Mshing – Exterminate

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Mshing – Exterminate 3”CDr L.White Records 2014

Mshing constitutes an Australian project (helmed by Luke Holland), whom have not cropped up on this radar before but incidentally have been around since 2005.  Noting that Mshing already have 20+ releases to their name, evidently earlier material was more of a harsh noise variety, whereas on this release the project has gravitated towards a death industrial/ power electronics style and sound.  Given that the harsh noise does not amount to much of this reviewer’s listening habits whereas obviously a lot of death industrial/ power electronics does, it seems an opportune time to check out the project.

The short 2 minute track ‘Cleanse’ opens proceedings with festering analogue death industrial piece, where a vague element of structure provided by a slow thumping rhythm (distorted bass or drum machine – not sure?). ‘Exterminate’ is up next with a more loosely constructed rumbling mass of bass heavy sonics and seething, semi-buried, distortion and echo treated vocals which are spoken in delivery rather than the typical aggressive shouted/ yelled delivery.  The instrumental ‘Defile’ continues with a similar sonic sphere, but contains a slightly greater sense of structure with its throbbing and cascading mid paced rhythmic loops. Certainly a solid offering. For the final track ‘Weaken’ it elevates towards a more direct yet loose power electronics squall, with sharp mid-toned shuddering distortion and unintelligible aggressive treated vocalisations.

Overall this mini-release is both heavy and seething, but at the same time somewhat subdued compared to typical overtly aggressive elements of genre, meaning aural violence is implied rather than executed through an all-out sonic assault.  Given that on this short 21 minute release Mshing display strong abilities with a bleak death industrial/ power electronics sound, it will be interesting to see where the project heads on future offerings.

Terra Sancta – Exile

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Terra Sancta – Exile CD Malignant Records 2014

The long-standing yet semi-obscured (and perhaps rather underrated) Australian dark ambient project has finally returned with a new album.  This is their third, following a long 6 year break since 2008’s full length ‘Aeon’ (…although 2011 saw the release of the ‘Sunken | Buried | Forgotten’ EP, this rather short 21 minute ‘between albums’ release simply did not achieve the pinnacle heights of the early full lengths).  So with regard to ‘Exile’, Terra Sancta is still concerned the sonic representations of windswept desert landscapes, yet on this new release there is a sense of an even greater clarity and expansive tonal breath, as in comparison earlier material was slightly more murky, echoed and ‘deep mineshaft’ in tone. With its minimalist ambience, there is also an additional undercurrent of minor keyed drone chords and buried melodies which provide a sense of vague harmonic structure and is what really makes this material shine.

‘Empires of Ashes’ and ‘Kingdom of Dust’ combine to introduce the album over a span of 15 minute which is monolithic in scope. Here the barren and windswept desert drones are offset with ambient sub-orchestral harmonics, which include synth layers which function to replicate the mood of deep resounding horns, maudlin strings and choir like vocals with truly sublime results.  ‘Celestial Extinction’ arrives as the album’s collaborative composition and features the inputs of fellow label mate Rasalhague.  As such the track differs with (ever so slightly) more movement and animation to its ebb and flow and by being a touch heavier and more bass driven brooding composition.  ‘Desolate Land’ is then positioned at the centre of the album, where the title is very much evoked through the use of ‘whipping storms’ field recordings coupled with minimalistic atonal drones.  Alternately the later sections of ‘Vanishing Point’ sees the introduction of some heavy scrapping metallic textures, but these are partially blunted in tone so as not to be obtrusive alongside the heavy maudlin synth drones (which partly resemble orchestral motions and choir like layered textures).  Being the shortest track at less than 4 minutes, ‘End Path’ concludes the album again reflecting the sound of the buried orchestral drone chords which are found throughout the album.

By now with dark ambient being a rather bloated genre, Terra Sancta handle their sound with class and style and sidestep becoming clichéd, or worse forgettable background music.  Whilst Terra Sancta do not seek to break the mould of the genre there are really a sense of something MORE within this album – the sound of a project which has been refined and elevated above even the high standards of earlier albums.  With its illustration of barren, desolate and abandoned landscapes, the imagery of the 6 panel digi-sleeve suitably rounds out the visuals of the album.

