S.T.A.B. Electronics – The Non Alliant II

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S.T.A.B. Electronics – The Non Alliant II LP Unsound Recordings LP 2012

Although not knowing a great deal about this project, available online information indicates they are from the UK and supposedly commenced as a tribute to Marco Corbelli of Attrax Morgue following his death in 2007.  In short STAB Electronics concern themselves with unpolished and scathing power electronics.

Noting that ‘The Non Alliant II’ is the second in a pair of albums, this LP represented the opportunity for myself to get more formally aquatinted with the project, with my initial introduction being via the ‘We Gave Them the Future And They Wanted The Past’ 2012 cassette compilation (on Unrest Productions).  Based on the singular strength of the STAB Electronics featured compilation track ‘The Sins Of The Father’, this LP was immediately tracked down (…particularly given that the ‘The Non Alliant I’ is long sold out).

Rough, heavy and loosely structured power electronics is STAB Electronics particular niche, being brutal, no frills and absolutely to the point.  Each of the five album’s tracks are built on a straightforward mixture of crumbling static, heavy distortion, throbbing bass, pulsing noise and loosely structured loops, which provides the platform for the shrilly intense vocals, which based on the ferocity of delivery is the singular element which takes this from good to great.  In the most part the vocals are of the ‘standard’ power electronics style (ranging from hard sermon like delivery through to yelled and echo/ distortion drenched), however it is their intensity of delivery which really takes it to the next level.  Being generally heavy, visceral and unhinged, on a number of tracks the vocals are pushed to a point of absolute manic intensity.  Likewise if the lyrics were not already blunt in their antagonism, some well placed dialogue samples lifted from ‘American Psycho’ flesh out the intense levels of nihilism on display.

Packaging is simple and no-frills – black label LP and two printed inserts.  Yet given its raw, visceral and oppressive atmosphere, having a limited press run of a mere 105 copies is FAR to few for an album of this calibre. Get it while you can (…if you can).

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Illuminoscillate – Uniform Wall

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Illuminoscillate – Uniform Wall CD Secrets of Giza 2013

The dark ambient genre is one particular music style that has expanded to such a point where it is simply impossible to hear everything which gets released year on year (…which in some ways is rather similar to the metal genre and its hundreds of sub-genres).  Thus in this context the bigger known record labels are often viewed as the curators of the scene, making it then all the more difficult for more obscure acts (…and labels for that matter) to get noticed.  Given Illuminoscillate are a relatively new Australian dark ambient styled project and Secrets of Giza are a new American label (…this being their second release), clearly both fall into the ‘obscure’ category.  This however will hopefully change based on the quality of ‘Uniform Wall’.

Where Illuminoscillate particularly succeeds is through the presentation of an animated sound palate within a morphing dark ambient framework.  A hazy enveloping miasma provides the overarching atmosphere, where the album’s abstract and slightly mechanical oscillating drones are also underpinned by deep bass rhythmic elements that build to cascading intensity during select segments.  Illuminoscillate’s sound is also driven by the merging of the organic and synthetic, where it appears that field recording elements constitute a large portion of the base sonic input, which are then morphed and manipulated through a (modular?) synthesizer interface.

Two early album tracks ‘City Loop’, with its excellent low mechanized pulse, and the shimmering multi-layered drones of ‘Southern Obedience’, are both quite reminiscent of the molasses like drugged atmosphere of Hazard’s unsung classic album ‘Lech’ – yet when I posed this potential inspiration to Illuminoscillate member Matthew Casey he advised of no prior knowledge of ‘Lech’ (…just a coincidence then).  Mid album track ‘Widow of Fatigue’ presents a more simplistic and subdued track which is built on a series of mechanized loops, while following track ‘Absent Teeth’ pursues deeper abstract drone territory.  Arriving towards the end of the album ‘Late November’ provides a heavier sound, delivering a muted almost death industrial track due it its heavy bass pounding beat and animated electronics with a sharper tonal edge.  This track bleeds into the concluding composition ‘Feeding Procedure’ which erodes into sparse abstract soundscape of low grinding bass and other layers with shimmering tonality, which build to a intense crescendo before ushering the album to its conclusion.

