Post Scriptvm – Benommenheit

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Post Scriptvm – Benommenheit CD Tesco Organisation 2014

Whilst Post Scriptvm have been a familiar name for many years this is actually their fifth album and third release for Tesco Organisation. Yet with ‘Benommenheit’ being the first album heard around these parts it has played the role of providing formal introduction to Post Scriptvm’s sonic world (…obviously this is symptomatic of the case that some artist’s miss out on warranted attention due to the sheer volume of material out there…). Nevertheless on first impressions ‘Benommenheit’ slots nicely within a broad post-industrial soundscape style, but approached with a distinctive and highly refined sound. Clearly Post Scriptvm are a project which rely on meticulously composed structures and where there are elements ‘studio trickery’ at play, which begs a more than passing reference to the current era and ‘soundscape’ oriented material of Propergol (…his impression seems to be further solidified by that fact that Post Scriptvm’s second album was released on Proergol’s own label Hermetique).

Across its 9 track and 55 minute span ‘Benommenheit’ delves into loosely composed post-industrial structures consisting of: stilted rhythms, wonky sound textures, hallucinogenic sonic treatments, vague disembodied voices, random radio chatter and the occasionally foray into composed segments with orchestral instrumentation. Of the more composed style ‘Faces Like Masks’ is one such example, with its tense soundtrack styled sub-orchestral mood. Likewise ‘Eerie Cargo’ is imbued with a mood specifically suggested by the title, being one of tense, sparely layered soundscape textures and sporadic percussive and piano flourishes. Late album track ‘Clinging on Like Grim Death’ moves into a differing sonic environment and is heavier than anything which precedes it, being a metallic percussive industrial number of loose clanging rhythms and sampled operatic styled vocals. ‘Mal De Debarquement’ then rounds the album out in maudlin electronics soundscape guise, of layered sweeping orchestral synth textures, sparse industrial grinding/ clanging tones and scattered indecipherable vocoder drenched vocalisations.

Despite its sonic variation, there is a an overarching atmosphere of paranoia throughout, which gives an impression of hidden surveillance and unseen watchers which could be described as rather “Kafkaesque” (…for non-Kafka readers this can be defined as marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity” or “surreal distortion and sense of impending danger”).  As such ‘Benommenheit’ is a varied and darkly experimental album, which also does not shy away from pushing into abstract, surreal and hallucinogenic territory at times (…again dovetailing nicely with the often absurdist tone of Kafka’s described bureaucratic oppression). Clearly this is the work of careful compositional structuring and refinement, which has a depth of sonic texture and detail, whilst most importantly maintaining a focused and engaging atmosphere throughout (…and an album which highlights the error of not checking out the group sooner…). A recommended release.

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Aischrolatreia – Sentient Prison

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Aischrolatreia – Sentient Prison MC Fieldwork 2013

This is the debut tape for the American project Aischrolatreia and associated label Fieldwork where it seems the same two individuals are behind both entities. Noting Fieldwork’s mission statement that they are a: “NYC based label for confrontational and unique sound work on analogue formats”, this professional duplicated tape and cover fits the bill perfectly, given the presentation is slick and visually grim in equal measures. As for the sonics, the tape presents an album’s worth of grinding noise and industrial debris strewn soundscapes (4 lengthy tracks spanning 40 minutes).  The overall tone is one that verges on loosely constructed power electronics aggression, but also holds a clear affinity in style and sound to the Swedish ‘post-mortem’ project Alfarmania and associated morbid industrial noise cassette culture.

Essentially a dank claustrophobia permeates all aspects of the sound, where fractured, churning factory machine rhythms and grinding industrial filth proliferate. Although ‘noise’  is used as a descriptor, this however does not verge anywhere near HNW territory, rather there is tonal separation of noise layers to allow a breadth of sound with room to breathe (yet to further qualify this, the atmosphere of ‘Sentient Prison’ is akin to breathing a tainted atmosphere of choking smoke and ash).  As such this is obscure analogue worship of shuddering distortion and squalling noise, which are presented as loosely constructed arhythmic industrial soundscapes. Sporadic incursions of anguished vocals are also evident yet relegated to another layer in the oppressive sonic mass, thus with an unhurrued and calculated approach it generates an atmosphere of slow brooding menace despise its outwardly jagged tonality.

With the name ‘Aischrolatreia’ roughly translating to: “the cult of the obscene; the worship of filth; a devotion to or worship of filth and obscenity”, the chosen moniker could not have been better suited to the project.  Thus in a no-frills capacity ‘Sentient Prison’ is a solid, gritty and oppressive tape, and one which highlights both Aischrolatreia as a project and Fieldwork as a label to keep an interested eye on.

