Grim, Psycho Sun, Steinklang, CD SK68 (2014?)
It sounds like a blast from the past – in this case, some 30 years ago in the heyday of industrial / noise acts like Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse. SPK and Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel – but I believe this is actually quite a recent recording from Jun Konagaya’s Grim which exists in parallel with, yet apart from, the aesthetic of more famous noise acts like Merzbow, Masonna and the Boredoms. The sound is actually quite clear and sharp which itself is probably a giveaway but otherwise the musical treatments used here give no idea whether some of the music was recorded way back in the 1980s or just very recently.
Thankfully most tracks are quite short – only “Dive” ventures beyond the 5-minute mark – as they can be pretty excruciating on the ears and the nerves. The punishment begins with “Spiral” where high-pitched pneumatic-drill squeals do battle with tortured singing and metal-factory ambient clank. Unusually for an industrial / noise band of their vintage, Grim melds Japanese folk music traditions and industrial into one singular style that retains the severely minimal aesthetic of much native Japanese music and the post-industrial outsider stance of industrial music. On songs like “Ritual Hammer”, distinguishing between the old and the new is difficult yet you know you’re hearing both at the same time.
For an act outside the alternative mainstream, the tracks here stick to conventional song formats with definite rhythms and a distinction between vocal and instrumental music. “Shelter Song” is a surprisingly accessible with heavy pounding percussion rhythms and an angry vocal; for a complete contrast, one need look no further than the next track “Radio Wave Church” which does what it says on the tin: gentle quavering tones that give way to a spiritual organ melody.
Subsequent tracks trace all positions between Japanese folk forms and metal-on-metal industrial in bite-sized pieces. The entire album turns out to be quite user-friendly and about as accessible to a mainstream audience as retro-industrial can be without sacrificing all that makes it what it is: the odd juxtapositions, the screechy voices, being a scapegoat for society’s problems and unwanted secrets, the feeling of being marginal. Once a song is in a certain groove, it stays that way to the end and in that sense is very stable and predictable. If you don’t know much about Grim and are keen to start listening to the band’s output, this would be an ideal album to begin with.