At just over 35 minutes in length, how does a short recording like this recent album capture the immense magnificence and sheer scale of such a topic as the birth, life and death of a supernova? If your name is Roly Porter, you use the topic to explore what it means to be alive as a human, to be a tiny and insignificant speck living in a massive universe where such phenomena can exist yet experience the same life cycle as you do.
The music is split into five tracks that trace the upward trajectory from disorganised helium cloud into concentrated masses of cloud that soon reach critical mass and begin to draw other particles into them. Masses take on definite form and substance, generating internal heat, gravity and other forces, and from there evolution and growth begin and accelerate. The album gets off to a brisk start and rarely lingers for long on sounds, melodies, rhythm structures and tone wash for their own sake. There is plenty of dark void in and around the sounds, suggesting the vastness of space and our own lonely condition on a tiny blue planet in a small star system. The music combines elements from industrial, dubstep, formal acoustic composition, symphonic music and dark ambient.
For all the solemn beauty that passes our ears though, there’s something rather too controlled, steady and unemotional about the music – it’s very grand but it evokes no sense of wonder or drama in the way that the music selected by Stanley Kubrick for his sci-fi masterpiece flick “2001: A Space Odyssey” does. True, the clever director chose a wide range of music and musical styles, some stretching as far back as the mid-1800s, to emphasise the visual action or vistas portrayed – and that in itself points to a problem with Porter’s work: for much of the recording, there’s no sense here that he was reaching for the utmost in the genres of music he chose to work in for this album, no sense of risk or exploration. Only with the final track “Giant” do we arrive at a state of terror and awe as the star in question achieves super-giant status and engulfs some of its inner planets but the musical drama only goes so far. We are not even allowed to hear and visualise the star’s full glory and extent as it reaches its maximum size and development just before it begins to collapse in on itself.
It’s a beautiful work, grand in its own way, yet in my view not quite reaching the heights and depths that beckoned. Perhaps if Porter had extended his vision of the star’s life cycle to include its inevitable descent and death, a connection between the most incredible physical phenomenon and our own lives would have been established, and we humans would find comfort in knowing that even the mightiest things to exist must eventually die. Something really grand, intense and quite emotional could come out of that.
Wacky sped-up chipmunk vocals and glitchy rubber electronics herald this collection of often creepy electronics that almost verges on noise, isolationist dub and Whitehouse-styled power electronics. I have no idea who Rubbed Raw are and what connection they have to a character called Big Daddy Nugg who died in his early 40s in 2010, whether this person was a member of the band, a friend or a major inspiration. The A-side of the recording early on is dominated by a pounding percussion, wobbly watery sounds and deranged guitar feedback drone in parts, followed by a vigorous rhythmic stroll of more blaring industrial-sounding noise electronics with just a dash of techno thrown in. A later track consists of a spoken-voice recording overlaid by shimmering echo that renders the voice alien and sinister, and a quivering guitar feedback drone solo, leading into what sounds like a peculiarly sanitised exchange of gunfire as imagined on laptops and PCs.
Side-B is no less weird or abrasive with occasional rhythm loop forays into something quite funky and almost worthy of admission into dance clubs without fear of being thrown out by bouncers. Blasts of industrial-strength steel noise, searing guitar feedback drone and effects that fly in and out hold you spellbound. This is quite a short side compared to the A-side.
Although this recording seems very lo-fi, the composition, arrangement and execution of the sounds, rhythms, beats and field recordings are excellent and suggest the musicians, amateurs though they might consider themselves, have quite a long history of performing original music. The music is very edgy, skating very close to the jagged point of a sheer drop down into machine noise chaos. There’s a sense of the music being very deranged due to its extreme isolation from familiar music networks; that deranged attitude elevates the sounds into feverish paranoia territory. It can be terrifying to hear and it’s sure to warp your brain the more you listen to it. How can I get more of this stuff?
