Tagged: industrial

No One Deserves Happiness: an adventurous sludge / doom progression into songs of love and loss

The Body, No One Deserves Happiness, United States, Thrill Jockey Records, CD digipak THRILL 047 (2016)

I admit I haven’t followed The Body’s progress in sludge / doom metal much since the duo released “All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood” several years ago. In that time, the band relocated from Rhode Island to Portland in Oregon and released heaps more product (mostly collaborations, splits and EPs) than I can keep up with even if I were to commit myself to listening to nothing else. The band’s fifth album would have passed me by too if I hadn’t stumbled across it while looking for something else (that always happens, doesn’t it?) on Youtube.

Even a casual first hearing tells me how much The Body has grown in the range of music and subject matter they’re keen on covering: this album is very song-oriented, even inclined to rock / pop thanks partly to frequent collaborator Chrissy Wolpert who lends her larynx to a number of songs, and to vocalist Maralie Armstrong on “Adamah” and “Shelter is Illusory” who comes across as an underground metal answer to Adele. There are plenty of influences from genres like industrial, noise and hiphop, and electronic instruments and effects are present across the album. But at heart The Body is still a sludge / doom beast with Chip King managing an astounding act of playing guitar in time with Lee Buford’s drumming and the other guest performers while screaming his lone-outsider-prophet-in-the-wilderness shrieks in a way at variance with whatever his hands (and everyone else) are doing.

The Body (Chip King and Lee Buford): hunting for more interesting musical collaborators

The best tracks are those where The Body incorporates influences from other genres into the sludge / doom template to produce a very layered, unique fusion that simply couldn’t exist if any one of its parts were removed. “Shelter is Illusory”, combining swooping and snapping electronics, doom grind, a thumping tribal-drum percussion rhythm roll, a siren’s voice in the background and frying noise, is one such track; “Two Snakes”, including hiphop rhythms and sound textures along with guitar and a gritty drum machine, is another. “The Fall and the Guilt” is a beautiful song whose structure relies entirely on sung lyrics by Wolpert over disjointed piano chords, a lazy violin and a running gritty industrial drone texture layer.

On the other hand there are too many songs that repeat over and over without coming to a definite resolution of their ideas, or where King’s hollering and whooping carry on endlessly without much change from one track to the next. One gripe I have also with the album is that there are many good and varied tracks that are too short and could do with a longer treatment and development of their musical themes and ideas that might lead The Body into even more interesting and offbeat detours.

As it is, even with its repetitions, this album is very brave and adventurous, taking its creators and their fans far into new worlds musical and non-musical. On one level there is plenty of discovery and the joy of creating incredible musical combinations yet at the same time this is a highly accessible recording with themes of doomed love and loss. It may be heavy going for a lot of listeners but I’m sure most people will be very satisfied, even over-sated with musical richness, after the last song has played.

Boa / Cold: a mesmeric fusion of droning desert Western doom and cold heavy industrial techno dub

Earth / The Bug, Boa / Cold, Ninja Tune, ZEN12394 12″ vinyl (2014)

I sure did not see this collaboration coming at all and I was surprised to discover this release by Dylan Carlson (Earth) and Kevin Martin AKA The Bug from way back in 2014 … but on further reflection I really shouldn’t have been astonished. Both Carlson and Martin have been exploring, pushing and redefining the limits of their respective genres over the past 25 years, and among many other things Martin is known for his work with Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh / Jesu fame) in Techno Animal, so it was really a matter of when, not if, Carlson and Martin’s paths in out-there extreme underground and experimental music would cross. “Boa / Cold” grew out of The Bug’s recording sessions for his album “Angels & Devils”, in one of which Carlson was originally one of several collaborators.

