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
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)
RUSSIA OPPOSING MUSIC OPM013 CD (2012)
Young Russians (previously known to me only via their interview in The Sound Projector issue 21), headed by Ilia Belorukov with a fresh approach to the by now well known if not well-worn grindcore tropes, here mastered by James Plotkin (equally well known to many by now I should think, and quite rightly, too). The unorthodox addition of synthesiser and saxophone to the traditional elements should do much to endear the project to those susceptible to this kind of thing. And a worthwhile piece of brutalism it is too.
It is an unusual album of saxophone-hybrid avant-garde metal which periodically put me variously (and perhaps predictably), in mind of Borbetomagus, Hawkwind and Elliot Sharp’s Carbon on first listen. Plenty of riffage and screamo vocals (not always upfront – sometimes very effectively used as you would an instrumental pad morphing into a saxophone part), as you would expect.
No little evidence of technology (live processing and editing I suspect, plus lots of production, no doubt), on the sprawling single track on this album, but not to such a psychotic extreme as a contemporary like Genghis Tron, say. In fact, this single 39-minute track is surprisingly effective device with a coursing dynamic, space to breathe and some very capable group improvisation dovetailed in. I like to imagine this is a recorded document of a live session but there’s no written evidence on the sleeve to support this impression.
In its quieter moments, Act IV reminds me of (and here I’m showing my age), Gong, Cardiacs, and briefly, even the modulated Roland Chorused guitars of early period The Cure. Somewhat predictably, I feel like pointing out that Lightning Bolt have a lot to answer for when I listen this music (although its authors may not agree). There’s the ever-present grumbling of a multi-effected bass guitar, and the drummer is feral – capable of all the required polyrhythmic tricks one minute and relying on pure power the next – although not as fightening or potentially dangerous as Brian Chippendale or the guy from the Japanese duo FINAL EXIT. I’m making the comparison stylistically and/or philosophically; not literally – the incarnation of Wozzeck here are a four-piece not a duo. They are, in fact, the aforementioned Ilia Belorukov on voice, electronics and alto sax; bassist Mikhail Ershov; guitarist Pavel Medvedev and on drums, Alexey Zabelin.
So, to Act IV itself. Kicking off with strangulated feedback then an explosion of blastbeats, Act IV sets out its blackened and twitching stall without delay. After a short while, screamed vocals cloud over a sudden slackening of pace as digital feedback raises questions (of mortality?) no-one is prepared to answer. Residual traces of processing give way to the entrance of the saxophone at four minutes in. From here on in, the music takes on an aura of relentless, progressive grind allowing all four instrumentalists to shoot off on their own separate internal voyages. By nine and a half minutes, the bluster is replaced by a brooding ambience. Hissing fog tones and rumbling bass coalesce before a sudden and violent return to blast. Hidden in the midst of a typical blitzkrieg at thirteen and a half minutes is one of the brief Gong-like asides – a contrast as captivating and unhinged as any. At around 22 minutes, there is a protracted fatal collapse of all previously well-wrought metal architecture; the digital distortion produced as all the inputs blast into the red left in the final mix, until relief, reprise and reconnection with the melodic thrust of fifteen minutes previous, and then without warning everyone bar the bassist drops out. A bass chord is languorously explored while phantoms of electronics waft here and there. Serpentine long tones that might once have been an electric piano move in and out of focus while the drummer gradually recovers from whatever blow to the head rendered him unconscious in the first place, and turns his attention to his impressive collection of cymbals. From here the Robert Smith-like guitar flange kicks in to ominous and eerie effect. Tom-toms are chucked down a liftshaft and/or reverbed to sound like they are being played in the next town and a ring modulated buzz encourages over-amped guitar (tinges of Alex Lifeson if he was ever capable of becoming truly deranged), finally, to take over for the last three and a half minutes of the session.
Act IV rewards repeated listens, packed as it is with unhinged sonic artefacts; fast moving and restless. There’s been a long list of on trend noise/screamo (if that’s the correct genre appellation – apologies if I’ve got that wrong), bands come up for air in the last few years; Rolo Tomassi, Charlottefield and Bo Ningen spring to mind – perhaps Wozzeck are on their way to joining that list. James Plotkin’s involvement can be seen as an endorsement in a way. Whether that was their intention or whether the opportunity to work with Plotkin was just too good to miss remains a mystery. Either way, I’m glad they did.
