Uncodified / Wertham – Vindicta I CD Old Europa Cafe 2013
On this new release Marco Deplano (aka Wertham), has teamed up with the relatively new Italian project Uncodified, which up until this point was an unknown quantity to these ears. Noting both artists work within a broad power electronics frame, here the two acts have sought to blend the sound of each individual project. Likewise for its thematic focus the promo material highlights that: “‘Vindicta’, is the first chapter of a trilogy focusing on grim/tragic aspects of Sardinian culture. ‘Vindicta’ tries to capture stills of a dying culture where family was sacred, the knife was considered a man’s best friend, and blood called for blood”.
On ‘Vindica I’ it goes without saying that it displays a staunchly power electronics style. Yet here the focus is on meticulous constructed tracks which sit within seething, mid-toned sound range by combining multi-layered crumbling analog based distortion, metallic junk clatter, sweeping noise and the idling tones of rumbling factory machinery. Whilst the overarch sound is one that is brutally heavy, the album still delivers a churning atmospheric bent. What is also specifically evident is the firm control placed on the layered sound elements, which have a sharp focused tonality. As such the atmosphere is one of sustained sound elements which are delivered with burrowing and invasive intensity. On many tracks there is mid to high pitched piercing noise which takes on a centrally prominent focus and embodies a tinnitus like quality. In fact such noise sits within a sound range which pretty much reflect the tonal range of my own low grade tinnitus – something which I spend a lot of time simply trying to ignore, but which is effectively masked by this album when being played. Vocals when present are stylistically hard and yelled in delivery, being prominent in the mix and drenched in echo and distortion treatment – as are some dialogue sample which are scattered throughout various tracks. The late album track ‘Il binario degli appesi’ sets itself apart by using the tolling of a lone church bell (at the start and end of the track), whilst the spoken vocals are delivered as an almost religiously fevered mantra, although admittedly the message is lost on me given its delivery in Italian.
Clearly ‘Vindicta I’ is not intent on reinventing what power electronics is and can be, rather it is the by product of skilled musicians working within the parameters of this style. To this end there is no clumsy handling of the noise compositions nor empty posturing to be found here. What can be found however is a hard hitting, meticulously composed and expertly controlled power electronics album which contains intelligently focused and conceptually interesting subject material. Recommended.
Skull:Axis – The Transparent Society CD Peripheral Records / Death Continues Records 2013
This relatively obscure new release comes from the creative mind of Jason Bernard – aka Peripheral Records head honcho – who via this album demonstrates he has more than just a label boss’s ear for quality and creative sounds.
From a cursory perusal of the album’s cover the thematic focus of ‘The Transparent Society’ is of central importance to the presented music, being summed up by the quote on the cover: “surveillance induced morality: relics of cultural retardation”. Although not knowing the context of this quote, it could however be easily be interpreted as a scathing comment on the British Government’s well established obsession with attempting to monitor all pubic space through the installation of the ever expanding CCTV networks.
Regarding musical content the eight album tracks present a degree of continuity in sound and approach, meaning the album can be appreciated as a longer singular piece. Whilst there is also an abstract approach to the structure of the tracks the material is in no way improvised as the meticulous approach to the composition can be clearly heard. Accordingly the tone is very much focused on washes of muffled distortion, repetitive radio chatter, mid to higher pitched analog synth layers, clinical transmission pulses, arrhythmic metallic ‘clanks’ and ‘clangs’ and droning factory ambiences. Ultimately ‘The Transparent Society’ is very much rooted in a ‘classic’ German industrial vein but with a definite experimental bent. For a comparison maybe a less refined, abstract and vocal-less version of Anenzephalia would appropriately suit, whilst also highlighting the calibre of the presented material.
The visuals for the release also tie in nicely, where the xeroxed black and white imagery of outdated communications/ surveillance technology evokes a paranoid cold war type visual aesthetic. Given the bleak claustrophobia inherent in the sound these accompanying visuals perfectly tie in with the music and theme. With a ludicrously small pressing of 150 hopefully this album does not go unnoticed for it.
