RJF – Greater Success in Apprehension & Convictions / Blood Ov Thee Christ – Master Control

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RJF – Greater Success in Apprehension & Convictions CD Segerhuva 2008

Blood Ov Thee Christ – Master Control CD Sergerhuva 2005

These two older releases were both issued by the now defunct Swedish Sergerhuva label, but given they are both representative of the mid 1980’s Swedish industrial underground they are reviewed together to provide a quick history lesson.

First up is RJF (being the earlier of the two projects), with the album being a re-release of their only album from 1983 (issued in a run of 300 LP’s).  Lo-fi experimental electronic minimalism is what we have here, being built on somewhat simplistic elements – yet simplicity is used to utmost effect.  ‘Maximum Pain’ introduces the album with a singular burrowing mid-range analogue texture, overlaid with distant agonised vocal screams.  However the next track ‘Jugend Dance’ is totally different with its use of sparse squelching noise and a minimalist programmed beat which clearly holds an ‘eighties’ sound to the production.  Alternately a drugged haze permeates the tone of ‘Minimal Brain Function’, which is composed with spare programmed beats, sustained distortion and monotone spoken vocals.  Likewise late album track ‘No Room’ does away with any programmed beat elements, instead opting for a more urgent noise pulse, oscillating noise and garbled vocals.  The sound is clinical and morbid in the best way possible, with this atmosphere continuing into the final album cut ‘Zuweiderandlungen’ which is built on a mechanical beat, noise and screamed vocals.

Noting the ‘eighties’ sound of the beat programming on various RJF tracks, it is interesting to note that it is exactly this is a type of approach that would be later honed by the German scene and in particular Haus Arafna.  Yet closer to home the RJF’s sound was also clearly an influence other early Swedish industrial acts such as Lille Roger.  The A5 booklet cover also includes an article written by current Swedish scene stalwart Kristian Olsson to provide some very useful background context to the group.

The later of the two projects reviewed here is Blood Of Thee Christ, which although commenced only a few years later than RJF is all the more heavy and harsh for it.   ‘Master Control’ constitutes a re-release of their debut tape of the same name, issued originally in 1987 and containing material spanning 1984 to 1987.  The full contents of the original tape are re-issued here, along with a bonus track dating from 1988.

The title track is up first and an absolute monster 45 minute piece – although given the track has a silent break in the middle this is perhaps indicative of the two side of the original cassette.  Here we have a heavy slab of industrial noise with oscillating harsh frequencies, crumbling seething noise and occasional aggressive distorted vocals.  With the length of the composition and its heavily free-form sound it projects a loose and potentially improvised aesthetic.  Yet walking the line between controlled and unhinged this is scuzzy, harsh and filthy industrial noise at its most depraved.  The second track ‘Pain and Pleasure’ is a much shorter piece, being a minimalist piece of pulsating static, made all the more a difficult listen due to the use of sustained and repeated trash film dialogue (which narrate confessions being extracted by torture).  At only 4 minutes and 44 seconds ‘Exzesse’ is a focused yet chaotic maelstrom of harsh controlled distortion.  As for the final of the four albums tracks, ‘Forced Entry’ seems to focus and distil the most dynamic elements from the title track into a solid and brutal piece, which in a contemporary scene context could be compared to the most chaotic material produced by Deathkey – yet this was recorded in 1988!

Given that both projects and albums date from the mid 1980’s, they each illustrate a clear difference and diversity of sound.  This can obviously explained by the fact that at the time genre ‘rules’ had not yet been established, meaning both albums can be broadly filed under power electronics, industrial and noise, despite sounding nothing alike.  In a final compassion between the two projects, today RJF sounds somewhat simplistic and ‘old school’ due to the production and programmed elements, while Blood Ov Thee Christ has aged a little more gracefully.  Possibly benefiting from a loud and crunchy remastering treatment, ‘Master Control’ is less easily pigeon-holed in a 1980’s frame and can certainly stand up against current scene material.

With the slew of continual releases being issues year upon year, sometimes it is refreshing to look backwards and discover some hidden gems from the murky past.   As such Sergerhuva should be commended for digging up these obscure items and furnishing them with a proper re-release.

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Anemone Tube – Death Over China

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Anemone Tube – Death Over China CD Topheth Prophet / Silken Tofu 2011

Although a 2011 release ‘Death Over China’ is the latest from Anemone Tube and an album I had read a number of very positive reviews about before checking this out myself.  This also constitutes the second release in a trilogy which commenced with the ‘Dream Landscape’ album from 2010.  Conceptually the album is focused on China and from an analysis of the track titles and various cover photos (included within the beautifully designed DVD sized ten panel cardboard fold out cover), it appears to be making conceptual commentary on the negative cultural and environmental impacts of rampant industrial development and progress experienced in China over recent decades.

At its most simplistic level the sound of ‘Death over China’ is very much one rooted in a sphere of dark ambient and heavy industrial, which edges towards power electronics territories during a couple of segments.  However such a statement effectively ignores the means of how this album was constructed and composed.  Interestingly the album’s liner notes states that all music was solely created by field recordings made by the artist during a trip to China in 2007 (specifically Nanjing and Shanghai), with additional synthesiser elements added to only two of the six album compositions.  This sort of dedicated concept for the construction of the music makes the overall sound and atmosphere of this album all the more remarkable.

Of the six varied album tracks they each take a multi-layered approach to composition, where recognisable field recording elements (car horns, passing traffic, police whistles, loudspeaker/ radio announcements and general urban chatter etc.) are looped in combination with other less recognisable distortion and static driven sounds to achieve vague soundtrack like movements.  Likewise with new looped elements being continually introduced, the atmosphere is one that morphs and builds in tone and intensity as the tracks progress.

With the sound source predominantly consisting of field recordings it engenders the album with a varied and interesting tonal quality, which is rich and unique when compared to dark ambient and industrial material that is reliant on synthesised and computer generated sounds.  Effectively Anemone Tube achieves a sound that spans the divide between ‘academic’ experimental material and ‘underground’ industrial territory.  Likewise within this context Anemone Tube have achieved a particularly unique sound, which these days can be a challenge to say the least within ambient/ industrial spheres.

With is central reliance on field recordings ‘Death Over China’ avoids the pitfalls of the field recordings which can come across as unnecessarily abstract or academic.  Anemone Tube has also successfully realised the concept of utilising field recordings as a instrument and in the process has executed an album which is intricate and tonally varied, yet highly listenable.  With its complexities and nuances this warrants and demands multiple rotations and detailed attention.