Alfarmania / Proiekt Hat – Astral Slaktmask

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Alfarmania / Proiekt Hat – Astral Slaktmask MC Chefsideologens Bolag 2014

Although being familiar with the individual output of both projects, their two prior collaborations passed me by (being the ‘Sundsvalls Elit’ MC from 2006 and the ‘Furyfication’ LP from 2007), therefore I am quite not sure how this compares. Yet from sampling this cassette it would seem that Proiekt Hat’s involvement has tempered the longer form compositions typical of Alfarmania (as this tape is very much a collection of individual tracks), whilst also injecting a greater degree of stilted, mechanised structure.  Also interestingly it seems that apart from the three listed collaborations with Alfarmania, Proiekt Hat have been otherwise inactive, noting the last solo release was the ‘Make Sense’ MC from 2006.

Given that both acts are imbedded within a lo-fi analogue Swedish industrial noise/ power electronics cassette culture (aka – ‘post-mortem’ sound), the sound of each project compliments the other rather well. As such this tape is very much concerned with the presentation of reverb drenched analogue atmospheres and stilted caustic industrial rhythms (akin to malfunctioning conveyor belts and the like). Tracks are built upon a filthy bed of shuddering industrial debris, queasy wavering textures, random radio chatter, and general abandoned factory ambience, which is further cut through with wailing emergency sirens, drawling fog horns and other sonic clutter to generate a cold war ‘radiation fallout’ type ambience. The title track ‘Astral Slaktmask’ rates a mention, being a tense track of meat grinding mid-range frequencies, sweeping drones and sporadic industrial bass thump, which stretches out over an extended length. ‘Full Tank’ also elevates the mood through a more forceful composition of idling factory rhythms, crumbling noise and burrowing mid-range textures, and a blast furnace aesthetic typical of Alfarmania. Moving through a range of reverb drenched warehouse type atmospheres, post-apocalyptic soundscapes and passages of dark brooding death ambient intensity, the tape closes out with ‘Cut Felling II’, containing a queasy oscillating tone and distant machine gun blasting type distortion. Excellent stuff.

Given the apparent desire for both projects to remain obscured within the underground cassette culture (or failing that, total apathy on their part for underground ‘popularity’), ‘Austral Slaktmask’ function as another audio monument to the apparent ease with which Alfarmania and Proiekt Hat evoke rugged analogue industrial noise soundscapes which are heavily imbedded with sense of dread and unease.

Dissecting Table / Sektor 304 – Utopia / Decay

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Dissecting Table / Sektor 304 – Utopia / Decay LP Malignant Records 2014

Dissecting Table and Sektor 304 have teamed up for this split release which is the second paring of these two industrial projects. On the earlier split CD from 2012 it featured each act remixing the others source material, whereas this split features new individual material from both.

Dissecting Table lead off on the first side where Ichiro Tsuji delivers a slab of his trademark pummeling, manic and chaotic rhythmic industrial. ‘Ideal Market’ features digital squalling noise placed over a base of fast paced tribal/ rhythmic metallic percussion including mirroring bass guitar playing (…in amongst the general chaos the track does fall into occasional moments of respite). ‘Cover Pressure Rank’ follows and matches the commotion of first track, but here the drumming approach is more of a standard kit style than tribal driven (…in fact segments of this track are even more squalling and chaotic than anything preceding it). Whilst the last of three tracks ‘Blind Despair and Hope’ does not significantly deviate in style, it does evoke an atmosphere akin to a ‘chase’ scene from a 1980’s styled horror movie. Being stylistically quirky in tone the final segment pulls back to a short section of calm Asiatic ritual chimes before one final chaotic rhythmic run to the final vinyl groove. Essentially your appreciation of the first side of the vinyl will be very much guided by your feelings for prior Dissecting Table material as this is pretty much solid and typical fare for the project (…aka overblown rhythmic industrial chaos).