Contact: Ormolycka, PO Box 649, New York, NY 10163, USA
In ancient Greek mythology, Deimos was the god of terror and together he and his brother Phobos, the god of fear, would ride on either side of their father Ares during battle, glorying in the slaughter of soldiers as they fell from chariots or their horses, or were cut down by storms of arrows and spears. This cassette might be short at 20 minutes but the terror and fear it delivers are perhaps no less in the music’s assault on the eardrums. The style of music might best be described as a mix of blackened psychedelic free noise industrial ambient punk. If I missed anything out in that description, readers are free to suggest more labels ad infinitum.
The A-side ( “Terror Diluviano” and “La Ofrenda Danzante del Cuerpo Enamorado”) promises a real scare-fest with a short passage of deep chanting vocals counterbalanced by solemn trance-like witch voices all surrounded by strange twisted wobble effects and wisps of airy sound. A creepy lead vocal takes charge and for a few moments you wonder whether you’re hearing a real Satanic Mass being performed. We continue into a bass-like doodle that transforms into a series of berserk piano squiggles, background sigh and whoosh, and evilly grim black metal goblin vocals chanting repetitively in a strange tongue. Weird FX dive in and out of the music.
The B-side (“Deimos” and “Ni Sobreproteccion, Ni Descuido”) is more ominous and ambient than avantgarde weird. The title track is based around an original contribution by Wesley Young / Deciduous Flux who plays electronics here. (Young also modelled for the artwork by Jesse Pepper.) It consists largely of sleepy bass drone suggestive of an idling grinding machine over which a flute might play or a lone speaker might say or whisper something. Bringing up the rear is a piece that might have escaped from a long moody movie-music soundtrack: blowing wind, space synth wash, glitch rhythms, ticking percussion and glittery space-ambient tone squiggle loops will keep you guessing as to what kind of B-grade sci-fi monster flick from the 1950s is being referenced here.
Your brain will be kept in overdrive figuring out how all four tracks relate to one another and whether a theme greater than terror and fear is struggling to emerge. Track titles suggest occult references and the sequencing of the tracks might imply the performance of a ritual followed by transcendence and its after-effects. On the other hand, there might not be any relation at all among the four tracks and all that holds them in common is the effect they have on your mood and thinking.
Un Festin Sagital is a Chilean act revolving around one Michel Leroy aided by various musicians who appear on tracks 1 to 3.
This should be the last of the bundle received from Richard Kamerman’s Copy For Your Records label in August 2012. Developer’s self-titled (CFYRT04) is a cassette most likely made by Matthew Reis of Ohio, whose email address for his Factotum Tapes label is supplied in the inner of this short, small-run tape. Despite indications of brevity, Developer manages to compress a good deal of overpowering factory-noise and metallic shriek into a tiny frame, creating a rather haunting sensation of alienation and futility with his echoing klang. Oddly enough, I like it less when the episode collapses into more conventional harsh noise, but even so there is plenty of evidence of skill and subtlety in the way Developer handles his very abstract, abrasive material – especially in the editing. Reis is one of these impossibly prolific creators who not only has numerous releases under this name, but has also operated under numerous aliases, including Antennaeboy, Black Almas, Disasternaut, Heart Of The Whore, Wasteland Jazz Ensemble, and Yes, Collapse. (09/08/2012)
Another noisy cassette is the one from Darren Wyngarde aka Filthy Turd, who also sent a package in August. For this C20 release, “The Filthy One” extends his filth into the packaging itself, which arrives with a little packet of dirt in a plastic bag, marked with the legend “This mud protects against Radiant Cracks” – presumably just one of many spells and charms lifted from his warlock’s cabinet of magic philtres. This even made me slightly reluctant to open the thing at all, which is another index of this uniquely English noise-maker’s success; he radiates powerful waves of unapproachability. Two titles are printed on the skuzzy photocopy insert – ‘A Rotting Throb’ and ‘Rancid and Trmblin’, and it’s released on Urine Soaked Rag as #23 in that catalogue. When you succeed in spinning the tape itself, you’ll know that the world has finally come to an end amid a cacophony of distorted screaming, sirens, extended explosions of devastating destruction of earth-shaking building collapse proportions. With this release, Filthy Turd manages to pollute at least three of our five senses, and right now he’s probably working on methods to assault our noses and taste buds too. Another triumph for this remorseless, absurdist fun-loving magickal-prankster. 30 copies only. (06/08/2012)
