Tagged: noise

Now I Am Beyond Belief

You may recall us raving about this Hen Ogledd LP in 2016, a great LP resulting from the team-up of avant-harpist Rhodri Davies and Richard Dawson, the English folk singer and scholar who created the remarkable record The Glass Trunk in 2013 (on which Rhodri played, come to think of it). Well, these two have now turned Hen Ogledd into a band or project of some sort, and here’s their LP Bronze (ALT-VINYL AV069), an astonishing six tracks of musical noise realised with the help of Dawn Bothwell, plus guest players Laura Cannell and Jeff Henderson.

That’s Richard’s artwork on the front cover, a collage called ‘Golden Person’, and with its near-anonymous implacable stare and inscrutable alien visage, this face immediately clues you in that you’re about to spin a very special record. From the opening track I thought we might be embarking on some pagan-mystery theme, rich in dark magick and old straight tracks and stone monuments…it’s called ‘Ancient Data’, an evocative title if ever there was…and on one level may summon up visions of early astronaut visitors and dreams inspired by Erich Von Daniken, or more simply may be a fancy way of referring to archaeology. However, musically it’s an uncategorisable sound, and only the voice work of Dawn Bothwell and the haunting recorders of Cannell might substantiate my theory, adding a mystical folk-flavour to the strange electronic and plucked jumble of inventiveness.

As to that, I suppose a cursory read of the credit notes may give some small indication of what Davies and Dawson were doing at Blank Studios under the watchful ear of Sam Grant (who recorded it), and once again Rhodri is amplifying and electrifying his harps to produce intense, astringent noise and bone-shattering drones, even surpassing his incredible work on Wound Response (amplification and distortion used for devastating results). But he also plays the loudhailer, nails, and marble. Richard Dawson’s credit list is even more arcane, including a number of things which might seem more at home inside a witch’s cupboard than in a recording studio; I could read these two lines of text over and over, until they resemble a form of poetry.

I say this in some attempt to account for the uncanny force and deliberation behind these eerie sounds, at times crude and brutal as the best post-punk band that ever existed, at times ringing together with a spiritual harmony and peacefulness that puts the listener at one with the universe, such as on ‘Beyond Belief’, a superb English update on the music of Popl Vuh. Perhaps Dawn Bothwell, with her synths, effects, and mostly her singing voice, is doing something to temper the alien-inspired antics of the two male players, and her sweetening influence is most evident on the short but gorgeous ‘Gwawr in Reverse’. But she also ends the album with her spunky lyrics to ‘Get My Name Right Or Get Out!’, a title which needs no explanation, and a song which comes over as feisty as a combination of Poly Styrene and Honey Bane.

There’s also the uncanny epic sprawl of ‘Gondoliers’ (the A side of this LP is so right-on it just destroys) and a real misfit on the B-side called ‘Amputated Video’. The broken electronic yawp of this gem has to be heard to be believed; so many English players aspire to capture the truth of the Radiophonic Workshop in their synth-led tributes, but this is the real goods, something which has crawled out of a demented dream-version of 1970s BBC daytime television like a manifestation of all your worst Dr Who fears. I think this record wipes the floor with a lot of contemporary pretenders who dabble in “ceremonial” or “pagan” music without any real understanding of what they mean, and the breadth of its sonic ambition is enormous. Truly astounding, and highest recommendation for this incredible piece of work. From 15th November 2016.

Impaling Nothingness

Mei Zhiyong is a contemporary Chinese noise artist, also active in field recordings, experimental film, and photography…he’s been doing it live since 2007, appeared on the compilation NOISERISING released in Hong Kong a few years ago, and has made a few releases on his own account – many of them split items, including team-ups with Torturing Nurse, one of our favourite noise acts from the Eastern zones. He’s also formed a profitable relationship with international mischief-maker Dave Phillips of Zurich, he of Schimpfluch renown, and when they played together in China in 2014 the enterprising Mei managed to get a DVD out of the situation, which is titled Sonic Rituals. “It’s about feelings, atmosphere, travel, friendship, sounds, passion and ceremony,” according to our Chinese friend.

