Budrus – Canine Visions IX CD Freak Animal 2013
Budrus are an unusual and difficult to categorise project which covers some diverse sonic territory whilst managing to amass it into a coherent whole. Skin Area might be a good comparison in this regard, but not for a comparison to their sound, rather with respect of Skin Area’s own diverse mixture of industrial and non-typical industrial elements. Given their diverse musical influences Budrus arrive at their own sound through a mixture of abstract pounding industrial, guitar based instrumental drone, (almost) martial atmospheres and power electronics attitude evidenced by the gruff, yelled vocals presented without distortion treatment (other than light echo).
In some ways the opening track ‘Canine Vision I’’ is the most straightforward, with its droning analogue synths and aggressive upfront vocals evoking an industrial/ power electronics tone, before the introduction of drums and synth layers which have a vague martial industrial sensibility. This martial sensibility is also evident with the pounding rhythm of ‘Greet Me’, which offsets the loose guitar drones, distorted noise layers and unhinged vocals. The excellent ‘Shores of Glass’ delivers a spare melancholic drone tracks of sweeping tonal textures, sparse kit drums and slow clean guitars, with the mood being altered by the aggressive vocals appearing mid track. Likewise late album track ‘Wake up!’ is an excellent example of the eclectic nature of the project: the vocals hint at power electronics aggression, the synth and percussion hint at martial / industrial genres, yet the the clean and distorted guitars pushes the composition into a sound realm all its own.
Despite its varied musical expression ranging from sparse to focused and heavy, the overarching mood remains a melancholic one, either forming the main focus or remaining as the undercurrent to the more aggressive segments. Beyond musicality comment is warranted regarding the visual presentation. Given that I consider the artwork of any release to be of central importance, to my aesthetic sensibilities the cover and logo do not do this album justice, and on face value it carries a visual feel more suited to a crust punk band or similar. As such I have pondered whether this album might have been better represented with something altogether different. Notwithstanding this aesthetic criticism, ‘Canine Visions IX’ is a varied and ultimately difficult album to categorise, yet one which should confound expectations and reward those adventurous enough to check it out.
The Vomit Arsonist – Reason MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2010
Given this tape obviously predates the excellent ‘Go Without’ album from 2012, it illustrates sole project member Andrew Grant in slightly less refined form, but still resulting in an interesting and solid release.
‘Lifeless’ opens the tape with a grinding pulse and loosely constructed metallic factory clatter all wrapped up in a cavernous tonal aesthetic, upon which the aggressive, echoed distorted vocals are spewed forth. ‘Environment’ plays with similar sound, but comes across as more aggressive in the vocal department (“GIve me one reason. Give me one fucking reason”), whilst also evoking a melancholic tone due to some some depressive synth lines. The highlight track of the tape is found in the form of ‘Existence’, which features layered ominous descending synth drones and distortion drenched vocals, which although simple in construction absolutely hits the mark. Alternately ‘Purpose’ opts to deliver an aggressive and loosely looped power electronics piece, which makes way for the final track ‘Ten Suicides’ which is a cover of a Bloodyminded song. Although less bleak than the original, it does manage to match the intensity within the frame of The Vomit Arsonists’ sound.
Packaging is suitably DIY for the tape format, including black spray painted case and photocopied card inserts which are housed in a sealed mini ‘garbage bag’ style sleeve.
Sickness / John Wiese – Amnesia 7”ep Freak Animal 2011
Although I am by no means an expert in noise appreciation, here we have a short and sharp studio collaboration 7” from two heavyweights in the noise genre. Cut at 45rpm, four tracks are presented (two per side) ranging in length from 2 to 2.5 minutes. This is supremely chaotic stuff, but not of a chaotic improvisational style, rather this is meticulously constructed and layered brutal noise, where the multiple layers and segmented cuts ups and individually audible within the sonic mass.
The first cut ‘Bright Region Xanadu’ is crisp and tonally heavy, with its full spectrum dynamic harsh noise including intense cut ups and avalanches of scattergun noise. ‘Excise’ follows and has slightly more breathing room with a pulsing bass undercurrent acting as a base for driven harsh noise and interjecting distortion. ‘Featherweight’ is slightly more freeform with its heavy tonal squalls and wretched crescendos of distortion, which although dense is sonically clear with an abundance of minute tonal detail. Final track ‘Back to Xanadu’ feels slightly more ‘constructed’ due to its use of broken loops, yet random cut ups and metallic overloaded distortion keep things suitably chaotic.