UN NU is the team of Pascal Battus and Benjamin Duboc, and their Recoupements (EH?63) was recorded in 2010 at a performance space in Albi in the middle of the Pyrenees. Battus has wowed listeners before with his radical “rotating surfaces” method by which he produces slow and grindy sound-art, and his 2010 Ichnites (a collab with Christine Sehnaoui Abdelnour) was a “classic” of that genre. No surprise to learn Battus has been seen grinding his axe with that other primo scrapey fellow, Alfredo Costa Monteiro, for a goodly number of years. For Recoupements, he’s working only with guitar pickups, probably using them as a low-grade electronic instrument to generate the intensely irritating background squeal that permeates most of the length of this 52-minute endurance test; when he’s given the chance to “take a solo”, you won’t believe the obnoxious results nor the shrill, inhuman nastiness that Battus is capable of. Duboc meanwhile veers between attempting to play some simple tunes on his bass – free-form bowing to create simple two-note patterns, as if expecting Cecil Taylor to arrive and rescue the session – and making boxed-in clattering noises that are slightly more suited to the austere sound-art nature of the gig. As an album this has some great moments, but I sense the duo keep running out of steam every ten minutes, and the pauses in between ideas are a little bit awkward. But I’m a sucker for minimal improv when the noises produced are as deliciously abrasive, introverted and unfriendly as this. (08/08/2013).
Highly unusual item credited to HÁK-DAH is in fact the team of Hákarl (i.e. Kevin Nickells) and Daniel Alexander Hignell, and their Bambi (LF RECORDS LF025) includes a small insert which indicates, by means of a Venn diagram, what their musical contributions are where they overlap. Based on the scant 32 minutes of mist-drenched gumbo they provide here, I’d tend to characterise this music as a form of sinister ambient crawl, an assertion I make when faced by the nebulous clouds puffed out by Hignell’s fog-pumping electronic machines, and the experience is made ten times more creepy by the insistent violin work of Nickells. He himself calls it a “screaming violin”, and with good cause. One has rarely felt so terrorised by the sound of the instrument, which in his hands becomes a very persistent ghost stalking us along the deserted shore with all the tenacity of an M.R. James spectre. The agonised faces reproduced on the cover of this item are but a small indicator of the mental anguish that you, as the listener, will endure upon purchase and playback of this excellent item. Both players are based in Brighton, and on the strength of this they must have spent many hours wandering by the sea during off-season, when skies are grey and a mysterious offshore mist swirls around the feet of the unwary traveller. The record becomes even more of a weirdie around its mid-point, as voice elements and drum beats are added; one would hesitate to say it mutates into a “song”, but I’m lost for words to best describe the unsettling dirge that emerges from my tremulous speakers – the rhythms are askew, the pace lumbers like a crippled sea-monster, and Daniel’s vocals are just plain harrowing. HÁK-DAH would be lost with their echo chamber device, but they put it to very good use. This record may not be especially enjoyable listening, but it is quite unique and delivered with as much conviction as the two pallid ghoul-like creators can manage, as they brush the dirt of the grave from their faded black funeral outfits. (30/05/2012)
Grim, Folk Songs for an Obscure Race, Haang Niap Records, CD HAANG-002 (2009)
A weirdo industrial junk folk record, this is a compilation of releases and compilation tracks made in the 1980s by the Japanese industrial music project Grim. This band was (maybe still is?) the baby of one Jun Konagaya who sometimes had help from a couple of other noiseniks. This album is very much in the style of industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Z’ev, Einsturzende Neubauten and early Whitehouse: lots of bashing metal rhythms, a harsh declamatory pygmy-Hitler vocal, a screechy high-pitched siren drone, crude rhythms and song structures, and a lo-fi punk sensibility.
The recording switches from early noise-junk industrial to serene soundtrack music to harsh brutal power electronics to delicate acoustic-guitar folk ditties and back again: quite a dizzying range of music styles that bleed into one another can be found here. The contrast between severe uncompromising noise electronics, suggestive of torture, deviant sexuality and compulsive psychotic behaviour, on the one hand and an extreme faux naif innocence in the folk music stylings on the other can be very disturbing. I’m rather reluctantly reminded of some Whitehouse late-1990s releases that had tracks by Peter Sotos where he assembled together spoken dialogue recordings by girls and women who had been sexually abused. On several tracks, Konagaya’s vocal is pained and screechy, far beyond what William Bennett and Phillip Best achieved in their band’s heyday; on some of the later tracks, he could pass for Dalek Caan of the Cult of Skaro from Doctor Who.
