Tagged: disturbing

Vinyl Sevens round-up (3 of 3)

Nice hit of modern dub music from Diggory Kenrick and Tapes, on the druggy-themed ‘Pipe Cleaner’ c/w ‘This Weed’s Making Me Nervous’ (MEEUW MUZAK MM043). Actually Kenrick only appears on ‘Pipe Cleaner’ providing the fantastic “spacey” flute playing, and curious listeners who enjoy such woodwind artistry may want to seek out his single ‘The Lion Flute’ on Coptic Lion from 2012. The flute adds warmth to what is otherwise enjoyable but also merely capable reggae music, where the digitally-sequenced bass comes off a shade too clean and may disappoint hard-core King Tubby fans. However, Tapes (London player Jackson James Bailey) clearly knows his dub music and has been experimenting for years with interesting attempts at cross-pollination, blending dub rhythms with extreme electronica effects. Arrived 05/12/2012.

Mysterious single of day (RLEP01) which we have had since around March 2011. Turns out to be by Stefan Blomeier and its two tracks are ‘Popular Electronics II’ and ‘Radio Astronomy’, but there’s nothing printed on the release except the label name Research Laboratory of Electronic Progress. It’s a brilliant brace of highly entertaining “retro” synth instrumentals, very analogue and assembled with a great deal of warmth and humour. One side is extremely melodic and catchy, the other side slightly more quirked-out and bizarre. I see he’s since done a 12-inch for Lux Rec called ‘Unexpected Journey’ and may also have something to do with Dark Acid II, a compilation for Clan Destine Traxx where he appears with Claire. Depending on which section of the internet you believe, Stefan Blomeier is a Danish mathematician or a Glasgow fine artist. Maybe both are true. Either way this record wins this week’s prize for outstanding fidelity in the Radiophonic field.

The team-up of Kevin Drumm, Jérôme Noetinger and Robert Piotrowicz made the Wrestling (BC04) single for Bocian Records. Right there you’ve got an all-time winning threesome as far as I’m concerned, and I know each of these fellows has produced or been associated with some truly wild / highly accomplished records of electronic music 1. This is why I’m so baffled that Wrestling turns out to be a rather damp Roman candle, sputtering out the odd blue flame when it should be shooting continual bright sparks like a gigantic Catherine Wheel. The synths, live electronics and guitars form an odd desultory jumble, and performances don’t quite cohere enough. It feels like it’s taking place in a festival “workshop” environment, where everything is under-rehearsed, unpolished, and slightly stilted. The release uses a “wrestling” metaphor, with its reference to the mysterious parable about Jacob wrestling the Angel. I doubt if the artistes intend to depict their improvisatory bout as a wrestling session; rather, the texts on the back emphasise the duration of this day-long biblical struggle, the fact that the Angel does not prevail, and something to do with giving Jacob a new name.

From 21 February 2012, a bizarre and unsettling item by Foi Pour Pusillanime (NO LABEL). This self-titled seven-inch is the teamup of Caroline Ehretique with the infamous Ogrob, whose renegade works we recently noted as one fourth of Micro_Penis, but this French creator has many other guises. There are six short compositions on this little weirdie, all with surreal titles such as ‘Vascularisation Maximale’ or ‘Les Enfants de la nuit’, and realised mostly with electronics and voices; you know you just have to own any record where the Ondes Martenot is played, likewise the ‘chiropteran echolocation’ device – which I would guess refers to a bat detector. For me, this tasty noirish creepfest has all the hallmarks of genuine artistic experiment – there’s a real boldness to these statements, along with a sense that the creators don’t much care if anyone’s even listening, so long as they have the chance to explore these interior landscapes from the dark side of their souls, and report back with piecemeal but unedited fragments of delirium captured on tape. All home-made, strikingly original, low key, and in places genuinely unsettling. The sleeve is a handmade linocut, it unfolds into an outsize frieze, and there were three other variants of this cover issued.

  1. Hear Piotrowicz’s Rurokura And The Final Warn if you can find it.

Glory Holes

Very long overdue notice for Tolvek (DOUBTFUL SOUNDS doubt07), this crapulous and absurdist record of genius by Micro_Penis, which we’ve had in the rack since at least November 2011 if not earlier. Perhaps I could use the unsettling cover art as an excuse for my tardiness, but now that I hear the record in its entirety it can only be declared as a tiny masterpiece of surrealism, a 19th-century nightmare of Freud and modern medicine, refracted through sonic images of the Crimean war and suggestions of typewriters, early automobile horns, and horrifying dreams of surgery going wrong. Most of the above can be deduced from just listening to the foul groaning spew that is spread across these two sides of vinyl; the team of Heyer, Kittel, Ogrob and Spenlehauer create ambiguous sound portraits in episodic form that can plausibly be read to contain all of those images. A man screams desperately on side one, undergoing painful surgery, to the sound of primitive saws buzzing horribly and a placid doctor murmuring his disdain. Warfare is clearly suggested across side two, either by distant cannon fire electronically simulated, or by crazed officers barking desperate orders in unintelligible ways, or by the ramshackle brass section imitating bugle calls. A more perfect realisation of a Max Ernst collage in sound, it’s hard to imagine; The 150 Murderous Passions LP (United Dairies UD 09, 1981) at last has some stiff competition.