Flushed with success, Mei toured Europe with Phillips in 2015, and the LP before us Live In Switzerland (AUSSENRAUM AR-LP-007) is one of the outcroppings of that particular exploit, capturing short explosive performances from Cave12 in Geneva and at the Lausanne Underground Film Festival. The record’s pressed in red vinyl, has a completely bonkers cover of digital flower petals going mad created by Flokim Lucas, and Mei Zhiyong himself has extremely long hair which evidently flies about when he’s doing his table-noise thing. All of the above are good harbingers, yet I found myself surprisingly disappointed by Live In Switzerland. The Cave12 side is inventive, making use of quite evil voice samples, and the stop-start dynamics used here are pretty extreme. But that same dynamic works against the performance, which comes over much like a bad-tempered car refusing to start despite frenetic turns of the ignition key. The energy feels blocked somehow.

The LUFF side flows better for sure, but still lacks a decent punch and I’m not feeling the body-blows which one might expect…I sense Mei Zhiyong may lean on his effects pedals a little too much, as about 40% of what he does is pretty much just feedback fed through reverb, resulting in the same harsh noise as many other noise-assaulters in this genre…it’s evident Mei Zhiyong is very serious about what he does, and has high hopes for noise music to offer a particular kind of mental liberation, a healthy short-circuit between mind and body, and an effective means of loosening one’s psychological shackles. Or, to use his own expression: “All the manic, quiet, extreme, abnormal have been preset by procedures and tools…only impaling nothingness will real make you get rid of the contradiction between voice and body, between body and mind.” I applaud these libertarian sentiments, and the visceral terms in which they are expressed, but Live In Switzerland falls short somewhere, just a shade too over-thought and reticent where it should be devouring all like a roaring tiger. I will revisit and play louder next time, hoping for a more explosive release. From 31st October 2016.

Transmission and Distribution Industry

The name of Genetic Transmission is I confess entirely new to me, but it’s plain to see that this Polish industrial one-man band (real name Tomasz Twardawa) has his own distinct approach to the gritty, urban, industrial noise thing, and I am fully prepared to believe that he has “cult status” and that he has been highly influential on Polish musicians working in similar areas, both assertions which are baldly stated in the Zoharum press release. Genetic Transmission’s catalogue of output begins in the mid 1990s, and there are a number of CDRs released on his own private press label Die Schöne Blumen Musik Werk; titles such as Bruit Assemblage and Garbage Substance Manipulations may give you some idea of his process, or his aims, though I never heard these records. Tomasz also traded as Zilch, Godzilla, and Ladne Kwiatki; not sure at time of writing if these were indeed groups, or simply aliases for his solo work.

Zhoarum have now taken it on themselves to reissue some back catalogue material as proper CD pressings in an enterprise which is optimistically called the GT Archive Series. The first item to hand is Genetic Transmission (ZOHAR 130-2 / GT 01), significant as the first album made by the artiste 1 and originally released as a cassette tape on Obuh Records in 1997. I see the cover art for that 1997 item contains a lot of the visual clues we’d expect from the genre – photo collage, typography printed at weird angles, and the use of vaguely unsettling imagery which suggests the conflation of human anatomy with machinery 2. However, I can see why someone would want to reissue the tape, as this is not a “generic” industrial item and there’s a lot of buried treasure here. While the surface is pretty repellent, and deliberately so, these mind-numbing rhythms really creep under your skin in a highly effective manner, soon taking over your motor functions and causing the listener to walk and move like a robot. The label are keen to stress that everything is analogue; already in these times when we’re saturated with over-processed digital noise, it seems that old school all-analogue processing and recording is becoming a hallmark of authenticity. Whatever you think about that shift in the culture, there’s no doubt that Twardawa assembles his elements with a fierce determination, and his somewhat primitive (in a good way) methods really make the music crackle with life – and even if that metaphor suggests Dr Frankenstein creating his monster in the lab, that isn’t far off the mark. “Bruit collages, harsh metallic sounds and mechanical structure” are some of the features we are advised to savour. I also appreciated the variety of this set; veering between loud and abrasive noise and the slower, more rhythmical pieces; but throughout, everything is grey, gritty, and completely abstract, and bound up with an inescapable sense of doom. Almost all music tagged with “industrial” aspires to that doomy sensation, but few deliver it with the conviction and force of Genetic Transmission.