What separates Konagaya’s music from his noisician compatriots is strong rhythms throughout the industrial pieces; the quieter folk songs have distinct lullaby melodies. The music is not at all free-flowing and the attitude behind it is very different: it’s often confrontational and hostile to the society from which Grim arises. The folk music pieces can be quite comic in their po-faced blank innocence after all the aggression that’s come before them.
All the music is very good if deranged and the tracks near the end of the album, superficially calm and child-like, are perhaps the most disturbing and freaky of all. They have a Grand Guignol air about them in their careful merry-go-round melodies and rhythms, while in the background something like a Nuremberg rally from the late 1930s might be running. Near the end, dreamy psych-folk songs sung by girl singers who might be evangelising for their particular nut-house religious cult that promises highly sanitised retro-1950s white-picket fence suburban domestic bliss salvation add another level of deranged sensibility. There’s an all-instrumental percussion piece that might have been written for a tap-dancing troupe that rounds off the album and at this point, I shudder to think that our friend Jun has been accepted into his local little trendy avant-garde artist colony that survives on government hand-outs and performance art stunts that try but fail to shock little old ladies and families with small children.
Nevertheless this album is a revelation in that there are actually forgotten Japanese acts that could more than hold their own against the likes of Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse, that also didn’t fit into the classic Japanese noise improv mould. What more might there be, that have been overlooked for far too long?
Iron Forest is a fairly new experimental music project by US Midwest artist Brandon Elkins that combines heavy industrial metal rhythms and riffs with drone, dub, noise and doom elements. “Body Horror”, the project’s second album, is a lavish effort: eight tracks of layers of power electronics, digital noise, warped dub, crushing machine rhythms, sharply cut reverb and space atmosphere, and elements of black / death / doom metal. The plastic case is a large DVD-style container with several postcards of pictures of mutant body parts that have a strange if repulsive and disturbing beauty.
The recording revolves around themes of mutation, deformity and transhumanism. Track 1 is a gentle introduction of reverb and fuzz, very spacey with spurts of dub rhythm, and highly atmospheric. Subsequent tracks range from fierce and threatening dub guitar-noise splatter with washes of shrieking vocals to doomy dronescapes set against an ambience suggesting post-apocalyptic industrial wastelands of polluted ponds of water and winds sweeping up fine sand mixed with industrial chemical dust. Although the music can be highly robotic and its rhythms dominated by echoing machine sounds, I always have the impression that here is a world in which biology and technology have become completely fused and to treat the two separately is an antiquated notion. All machine noises seem to come from cyborg creatures with self-awareness and cunning natures.
For music that draws its inspiration from past industrial metal heavies like Godflesh and Scorn who also included very liberal doses of dub rhythms and sounds into their work, “Body Horror” is as much atmospheric and meditative as it is harsh and grinding robot doom machine music. The surprising thing is that the music is very accessible and much less menacing than its title and artwork suggest. (The album is also much shorter than I would have liked – at least an hour would have done for this style of heavy industrial dub.) There’s a lot of murk along with the knife-sharp skittery quicksilver rhythms, the crunchy bass riffs and machine-gun synth percussion beats but the music never sounds chaotic or overwhelming. Parts of the CD remind me more of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s old Hrvatski act with the flighty rapid-fire blastbeat electronic rhythms, though without the playful attitude.
This genre of music has a lot of potential to be a mighty monster and I feel with most recordings I have that the artists are scraping just a thin layer of it. “Body Horror” doesn’t advance the known parts of the territory much but as it is, it’s quite a good work: it has a distinctive airy atmosphere in most tracks and there is a psychedelic trance element as well. Each track has enough in it that could generate a family of long remixed tracks.
