Singular Cleansweep Operations – Final Service

SOC

Singular Cleansweep Operations – Final Service CD Teito Sound Company 2012

Rather than being a new underground project, Singular Cleansweep Operations are an obscure solo act which has direct linage to the equally mysterious German power electronics duo Operation Cleansweep.  Yet apart from this limited information there appears is scant other details available – which is at least reflective of the parent projects modus operandi.

From the liner notes it nominates that the material on ‘Final Service’ is derived from 1996 to 2010, yet it is unclear as to whether this means Operation Cleansweep is now a redundant project and this is the continuation of a solo member; or whether the album represents the final gasp and last remaining unreleased archival material (which is partially suggested by the title).  Despite such questions, based on the underground status of Operation Cleansweep this offshoot release has at least raised some intrigue.

From cursory listens it quickly becomes apparent that whilst sitting within a general power electronics framework, the mood and tone is slightly more subdued than Operation Cleansweep.  This in some ways this could be a potential pitfall, as having a direct link to the main project through its moniker, may give a false impression of what to expect.  Yet as none of the material here constitutes second rate or throwaway material, it is really a matter of how the listener chooses to approach the album.  Likewise to provide some context and to guide expectation, a good comparison would be the slightly more subdued and stalking approach Ex.Order take with their power electronics sound.

Across its 12 tracks (ranging in length from 3 to 6 minutes), each feature differing combinations of thick throbbing syths, well placed dialogue samples, slow pounding beats and hazy layers of sweeping noise.  On a number of the tracks the oppressive atmospheres are amplified by morbid vocalisations, which are deadpan delivered and slightly distortion treated.  Alternately some of the tracks articulate a cold military warfare type ambience based on abstract mechanised beats, radar blips and scattered radio chatter, whilst others utilise elements such as looped atonal piano notes, and disharmonic rhythmic elements.  Mid album track ‘Verbrenne, Mensch!’ pushes ever so slightly towards a full power electronics attack, with its ominous, oscillating textures and heavily flanged vocals – simple, straight forward and damn effective.  Likewise ‘Revolutionary Suicide Council’ is built on a potentially overused Jim Jones’ last stand suicide sample, but works effectively here coupled with a prominent crackling / throbbing synth layer.

Rather than being overtly aggressive and brute force in sound, Singular Cleansweep Operations opt for queasy, uneasy and tonally threatening atmospheres.  Whilst certainly not a classic of the genre, ‘Final Service’ contains material of more than just elemental quality, meaning it is a solidly decent album overall.

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K100 – The Vault of Apparitions

K100

K100 – The Vault of Apparitions CD Neuropa Records/ Unreality 2010

To introduce K100 to the unfamiliar, it is an obscure project operating within the field of dark ambience, although sole project member Kim Solve is likely to be better recognised for his other industrial act Blitzkrieg Baby.  With K100 Kim has opted to focus on the more subtle and abstract side of musical expression, which nicely counterbalances the militant industrial bombast of Blitzkrieg Baby.

Although ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ contains 12 compositions (spanning 51 minutes), as is often the case with this type of music it is best appreciated as a singular composition / body of work.  Thus from the album’s opening moments the atmosphere is hollow, distant and ominous, where low mechanised humming textures merge with sub orchestral drones.  As the album progresses it becomes entirely apparent that this is also dark ambience of the deep shafts and subterranean caverns typology.  Here the tonal reverberations of cavernous spaces mingle with other textures that sonically articulate the low distant rumble of far of thunder (…or perhaps some other far worse nameless entity lurking in the depths).  But far from being all drone and drift, there are occasional vague metallic rhythmic tones intermixed with the yawning catacomb bass tones.  Likewise further sonic variety is achieved through other tonal elements such as ritual gongs / chimes and a Tibetan thigh bone horn, where the drawling horn note of the later instrument bleeds out into widescreen textural drones.

Broadly subtle in texture – like a dank fog which slowly creeps over the landscape – ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ sits within stalking and suspenseful soundtrack territory.  Also with the organic feel imbedded within the deep bass drones, the result has a partial affinity with the ritual drone works of the Aural Hypnox label collective.  Given its abstract and subtle nuances ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ is not an album of immediate impact.  Rather it is an understated slow burner, where the key to unlocking its rewards are patience and detailed attention.

