Tagged: dark

The Other Three: noise indie-pop with more kinetic energy and promise than kinetosis

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Carsick Cars, The Other 3, Maybe Mars, EP CD-R (2014?)

“Carsick Cars” is one of those band names that just seem so obvious and cute that you wonder why no-one ever claimed usage of it over the past 50 or so years of rock and pop before a Chinese indie-pop / noise group came along and made the name its own in 2007. This bright-eyed and bushy-tailed little EP was released (I think) to coincide with CSC’s recent tour of the United States and to accompany a full-length album called “3″, which explains the EP’s title. The EP features five short tracks that may have been singles in the past or are alternate rejigs of songs from previous releases: the first song is performed in Mandarin Chinese but the rest are sung in precisely intoned English.

The band have a very poppy sound which is jangly and which sometimes incorporates a darker, more contemplative mood along with the bounciness. Listening to the EP right through, I’m sometimes reminded of the legendary American new wave act Devo who could be very serious and witty as well as eccentric and fun. While the opening track is definitely sugar and spice and all things nice, subsequent songs showcase what CSC are really capable of: catchy melodic pieces that combine melancholy brooding with an almost defiantly optimistic attitude that no matter how down in the dumps you fall, you’ll eventually get back into the light. “Shelter” is a thoughtful and lengthy song while “15 Minutes Older” is a rough-edged rocking little galloper with buzzy guitars, woozy drone and a dreamy jewel-like jangle ambience. “She Will Wait” tends to be more low-key and gentle than the preceding, and the mood is even more wistful and mesmerising. A psychedelic touch comes with the bewitching lead guitar soloing.

While the music is very good and there is plenty of energy and zest throughout, there is a certain flat quality in the singing and it may be that CSC are still finding their way in singing in English and conveying emotion at the same time. The lyrics seem to be rushed and have a bit of a robotic quality. Apart from this detail, CSC have found a niche in dark jangle noise pop that could take them further into shoegazer and depressive rock pop territory if they’re prepared to take risks with their music.

Contact: Maybe Mars,  Carsick Cars

Silence: plenty to say but a better and more powerful form of expression is needed

Official pack shot from http://depressiveillusions.com
Official pack shot from http://depressiveillusions.com

Echo of Emptiness, Silence, Depressive Illusion Records, CDR cut 1061 (2013)

For an album titled “Silence”, this recording turns out to have plenty to say over some 49 minutes. This is atmospheric and creepy black metal from Russian duo Echo of Emptiness. It can be an ideal record to play late at night if you’re in the mood: it has a very dark and intimate feel and you can easily think yourself the only human existing on this tiny planet as you listen to this music of melancholy and loneliness. The band’s sound is distinctive: the guitars seem to have a very compressed shrill and steel tone almost reminiscent of very reedy woodwind instruments even when playing tremolo. The texture of the music is furry and crispy at the same time. The vocals are a mix of grim BM style and clean-toned and the members sing in English.

The album consists of seven tracks but the ones that will be of most interest are tracks 2 to 6 as these are a mix of black metal and ambient. The other tracks are purely ambient tone pieces: wintry, cold and minimal, with no more than a bass melody or ominous sub-bass drone being audible, they perhaps take up more space on the album than listeners might like but I suppose their length is in keeping with the album’s themes of hopelessness, depression and shuffling off the mortal coil.

While they have a good sound, the black metal tracks tend towards slow and plodding in pace. There’s not much energy in the songs and for a good part of the album they drift in the grey zone between comatose and barely sitting up. A big part of the problem is the limp drumming, thin and soft in sound and not featuring much variety in playing, let alone power and speed. The vocals carry all the emotion and anguish and veer dangerously close to melodramatic hysteria. Songs like “Melancholy” resemble mini-operas in the way the voices alternate between BM and clear, as though a conversation in a dark cave is in progress. The band’s potential is revealed on “Exhausted by Life” when at long last the music speeds up but even here this has the unfortunate effect of revealing how much EoE misses out on not having a strong, focused and driving rhythm section.