Contrastate A Breeding Ground for Flies
UK DIRTER PROMOTIONS DPROMCD91 CD (2011)
Contrastate is back! The well known British band was hitting the ground since the late 80s with a row of essential albums released by Tesco Org. and their own Black Rose Recordings, delivering outstanding post-industrial music penetrated by the cold atmosphere of England and social depravity causing the deepest melancholy and disaster in minds. Their epic works like A Thousand Badgers In Labour and A Live Coal Under The Ashes were absolute masterpieces of doomed, grotesque and sinister electronic music which remain incomparable with anything else. After the fabulous Todesmelodie, released by the now-defunct Noise Museum label at the turn of the millennium, it was pretty quiet in the Contrastate corner, and only a few re-editions appeared over the next decade. Rumours said that they were disbanded, confirmed by a few solo albums by former Contrastate member Stephen Meixner who was still running Black Rose Recordings but moving in another musical direction, dealing more with installation/soundtrack works. For me, this new Contrastate album was a true surprise, an unexpected but (now I can say) long awaited comeback. And without the shadow of a doubt, the glorious one! A Breeding Ground For Flies was released in 2012 by the ever-evolving Dirter Promotions label delivering the best underground works of post-industrial music masters like Ramleh, Andrew Liles and Con Demek. It features all new material recorded with the full lineup of Grieve/Pomeroy/Meixner. But since a lot of time passed by, the Contrastate sound has changed. No more abandoned industrial area sounds, no gloomy songs accompanied by guitar, and no theatrical spoken word nightmares. Cold as steel, intrinsic and dehumanised, minimalist electronic sonorities raised from the frozen land of sorrow and chaos. Paralysed by fear, you will listen to this mechanized symphony and forget about your neighbourhood, personal disdain and everyday struggle. This is the sound of overall sickness, claustrophobia and hopelessness. Without relying much on scary noises, pounding rhythms and grave vocals, Contrastate build another kind of horror reality, creepy and dull, merciless and uncompromising. As I’ve said already, no comparisons are possible – you should just hear it with own ears and feel the difference. If you are a long-time follower just like me – you will not be disappointed. If you never heard about Contrastate, this is your chance! And of course I need to mention the great packaging design conceived and carefully realised by the label – the CD housed in a massive cardboard box with the booklet inside the oversized slipcase, with the great and deep coloured artwork all around. More than just “recommended”!
Another band with a history, T.A.C. defines the epoch. From the early 80s, the ingenious Italian band (with Simon Balestrazzi as mastermind and many other luminaries involved) created many albums of a totally different nature, starting from the jazz/funk influenced self-titled debut in 1983, to the chamber rock music of Ouvrez Vos Auditifs Canaux (1985) and the prog elements of Il Teatro della Crudelta (1987), going further to industrial/ambient/goth obscurity in the classic A Circle Of Limbs (1992) and dark folk, neoclassic and experimental electronics hybrids in Hypnotischer Eden and Apotropaismo. After the T.A.C. trilogy for the Italian Smallvoices label released in 2002-04, there were years of total silence. Some T.A.C. classics were reissued recently, but this album is also not that brand new stuff you may suggest. Yes, it was released in 2013 but actually recorded in 1998. As the label says, the masters were lost and damaged, so the material needed to be restored. Well, now we can say – it was worthwhile to complete this job, because the music looks fresh and up to date, still retaining this “lost in time” attitude. Chaosphere is much influenced by our favorite Tarkovsky films, and you can hear some samples from the cult Solaris movie behind the clouds of analogue synths and sparse arrangements. Looks like Simon Balestrazzi recorded the music alone, so this is the exception in the row of multiple albums featuring many other musicians at their best, with many instruments and techniques presented. However, I can’t say that the music is minimalist or totally different from other T.A.C. works. It keeps the same spirit of adventurous experiment, and the sincere austerity you can feel from the start to the end. The vintage sound of the VCS3 synthesizer is the main driving force behind the tracks, but the clever use of samples makes the music more vivid and reflective. For me, this album also announces the powerful return for the one of the best Italian underground projects, so let’s look forward to see more new music coming out from Simon’s NeuroHabitat studio!
