Another collaboration ad-hoc project from the Macedonian electronics genius Boban Ristevski in the form of Time Kept Memories (ATTENUATION CIRCUIT ACU 1040) – in this instance he’s teaming up with the American Mike Benoit, the dark ambient player from Sobriety High and Somos.
We heard Boban with his 2021 item for this same label, The Secret Teachers, which hinted at the joys of flirting with supernatural and occult forces; in like manner, Time Kept Memories amounts to a concept album of sorts, each one of these seven pieces of ambiguous crunchy noise referring to a specific death or disaster. I use the phrase “death and disaster” deliberately, hoping to remind you of that series of prints and paintings made by Andy Warhol around 1962-1964; working from tabloid newspaper photos and headlines, he produced lurid and troubling images of car crashes and shocking deaths, including one chilling tableau of the electric chair. Ristekski and Benoit also refer to that instrument of doom, on ‘Kemmler Started the end of his Life’; it’s a reference to the murderer William Kemmler, who in 1890 became the first man to fry in the hot seat. Other tracks – or should we say isolated snapshots from the history of doom that comprise the grim calendar of these stern players – refer to the Chernobyl reactor leak, and the death of Marilyn Monroe, plus there are also hints at UFO sightings, Bermuda Triangle-styled disappearances, and similar tropes from cold-war paranoia. Weirdly, each event in this list of horrors is assigned a very specific time of day (hence the title), as if the creators were distant aliens logging selected key events in the calamitous history of our race.
Outside of that concept, my favourite title is ‘A Moth Tried to Save People from Drowning’, which is so whimsical it borders on the surreal, but there’s nothing whimsical about this edgy, troubling music. The aim of our two occluded friends is made plain in the notes – they wish to “evoke a film-noir nightmare”, blending fiction and truth in their wide-eyed conspiratorial vision of history, as surely as if they were sampling and manipulating old 16mm footage into strange new forms. Some of these themes are, admittedly, a bit hoary and well-worn – reminiscent of 1980s industrial tropes – but there’s much to enjoy in the textured, degraded semi-noisy music here, including enough hooks and barbs to snag the listener as it trundles along its creaky path of strange and creepy tormented visions. (16/06/2022)
Newest record by Schröttersburg (reliably gloomy Polish avant-rock group) is Om Shanti Om (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 259-2) and it contains many examples of their remorseless hammering doom-rock songs and instrumentals played in minor keys and delivered with much drama and pith.
The story of it is the group turned in on themselves during lockdown, and unable to play concerts they foregathered in their rehearsal studio and started to experiment with different instruments, and explore different musical styles. Accordingly on the finished product we’re advised to listen out for influences from Indian and Middle Eastern music, as well as unexpected waves of inspiration from krautrock, psychedelic music, and industrial. We salute their questing spirits and wish to support their first for innovation, but Om Shanti Om misfires for me on many levels. One senses our Polish friends don’t quite have the delicacy in their fingering styles to express the nuances of the non-Western scales they are toying with, and what ends up on the grooves feels very heavy-handed. Still, as one who enjoyed the sensation of being marched over by several leather-booted army ants evidenced on Dalet in 2021, I feel I should try a little harder to endure these full-throated echo-flanged roars and theatrical guitar gestures, to say nothing of the murderous percussion section – this time around it feels like they opted to use sledgehammers rather than drumsticks.
The band claim to have a benign mission behind all this shouting and flailing, and it’s to “create a specific mantra cleansing the mind and body from bad energy”. Really? I would argue Schröttersburg do the exact opposite; rather than cleansing, they tend to generate bad energy, and spread it across the globe like an infection. (13/06/2022)