Abre Ojos – Gates

AbreOjos

Abre Ojos – Gates CD/DVD Secrets of Giza 2013

With a number of releases issued since 2009 (both self-released and on various micro labels), Abre Ojos have now been picked up by the new and emerging American label Secrets of Giza.  This is the same label who have also recently released an album of another fellow Australian/ Melbournian artist Illuminoscillate, so it is positive to see these (currently) obscure acts garnering some much warranted international attention.  Also given that Abre Ojos is a multi-media project at its core, for this release Secrets of Giza have had the admirable idea of releasing ‘Gates’ in both audio and visual form, meaning both facets of the project can be appreciated at the leisure and discretion of the listener / viewer.

From the commencement of the album it is immediately evident that ‘Gates’ inhabits a slightly heavier sound, although still retaining a central focus on the droning partially harmonic dark ambient soundscapes.  This is evidenced on the opening track ‘Falling Suns, Dying Stars’, which contains cacophonous almost death industrial rhythmic elements which intertwines with shimmering drones and abstract treated vocalisations.  ‘Dirt Between Our Toes’ continues this theme with its jagged metallic timbre and an abysmal percussive element, whilst ‘Light on Our Foreheads’ delivers a piece of widescreen cosmic drones, deep tonal textures and whispered vocalisations. Of the 11 album tracks each play out as a variation on established sonics themes, however late album track ‘From Home, From Centre, From Self’ rates a particular mention for its organic percussive tones generated by deep metallic chimes and booming Japanese war drums which are seamlessly blended into the modular synth collage.

‘Gates’ also displays an increased degree of focus which is reflected in the noticeably shorter length of tracks, which range from under 4 minutes to around 6 minutes in length (…whereas the tracks on ‘Häxan’ were more sprawling by spanned between 8 and 13 minutes each).  Yet putting aside an analysis of focus verses sprawl, where Abre Ojos excel is through the display of restraint and the unhurried pacing of the soundscapes.  Effectively the control displayed with the mixing and tonal separation of sonic elements is what makes this such a multifaceted experience – aka the ebb and flow of crystalline drones interweaving with heavier sections of grinding metallic resonance and catatonic bass heavy percussion.

For the visual side of things, the DVD contains the same musical content which is presented with moving imagery to compliment each composition.  Again the visuals form a kaleidoscopic presentation of complex geometric patterns, amorphous organic shapes and swirling washes of colour which are constantly morphing and evolving in unison with the audio tracks.  Occasionally some source video input video is detectable (…including imagery from 2001 A Space Odyssey amongst other random visuals), which are fed through a a variety of visual filters to the point of abstraction.  With a passing comparison to ‘Häxan’, where it utilised a colourful palate for its visuals, on ‘Gates’ the colour hues are generally more subdued, with a darker and more ominous overall mood.

With the release of ‘Gates’ Abre Ojos have presented a consummate musical and visual statement that stands entirely on its own as a purely audio experience, but is also further enhanced with the presented DVD visuals.  Although Abre Ojos clearly deserves a greater profile in the dark ambient underground than they currently have, hopefully ‘Gates’ will be their own gateway release to wider recognition. Clearly a recommended release.

…twelve month anniversary…

So, today marks the twelve month anniversary of the launch of the noise receptor blog – rather ominously on Friday the 13th!

Upon reflection of this milestone, I can say I have achieved quite a bit more in the first 12 months than I would have initially expected, with 75 detailed reviews written and published in the time.  Also achieving 12,000 site hits within the first year is a pretty decent figure, considering it is a review blog with such a niche underground focus.

Also when I launched the noise receptor blog in September 2012, I had no inkling it would result in another personal ‘zine publication, yet noise receptor journal no.1 became a reality within 7 months of the blog launch.  So being able to publish the print version of the blog to positive feedback is really an added bonus  (…and speaking of noise receptor journal no.1, I only have a handful of copies left – so move fast if you want one!  info: here).