The second CD, also in the Archive Series, is called Chrząszcz Brzmi W Trzcinie (ZOHAR 131-2 / GT 02). Here we jump ahead to 2006; the 2005-06 recordings were issued as a limited CDR by the Berlin label Tochnit Aleph, a connection which need not surprise us as Twardawa had already formed some connection with Dave Phillips by this time. Matter of fact they released a tribute split record to Rudolf Eb.er in 2000. Apparently, the CDR of Chrząszcz sold out very quickly to those “in the know” and hasn’t been heard since this reissue. Right away we can discern things have moved on for Tomasz Twardawa and he’s in a different creative space. The cover art is even more vague and unsettling, with details from treated photographs arranged in such ways to reduce the possibility of recognisable and familiar imagery, and maximise confusion and disorientation for the viewer. Analogous methods may have been used for the music, which by now – only eight years later – has become even more brutal and primitive. The press notes vaguely describe Tomasz’s working method for this, where no post-processing or tidying up has taken place, and the aim seems to have been to select only the most “primal” materials in the first place and slam them together in unwieldy chunks. Whatever editing has taken place is for reasons of concision, but also mainly for reasons of shock. On that account, the record delivers. Chrząszcz Brzmi W Trzcinie – a title which translates as “a beetle buzzes in the reed” – is a chaotic jumble of noise and sound, dour and grim in tone, and the edits are very harsh, aiming for maximal brain-scrambling power. If Tomasz thought the world was a depressing place in 1997, at least his plaint still had form and structure; by 2006, he’s evidently decided the entire universe is absurd, and there’s a madman in charge. For all these reasons, I found this Chrząszcz heavy going, and started to long for the comparative coherence of the earlier record, but I find that eventually you get used to the samey landscape and tasteless grey murk that’s on offer. I suppose one observation would be that the sound-world here seems much more cut-off and internalised than the earlier record, with the sense that the composer will not allow a chink of outside light into his composing dungeon. This adds to the sense of claustrophobia and doom. These may be regarded as positive outcomes, perhaps, in the context.

While not pleasant listening by any means, these are pieces of history and both of these records will have a home in the serious scholar and collector of industrial music, and both are well presented and packaged. From 23rd November 2017.

Bandcamp page for first album
Bandcamp page for second album

  1. Although there is something which predates it slightly, the cassette Vanitas Vanitatum Et Omnia Vanitas from 1996.
  2. I feel the force of that collage has been diluted on the CD reissue, despite using the same source matrial.

Factory Direct

On Factory Photographs (ROOM 40 EDRM426), two Australian sound artists calling themselves Hexa attempt to represent images of factories in sound. And goodness me, what a literal job they’ve made of it; these would-be abstract sounds quickly resolve themselves into sound-images of crashing metal, machine presses, steam, sparks, foundries, whistles, hooters, and many other prosaic interpretations of what a factory makes or does. The images in question were created by everyone’s favourite limner of the bleak industrial landscape, David Lynch, who has been doing it in cinema since the late 1970s (and in my view rarely surpassed his take on gloomy factories since Eraserhead). As a sideline to his cinematic work, Lynch has been taking photographs of disused and abandoned factories for many years, a fact which somehow fails to surprise me. I’d also point out that disused and abandoned factories have been preoccupying many other visual artists for some time, and we’ve reviewed a few of the results in these pages. The idea to create this banal sound-fest was down to Jose Da Silva, who commissioned the work while there was a Lynch exhibition at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art in 2015. Hexa are Lawrence English and his friend Jamie Stewart, who have been collaborating since 2009; they are planning an audio-visual version of this album using Lynch’s images. This probably isn’t as objectionable as I am making it seem, but if you compare it with the eerie and subtle sound effects that Alan Splet and Lynch created for their films, it feels rather overstated and superfluous. Lynch was profoundly and personally affected by the urban squalor he beheld in Pennsylvania and continues to explore it, for reasons that are probably mysterious even to him. I’m just not feeling the same depth or obsessive qualities from this Hexa record. From 27th October 2016.