Freud and Krafft-Ebing are also suitable subtexts, given the name of the combo and the cover images – collages by Michel Borgo from 1978 – which suggest a painful genital operation going horribly wrong, but also indicating that the team of doctors themselves, wearing sado-masochistic black masks, are somehow complicit in an institutionalised form of sexual deviancy. The assorted vocal groans, howls and pained ejaculations that erupt throughout the entire record are evidence that, in this looking-glass world, all sexual activity is a miserable, slow and painful process of joyless, physical grind. The association of sex with warfare, achieved by the record’s strong audio juxtapositions, confirms another deep archetype that has been with us since the time of Wilhelm Reich, and his studies such as The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Never a band to leave well enough alone, Micro_Penis also include a rubber object insert with the release, a “hybridization of sexual obsession and vegetable shape” developed by the artist Anne Zimmerman. This “sexual rubber beast” may have been derived from the leaves of a cabbage, but it also resembles a section from a lung or other vital organ, manufactured using a material which is alien neither to the operating theatre (rubber gloves) nor the bedroom (condoms). So far, plenty of the sort of twisted button-pushing that is guaranteed to activate every man’s dormant id – except it’s more like twisting a scalpel, in those parts we don’t want probed.

However, it would be wrong to overlook that this is also a very humourous record. The press release alone should have the reader in stitches, weaving fantastic yarns about band members being hospitalised or going on retreat in a Zen temple, while creating this work by digging in the hospital garbage bins (probably another deep archetype buried there too); they describe this grand guignol styled work as a melange of “horror movie, art brut and cruelty”. There’s humour in the sound too; if at any moment the music seems extremely bizarre, despairing, or violent, it’s instantly undercut by the next moment which makes liberal use of comic sound effects of farting and groaning bowels, be they created by brass instruments or electronic means. And the voices are exceptional. All four members of the band add voice elements, and they’re both hilarious and disturbing too (often in the same mouthful). They grunt and howl in unintelligible manner; this is not the systematic disassembly of language as practised by Burroughs and his cut-ups, rather the purely instinctive and animalistic reaction to emotional turmoil: this is call-and-response improvisation rendered 100 times more visceral. This is a juicy, dirty record that unflinchingly embraces all bodily functions, from intestines to genitalia and the “sang dans la culotte” that appears on side one, making a fleeting reference to menstruation. The creators of this lurid, nightmarish mess – François Heyer, Alexandre Kittel, Claude Spenlehauer and Sébastien Borgo – come to us from prior projects such as Sun Plexus and Myself, and have made one other LP under this alias in 2009. A truly nauseating delight!

025

Three Vinyl Varbins


After many CD releases, The Lickets finally made a vinyl LP. Here (on Earth) (INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION IC-011-A) contains just eight tunes with titles which speculate on the cosmos and its heavenly bodies, for all the world reading like chapter headings from a cosmological treatise by Robert Fludd or Paracelsus. Indeed all of its Renaissance science leanings can be discerned in the mystical cover art, which superimposes an anatomical human frame on top of a treated vista which combines pink-yellow clouds, the night sky, and the parched red trees of another planet. The strings of numbers at the base of this image confirm that The Lickets do not intend to ignore computer science in their world-view. Meanwhile the back cover is finding centres of psychic energy at various points on a city map, or a more general aerial view of our planet (more superimposed stars). Or perhaps these concentric circles indicate landing sites for extraterrestrial visitors. I find the sleeve more interesting than the music hereon, which while not at all unpleasant is not very challenging either. Simple major chords and slow arpeggios are strung out across rather uneventful, dreamy and near-ambient fields of syrup. The Lickets have tremendous control over their sound production and have developed a very polished and professional finish to their lushly-textured work, but compared to the days of 2005 when they made Fake Universe Man and produced lively, danceable instances of bizarre supermarket electro-pop, they seem to have less to say, in spite of all their advanced technique and studio-wise ability. This San Francisco combo used to keep a very low profile and their releases arrived with propaganda from their label pretending that the band didn’t even exist, and that International Corporation was in fact an entertainment conglomerate bent on taking over the world through music. Matter of fact that tactic was what appealed to me in the first place (similar strategy to The Residents, or Sudden Sway when they signed to a subsidiary of Warners). Released in 2011.