With a slick 6 panel digi-pack presentation, coupled with the strong and focused soundscapes on display, surely ‘Uniform Wall’ should gain some positive attention from wider dark ambient scene. Although project and label currently slot into the ‘obscure’ category, this is definitely worth taking a punt on.

Blitzkrieg Baby – Porcus Norvegicus

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Blitzkrieg Baby – Porcus Norvegicus CD Neuropa 2013

Blitzkrieg Baby is the twisted industrial music project of Kim Solve, who perhaps at this point in time is more recognised for his graphic design work for a range of underground labels, bands and associated music scenes.  Nevertheless ‘Porcus Norvegicus’ – being debut album for Blitzkrieg Baby – demonstrates Kim is extremely talented in creative fields beyond just graphic design and visual arts.

When relying on the term ‘industrial’ to describe Blitzkrieg Baby, it must be understood this is used in a relatively loose capacity, as the range of genre cues and influences presented on the CD are certainly diverse.  Maybe making comparisons to aspects of Coil, Laibach, and NON will give an impression of the musical diversity on display here.   There is also a dark cinematic quality to many of the compositions which play out as if being the soundtrack to an imaginary horror/ suspense styled film.

Album opener ‘First Movement, First Kill’ has a certain apocalyptic tone which leans heavily on a tense cinematic orchestral sound, with its martial brass, booming timpani and shrill horror strings.  Alternately ‘Pig Boy’ is a superb militant industrial track, which is built on a heavy pounding beat/ marching snare, disharmonic string/ brass wails and aggressive screamed vocals.  Although an extremely short piece, the fantastically titled ‘Disneyfied, delirious and HIV+’ delivers  a short ditty of a track constructed with up-tempo classical string samples to generate a weird carnivalesque vibe, which is total antithesis to the prior pieces.  Alternately the following pair of tracks ‘Incinerator Symphony’ and  ‘Stalker’ deliver further soundtrack worthy industrial/ neo-classical compositions, with pounding percussion, twisted violins and horns of doom providing a suitably tense and anxiety inducing tone.  ‘Fuck Me Like You Hate Me’ differs quite significantly from the material which proceeds it, by virtue its monotonous grinding militant industrial beat and verse/ chorus/ verse yelled vocals, thus making it one of the more song oriented pieces.  ‘Children In Uniform’ is also another song oriented track, but here delivers a skewed industrial piece with layered marching snares, sporadic orchestral elements and vocals with a politically rally cry type quality.  Another stand out track is the late album piece ‘Slasher’, that with a solid dose of angular strings and pompous percussive backing draws a passing comparison to the musical works of fellow countryman WHEN and their brand of abstract experimental and orchestral weirdness (…which is obviously meant as a total compliment).

Beyond the prevalent dark soundtrack type sound which is infused within most compositions, interestingly there is also a perverse and sly aspect of humour which underscores the album’s atmosphere.  This is something akin a knowing wink which highlights that Blitzkrieg Baby is not all ultra serious doom and gloom, which certainly gives the album an aesthetic sensibility not often found within such music.  With reference to packing and presentation, as would be expected its design is impeccable, being presented as a mini gatefold card cover with 12 page booklet.  Ultimately ‘Porcus Norvegicus’  (translating to ‘Norwegian Pig’ perhaps?!) is a smart, sophisticated and expertly executed album, which certainly stands on its own within the current ‘industrial’ scene.

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism II

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism II CD/ DVD / Catalogue The Epicurian / Silken Tofu / Peripheral Records 2013

‘Epicurean Escapism II’ forms the multi-media companion release to the festival of the same name (held in Berlin on 15th June, 2013).  Noting this is the second festival release, when reflecting on the cassette/ DVD/ special packaging of the first compilation, this time around the format has been stepped up a notch to more comprehensively reflect the multi-media format of the festival.  Here the release incorporates elements of all artistic aspects including: reproductions of a selection of exhibited artworks, a CD of material contributed by performing acts and a DVD that reproduces the screened short experimental films.  These audio and visual elements have then been housed in an impeccably designed DVD sized fold out cardboard cover, highlighting that there have been no half measures when approaching this release.

