TROU – Grjòthaugr

TROU – Grjòthaugr CDr No Part Of It 2020

Evidently this French project TROU are more recognised for their harsh noise exploits, yet Grjòthaugr is anything but harsh, or even close to being noise for that matter. Rather this album focuses on heavy industrial looped based material which sprawls out at extended length. This is evidenced by the fact that the album contains only three tracks, with the shortest being 15 minutes and the longest at 34 minutes.

From the opening second of No Above, No Within, No Below the listener is thrust into the middle of a cyclic blast furnace toned industrial noise maelstrom. There is a sense of both stasis and movement, where the mechanized loops and rough lo-fi industrial noise aesthetic implies forward momentum, yet the equally the tone of the loops remains unchanged, which therefore anchors the work in a state of non-movement. This approach then tends plays tricks on the mind where you perceive sound is ever so slightly changing and morphing, but equally wonder if that perception is a fallacy of focused listening. Herbspalast follows and is rooted with a percussive rhythmic loop, roughly echoed drones and muted static, yet soon achieved the same mid-point feel of movement verses inertia. The final of the three tracks Onwards, To Múspellsheimr follows the prevailing approach, but the sound is a mid-point between the first two, containing both looped and rhythmic elements, which are mid-paced and with ample sonic heft.

More than anything the material is best appreciated when shifting your mindset to a space where there is no past and no future, allowing oneself to focus on the ever-present current moment. Artwork wise has the appearance of an obscure and forgotten lo-fi black metal album 1990s, where the chosen artwork by Zdzislaw Beksinski appears to be a visual representation of the Nietzsche quote: “if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you”. As darkly surreal as the cover, this is intriguing and engaging release.

Note: – although a CDr release, this is a pro-printed disc and cover.

Murderous Vision – Abscission

Murderous Vision – Abscission CD Chthonic Streams / Live Bait Recording Foundation 2020

By way of background Chthonic Streams released the limited tape version of Abscission in 2019 (effectively an EP in length), which also marked 25 years of activity of the Murderous Vision. Those four original tracks have now been expanded with three additional compositions to now make Abscission a full-length album.

Noting that Murderous Vision have always been broadly defined by a murky death industrial style characteristic of the now classic 1990’s era, more recent output has displayed a greater degree of experimentation. Yet interestingly, the material featured on Abscission, harks back to the early era of the project. Tape opener Breaking the Bonds of Light announces intent with horror synths, militant percussion and murky drones which border on choral chants, but things take a noted step up with the following track Echoed Voice. The first a section of darkly brooding cinematic ambience and spoken vocals, prior to the second half featuring chanted male vocals against rolling, echo processed percussion and rising tide of grim distortion. Following next is the pairing of two new tracks Blood Moon Ritual and Veiled Ghosts. The first is a tensile minimalist piece of sub-orchestral dread, garbled vocals and catatonically slow drums of doom. The second new track up the pace with rolling beat and forbidding tone of oscillating loops, while morbid proclamation style spoken vocals arrive mid-track. Autumn Black follows and begs a partial comparison to the brooding, cinematically tinged and percussive death industrial of Megaptera. With an excellent display of restraint, the driving percussion only arrived in the later half of track to ratchet up the tensile mood. Open The Night Sky features as the heaviest and most direct track, featuring slow pummelling beat, grinding looped bass distortion and aggressive heavily processed vocal barrage. The album finishes with another new composition Machinery of Life. Low drones blend with a contemporary classical mood, featuring shrill strings, sparse tympani percussion and choral vocals (all sampled?), before the track arcs off into a long section of mechanised death industrial, before the classical strings reappear later track. As a concluding track it certainly delivers an excellently paced and darkly moody piece.

With seven tracks spanning 50 minutes, this hangs together as a coherent album, which delivers a distinct and individual sound within a broader death industrial framework. Assuming many missed the original extremely limited tape edition (50 copies), this expanded edition in a more generous pressing (300 copies) is well worth the attention and investment.

Nital Etch – Simulacrum

Nital Etch – Simulacrum CDr No Part Of It 2020

Nital Etch is the solo project of American Kevin Lewis, featuring music of an experimental/contemporary classical/dark ambient bent. This release appears to be the debut album which has been compiled from a selection of highlights from earlier unreleased recordings. Other than that scant information, I know next to nothing about this project.

