Hostile Architecture

Got a nice package of tapes from Michal Lichy sent from his Bratislava address. Two of them are on his own Urbsounds label, the other is a solo tape by him in his Urbanfailure guise on a Hungarian label…

Heavy depressing synth noise from the team-up of Mulo Muto with Black / Lava, on their tape Worlds Corroding Under Xenomorphs’ Ejaculations (URBSOUNDS COLLECTIVE URB058). As you may tell from the title and the seven “chapters” of the work, the team are telling us a dystopian science-fiction story about the gradual invasion of a world by hostile aliens, who eventually dissolve all humanity with their baleful powers. No use in me explaining the tale, as it’s printed for all to read on their Bandcamp page. What matters more is the groaning atmospheric racket on the grooves, where the musicians use everything from ugly distorted synths to pounding industrial drumbeats to bring home the plot-points of their twisted narrative. They also use that much-maligned technique, that of the spoken-word voiceover, delivered in suitably menacing tones, sometimes giving this release the air of a broadcast radio play. I think we’re supposed to interpret this voice as that of the alien forces; it certainly sounds angry enough, dripping pure contempt for puny humans as surely as Morbo in Futurama. Much sonic information is layered into these over-crowded dense audio nightmares, including field recordings, samples, tape loops, voices, guitars, and what they term “heavily used synths”, which I would take to mean instruments that are antiquated and in need of repair, delivering wheezy scrawls and bellows. Mulo Muto are Swiss, Black/Lava are Italian, and this item has been jointly released with the Marbre Negre (MN151) and Italian Extreme Underground (I.E.U. 020) labels. Plus there’s the cover art with the gigantic cosmic eye which aspires towards the art of Virgil Finlay, or may even be sampled from the great pulp illustrator’s work. I like this one well enough, and it certainly makes me feel nauseous and unsettled, but the foursome take too long setting the scene and don’t work hard enough to advance the story; it’s like an amateur horror video, with only one camera angle, stuck on a single cheap home-made set.

Anything with a skeleton on the cover is welcome in my abode, and a black skeleton even more so. This one is a split (URBSOUNDS COLLECTIVE URB057) between Catafalque and Coalminer. On the A side, UK team Catafalque regale us with ‘A New Torquemada’ and ‘Charred Remains’ for about 15-16 mins, patiently building a very dense drone out of brick rubble, twisted metal, and the dreams and hopes of yesteryear. With their near-brutal minimalistic and concentrated approach on the first cut, they suggest an alien combine harvester mowing down all of humanity as it slowly advances towards us. On their second foray, the relentless abstract scream of feedback and despair is propelled by terrifying drumming; it’s possible to mistake these monsters for a form of extreme metal, I guess, but there’s something semi-artistic at play in these particular shrieksters. The three charmers responsible are Thomas Ozers from The Dead Yesterdays, with Dan Dolby and Mike Shepherd of Mastiff. Though not reviewed in these pages, I can recommend the 2019 Catafalque release, a deeply unpleasant assault of grim noise with hellish beats.

Power electronics from Manila in the Philippines is what we get with Coalminer, the duo of Chester Masangya from White Widow and Robert Glen Dilanco from Lush Death. The squall of ugly feedback is tempered by a melancholic sighing tone on ‘He Never evolved To Be Human’, lending a slightly poignant air to the sonic violence. It’s as if the cruel pounding of Merzbow were crossed with a more humanistic music, such as a distorted form of electro-acoustic music made with reverbed springs (and monks chanting in the chamber next door to the studio). ‘Abscess Of Purity’ betrays the same problem this duo have in shaping their work; they can’t really manage starts or endings, and just present a solid wodge of express-train roarage as if they were cutting yard goods off a roll of cheap fabric. Even so, some fascinating detail can be combed out of the morass of conflicting signals and overloaded magnets, pulling at the iron filings of your brain. I see these fun-loving types recently made a split with Government Alpha, which is a bit like finding Sean McNabb starring alongside Lawrence Tierney.

We’ve been hearing the powerful and pessimistic music of Urbanfailure since 2004 at least, and Michal Lichy rarely fails to layer on the cement with a trowel as he hammers in the rivets and lays down 20-ton foundation blocks…as you can see, only the most fanciful “building” metaphors will suffice to express the solidity and weight of his work. His Recurring Errors (EXILES NO NUMBER) tape has cover art by Vladimira Pcolova which continues the theme of the previous record Radical Rest, depicting an impossible building in a state of decay, with vents and utility pipes hanging out like intestines, the grey concrete, girders and prison bars all standing in for various forms of state-authorised control. The music was all recorded in Lichy’s living room during 2021, but I often imagine him walking around the oppressive cityscapes of Eastern Europe to gather notes, and transforming his moods of despair into the cathartic music we hear on the tape. This particular item isn’t quite as ferocious or angry as Radical Rest, and indeed its spare rhythms and restrained blasts might even amount to music which verges on the “approachable”, but the tone is still informed by an underpinning mood of hatred and anxiety. I think his anger this time is turned against a state which continues to make bad decisions and judgements – the “recurring errors” of the title – at just about every turn, whether it be in town planning, economics, or public transport. Ignoring the consequences, these bad politicians just heap more wrong moves on top of their previous wrong moves, until eventually everything fails; it’s up to the rest of us to suffer the consequences of these systematic failures. We’re now in a world predicted with typical accuracy by Mark E. Smith in 1982, where everything is made “with the highest British attention to the wrong detail, become obsolete units surrounded by hail”.

All the above from 28 February 2022.