Northern Sludge

Lost Head (BIOLOGICAL RECORDS BR-07) is the latest project we’ve received from the very wonderful Dave Cintron, American guitar all-rounder who has come our way on great recordings by other Cleveland bands Terminal Lovers and Scarcity Of Tanks, proving once again that great things breed in large swarms on the shores of Lake Erie. This time, Cintron is joined by fellow Terminal Lover drummer Scott Pickering and bassist Rick Kodramaz, and you could hear their 2014 debut performance on a CDR called Zen Pissed released by Tom Orange. Orange, who blurts the alto sax on this album, had the guts to call himself Orange Claw Hammer on one cassette, but given the superficially “Beefheartian” vibe of this squiggly record, it’s a forgiveable lapse.

Aye, the Lost Head have quickly developed their own very convincing take on a punky rock-jazz thing, and they do it with no straight lines or “tasteful” licks, just plenty of squirming energy and action-painting effects. It’s as though they were trying to recreate a version of Ornette’s Prime Time without hearing a single note of music and just going on a description they read in a jazz journal. A jazz journal whose pages had somehow become interleaved with Maximum Rock’N’ Roll, that is. On two of the strongest cuts here, ‘Escapee’s Lament’ and ‘Northern Sledge’, the quartet create an ingenious, amorphous gaseous purple ball of jazz-inflected noise, where the rhythm section are phenomenal – never once settling into a familiar groove and keeping the pulsebeat living and breathing by playing “around” the beat (as the great free jazz percussionists of the 1960s aimed to do). ‘Squeezing Graphene’ is a little more conventional with the souped-up funky rhythms as if aiming for a more wired, coked-up imitation of On The Corner by way of James Chance and The Contortions, but the energy falters not for one second.

‘Cargo Cult’ is cut from another cloth, a mysterious foray into scrapey noise, atmospheric mystery and forlorn guitar lines droning in dissonant manner. If it weren’t for Cintron’s tendency to occupy every space he can in the music (this seems to happen on every record he plays on, and he seeks out like-minded musicians who do the same), this track would be a genuine chiller. Drummer Pickering did the cover painting also. A great release from November 2016.

Sound Pipers Of Garlic

Indescribable double CD of improvised vocal noises along with non-musical sounds and eruptions…this is the combined talents of four international mavericks, i.e. Adam Bohman, the UK sound poet, performer, bricoleur and cassette diarist; Oliver Mayne, English musician living in Budapest; Jean-Michel van Schouwburg, described here as “the inimitable voice maestro”; and Zsolt Sőrés, the Hungarian musician. Budapest is the connecting zone, the area where these four met and climbed into a musical melting pot. Bohman and Jean-Michel were invited there in 2010 by the film-maker Peter Strickland, and once Zsolt S?rés got wind of this he quickly set up an improvising situation and asked Oliver Mayne to join in. What has supposed to be a fortuitous one-off occasion soon developed into a regular event, and in the years since the four have performed together many times, now working under the strange and awkward name of I Belong To The Band. The double CD we have before us documents four such occasions from 2010 and 2013, all of them happening in Budapest, and shows the foursome captured either live or in the studio. On one occasion, a live event at Fuga, they were joined by the vocalist Katalin Ladik. Ladik’s impressive vocal work may be known to some for her contributions to recordings of Ernő Király, the Yugoslavian modern composer.