I realise the album aims to recreate the feeling of suicidal depression, the lack of energy and motivation that accompanies it, and the fragmentation of identity but EoE have a lot of work to do to convince us listeners that their work is worthy of our time. The guys have atmosphere down pat and a good sound, and they show ability in experimenting with sound and mood. They need to work on developing a more powerful sound with forceful percussion that pushes the rest of the music and inspires them to create and play urgent music with a large range of emotional expression.

I don’t get much sense of the angst and pain of living with depression, and the torment it causes to sufferers. That is something the album should have tried to capture.

Contact: Depressive Illusions Records

La Mort du Soleil: a highly emotional and intense depressive rock album

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Sombres Forêts, La Mort du Soleil, Sepulchral Productions, SP035 (2013)

I reviewed the debut album “Quintessence” by Sombres Forêts for TSP several years ago and since then this Canadian act has had quite sparse output with follow-up albums released in 2008 and 2013. “La Mort du Soleil” seems an introspective, contemplative effort with a strong emphasis on atmosphere and intense emotion. Melody and riffs dictate the nature of the songs with less busyness and more space within. SF main-man Annatar allows the mood and subject matter of each song together to dictate its direction.

The music has a soft edge and a deep cavernous echo effect gives it a three-dimensional sculptural feel. Annatar’s singing is fairly dominant in the mix although his voice can be thin and a bit ragged. There may be post-BM influences in some of the music – certainly the BM tremolo guitars seem less constantly noisy though they are always present. Montreal’s famous children Godspeed You Black Emperor may be one source of inspiration. Sometimes the pace is relaxed, allowing for plenty of emotional drama to burst out. Lead guitar solo break-outs appear but don’t usually dominate the songs where they are present.

By themselves the songs are quite good but bunched together on the album they tend to sound very similar and could just about run straight from one into another; you would not notice much difference between one and the next. Riffs and melodrama are packed into each song densely and considerable anguish and agony are expressed as well. Over 52 minutes, so much unhappiness and personal torment delivered can either be exhausting or a complete turn-off depending on listeners’ mood. Very few songs let rip with explosions of BM anger and rage at an unforgiving and indifferent world that looks askance at individuals’ pain as they struggle through life. There is more melancholy and passive acceptance of dire fate it seems than there is of fury against so much unfairness. One stand-out is “L’Ether” which includes a thumping drum introduction, clear guitar melodies as well as tremolo BM-string texture streams and passages of acoustic guitar wistfulness. Other instruments prominent on the album include piano (especially on one of the middle tracks, “Au Flambeau”) and possibly violin and mandolin in some parts.

All tracks are long – quite a few go past the 9-minute mark – and arguably they could have been edited for length as within them there’s not that much escalation of emotion or other conflict that would result in a dramatic and memorable climax. The songs bang on the turmoil straight away and the emotion stays much the same from then on. Entire tracks are pretty much ongoing purges of sorrow and intense feeling.

For Sombres Forêts, this album builds upon previous work and extends the act’s range much farther into melodic post-BM territory. However many BM acts have progressed from depressive BM to depressive melodic post-BM rock in similar ways so this move for Sombres Forêts doesn’t come as a surprise. I think though if Annatar wants to stand out from the pack with Sombres Forêts and not give the appearance of following the herd, he must now consider sticking his neck out into musical territories far from BM.

Contact: Sepulchral Productions

Churches Schools and Guns: minimal electronic soundtrack to a techno-dystopia

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Lucy, Churches Schools and Guns, Stroboscopic Artefacts, SACD005 (2014)

No, “Lucy” isn’t a woman in case you’re wondering: it’s a solo project by Berlin-based producer / DJ / sound designer Luca Mortellaro who also owns the label Stroboscopic Artefacts. “Churches Schools and Guns” is the quirky title of this offering of dark and slightly sinister minimal techno-dub whose central theme might be a futuristic survey of a dysfunctional society addicted to paranoid technological visions amplified and manipulated by media designed to mirror and reflect back to us our deepest phobias in order to keep us all afraid of one another and so prevent our revolt against the forces oppressing us. I confess that initially when I got this album, I thought it should have said “Churches Schools Post Offices and Guns” but that would have suggested a more particular vision peculiar to societies where “going postal” means something more than popping a letter or a parcel into the mail-box.

