puts me off my morning coffee next day, on account of the disturbing dreams it gave me. The packaging is nice, but even on the cover she can’t decide whether to look like a German expressionist actress or an all-out 1980s Goth, again reflecting the rather undeveloped nature of her artistic ambitions. From February 2014.

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Pretty unsettling cover art and poster insert on Dr Jayne Insane’s LP of grisly Swedish noise, Anti Art Alliance (LAMOUR lamourvin003); the insert in particular has grim juxtapositions of skulls, masks, and wayward dental applications rendered with a precise graphical style that fans of Boris Artzybasheff will dig. But these visuals are the work of Sten Backman. The record was made by Jan Liljovic, who in 2003 made a record for Fylkingen Records as Jan Liljevkist. Like many other distorto-freaks on that label (e.g. Daniel Rozenhall), he’s very fond of over-using the reverb effect, and the whole LP is just drenched in crunchy reverb from head to toe. He might not be doing more than pumping feedback or sequencer pulsations through this studio effect. Consequently what begins as a healthy blast of coruscating, destructive noise guaranteed to destroy the bourgeoisie and sweep away the old order, quickly becomes a repetitious and insufferable bore. The very limited aural range is probably a deliberate strategy too, but it induced tedium in this listener in about five minutes, and I was disappointed to find both sides occupying this narrow strip of sonic turf, defiantly sticking out a big red tongue as a rebuke to the audience. A punishing listen. Arrived 6th January 2014.

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A couple of Greek electro-acoustic items on vinyl which may not be related. The first is the Katabasis (REKEM RECORDS REKEM05) suite by Panos Alexiadis, a musician from Athens who has released many solo cassettes and CDRs as Lunar Miasma and Red Needled Sea, besides appearing in the groups Heavensore and Holefold Diver. This is the first solo record he put out under his own name, and it’s been realised using the familiar combinations of samples, field recordings, and modular electronic equipment. The composition Katabasis itself is all packed onto side one; he uses side two to create a sort-of “dub” version of the A side, stripping away all the field recordings and acoustic elements, and using the same compositional structure to play pure electronic music. I prefer this dubby version to the main event, as it’s somehow bolder and makes more assertive statements in sound than its rather tentative sister. However, there’s a lot to be said for the precision of Alexiadis’s work, which is evident in the clarity of the realised sounds, and presumably extends to his compositional methods. I mean to say it sounds very clean and direct, providing an object lesson that many would-be electronic composers could learn from. The stern cover may suggest the “runic” shapes and emblems that were all the rage in the 1980s after Throbbing Gristle and Current 95, but in fact it’s simply the letter K lying on its side. Arrived 29th January 2014.

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Virilio’s Signature (RECORD LABEL RECORD LABEL RL000) arrived two days before, also from Athens, but on another label and featuring the two musicians Dimitris Papadatos and Corinna Triantafyllidis, who very coincidentally are the label bosses. They have elected to call this private-press venture Record Label Record Label, a somewhat reflexive identity, but these two are no newcomers. They’ve been improvising since 2008, with early efforts appearing under the name Cassettine & KU, mostly as downloadable files. Virilio is something they’ve been doing since 2010, and besides this vinyl release there are also seven CDRs available under that name, released as very small print runs. I must say as a duo they suit each other perfectly. They play a large range of instruments, including electronics, drum machines, percussion, guitars, and turntables, but don’t crowd each other out of the space nor do they over-clutter the kitchen table with an excess of furnishings. Instead, a seamless and quite entrancing drone-noise results, one that envelops and embraces you like a swaddling cloth, or a thick gaseous fog of benevolent, non-poisonous elements. If we compared them with Panos Alexiadis above, the difference is that Virilio are maximalists, embracing a wide range of sound productions into their swarming flock of digital sheep, making Panos appear positively epicurean in his very deliberate selection of aural elements. It’s been a good plan to press this in white vinyl with extremely minimal packaging, allowing us mostly to ponder on the enigmatic drawing of a white curtain or sailcloth, crudely suspended across our field of vision. What puzzling events might be enacted behind this voile? Subtitled “Refraction without the appearance of colour,” this small gem arrived 27th January 2014.