Very long overdue notice for Tolvek (DOUBTFUL SOUNDS doubt07), this crapulous and absurdist record of genius by Micro_Penis, which we’ve had in the rack since at least November 2011 if not earlier. Perhaps I could use the unsettling cover art as an excuse for my tardiness, but now that I hear the record in its entirety it can only be declared as a tiny masterpiece of surrealism, a 19th-century nightmare of Freud and modern medicine, refracted through sonic images of the Crimean war and suggestions of typewriters, early automobile horns, and horrifying dreams of surgery going wrong. Most of the above can be deduced from just listening to the foul groaning spew that is spread across these two sides of vinyl; the team of Heyer, Kittel, Ogrob and Spenlehauer create ambiguous sound portraits in episodic form that can plausibly be read to contain all of those images. A man screams desperately on side one, undergoing painful surgery, to the sound of primitive saws buzzing horribly and a placid doctor murmuring his disdain. Warfare is clearly suggested across side two, either by distant cannon fire electronically simulated, or by crazed officers barking desperate orders in unintelligible ways, or by the ramshackle brass section imitating bugle calls. A more perfect realisation of a Max Ernst collage in sound, it’s hard to imagine; The 150 Murderous Passions LP (United Dairies UD 09, 1981) at last has some stiff competition.
Freud and Krafft-Ebing are also suitable subtexts, given the name of the combo and the cover images – collages by Michel Borgo from 1978 – which suggest a painful genital operation going horribly wrong, but also indicating that the team of doctors themselves, wearing sado-masochistic black masks, are somehow complicit in an institutionalised form of sexual deviancy. The assorted vocal groans, howls and pained ejaculations that erupt throughout the entire record are evidence that, in this looking-glass world, all sexual activity is a miserable, slow and painful process of joyless, physical grind. The association of sex with warfare, achieved by the record’s strong audio juxtapositions, confirms another deep archetype that has been with us since the time of Wilhelm Reich, and his studies such as The Mass Psychology of Fascism. Never a band to leave well enough alone, Micro_Penis also include a rubber object insert with the release, a “hybridization of sexual obsession and vegetable shape” developed by the artist Anne Zimmerman. This “sexual rubber beast” may have been derived from the leaves of a cabbage, but it also resembles a section from a lung or other vital organ, manufactured using a material which is alien neither to the operating theatre (rubber gloves) nor the bedroom (condoms). So far, plenty of the sort of twisted button-pushing that is guaranteed to activate every man’s dormant id – except it’s more like twisting a scalpel, in those parts we don’t want probed.
However, it would be wrong to overlook that this is also a very humourous record. The press release alone should have the reader in stitches, weaving fantastic yarns about band members being hospitalised or going on retreat in a Zen temple, while creating this work by digging in the hospital garbage bins (probably another deep archetype buried there too); they describe this grand guignol styled work as a melange of “horror movie, art brut and cruelty”. There’s humour in the sound too; if at any moment the music seems extremely bizarre, despairing, or violent, it’s instantly undercut by the next moment which makes liberal use of comic sound effects of farting and groaning bowels, be they created by brass instruments or electronic means. And the voices are exceptional. All four members of the band add voice elements, and they’re both hilarious and disturbing too (often in the same mouthful). They grunt and howl in unintelligible manner; this is not the systematic disassembly of language as practised by Burroughs and his cut-ups, rather the purely instinctive and animalistic reaction to emotional turmoil: this is call-and-response improvisation rendered 100 times more visceral. This is a juicy, dirty record that unflinchingly embraces all bodily functions, from intestines to genitalia and the “sang dans la culotte” that appears on side one, making a fleeting reference to menstruation. The creators of this lurid, nightmarish mess – François Heyer, Alexandre Kittel, Claude Spenlehauer and Sébastien Borgo – come to us from prior projects such as Sun Plexus and Myself, and have made one other LP under this alias in 2009. A truly nauseating delight!
In which ol’ Kev hits us macho square in the lugholes with his 12 inch mastermix, noise on 45: Relief. Throws into. Is in stark. Is in bold. Bas (no bass, however). In fact, think back and recall when your friend and mine Howard Phillips L. used to write about grotesque bas-reliefs hewn from basalt etc. Well, there are some similarities, here.
