Form Hunter – Form Hunter

Form Hunter – Form Hunter CD Found Remains 2020

Form Hunter are an American harsh noise duo consisting of Stefan Aune (of Breaking The Will, Kjostad and Found Remains) and Weston Czerkies (of Sunken Cheek). Following a slew of cassettes issues between 2018 and 2019, this is their self-titled debut album.

Commencing with a hefty noise blast Sprung Trap is as the title suggests, while an undercurrent of scrap metal clatter underneath makes it anything but one dimensional. Mid-track the headier noise elements drop away and with the resultant tonal space, it allows for the back half the track to focus on raw sheet metal manipulations. Dry Storage functions a veritable lava flow of raw and overblown metallic generated noise, while the following piece Tracks Left in Snow provides sonic respite with shuddering and echoed sounds of undefined sonic sources. Using a cyclic echoed structure, the tone is gradually elevated through additional layering, and where the creaking metallics again take focus from mid track onward, yet never becoming completely overblown save for that dying moments of the track. Drawstring opts for a more uniform upfront blasting noise, yet the undercurrent of metallic sound-sources remains a constant with both detail and variation. With each of the preceding tracks being around five minutes each, the final album track is the monolithic 17-minute piece Blood Trail. Leaving the harshest track to last, it commences with a section of looped mid-toned creaking sheet-metal manipulations, which is gradually built into a voluminous avalanche of hefty and aggressive distortion. With the tonal range extending from low bass addled distortion to mid to higher pitched metallic squalls, there is constant variation of sonics at play, while the late track respite provided by a segment of layered scrap metal loops is a particular highlight, before launching back headlong into a harsh noise cascade.

Although raw and free-form, there is clear dynamics at play, given there is careful pacing in the way the tracks are constructed and where the raw metallic noise is hewn into loosely composed structures, as opposed to simply sounding like a free-form improvised noise jam. While personally I may not listen to harsh noise all that regularly, this is clearly an album where it represents just how creative and sonically diverse harsh noise can be. Packaging wise the album is pressed on a cleanly designed digi-pack on thick card stock, while a vinyl version is also available.

Lamia Vox ‎– Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer

Lamia Vox ‎– Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer Cylic Law 2020

Lamia Vox’s second album Sigillium Diaboli * was released all the way back in 2013 (reviewed here), which means new material has been long awaited and strongly anticipated from Alina Antonova ritual/dark ambient project. But from the outset the new album’s theme and focus strongly captured my attention – and I quote: “… the album isn’t presented merely as a musical piece but bears a deep spiritual message and a counterblast to the rational, materialistic and post-theist nihilism of current age. Inspired by early modern poetry, Hermeticism, fin-de-siècle symbolism and naturphilosophie, this new opus celebrates another vision of the world, one of higher dimensions and beyond the human sphere, a world of intoxicated and ecstatic alchemy of poetic language and ideas.”.

As an initial observation, this new full length is perhaps less immediate than Sigillium Diaboli, but in then being a slow burn album, upon repeat listens has demonstrated itself to be a much more of a confident and sophisticated release. Although broadly referred to as dark ambient, the album is very much a musical one based on individual songs which feature strong threads of martial and neo-classical sensibility. The album open Three Dreams sweeps into frame with a brooding orchestral synths (produced to sound anything but synthetic), where layered vocals ranges from spoken to ethereal choir-esque in delivery. When this further is combined with wind and lapping waves samples, it provides a strong mind’s eye vision that the vocals are those of the mythological Greek Sirens calling unwitting sailors to their doom. The following track Eternity with it rolling percussion, deep brass horns and hammered dulcimer comes across as more darkly gothic take on early classic Dead Can Dance. Equally this impression is also mirrored and reinforced by the intoxicating ritualised tone Dionysos complete with its ethnic percussive strains. Song of Destiny evokes a further ritualised ethereal mood through ringing piano notes, sweeping string, rolling drums and choral female vocals, while late album track Animis, with militant drums, sweeping orchestral backing and the understated yet equally edging towards soaring lead female vocals of Alina. I Call the Stars On High is another soaring and epic track of driving percussion and brass and strings orchestral melodies, while Alina’s commanding vocals are multi-tracked for choral effect.