The item from Cold Spring Records is a split LP (CSR153LP) between Iron Fist Of The Sun and Burial Hex, and it’s quite a shocker. IFOTS‘s side is Grown Under English Ice, and it’s all the work of Brummie man Lee Howard, who’s been making records for about five years; Jennifer has already noted his one-take, icy nihilism (and an apparent fixation on Princess Di). As title indicates, this is a freezing cold and wintry work which is thoroughly steeped in a desperation and misanthropy that is peculiarly English, and to his credit Howard makes no concessions to international listeners, bellowing his unintelligible chants of hatred in a strong English accent. His remarkable yelling vocal style is his strongest point, particularly on ‘This Man Will Glow / Two Circles of Salt’, where he appears imprisoned in a living Hell with palpably thick walls of concrete. As he shrieks for deliverance from this grisly burial chamber, controlled feedback and vile electronic noise is shaped into pulsations that simultaneously hammer us like piledrivers and lash us like whips. He too, I expect, undergoes similar painful sensations as he pounds helplessly on the door of his cell. The record calms down slightly after that opening high point of agonised yowl, but continues with horrid synthesisers which almost resemble a sarcastic cartoon version of 1970s Kosmische music, with more unpleasant vocal murmurs and grunts. Smashing!

On Actaeon, Burial Hex offers us two suites ‘The Coming Of War’ and ‘Act Aeon’. I’m still trying to adjust to the fact that Clay Ruby, that seemingly affable and cowboy-hatted leader of US weird-folksters Davenport, has taken this dramatic turn away from songs, guitars and trancey melodies, and taken up a commission with the “dark ambient” brigade. In fact I have a whole CD by Burial Hex on this same label to look forward to. Of course Ruby has his own very personal take on the “cold Black Metal” genre, and the twists and turns of his warped personality are embedded in every note of Actaeon; as the record progresses, there are fewer reference points, no tunes of any kind, and the listener is lost in a strange and bleak world. Like the flipside of this split, it’s another celebration of the woes of the Hibernal season, and was “recorded in the throes of Winter 2011″. The only connection it has with IFOTS is that Burial Hex also uses shouty vocals, with the vocalist likewise poised on the edge of a histrionic screaming fit. The shrieks become even more unsettling, until it’s far from clear what sort of emotion might be depicted at all; it could be some new, diabolical strain of psychological blackness that goes beyond mere despair. These uncanny ululations are bolstered with wayward electronic music (maybe), unnerving sound effects, and an abiding tone of bleak nameless horror. Essential charred food for your black soul!

Datashock are a nine-piece set of German freaky-styled ensemble players from the state of Saarland, and you can hear numerous examples of their spaced-out musical tranceouts on Pyramiden Von Gießen (DEKORDER 052), an entire double LP complete with suitably cosmic colourful graphics printed on its sturdy gatefold, plus a baffling surrealist text by Jürgen Ploog which poses the conundrum “Sounds, what are they?”. The very full sound of this band seems to me to fit in perfectly with the aesthetic of Dekorder; even the owner, Marc Richter, makes solo records that are replete three-course meals of overdubbed keyboards that swell with drone like pastry horns full of whipped cream. Pascal Hector is the main man behind this troupe of free-wheeling hairies, and his own label Meudiademorte has represented many contemporary examples of the free-form fuzz genre – Vanishing Voice, Sunburned Hand, Silvester Anfang, etc. From their website’s polemic and the studied air of stoned insouciance and poised weirdness that exudes from the band photos, it’s clear Datashock would like to pay their respects to trippy and far-out 1970s prog of all stripe, including Pink Floyd, Amon Düül and (probably, though not explicitly named) Gong; while at the same time avoiding any accusations of holding on to the past. Well and good, but on the grooves of this record there just isn’t enough commitment to really getting lost in the realms of the unknown. Datashock have a pleasant sound and there are lots of instruments playing at once, but each tune follows the same formula: one four-bar motif, repeated ad nauseam with very slight variations, until the tape recorder runs out or the needle hits the end of the record. Too much of the record is slow and ponderous without ever being profound, and the sluggishness is wearisome. They never seem to leave their comfort zone, and the music lacks tension. I’d just like to hear this band really cut loose and get a lot wilder and noisier, instead of circling around in these self-regarding mutual admiration sessions.

004

Shanghai Heat and Radioactive Food


Creative Destruction (HYPNAGOGIA GIA07) is a two-disc set of Japanese harsh noise which slipped into the collecting sack on 23 December 2011. It certainly ruined my Christmas. It was compiled I assume by Paul Coates, seemingly with the intention of simultaneously punishing and disorienting the listener with impenetrable, bizarre, and unapproachable sounds. A lot of it seemed at first sight to be drawn from the “classic” 1990s period of Japanese noise, when giants stalked the earth and also saw fit to tear your head off with ferocious electronic bursts from their volcano-like heads. Not everyone here fits that profile, though. Kazuma Kubota is a relative “new boy”, seems to have been active in in the last five-six years, and with his ‘Beginning of the End’ (Parts 1-3) he delineates a mechanised apocalypse by dabbling in the junkyard with metallic parts, alternating his actions with shrill feedback explosions. A puzzling, weary and resigned air already sets in; a depressing way to open the compilation.