This package, titled Bakers Of The Lost Future (INEXHAUSTIBLE EDITIONS ie-004-2), shows how the combo require a lot of space and time to spread out – some might unkindly call it a sprawl – to realise their need for self-expression. Musical instruments are involved, including vibes, synths, and stringed instruments, but I get the impression that amplified objects are much more the weapon of choice in the IBTTB stable. Bohman’s a past master of selecting and hitting strange objects in the service of sound production; Zsolt Sőrés has his own personal selections, and also brings circuit-bending and dictaphone tapes to the table in his quest for the ultimate in lo-fi distortion and mangled groink. Mayne too is no stranger to clipping a contact mic onto anything that stands still long enough. Together, these three weave a cluttered but intense din of rubbly and unfamiliar textures, producing a dense soup that makes no concessions whatsoever to “art music” or jazz-inflected improvisation, nor is it as opaque and mystifying as the inert over-processed murk that Das Synthetische Mischgewebe often creates using similar methods. I haven’t heard such a compelling layered and over-crowded racket since my last DDAA listen. Over this scrambly foundation, van Schouwburg yawps out his nightmarish vocalising, a bad dream of opera singing caused by a night of indigestion at the Magyar Állami Operaház. All the pieces have been assigned nonsensical titles, word-salad arrangements such as ‘Intergalactic Gulash vs Sneezawee Gaspacho’ and ‘Gastric Samba Honkers’, as if attempting to realise the same sense of mental indigestion through the channel of literary expression. The references to food and the stomach in these titles are most fitting.

I would also single out the uncanny escapades of Katalin Ladik on the track where she features, ‘Poets of the Absurd on Chalk’. She’s pretty much carrying on an unintelligible argument with van Schouwburg as if the two were actors / opera singers playing husband and wife in a grotesque marriage, or perhaps simply play-acting a garbled version of Punch and Judy. It’s by turns comedic and ugly, yet still infused with moments of mysterious and terrifying beauty. Both the vocalists here sound certifiably insane, but they deliver their loopy barks with great assurance and confidence. We could say the same about the music, which is pretty much fragmented and bonkers in the extreme, but played with gravitas and conviction. There is no doubt in my mind that this is down to the personalities involved (very strong personalities); you could never train a classical musician to play this way in a million years, even if they had been raised on John Cage since birth. It’s an instinctive thing, and a very personal thing. The effect here is intensified because these are four like-minded souls, who have nothing to prove to the world…the music is as much a product of that bond as anything else, the sound of an amazing conversation, on which we are lucky enough to eavesdrop.

Peter Strickland, though he doesn’t play a note, is also pivotal to the record. He also happens to have been part of the Sonic Catering Band in a former life, and the strange formless non-musical performances he was responsible for are could be seen as one of the many tributaries that have flowed into Bakers Of The Lost Future. He also directed the movie Berberian Sound Studio, which used the talents of Katalin Ladik for its soundtrack, and which briefly featured the Bohman Brothers making a cameo appearance. Another gem from the Slovenian label Inexhaustible Editions, arrived 28th October 2016.

Pacific Rim

Kurt Liedwart / Phil Raymond
Rim
RUSSIA MIKROTON cd45 CD (2016)