The Rita / Caligula031 – Self Shop MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2013
Nil By Mouth have again come up with some great item specific packaging where for this release the cassette and two colour printed inserts are housed inside a knee high stocking to tie in with the fetish concept of the release.
The Rita take up Side A with their lengthy single track ‘Mouths on Nylon, Hour Transaction’ which at a most basic description contains scattered and blasting junk noise, offset against explicit voice recordings referencing the thematic material. The basic sound construction here has an extremely loose, overblown quality which is structured in segmented bursts as the female voices play out their fetish scenario, thus creating a certain sleazy noise aesthetic. Caligula031 feature on Side B and is actually my first introduction to this relatively new project of Marco Deplano. Here a lengthy power electronics track ‘Lady Vokovar’ is presented, using mid ranged noise frequencies and wavering tonal layers which gradual build in intensity over its length. Alternately the hard and heavy barked vocals are rendered indecipherable due to their distortion treatment and being partly buried in the mix. Although relatively straightforward this track certainly hits the mark with its atmosphere.
Given my personal tastes lean towards power electronics rather than junk noise type material for me Caligula031 is the pick of the day here. Either way ‘Self Shop’ is highly collectable thanks to the packaging and made all the more so with its limitation of 180 copies.
Nyodene D – Atop Masada MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2013
Nyodene D return following the well received ‘Edenfall’ album of last year (reviewed here), and as with their other releases ‘Atop Masada’ focuses on some interesting conceptual material. More specifically this tape deals with the Roman Siege of Masada in 73/74 AD resulting in the mass suicide of the Jewish Sicarii (aka “dagger men”) population who has settled at the the fortress of Masada (located on an isolated mountain plateau in southern Israel). More generally the Sicarii were an extremist splinter group seeking to expel the ruling Romans from the Roman controlled provence of Judea through violent insurgency tactics including publicly attacking Romans and Roman sympathisers with concealed daggers. Beyond this micro history lesson the promo blurb more succinctly states: “Thematically, this release examines the nature of honor, sacrifice and extremism framed in the historical context of the Roman siege of Masada”.
Regarding its musical aspects the tape’s 30 minutes are split into two lengthy tracks, featuring one per side of the cassette. ‘Grain To Ash’ spans side A and focuses on the multi-layered looped power electronics side of Nyodene D, where queasy cascading loops and burrowing distortion roll relentlessly on once established in their groove. Vocals when they arrive hold a point of difference, as they are presented in a commanding half sung, half spoken drawl. The second track ‘Sicarii’ differs somewhat, being slow and cavernous containing shrill ethnic tinged strings and catatonic and obliterating bass thump which coalesce as part of its expansive guise. Later in the track synth textures provide a greater cinematic flavour, which is offset against shuddering industrial noise and squalling junk metal abuse. As the track progresses it ramps up with increased intensity until the trademark heavy distorted and echo treated Nyodene D vocals make a welcome appearance. Excellent stuff.
Being dense and heavy in production, yet containing a certain clarity to the sonics both tracks works well within their long form expansive guise. Noting Nil By Mouth’s special attention to packaging, here two double sided printed colour inserts are included with the pro printed tape which are all housed in a small burlap sack. Given its edition of a mere 130, this seems ludicrously limited for the quality of the material presented here. As such you know what to do.
Triangular Ascension – The Chronos Anomaly CD Cyclic Law 2013
Following this site’s glowing review of Triangular Ascension’s debut album ‘Leviathan Device’ (review here), this sophomore album was awaited with anticipation and from the first cursory listen it is apparent the engaging and animated sonic template is again a central feature. However this time around the main dark ambient focus is complimented by selected tracks displaying a musicality which borders on the martial industrial and neo-classical genres. Another noted deviation is where ‘The Chronos Anomaly’ appears to favour individual tracks within the album context, whereas ‘Leviathan Device’ presented interlinking tracks as part of a bigger whole. So on face value at least the introduction of these aspects avoids a mere repetition of the debut.