Government Alpha restores more sizzle to that steak as he dips his wriggling tentacles in the long trough of acidic despair. Some eight minutes of ‘Writhe in Agony’ are followed by over ten minutes of ‘Ovum of Foresight’, both cuts reeking of delicious mad electronic music where any control units which may have once existed are being willingly sacrificed on the altar of brain-meltdown. This solo act is a bona-fide 1990s god of Japnoise, but is regarded by some as an upstart aiming to kick greater gods like Merzbow and Masonna off the top of the pedestal.

Two tracks by Incapacitants (Toshiji Mikawa, sometimes joined by Fumio Kosakai) are enjoyable slabs of tabletop mayhem, still chaotic in the extreme but somehow bound in by the multiple looping effects that seem to be whirling before us like imaginary dervishes. Where Government Alpha wants to scald off your skin with boiling lashes, Incapacitants are content to grind our bodies down into pepper, the slow way. At least, that’s the case on Part 1 of ‘Fall Of Olympus’; the second part is much wilder, an unmanaged explosion of dangerous fireworks, space rockets, and ICBM missiles. I hesitated before ordering Box Is Stupid from Pica Disk in 2009, and never got one in the end; I’m still not sure I would ever play 10 CDs of their “work”.

Ahh, here’s Defektro closing out disc one. Three relatively short tracks in the 5-6 minute area and with interesting science-fiction / violent / psychedelic titles too. A new name to me; sometimes calling themselves a “Noise Army”, this is a trio of fun-loving tykes who have been twiddling their knobs since about 1998. They veer from unvarying feedback in the “HNW” style to somewhat more textured industrial rumble-n-loop exercises, ending their segment with a bleak utterance on a more minimal and menacing tone.

As we pause for a cuppa we can also admire the astonishing artworks by Yasutoshi Yoshida. The colour front covers are strong, but the inside collage is a real dazzler, collaging Indian deities with insects, bones, and machinery. I kind of regret having all that typography superimposed on this masterpiece. Imagine if it had been a double LP gatefold. I don’t think the world would ever recover from it.

On disc two we have Thirdorgan, a solo act of early 1990s vintage to be sure. His three segments of ‘Die Disziplin Für Die Kreative Zerstörung’ are perfect examples of sub-Merzbow powerhouse malarkey, with barely a breathing space to be had in the relentless explosive energy, except for a lovely interlude of UFO-interior effects for two minutes in the middle. K2 is another destructo-merchant with 15 minutes of ‘Reactors of Raging Goddess’” which has a shade more interest in dynamics than Thirdorgan, but is still as dangerous as a power cable flailing about in your living room with three rhinoceroses. Like many of the names here he has a huge back catalogue, in his case going back to 1993, but the most recent thing I heard from him was a split with Maaaa. The three tracks by Astro are a high spot for me; his all-white vinyl M.S.G. Of Electronics Wave from 1997 is a personal fave. Old Hiroshi Hasegawa certainly has the violence of all the loons named above, but he also manages to produce noise that somehow has more weight and density. Maybe it’s simply that he uses a bit more bottom end to round out the harsh feedback attacks. There’s more incident to Astro too, internal loops and crazy layers and absurd yelps of electronic absurdity, to mellow out the effects of being passed eight dozen times through an industrial-sized buzzsaw.

Lastly, there’s our good friend Guilty C. also called The Guilty Connector, another relative “youngster” on the noise scene who’s been doing it for maybe 12 years now. At one stage I wanted to try and “collect” his music, so interesting did the many hats he wore seem to me; within this genre, he’s one of the harder names to pigeon-hole or describe adequately. I soon gave up my dream of collecting his CDRs and tapes, but one day a mad collector somewhere in the world will leave me his full set as an inheritance when he writes his will. As to Guilty C.’s ‘Black Nights, Muddy Confusions’, it’s one of the few quiet moments on this mostly boisterous set, but no less menacing. In fact it develops into the familiar harsh noise assault eventually, but does so at a very slow pace. Imagine being eaten by large snakes in slow motion to savour the feelings engendered by this ghastly music.