But what of the sonics? Evidently the music was created using only strings and pedals, it is not at all clear how this material would have been composed and recorded, given the end result feels far more varied and complex that such basic equipment implies. The overall atmosphere is one of frayed and faded sepia tone photographs of desolate wintery landscapes, skeletal leafless branches and decaying abandoned buildings. On the opening track Outro is an excellent statement of intent, featuring mournful cinematically edge, with sub-dour orchestral tones and floating violins. Incisions follows, with a similar filmic tone of minimal melody and moody bass drone, but mid track shifts off into sparse field recording elements and piano being played somewhere in the depths of an abandoned mansion. You Poor Thing commences as an abstracted soundscape, yet from mid track onwards features achingly sad violin melody and string backing. The track Barabara changes things up, where the experimental industrial sound comes to the fore through a a forceful mid-toned industrial drone which builds to avalanche intensity against which an old documentary sample is set. Loss is perhaps the most contemporary classic type piece on offer, building around string backing and serpentine violin melody, while Obsolescence plays out as another cinematic piece of tensile edged and slowing elevating orchestral strings. With regard to the back half of the album, it features around 25 minutes of material, being denoted as excepts of 1 through 4 of a longer piece titled Glass Tube Roses. In overall tone these tracks are slightly less refined looser in execution. Generally being more subsumed with a foggy production, thus perhaps having a stronger dark ambient tone than the experimental contemporary classical soundscapes of the album’s front half, yet they still maintain the same dour, sepia toned cinematic flavour.

As an introduction to the music of Nital Etch Simulacrum is a wonderfully dark and emotive album which through its sparse musical motifs and cinematic washes of sound, articulates shifting moods of misery, loss, abandonment and decay. Recommended.

Note: – although a CDr release, this is a pro-printed disc and cover.

Linekraft – Industrialized Criminals History

Linekraft – Industrialized Criminals History MC Hospital Productions 2020

After the excellent power electronics/industrial noise album Subhuman Principles (reviewed here), Linekraft have promptly followed up with a major sonic ‘left turn’. This has resulted in a completely surprising release, given Industrialized Criminals History is very much of minimalist ‘Japanese ritual industrial’ style.

Based on a synth and ritual percussive based song driven approach, the tape featuring five tracks and 28 minutes of material. The opening track Introduction Of Conspiracy takes a few minutes of nominal noise before shifting tact with a moody synth melody and slow paced ritual beat. The divergence of this cassette then really comes to the fore on the following Death By Hanging which is very much a continuation of the sound based on a repeated dour minimal synth melody and ritual industrial percussion, coupled with smatters of low level static. The pace of the ritual percussive elements then takes a step up on Die Like A Dog (even featuring clanging chimes), while the title track is the longest at eight minutes, and is looser and freeform given it is more of a looped industrial noise soundscape with melodious synth undercurrent. Late track it reverts to a song based Japanese ritual industrial percussive style. Execution Room is the final of five tracks, being noteworthy for its melancholic melody and stilted, off kilter percussion.

The total physical edition of this release is only 200 copies, where the standard edition (150 copies) features a strong DIY and hand assembled aesthetic, including: hand painted envelope with attached cover image and tied with twine, plus printed inserts and pro-printed tape. Musically this release is an extremely surprising one, but is also broadly in line with the stylistic diversity of other Japanese projects. GRIM is the most obvious comparison to be made, and noting that Masahiko of Linekraft is a live member of GRIM, it is perhaps indicative of both influence and inspiration. But more importantly Industrialized Criminals History has a sound which is brimming with vitality and functions to further highlight exactly why Linekraft are currently receiving substantial accolades from underground post-industrial spheres.

Krāllār – big sad

Krāllār – big sad MC AMEK Collective 2020

Another unknown Bulgarian project for me, Krāllār is the solo project of Ivan Shentov who appears to have been releasing material under this name since around 2015. Evidently the material on this tape was commissioned by the label following a live performance, where the recording itself was captured in studio in a single take.

