Various Artists – Slutstationen MC Styggelse 2014
This mammoth 90 minute compilation tape has been curated by the relatively obscure, staunchly underground and analogue focused Swedish label Styggelse which is helmed by Kristian Olsson of Survival Unit/ Alfarmania infamy. ‘Slutstationen’ functions as a varied and comprehensive collection of Nordic based sonic experimenters, who can broadly be filled under industrial noise and power electronics styles as general unifying descriptors. Featuring a total of 16 artists, this includes known artists, rising acts and other more obscure projects (to these ears at least). Likewise noting that ‘Slutstationen’ translates to ‘The Endstation’, this is evidently the third and final compilation in a series and based on the quality and focus displayed here it is unfortunate that the first and second tapes in the series passed me by.
Side A features the largest number of contributions from recognised/ established projects (which can tends to increase the expectation somewhat), so on with the brief rundown of each.
- Vit Fana – ‘Antoniuseld’: opens the tape where a mellow maudlin synth line (horror soundtrack style) give way to slightly metallic radio signal styled loops, where later on a pounding beat and sustained drone ratchets up the tension. A solid introduction to both the project and the compilation.
- Puce Mary – ‘The Course’: delivers high pitched sustained tones which mix with an ominous mid-paced death industrial type beat, where added layers gradually build intensity (mostly loose loops and field type recordings). Late track vocals are presented in a heavy, commanding/ distorted yelled style, to complete a strong and solid offering (which also fosters Puce Mary’s rising profile).
- Brighter Death Now – ‘Enough’: represents the long awaited return of Roger Karmanik who delivers a track which interestingly is neither of the all-encompassing darkness type or all out aggression style of what the project is known. This is something altogether different, with a fast paced pulsing rhythmic structure, mirroring plodding bass and squelching industrial noise. Probably it is only the subdued spoken vocals are a partially recognisable element. Good but certainly different to what might be expected.
- Alfarmania – ‘Nåldyna’: is a hallucinogenic and caustic post-mortem offering, where sparse noise, dialogue samples and piano loops give way to muddied wall or of layered industrial noise filth. Solid stuff and on par with Alfarmania’s prior output.
- Shift – ‘Wipe Them Out’: demonstrates the sheer excellence of Shift’s approach. Here the crushing wall of multi-layered industrial noise/ power electronics squall mirrors and matches the weight, heaviness, density and aggression of Shift’s latest full length album ‘Altamont Rising’. In other words this is simply crushing.
- Händer Som Vårdar – ‘Jag Blev Stolt’: seeks a sonic route based on (what sounds like) abstract tape loop manipulations and scattered dialogue snippets, which gradually evolves within a loose structure (yet remaining minimalist and abstract throughout).
- Theta – ‘Scopaesthesia’: features a cavernous industrial ‘wind tunnel’ aesthetic, where some shaper distortion manages to rise to the surface of the churning sonic mass. Overall the piece manages to stay on the industrial noise rather than HNW side.
- Arv & Miljö – ‘Johnny’: rounds out the first side of the tape through micro-tonal exploration of metallic tones which gradually coalesce into a loosely composed structure and is completed with Swedish dialogue samples.
Flipping over to Side B it is noted to collect together a more obscure range of acts and whilst some are familiar by name, all are unknown within a sonic capacity.
- Ochu – ‘Sopa’: opens the second side with slowly evolving ambient ritual drones, which are built up in layering to become far more forceful and animated, verging on death industrial towards the end.
- Negative Climax – ‘Kaa Anta Ilahama’: opts for more post-industrial spheres, utilised layered heavily distorted drones, where chanted vocals and wooden flute providing a slight ritual edge.
- Treriksröset – ‘Tillägnad Gubb (Vila I Frid)’: function in a capacity of a squalling, loose and chaotic noise approach. Here a rumbling undercurrent drives the lower end with high pitched noise sitting within the foreground.
- Maniac Cop – ‘Fires Blanks’: delivers a relatively basic rugged industrial noise aesthetic, combining filth infused rumbling bass and shuddering mid ranged textures.
- Teufelsdröckh – ‘Namnlös Och Odödlig’: with lethargic drones, factory styled field recordings and windswept ambience, creates a solid example of an experimental/ industrial ‘post-mortem’ type sound exploration.
- Vårtgård – ‘Slåss’: delivers a more forceful industrial noise track, featuring a jagged, crumbling wall of distortion, offset with an scattered chaotic noise and aggressive vocals rendered indecipherable in distortion treatment.
- Arkhe – ‘Vrakloge’: move back into subdued territory by presenting an excellent post-industrial soundscape, where a low distant rumble and oscillating textures – akin to the rotors of an approach helicopter – generate a slow building atmosphere. In effect the muffled and distant ambience and low toned rumble creates an engaging meditative aura.
- A Feast For Vultures – ‘The Prodigal Returns’: constitutes the final compilation contribution, which is a loosely constructed and 80’s ‘old-school’ sounding industrial track. Contained a plodding rhythmic thump, scattered crackling noise and mid-toned atonal drones, it spans a partly composed and partly improvised style. However the track abruptly ends mid-way and seemingly not by choice but due to the limit of the tape’s length. A bit of a shame really.
My own personal barometer for assessing how well conceived a compilation is comes down to whether you get ‘lost’ along the way between various tracks, and clearly this can be more prone to happen with tapes due to the lack of track numbers to follow. Therefore to its credit ‘Slutstationen’ mostly avoids this pitfall, where I only became ‘lost’ at one point during this tape, which then had more to do with the lack of adequate space between the end of one song and the start of the next (between Treriksröset and Maniac Cop if it must be known). Overall I would say the first side is stronger than the second, but this is not to say that any of the contributions on Side B are sub-par. With a limitation of 250 copies and even a more limited distribution, this tape justifies the effort in tracking down a copy.