008

The Cold Wind’s Grasp

Photo-Mechanical Transfer

The English trio of PMT play bass drums and guitar in a decidedly odd manner on Frosty Lee / THFCKWT EP (SLIGHTLY OFF KILTER SOK035). Not to say they’re especially loud or even “raw & primitive” in the manner of a latterday rockabilly combo. Their playing is full of stops and starts, half-patterns, lumbering and lurching about, as the trio move from uncertain doodling to confident riffing and back again, often in the space of a single 10-minute track. I suspect some of this unusual dynamic is due to simply turning the recording device on and off, but (for two tracks at least) that is an integral part of the listening experience of this bizarrely charming slab. In 1981, PMT probably would have been selling hundreds of cassette tapes of their brand of naïve sub-post punk discordancy. However it’s also clear that these players, who recorded this record in a South London tower block and a barn in southern England, have taken the 1990s “slacker” attitude and turned it into a philosophy that guides their every musical thought and action. The first two tracks have the insouciant druggy rehearsal-room feel, while ‘Frosty Lee’ is a more straight-ahead free-form rocky jam with the kind of exciting live edge that almost makes me think I’ve discovered a rare 1971 heavy-prog underground guitar group to match Captain Marryat. Nifty, edgy, vital playing throughout. Added bonus – no effects pedals whatsoever as far as I can hear. This arrived 17 January 2012.

The Carrion Crow

Further heaviness now from Wold, the obscure Canadian Black Metal trio. I may not have reported this in the pages of The Sound Projector, but I am a huge fan of Wold. When I first heard their 2005 release L.O.T.M.P. I thought I was dreaming – they have a fascinating nightmarish delirious quality to their intensive noise, like a much less benign version of the over-produced guitar wall records of My Bloody Valentine. Imagine my delight on receiving Badb (CRUCIAL BLAST CBR91) which predates L.O.T.M.P. by one year and was originally released on cassette by Regimental Records. This November 2011 reissue is thus most welcome. The trio of Obey, Operationex and Fortress Crookedjaw may or may not use conventional guitars and amplifiers to generate their scalding blasts, but the unsettling and nauseating properties which I cherish are still very much to the fore. They are kings of controlled distortion, using that element as a potent weapon of destruction, rather than a dark cloud to mask their activities. Behind walls of feral, manic riffing and vatloads of reverb effects, uncanny ghost notes and impossible musical sound events are unfolding and taking wing like verdigris-encrusted demons. At front of mix, the singer is ripping out his own lungs and tearing out his teeth via a painful throat operation in attempts to convey the brutal devastation passing before his eyes. Which brings us to the theme of Badb, which is attached to “the mythology of the war goddess”, an unpleasant spirit which apparently “lurks at the edge of the battlefield”. According to Irish mythology, she often took the form of a crow, ever-ready to peck out eyes and strip flesh from the bones of the fallen. More pertinent to this record is Badb’s ability to bring fear and confusion to the enemy, two emotions which will certainly flood your senses within seconds of hearing this wild album. In retelling the fantastic tales of this war-blackened shroud-hag with wings, Wold appear to me to be bringing back martial forces from ancient history (Alexander The Great, or even earlier) and somehow replaying them through modern technology. A painful and aggressive listening experience, but also a cathartic torture session that simultaneously celebrates and exorcises the horrors of mortal combat. Issued with a booklet of lyrics; the cover design for the booklet is just superb, a stark graphic showing Death astride a blackened and incandescent globe, with a carrion crow perched on his bony claw. What more potent image of nuclear holocaust could you wish for? Arrived 30 January 2012.

Winterreise

Another record which achieves similar degrees of bleakness to Wold is Winter (COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS CFYR009), by the duo of Wade Matthews and Alfredo Costa Monteiro. They do it by means of process art rather than extreme black metal, and they use a combination of amplified springs and motors, a radio set, digital processing, and field recordings. Nowadays the above shopping list is admittedly quite commonplace, but Wade and Alfredo destroy a lot of the competition with these highly textured and dynamic assemblages, their brows set permanently in a frowning and scowly attitude. Generally, the sound of Winter is quite heavy and rich, without a trace of the wispiness or uncertain dabbling that ruins the efforts of lesser men. Through crackle, burr, intensified drone and alien-sounding effects, the pair plod on through snowy wastes and cross frozen lakes wearing only raggedy newspapers on their feet, intent on reaching a lonely shack in the middle of nowhere. Potent and deeply mesmerising abstract greyness abounds in this music. One of three beauts received from this New York label on 16 January 2012.