The Summoner: portrayal of grief and loss not as affecting as it could be

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Kreng, The Summoner, Miasmah Recordings, MIACD039 (2015)

Its tracks tracing the six stages of grief from denial to acceptance – though there may be dispute among psychologists as to whether grief can be neatly packaged and presented in a narrow linear structure – this recording is a sombre shadowy journey into an underworld where the realm of the living and the realm of the dead contact and merge imperceptibly. The music ranges from cold soughing ambience, made up of spirits in perpetual itinerant restlessness, to sudden twisted chamber music / orchestral clutter or scramble, to repetitive death doom metal drone. Although the tracks suggest a definite linear narrative that suspiciously mirrors other distinctively Western cultural narratives – one thinks of the product life-cycle that marketers refer to, which I was taught at university – the actual music itself often ducks and weaves, quiet one moment, loud and forceful the next and then suddenly quiet and passive again, as if protesting or mocking the strictures
placed upon it.

The album is not easy to follow as a result of its unexpected twists and turns – not that Kreng main-man Pepijn Caudron has ever set out to make very straightforward music since he started the Kreng project – and listeners might find themselves wishing that he be more consistent and get to the point of whatever it is he’s trying to say. This perhaps is the unfortunate effect of imposing a cultural construct on the music and the phenomenon it’s referring to. Perhaps it’s not until a person has really experienced a profound personal loss or some of the emotions represented on this album that s/he might be able to approach it on its terms. Although having gone through depression myself, and having heard other music made by people who also suffered from depression and who drew on their experience, I did find the track “Depression” not quite as deep or affecting as it could be: there was no sense of deep emptiness, the impression of having a hole punched in the
centre of one’s being or feeling sudden panic that I’ve detected in other people’s recordings and which I can vouch does happen.

Track 5, intended to be the album’s crowning glory and summation, features both orchestral and death metal music, and I have to say I found this piece not very impressive: the dark orchestral music sounds like generic horror-movie soundtrack fluff and there’s no sense of terror or mystery that something profound might be happening. The slow church-organ transition from foreboding orchestral doom to metal doom is beguiling enough; if only it didn’t get shunted aside by sledgehammer-blunt death doom guitar bludgeon, courtesy of guest band Amenra. Again, this part of the track is a disappointment: we get nothing new here that a thousand million other doomy death metal acts haven’t already done, over and over.

After all is said and done, listeners might find themselves back at square one after a trip that didn’t take them anywhere much. The first half of the album was far better in creating atmosphere and a strong sense of dread but it was let down by some very mediocre music in the second half. This isn’t a work I’d recommend for people who are mourning the loss of a much-loved relative or friend unless as part of a general suite of recordings of varied music on loss and grief generally.

Contact: Miasmah Recordings

Hexadic: a new composition method results in something that sounds surprisingly familiar

Hexadic

Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic, Drag City, DC616CD (2015)

Ben Chasny’s ongoing solo project Six Organs of Admittance takes a sharp turn into sonic territory of a stark and terrifying kind, familiar to those of us who’ve long followed Keiji Haino and Fushitsusha. Indeed, had I received this recording in a blank jewel CD case with no labelling and I had just whacked it into the player, I could have sworn blind this was yet another PSF label release. There is that dark atmosphere with the slight acid sheen that sharpens the guitar tones and which leaves the listener feeling apprehensive as to what’s going to happen next, whether there will be an excruciating howl from out of the pitch black or a roaring cloudburst of guitar feedback.