Though divided into 12 tracks, the music is best heard as a continuous soundtrack of deep space techno-ambient rhythms. Individual tracks, while they may contain some interesting sounds, rhythms and audio-textures, turn out to be very repetitive and (in the second half of the album) monotonous, unable to advance much further than the initial rhythm and beat loops. While early tracks set down definite atmosphere and mood of an ambiguous and slightly malevolent nature, delineating the start of a tour of the future global panopticon where consumers of manufactured experience huddle in their cells, afraid to look outside, the tracks in the later half of the album seem less confident and the early strong direction dissipates.

Some tracks are very distinctive by virtue of machine-like rhythms (“Laws and Habits” which might suggest that the regulations and conventions we have are our jailers), crisp crackly pulsation beats (“Follow the Leader” which also features a very creepy throat-singing sample loop) or a robot vocal (“Leave Us Alone”). “We Live as We Dream” seems a hopeful track though the title itself suggests a double-edge sword: our dreams are all that sustain us but they might well be more nightmare than dream.

Ultimately though this album promises a lot, it doesn’t quite reach its potential as a soundtrack to an imaginary dystopian techno-world. I’m hoping Lucy’s follow-up work will take up where this one leaves off as I think Lucy could work itself into a niche of very dark ambient minimalist techno soundscape art not reliant on dance beats and rhythms.

Contact: Stroboscopic Artefacts

The Infinity Dub Sessions: an uneven set of dark desperate dub techno minimalism

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Deadbeat and Paul St Hilaire, The Infinity Dub Sessions, BLKRTZ, CD BLKRTZ008 (2014)

Although this CD represents their first studio recording together, the two artists Deadbeat aka Scott Monteith and Paul St Hilaire aka Tikiman have collaborated in live situations on and off since they met over a decade ago in Montreal and discovered a common interest in dub music. On this album, the duo have gone for a dark minimalist musical approach on songs bound by a theme of the stress of modern life and how one can find comfort and purpose in a hard world where machine rhythms and routines dictate our thinking and behaviour.

There’s a sense of desperation in the opener “Hold On Strong”, a relentless and bleak if understated pulsing track. Reggae influences are strong in this song and on all other songs: they are in the rhythms, the voices and the music and lyric structures. What listeners might not expect is the cold and subtle, near-industrial nature of the sounds nor the open black spaces within each and every piece. A strong sense of urban alienation and a feeling of a cold, seemingly forbidding yet alluring and seductive hyper-technology that dominates life are present. An unseen eminence grise, sensed more than heard or felt yet pulling the strings here, might be moving slowly and confidently in the deep dark background.

Hope and frustration mix in tracks like “What the Heck Them Expect”, notable for its superficially lazy-loping rhythm, and “Working Everyday”, a repeating mantra of resignation and despair over an insistent looping rhythm that lures you into its dark trance world: this is the strongest track on the album in spite of (or maybe because of) its never-ending Moebius-strip structure. Sparse, seemingly empty yet yielding ever more from its depths, this soundtrack to work drudgery might just be in danger of advertising for it; the two dub musicians should not push their luck too hard. The constant repetition is both asset and liability: a couple of later songs on the album drag the whole thing down with repeating loops of unremarkable music and lyrics (“Rock of Creation” and “Little Darling”) though some of the sound effects can be good. Closing track “Peace and Love” brings an impression of hope over despair with an emotionally moving rhythm, a strong beat and
equally affecting melodies and lyrics.