Morthound – Mortology

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Morthound – Mortology 1990-1996 5xCD Raubbau 2014

This special box set is a lavishly presented 5xCD archival release of the classic Swedish act Morthound, whom somewhat confusingly was also known as Morthond (depending on the release). Here the box set functions to re-release and re-package: the debut cassette (for the first time on CD); the main trilogy of albums released on the lauded Swedish Cold Meat Industry (CMI) label; and a further CD of scattered compositional remains. In taking an initial overview of the varied styles and sounds encapsulated within Morthound’s complete discography, with the passage of time it is abundantly clear that solo project member BJ Nilsen was a significant contributor to the development of the now recognised CMI sound. Likewise despite the extremely varied musical approach displayed between albums, the constant thread is an atmosphere of filmic and soundscape oriented compositions.

‘Death Time’ is up first, which originally was the debut cassette released on the CMI cassette side label Sound Source, and demonstrates the tentative steps of an artist finding his way. Here loose tape manipulations and smatterings of radio/ movie samples intermingle with slow ominous throbbing synths and deathly pounding industrial rhythms, and are very characteristic of the emerging ‘CMI’ style and sound of the time. Likewise ‘Anœsthetic’ and ‘Entertainment in the Desert’ with their tribal percussive thump provide vague hints at a later direction and sound of the project.

Noting the initial steps taken on ‘Death Time’, a further step forward is evident on the formal debut album ‘This Crying Age’.  By specifically building upon the early template, the debut album pushed Morthond’s sound into a far more refined experimental soundscape/ dark ambient style. Features 4 tracks and spanning 54 minutes ‘This Crying Age’ articulates a sonic mood of cold arctic wastelands and ominous dreamlike to nightmarish soundscapes, which are punctuated with ticking clocks, disembodied voices, programmed synths, smatterings of loose industrialised rhythms and the emergence of spare ethnic percussion and woodwind instruments. Thus with its barren arctic ambience ‘This Crying Age’ displays sparse abstract filmic styled soundscapes and at the time of its release clearly helped bed down the nordic CMI dark ambient sound.

Following only a year later in 1992, ‘Spindrift’ represented a significant evolution and resulted in their tour de force album (noting that at this stage the moniker had also evolved slightly to that of Morthound).  Merging experimental dark ambient soundscapes with structures that on occasion veer towards on pop-songs, ‘Spindrift’ still manages to maintain a dark undercurrent throughout.  Also with the emergence of prominent world music relates influences, the album created a style which could be referred to as ‘ethno-ambient’.  Here the compositions are awash with moody synth melodies/ piano movements, percussive industrial/ tribalised rhythms, female sung lead vocals (on ‘Herb of Grace’), and again with smatterings of movie dialogue samples. ‘Riverine’ represents the pinnacle of Morthound’s ethno ambient sound, being an amazing piece of mid paced Asiatic rhythmic chimes and percussion, booming tympani percussion and piano accompaniment which settles into a looped meditative groove which gradually evolves over a 17 minute expanse. In a word this track is marvelous, although somewhat oddly the track has been reordered from being the album’s opening track to that of its centrepiece. As a bonus ‘Shrivatsa’ has been added to this version (originally from the ‘Karmanik Collection’ Compilation CD), and is another absolutely transcendent ethno ambient composition of floating ritual ambience (hurdy gurdy drones, chimes, tabla and soaring flute accompaniment).

With a span of a further two years 1994 saw the release of the third and final official album ‘The Goddess Who Could Make the Ugly World Beautiful’, again displaying a major stylistic shift. At the time of its release fans of ‘Spindrift’s’ ethno-ambient style were shocked by the heavy use of industrial tinged guitars, where repetitive pummeling Godflesh styled guitars and thumping program drum machines sit atop a base of dark ambient to industrial soundscapes. Whilst the guitar oriented sound of project has never been a favourite of Morthound’s around these parts, there are enough filmic dark ambient tracks on the album to make it not totally guitar dominated and in fact with guitars featured on only 3 of the 7 album tracks, referring to this as the ‘guitar’ album is slightly misleading. Of the non guitar pieces, the hazy yet brooding dark ambient atmospheres of ‘hibernation’ (complete with vague disembodied voices floating in and out of the mix), in part mirrors where BJ Nilsen would take his sound post Morthound and as displayed on the debut album ‘Lech’ issued under the Hazard moniker. ‘Syyzygy’ also sees the ‘ethno ambient’ be reprised in full guise, here with full Indian flavour evoked through tabla percussion and sampled ethic female vocals. Yet for all its outward display of stylistic diversity, the crowning achievement of this album is the concluding track ‘World End’. Being an amazing soundscape of doomy droning layers and multitude of abstract yet cinematic sound textures (unintelligible vocal snippets adding to the nightmarish edge), the track breaks out into a final segment of dark industrial tribalism with mid paced ritual drumming and wailing female vocals. Fantastic.