Basically ‘Amnesia’ is a short, heavy, intense, no-frills and absolutely to the point 7”ep, highlighting the focus and dynamics that can be achieved with harsh noise, as well as the control of two artists who have honed their skills to razor sharp intensity over multiple years and releases. In a word – brutal.
Various Artists – phloq – compilation twelve 2xLP phloq 2013
Sometimes it is good to check out totally unknown music scenes and associated projects as it means there are no pre-conceived notations of what to expect. This release fits the bill suitably as I have not previously come across the relatively young ‘phloq’ label (launched in 2012), nor any of the featured artists. Whilst ‘phloq – compilation twelve’ is obviously a compilation release from this Danish label, I am unsure whether it is representative of a particular Danish experimental/ ambient scene (…or even if all contributing artists are Danish for that matter). Nevertheless single tracks are presented by ten projects/ artists, which are spread across four sides of vinyl.
Regarding the scope of acts and sounds presented, overall I would say the general focus of the label and contributing artists sits in the same tonal sphere as Touch Music, i.e. ambient, isolationist and experimental music which edges towards art / culture / academic fields. Obviously this is considered comparison and a compliment to the quality of the material found herein. In order to not to exclude any contributing artists here goes with a quick snapshot review for each:
- Dot: bleak yet animated isolationist ambience which evoke visions of desolate widescreen vistas.
- Isaktelefon: moody cinematic atmospheres generated through slow droning elements and layered sound textures.
- Flip Ja: abstract experimental sounds with microtonal detailing.
- Maulex: multi-layered abstract droning sounds with an liquidous sound quality.
- Phaedrus: droning slightly melodious ambient soundscapes edging towards a minimalist tangent.
- Malcolm Mahiti: muffled and heavy bass loaded isolationist ambience, with occasional injections of microtonal static.
- Krishve: abstract low grinding drone textures, infuse with a positive dose of timbral clips, pops etc.
- Mads Engell: abstract and experimental digital cut ups, with textural sound elements extending from low key to sharp and loud.
- Alex Morch: experimental/ contemporary classical consisting of looped conveyor belt type factory clatter, overlaid with layered melancholic cello.
- Jannick Schou: another experimental/ contemporary classical track consisting of minimalist angular orchestral strings and droning undercurrent, to create an intense cinematic atmosphere.
To my ear the standout tracks are from Dot, Isaktelefon, Malcolm Mahiti and Jannick Schou, but that said there are no poor or lacking contributions either, which says volumes for the high quality of the contributed material. Likewise due to the general ‘soundscape’ and ‘ambient’ nature of the compositions, they hang together positively as a coherent collection of tracks. Packaging consists of gatefold cover where the static infused abstract graphic art grades from white through to various shades of grey to black, which is a suitable visual representation for the abstract sound found within.
Rapoon – Calling The Rain 7”ep Black Drone 2013
The relatively new Australian label Black Drone (which has been in operation since 2009), has recently issued a new 7”ep by the long active and very prolific Rapoon. Despite the self professed style of ‘ethno-ambient’, the two untitled tracks presented on each side of the vinyl differ quite significantly, which I guess is consistent with the general diversity found within Rapoon’s works.
Side A of the vinyl delivers a quite ‘song’ focused composition, built on a loose rhythm, hymn like vocal textures and choppy trip hop beats. However due to the upfront mixing of the percussion they do not positively add to the track due to their stilted and simplistic programming, which also takes far too much focus away from the darker undercurrent (…basically to this ear the ‘beats’ sound rather dated).
However the flip side of the vinyl presents a much more pleasing composition. Here the sound is within an experimental dark ambient frame, which ever so slightly flirts with some heavier grinding sound elements. Accordingly various sweeping and low rumbling textures form vague loops which coalesce into a yawning mass of abstract sound. There is a noted ebb and flow in the way the various sound elements interact, but the composition is structured with a general upward trajectory over its 7 minute length, including some unobtrusive and minimalist piano notes played towards the end which brings a melancholic tone to the overall mood.
The overall presentation is positive given Black Drone has pressed this on vinyl with decent thickness and heavy cardboard stock for the full colour cover. Whilst side A is not really to my liking, the side B track more than makes up for this.