Relief clocks in a relentless 40 minutes or so, packaged in a monolithic black sleeve with black inner bag. On the cover three dire creatures of the night pause whilst ripping an 18 century creature’s carcass just long enough to eye us balefully – as indeed we imagine Kevin is doing, peering hairy-armed over the foot high legend ‘Relief’ (‘by Kevin Drumm’ – similar to a perfume, but sweatier) that confronts us on the back. One slab, two faces, a ceaseless, pitiless, writhing, tentacles as the volcanic column (yes, I know. In fact, coincidentally, since I wrote these initial notes Ed has more fully explored the Freudian ramifications, as it were, of some noise approaches in his review of Seth Cooke’s Pneuma1) emerges from the depths. See water streams off those hideous bas-reliefs, terrors which should not be named revealed by the flashing of convenient lightning and the insane dive-bombing of rotting Stukas. Piloted by zombies. Perhaps zombie Keith Rowes.
These imagistic impressions (which we should not disregard the influence of the deliberately calculated packaging in forming 2) are rendered unto us by way of a fair amount of high frequency feedback and what could be radio abuse – like Spinal Tap’s wireless mic picking up air base chatter this sounds like a table top guitar picking up Satan’s own CB radio, but unlike Nigel Tufnell and co. there is not much in the way of bottom end. Behind everything a relentlessly cycling maudlin orchestral motif grates away in the background. A mouldy melody of a sort of melancholy at three removes, cannibalised horror forged in the gleam of efficiency and commerce. Hollywood’s very own horror tropes, the signifier rather than the signified being deployed, in a similar manner to the artwork, although in that case other conventions are being used. And thus it goes, grinding, maximum on small details, minimum on large scale movement. A slab, indeed.
Flip the record over and it carries on where it left off. The stukas still swarming around the storm-wracked, pitted and hoary monolith. Which in fact as far as volcanic rocks goes is probably more of a pumice. Not that that doesn’t abrade, some, mind you. Excellent for calluses etc. It is just rather lighter in terms of overall mass.
We get no progression, no climax; rather an enervated and continuous crumbling.
But wait! What’s this? A minute or so from the end of the second side we are granted (a sort of) respite in a brief second track, a solo for distorted guitar, simple where the previous track is loaded with baroque details, brief where the other is long, dynamic where the other maintains a constant level, throwing things into… wait for it… relief. It’s still melodically over-egged and portentous, but it’s nice to feel in on the joke. A spirit of generosity which is echoed in Kevin’s exhaustive thanks list included on the back of the picture postcard you also get slipped into the sleeve.
The feminine or anima – there I go mixing my Freud and Jung – has plenty to offer to noise. Think of the archetype of Kali, for example. ↩
The music lies in a shifting hinterland between instrumental expressionism and the creation of illusory pictures, in a similar manner to the conversation in packaging Drumm has been pursuing since Tina Frank’s Sheer Hellish Miasma artwork, the using and subverting of an archetypally ‘metal’ or ‘noise’ presentation in the service of something more abstract and electronic. ↩
Time to get our fangs into some more cassette tapes. There are times of the day when only a small-run independent tape can satisfy a man’s urges. Can a man who doesn’t own a tape deck truly be called a man, I ask myself 1. Ilya Belorukov is a Russian fellow who we spoke to for TSP issue #21, and he’s pretty much waging a one-man campaign for free music, extreme metal, drone and avant-garde jazz in Saint Petersburg, often doing so in the space of a single album. Actually it’s not really a one-man effort when he has friends like the members of Wozzeck behind him. Wozzeck appear on side one of this split tape (ALREADY DEAD TAPES AD057) which we got on 11 December 2012. In fact for ‘Puhdas Ruoka’ they teamed up with the Finnish duo Banana Pill and the four-man team made a lovely sound together in Helsinki in the spring of 2011. What may begin as abrasive texturised abstractery resolves itself into quite a heavenly and mystical episode. Angelic choirs, I would say, worthy of inclusion as soundtrack music for certain cinematic moments of Tarkovsky. Many dream of achieving this degree of perfect and translucent blending of their combined sound, where the individual contributions just melt into a cosmic share of ever-giving plenty, surrendering their identities willingly. Just 40 copies of this artefact confirm it as something of a hidden gem.