The final of the 5 discs is titled ‘Unleashed 1990-1996’, which collects together an additional 9 previously unreleased Morthound compositions. ‘Woodstock Mayhem’ is noted to engender a freeform structure and almost industrial noise style to its distortion squall, which is clearly a differing sound for the project despite the wide variety of styles already covered.  Likewise ‘Down the Hall’ provides a solid example of ominous ‘unknown lurking fear’ type of dark ambience. For the latter half of this CD are a collection of long-form sprawling, minimalist/ abstract dark ambient compositions (9-14 minutes each), some with tinges of ethno influences (ritual gong, woodwinds etc.), others with a slight mechanised approach, which equally arcs back to the cold minimalism of ‘This Crying Age’ as much as it also mirrors several elements of the hazy swirling atmospheres of Hazard’s debut album ‘Lech’. Although this disc is slightly less focused than other albums in this set (obviously down to the multiple original sources), this is still a solid complimentary disc to bring together the remaining loose threads of the project.

Where ‘Morthology’ excels is that it is far beyond being just an archival ‘completest’ release. This is an expansive and expertly realised document of all Morthound recorded output and functions as the perfect mechanism to revisit the complete back catalogue in reinvigorated packaging and sound. Listening to this set in its totality is a pleasure and is illustrative of the ripples of influence which have radiated out from the early to mid 1990’s when these albums were originally released. For old or new fans alike, your Morthound history lesson awaits.

Aeoga – Temple Treye

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Aeoga – Temple Treye CD Aural Hypnox CD 2014

‘Temple Treye’ is Aeoga’s third album since 2004 and evidently was recorded in 2006 but remained unreleased in the archives until now. To provide some contextual comparison the first two Aeoga albums balanced a sound between ritual soundscapes and dark ambience in a sprawling ‘widescreen’ style, with this general structure being retained on ‘Temple Treye’. Yet this pairing of ritual and dark ambient soundscapes has been augmented with a direct compositional focus to provide a clear sense of direction and drive which differs from the sparser droning framework of earlier albums.

On the opening piece ‘Feast of the Stance’, a prominent single wavering note (horn or perhaps organ?) forms a key focus as low drone and chimes provide a more abstract undercurrent. ‘Between the Crescent Hooks’ follows and establishes a framework of more forceful drones and mid paced rhythms (loosely abstract guitars and rolling hand drum percussion), which gradual elevate in intensity in an upwardly ascending trajectory over its 8 minute expanse. Pulling back to more abstract territory ‘Telemorphic Cuts’ features prominent but lower register sustaining organ drones, with shimmer ritual chimes, with field recordings placed within the background (creaking wood etc. and distant wailing tones etc.). ‘Temple Treye’ then ups the ante again and constitutes the stunning centre piece of the album. Here the title track features a composition of doom laden grinding drones, heaving bass textures, disembodied and echoed chanted vocalisations and sparse chimes, before mid-paced ritual percussion drive the tone forward to its conclusion. ‘Transparallel Mist’ delivers a long form meditative layered drone work with micro-tonal textures, spare ritual percussive sounds, shrill and dissonant bowed strings and an undercurrent of sustained deep bass whines. Then in a type of cyclic synergy, the opening track is reprised on ‘Feast of the Trance’, where a similar soundscape and the same wailing sound texture bring the album full circle.

Whilst Aeoga do inhabit a sonic palate which is clearly comparable to other Aural Hypnox acts, on ‘Temple Treye’ they exemplify a sound which is quite a bit more composed, dynamic and forceful than other label acts. Issued in two versions, including 444 standard editions (screen printed, folded cardboard sleeve with booklet insert), it also comes issued in an edition of 49 deluxe hand-made box sets (pictured), which includes a silk-screen printed canvas pouch, three large collage artwork inserts and a wooden handcrafted, fire seared, screen printed, leather hinged ‘altar’ styled cover (aka the ‘Tricuspid Treye-skladen’). Certainly this represents a striking artisan’s handicraft compliment for the ritualised music found within. Despite the limited box set being already sold out, the standard edition should be readily available.