Pound For Powndak

Superb solo electric guitar work from Mikel Vega on his cassette tape Powndak Improv (CRYSTAL MINE 84). He exhibits an interest in many genres, including drone metal, jazz, noise, and electronics, besides that of free improvisation.

What’s noticeable from the get-go is his love of effects pedals – the opening track ‘Ziztua / Galara’ has a bizarre surface sound, almost unrecognisable as an electric guitar, and his excessive use of reverb to add that tasty garage-band twang-and-thunk is particularly commendable. Elsewhere he achieves the fluid over-amped sound that Snakefinger managed to deliver for The Residents when called upon. These effects aren’t just a prop for him to lean on, but an integrated part of his set-up and his approach to free playing; he’s pretty much developing the piece in real time, while you listen, and exploring the potential of the effects with as much gusto as the very notes that he plays. This practice continues with even more unholy relish on ‘High Lilith’, undoubtedly his “heavy metal” moment where mad loud-volume swipes and riffs served up at a deathly-cold pace indicate he dreams of joining Sunn O))) on stage one day.

For ‘Anai’ he picks up an acoustic (I think), but it’s so closed-miked we can practically see the windings on his steel strings, and without the benefit of effects we can clearly hear his sadistic approach to guitar-mangling; an angry, attacking technique, but done with the deliberation of a cruel torturer. Meanwhile the musical inventions here are quite wonderful, refusing conventional chord shapes and melodies in favour of an astringent, jarring combination of notes. Back to the electric axe for ‘Bosgarren Geruza’, which ends the tape and exhibits perhaps his most far-out alien sounds yet, at times resembling the outpourings of a demented computer-driven chord organ from Planet Mars. Along with the glorpy effects and menacing skeletal riffs creating dark Hellish jazz, he makes occasional use of a looping pedal to produce insane reams of edible gibberish. Fellow Spaniards join him to collaborate on Track 3, which is ‘Methagaarborg’ – Fernando Ulzión adds saxophone, and all-rounder Miguel A García adds electronics. This one’s a bit of an outlier on the cassette – a lengthy 12:41 mins workout which is coming from a place of pure lunacy and dementia. Almost nothing sounds like it’s supposed to, the saxophone is both angry and vengeful, and the grumbly synths of García exhibit his characteristic frowny moods. Good to hear some interaction with others, and there are many moments of wildness on this cut, but they seem to lose the thread more than once. It tends to disrupt the flow of the rest of the album which I was coming to regard as something of a masterpiece of introverted emotions from the brain of a lonely psychopath, seething with venom.

We heard Vega before as one half of Killerkume, and I evidently enjoyed their excellent Industrial Sunbath LP enormously. He’s also a member of Black Earth, and appeared on A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth, the intense tape which we heard in 2016. There’s also the noise-improv group Orbain Unit (with Fernando Ulzión, and others), Loan, and Conteiner. Many thanks to Mikel for sending this fine tape. From 13th October 2021.

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