Grunt – Someone Is Watching CD Force Majeure 2011
Grunt – Europe After Storm CD Force Majeure / Industrial Recollections 2012
These two albums are not new, instead are re-releases from the lengthy Grunt back catalogue. Incidentally the combined material was recorded in 1998 with ‘Europe After Storm’ also containing some live tracks from 1999. Whilst both albums clearly sit within the European power electronics genre, here there seems to be a general reliance on oscillating synth textures for a basis of the sound. This aspect effectively highlights a clear difference between older and newer material, as recent Grunt albums appear to focus on self produced and specifically recorded sounds (sheet metal, effects units, homemade noise apparatus etc.).
In its original version ‘Someone Is Watching’ was first issued on tape in 1998 and given its limitation of 128 copies it clearly warrants this less limited CD repress of 500 copies. Likewise as is suggested by the title, the album’s concept focuses on CCTV / video surveillance and the associated control that a faceless authority seeks to impose by such technological means. Album opener ‘Watch Your Back’ feature a prominent synth drone, a crumbling mass of distortion and high pitched processed vocals which sweep and pan trough the mix over the extended 9 minute length. Definitely a great start and with the track being heavy and noisy but at the same time structured and loosely composed, it establishes the prevailing theme throughout the album. Interestingly ‘You Can’t Hide’ is quite reminiscent of Propergol’s ‘Cleanshaven’ album, due to the prominent use of movie dialogue samples and subdued ominous atmosphere, yet as ‘Cleanshaven’ was also released in 1998, the question is who might have influenced who, or are the similarities a mere coincidence? Towards the middle of the album ‘Secrets Of Technology’ takes a much looser approach and is particularly heavy with an overloaded noise productions and metallic clatter, with the distorted vocals barely being able to break though the sonic mass. Regarding the concluding arc of the album, the final three tracks each contain a notable controlled sweeping noise aesthetic, which evokes a stalking and threatening type mood that certainly suits the album’s concept.
Moving onto ‘Europe After Storm’ it has a slightly more storied history as it was first issued as four track cassette in 1998, before being reissued on CD in 2001 with three additional studio tracks and four live tracks. This version contains the same material from the 2001 CD release but is packaged here is a standard jewel-case. Although from the same era, from the outset it is evident that ‘Europe After Storm’ differs from ‘Someone Is Watching’, given it sonically it is more brutal and less atmospheric as a result. ‘Project Eden’ opens ‘Europe After Storm’ and descends with an assemblage of rough loops, drilling synth elements and heavily processed vocals and a building mass of distortion and random clatter. On the other hand ‘N-Force’ uses a sustained synth drone to provide a somewhat filmic quality to a backdrop of modulated noise, which is soon crushed by the following track ‘Blood On Concrete’ with squalled noise layers and prominent anger filled power electronics vocals. Alternately ‘Peacekeepers’ stylistically shifts the sound towards a death industrial tone, due the heavy droning synth line and distant noise and sampled dialogue, although the later half of the track does morph into a proper power electronics blizzard. ‘Cleansweep’ rounds out the collection of studio tracks, which loosely knits together layers of pulsing noise, dialogue loops and chaotic vocals. Of the four live tracks, these conceptually fit the studio tracks (two studio tracks from ‘Europe After Storm’ feature in live version), but within the live context there is a looser and heavier presentation, including the vocals that come across as more prominent and forceful. Sonically it seems the live tracks may involve the use of a backing track (…I could be wrong on this point), which are augmented with live noise and vocals. Yet either way the live tracks are a solid live representation of studio material.
Clearly both of these older Grunt albums contain strong and focused material, which differ slightly in sound and style consistent with their differing themes. Likewise both albums have stood the test of time positively and can hold their own within the context the current crop of newer power electronics releases. Yet when these earlier albums are compared to the current Grunt album ‘World Draped in A Camouflage’, it only emphasises how far Mikko Aspa has pushed his project and the levels of sophistication he has achieved within his chosen power electronics framework.