To address the musical content first and noting the musical heritage of Ke/Hil, their heavily ominous and coldly nihilistic track is a great way to open the CD.  ‘Dark Germany’ amounts to an expertly crafted and dense layered composition of slow throbbing synths, swirling noise and distortion frayed vocals.  Anemone Tube follow and deliver a pair a solid tracks (‘Apocalyptic Fantasy’ and ‘Accumulations’), which both adhere a general pattern of invasive cyclic noise, looped metallic clattered, managed/ barely recognisable field recordings and understated melancholic droning synth elements.  Each of these tracks (again) displays the particular sound attributable to Anemone Tube, which as I have said before is testament to the mastery of his sonic craft.  Moving on to ‘Leprous Driver’, Post Scriptvm evoke more filmic composition imbedded with an atmosphere brooding menace, here consisting of a slab of crystalline dark ambience (aka droning syths, spares piano notes, and unobtrusively layered background tones/ noise).  Following next is the mighty Trepaneringsritualen, who contribute two tracks on the shorter side (3 to 5 minutes each). ‘Vanärat Är Ditt Namn’ takes to a rhythmic song based approach of a repetitive throbbing beat and yelled verse/ chorus/ verse type vocals, while ‘End of Flesh’ opts for slow ritual ambience, where a catatonic bass throb provides some sense of structure amongst the layers of swirling vocal invocations.  To round out the compilation Dieter Müh issues forth the hefty 20 minute composition ‘Bethlehem’, which is a highlight amongst highlights.  Here the track commences with a beautifully understated modern classical tone, with distant melancholic piano and abstract vocal sample cut ups.  However this fragile segment ultimately acts as the intro passage for the main bulk of the tracks which features a mid paced, tribally infused dark ambience, which in some ways reminds of the early works of Morthound.  To provide a final comment on the compilation, to my mind if the curation of such releases is not managed correctly they can either become frustratingly long due to the number of contributions and/ or suffer from submission of poor or second rate material.  Thankfully no such complaints exist here, as with a (mere) seven excellent tracks by five artists, it is an easily digestible and most importantly an engaging and enjoyable listen throughout.

For the DVD segment of this release, this consists of six short films by Mike Dando of Con-Dom, issued under the collective title ‘We Who Were Living Are Now Dying’.  Whilst not constituting new material from Con-Dom, the DVD sees the formal publication of six archival experimental films that Con-Dom produced between 1983 to 1994.  Here these short films effectively act as the visual counterpart to a number of Con-Dom’s heavy and harsh power electronics tracks, and whilst relatively crude and experimental in style, they consist of filmed footage and still images which are cut together as a sprawling visual collage.  Conceptually there are a range of themes at play including: belief, religion, sin, spirituality, suffering, religious ecstasy, pornography, masturbation, sexual ecstasy, medical deformities, birth, death, race, racial hatred, family, honour, authority, war atrocities, crime etc.  With its cut up collage technique the multiple utilised themes are presented for the viewer to analyse and pick apart in trying to stitch together the conceptual threads on display.   Visually the films are quite dark and textured and which suits the material well, while there is also a faint black line flicker moving through the visuals.  This later aspect could be due to the material being filmed on video, or otherwise as a result of the transfer to digital format from super 8 film – but either way this effect adds to the lo-fi grainy aesthetic of the films.  As with Con-Dom’s more recognised musical outputs, there is always a clear message at the core of Mike’s work even if it gets somewhat muddied by the brute force approach.  As such it is great to see that a similar approach is embodied within Con-Dom’s experimental films, where it will take time to analyse presented content.