It has its ups and downs and I’m sorry to say they’re in the ratio of 50:50 for this style of dark minimalist dub techno. The music is beautifully constructed with gorgeous sounds, a clear three-dimensional ambience and memorable rhythm structures. It’s weak in the song-writing department with too much repetition in most tracks which sometimes give an impression of not knowing how to climax and then get out of the way quickly. I’m sure though the two musicians will continue working together in the studio because the sound they have is too good to leave to just one album. I confess I don’t listen to much dub and reggae at all but I think I know a quality act when I hear one and these guys definitely have the potential to be leaders in their genre.

Contact: Deadbeat / BLKRTZ

As the Stars: a work of soundscaping art that needs something extra

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Woods of Desolation, As the Stars, Northern Silence Productions, digiCD / LP NSP 119 (2014)

At least the fellow behind Woods of Desolation has a great sense of humour in releasing this album on St Valentine’s Day in 2014. This recording, the third full-length for this Australian act, is set in the realm of depressive ambient black metal, with longing and a sense of the impermanence of things and of nature being strong themes here. At the same time  there are signs of hope and movement towards a brighter, more radiant world. There is beauty of a mellow and introspective kind present in the music, both BM and clean-toned, and the guitar layers have a shimmering brightness. Drumming by guest musician Vlad (of Ukrainian band Drudkh) is steady and anchors the music, allowing WoD main-man D to throw all his energies into maintaining a good flow and a  substantial ambience throughout the recording.

“Like Falling Leaves” introduces the album in grand style: there’s a slight melodic folk element in some of the instrumental passages and the song vibrates with a rich shimmering almost-summery texture. The vocals are not too clear but they are very harsh and tend to blend in with the music so they become an additional musical element rather than something separate. Each succeeding song has its own mood and ambience though the change in atmosphere from one track to the next is not abrupt or jarring. “Unfold” continues some of the grandness of the first song and adds an uplifing feel in the riffing and rhythms. This spirit of richness and radiance continues in the next couple of tracks.

“Anamnesis” is a weak link in its repetition and for not substituting something original for missing vocals – an opportunity for the band to break out of a rut and explore different if related musical territory is lost here. “Withering Fields” is a solid track that restores the album’s flow and richness but it falls to outro track “Ad Infinitum” to recall the majesty of the earlier tracks: it does so in a rousing way with shrill vibrato guitar lines, moments of quiet solitude and an underlying message of hope and optimism.

The band has crafted an album strong on atmosphere, melodic layered grandeur and a hopeful, positive mood. Radiant beauty is to be found right across all tracks in the music and its ambience. However over the course of the album the band does not build much on the foundation of a rich layered music and this makes for an above-average recording of consistent performance rather than a really outstanding work of originality and heightened emotion with peaks and troughs. Originality and a risk-taking approach that might include additional instrumentation, an extra vocalist or some deliberate toying around with the band’s essential black metal / post-rock style would have been welcome.

Contact: Northern Silence Productions

Through the Ocean to the Stars: Per ardua ad astra

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Lustre / Elderwind
Through the Ocean to the Stars
Russia Kunsthauch CD digipak (2014)

Lustre may be familiar to quite a few TSP readers with his dark ambient / black metal instrumental soundscape work – he has released a number of EPs, split recordings and albums – but Elderwind is a fairly unknown Russian entry into the world of BM.

Lustre leads the way with the two parts to “Follow Us to the Stars” – these are completely synth-dominated instrumental pieces of long droning sounds based around sparse minimalist rhythm loops and best heard together as one track – which in a way they are. Right from the start the music settles into two opposing camps of repeating swooping drones and pointillist tones, over which effects such as a pounding background beat or atmospheric wash might add some texture or depth. The second part is as repetitive as the first but in a darker vein.

The whole thing sounds mournful though possibly this wasn’t the intention. I find no sense of wonder or anticipation of the glories of the cosmos and the chance to be at one with the universe and to know something of its purpose (and by implication, the purpose of humanity and our individual purpose). Both parts are flat in sound and feeling, and with repetition being the only way these tracks escalate tension and feeling, the music becomes a tedious affair. The droning lacks subtlety and is very heavy-handed in comparison with the rest of the delicate music.