This recording is unlike anything most of us will ever hear. “Boa” stands somewhere in a futuristic industrial sci-fi shadow zone between Desert Western Country Doom Guitar Melody Wander and Arctic Cold Heavy Hiphop Dub. The two genres sit side by side rather than try to blend into one fusion style. The contrast / tension between the two and the comment each style of music makes on the other make for a daunting and very sinister listening experience. The sound wash, the rhythms and beats (with occasional break-beats) are massive and the feeling can be overwhelming and hellish, as has often been my experience in dunking my head in Techno Animal’s sonic worlds. For all that, “Boa” is a short track and the actual playing by the musicians is as gentle, slow and relaxed as can be.

“Cold” is more of a fusion between Carlson’s guitar rambling and The Bug’s beats and rhythms that writhe around the guitar melody and the drone echo wash that follows in its wake. This seems a more structured piece than “Boa” if much colder, industrial and inhuman, with a shambling tribal feel. I have always had the impression that in their own ways Carlson and Martin have always been interested in music of a hypnotic shamanistic nature for the trance effects it can have, and this track certainly has a mesmeric, consciousness-altering effect on this listener.

If only both “Boa” and “Cold” were longer – at least 20 minutes each longer and more! – such an album of continuous serpentine droning doom / industrial techno dub would hold me spellbound forever.

Nihil Ex Nihilo

The kings of UK confrontational Noise Music, The New Blockaders, surface yet again with these 2012 recordings on a Japanese CD. Live At The Rammel Club / The Dome (VLZ PRODUKT VLZ 00043-CD) features two lengthy performances captured in venues in Nottingham and London respectively. The first was part of the Broken Flag Festival held that year, the second as part of the Harbinger Sound Festival. That information alone might be helpful to put these recordings in context…after all Steve Underwood, the owner of Harbinger Sound, had just published his first (and only?) issue of As Loud As Possible in 2010, an exhaustive magazine dedicated to furthering the cause of Industrial Music and Power Noise, and what’s more it featured an in-depth overview of the whole Broken Flag thing, in a bid to understand not just the music and the label, but also see it through the eyes of the main contributors to the label, including M.B., Paul Lemos, Skullflower, and…erm…Tim Gane. That publication is the closest I for one have come to getting any kind of purchase on the dark and foreboding world of Gary Mundy and his thoroughly alienated cohorts.

It makes sense that all the brutal noise-loving diehards of the world would wish to keep the flame alive in the form of two Festivals that year, showcasing what they would regard as two important locuses of their preferred form of cultural endeavour. And what better way to underscore these sentiments than by offering a platform to The New Blockaders, who since the early 1980s have been pummelling the ears, minds and bodies of anyone who cared to listen, doing so through their own unique brand of formless, destructive noise, a racket which often appears to have been assembled from equal parts of malfunctioning metal devices, feedback, and the rubble from a bomb blast site. Those who have collected the works of Richard Rupenus and his men over the years may have some idea what to expect from this CD, although The New Blockaders in 2012 is somewhat of a different proposition from the original incarnation. It’s now a four-piece of collaborators.

We’ve heard rumours that other performers besides Richard and brother Phil have been involved in the tour band versions, but this is now confirmed by the credit note here, which clearly identifies Mark Durgan, Michael Gillham, and Phil Julian as the three able supporters of Richard Rupenus for these concerts. True, they stick to the expected form – they still have the ski masks, the jackets and ties, and they still set about the task on stage as though working on an anti-building site where everything has to be demolished before the five o’clock whistle. And they make a tremendous noise doing so. But they also do it knowingly, perhaps a bit too knowingly; a record such as Changez Les Blockeurs could be seen as something of a leap in the dark in 1982, with its creators having no idea if their contribution to the culture would even have any effect. By 2012, we’ve had time to assimilate that assault into our collective bloodstream; and so have Durgan, Gillham, and Julian, next-generation noisesters who are more easily able to step into the ground cleared by TNB, and produce a highly convincing take on the music, but also one that’s ever so slightly “facile”. I’m not feeling the struggle, the pain, the internal strife that Richard Rupenus poured into his best and most alienating work. However, I would like to think that Rupenus chooses his collaborators with care; it’s not the same as recruiting for a tour band version of Gerry and The Pacemakers, after all. This is undoubtedly a “dream team” for a viable performing version of TNB; as Putrefier, for instance, Mark Durgan has produced some scathing statements in the harsh noise mode. His four-CD Hypertension Classics Vol 2., released by Harbinger Sound in 2005, is not something I can forget in a hurry.