For the last part of this release it has sought to in part document the group art exhibition displayed as part of the festival (which incidentally was curated by African Paper Magazine).  Contributing artists whose artworks were featured from Alex Tenningkeit, Andrew Liles, Carmen Burguess, Dennis Rudolph and Phillip Best, Rudolf Eb.er, and whilst each artist’s outputs vary wildly in materials, style and aesthetic output they do generally hinge on a darker and/ or subversive tangents.  Here a selection of the artists works are published in a 16 page full colour booklet, along with an essay by Uwe Schneider which outlines the concept of the festival and compilation and neatly ties together the various artist’s inputs.

Although in the first instance this release is a memento of the festival it seeks to document, with its meticulous execution and sheer quality of its content, Epicurean Escapism II transcends this mere documentary role, to become an exceptionally focused multi-media release.  Definitely worthy of detailed investigation and limited to a mere 350 copies.

Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death 2 x CD Malignant Records / Silken Tofu 2013

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Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death 2 x CD Malignant Records / Silken Tofu 2013

With a decent number of limited and relatively obscure vinyls and cassettes issued since 2008, Trepaneringsritualen (TxRxP) have now stepped up to deliver their first CD release/s.  Essentially forming a double compilation album – issued simultaneously in two parts on two separate labels – ‘The Totality of Death’ features a hand picked selection of tracks lifted from TxRxP’s rare and out of print back catalogue, along with a handful of previously unreleased pieces.  Likewise with further reference to TxRxP’s discography, interestingly ‘The Totality of Death’ title was previously used for a 2011 private edition cassette compilation (..but containing a different track list to here), before being conceptually recontextualised for these official releases.

Although at its core ‘The Totality of Death’ is a compilation album, it has not been a case of merely reproducing used material in chronological order.  Rather through careful selection and re-ordering of tracks it provides both albums’ with an entirely focused coherence.  Thus for the uninitiated ‘The Totality of Death’ contains a superb blend of material spanning all aspects of TxRxP’s occult and ritual infused death industrial sound – a sound which encompasses barren windswept soundscapes, queasy lurching rhythms, oozing ritual menace, croaked/ distortion scarred vocals and tribal focused percussion, all delivered with a damp, musty and inky black production.

Opening ‘Programme A’ (aka CD1 released via Malignant Records) ‘Death Reveler’ is a fantastic statement of intent with its dank atmosphere of clanging ritualized rhythms and caustic garbled vocals.  With a similar rhythmic bent ‘All Hail the Black Flame’ is also a great example of TxRxP’s lurching death industrial sound, which subsequently shifts towards more tense and ominous ceremonial soundscapes on the following a pair of tracks ‘Cherem’ and ‘Lord of This World’ (…the later of which rather symbolically has a run time of 3.33 minutes).  The lengthy ‘Van Zeven Manieren Van Heilige Minne’ appears to be one of the previously unreleased track, being is a collaborative piece with Hadewych.  Over its 14 ritualized minutes the cavernous echoed soundscape relies on distant metallic clatter, sporadic ritual gong tones, disembodied vocals (in both spoken and choral guise), and some more formal instrumentation with the use of minimalist guitar and piano.  With the sparse construction for much of the track it oozes forward at a sprawling pace, which shifts during the final third where heavy ritual percussion coalesces the track into a more focused and forceful guise.  ‘Judas Goat’ – which is effectively TxRxP’s hit single – is a welcomed late album feature, which then leads into ‘C’Est Un Reve’ (which is credited as a Death In June cover).  Here the repeated vocal line is yelled here over a repetitive, lurching and relatively up tempo militant programmed backing and although virtually unrecognisable as a cover song, it is a forceful conclusion to ‘Programme A’.

Moving over to ‘Programme B’ (aka CD2 released via Silken Tofu), it continues the journey through the shadowy underworld of TxRxP’s sound.  Early album track ‘Eurcarist of Shit & Piss’ takes a stripped back and direct approach to it crude and distorted atonal pulsing beat and screeched vocals, whilst ‘Sacrament and Crucifixion’ displays TxRxP in full death ambient / Brighter Death Now worship mode.  Moving ever onwards through the combined 2 hours of material, there are yet a few more examples of compositions which align with the streamlined ‘song’ based approach TxRxP.  These include the stilted clanging uptempo intensity of ‘Veil the World’ with its croaked, distortion scarred vocals, which is equally applicable to the swaying voodoo tribal intensity of ‘Didymus Christ’.  Used as the concluding piece for ‘Programme B’, the monolithic ‘Den Fallne Domaldrs Lik’ opts for a slow grinding soundscape of catatonic drums and melancholic synth textures to evoke an atmosphere of brooding ritual menace.