Well the latter comes courtesy of “Wax Chance” but the singing isn’t coming from Haino’s tortured tonsils: it’s Chasny’s own tentative fragile voice struggling for a foot-hold in the feedback storm. Those blasts of raw searing guitar noise, burning up the darkness, could have come straight from the stables of Fushitsusha. Coming so early in the album, this is bound to chase away anyone not familiar with Six Organs of Admittance and its forays into folk, heavy psych and noise. For all the relentless noisy guitar clouds, the recording is consistent and focused and actually very steady. Drummer Noel von Harmonson keeps a firm hand on the percussion, the calm helmsman helping to steer the ship of musicians gathered around Chasny as he leads them all into sonic storms and apparent turbulence. Bassist Rob Fisk will sometimes busy himself fingering quiet individual melodies with little interference beneath the howling abrasions overhead. The result is that the music can be at once calm and reflective, and chaotic and relentless in assault.

The contrast between cool, calm and collected on the one hand and on the other, constant roaring sonic violence, going all at once becomes greater as you go deeper into the album and it’s about mid-point that the recording really excels with the sharp attacking assaults of “Hollow River” and “Sphere Path Code C”, immediately followed by the meditative desert-Western blues of “Future Verbs” and the ghostly chimes of “Vestige”.

For this recording, Chasny invented a chance-based composition technique that uses playing cards to determine sets of six notes for each track: the technique applies as much to the rhythms and lyrics that help define the songs. Although the music can sound very formless and takes some getting used to, each track is quite distinct. How such a method of music composition led Chasny on a path that turned his work into a creature of such extreme moods that even Haino and the PSF label fellow might gawp at, not to mention turning the raw material into music close to what Chasny has always liked anyway (heh heh), can only be guessed.

While I like “Hexadic”, the record’s style of strong contrasts and single-minded focus won’t appeal to very many casual observers and might not even appeal to long-time fans.

Contact: Drag City, PO Box 476867, Chicago, IL 60647, United States

From the Dead Villages’ Darkness: post-metal meets Slavic folk ambient

Sivyj Yar

Sivyj Yar, From the Dead Villages’ Darkness, Italy, Avantgarde Music, CD (2014)

Russian one-man black metal projects are a dime a dozen these days; perhaps this phenomenon is a sign of the increasing prosperity of the country, that many people in different parts of Russia now are forming their own bands or projects, writing and playing their own music, and releasing it independently or through various labels. Sivyj Yar is one solo project (based in Vyritsa in the Leningrad administrative district near Saint Petersburg) that has actually been going for nearly decade with a respectable discography, with “From the Dead Villages’ Darkness” being its third full-length release.

Sivyj Yar’s main lyrical concerns deal with Russian / Slavic mythology, past cultural and pagan heritage and pride. On this album though, to judge from the songs’ titles translated into English, the theme is the suffering of rural villages and peasants, as an important strand in the make-up of the Russian character, its stoicism and patience in the face of hardship and disaster. The arrangement of the songs suggests a definite narrative from the initial disaster (perhaps a mass burning?) to its aftermath: all appears to be hopeless and the whole world seems to be shutting down. Listeners might presume that Nature will reclaim the abandoned fields and the fallen wooden houses of peasants either killed or long gone away.

The music takes in many influences from folk to post-metal and features various acoustic instruments such as violin, cello and flute but essentially it is melodic and often pop-friendly post-BM with an emphasis on catchy tremolo-guitar riffs, capable lead guitar soloing and often very good drumming. Bass guitar sometimes follows its own path through the music and in a number of tracks nature-based field recordings like falling water may be used. Songs coast along at a brisk pace and main man Vladimir finds room for blast-beat drumming sequences. Each track is crafted with thought and care, with the result that while there might be a lot of music in each song, it never sounds rushed or confused and each instrument can be heard clearly, though the quality of production might not be great (it sounds a little bleached). Background cold space-ambient synth wash on some tracks gives the music a chilling, despairing effect and there is a strong sense of hopelessness.

There can be a lot to absorb here and I would have preferred the album to be a bit slower to allow the melancholy, the loneliness and the dark atmosphere to make more impression than they do. The singing can be thin and ragged and it has to fight for attention above the guitars and the swirling violin melodies. The odd occasion where one instrument might be allowed to play, to express the despair and hopelessness in the lyrics, would have been very welcome. There are moments where a bluesy-sounding guitar appears and they carry intense emotion. Sivyj Yar could have brought in a balalaika or zither for an even more folk-flavoured rural BM style that would make the music stand out more among his post-BM contemporaries.