In a possibly deliberate move, label head Kurt Liedwart has arranged the two names on the sleeve of Rim so that his makes the word “LIED”. It is this kind of wordplay that allows me to theorize wildly about subliminal messaging and unconscious communications. I won’t bore you with my crackpot theories here though, rest assured. Polymath Kurt Liedwart plays lloopp, electronics and percussion on this studio session. As well as running Mikroton, Liedwart has evidence of his previous activities documented on Intonema, Theme Park, Hideous Replica and Copy For Your Records. He also designs the packaging for most if not all Mikroton releases. His counterpart on this particular outing, Phil Raymond, contributes “computer percussion” to these five pieces of full-strength machine-drone, identified only by their individual duration. Raymond is currently resident in Moscow and has released a previous download EP via Mikroton called Absence in 2008, half of which was also released on the compilation The Best Of NTNS Radio. The following year he and Liedwart joined forces, Raymond allowing Liedwart to repurpose his percussion recordings in a live setting. As the Mikroton website states: “Liedwart created inventive systems of sound matters, working with both percussion and electronics, carefully adapting [the] other musician’s materials”. Here on Rim, the evidence of their collaboration forces the limits of what we understand electronic music can be. The resulting tangle of crackling, chittering, grinding, whirring, bubbling, skittering implosions, is mastered with empathy by Ilia Belorukov.

Opening with “10:58”, a giant slab of grumbling printed circuit boards, desiccated by freezing tundra winds, Rim starts as it means to go on. Giant oil tanks rub against each other while contact mics the size of steel pans burst out of the ground at the ends of mile-long runs of armoured cable. The second piece, “3:52”, begins and I panic, thinking my ears have re-blocked after I suffered with crippling sinus pain on a flight the week before, and became temporarily deaf in one ear. All I could hear was the sound of my own head filling up with phlegm, with distant popping and crackling replacing the things my family were actually saying to me. Frustrating for me, but probably much more for them. “9:27” is the sound of my ears suddenly – and violently – unblocking. The fourth piece; “4:16” begins with what sounds like two mountainsides rubbing against each other. Clearly one or both of these two artists spend their free time contact-mic’ing geology. The long final piece, “22:45” is monumental and granite-lined. Tectonic plates quiver and bend. Time stops. You can hear the icecaps melting.

Putting the melodrama of the Noise genre aside, I consider the music on Rim as some of the most extreme electronic music I have ever encountered. Furthermore, I see this music as a protest. It is a protest against what modern life has become; about lies dressed up as truths, about manipulation, vested interests, greed, ignorance, discrimination. It’s about burying our heads in the sand; at the same time allowing ourselves to become wilfully misinformed. Last year, 2016, saw many opportunities for positive change squandered. To me, despite being recorded in 2009, Rim is like a blow-by-blow account of that year in sound and spirit.

Planet X will Destroy Earth

Sun Ra / Merzbow
Strange City
UK COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR228CD (2016)

A pretty overpowering blast here from Masami Akita as he applies his “remix” and noise skills to the music of Sun Ra. I’m really not sure if I like it or not. I’ve been enjoying the music of the Sun Ra Arkestra from a long time now, and it’s encouraging (though slightly bewildering) to find how his music has somehow become fashionable, especially with younger broad-minded listeners, after being despised or ignored by many jazz purists during the man’s lifetime. And of course we’ve also supported Merzbow as the supremo Rolls-Royce maestro of precision noise pretty much since we started this magazine, and Jennifer Hor is one who has enthusiastically stepped up to sing his praises in the noise arena. Today though we’re dealing with one of those post-modern hybrid experiments, informed by a reckless try-anything spirit that delights in forming melds and mergers between incompatible genres, perhaps in the name of breaking down barriers and broadening the taste horizons of a thousand young polymorphous listeners. Although since those same listeners now have such a glut of music to enjoy, perhaps this kind of excessive noise-jazz chimera is the only way we can get their attention, or just make ourselves feel anything.

It’s not exactly a collaboration between Merzbow and Sun Ra. When Merzbow collaborated with Richard Pinhas or Genesis P. Orridge, he teamed up with a living musician and they made sounds together, often live and in real time. This particular release is more like a collaboration with Irwin Chusid, who licensed tracks from the Sun Ra archive for Merzbow’s remixing purposes; Justin Mitchell of Cold Spring Records may have been involved in the negotiation process to get the tapes into Masima’s mitts. I may be splitting hairs, but Merzbow is working exclusively with recorded music for this one; members of the current Arkestra have not been personally involved, as far as I can make out. Were they even asked about the project? As to the provenance of the source materials, this isn’t crystal clear; some say it’s derived from Strange Strings and The Magic City, hence the album title which merges them into a single line. But the press release states “rare and unreleased tracks” were involved. Strange Strings and The Magic City may be rare records, but they were not unreleased.