Another side of the TNB project is the abrasive, nihilistic “anti-art” stance, a stance which mostly consists of saying “I’m against it” while still striving to locate the music and culture of TNB within an avant-garde framework of some sort, whether that’s performance, Fluxus composition, or visual art history. It involves the careful positioning of TNB alongside fine art, in order for Rupenus to say he rejects it completely, and that TNB has nothing to do with it. On the present release, this aspect is represented by some characteristically hostile paragraphs of invective reprinted from Glissando magazine.

A thoroughly depressing, misanthropic, and negative release; everything about it brings you down, including the sickening colours of the artworks, the extreme bitterness of the printed texts, and the grim, suffocating noise music on the disc. The only development I might remark on is the audience sound; it’s the first time I think that I’ve even heard an audience reacting to TNB. More to the point, they’re obviously loving it, whooping and hollering as if they were mainstream rock fans at a U2 concert. I’m not sure what this means, but I think it’s interesting; perhaps despite all Rupenus’ strenuous efforts to produce a noise and a performance that is completely toxic and fatal to society, that same society still manages to consume it, and enjoy it. From 8th July 2016.

Age Of Enlightenment

Image sourced from http://fangbomb.com

Imaginary Forces last came our way in March 2016 with the unsettling and implied violence of Corner Crew, a record he made for the Sleep Codes label. With the Visitation EP (FANG BOMB FB026), we’re back on the shadowy ground which we know and love him for ever since his 2013 Begotten cassette for the same label, and here are four tracks of grim and slow avant-techno laced with diabolical repetitions, mercilessly loud and heavy bass thumps, and joyless beats that are intent on propelling the listener down a slow but sure slide into oblivion.

London player Anthoney Hart projects a low profile in his music and image, a strategy which I admire heartily, and every release seems to be an attempt to undermine our collective certainties, using stealth and invisible means…each beat is a hammer blow delivered with the surgical skill of a geologist prising loose a keystone from a pyramid of power…the temples of the Establishment are sure to topple, but not before our masked hero has long made good his escape under cover of night. The A side contains ‘Preternatural’ and ‘Enlightenment’, both hugely effective pulsation and throb experiences that can sap the vitality from a hundred civil servants in just ten minutes.

The B side includes the unusual ‘(A Drift)’, a version of a Closed Circuits track which is even more skeletal and bare-bones in its arrangement (if that’s conceivable), where the beat is unprocessed and raw, arriving like the knocking of a hammer on an empty wooden crate (or coffin). Chris Page intones a dark and defiant lyric in a resigned tone of world-weariness, while around him strange minimal electronic tones dart about like small birds.

To complete the package and its tone of strange despairing symbolism, we have the excellent cover art: a troubling image of a man with a head split in two, blood trickling down his nose, yet wearing an impassive and calmly accepting expression. His striped shirt and jacket might almost mark him out as a businessman or other enemy of society. The half-tone printing employed on this monochrome image adds to the weird mood; you certainly wouldn’t welcome a “visitation” from this menacing apparition with his grey, clay-like features. From 19 May 2016.

Natural Incapacity: single-minded industrial ambient noise drone with no beginning and no end

Relay for Death, Natural Incapacity, The Helens Scarsdale Agency, 2xCD HMS039 (2016)

Jim Haynes who sold me this set was right when he warned that this double CD work was not party music … though I’m sure it’ll come in handy late in the night or during the early hours of the morning when dawn is about to break and party guests need a reminder that they have to catch the train to go home. Disc 1 certainly sounds like an eternal train rumbling and travelling at brisk speed on lines that carry it all over the globe, encircling the planet continuously, in the manner of the snowpiercer in the joint Korean / Hollywood sci-fi flick of the same name. Now and then extra puffy white smoke hisses from the release of high-pressure valves and in the distant background human voices call out to one another to warn that another valve must be opened, temperature gauges must be monitored and maybe more coal must be shovelled into the mechanical beast’s ravenous hot maw. This soundtrack to one’s Industrial Revolution steampunk fantasies is constant all the way through the disc yet for all its essential sameness its details in their continuous variation ensure that Yours Truly’s attention level stays at a high level: a remarkable achievement given that this cat has a low tolerance level for anything that seems even a weeny bit monotonous.