Regarding presentation, both CD’s feature almost identical graphics (save for minor variations in images and text), each being issued as 6 panel digi-packs to form complimentary companion releases.  Likewise given TxRxP’s penchant for hidden symbolism it is noted that track eight on both CD’s features previously unreleased material, which perhaps symbolically represents the number ’88’, which itself can be interpreted in a number of ways (…intentional or coincidence I wonder?). Beyond such potential symbolic clues, if cult interest with TxRxP has not already been generated by their earlier releases, surely the ‘The Totality of Death’ constitutes a pair of albums to serve this function for a much wider audience.  However noting that ‘The Totality of Death’ does not contain all material featured on earlier releases, these compilation albums can be also considered as the likely generator of additional obsessive TxRxP complete-ists, who will be intent on tracking down all the original cassette and vinyl releases.  Worthy, very worthy indeed.

Marrow Mandler – Escapist Grounds / German Army – Burushaski / Veil of Light – Veil of Light

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Marrow Mandler – Escapist Grounds MC Beläten 2013

German Army – Burushaski MC Beläten 2013

Veil of Light – Veil of Light MC Beläten 2013

I have to admit that up until recently my interest in Beläten’s releases had been targeted towards their ritual / industrial styled tapes, rather than those which more appropriately fit with the label’s ‘post avant garde pop for a pre-apolcalyptic world’ description. Nevertheless, here are the three new tapes which make up the latest batch releases from Beläten, which more faithfully align with the ‘post avant garde pop’ tag line, despite sounding absolutely nothing alike.

On ‘Escapist Grounds’ Marrow Mander deliver a sound which merges jittery programmed beats with cold minimalist synth style, maybe sounding something like the a bastard lovechild of Kraftwerk and Devo attempting a German industrial / synth pop album.  In other words bizarrely excellent.  The monotone commanding male vocals are also a highlight of Marrow Mandler’s sound, which in some segments are morphed and slightly processed for good measure.  ‘Bound Forward’ is also a stand out track with the elephantine sway of its programmed beats and commanding half sung/ half spoken vocals.

German Army are up next (hailing from LA of all places despite what the name suggests), who deliver the most experimental of the latest batch of tapes being something like abstract post punk.  The material on ‘Burushaski’ ranges from programmed compositions to relatively abstract soundscapes, which are constructed with manipulated tape experiments, morphed radio samples, fractured tribal-esque beats, occasional wayward guitars (meandering bass and screaming solos), hallucinogenic vocals etc, which are wrapped up in hazy lo-fi analogue aesthetic. ‘Stone Walls’ rates a mention, featuring some excellent mid paced clinical beats, vague melody and distant spoken/ sung vocals.

For the final of the tape batch Veil of Light deliver their debut EP, being a solo project hailing from Switzerland which aims at a ‘classic’ 1980’s goth / post-punk sound of Joy Division, early Death in June and the Dead Can Dance debut for suitable reference.  Across the six tracks Veil of Light blend stoic drum kit percussion, plodding bass lines, jangling and intertwining guitars, serpentine melancholic synths and commanding male vocals, which are presented as straightforward and catchy songs.  For its apparent lack of originality, this is of little concern when the material presented is this strong, not to mention being absolutely faithful to the sound and era it emulates.

The slick presentation of the pro-print tapes and covers feature Beläten’s now trademark graphic design template and aesthetic (including individual runic symbol for each release), which only adds to the sheer collectability of this emerging cult label.  Whilst the tapes are work owning for their packaging and presentation alone, if you have any doubts about the music they contain, the complete Beläten catalogue is available for streaming on their website.