The seven tracks combine to make a relatively short album at only 35 minutes, but in that time not a second is wasted, nor any tracks could be relegated to filler status. While Lamia Vox is in effect the logical extension of a mid to late 1990’s ‘Cold Meat Industry’ sound, Alina has also expanded on her song writing skills into realms of much greater confidence, where the end result is now very much immediately recognisable as that of Lamia Vox. The professional production and Alina’s multi-tracked vocals are very much a part of this, and when complemented with such rousing musical song focused format it has resulted in an album which has been most certainly worth the extended wait.

* – Sigillium Diaboli is being reissued by Cyclic Law at the same time as this new album, featuring alternative artwork, both on CD and pressed on double vinyl for the first time.

Mnem – Elyktrion

Mnem – Elyktrion LP Verlautbarung 2020

Mnem are an obscure Finnish project I have been aware of by name for many years, yet apart from their single track featured on the 2xLP 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik (reviewed here), I have somehow missed checking out other output. Elyktrion would appear to be their sixth album since 2000 yet has functioned as my proper introduction to the group.

Similar to the other hand assembled covers of other releases on Verlautbarung, Elyktrion features a beautifully textured cover, which is in fact a plain black sleeve which has been purposefully distressed (most likely by hand with sandpaper). With further printed elements attached, combined with a further two insets, the presentation immediately gives a special and oddly obscure feel which perfectly matches the minimalist sonics. Given that one of the inserts indicated that the album was: ‘recorded with reel-to reel tapes and effect pedals and mixed on 8-track compact cassette recorder’ and functions to provide an immediate indication of the likely tone and sonic approach.

Seven instrumental tracks feature across both sides of the black wax, and function to articulate variations on the theme of minimalist and instrumental tape explorations of the looped variety. A general muted and grey hued tone articulates the broader atmospheric aesthetic, where the sound can be further described as the erratic idling of archaic machines of ill-defined purpose. Likewise the slow movement of the sound is sonically insistent rather that hefty or forceful, where each track features a slow burning cyclic churn which sonically articulates both stasis and momentum at the same time. Of specific note Stimulus Hauler includes slow panning sound between the speakers creates a hypnotic trance inducing effect, while another track warranting specific mention is the final alum track Oblivion Arc edges slightly towards a catacombic ritual ambient sound of Archon Satani’s Mind Of Flesh & Bones album.

Elyktrion is an album I have very much enjoy from the initial listen to detailed appreciation during follow up spins, and will certainly have me seeking out the earlier material from Mnem. The LP comes in an edition of a mere 104 copies, and the tape in a similar number of 100.

Mytrip – Keeper

Mytrip – Keeper LP Amek Collective 2020

It has been a couple of years since I last checked in with the activities of Mytrip, but their 2016 album Filament was an excellent release which has received occasional spins over the years. In my review from 2017 I noted it: ‘operates at the border regions between dark ambient, drone, (modern) industrial and (abstracted) experimental techno, therefore encompassing a sound that defies easy categorisation’ (full review here). Keeper is the brand-new six tracks album and while continues also substantially builds on the earlier sonic framework by blending its elements in more varied yet unified way. Also, according to the promo blurb, the core of the album has its basis in a 2018 live performance at the Bulgarian National Radio, which has been further expanded and reworked.

Eyepiece opens the album with amorphous and ethereal drones blended with jittery programming and functions to immediately draw focused attention, before the mid-track it twists off in a different direction with sustained synth melodies. We Are All Shadow People follows and has a sense of stationary motionlessness resulting a series of duelling looped textures and abstracted synth lines. In then arcing away from this stasis, Unsealing Colossus divergently features widescreen vistas with sweeping ‘wind textured’ drones, muted melodious pulses and other semi-fractured rhythmic elements. Blood Black Like Water is then as brooding as the title suggests, based around a murky aquatic churn and throbbing base pulse, while a slow bass kick edges the track forwards. Upheaval shifts the mood again and is extremely filmic in tone, given its driving / throbbing techno pulse and maudlin cinematic synths, while the album’s concluding piece Warmth Patterns, is perhaps the most melodious track of all, with interweaving ‘glimmering’ textures (and perhaps draws a fleeting compassion to the likes of Fennesz).

