Hearing Disorder / Fine Skull / Horror

Three new arrivals from the Zoharum label in Poland.

Jarl is the Swedish minimal droner who last regaled us with Inner Domain, a two-disc helping of some intense throbbery related to the theme of insomnia. That particular brain-numbing emanation was a reworked version of older musics, but today’s item Hyperacusis (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 222-2) brings us up to date, recorded in Sweden in 2020. With these two long harrowing howlers and low-key pulsaters, Jarl is attempting to depict a very specific hearing disorder, also called “noise sensitivity”, an unwelcome state where sounds appear much louder than they should, causing much distress to the sensitive sufferer. Jarl’s response is to create something which, on one level, might be interpreted as a form of therapy – the mesmerising pulses are deliberately intended to sedate the listener, while the thick layers of sound surround you like a warm friendly blanket of healing fog. On the other hand, it’s a pretty intense form of therapy, one that goes on for a long time, presenting a bleak aural vista, and doesn’t let the patient off the hook until the course is completed, from which we could conclude that this Hyperacusis disc isn’t likely to be adopted by the QEH Audiology Centre or the RNID any time soon. Interestingly, the two tracks are subtitled “Frequency Colour First Degree” and “Frequency Colour Second Degree”, suggesting that Jarl may also draw on the physics of light to apply his radical scientific approach. At the end of it, I’m unclear why Jarl chose this subject or where he pits himself in relation to it; does he wish to alleviate the pain of this disorder in some way, or describing it in a clinical manner, or is he provocatively exploring a touchy subject in order to further his personal preoccupations with dark and unknown things?

Now for some fine skull cover art presenting lively electronic mayhem in the form of Korozja (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 221-2)…its creator Escape From Warsaw first jolted our bones with the double disc set Materia / Czas Snu, which struck us like an attack of ball lightning in 2019. The creator Karol Su/Ka did the cover paintings himself on this six-panel digipak, and I’m lapping up these skull images of his painted in various colours – lime green, red, black, ultramarine…along with the other groovy paintings of ugly heads and scowly faces, one of which might be a caricature of an authority figure. Our man is a real agitator political radical type, and these 14 songs all contain much critical content as he rants and raves, railing against the corruption of modern Polish society in his snarly declamatory manner. Not that English-speakers can understand it, as he barks out every syllable in his own language, but the tone of his assault is clear enough, and one wishes more contemporary English singers had the courage to express their alienation and disaffection with such vehemence. Karol Su/Ka yaps out his poison raps on top of lean and punchy punkified electro-pop bursts, brutally simple and effective in their hard-hitting beats and primitive riffs. Interestingly, he’s drawn inspiration from the American Beat writers Kerouac, Miller and Bukowski for a few tracks, reminding us that behind their romantic dreams of dropping out and seeking freedom in the hobo lifestyle, there lurked a bitter discontent and harsh critique of the mainstream American Dream. Other sources include the works of Maciej Goralski, the Polish underground musician turned radio broadcaster. Some of these tracks originally appeared under Karol’s other alias, Street City Nomad, between 2006 and 2010, and appear here with newer cuts. In all, a lively set of gritty beats, samples, rap and electronic scuzziness.

Avant-rock trio Schr√∂ttersburg were last heard with the Melancholia . Dekonstrukcje album in 2020 which contained remixed versions of songs from their 2018 album. Here they are today with Dalet (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 224-2), containing seven instances of their unremittingly bleak song-craft, where they make plain their allegiance to the style of numerous New Wave and post-punk bands of the early 1980s, and if anything manage to up the ante when it comes to expressing raw emotions of despair, claustrophobia, and general desolation. I think they manage this by a combination of the airless and relentless march of the music – like Killing Joke inside a Chieftain tank – and the vocals, accurately described here as “yearning”, though that voice doesn’t just yearn, it conveys a very potent mix of horror, outrage, and restless energy. At least on that remix album we had some respite from the dreadful, due to the variety of voices from the many contributors, but on Dalet there’s nowhere to hide from these shrill flanged guitars and mechanical over-amped drums, walking over us like metal robots. While at first this whole album may seem like an unattractive proposition, soon you will welcome the monotony of the tunes and the limited harmonic range of the ghastly music, letting it rub salt deep into your wounds. Jointly released with three other labels in Poland, and in multiple formats, indicating the intensity of feeling and loyalty among the Polish underground that is inculcated by these brave heroes.

All the above from 11th March 2021.