It’s such a long piece that it even extends across a second disc longer than the first with the same po-faced attitude and intense single-minded focus. You can hardly find much more relentless and implacable industrial ambient noise drone than this massive monster. As on Disc 1, the details within this droning piece change continuously: the same occasional hissing puffs, the rhythmic churning, that sense of surging motion charging along a single path into an unknown future, above all the indifferent attitude to the humans being swept up unwillingly and helpless in this unyielding machine tsunami … it’s all there, wearing down the listener’s resistance and driving all hope for a better future away. Towards the end of Disc 2, the music begins to pause, go quiet and start up again, only to repeat the process, as if the machine powering it is running down and falling apart.

You’d be right in guessing that urban and post-industrial decay and breakdown, and accompanying environmental and chemical pollution and blight might be major themes here. The place of humans in this world is as individual cogs, all of them of equal (minuscule) value to the functioning of the gigantic machine monster that swallows them up. Despair and resignation are paramount as there is no hope of escape or remedy. The funny thing though is that the more I listen to these recordings, the more I actually find their unbending linear tenacity predictable and thereby comforting.

Relay for Death are twin sisters Rachal and Roxann Spikula who call Richmond in California home and “Natural Incapacity” is their second album as Relay for Death. Familiar eminence grise James Plotkin has mastering credit – one day I will have to review something that actually has his name on it as artist, not just way down in the fine print – and Jim Haynes designed the artwork which includes a hand-rusted metal cover that’s sure to be the talk of most parties, even parties where this album probably won’t be brought out until quite late in the night.

Onden: a surprisingly soothing set of interwoven soundtracks of man-made and natural sounds

Kassel Jaeger, Onden, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U37 (2016)

If you enjoy the soothing frying sounds of electromagnetic fields captured from lights and cables, and want something of the ambience of Japanese cities as well, you’ll feel at home with this surprisingly calming urban soundscape of field recordings made by Kassel Jaeger in various locations across Tokyo over a six-month period in 2015. The material has been spliced into one continuous flowing track of layers of droning textures, all frying away and intriguing in their sonic pointillism, each dot of sound complete in itself as a tiny mini-universe and all of them joined up in long extended linear strings that are more than the sums of their minuscule atoms. Jaeger lets these sounds speak for themselves, not trying to shape them into structures with recognisable beats or rhythms and the result is a leisurely sinuous, almost organic river of metallic or sparking textures brimming with alien life and energy.

The actual sounds are very difficult to describe and yet they can remind listeners of all sorts of objects and memories: a hydrofoil coming into a bay and settling down beside a wharf to deliver its passengers; a leaf-blower in the far distance from where you’re sitting; cargo trains passing in the night; machines laying asphalt on a road; and probably lots more besides, depending on the individual listener’s own past experiences. No sound in particular evokes a mood or feeling and as a listener you tend to passively observe the sounds passing by rather than feel engaged with them. Yet these soundscapes can be very hypnotic and through their mesmerising quality keep boredom at bay. Some listeners may even find a spiritual dimension in the sounds, especially near the end of the recording where deeper tones begin to resound amid the receding textures.

There are actually two very different soundtracks here on the album: the more obvious urban-generated soundtrack of electromagnetic humming and droning, and people going about their daily business in the city; and the world of birdsong, insect ambience and other murmurs of the natural world that acts as a counterpoint and commentary on sounds generated by humans and their machines.

I do find this a very likeable recording though its length and obvious lack of musical structures won’t endear it to most people. You’d be hard put to find another recording of droning metallic noise drone that’s just as serene, majestic and impassive as it rolls by.