Given that I have now fallen into a bit of a rhythm of publishing a review a week, let’s see where the next 12 months leads. Thanks also to you the readers – which from the statistics function of wordpress I can see span all corners of the globe – as it you continued perusal of this site which is the main reason it exists in the first place.

To the next twelve months and beyond…

Various Artists – Philosophy of a Knife

POAK

Various Artists – Philosophy of a Knife CD Peripheral Records 2012

Being Peripheral Record’s first compilation this is evidently the first in a series, and whilst not containing an iron clad conceptual statement, themes of blades, medical procedures, vivisections etc are evident on a number of the artist’s compositions.  So without and further fanfare, here follows a brief track by track review of the eleven contributions:

  • White Walls are up first and present ‘Sacrificed’ – a seething and ominous death industrial track complete with medical atrocity focused dialogue sample, which results in a sound not too dissimilar to Steel Hook Prosthesis.  A great opening offering.
  • Brighter Death Now’s previously released ‘Kill Useless People’ is up next, being a squelching noise and mid paced rhythmic power electronics assault, complete with the obligatory misanthropic ranted vocals. This is Brighter Death Now – no more, no less, no further comment.
  • Staalkracht’s ‘Human Vivisection’ elects for an overblown, distortion driven and somewhat freeform industrial noise styled track, including wailing vocals being partially buried in the mix. In a word, chaotic.
  • Contagious Orgasm alternately opts for an experimental soundscape, where ‘Evidence Destruction’ is constructed with scraps of a melodious piano tune and voice samples, which then shifts into a pulsing electronic programmed segment.  Certainly very different to the bulk of the other contributions.
  • Bagman follow and appear to be very much of the new current crop of UK power electronics acts, where ‘The Hidden Blade’ is constructed with layered pulsing sonics, burrowing noise and distorted shredded vocals.  Hard and straightforward power electronics – and excellent for it.
  • IRM yet again demonstrate why they are held in such high regard with the presentation of their live track ‘order (Variation III)’.  This excellent live rendition is faithful to the studio counterpart, but notably the vocals are more harrowing and urgent, being yelled / screamed over an anxiety including bed of oscillating electronic and layered noise. Fantastic as expected.
  • Barrikad moves off into slightly more freeform territory with ‘Howls for Valerie Solanas: Confronting Misogynists’, which is a track of overblown junk metal abuse verging on a noise styled approach, with some minor elements of structure and vocals buried within the general cacophony.  Solid, but not entirely my thing.
  • Atrabilis Sunrise step up and stands out from preceding material on ‘The World is Full of Me’, which is evidently a live track.  Here the sound is sharp dry and clinical, with a throbbing rhythmic undercurrent and yelled / flanged vocals which brings to mind the power electronics style of early Haus Arafna.  Without doubt a standout composition.
  • Dry Greed’s offering comes in the form of ‘Nanking Safety Zone’, which is both noisy yet somehow hollow in tone and atmosphere, and with its overall grinding / sweeping timbre it reminds of the overblown mayhem of Propergol’s early albums. In other words good.
  • BrandKommando embraces an analogue industrial noise meets power electronics type style on their track ‘Unit 731’.  The composition is relatively loose in construction, which contains further medical atrocity documentary samples and wailing vocalisations, which if a comparison was to be made it partly reminds of mid era Grunt. Translate this again as meaning a good track.
  • Kristus Kut are the act to conclude the CD and delivers a weirdly experimental composition ‘The Call of the Mermaid’, which is based on cyclic drones (didgeridoo or sampled Tibetan throat singing?) and abstract micro-tonal scratching / scraping sounds etc, to create an unusual ritualised soundscape. Bizarre and almost slightly out of place of the CD.

Without labouring the point, if you’re not a fan of industrial noise, power electronics and related sounds this compilation will not alter your opinion of such genres – but this is not really the point.  Clearly this compilation knows its target audience and delivers a solid collection of tracks from both recognised and more obscure acts.  With a straight forward DVD styled packaging (limitation of 250 copies), obviously you will know if this is for you.