Tagged: industrial

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

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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.

The Revenant

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The record by L’Eclipse Nue was sent to me with one of the most elaborate press packs I’ve ever clamped my nerveless digits around, including a business card, two handouts, and an A4 art print of the project’s logo. The outside of the plastic wallet has been hand-speckled with drops of blood, to usher in the Grand Guignol themes of this CD of violent and grisly noise. Plus there’s a full colour photo of Daniel Sine, the sole perpetrator of this release, resplendent in his mascara and black lipstick, chains, tattoos, and studded wrist band, projecting an androgynous vibe. The bloody intravenous tube attached to his arm is an especially decadent touch. So far I feel surfeited under the weight of these Goth clichés.

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However, Negative (DOREI RECORDINGS DOR-021-CD) turns out to be a very good record, an engaging and inventive piece of heavy industrial noise with a horror-movie theme, performed with conviction and great attention to detail by said Stine. There’s a lot of dynamic changes, twists, and effects; it’s not simply a blasting wall of hellish harsh noise. I like the way the whole album manages to sustain a mood (a suffocating mood), and even tell a story of sorts, proceeding through its inexorable course with the logic of a nightmarish piece of cinema; one might almost call it quite mesmerising, exerting strong effects on the listener with a pull that is hard to resist. L’Eclipse Nue does it all with synths, samplers, and lots of vocals, treating everything with tons of effects; the vocals are one of the strongest elements, in fact.

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It’s clear that lyrical content has some meaning to Sine, and he’s not just out for terrifying screech and shriek to alarm the listener; he even seems to be playing the parts of the various doomed characters in his 11-track three-act play, acting out the storyline. Even if many of them don’t do much more than howl in anguish or pain, at least they do it distinctively. The fragments of the story, if indeed there is one, can be gleaned from the very narrative track titles such as ‘Heart Scrambles Futilely To Escape’ or ‘Facing the Gaping Jaws Of Infinity’, and the press notes confirm “it is the story of a model who, after being exploited and murdered, returns from the grave for her revenge”. Presumably a well-worn copy of I Spit On Your Grave is the cornerstone of this guy’s DVD collection, then…

The cover art (by Christian Weston Chandler) was the first part of the project to emerge in this instance, and Sine decided to concoct Negative as a soundtrack to this vividly-imagined image of a vengeful revenant. Impressive; no wonder that Sine feels himself somewhat apart from the Tokyo noise scene with what he regards as its “rather conservative genre boundaries”. If interested to learn more, other releases on his own Dorei Recordings label exist from as far back as 2011, and while he occasionally does split albums and collaborations, he’s clearly a solo flyer with his own personal visions to follow, and many inner demons to purge. Arrived 28 January 2016.

The Grackles

buckgoot

Last noted the American duo Buck Gooter in 2015 with their release The Spider’s Eyes, a strong and ineradicable series of statements about modern alienation expressed through rough collisions of guitars, synths and nasty vocals…excellent stuff…we’re now treated to a survey / compilation of their work called First Decade (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR 216), where each of the ten tracks is drawn from one year of their existence, starting in 2005. Terry Turtle and Billy Brat play like two men possessed…their energy and anger never diminishing over the years, snarling and spitting out concentrated bullets of hate through coarse, flanged guitars, brutal drum machine rhythms, and basic rhythm-melody equations…

Once again the vocals are the strongest element, the singers constantly finding new ways to articulate and express their pain. It’s not just shouting and screaming (as many US hardcore and punk bands settled for in the 1980s and 1990s), but a richly-articulated sneer that contains many nuanced degrees of fury, disaffection, loneliness, and other negative emotions. It’s also possible to trace snapshots of their development and progress over time through this survey, starting with the earliest tracks ‘Cigarats’ and ‘I’ve Got Damage’ where there’s a fairly strong Chrome influence detectable, but by the time of ‘Ouija Guitar’ in 2010 the band have grown a much stronger identity of their own, and there’s less reliance on horrible guitar FX pedals to produce the requisite sense of doom and despair, which instead is mostly delivered by Turtle’s playing, strumming the guitar with the same sort of ferocious attacking force he would use to beat up a man.

Throughout, Buck Gooter’s approach to songs is basically linear – none of that sissy nonsense to do with verse-chorus construction or chord changes for these gumps – instead, it’s all pretty much one idea repeated for four or five minutes in a straight line, with minimal variations on the patterns…this is a very effective way to hammer home the simplistic, sloganeering statements they are making about contemporary life. The release prints all their record covers in full colour on the back, and there’s a series of photos of the duo as an insert…you wouldn’t want to mess with either of these guys, Terry Turtle in particular projecting the image of a war-scarred veteran of the Anarchy wars by way of biker culture, snarling at the camera with his greying beard and tattoos. From September 2015.

The Spider Spins Again

lovesymp

1997EV is a fairly far-out Italian oddity, whose sole mysterious member began their solo career in 1999 with MicroWhen on the Trasponsonic label, dabbling in a species of mind-expanding psychedelic rock clearly inspired by their own interpretation of Psychic TV’s exploration of “new horizons”…1997EV went on to evolve through post-psych into an experimental electronica act, with recent cassettes Subsirkus Sinus Lille Vega and Strobos Vann for the German Reue Um Reue label. We might be hearing a synthesis of both musical identities on the full-length album Love Symposium Alien Spider (BORING MACHINES), which uses drones, drum machines, heavily-processed weird vocals, and mesmerising doped-out guitar riffs to generate menacing spells and unpleasant impressions of bad trips, or something far worse.