Sweet Honey in the Rock

The Polish composer Michal Kedziora took about four years to produce all the tracks on Honey (ETALABEL ETA-CD 018), working under his Noiko guise and assisted by the turntablist Luke M. on three tracks, with mastering by Krzysztof Orluk. I suppose it took a long time to complete because it’s such a painstaking assemblage of samples, taken from a range of conventional instruments – clarinet, guitar, percussion, piano – which were then refitted into these pleasant and enjoyable instrumental jigsaws. It’s kind of like an avant-gardish ambient record with slow irregular beats and looped patterns, almost the sort of backdrops that Portishead would also have spent years working on for their second album before emerging from their windowless lair and waving the white flag to the representatives of their record company. The overall “fuzzy” vibe that I’m getting probably comes from varispeeding – a lot of the tracks are like dreaming about a walk through a 19th century drawing room filled with orange-coloured glue, only to stumble upon a wind-up musical box brought downstairs from the nursery. But then Luke M. adds the customary vinyl crackle sound as part of his contributions, adding greatly to the gentle hypnotic atmosphere with its lulling rises and falls. Noiko is not afraid of melody or even tastefulness, elements once considered to be the enemy of the avant-garde; indeed it sometimes feels like, given enough time, his skeletal chord frameworks could easily resolve into the chords for a tin pan alley song or jazz standard. These sentiments are not unforgivable, as the record was inspired by the birth of his daughter, although I can’t quite square those family-centric emotions with the photographs of the 8,000 ton merchant vessels on the cover. The record makes a virtue of the old-fashioned analogue equipment that was used in the mastering process, including a “tube saturator” invented by the engineer Andrzej Starzyk. Arrived 30 January 2012.

Towers of Silence / Identity is Death


A couple of items from the Israel label Heart & Crossbone, which has for some years now been feeding me with mind-blasting examples of obscure extreme metal music in many mutant forms. This record by Eric Lunde is not in that genre, but is more like abrasive electronic art music from this Milwaukee industrial musician who used to be part of Boy Dirt Car in the 1980s. He has since proved his mettle as a visual artist, poet and writer, and produced books of his art prints as well as some 35 solo albums. A World Of Hurt in the Kingdom Of God (HCB 035) comprises some very bleak and fascinatingly mesmerising stretches of monotonous, claustrophobic electronic music, which simultaneously envelop you with the cold comfort of an ice-cold hot water bottle and repel you with their inner core of seething hate. Not an assault of noise music, this is a creeping disease of sound that winnows away your outer defences with its ghastly lurid effects, vile buzziness, and unpleasant distortion. Among these 13 tracks, two are extracts from live performances, and three comprise readings from a prose work entitled Prison Sex, a counsel-of-despair polemic which outlines mankind’s dilemma in stark tones, resigned to what Lunde regards as the permanent state of cruelty and inhumanity in a literally God-forsaken world. There are some performance artists who use their recits to express vehement rage and outbursts of anger to vent their frustration. Eric Lunde, by contrast, seems to be utterly defeated and drained by his pessimism as he wearily delivers himself of these bitter spoken-word rants, some of them spiced up by many four-letter words and strewn with many unpleasant images, thoughts, and deeds. ‘Clock Says Done’ may be a key track, its sense of utter finality leaving you in no doubt that we’re hearing a mind at the end of its tether. A strong piece of work which may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the grisly brooding music Lunde makes is crucial, and abides in your system as efficiently as a virus.

The searing record by Balata carries the incendiary title We Are All Terrorists (HCB-034), a record made by the duo of David Opp and Aviad Albert. David Opp (Openheim) owns the label and is also a member of Lietterschpich, Cadaver Eyes, and bARBARA; as Cadaver Eyes, he also made Mesarveem Lihyot Covshim (“Refusing to be Occupiers”) with its bomb-blasted building cover art in 2010, letting you know how he feels about the Arab-Israeli situation in a way we cannot possibly misunderstand. This new release picks up the theme. While taking its name from a Palestinian refugee camp on the West Bank, the band hurls its sonic-doom venom grenades at specific targets – the Israeli government, its army, and its citizens, with the singer railing against what he perceives as needless cruelty and political apathy, but also the sheer madness brought about by random decisions made by the madmen in charge. All five short songs on this CDR are disguised under pseudo-sweet titles on the back cover, but you need only spin the disc to immerse yourself in inchoate metal doom rage where every drum beat is a hammer blow on the coffin of humanity, or something like that. The singer is screeching fit to propel his viscera out through his nose, but if there’s any lyrical content to match the anger (e.g. political slogans, critiques, incitements to uprising) it’s all buried in a stew of distortion and noise. However, a few moments spent in the midst of this maelstrom of disconnected metallic horror with its spastic stop-start rhythms and near-unlistenable feedback grind will convey the reality of an insufferable situation apparently characterised by absurdity, blindness and flailing fury. Borrowing its title from The Pop Group and quoting Mark Stewart in the press release, this is a record that doesn’t intend to let anyone off the hook easily, including us poor schmoes in the audience. 30 minutes of severe mental discomfort await the listener brave enough to admit this CDR into their home.