Elderwind grabs just over half the split release’s playing time with four separate tracks. The difference between Elderwind’s side and Lustre’s tracks is immediate: the Elderwind tracks are highly atmospheric and seem more attuned to the concept of the split recording, with a sense of awe at humanity’s contact with the infinite. The tracks naturally roll from one into another which enables the momentum and the ambience (and the soothing feelings they generate) to pass smoothly into succeeding tracks without the disruption of abrupt changing repetition loops. The final track “Polaris” suggests some kind of unity or communion is reached with the combination of spiritual organ-like tones, background wave sounds and strange whistle effects that seem to encourage listeners to reach out and contact denizens of the farthest galaxies.

It’s clear to me which side is the winner by a long distance: Elderwind hands out a punishing lesson to Lustre on how to create atmospheric space mood music that respects the concept and implications involved in voyaging to the stars. Both acts proceed from a depressive / atmospheric black metal background which comes with a baggage of existential contemplation of the human condition. Listeners might assume (mistakenly perhaps) that with such a background, these bands investigating space travel would bring along a curiosity about how such travel could reflect something to us about our purpose and place in the universe.

I don’t mean to question or criticise Lustre’s sincerity or motivation but his pieces are clunky and amateurish against those of Elderwind. In all probability these fall far short of his ambitions. This split recording could have been something great, a classic of its kind in spacey black metal psychedelia. As it stands, it’s uneven and awkward.

At this point I should mention that Elderwind, according to his entry on Encyclopedia Metallum, formed in 2009 and spent a few years exploring and perfecting his sound before releasing his first recording in 2012. The careful and studious preparation is evident in the quality of the work presented on this split release.

Contact: Kunsthauch
Van Records

Industrial Action

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Hati
Zero Coma Zero
POLAND ZOHARUM ZOHAR 050-2 CD (2013)

Of a more kinetic ambience than recent reviewees Howlround and Lethe, the ritual percussion duo Hati (Rafal Iwanski and Darek Wojtas) nonetheless establishes an equally eerie atmosphere in their psychogeographically remote recordings. Heaven (or Hell) knows where they performed these pieces, but they sound as dark and distant as certain of Coil’s or perhaps Paysage d’Hiver while he’s trapped in a blizzard. Like their longish-term collaborator, Z’EV, Iwanski and Wojtas build their own percussion instruments from salvaged and recycled metal, a process that lends itself both to a genuine intimacy with the means of production, and to an evocation of the cycle of death and rebirth, from which this collection conceives its title. The CD compiles a 250-copy, 2005 CDR release, Zero Coma Zero and a 121-copy, 2006 mini CD, Recycled Magick Emissions, the latter title denoting an initially disconcerting association with Thelema, though initial fears of encountering gaudy, lo-fi goth-pop were quickly subsumed by muted delight at the lengthy trancelike vibrations beamed through my speakers from an imagined/imaginary Tibet.

With sparing elegance, Hati command voices of primordial grandeur from their extensive, metallic battery and arsenal of skeletally sourced wind instruments. In ‘Animal’, a slow, thumping rhythm is yawned through by a backmasked, extra-dimensional ice-cat, suggesting a candle-lit darkness from which issues a clattering voodoo-esque rhythm that accompanies the lively arrival of dance troupe of Goetian demons. Though just shy of seven minutes it is rather brief for my liking, but actually one of the longer tracks on the album. Presumably the pair believes that welcomes are not to be outstayed. Still, they go on to stir up showers of shimmering cymbals, thundering peals of bonging gongs, howling woodwinds and disquieting clangs, all laced with metallic grey reverb that seems to conjure up one eyeball-sucking vortex after another. The nine tracks that form Zero Coma Zero are generally more jarring and dynamically varied than the more meditative drones of Emissions, but the EP forms a soothing coda or a banishing ritual of sorts. It’s a slow burner for sure, but burn it does.