Flip it over to hear the Coaxil side, which contains two pieces, ‘Gulf Of Izmir’ and ‘Mzee’ and represents quite a different burst of digital malarkey. It’s more in the zone of strident avant-garde Techno than dreamy droning. Synths and sequencers and rhythm boxes spit out slightly addled phrases and half-formed patterns, occasionally interrupted by the voice of a chanting female mystic issuing a terse and enigmatic sentence. The overall sound seems so stripped-down that I assumed it was the work of a single synthesist, and was a tad surprised to learn that Coaxil are a threesome of Russians who have been doing it in Saint Petersburg since about 2009, often joined by their singer and a fifth member who does live mixes of visual material for their multi-media shows. On a chilly Russian night at 2 AM, fortified by strong vodka and surrounded by enthused clubbers hopefully wearing fur coats, I expect the Coaxil experience is truly memorable – especially if amplified and accompanied by fast-moving visuals on a big screen. On this cassette tape though, it comes over a bit limp and constrained. The itchy restlessness of their scatter-shot music may appeal, but unlike the flip side of this split their pieces don’t feel “performed” enough for me, and I harbour some doubts as to how much the team are able to successfully control or direct their equipment in their favour.
Keeping things more or less Russian, I thought fit to delve into the box of goodments kindly sent to us in September 2012 by Ivan Afanasyev from Petrozavoosk. Very coincidentally of the six tapes herein (all released on his Full Of Nothing label), one of them is a self-titled cassette by Banana Pill (FULL OF NOTHING fon31). This gives one a chance to hear their solo turn, and the two Finns Dmitri Zherbin and Sasha Kretova spread themselves out quite luxuriantly with their guitar and violin-based performances, the rich and melodic drone-music much enhanced and deepened by use of synths and some studio processing, or simply using a smidgen of digital delay. Sasha and Dmitri may be a little slow to start (like a Tunturi on a cold morning), but when they uncoil at length into the correct musical niches, they tend to occupy the space like an incandescent python. A very sleepy python. The duo also exhibit their own brand of the whimsical eccentricity and cluttering sound that has come to characterise certain strands of music from Finland, often labelled by some as “Finnish Folk” for want of a better way to pigeonhole any music made with acoustic instruments. However, there’s little aggression or grit in their spacey-vibey trance music, and even the label notes tend to emphasise the calm, sweetness and peacefulness of Banana Pill. Nothing wrong with those sentiments, but when that Pill is wafered into the more punchy-noisenik tendencies of Wozzeck as above, a more complex dosage results.
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?
One day all obscure punk music will be collected, anthologised and reissued, fed to the hungry ears of those who continue to relish this great music and somehow missed out on its first incarnation, or have declared themselves born-again hardcore fans, or simply like obscure music. In the case of 1980s US punk band Mission For Christ, their obscurity is fairly understandable – it seems they only released one single, only existed for about two years, and they came from a part of the USA (Washington DC) which apparently was not – erm – highly regarded in terms of its general contribution to the American punk and hardcore movements. I have the impression they didn’t tour as widely as Black Flag, but then again, who did? We now have The Complete Sessions (EKTRO-079) CD from the Finnish label Ektro Records, which is a corker of a release and presents the band as a well-honed machine producing highly original, eccentric and noisy song-based material with influences from funk music, dub, and the more extreme reaches of art-rock. Plus there’s a healthy dose of protest and current affairs awareness, as indicated in songs like ‘Nancy Reagan’, ‘Smash The Rich’, and ‘The Lebanon Song’. Both sides of the seven-inch ‘Pennies From Hell’ (No Trend Records #4, 1984) are included on the comp, and we also get the entire contents of their 1983 demo cassette which led up to its release, plus an additional six unreleased cuts from 1984. As to the band’s complicated history and extremely fluid membership, it’s told in concise and well-researched detail in the enclosed insert by the very knowledgeable writer Jordan N. Mamone, currently based in NYC and himself a musician (he was the main man in Alger Hiss in the 1990s). Bass player John Gibson was the mainstay of MFC, but I have a lot of time for the hollow and desolate moans emanating from the mouth of Dave Berman, who sings the first nine songs here. Berman’s tone indicates he’s fully on board with the band’s ethos…Mission For Christ had an association with No Trend, whose 1984 debut album Too Many Humans… is now a £100 collector’s item, and were a band noted for their extreme antagonism towards most of society’s mores and the cliches of punk culture in particular (not unlike the way that Zappa poured sarcastic venom on the despised hippy culture). Both bands clearly shared the same outlook on humanity, and were not afraid to dispense their sceptical and acerbic views on the unthinking conformity of the masses. Matter of fact the No Trend guitarist Frank Price joined Mission For Christ in 1985, but apparently there are no tapes surviving of this incarnation. No matter, as this 36-minute CD is a vital and exciting document of the times, a useful piece in a vast jigsaw puzzle, and a thrilling listen to boot. (03/12/2012)