Now for another record of black doom noise, but situated in a rather more fantasy-like occult setting than the two previous items, which are each determined to face reality square in the eyes and stare it down. I refer to Infernal Affairs (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR146CD) by MZ.412. I’ve been working my way steadily through the items in this series of reissues since December 2010, and I sincerely hope this is the last one. 1 To reiterate, the Swedish genius Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk who calls himself Kremator is the principal creator for this music, regarded by many as an innovative strain that blends industrial noise and Black Metal in a lethal cocktail. While he’s sometimes aided by collaborators, it so happens Infernal Affairs is a solo record, and it’s one of the bleakest and most terrifying in the set. Ghastly electronic sounds, militaristic drum beats and inhuman whispered vocals conjure up dark stories of the legions of the damned gradually taking over the civilised world. Track titles such as ‘Wounds of a Fallen Warrior’ and ‘Overthrowing European Christianity’ confirm the destructive and nihilistic agenda of MZ.412, as indeed do the other albums in this set, and the ambitious sweep of the man’s totalitarian vision is extremely single-minded. Very little in the way of tunes or songs on this record, rather more a collection of stern and depressing atmospheres swathed in sub-zero blasts from the Russian Steppes, but they are very unusual and unique musical statements of understated power, never once slipping anywhere near the familiar pitfalls of the “dark ambient” genre. Indeed Björkk prefers to think of his performances as “rituals”, and there’s plenty of evidence layered into these dense cuts to suggest he does a lot more than enter a recording studio with lots of synths and microphones, perhaps enlisting support from the diabolical hordes. The powerful imagination at work behind these chilling, ice-cold doomscapes is considerable.

About time also we took note of Ritual Productions, the London label which kindly sent us a couple of albums by Ramesses in September 2011. Possessed By The Rise of Magik (RITUAL PRODUCTIONS RITE010) is a great slab of good old-fashioned occult heavy metal, complete with a cover decorated with arcane symbols and signs; recorded in a studio in just two days with only a few overdubs for vocals, the music shows this English trio creating that delicious brand of thick, overloaded evil guitar music that is meat and drink to Black Sabbath fans like myself. The drummer Mark Greening is pretty much the founding member, who put the band together with Tim Bagshaw and Adam Richardson in 2003 after he left Electric Wizard, another splendid English metal combo in thrall to the Sabs. Feel free to enjoy the sensations of being bludgeoned by mighty bass guitar throbs, drenched in excessive power-chord sweeps, and sent into a fitful sleep-state by the relentlessly circling guitar riffs, but it’s the exceptional drumming of Greening that truly makes Ramesses stand out in this already overcrowded field. His main skills are that he knows when to leave gaps, and even when to stop altogether, without ever letting the music come to a dead stop in its ceaseless crawling along its abject path. Even more impressive is that he can do this at such a measured, slow pace; that’s real assurance for you. The guitarists perform well, but the drums are truly at the core of the Ramesses sound, directing and propelling each sickening fuzzed-up guitar solo and bass whomp to give it additional punch. Where MZ.412 intends to bewitch you with his complex Arthur Machen styled fantasies, Ramesses entice you into a world of witchcraft and black magic through suffocation, prolonged sessions on the rack, and beatings with iron rods, thusly producing a sensation in the listener amply described by the track title ‘Safety In Numbness’. In fine, lovers of rich, noisy metal and sludgy doom will not feel short-changed by this album.

The Book of Disquiet

Small Cruel Party at the Zoo

An unsettling item of ambiguous electronic music is Soft Zoo (FIRST FOLD RECORDS FOLDCD011), a record credited to A Small Party Of Pressure, a cabal of mummers which includes the massed talents of Justin Wiggan, Mark Vernon, Anders Gjerde, Hild Sofie Tafjord and Lois Laplace. Some of these names I recognise and have even enjoyed their work in past years, but none have ever appeared in quite such strange and shrouded disguise as this. Faintly murmuring and non-melodic synth tones and electro-acoustic treatments float around in heavy syrup like menacing jellyfish in this fairground of the paranormal, where all the sideshow barkers whisper in unknown tongues, and I don’t even remember buying my entry ticket. As to disguises, even the CD cover gets in on the act, attempting to mislead and distract with confusing or inaccurate information; the spine simply states “ARTIST NAME / PROJECT TITLE” in a generic fashion, the cover stickers give glimpses of visual information that is puzzling, there are errant numbers, and what does the date stamp “APPROVE 27 NOV 2010″ mean? To cap it all, they insert a piece of paper which when unfolded turns out to be the form for a Rorschach test, clearly implying that as listeners we will find within this music reflections and apes of whatever secrets lurk in our murky brain-pans. Enter this labyrinth by all means, but be sure to bring Ariadne’s golden thread before ye confront your inner Minotaur. The centre-piece ‘Skin’ is an agitated noisy growler which suggests a lot about the seething Id that lurks at the centre of this psychological maze, but remainder of record tends to reside in the area of Nurse With Wound or The Hafler Trio, and very expertly done too. “From the ashes of industry we rise,” is the motto of the record company that released this head-scratcher.