In my view, this is a very good album but it could have been much better with a less generic and commercial-sounding post-BM influence and more Slavic folk and ambient elements.

Contact: Avantgarde Music

Aerophobia

Phobos

Neel
Phobos
SPECTRUM SPOOLS SP037CD (2014)

Ruthless cosmic expanses echo across those domestic with this monolithic menacer: producer Neel’s Phobos takes its title from a Martian moon (as well as the combative son of Greek gods Ares and Aphrodite) and conducts its inscrutable rounds without haste or apparent motive, but like its namesake, with a lack of fanfare darkened by its etymological connection to the seat of our phobias. Like the movement of that lunar body, Neel (aka Giuseppe Tillieci) takes leave of the naturalistic ambient techno of his Voices from the Lake collaboration for a 60-minute transmission of deceptively low-key, minimalistic electronics, which certainly exceed my own expectations of ‘space ambient’ recordings. No, Phobos reveals itself without haste, its distinctions coalescing, new details emerging and old ones assuming grander proportions as early on as the swirling opening section ‘Post Landing’; its black-on-black lines of Jack Kirby-style cosmic radiance conveying us calmly through a cosmos pregnant with foreboding, and decorated by fleets of myriad passing objects.

Actually, I must admit to finding the atmosphere more reassuring than perhaps intended, if the invocation of Mars’ warlike scion betokens dread. In fact there’s an occasional warmth that’s almost entirely absent from (the reminiscent) deep space snapshots of Kamil Kowalczyk’s Nova, which I also recommend to would-be listeners. Still, Phobos ranks as an unusually substantial entry in the Spectrums Spools label, which has tended more towards reissues of ephemeral synth-pop material, though among heavier-weight colleagues it finds good company in the analogue dread of Steve Moore’s Pangaea Ultima and the airbrushed sci-fi meditations of Three-Legged Race’s Persuasive Barrier. From here to Eternity!

Gunter Schickert Pharaoh Chromium

Gunter Schickert / Pharaoh Chromium
OXTLR
GRAUTAG RECORDS GTR#008CD 2 x CD (2014)

Last reviewed by SP in 2013, Pharoah Chromium’s Electric Cremation imparted ‘a colossal sense of existential emptiness and futuristic dystopian nightmare’ and with OXTLR ‘they’ (aka German/Palestinian composer Ghazi Barakat) returns from that dark future with newly cosmic ambitions, if the sleeve’s shadowy depictions of celestial bodies is anything to go by. This is largely due to the presence of headliner and guitarist Günter Schickert, hitherto unknown to me, but whose echo-laden guitar wanderings made him a notable presence in the fertile Krautrock heyday of the ‘60s and ‘70s and earned him a berth on the much-cited NWW list. Between them, the pair have set up shop as an outlet for substantial rock-based drones that harmonises their respective appetites for vistas galactic and dystopian, yet never quite allowing the mind to settle into passivity while listening.

There’s admittedly little here to surprise any aficionado of Kosmiche/psychedelic rock, but the musicians at least conspire to channel an atmosphere as paranoid as it is wondrous, perhaps of space as experienced by the increasingly paranoid HAL-9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, initially in the slurred air-raid siren undulations of opener ‘Bamiyan’ – which sprouts a slow radiance that slowly amasses the burning intensity of a star – and the low register, dream membrane-penetrating alarm call that accompanies a dynamic range of gravitational sweeps on ‘Galaktik Debris’. From within these loping analogue drones appear lines of brittle-fingered guitar and the odd, dart-like blast of flute.

Kudos is earned for the irony of the track titles. ‘Bamiyan’, to give one example, offers little spiritual succour though it derives its name from a Hindu-Buddhist temple situated in central Afghanistan; ‘Katharsis’ (to name another) provides nothing of the kind in its eternal (well, 22-minute), leather-winged flight: a reverberant and mildly distorted flurry of sun-bound guitar notes. The point has already been made that the implicit pleasure denial of such conceptual chicanery accords with the Grautag label’s penchant for futility, doom and gloom, but as with the music itself, there is a lot for us to ponder beneath the grey surfaces on show.