As for the instrumental sonics on big sad, they inhabits the between spaces of experimental electronica, drone, dark ambient and noise which are artfully combined to be anything but one dimensional. In essence shrill feedback, interweaving melodious noise and partially abstracted synth melodies are meticulously layered, and metaphorically speaking this smeared combination of sonics reflects the chosen cover artwork rather well. Yet despite the bulk and heft of the sound, there is also a fragility it is general tone and atmosphere, while the melodic undercurrent dwells in spheres of melancholy thus giving a clear nod to tape’s title. Select tracks such as Fuck The Light Of Day are embedded with a semi-buried droning rhythmic pulse which drives the sound forwards. Self-diagnosed/self-medicated follows a similar prevailing maudlin tonal trajectory, but does include some louder noise slashes and shill feedback for good measure. Likewise Blackest Swamp is framed around heavily dourly heavy bass synth melody, as the backing noise ebbs and flows like waves on a shore.

With an experimental yet clearly cinematic quality, and artful approach to composition and flow, the seven tracks span a run time of around 45 minutes and is an extremely evocative and engaging listen. A great discovery and very enjoyable tape overall.

Prurient – Casablanca Flamethrower

Prurient – Casablanca Flamethrower 2xLP Tesco Organsation 2020

As Dominick Fernow’s main project, Prurient is somewhat of a sonic chameleon which has explored a myriad of underground noise and industrial styles over a huge number of releases and span of years. While Prurient have also had a close association with Tesco Organisation for some time, Casablanca Flamethrower is the formal debut album for Tesco given other releases to date have been reissues on Tesco’s sub-labels. To quickly mention those reissues*, each were within an industrial/power electronic/heavy electronics frame of reference, therefore closely aligned with the Tesco’s prevailing style and sound. In a similar context Casablanca Flamethrower follows suit and is very much a Prurient album, and with its broader thematic focus on the hidden stories and forgotten victims of war, it definitely feels at home on Tesco.

In terms of the arc of Prurient’s main/core albums, Casablanca Flamethrower follows the massive seven LP Rainbow Mirror (self-described as ‘doom electronics’). Casablanca Flamethrower is notable by the fact that although not too far removed from the sprawling and mellow tone of Rainbow Mirror set, that sound has also been repurposed with a focused attention on a European heavy electronics/industrial sound. This may then be partially explained by the involvement of Kris Lapke of Alberich (who is credited as providing loops, percussion and synths), whose own project takes clear influence from a European heavy electronics sound, which has perhaps further cemented the sound and direction of Casablanca Flamethrower.

Black Iceberg open the album with a squelching bass throb, distant scrap metal tones and angst-ridden rasped vocals, while Peace and Bread Humiliation is a short track of hollow radio scanning static, whistling noise and semi-buried radio broadcast announcements. The following D-Day Rape is then an early album highlight, featuring bulldozing bass, mid-toned insectile noise squalls, while the spoken vocals are featured upfront but rendered undecipherable due to the treatment with an off-kilter warbling effected. Marvelous stuff. Fucked By Traces maintains momentum with static squalls, thick bass drones, vague rhythmic backing and charred echo chamber vocal barrage. Beneath The Wheels of the Black Raven is also an excellent track of stalking menace, where the tone is one of militaristic death industrial involving droning bass, slow shuddering rhythm, and vocals delivered as agonized chants and treated spoken fragments. Late album track The Thrust of the Spear is another highlight. Opening as a low droning and treated vocal piece it soon evolves into a minimalist yet highly hypnotic track of militaristic tinged rhythmic loops and swirling rotor blades. The track title then obviously then cross references the collage image of the Spear of Longinus shown on the back cover (contributed by The Grey Wolves). Yet when the spear collage is considered in context of the adjacent phrase: ‘the risen Christ holds the spear of destiny in his side’, it shrouds the intended meaning, which is at least consistent with Dominick’s established approach to abstracted thematic presentation. Sphere From Christ’s Side also uses similar militaristic rhythmic loops for brooding result, while the close to ten minute Directionless World rounds out the album in subdued fashion with minimalist tonal rumbles and radio scanning static (but perhaps could have been half as long without foregoing ideas or loosing impact).