On the CD I have in front of me, there are two long cuts over 30 mins each – ‘Livid Sun Loop’ and ‘Granular Jazz Part 2’ are fantastic titles, and remind us that Merzbow has kick-started (or put the boot in to) free jazz records before, such as on the groovy record Door Open At 8 AM from 1999, which sampled Tony Williams Lifetime and John Coltrane. ‘Livid Sun Loop’ could almost be a Sun Ra title, but it’s two-thirds Masami Akita; you know how much he loves to refer to his method (looping) and to the use of excessive adjectives to make the music even more threatening than it already is. ‘Livid Sun Loop’ sounds like something from outer space that would give you an incurable disease, an unstoppable cancer that changes the colour of your skin to a mottled grey. That may be the idea. The music he wreaks on this track has the same relentless quality of an invasive disease. I suppose you could say he’s captured the energy of the Arkestra, and perhaps hinted at the sheer weirdness of Sun Ra himself. But whatever free jazz has survived is buried in a thick wodge of noise, much like diamonds in clay. Admittedly, fragments of Arkestra music are recognisable in the few gaps of breathing space that are left us, but here again it’s two-thirds Masami Akita, as he occupies and colonises every available inch of the ether. Sun Ra Arkestra horns, strings, and piano fragments leak out in among modern, digitally-crunched, metallic harsh noise; the jazz parts feel like ancient archaeological fragments, barely daring to assert their significance in today’s uncaring world.

And yet, I found myself enjoying the futuristic electronic swoops that Merzbow belches out of his follicles so effortlessly, and wondering to myself if these noises didn’t count as an authentic update on the outer-space, space-travel, sci-fi themes that Sun Ra made his very own. In places, ‘Livid Sun Loop’ could take its place among the strangest recordings in the Ra discography, including Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy. I have no doubt that Merzbow has heard and loved every known Sun Ra recording, and more besides. On the other hand, he clearly has no desire to replicate the subtlety and ellipsis of the 1960s work, nor any interest in leaving gaps in the continuous tidal wave of noise. I also miss the percussion, which was one of the group’s strongest skill-sets; I think a few precious moments of Arkestra drumming may surface, but not much. However, Merzbow (who used to be a drummer) knows about rhythm, and it’s not too far-out to think he’s set Sun Ra music to a complex, intense and multi-layered beat, and it will take us several spins to truly get to the groove.

‘Granular Jazz Part 2’ is even more overwhelming, rushing past at such high speeds and overlaid with so much debris that eventually it becomes a blur; I’m unable to make out any Sun Ra presence in this tornado, but his serene figure may be sitting somewhere in the epicentre of the storm. It’s like Metal Machine Music on speed; buried melodies and pulsing rhythms thrashing it out against non-musical feedback and electronic swoops. The entire El Saturn catalogue overlaid with itself like some multiple-exposure movie. Masami Akita may see free jazz as an all-out explosion of wild, inchoate energy; that’s certainly what comes across on this spin.

If you enjoy this and find yourself hungry for more, you need to buy the vinyl edition as well as the CD; though the covers are the same, the contents are completely different, and only by buying the black or yellow vinyl edition will you hear the other three parts of ‘Granular Jazz’. Beautiful cover art is by Abby Helasdottir. From 17 October 2016.

Wings Of Fire

Loopy electronica, wild noise, insane illogical beats and coarse sounds abound on Phoenixxx (PLANET MU RECORDS ZIQ383), a sprawling experiment which comes to us from the East, concocted by three youngsters from Russia and the Ukraine calling themselves WWWings. Heck, the oldest member here is 25, so they seem largely untroubled by draggy things like fitting into categories or providing any kind of continuity with the past, and in places seem intent on applying a punk rock-inspired tabula rasa attitude to everything they do. It’s also notable that the band seems to have come together through the internet and social media networking, rather than more conventional old-school methods.