Cheap Thrills

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Howlround
The Ghosts of Bush
UK THE FOG SIGNALS THEFOGSIG002 LP (2012)

Bought this lovely LP rather late in the day, after a tidal wave of justified hype had swept away most of those remaining. A sound purchase though: serendipity in the ashes of ‘hauntology’, while raising a number of musical bars, field recording and dark ambient chief among these. The vinyl offers welcome layer of crackle to an already geological sound strata, though I listen now to the FLAC version (available at a nominal price from their Bandcamp page), which no less absorbing. Names like William Basinski and Philip Jeck have been invoked in comparisons and not without just cause, for similarly vague and wistful atmospherics arise during the touch and go realisation of these remarkable pieces.

The recent Radiophonic Workshop tour struck me as an anomalous addition to the reunion circuit – surely nothing could be so antithetical to a performance space as a group of contemplative studio shut-ins who happened to produce a lot of interesting music; especially since most of those upon whose work the reputation rests are long since deceased. The music’s appeal has always carried specific locational associations, be it Saturday evenings in front of ‘telly or in hypothetical ruminations about abounding creativity somewhere within the BBC monolith. But just as such memories recede into a dimly lit, personal mythology, so do those of Bush House: 70 years home to BBC’s World Service, reputedly the inspiration for George Orwell’s Room 101 (he worked there between 1941-3) and sound source for Howlround’s similarly sinister The Ghosts of Bush.

The duo’s first full length commemorates Bush House’s closure by splicing and sewing countless recordings captured during nightshifts by studio technician Robin the Fog in the crepuscular corridors, shadowy stairwells, blackened basements, sealed studios and eldritch elevators, which were transferred to moribund 1/4” reel-to-reel tape before being tweaked, bounced, dissected and examined for spooky phrases and textures, moans and echoes, then loosely woven into the six cloudy compositions featured herein. A dash of Basinski tape decay significantly flavours the layers of loops and odd, seemingly supernatural vocalisations from forgotten, foreign tongues. The blending of sounds is artful, but one suspects that much of the listening pleasure derives from Howlround’s relatively non-interventionist approach to tape processing that inadvertently permits those walls ‘to speak’ – the fragments of their condensed history bleeding together ‘twixt the dialoguing reels of tape.

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Howlround
Secret Songs Of Savamala
UK THE FOG SIGNALS FOG 005 LP (2013)

Howlround apply a similarly ‘hands-off’ methodology to equally seductive effect in their more recent recording, Secret Songs Of Savamala, which was again recorded by Robin the Fog in ‘the ruins of the Spanish House’, a roofless husk (if Google Images serves me well) on the banks of the river Sava, Belgrade. While there’s no denying the same hands are at the controls, and the sensitive sculpting of essential amorphousness remains unchanged, remarkable is the difference in atmosphere of this location, foreign in both location as well as sound. Howlround describe it perfectly well: ‘Now an empty echo chamber, its walls reverberate with the rumble of the passing freight trains like the sea inside a shell; songs and shouts return distorted from a trip around the flooded basement and exposed structural supports become an unholy set of chimes’. Though the untreated sonic ingredients derive exclusively from this location, they nonetheless include ghostly choir vocals and percussion supplied by locals Mirjana Utvic and Anita Knežic respectively. Once again, the sense of fathomlessness is striking, sounded by distant, dripping walls and all-permeating voices booming from nowhere. Side two finds Chris Weaver back on board along ‘with the Howlround tape loop quartet’, and introducing a somewhat more mysterious energy brought in by anomalous laser blasts, sub-bass rumbling and deeper sonic architecture in general.

Also available for your enjoyment is a bonus recording of Howlround’s recent contribution to the Touch Radio series, entitled ‘Brighthelm’: a further 18 minutes of vari-speed looping recorded live, and free to download from the website. Informed by the same twilight energy as the above, the recording less resembles a sounded-out space, than the shimmering ‘out’ that was sounded: the hole in the donut, if you will. Cheap at none of the price.

