Death Bells

La Folle Noire (Les Fonderies d’Astagrob) (FISSILE iss09 / ÉDITIONS VIBRISSE iiss03) arrives as a limited lathe cut which is already sold out, and seems to have been conceived and executed in a lively spirit of despair. The accompanying notes from Stéphane Recrosio describes the release as “a manifest of nothing”, signs off with the nihilistic greeting “fuck it all”, and one of the inserts describes the enterprise as “lathe cut records for nearly no-one”. The latter in particular seems to allude to the problem of getting yourself heard in today’s over-crowded music marketplace, or is perhaps preoccupied with the problem of avant-garde noise and its place in an uncaring world. One answer is maybe to limit the edition to something tiny (there were only 26 copies of this one), sell or give it away to friends who will enjoy it, and hope for the best.

And yet, Astatine and Ogrob have put considerable effort into the packaging and presentation of La Folle Noire, and visually it’s a gorgeous work of art. The clear lathe cut is mounted on a 12” square wooden panel, on which the emblem of a medieval skeleton blowing a hunting horn has been laser-etched with loving care. The limitation insert is printed on art paper and is a collage of early books, engravings and picture postcards from a time when the French loved printed images of skulls and skeletons. Further old engravings have been sampled for the labels. On the grooves, the pair have managed to convey the essence of decay and rot; one side sounds like collapsing buildings (concrete crumbling in ghastly slow motion) and another side simply sounds like slow death, a Hellish entropy or fiendish plague contaminating everything. Only for a few brief moments on one side will you enjoy an episode resembling conventional music (guitar chords, perhaps, mixed with feedback); the remainder is de-natured, rotting, noise of a profoundly upsetting nature.

We last heard this duo teaming up in 2016 when they unleashed Oeil Céleste, an extremely odd mix of noise and field recordings that was guaranteed not to please any known audience in the world today; that was good, but on La Folle Noire they’ve raised the bar even higher. “The process between Ogrob and Astatine was the same,” reports Stéphane. “We wanted something definitive…Satanic and prosaical. Bla bla bla.” I would agree… “Satanic” is not wide of the mark in this instance, and not just because of the vaguely magickal vibe of the artworks, but the noise itself has a relentless anti-ritual progression to it, informed by the same awful sense of malevolent purpose we might associate with any high priest of La Messe Noire. As indicated, this is already sold out and you can only hear one track on Bandcamp. Like the creators, I wonder why I’m bothering. From 22nd January 2018.