WWWings are massively disaffected and frustrated by everything they see around them, and given the state of the world today, who can gainsay them? “Struggle with real life in almost totalitarian countries affects us,” they snarl at the world, in between mouthfuls of a dead rat they’re roasting over a makeshift campfire in the middle of a bomb site. “I think that’s why most of our tracks sound disturbing and depressive.” This alienation, and it’s not too strong a word, carries over into their personalities and prompts them to work under alias names which distance themselves from the so-called “real adult world” and bring them closer to a cyber-world of tags, avatars and forum names, a world which they own and understand, and have completely colonised, hence ‘Lit Internet’, ‘Lit Eye’ and ‘Lit Daw’. To say nothing of the colourful characters who collaborate on the tracks, with names like Born in Flamez, Gronos1, Chino Amobi, Endgame, Ebbo Kraan, and DJ Heroin.

The game plan for the modern world proposed on Phoenixxx is a simple one – burn everything down and (probably) don’t bother to rebuild it. This is reflected in track titles issuing simple instructions such as ‘Pyro’, ‘Ashes’, ‘Melt’ and ‘Ignite’. I can get that, for sure. While the name Phoenixxx implies a rebirth from the flames, I don’t think WWWings have written that part of the plan yet. Until they do, grab that can of gasoline and box of matches, and get stuck in. From 3rd October 2016.

Banished from Time: an intense immersion into a particular hell

Black Cilice, Banished from Time, Iron Bonehead Productions, Germany, CD / cassette IBP321 (2017)

“Banished from Time” is a very intense and thundering work, often repetitive, and always frenzied and feverish. The album is the fourth by black metal act Black Cilice, whose home country is Portugal, and about whom little else is known, not even whether the band is just a lone-wolf solo act or a group. The project does boast a huge discography of cassettes, split releases and albums.

From start to finish, the music is constant assault on your senses and consciousness, with a lot of cacophony and howling, but within the noise and non-stop shrieking there are definite melodies and riffing. The sound, flooded with reverb, is noisy and cavernous, all-enveloping until you feel that your head is completely filled up with even more music pushing its way in with all that non-stop intense percussion thudding and you’re in danger of drowning in such overwhelming noise and mental torment. The first track “Timeless Spectre” is a good example of what to expect: high-speed pounding drums, steaming fuzzy vibrato guitars, banshee vocals howling trapped within the depths of the noise reverb, with melodies and actual riffs and rhythms passing in and out. The following track “On the Verge of Madness” has more of the same except that the music seems more streamlined and focused with one constant rhythm banging out its heart and growing more intense and urgent. The third track has a good galloping groove that goes into a hysterical frenzy as the song progresses amid the noise and anguish.

On and on it goes … yes, the music sounds like the proverbial flood that, once set free, never stops pouring and overflowing the levees and plains. Yet there’s actual structure carved out of the sound and noise that gives the album some direction and brings out its message of absolute despair and total alienation. The last couple of songs on the album bring something new to the usual screeching: the fourth song “Channeling Forgotten Energies” has an additional layer of sharp-ish drone and the final track “Boiling Corpses” has as much fury and aggressive, destructive drama as it does desperation and inner torment. For the first time, the anger seems to turn outward away from attacking its owner and towards the source of torment with single-minded obsession. Some signal of hope, of a light shining into the darkness, now becomes apparent and there’s the possibility of inner peace and healing.

This album is more of an immersion into a particular kind of hell than it is a collection of songs or a soundtrack – its intensity will put off most people and only those who may have had similar depressive experiences will appreciate it for what it is and represents. Beneath the layers of noise, confusion and agony can be found music of overwhelming emotion that in its own way possesses unearthly beauty.