Upset Twilight

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From 12 March 2013, fabulous cassette in a mostly black package from the swell Fang Bomb label of Goteborg. As you may know Fang Bomb is a personal favourite of mine for some reason. Maybe we share the same sense of the macabre. If they were a printing or engraving workshop, they would etch their lines deep and use a black ink of the deepest hue, resulting in evil tomes which, when opened, would give the reader forbidden glimpses of an ashen world and induce nuclear-holocaust strength headaches. Imaginary Forces is the London composer Anthoney J. Hart, who comes to us from a background shaped by 1990s drum and bass music, and whose Begotten (FB022) is a very rich piece of complex dark ambient music, with multiple layers – “environmental field recordings, the chug of train on rail, percussive chatters, insect song and whipping wind” all fed into its creation, selon thequietus.com. The fact that he was approached by Anthony Di Franco for a collaboration may also help you to situate his work. That and the fact that Begotten is based on his own personal obsession with a movie of the same name. I expect he’s referring to the 1990 experimental horror film made by E. Elias Merhige, which looks like it could be a mind-searing experience. Ironically, Hart spent a lot of money getting hold of a copy of this deleted item, but for the non-squeamish among you it can be viewed on YouTube now. The music of Imaginary Forces is compelling, not quite as “bleak” as much emptied-out dronery I’ve heard in this area, where the creators insist that we accept and participate in their sense of futility, and endure the aural equivalent of sub-zero temperatures that numb the brain. By contrast, Begotten gives us a lot to listen to and in its subtle layering often appears to be spinning in four directions at once, its elements shimmering and shuffling apart like decrepit tree limbs slowly withering away before our eyes. Yet it also retains an insistent and mesmerising power. Hart seems to have found a way to suffuse and disguise his pulsations so that they have the same impact as an entire week spent in a club with high-volume dance music, yet remain almost imperceptible in the mix.

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Here’s CD 2 of the mammoth P16.D4 box set Passagen (MONOTYPE RECORDS mono58) which we broached some weeks ago. For Distruct, the trio of Ralf Wehowsky, Roger Schönauer and Ewald Weber were joined by Stefan Schmidt, Gerd Neumann, Thomas Memmler and Peter Lambert, for these 1982-1984 recordings which were released by Selektion on LP in 1985. RLW had been given the idea – by Harry C. Poole of Smegma – to do a remote collaboration; Poole proposed to send across tapes from America for P16.D4 to complete, without having to meet up. Apparently the American found the idea of a thousand-mile distance extremely appealing. This kind of thing is fairly commonplace nowadays, especially since file-sharing has been made easier by the internet, but I suppose it was an innovative and bold step in the early 1980s. Although Smegma don’t actually appear on the finished item, RLW went ahead with the idea anyway, and with his characteristic productiveness organised collaborations with numerous international names from the “noise” and “industrial” music areas. Consequently, you can hear contributions from Bladder Flask, DDAA, De Fabriek, The Haters, Merzbow, Nocturnal Emissions, Achim Wollschied and Nurse With Wound, plus many others. Even an anonymous submission was used for this ambitious postal project; on ‘Aufmarsch, Heimlich’ you can hear a choir from a tape sent to the band from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Said tape has of course been severely mangled by RLW’s unusual treatments and deep slices as he wields the scissors of truth. Impossible to summarise the intense and wild music on this release – every track seems to exhibit a different approach or inhabit a new sound-world – but one thing they all have in common is that they produce very disjointed, broken and difficult listens. The rubble and bracken of unpleasant noise is jumbled and rehacked every which way, resulting in an extremely uncomfortable ride. Truly radical deconstruction techniques at work here. While admirable and important, it’s not much fun to listen to with its general air of nihilism and misery, although I found some respite from the grimness on ‘Les Honteuses Alliances’, whose success might be attributable to the fact that it’s a multiple collaboration: Merzbow, Bladder Flask, Nocturnal Emissions and Phil Johnson all supplied elements to the work, although once again it’s mostly Wehowsky putting the materials into the frame. A very clever and elaborate frame it is too, one made of robust wooden struts and held together with dovetail joints and screws. The CD release includes a couple of related bonus tracks, which have only been available previously as part of a subscription-only Vinyl On Demand box set.