Dunnock / Intergalactic Holocaust: from space, a message of raw noisy BM and chilling doom slasher guitar

Dunnock Intergalactic Holocaust

Dunnock / Intergalactic Holocaust, self-titled, Temptations of Resonance, CD (2014)

From the far extremes of the cosmos arrives this missive from two fairly new BM acts from opposite ends of the planet. Dunnock is the musical child of the fellow who heads Acephale Winter Productions in the US and one-man band Intergalactic Holocaust hails from Australia. Together on this CD the bands celebrate different aspects of interstellar travel. Dunnock (on this recording a twosome) turn their attention to two momentous events in 20th-century space exploration history: the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle on 28 January 1986 on “Jan 28th (my harp is turned to mourning)” and the Soviet launch of pioneer canine astronaut Laika in a spacecraft in 1957 on “Kudryavka”. Intergalactic Holocaust opt for a more familiar theme of an invasion of Earth by a mighty force of evil Lovecraftian aliens.

On this recording Dunnock reveal both a mysterious dark ambient side and a raw noisy BM aspect to their musical personality. “Flower of Flesh and Blood” is a forbidding space tone poem that sets the mood – a dark and ambivalent one at that – for the steaming noise to come. Aforementioned “Jan 28th …” blasts its way straight between your eyes and grinds a deep hole in your head with booming guitar-noise grind, in the main to create a space for spoken radio recordings. “Kudryavka” is also a scathing track with screeching battery-acid vocals and a deeply ominous bass drone rhythm. Both tracks are effective in their intensity but they are repetitive and come close to wearing out their welcome. “Facedown in the Ohio” seems to express some optimism and hope for a future where space travel might not be plagued with Challenger-like disasters or the abuse of animals in space exploration experiments.

Intergalactic Holocaust has a sound as chilling as its name though the music turns out to be rather less alarming and apocalyptic than the name would suggest. Still IH generates a very cold and remote atmosphere that would freeze your blood dead. A listener feels very much alone and isolated in his/her little corner of this distant and uncaring universe. The songs on IH’s part of the split don’t sound much different from one another: across the music, the percussion is barely audible, the vocals are ragged and generally revel in acts of malevolence, and steel sheet riffs of guitar tone with an abrasive edge dominate throughout. Each succeeding track becomes darker and more doomy, and there is more melody as well.

For me, Dunnock have the upper hand over Intergalactic Holocaust for a more varied presentation with definite atmospheres and emotion. The other band relies a great deal on long slashes of sharp-edged guitar and needs stronger percussion than what it has (which isn’t a great deal), and the sound can be thin. IH does have some good riffs and melodies and needs to develop these further into more distinct songs. Overall, this split is a good if not always even introduction to two very underground bands.

Contact: Temptations of Resonance

Subterraneans

GhostStation

Ghost Station
Ghost Station
UK CURSED OBJECTS CURS01 LP (2013)

Music inspired by a daily commute on London Underground’s deep-level Central Line but informed by electronic music of the 70s and early 80s. Artist Pete Warren does a great job of conjuring up a subterranean journey beneath London’s upper world. Having never ridden the London Underground I can’t attest to how accurate its portrayal is, but the drum machines and sequencer lines create movement and propulsion and I can feel myself down in the tube. But it’s also a homage to artists like Edgar Froese, early Human League, Nash the Slash, and probably countless others. As they used to say on TV about Beatlemania cover bands “it’s not the real thing but a stunning re-creation.” And here is where I find fault with this album. It’s such a well made imitation of electronic music of the 70s & 80s that it sounds dated and inauthentic. Its a loveletter to the past, where I wish the artist would have put something of his own into it and bring it into the present and kicking into the future.