From my own perspective Casablanca Flamethrower is an an intense yet brooding take on a heavy electronics/industrial sound, and is inherently more listenable, engaging and digestible than the sprawling Rainbow Mirror set. Yet even so, not all tracks reach the same peak level as the album’s standouts, meaning if it were paired down to a single rather than double LP, it would have increased immediacy and impact, and duly elevated the album from being good to great. Regardless, that is really quite a minor observation and is hardly a reason to not seek out this album, which is stunningly presented in a full colour gate-fold sleeve.

* – 2015’s Annihilationist CD on Functional Organisation and 2014’s Palm Tree Corpse LP and Despiritualized 10”ep on Tesco Archaic Documents.

UGFC – Stalinist God

UGFC – Stalinist God LP Grom & Lord Records 2019

UGFC is an obscure project from the Czech Republic, helmed by one Willhelm Grasslich, and with the acronym of ‘UGFC’ being an abbreviation for ‘Uncle Grasha’s Flying Circus’, it immediately gives a strong sense of satire at play. With some further investigation, the project is self-described as being concerned with: ‘surrealistic visions, poems and manifests of avantgarde artist Willhelm Grasslich. Avantgarde and propaganda fascinations and the topics of war, power relations, religions, ideologies, painful historical legacies etc. shape the palette of its inspiration and articulation’. As for the concept of this album, given that the sampled speeches and dialogue on the album are exclusively in Czech, it creates a clear limitation for me to grasp the detailed concept. But at least the liner notes in English provides some strong pointers – and I quote: ‘Stalinist God does not represent a personality, nor idea/myth, nor any form of transcendental being. Stalinist God is a status. A state of power that creates a blind alley for all ideologies and regimes. When your propaganda reach the maximal success and you became a God per se, you must just sound your trumpet for apocalypse and destroy everything you have created’.

Sonically speaking Stalinist God features high caliber, martial tinged industrial soundscapes. But when I refer to ‘martial industrial’, it is not in reference to the overly synthetic sound of that style from the mid-1990s to early 2000’s, rather it harks back to the raw and obscure martial industrial sounds of the earliest phase of industrial pioneers Laibach – which is obviously meant as a large compliment. Early tracks Kaitan and Kasbah are prime examples, with roughly echoed and looped industrial factory noise create grim and soot infused soundscapes atop which political rally type speeches are overlaid. Juche is equally of note, as it features a distant and partial buried martial drumming pulse, as well as samples including speeches, crowd applause and orchestral and choral music, it certainly gives nod to the sonic styling and approach of the likes of LJDLP. As further deviations Culpabilité sonically channels mid-1990’s German heavy electronics sound of subdued but bass heavy pulsing drones and radio waves, while Securitate provides a rousing atmosphere of sampled orchestral loops, speeches and rapturous crowd noise. Within the twelve tracks a number of the tracks are purely instrumental, where Anatolyevna uses loose and echoed metallic percussive as the core of its industrial soundscape (very much evoking visions of abandoned factories), while Scharnhorst uses rhythmically hewed bomb blasts and other metallic clatter. Late album track You Have To Be Death To Be Wise is the longest track at 10 minutes, and unfurls in an elevating capacity of tensile mid toned layers which rise to a rough noise peak as a moody synth melody acts as an underpinning element. Mid track muted horns appear and fade, as do other more caustic sonic layers. As for the final track Headquarters, it rounds out the album which a track which is effectively an unaltered traditional nationalistic type song.

Packaging wise, the album is presented in atypical fashion, where the cover design has been printed on white cloth which is wrapped around a plain white LP sleeve, while two  further multi-page booklet inserts provides text and imagery relevant to the concept. Although having not heard of UGFC prior to this album, this is very much a post-industrial obscurity which I am very happy to have been made aware of. Recommended.

Andrew Nolan – Museum Etiquette

Andrew Nolan – Museum Etiquette MC Absurd Exposition 2020

Being completely unfamiliar with this Canadian experimental noise artist, I have to take this new tape from this on face value – which certainly provides a good first impression. Amorphous and elastic in form, each side of the tape features an untitled 16-minute track. But rather than displaying a singular idea or sound, it is more of an amalgam of segments which are seamlessly interconnected. Element of musique concrete and urban focused field recordings are blended with dank experimental noise soundscapes making for engaging listening.