You’d be surprised to discover, as I was, that all the music you hear on this tape was made with 24 reel-to-reel tape recorders and an analog modular Doepfer A-100 synthesiser: everything here initially sounds like proper electronic music in its various guises and reveals very little of the origin of the found sound recordings used in the creation of this music. The sound sources utilised by van Veldhoven include a faulty TV set from the 1950s, sine wave generators and a broken valve radio.
The music can sound reminiscent of Kraftwerk during their glory electropop days of the late 1970s / early 80s; not surprisingly actually as Kraftwerk have roped in a Doepfer A-1oo synth into their range of instrumentation in the past. Don’t worry too much about trying to identify individual tracks. The mood can vary from playful to quizzical, remote to curious and experimental, eccentric to boisterous – and that’s just on the A-side alone. Rhythms are often very busy and some have a breezy cold abstract air that might be found on a lot of dark minimalist techno / industrial lite recordings. The B-side is especially rhythmic and industrial-influenced and there is a greater variety of more experimental music as well.
An early highlight is the track “Second”, a fairly long piece with a lot of activity that approaches the bombastic. This is followed by “Fondness for Broken Mondriaans” which is a crackly, crumbly, deep-fried noisy piece with a spare percussive rhythm. Flicking over to the B-side, we come across an extended passage of droning power electronics and industrial noise on “Bricks, Corners, Cul de Sac”. After this wondrous piece, we retreat to safer and more friendly (sometimes child-friendly) territory that features playful flubby melody and rhythm loops and toy-like tones. A later track features choppy staccato rhythms that change tone throughout while little effects blink and travelling noises buzz and zing.
Ranging from kiddy electronic pop to the most forbidding harsh powwah electronix, with plenty in-between that recalls and recreates some of the grander moments of Seventies / Eighties synth-pop, Nineties isolationism and current forms of techno, this cassette could well become the modest mouse that roars in years to come as a minor classic. Redundant some of the recreation might be – it could be cleaner and more crispy if done on modern digital machines – but there’s a small-scaled warmth and even intimacy on some tracks that can’t be replicated with a lot of the technology in current use.
Stuart Chalmers is a fiendishly witty and capable mangler / masher of cassette tapes, blending his outputs from that aural activity with other sources (field recordings, radio signals, synths) to produce moments of delirious joy on Daydream Empire (LF RECORDS LF029). As with many geniuses in this genre his plan is to give the ear/brain a overload of information to process, spewing it out in slightly haphazard order to allow maximal surprise to the listener, while underpinning each composition with a steady flow of musical or verbal patterns. Each piece just floats like polystyrene on a lake. Chalmers is not in the game to shock or outrage; rather his balmy, hazy and opaque works spread a fine surreal gauze over the surface of the world, and everything appears slightly askew. The titles act as an index to his intentions: ‘Fall of Reality’, ‘Melting of time’ and ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ are poignant and accurate descriptions of his process. Chalmers is associated with improvising collectives in Oxford and Cheltenham, and also records as tusK and skarabee. (27/12/2012)
A shortish 7-track sampler from the Slovakian LOM label arrived 19 December 2012, showcasing the sound art of MRKVA and BOLKA (respectively, Jonáš Gruska and Matúš Kobolka). The label proposes itself as a meeting point for the assistance and encouragement of experimental art of all stripe, including field recordings, music, literature, books, images and poetry, and they tend to favour all of these cultural jewels when expressed in digital or web-based formats. The sounds hereon are ingenious compacted statements using intense digital glitchoid effects in abundance, the results quite often folded into pleated shapes that resemble swarms of insects – a trope which clearly preoccupies both their brains, if the fractured press release speaks true. They would like to help us to “channel our inner insect”. While each short slab of whoopery bounces with teeming life and transports you bodily across a field of grass, none of the sounds ever distress you with unpleasant noise nor threaten you with despondent gloomy drone. A charming and understated piece of imaginative electronica.