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Kajkyt
II
AUSTRIA GOD RECORDS GOD 20 2 x LP (2013)

A curious album here by Slododan Kajkut of music for drums (programmed or real, hard to tell since they are very precise and robotic), simple bass lines, blasts of electronic noise, and very detached, intoned vocals, delivered in a chant like cadence. It’s a very dark undertaking. The first track entitled ‘I’ (all eight tracks are merely numbered) presents all of the sonic elements that Kajkut intends to use throughout the album – monotonic beats, thudding bass, monastic vocals of Kajkyt and controlled atonal electronic noise that either floats on top of the mix or overloads into anthemic headbanging blasts. With each succeeding track Kajkut strips the elements away, leaving just the sparsest of beats and bass notes, with silence taking the spotlight while Kajkut whispers verses in Serbian. I find the more denser tracks at the beginning of the album to be the most compelling of the lot and towards the end its enforced rigid minimalism runs out of steam.

MYCOPHAGY

Songs From The Otherworld
Mycophagy
HC3SFHd1 3” CD (2011)

On this home pressed 3″ cdr are twenty-four minutes of what sounds like tibetan bowls and bells imprisoned in ring modulator hell. Its subtitled “drone music for journeying: electronically altered reality.” Listening to this I can liken to observing a vat of molten quicksilver – shimmering patterns of reflected light create temporary metallic surface sculptures that your mind may impose some sort of form upon it as the brain normally strives to do. But it’s all shapeless and there is no development. It just is. And at the end the sounds drain away. Time to take some more mushrooms and start the journey again.

In Mirror Arms

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Last heard from Sum Of R with their Ride Out The Waves EP, which we noted in August 2013. The LP Lights On Water (UTECH RECORDS URLP085 / SUM01) is another well-constructed studio spook-out, played mostly by Swiss genius Reto Mäder who does multiple overdubs of his keyboards, bass, percussion, samples, and electronic effects; while guitarist Julia Valentina Wolf is given ample room to screech and squeal. The music this time is characterised by much in the way of “martial” drumming, and most of the pieces tend to build from a creepy, atmospheric opening up to a histrionic finale of sheer gibbering terror. I get the impression the musicians would rather do anything than play conventional chords or melodies, yet everything tends towards a minor key; all the special effects are designed to induce unease in the listener (the unnatural wailing voice on the first track is particularly memorable), and the musicians paint a grim, noirish, supernatural picture of the world. But it’s also one rooted in a fantasy milieu, such as Sword and Sorcery or horror movie culture, and almost every note played is but one step away from the patchouli-scented realm of the black-suited Goth. Somehow Sum Of R don’t deliver quite enough conviction in the forces of evil. Reto Mäder rarely fails in his convincing many-layered studio constructions, but this time I feel the guitar playing of Wolf is a shade too conventional for me; while her acidic tone is welcome, the minor-key melodies she plays are quite ordinary, and the record is sometimes let down by her heavy metal-derived riffs and blues-based soloing. Corrine Futterlieb took the cover photographs. From February 2014.

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Nice piece of contemporary Italian industrial evil-drone music from Candor Chasma on The Key (OLD EUROPA CAFE OECD 194). This is the duo of Simon Balestrazzi and Corrado Altieri, who take their name from a canyon on Planet Mars and are proud of their “no digital processing” stance on their heavy, gritty records which often have what the Annie Hall 1 character would have called a “negative capability”. The Key is another occult release not far from the tenor and atmosphere of Rings, an ectoplasm-heavy item which we noted in 2012. This time the underpinning theme is the life and works of Madame Blavatsky, the 19th century Russian spiritualist who made quite a name for herself with her extensive worldwide travels, and went on to found the school of Theosophy. Select events from the life of this Empress of the Paranormal are explicitly referenced in Candor Chasma’s track titles; clearly something eerie transpired on board the S.S. Eunomia, and in Hyde Park on 12 August 1851, but I will leave this for more advanced students of esoterica to discover. Candor Chasma yield to no man in their stern droning endeavours, even if most of these tracks follow the same structural formula – start out quiet and scary, and gradually build up multiple layers, to end up as on a terrifying roar replete with old-school abstract noise terror bursts interrupting the queasy, pulsating flow. And of course they make effective use of found recordings of voices, buried deep in the mix, murmuring and whispering to summon instant impressions of a darkened séance parlour. It’s convincing material and well executed, even if these are tropes and themes which are currently being done to death in Hollywood, in movies like White Noise, Ouija, Insidious, etc.; even the front cover looks like one of those damned souls trying to escape from the TV set in Poltergeist. On the other hand, Hollywood movie-makers have little interest in things like history, research or scholarship to bolster their juvenile fright-fest romps, and at least Balestrazzi and Altieri have done their homework into this interesting chapter of European history. From 02 May 2014.

