Darkness in the Attic

Herewith two further instalments in the reissue programme for the disturbing industrial-experimental music of Genetic Transmission, i.e. Tomasz Twardawa of Poland. I see that the poor fellow has since departed for the great metal factory in the sky since we last looked in, and he didn’t even live to see the arrival of these September reissues in the GT Archive series. It’s worth reminding ourselves that this unassuming fellow was highly regarded as an innovative force, respected by many, and if there’s a Polish industrial scene, he was undoubtedly one of the leading lights of it. Besides this Genetic Transmission project, he was also a member of Zilch, Ladne Kwiatki, Hated Bruit Kollektiv, and Godzilla, and started releasing music in the 1990s, some of it on his own label Die Schöne Blumen Musik Werk.

The first item to be held by six-foot welder’s tongs is called Strychnina (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 207-2), and was originally realised and released in 2005. The title of this one made me assume it was something to do with strychnine, that highly toxic alkaloid used as a pesticide and celebrated in song by garage band The Sonics, who in 1965 claimed to enjoy drinking it. I’m totally wrong, of course – Strychnina is a word that derives from the Polish word “strych” meaning attic, which is where Twardawa performed and recorded these two suites of some two-and-twenty minutes. Notable because it’s all acoustic; all the sounds are made with objects (mostly metal objects), and the photos on this six-panel digipak depict an exciting array of metal rods, springs, and coils, although there may be some plastic hoses in here as well, and even a violin. Tomasz Twardawa described this as an environment, an installation; what we hear on the record is short recordings of sounds from all this debris, along with voice elements, assembled into a lurching, sprawling non-musical episode. The creator is proud that there were “no electronic manipulations”, though he admits to using a loop effect, perhaps for echo purposes.

While earlier records showed an interest in rhythmic patterns, this one does nothing of the sort, and works hard to depict an inchoate jumble of chaos. I’m assuming that these are taped fragments spliced together after the fact, though I could be completely wrong; I’m just trying to account for the disjunctive nature of today’s spin, where nothing seems connected and the odd, eccentric sounds just trundle forward with little apparent logic or shape. One is tempted to draw parallels with the famous “garden shed” junkyard approach of early records by The New Blockaders, but Strychnina is far more considered (if not especially structured) and emerges as positively artistic compared with the nihilistic Rupenus groans and chunters. The other vibe I’m getting from today’s twirl is a very physical sense of object-ness; weight, density, solidity and mass. You can almost feel the tangible objects in this disordered environment, a zone which is not without a sense of dread and fear. Maybe Genetic Transmission was trying to make some lasting statement about the condition of the world, or mankind’s disordered soul, and just finding another analogue for his own inner chaos.

At all events, he gets a lot of mileage from this acoustic approach; the use of metal places it not too far away from his previous works, especially Dedicated To Luigi Russolo from 2004.

The second record is called Lullabies (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 208-2), a five-part work also released in 2005 originally, and issued in a disquieting cover black and white cover; the starkness of that image has been updated for the reissue (by designer Wojciech Zieba) to include many images plucked from nightmares, ranging from the disturbing and the uncanny to the outright horrific. I am fairly confident in saying that the use of such imagery has been a staple of industrial-type music for a long time, but I’ll cut Twardawa two feet of slack on account of his rich (through twisted) imagination. It seems he used much the same instrumental set-up as on Strychnina above, except he added field recordings, voices, and shocking effects to arrive at that coveted horror-movie soundtrack vibe. The material feels that shade more processed, too; more layers, more tape manipulation, more “rawness”, and more denatured sounds, in brief any device or nostrum that can overturn and divert our normal listening expectations.

Wild mood swings and conflicting emotional states are evoked very strongly by his powerful edits, his sharp contrasts; oddly enough, it emerges as something that shade more cohesive than the free-fall jumble of Strychnina, almost as if these tracks were five chapters in a story. Only Simon Balestrazzi has come as close as this to summoning a truly deep sense of the occult, except that in the case of Genetic Transmission we are hearing truly malevolent forces at work, uncontrolled and unpredictable. This record has quite a remorseless undertone, and it gets us to an unpleasant place by sheer persistence and imaginative juxtapositions, rather than by sheer blankets of nasty noise. Some Lullabies; personally, I shan’t sleep ever again.

Both the above from 10th September 2020.