On ‘The Chronos Anomaly’ the attention to the recording’s sonic clarity is again superb, containing a dense, heaving and bass heavy undercurrent, complimented with layered tonal drifts, washes of synth melodies and tasteful use of field recordings such as aquatic tonal elements, wind, chimes, insects, birds etc – but in no way sounding ‘new age’ despite what the later part of this description might imply. Surprisingly an acoustic guitar and maudlin flute make an appearance on ‘Sandstorm’, which provide a focal point against the sweeping dark ambient undercurrent. Likewise the use tribal percussion and sampled choir vocals of ‘Above The Remnants’ are stunning, being another of the album’s more musically focused pieces. On the final album track (the tellingly titled ‘Final Movement’), the melancholic neo-classical horns and orchestral strings drive the composition, whilst an almost flamenco styled acoustic guitar make a brief appearance. Given this tracks provides the concluding statement for the album, it clearly reinforces the differing composed elements which are to be found.
Regarding the conceptual focus of the album the promo states: “The Chronos Anomaly is a representation of the struggle of man against the illusion of a past and a future and the subsequent degradation of our mind, body and soul. It invites the listener to open their eyes and consciousness to a state where time is but a memory, and memories are but products of the mind, where nothing is external”. Noting this is quite philosophical content to encapsulate within an abstract musical form such as dark ambience, the masterful control of tone and atmosphere at least means such a description does not sound contrived. Given it appears that Triangular Ascension has sought to avoid merely retreading the same sonic template as the debut, ‘The Chronos Anomaly’ has achieved a similarly strong album through slightly more musical and composed means.
Lamia Vox – Sigillum Diaboli CD Cyclic Law 2013
Although having not come across Lamia Vox before, they have recently joined the ranks of Cyclic Law (who have issued this their sophomore album), which will no doubt bring them into greater recognition. Being the solo project of Alina Antonova, Lamia Vox evokes a sound and aesthetic which is sits very much at home in the ‘classic’ early to mid 90’s period of Cold Meat Industry (CMI). This is dark ambient music at its core, but approached from a more songlike perspective with the use of ritual, martial and neo-classical elements (…or more simply this is ‘occult dark ambient’ as coined by Alina).
Passing comparisons to the likes of In Slaughter Natives, Sephiroth, Desiderii Marginis etc will give an impression of stylistic linage, however this is not to say that Lamia Vox are merely retracing the well warn paths forged by others. Given the maturity of the compositions and the stylistic flair on display, it ensures that Lamia Vox have carved a niche of their own. However another possibly unavoidable comparison is Aghast, due to the use of Alina’s vocals – ranging from ghostly whispers to choir like vocal textures – which are used sparingly throughout.
The heavy martial/ tribal percussion of ‘Lapis Occultus’ sets the ritualistic aura of the album early on and acts as a backdrop for whispered and sung twilight evocations. Likewise mid album track ‘Enemy of Heaven’ arrives as a particularly rousing composition within a martial industrial construction. Here the militant snare drum provides focus, but offset against a deep piano melody, rousing orchestral textures and choir like vocals. Following track ‘Liberation’ again approaches full martial/ neo-classical guise being a great example of a swelling orchestral and choir movement. Alternately the stalking sub-orchestral brass movement of ‘Evil Comes From the North’ gradually builds with ominous tribal percussion and hypnotic synth textures, which in part gives rise to comparisons to the tribal flair of Sephiroth. Likewise the darkly foreboding classical style of the title track ‘Sigillum Diaboli’ reaches ecstatic heights with its swelling orchestral brass and percussion, which also brings to mind the best parts of In Slaughter Natives’ purgatorial bombast.
Although not wanting to denigrate Lamia Vox by a potential overuse of CMI related comparisons, conversely this should be viewed as a clear compliment. Given its shadowy tone and sophisticated execution, ‘Sigillium Diaboli’ is proof enough of Lamia Vox’s skills within the sonic dark arts.