Although some trappings of hippy-music are in evidence (fuzzed electric guitar, acoustic guitar strums, hypnotic drones), in essence 1997EV is an industrial / neofolk musician, origins which I think are detectable in the approach to song form and the construction of the recordings. Every song here is haunted by a terrible sense of things going badly wrong, of unwanted mental and physical experiences that cannot easily be escaped or reversed. In fact the very term “alien spider” seems an apt description of the aggressive effects of LSD, a drug which I gather is extremely invasive and unstoppable when it comes to colonising every part of your consciousness after you’re “dropped” a “tab”. I would liken it to an evil spider spinning its web across your defenceless mind.

1997EV have their origins in an earlier “scene” from Sardinia called Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or, who ran a label called Trasponsonic for a few years, and were noted in 2014 by that self-proclaimed king of weirdness Julian Cope: “chaotic whirlpool of Italian bare-faced, bare-back devilry [which] inhabits the wild free realms of religion’s end” is how he described them approvingly. Given his increasingly loopy anti-authoritarian and libertarian agenda, this seems in keeping. The original Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor was one of many shady 19th century occultist organisations, even preceding the Order of the Golden Dawn, although it’s far from clear what principles its adherents abided by. I’m surprised Simon Balestrazzi hasn’t immortalised them in sound yet, but perhaps he already has. The Trasponsonic label has left few identifiable traces unfortunately, and even their website domain has expired.

As to this unsettling and dark record, label press describe it as “surreal trance impro style onto subliminal free-pop-folk industrial structures”, if that linguistic pile of spaghetti means anything to you. By me, it’s an uncertain and incoherent release, whose central ideas are not well defined, but through design or accident its distressed and shimmering sound-surface does occasionally manage to unhinge the mind. From 31 December 2015.

Conditions of Acrimony: a confronting debut of post-industrial / noise sound art

Himukalt Conditions of Acrimony

Himukalt, Conditions of Acrimony, The Helen Scarsdale Agency, cassette HMS036 (2016)

I confess I’ve never heard of Himukalt and its sole member Ester Kärkkäinen before – well, that’s usually the case with at least half the acts I review here, that I don’t know their histories and the recordings of theirs that I pick up are from somewhere in the middle of their discographies – so I had little idea of what to expect. I did have an idea that this release (Kärkkäinen’s debut as Himukalt and in her own right as a solo musician) was possibly a post-industrial throwback to the good old bad old days of late 1970s and early 1980s industrial noise when breaking down and through musical and artistic conventions and taboos to reveal a seamy underside of Western society and its obsession with controlling people’s bodies, minds and souls was the main goal of many in this style of music. This cassette certainly harks back to that mission in its use of distorted and muffled voices that sometimes scream or are reduced to heavy hyperventilated breathing, in the general relentless and brutal machine nature of the rhythms, and in the atmosphere of dread and terror that pervades the entire recording. The cover art is just as confronting, ambiguous and sinister as the music. In short, definitely not an album to be taken lightly at all!

For all that I’ve said though, the actual sounds aren’t difficult to assimilate; they unfold at a steady clip, one after the other mostly, with plenty of uneasy and malevolent background filling the spaces. Some of the most unbearable moments on the album are its most quiet, when the machines have died away and anticipating what might come next is enough to break a torture victim’s will. The noisy parts of the cassette can sometimes be boisterous and a lot of fun to hear, at least until the harrowing vocals intrude and spoil your party.

Both sides of the cassette start with machine-gun rhythm break-outs before diving into their separate paths of juddering noise, sinuous and creepy drones, and that horrid hellish prison bathroom ambience. Though each side has three tracks, the actuality is that once you start on one track, you end up following the tape all the way through, so you may as well play the album right through. Generally the music starts loud to break down your resistance, then progressively becomes quieter, less abrupt and jarring, and ends up deeply oppressive with quietly frying crumble noise and droning effects. The cassette may go out with a whimper rather than a bang; but it’s a whimper that remains with you long after the tape has run its course. Just as so many millions of people killed by oppressive governments over past centuries have died in conditions shut away from public knowledge and which allowed their executioners to scrub out all memory of their tortures and deaths, this tape lapses into a quiet epitaph for them.

Mode Bionics: blank-faced cyber-industrial pop minimalism a lot more intriguing than at first appears

Ariisk Mode Bionics

Ariisk, Mode Bionics, US, Nostilevo, cassette # 79(2015)

LA-based Nostilevo is making a name for itself in experimental electronic / noise / industrial with recordings like Ariisk’s “Mode Bionics”. This is very intriguing blank-faced and emotionless rhythm-based cyber-industrial pop minimalism of a sort that years ago Kraftwerk and its followers might have trailed in an alternative universe in which they meet Raymond Scott and his self-made music machines churning out supposedly soothing electronic music for babies. Some sounds can be very hard and rubbery and others suggest flimsy pieces of metal twisting in space while disembodied half-alien / half-metal voices whisper and chant through a thick layer of echo and distortion.

The cassette is not very long but there’s an astonishing variety and depth in the music, even though it’s all robot pop melody and nothing else: all the atmosphere and emotion that might exist come from the analog synthesiser-generated tunes and tones. Robot voices turn out to contain quite a lot of feeling and inhuman malevolence. The second side of the cassette is much more repetitive and inhuman than the first but I actually like the second side more. Probably the sound quality would be better if the album had been issued on CD but sometimes the cassette format has its charms: “Mode Bionics” can be quite shrill in a metallic way and the music often has a brittle, lo-fi quality.

The recording straddles a very fine line between rhythmic minimalist pop and full-on experimental industrial. Shame that there’s not more of this music about.