Each of the six album tracks sits at around the five-minute mark, meaning the total run time is around 30 or so minutes, yet given its compositional variation it nebulously feels to be much longer than this. Equally the abstracted line-work found within nature as illustrated on the the cover is a suitable visual metaphor for the flowing complexity of the music. More varied, freeform and self-assured than Filament, Keeper is equally immediate as it complex in sonic construction, meaning it draws attention on first listen and maintains it on repeated rotations. Recommended.

Haare – Brain

Haare – Brain CD Aussaat 2020

This Finnish project have been recordings since the early 2000’s and in the process has generated an imposing back catalogue of raw industrial noise and muted power drones enveloped in hallucinogenic bad vibes. Personally, I am only familiar with a handful of releases, but I do have an impression that rather than jut using synths and noise equipment, Haare utilizes a guitar as a key sonic input, albeit one which is used in a very abstracted and atypical way.

Of the earlier Haare material I have heard it was noted to contain a greater degree of shrilly harsh, raw and freeform industrial noise. That sound then differs somewhat from this latest album, and when the promo blurb describing this a ‘psychedelic industrial monolith’ this is quite an apt and spot on description. The opening track Electric Buddha functions to set the scene and unfurls slowly with an aquatic rumble, off-kilter sounds, mid-toned abstracted guitar squalls and vague melodious strumming. The title track follows and burrows into the sensory cortex with thickly echoed, yet muted looping drones, which also embodied an early 1980’s industrial noise type. At the centre of the album Azathoth is the sound of an acid trip turned sour, with muted rumble, disembodied whispered voices, flailing percussion and free-form guitars. The back half of the album features two lengthy tracks. The first, Spirit Trip, is perhaps the wonkiest track on offer, with segments of ritualized percussion, interspersed with lengthy passage of sweeping atonal guitar drones. The final of the five album tracks is Portal which concludes the album with a meditative tone. With a crawling pace the muted layered drones and catacombic industrial rumble it generates a suitably dank atmosphere over its close to ten-minute span.

Beyond the sonics, the ‘acid generation’ imagery of the artwork in combination with the lime green, black and white colour scheme reinforces the psychedelic edge of the album. Brain is an album that will clearly appeal to listeners of raw industrial sounds, yet more importantly it contains ample elements of individual weirdness to stand completely apart from the pack.

Kjostad – Environment Electronics

Kjostad – Environment Electronics CD Found Remains 2020

Environment Electronics was first issued by Found Remains on cassette in 2018 (reviewed here). Now it has been reissued on CD with updated artwork, along with two additional tracks and subjected to remastering treatment by Grant Richardson (Gnawed) for good measure.

The original tape version of Environment Electronics featured six tracks intent on blurring the line between environmental field recordings and man-made elements, self-described on the cover as ‘exercises in electronic-organic synthesis’. The original tracks span a variety of sonic textures and approaches including elongated and abstracted drone minimalism, light washes of static counterpointed with bird song, and a general underpinning of bass rumble and mid-spectrum static. Of the extra tracks on the CD, first bonus track Regression was originally issued on the 2019 Found Remains tape compilation Through A Glass Darkly and, based on the micro-tonal detailing, it sounds to be mostly the sonic result of a night-time forest walk complete with insect noise and bird calls. The means by which the sounds have been captured and processed is unclear, but they sound amplified and hyper-real in tonality. The middle of the track evolves into more mechanized territory with a series of intertwining elevating loops and panning static rumble. The second bonus track, Arrowhead Killer, is an abrasive cut of ‘upfront’ and detailed junk metal tones and overblown sonic textures put alongside other naturally-toned sound elements. With its careful looping and layering of elements, it makes for sonically complex and engaging listening.