Long Overdue Part 2

tbc33

A nice old one from 2010, when giants walked the earth. TBC / Das Synthetische Mischgewebe split it up nice inside a DVD cover. German avant-garde sound art at its most marginal and brutally difficult. ‘Notre Besoin D’attachement Est Aussi Celui De Rupture’ declares DSM, i.e. Guido Huebner, who unfailingly produces the most mystifying sound art on the European continent. On this one, lasting for over 39 minutes, the sounds are quiet and understated, completely unrecognisable, and impossible to understand. As ever, everything appears disconnected and untidy. It’s not that DSM violates the rules of formal composition, rather he/they have posited an entire universe where such rules don’t even exist. If what Guido believes is true, then it’s likely that even the laws of physics can also be challenged, and we can all walk around defying gravity. “Entrancing electroacoustic/industrial mess”, says the cipher productions website.

TBC is Thomas Beck from Hamburg. Besides doing sound art, he also had a radio programme and a magazine. He’s been producing a lot of stuff under his own Wachsender Prozess label since 1997. Here he turns in 20 mins of ‘They Never Come To Hit The Public’. Whereas I think DSM’s stuff is largely produced by junk and physical objects (sometimes…), this one by Beck was generated with synthesisers, tapes, mixing desk, and so forth. Much more noticeable than the low-key DSM track, Beck’s work gets pretty noisy and agitated here, uses plenty of cross-cuts and timbral clashes, and overall there’s a lot more aural damage per square metre on offer. Quite “industrial” in texture, but none of your infantile pounding rhythms or sense of imminent doom. Beck is quite serious about exploring the potentialities of his sounds and his methods. The CD was released jointly by Wachsender Prozess (WP31) and Reduktive Musiken (redukt014).

Sterile Processing Technicians

SterileGarden

Sterile Garden is another obscure noise project of which I know very little. They may be a trio comprising man man Jacob DeRaadt, with later additions Eric Wangsvick, and Joseph Yonkers; Sean Devlin may once have been in their ranks. They’ve been at it since about 2006, and we have before us their current cassette Deliverance In Disturbances (GM# 39) from the German label Geräuschmanufaktur dedicated to the spread of experimental industrial sounds and harsh grindings. The first side of this monster, called ‘Derive’, is a grim trek across a landscape of supreme desolation; no way of detecting the original sources of these clanking grunts, and a general air of defeatedness hangs over the work. I’ve rarely heard such a corrupted sound, as though the very fabric of the music itself were rotted clean through, like mouldy blankets, rusted machinery, or trees afflicted by disease. Clearly all is not healthy in the Sterile Garden, a garden littered with weeds, insects, and dank ponds.

The title track is on Side B. This is slightly less horrifying than the dismalness of ‘Derive’, and in places one’s ears can make tenuous connections to more familiar tape-based experimental music, in the way that sounds are apparently processed and manipulated. Much effort is put intro creating a wonky, unnatural effect. Much distortion arises in the process, and futile meandering drones are the main output, drones which are highly abrasive and nasty in their intent. As with the A side, I sense a near-complete lack of humanity, as if DeRaadt’s plan were to efface every trace of anything recognisable from the finished product. This may all be part of a supreme effort to alienate the listener, leave us high and dry and thrown back on inner resources if we wish to survive this depressing onslaught of rubble, bad weather, and hostile machinery pounding away at the core of our being.

The cover art may continue some of these themes. The imagery is almost all abstract, with few concessions to printing a clearly identifiable image, or even allowing for simple clarity of shape. Murky reproduction creating shadows and fog further advances the notions of ambiguity and uncertainty. The front cover is a miniature art gallery from the imaginary museum of Russian Death Art from the 1920s. Inside is a collage of treated photo which may represent the aftermath of an unpleasant murder or suicide, with a barely-recognisable torso being dragged by the feet. None of this is especially brutal noise, but it is truly depressing, verging on the insufferable in its sullen opacity and determination to remain grim and impenetrable. From 14th March 2016.