Side A opening with deeply echoed field recordings which have been composed into buzzing and vaguely looped drones mixed with metallic toned and loosely rhythmic structures. With the first section gives way to a field-recordings of an individual ranting in public, later segments cover electric drones, periodic bass tones and undercurrent of field-recordings (vocal chatter, train sounds, crossing alarm bells etc.). Sonically it arcs back and forth from intense to calm, but retaining a general melancholic edge throughout, even including a short mid track passage of maudlin orchestral strings. Side B brings a similar approach, with scrabbling metallic textures, slow plodding and deeply echoed death industrial thuds, arcing electric drones, and further partially abstracted field recording elements (aka train-yard noise). Again relying on an ebb and flow approach, it rises to elevated sonic peaks and recedes to minimalist tonal valleys, while towards the end of the track it gives a clear nod to the tape’s title, as it concludes with a segment of what sounds like a museum tour lecture.

Sonically this is rather artistic in approach but also rooted in a darkly underground tone, Museum Etiquette is a varied and very enjoyable experimental noise tape.

Moral Order – Examples of Solipsism

Moral Order – Examples of Solipsism 12”EP Cloister Recordings 2020

Following on from 2019’s About Degeneration And Death 7”EP (also on Cloister Recordings reviewed here), Moral Order return with a new four track song focused EP of industrialised heavy electronics material.

Content kicks things off with low bass drones and slow stalking and militant tinged rhythm, while processed sampled and treated vocals textures provides a fleeting human element. Black Fire follows and ups the rhythmic throb, with a simple but catchy mid-paced minimalist melody issued via squelching synths, while the vocals rendered undecipherable as a distortion smeared rasp. Overall the impression of this track is a sound that would not at all be out of place on the Galakthorrö label. The Frame on Side B follows up with a sweeping cinematic tone atop and minimalist rhythmic pattern, while A Lie That Poisons You arcs back to a Galakthorrö influenced sound, which balances a minimal construct with vocals delivered in an apathetic drawl.

With four tracks on the shortish side, interestingly the vinyl has been cut as a 33rpm record and not 45rpm as is perhaps typical for a 12″EP. Regardless of this, the vinyl is limited to 200, and another solid addition to the quickly expanding Moral Order discography.

Dødsmaskin – Verdenssmerte

Dødsmaskin – Verdenssmerte LP Tesco Organsation 2020

Dødsmaskin are a Norwegian duo who since 2017 have issued four albums on Malignant Records and Cyclic Law. Verdenssmerte is their new and fifth album, this time on Tesco Organisation. With reference to my review of 2017’s album Fullstendig Brent (reviewed here), I described the project as consisting of: ‘darkly hued drones and jaggedly erupting post-industrial soundscapes’. While that description remains relevant, on this new album its cinematic elements have been refined, coupled with a slight dialling down the caustic industrialized noise strains.

Opening track Lysett features immediately evidences the refined approach with its maudlin piano line, which is soon swept asunder with fizzing electrical static and rougher and heavily echoed metallic tones. Åndenød follows with a seething death industrial track of overloaded drones and bass throb, yet late track the heavier element fall away to a reveal a section of muted melodious element (guitar perhaps?). Borte I Tiden is then a clear album standout and is effectively ready made for the soundtrack of a dystopian sci-fi movie, featuring emotive elevating rhythmic structure and central minor keyed melody. Being industrial dark ambient in tone, this track also draws heavily from electronics musical elements outside of a typical sound. Processed vocals are also a notable feature, while the sound through late half the builds to a point that it begins to collapse in on itself. Side B brings more sonic diversity, where Når Mørket Tar Deg is heavily weighted towards a roughly pounding rhythmic industrial style, while Disiplin Ble Smertens Grøde charts a predominantly minimalist droning dark ambient tone. As for the final of the six tracks is Aksion, where after the first half of minimalist wind tunnel drones, arcs off in the second half with an achingly beautiful melody (again perhaps a processed guitar?), and ebbs to the album conclusion in an melancholic and understated way.

Given the diversity of its approach while drawing in selected elements which are not typical of usual post-industrial fare, this has resulted in an excellent album and the strongest yet from Dødsmaskin. As of the presentation, this has been pressed in an edition of 300 copies.