  1. My error – of course this should be Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979).

Enough is Enough

EPJAN15000493

Carl Michael Von Hausswolff / Jason Lescalleet / Joachim Nordwall
Enough!!!
POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO069 CD (2013)

I was most struck by the cover image of Enough!!! and thought it was worth looking into. It’s the work of the 20th century Icelandic sculptor Einar Jónsson, a fellow who got a lot of commissions for public outdoor sculptors of heroes and warriors, and also drew on Nordic myths for inspiration. His conventional story-book images of helmeted Norsemen aren’t very interesting to me, but I was intrigued to learn of his later phase, when he became something of a religious recluse. It might be that the Mother Earth sculpture, seen on the cover here, came from that period. It has a vague spiritual aura and symbolist tendencies. However, it is worth seeing other views of this unusual piece of sculpture, just to get the whole picture. It’s two figures, of which the larger one nestles a smaller figure in its long arms; the smaller figure may be asleep or dead, and has her arms folded over her chest. The larger figure is looking down on her charge with a gesture of solace and compassion which is quite moving.

The above may not be clear from the way that CM Von Hausswolff has photographed the sculpture for Enough!!!. He took the photograph in 1991, and ensured that a printed credit for him appears in the release. He’s taken it from an angle to emphasise the sharp perspective, and it’s also lit so that the head of the larger figure is all black – its face is not visible at all. And at first glance, it may be possible to miss the sleeping figure at rest in the arms. In Von Hausswolff’s version, there appears to be a concrete wall in the background, whereas another rendition of the same sculpture (there may be many castings) is in the open air. In short, CM Von Hausswolff’s cover image is clearly intended to disturb us; it suggests a prisoner in cell with a black bag over their head, possibly with hands bound in front of them. If my reading is half-correct, the cry of Enough!!! on this record could be interpreted as a humanist plea, demanding an end to government-approved torture, political prisoners, or indeed any regime that oppresses the human spirit; with a cover image that harks back to the sort of thing they used to do to IRA prisoners in the 1970s. I’m thinking of sensory deprivation chambers, aggressive sonic techniques to sap a man’s will. And when I’ve written about bleak minimalist electronic drone music (like this release) in the past, that’s one of the images I’ve reached for.

Enough!!! is a single 49-minute composition produced by Carl Michael Von Hausswolff, Jason Lescalleet, and Joachim Nordwall. All of them are past masters of inscrutable sound art, perhaps none more so than the Swedish maestro CMVH, who executes stern long-form works of an unblinking sternness, never allowing the work to become distracted from its goal. Nordwall (also of Swedish persuasion) has always impressed us with his reverb noise escapades as one half of The Skull Defekts, and more recently his work on Monstrance came close to achieving the burnished perfection of a bronze cube sculpture in a modernist art gallery. The American player Lescalleet is one I’ve tended to associate with minimalist improvisation, based on his numerous releases on Erstwhile, but he’s clearly entered into the spirit of this particular work. Grim, but strangely beautiful and compelling, Enough!!! may appear at first to be a single grey monolith of drone but is in fact heavily treated with multiple textures, pulsations, and overlaid tones; and it casts a mood of perpetual expectation (bordering on insufferable tension as you wait for something to happen), at the same time smothering the listener in a thick mist of vague, abstract tones.

That’s pretty much all we can tell you, except the release is the document of a live performance captured in late 2011 at a venue called the Project Room in NYC; and that there was another version broadcast on Touch Radio (#85). Arrived here November 2013.