Now for a fairly repulsive smear of power electronics noise…Fecalove appears to be completely obsessed with shit, piss, semen and perverted sex, and wallows in his unwholesome predilections on the album Void, Chaos & Cum (CRUCIAL BLAZE 005). This is released in the Crucial Blaze zine-and-disc series that presents a generous package with an album along with a little full-colour booklet and folder inserts; the visuals for these are also created by Fecalove and prove to us that there is no taboo he won’t violate with his deadly brush and ugly flat colours printed in a limited range (mostly flesh and brown). I would have photographed more of these for you, but it could be they violate obscenity laws in 18 countries as well as all the rules of good taste! So far, pretty yuk-worthy; not even a close reading of Freud’s Totem and Taboo will get you through this monster with your mind unscathed. The Italian creator Nicola Vinciguerra is Fecalove and has been inflicting unspeakable records on the world since about 2004; he also runs the label Turgid Animal, and commits further artistic abominations under the name TISBOR. If you can separate the record from the trappings however, I gotta admit he’s a cracking good noise artist, capable of generating some highly dynamic and imaginatively twisted racket. While this album is mostly a remorseless and grim wall of harshness, the general monotony is tempered by his ultra-violent screaming vocals, his rhythmical power-blasts, his occasional use of samples, and the way he is apparently able to tame his feedback to make it administer forty lashes on the back of the listener. Most of the time though, Fecalove is happily pissing and shitting on the floor of the toilet with no restraint, happy to affront the world with his infantile proclivities. He’s so committed to maintaining this identity that he even tweets as “Bowel Documents”. (11/12/2012)
PRSZR is a team-up between Pure and Hati, and their Equilirium (HINTERZIMMER RECORDS HINT 15) was recorded in a German studio in 2009. Peter Votava (Pure) is an Austrian former DJ who has been baffling us for years with his inscrutable albums of extreme electronica and dark ambient-styled music, while Hati are the Polish duo of percussionists Rafal Iwalski and Rafal Kolacki, who have a penchant for moody and introspective work, and may have borrowed an idea or two about magick rituals from Z’EV, with whom they have collaborated. On Equilirium, I suppose the shared common ground between the creators is a desire to build a very occluded and low-key atmosphere, and the mysterious pulsations and uncertain tones of this album will effectively induce a brooding state in the listener, as if listening by candlelight in a small concrete cell. The third track upsets this trend somewhat, with its rather alarming metallic sounds, its abrasive buzz, and its general sense of hectic urgency; this cut in particular is like a very avant-garde rethink of techno dance music (Pure’s 1990s background is pretty much in this area, I gather), stripped-down and restated as a rather spastic form of mind-numbing repetitious throbbery and clatter. The commitment to near-stasis in the music and the determination to refuse dynamic development is awe-inspiring. The ambitious final track is over 17 minutes long, and comes closest to realising a full integration of the percussion and electronic sounds, to the point where the frequencies of each instrument blend into an indistinguishable array of constantly-pulsing information. As indicated by the title, your sense of balance (equilibrium) is soon replaced by a palpable “delirium”. I would like to say it’s all very mesmerising, but it’s also not unlike being tortured in a sensory deprivation tank. When you come out of the trance, the world will look as upside-down as the bleak landscape photograph on the front cover. From December 2012.
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.
Boy, are things frustrating me lately. Maybe I just need a half of minim…mind you there is nothing like starting off a crisp autumn morning with some twisted and alienated guitar noise, and that’s exactly what is on offer from Clifford Torus, a three-piece whose self-titled cassette (DRID MACHINE RECORDS DMR4) in a lurid orange dayglo cover was sent to us on 19 October 2012. I felt much better after immersing my bonce in these rich metallic shrieks for 30 mins. The guitarist Horacio Pollard has made his electric-shock presence felt to us on at least one CDR of his scalding and bittersome electric noise, but here he’s opting for a slightly more traditional avant-garde rock setup. For this activity he’s aided by two of the best like-minded players a man could hope for: the bassist Kjetil Brandsdal from Noxagt, and Anders Hana who drums for MoHa! That’s a dream team in anyone’s book. Just six tunes on this little power-pack, but it’s enough to recharge the flagging batteries of any jaded nightclubber as they stagger back from Vauxhall on any given Sunday morning. This trio’s particular take on the excessive amplified doom-noise thing meets many of our exacting standards: monotonous, flailing energy, mumbled half-screamed vocals when they appear, and a continual sense of teeth-grinding alienation underpinning every moment of luscious grind. Kjetil is an asset, rarely departing from a single root note for most of th’ tunes; he almost hammers his bass like a percussionist. Although only guitar, bass and drums appear in the instrument credit roster, there are occasional burstings of strange and unidentifiable screech which somehow leak into the sounding-box, at times resembling a mangled saxophone or a crushed synthesizer. Maybe Pollard is just very well-equipped with hideous FX pedals purchased from planet Jupiter. Only sometimes does the energy level droop a little, and I wished they coulda sustained that power for a few more minutes (especially on the crunch-worthy opening number) but when these three lads get into their “groove”, it’s obvious they are mesmerised by a higher power from the dreadful zones, and nothing short of a steamshovel will ever dislocate them. When this tape was sent, it seems the threesome were about to play a free gig at Bohemia in Hackney. True to form, this blog is a year late with the hot news!