The careful balancing of organic and man-made tonal elements here maintains an industrial noise rather than academic ‘sound art’ approach. The newly remastered sonics pleasingly elevate the sound to greater heights and, with the bonus tracks and new artwork, this a welcome reissue and expansion of the limited original tape.

Linekraft – Subhuman Principle

Linekraft – Subhuman Principle LP Tesco Organisation 2019

Over recent years I have heard a number of Linekraft albums, all of them solid and punishing in a freeform scrap metal abuse / noise industrial sort of way. While I have certainly enjoyed those albums, I have also stopped short of becoming an obsessive listener. Now Subhuman Principle has changed that, because this new album has twisted the known Linekraft sound into a much more focused power electronics frame of reference, and the results are simple amazing.

Eight tracks feature in all. Spitting pulsing synths, mangled sampled voices, and a rough industrial ‘beat’ open the album with Archaic. But just as it gets going, the track concludes in little over a minute, which leaves me wanting A LOT more and feels like a misfired opening shot. No Loss in Weeding Out fixes that and charts a slow building sound of wavering synths and crowd chatter/chanting, before surging forward with interweaving atonal synth lines and flourishes of junk percussion and flanger-smeared vocals. A similar sound and approach is showcased on Hunger which runs a knife’s edge between controlled and chaotic – a description that could be applied to much of the album. In essence, there is a strong compositional basis on display here, constructed around shuddering bass, looped conveyer belt rhythms, divebombing atonal synths etc., over which are overlaid more chaotic tonal bursts, shredded processed vocals, documentary samples, and sections of scrap metal abuse. Stand Alone is a late album standout with its strong pulsing rhythmic beat and urgent wavering synth textures, and is reminiscent of mid-era Genocide Organ if any sort of indication of quality was needed.

Thematically and visually the album is concerned with the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea – aka Cambodia). The title is partially explained by a fragment of the promo blurb: ‘Controlling the people is to kill their bodies and spirits. Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group. Music presented here is a soundtrack for “subhumans” who starts to act by oneself’. The visuals reinforce the horrendous human toll of the more than a million people who died during the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979. Sonically and thematically, this is another essential album from Tesco Organisation HQ.

Death Kneel – Adaptive Emotional Use

Death Kneel Adaptive Emotional Use LP Total Black 2019

This album is my formal introduction to the works of Death Kneel, the project of Max Klebanoff. Seemingly active since 2014, 13 cassette releases have been issued in that time, but Adaptive Emotional Use is the first release on vinyl.

Stripped to the Ivory Core opens the album with detailed micro-tonal scrap metal and field recording tones, but ample depth in the mix and the separation of sounds makes for detailed and engaging listening. A brooding atonal synth rumble and looped conveyor belt provide slight momentum and structure, but mid-track the whole mood shifts into wondrously minimalist and melancholic synth melodies. The title track follows and continues with shimmering melodious synth elements, yet these are force-fed through sonic filters which changes their tonal quality to scattered and fractured. Later in the track a pounding industrial undercurrent appears while the sweeping maudlin sub-orchestral textures gain focus and prominence. In clear contrast to the controlled and moody elements which precede it, Trauma Martyr opts for a more direct expression, consisting of choppy cut-up static and chaotic junk metal noise, with a rumbling bass distortion undercurrent. Would Anyone Die For Me? features a moody piano melody, minimalist scrabbling textures, and fractured mid-toned synth elements, generating a mood of melancholy and restraint. For the final track Redemption Angel (Corpse Criteria) the harsh and choppy cascade of noise returns, sitting at the mid to lower tonal range and clearly based on layered and processed scrap metal abuse – yet midway in it coalesces into a mangled mass of sub-orchestral synths and shimmering, fragmented, mid-toned noise.

With its wildly divergent sound, but one which is clearly the result of detailed attention to the structure and composition of sonic elements, Adaptive Emotional Use could be filed alongside the likes of Puce Mary or Damien Dubrovnik, without necessarily sounding like either of those. With its clear attention to detail and the careful juxtaposing of harsh sounds against melodious elements, Death Kneel have delivered an evocative and artistic take on experimental industrial noise.