Moving onto Sektor 304’s side, it presents a singular sound work spanning 4 interconnecting tracks. ‘Motion Through Pressure leads off with a lurching militant industrial throb, which is clearly less of the industrial percussive style the band is known for (…and effectively acts as the introductory segment). Leading directly into ‘Vertical Structure Control’, the second segment is more stereotypical of Sektor 304, meaning excellent classic sounding ‘oil barrel’ industrial with a heavy percussive structure. Here Martin Bladh is featured as a guest vocalist, where his slightly treated spoken vocals make an appearance (…seemingly reciting technical related information), as a second heavier vocal line urgently yells in the background (…is this also Martin? Not quite sure…). ‘Aftermath Data Analysis’ falls into a more minimalist camp with a metallic throb/ clinical pulse and sparse industrial scraping textures, again featuring the layered spoken vocals of Martin. The final segment ‘Power Through Strength’ arrives to reprise the slow lurching militant industrial rhythm of the opening passage, but drawing this out over an extended length. Here the piece expertly builds tension through the gradual introduction of heavier percussive/ metallic elements, in addition to a misanthropic dialogue sample. As displayed on their side of the vinyl Sektor 304 continue to expand the scope of their now recognized ‘old school’ (but forward thinking) industrial approach, by pushing their sound into more diverse sonic territories, with simply excellent results.

Given the chosen format it is great to see that Malignant Records are embracing the vinyl medium which also includes the recent Jarl/ Skin Area collaboration split LP. However with a limitation of only 200 copies, this is unlikely to be around for long.

Troum – Mare Morphosis

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Troum – Mare Morphosis CD Transgredient Records 2013

Expectations relating to any project’s artistic output can be an interesting thing. On one hand you might think you have a handle on what a project is about and what a new album may encompass, yet there are also those who manage to transcend such expectations which is clearly to their credit. So enter Troum, an act I have listened to sporadically over the years, without necessarily checking out every new release.  Yet if asked to categorise their sound, I would have said with some degree of certainty that they produce ethereal ambient drone music with a focus on hypnotic trance like soundscapes. So then enter ‘Mare Morphosis’, Troum’s new album, which functions to completely shatter this perception. Whilst base elements adhere to a transcendent ambient drone framework, these however have been substantially augmented with composed sub-orchestral elements and even a strong influence from post-rock music (throughout certain album passages).

The single album length composition commences with a structure of ethereal drones(mid paced minor keyed loops, interlinking in various patterns), which then sees the introduction of a lone maudlin violin melody. Yet the biggest surprise is when without warning the track breaks out with full post rock rhythm section (drumming and bass guitar), as the transcendent mood swells in cyclic fashion with the accompanying drones and rousing violin phrase. From here and with a structure of slow metamorphosis, the track gradually moves through a number of subdued droning passages (which reduce to a minimalistic structure), before building and elevating again, repeating over a number of cycles. Through one of these mid album segments the use of kit drumming returns, but here it is in more of a free-form and loose failing style, offset with a loose almost Middle Eastern style harmony. Likewise the end passage is a stunning example of transcendent swelling harmonic drone ambient which still maintains a partial post-rock sensibility in tone, despite not being driven by any drum/ bass backing (…think Eluvium for suitable reference).

In terms of the overall arc of the album its builds to a number of crescendos through the early and mid-phases of the album, before gradually cycling down towards the end over an overall 51 minute expanse. Given the single track format ‘Mare Morphosis’ presents a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ proposition, by requiring the album to be appreciated in a single span, which could potentially be frustrating if wanting to forward to a particular segment of the album. Yet minor formatting issues aside, by sidestepping all preconceptions, ‘Mare Morphosis’ delivers a complex, animated and fully engaging drone work, one which is far more than incidental background music. Given this album demands focus and attention, it also sees Troum seamlessly incorporating musical influences from outside the regular frame of reference for this type of material.  A rewarding listen.