Here’s another fine cassette, also realised by a trio, but this time the players weave a somewhat more abstracted and dynamic form of electronic noise. Destruction Des Animaux Nuisibles #1 (ALTERACTION ALT01) features our good friend Xedh (i.e. Miguel A. García), the Prince of Spanish experimental music who has proven himself a nonpareil when it comes to realising fatalistic nightmares and uncanny experiences in sound, often with a grim caste. Here he is joined by Enrique Zaccagnini, the two of them forming an eerie backdrop of sinister electronic purring and grisly loud noise, tempered by the unsettling vocalising of Marta Sainz. I suppose it is she providing the strange whimpering sounds on side one, a ghastly sobbing effect which arouses our empathy as much as it sends tremors of terror running up and down our spinal columns. We could be hearing the voice of an exiled ghost, doomed to replay the same traumatic moment in her life for all eternity. Enrique and Xedh produce an accomplished tapestry of complicated noise for this after-life symphony, where the startling eruptions into ear-splitting volume are reined in and controlled, forming part of a fascinating and constantly-changing slow-motion whirlwind of textured sound. The B side feels a tad more pedestrian somehow, not as “composed”, and emerging as a jumble of clatter and screech which is heaped up into a pile rather than arranged in a garden by architects using rakes and blueprints. Even so it doesn’t stint on serving up the manic energy that noise-freaks go for. Marta’s excessive vocals make it clear she’s aiming for a gold medal in next year’s Junko-soundalike contest, to be held in 2014 in Budokan. Lastly we have the grisly cover image of ten dead rats caught in traps and apparently pinned up for display in a shop window in France. Since the title of this release translates into “destruction of harmful animals”, evidently we’re supposed to use this cassette as a cheap alternative to mousetraps or cockroach poison 1.
We’ve also been sent four cassettes in a box from André Foisy in Chicago. As well as playing in Locrian, it is he I suppose who masterminds the Land Of Decay label and blog, specialising in doomy rock and noise that inculcates decrepitude and ruin. Cultus Sabbati – another trio – have about five albums released at time of writing, not to mention a few video works whose titles betray an interest in the written works of Poe and Lovecraft. This anonymous band conceal their work in a fog of mysticism and cast about references to ritual trance magick, witchcraft, and Norse mythology, revealing little of their musical methodology as they foregather in unknown locations to emit strange dark ambient drones. Thanks to Sunn O))), pretty soon every metal band in the world will end up sitting in a circle in a lonely forest wearing cowls. To some extent all of this does cover ground already well-worn by many other projects in this and related genres, but The Hagiography Of Baba Yaga (LOD 039) does evince some powerful moments of doom and horror in among the general murk and turgidity of its throbbing drones. Echo and reverb effects are used with scant regard for good taste, and evidently Cultus Sabbati believe in saturating every other musical utterance with as much artificial enhancement as they can generate from their small black boxes of evil, undercutting the swampy sludge with whispered chanting vocals and crazed guitar solos so acidic you could use them to unclog a kitchen sink. Track titles like ‘The Attestation Of Vasilissa’ or ‘Koschei The Deathless’ are like the titles to lost Lord Dunsany stories, and when raging at full stretch, the threesome can produce music that will either instil a deep supernatural fear in the listener, or suffocate us within the writhing coils of a deathly inescapable curse. Nice typography on the cover with its saturated golden-brown autumnal colours, images of forests and deadly mushrooms, overprinted with runes and magic circles. From 17 October 2012.
Savage Pencil also used this trope in the 1990s for the noise band Ultrasonic Attack Wave Pestrepeller. ↩