Himukalt – Vulgar

Himukalt – Vulgar CD Found Remains 2020

By way of background, in 2018 Found Remains released Himukalt’s fifth release, Come October, on cassette in a limited run of 100 (reviewed here), and a year later reissued it on CD. In 2020, Found Remains have turned their attention to another earlier Himukalt release for the reissue treatment: fourth cassette, Vulgar, which was originally released in 2018 via No Rent Records. For this version, two bonus tracks have been added to the original eight tracks, and remastered by Grant Richardson (Gnawed), which makes for an extremely impactful result balancing sonic clarity with ample tonal filth.

Although this is one of the early releases from Himukalt, it is intriguing that the project appeared ‘fully formed’ in 2016 and – rather than showing ‘improvement’ or ‘refinement’ over subsequent releases – it has been more of a case of variations on a composed, razor-sharp approach to industrial noise / power electronics. This is very much the case with Vulgar. The eight original tracks are broadly framed around erupting fissures of analogue muck, pulsing atonal synth textures, roughly oscillating ‘conveyor belt’ loops, and misfiring drum machine ‘beats’. Such elements have then been hewn into a selection of equally brooding yet punishing compositions, where vocals and dialogue samples sporadically break through the sonic muck, yet for the most part are unintelligible or only partly detectable. Of the bonus tracks on the CD, Not In This Body was originally issued on the 2019 Found Remains tape compilation, and is slightly more tonally ferocious than the material that precedes it. Featuring a droning and sonically stalking aesthetic, tension builds before sporadically erupting with pulsing bass hewn malice. The final track Want You To See Me (The Voyeur Tapes #15) is by far the longest track at over 16 minutes – twice as long as the longest track of the main collection. The track unfurls in a traditional pulsing death industrial style, with a consistent bass thumping pulse, while mid-tone drones interweave in a sonically invasive fashion, and become increasingly unhinged as the track proceeds.

The original tape version featured non-existent black artwork, but this reissue comes with a 16-page booklet featuring evocative collage artwork by the artist. The quality of the printing and weight of the card stock is also noteworthy, creating a solid tactile presentation that perfectly suits the fetishization of physical media in an era blighted by the instant gratification of media streaming. The liner notes are also an intriguing addition which provide further detail about both source material and inspiration. Recommended.

Monocube & Troum ‎– Contemplator Caeli

Monocube & Troum Contemplator Caeli LP Transgredient Records 2019

Although being familiar with both projects, the first thing that drew me to this album was the stunning gothic and celestial-tinged artwork. Upon investigation the visuals specifically tie in with the album’s theme which ‘denotes the antique notion and skill of immersing into the (night-) sky, in order to feel connected to the immeasurable dimensions of the universe and the unearthly powers. The celestial spheres and objects are interpreted as living entities, building a shelter for the earth and the humans, reflecting an eternal cosmic order and its principles. The sky is being watched with deep humbleness, amazement and praise’.

Circularis Et Perpetua opens the album, blending mournful drones and what appear to be treated choirs sitting in the middle to the back of the mix. Hitting its stride early, the tone swells in a cyclic rising and falling manner and hints at grandiose night-time vistas; this maintains consistency over the eight-minute span. In contrast to the ethereal mood that the choirs provide on the first track, a more earthbound perspective is articulated on Precessio Aequinoctiorum via the use of a lone male singing (courtesy of Monocube?), blended with widescreen enveloping drones. Stellae Errantis opens Side B, and is slightly less flowing than the preceding material as the caustic and tensile atmosphere sounds to be constructed around treated field recordings and layered foghorn drones. But the absolute highlight track is the final one, Digressio: an amazing piece of melancholy minimalism, based around reverb-drenched and catatonically plucked strings (acoustic guitar?), blended with widescreen melodious bass drones that rise and recede over an extended length.

If you enjoy the output of either or both projects, you will clearly find much to like with this release. While the first three tracks are enjoyably good, it is the fourth that is the absolute standout. Pressed in 200 copies in clear coloured vinyl, a full colour cover and insert rounds out the exquisite presentation.