Destroy To Create

Defunction & Annulment

Two sides of nice old-school harsh industrial noise, distortion and feedback on Defunction & Annulment (GERÄUSCHMANUFAKTUR GM#49), a cassette tape that makes up for its brevity (just over 15 minutes) with its intensity and the solidity of its excessive, blasting forms. The tape is a team-up between Maurizio Bianchi and the Serbian act Creation Through Destruction, i.e. Aleksandar Nenad, a prolific noisester who attracts terms like “brutal” wherever he appears in public, and also records as Dead Body Collection and Order of The Violence; as Dead Body Collection, he’s released a staggering 87 albums since 2010, many of them carrying poisonous themes of body mutilation and pain along with an unpleasant whiff of misogynism. Creation Through Destruction has made seven albums we know of, mostly splits with other noise monsters such as Astro, Dissecting Table, and Umpio.

Defunction & Annulment is a good coruscating experience, with a lot of dynamic changes and textures so crunchy you could use them as gravel for a major outdoor building project; it’s been produced by fairly simple means, too, if I’m reading the notes correctly, which allude to damaged loops, feedback made with a damaged contact mic, and no-input electronics. The tape loops used “defected piano” as the original sound source, and it’s comforting in some way to think of a musical instrument being detectable somewhere in the heart of this pulsating, unnatural ugliness. It’s a vile and formless distorted lump, but still dangerously compelling for the listener as it drags us bodily over 15 miles of bumpy terrain, with ditches and brambles lurking on either side of the unmade road. Aleksandar Nenad, referring to himself simply as A.N., did the mix and construction of this mess in 2012, so I’m tempted to regard this as mostly a collaging job and give him the lion’s share of the credit, especially as I’m not widely familiar with the works of Bianchi, even though I know he’s highly regarded and esteemed as an Italian superstar and pioneer of the international noise conspiracy.

Meanwhile the cover art is as retrograde as any identikit cassette tape of industrial noise released in the wake of Throbbing Gristle and their “transgressive” artworks, here collaging vaguely troubling images of storm clouds, explosions, and distressed human bodies. From 14 March 2016.

Animal Machines

dDASH

dDASH
Ease-Up Jerk
FRANCE TSUNAMI ADDICTION TACD09 (2014)

As I see it, Ease-Up Jerk appears to be a more easily available version (to us mere mortals anyway), of the Hyperactive Jerk vinyl album, which briefly teleported into this plane of existence with a run of thirty-six copies, numbered by manicured hand and with covers screened of the finest silk. dDASH are a French electroid/nth gen. new wave project who’ve cut discs for Planet Mu and Tigerbeat6 amongst a few others and is manned by J. B. Hanak (see also membership of Sleaze Art and heavy metallers Cobra), and his brother Fred. Thing is, Fred isn’t credited as a player here…so…a one-man show it is then.

For the past decade, they’ve been a visible presence within the French underground, choosing occasionally (for reasons unknown), to morph into other organisms like the punning Boulder dDASH and the not so punning Evol d. Dopa. Though whether these offshoots offer up different instrumentation and conceptual blah, I simply have no idea. The dozen tracks trundle along in a pretty much linear fashion, pneumatic drumbox to the fore, with Factorial bass lines dutifully following along in its wake. “Animal Machine” and “Monkey Monster” kick up prerequisite amounts of dust and what have you – all throat strangulations and fat ‘n’fuzzed-out guitar arrogance. Needles back pedal from fire engine red to a cuter pink with “Prostitutes” and “Shiny Day” in which this particular J. B. takes it to le pont with a plastic soul near falsetto that’s surrounded by an almost radio friendly ambience.

If anyone out there seeks to track dDASH’s lineage back to their fellow countrymen of a synthpunk past, ‘specially the Metal Urbain family tree (Metal Boys, Dr. Mix etc.), I’d be reluctant to give that the thumbs up. There’s less indication of broken glass and civil disobedience in evidence here. Perhaps the cribsheet’s pointers towards the Sub Pop and Amphetamine Reptile empires would be a more accurate target? Maybe.