Music of my Mind

The Talking Book (KOOLARROW RECORDS KACA 027) is an album which probably would like to cross over into similar zones of psychic ambiguity, but as title suggests it’s far more concerned with narrative elements, however non-referential and unspecific they may be. Bill Gould used to be the bass player in Faith No More, and he teamed with the experimental sound-scaper Jared Blum to produce this set of rich drone-form pieces packed with plenty of tasty textures and maintaining a dream-like sinister aura at all times, through careful monitoring of images transmitted via the “Oneiric Helmet Device” while in the studio. It’s made with guitars, pianos, voices and perhaps some resampled vinyl LPs for that extra analogue crackle layer. Many of these sound sources are subjected to intense processing and reprocessing, and cleverly aligned to form ingenious layers where we can “see” several sound layers at once through the windows of their immediate neighbours. Cover photos of nameless Victorian lady and picturesque tilted gravestones (note non-Western lettering thereupon) add further mysterious clues.

The Clones of Dr Funkenstein

Did someone say “psychic”? How about a Psychic TV / PTV3 release on a small private press UK label Vanity Case Records? I have a CDR pressing in front of me but Alien Brain Vs Maggot Brain (VANITY CASE RECORDS VC-03) came out as a limited edition 12-inch vinyl item about one year ago. The A side is a piece of doom-tinged psychedelic freakery showcasing the crisp axe-work of Jeff Berner, which keeps the listener in a state of drooling anticipation for a good five minutes before letting rip with generous gobs of mind-frying excess. True believers in this kult band may prefer the flip, which turns out to be a cover of the famous Funkadelic song (of all things), sung by the man Gen himself and transformed into a mutoid piano ballad with the help of Jess Stewart’s overwrought romantic keyboards, then propelled into further pompery by heavy wah-wah guitar and drumming. Nick Cave couldn’t have done it better…I’m not as clued in on PTV’s work as I should be, and this is probably not a “typical” release, but I wasn’t expecting anything quite as, erm, dramatic as this slice of theatrical eccentricity, as heavy and unexpected as a Lardy Cake spiked with thorazine. Whatever next, indeed. Well, the second part of this trilogy, with a cover version of ‘Mother Sky’, is available now.

Particle Physics

Ah, here’s something a bit quieter from Slavek Kwi / Artificial Memory Trace. Collection 5 (GRUENREKORDER Gr080) is housed in the familiar Gruenrekorder metal cigar case, and it’s 32 tracks of unidentifiable sounds. In fact we’re positively discouraged from trying to work out what we might be hearing to, if I understand correctly the stern admonition ‘Perception. No Cognition. Listen’ which is printed inside. Other sound-artists may be content with the term “field recordings”, but Slavek Kwi insists he deals in “particles of reality” which are “recorded and created in various dimensions of time-like space”. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing, more like a force of nature (or several forces of nature) than a contrived work of art. Listen for all 79 minutes and you may indeed experience the cross-dimensional teleportation effects that are hoped for, as you focus your interior microscope viewer and your mind is lost in wonder and engagement with these quiet, intimate, and unearthly soundings. Where Chris Watson would like us to share the miracles of creation through sound recordings supplemented with meticulous written documentation and tied to specific earthly locations, Slavek Kwi prefers us to leap into the experience “blind”, and feeds us raw, pulsating information through both ears without the aid of contextualisation. Hone your perceptive skills with this excellent release.

Invitation to the Blues

Since we seem to have grabbed up a handful of brilliantly perplexing records today, what better to fit the bill than Introduction Of “Blue Of Noon” (MONOTYPE RECORDS MONO 029), credited to Olga Magieres and Tetsuo Furudate. Olga, an Academy-trained Polish musician, is providing piano improvisation on her Steinway, and the born-again Industrial musician Furudate is making other unknown sounds. You might understand my slight trepidation in approaching this disk as it includes a reading from the written work of Georges Bataille, the transgressive French writer, on track two; and I long remember Furudate as the co-author of World As Will, a Nietzsche-themed series of abstract noise records he’s made with Zbigniew Karkowski, from which I’m still reeling after hearing the second volume in 2002. So I anticipated some violence or general sense of darkness, but instead this turns out to be a gorgeous hour of dream-like lyrical oddness, with virtually no explanations and completely inscrutable in its strange logic. Its many cultural layers are deployed like cryptic crossword clues to create a very specific effect, and many of the resonances are lost on me, but it’s a shopping list includes not just Bataille but also Chopin, Bach, Gershwin, and Harry Warren; a strange mix of surrealism, spoken word, classical chamber music, and tin pan alley, all shot through, disturbed and desiccated by Furudate’s singular humming and electronic howling sounds, his dissonant metallic shrieks, and his stern-faced near-silent utterances. The concepts extend to the oddness of the sleeve art; are these wire sculptures in a hotel room, or simply a doctored photograph with line drawings added? This release is certainly something to puzzle over, but it’s also a fascinating record of avant-bizarritude too.