Nad Spiro is Rosa Arruti. This Spanish creatrice works mostly with heavily processed electric guitars, and builds intricately detailed patterns and textures from tiny samples, occasionally adding distorted voices on her CD Atomic Spy (GEOMETRIK RECORDS gr gsg 01). In an extremely precise manner, she weaves psychologically unsettling dramas which execute themselves with the deathly accuracy of a 1940s suspense movie – indeed the high-contrast photography of a film noir would seem an apt keynote for this whole album, with its mysterious jet-black shadows. This particular mesmerising outing has a vaguely “urban” theme, all eight tracks linking to suggest the narrative of a journalist or private eye who is tormented by unknown terrors in the city, including ghostly voices emanating from the old-fashioned valve radio set. The nocturnal mood and story are enhanced by the very strong cover image, a photo-collage by the artist Josep Renau which resembles a Weegee news photograph going horribly wrong.
The Chasms Of My Heart (CRUCIAL BLAST RECORDS CBR98) by Theologian is a strong dose of pounding industrialism, an overpowering abundance of powerful drone characterised by smothering intensity and relentless drive. Theologian plans to pursue his seething emotions with the determination of a pile-driver, rather than the stealth of a nimble hunter, and he’ll keep on screaming and howling in anguish until the very chambers of his own heart are rubbed raw. His record cover (and many of his other releases too) betray an interest in the frail flesh of the human body, the assorted juxtapositions here implying some sort of painful surgery for the torso, or the use of x-rays to reveal the hidden movements of the inner man, as if any felt emotion were a form of cancer that we must purge ourselves of. Track titles likewise allude to themes of despair and bodily decay; in some ways you could read the album as a gloss on a Hamlet soliloquy. While I personally strive to eschew artistic works which appear to wallow in self-pity and sentimentality, I am drawn to the compelling sonic surface of this heavy album, which veers between suffocating ultra-drones and hideously overloaded noise; technically it’s an admirable achievement of overdubbing and layering. Theologian is Leech, who also calls himself Navicon Torture Technologies, or Theologian Prime, and this is his third album for the Crucial Blast label.
Mors Sonat, Comforts in Atrocity, Crucial Blast Records, CD CBR92 (2013)
On paper at least, Mors Sonat boasts a respectable pedigree as the bastard child of Bob Nekrasov (Whitehorse, Nekrasov) and Mories of Gnaw Their Tongues. We therefore expect no less than a gigantic slab of intense and malevolent industrial / dark ambient / noise monsterism from the Mors Sonat debut “Comforts in Atrocity”. Well, the dynamic duo delivers but not necessarily in the way breathlessly anticipated by those of us who’ve been hanging outside the musical maternity wards around the clock night and day. Some of the better aspects of the two musicians’ work have combined in a subtle way to produce an album of darkly moody and occasionally demonic ambient soundscapes with a careful use of effects, sound tones and textures, and treated vocals. Some genuinely creepy and terrifying work can be found here without the more cartoonish and gruesome serial-killer kitsch tendencies of Mories’ Gnaw Their Tongues project.
Early tracks gradually bring about a vision of bleakness and unrelenting hell; one detects the sure hand of Nekrasov in describing and building up insidious horror on a track like “Sanctuary in Soil”. Come to “The Vengeance of Embrace” with its layers of metallic reverberations and ululating-dog drones and you start to detect an undercurrent of derangement and theatricality; the track is quite disciplined though in the way it unfurls its richly vibrating metal tones to reveal its insane essence. By contrast, the title track is a strangely soothing and beautiful creature possessed of a demonic spirit being. The duo reserves active fury and terror for the final track “So shall I weep in Liberation within the Ecstasy of Death”, a work of gibbering monster voices, screechy high-pitched drones and constant high-pressure background static steaming away.
They’re all good tracks but they suffer in being much alike in structure: they’re not much more than ongoing rhythm texture exercises and one gets the sense that they’re being run through their paces without much challenge to their potential for drama and viciousness. It’s a pity that five tracks should escalate through tension and mounting horror towards a track that should reveal a final message of utmost terror and everlasting torment but which ends up not delivering on what its predecessors hinted at. Even so, the journey has its fine moments and the goal might not necessarily be what “Comforts in Atrocity” aims at: it is a first effort after all and perhaps Nekrasov and Mories were erring on the side of caution and taking things slowly and gradually. You don’t want to accidentally blow the planet apart on your first collaboration together before you’re even sure that that’s what you want to do.