Various Artists – Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik 2xLP, 7”ep Verlautbarung 2013
Compilations can be approached in a couple of ways. On one hand they might be ‘just’ a collection of tracks and on the other they may be structured around a strongly defined theme or concept. This compilation is definitely of the later where ‘stone’ forms the thematic focus. 15 predominantly northern European artists have provided contributions (although at least 3 acts are from the UK), who have made a wide variety of interpretations in sonically approaching this theme and in the process created a diverse and comprehensive listen. Although collectively the artists’ have an general experimental bent, this is not of a clinical academic type, rather all artists’ have a solid footing in the darker genres spanning: experimental, noise, industrial, field recording, ritual ambient etc. As such this is not a compilation of stuffy academic experimental sounds, rather it is the dirty and caustic sounds of the underground. So, on with a track by track run down:
- Irgun Z’wai Leumi – ‘Landslide Floorfiller’: This somewhat obscure side project of Proiekt Hat bring a piece of filth infested, heavy burrowing distortion and mid paced mechanised tape loops. Having a thick, weighty, yet warm analogue sound (where overlapping layered loops build in intensity), it is an excellent introduction.
- Amph – ‘After Nature’: opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent.
- Hal Hutchinson – ‘Dead Weight’: delivers an example of his recognised raw junk metal abuse which has lots of tonal space and depth. Not being overlay chaotic, this is noise from a ‘breathing’ experimental angle, where it sounds to be have been constructed with multiple junk metal recording sessions. With an atmosphere of cascading metallic clatter, it very much sounds like a washing machine being thrown down a stairwell.
- Enklav – ‘Skiffer – Förbannad Jord’: sits within a 1980’s ‘clanging’ analogue industrial sound, which combines loose thumping rhythms with micro tonal textures sitting well in the background. Death industrial meets tape experimentations perhaps?
- Vårtgård – ‘Grufvan’: delivers forceful electronics waves as an example of solid old school death industrial grinding structures, burrowing textures etc. Being of a monotonous structure there is only gradual evolution throughout.
- Clew Of Theseus – ‘Stronghold’: forms a track of meditative drones which is quasi-ritual in tone. The mood in one where a deep, hollow and distant drone merges with metallic synth elements which contain a buried harmonic quality.
- Kristian Olsson – ‘Stenlunga’: is loose and less chaotic and oppressive than Kristian’s main work as Alfarmania. Sparse tape manipulations build with a muffled sound and distant squall – like being inside a tornado bunker as the storm rages outside. What sounds like a lone organ drone lament is buried within the mix which a nice touch.
- Niellerade Fallibilisthorstar – ‘Kilhacka’: delivers a distant, muffled and hollow drone which cyclically builds with more fine grained ‘crunching’ textures. Metallic gong like tones, dense rumbles and random textural sounds add sonic diversity.
- MNEM – ‘Troktopillar’: forms a track of heavy industrial noise loop manipulations, where stilted conveyor belt type loops form the main basis as more forceful looped layers are added and subtracted from the composition.
- Jeph Jerman – ‘Lithiary Redux’: focuses on experimental, micro-tonal sound textures which are somewhat ‘wet’ in tone and sounding like field recordings made in the hull of a ship. Here is the track has a great detailed atmosphere built on blend of scratching, tapping, scraping sound elements.
- Doroga – ‘Kiviteline’: constitutes an excellent ritual ambient track which is sparse in composition, featuring gongs, chimes and slow thudding ritualistic beat, with the overarching atmosphere being of an echoed depths of catacomb. With skin, metal and bones listed as sound sources/ instruments this provides an idea of the ominous tone.
- Dieter Müh – Fältspat: delivers an experimental ambient soundscape which is located somewhere between the borders of dark ambient to post-industrial music. Vague rhythmic structures, stone scraping sounds and distant, minimal drones mix to generate a mysterious sonic aura.
- Ochu – ‘Ren Marmor (För George Mallory)’: Here loose ritual percussive elements mix with minimal tape loops etc. Sparse and echoed, with a gradual layering of micro-sounds textures (contact microphone in a bowl of rocks?) and occasional gong hits provides a solid and engaging atmosphere.
- Contrastate – ‘Haunted’: Sounding only as Contrastate can, their offering is distant, forlorn, mysterious, tragic in equal measures. Here warm layered organ type drones, occasional rhythmic loops and slow drawling poetic vocals give a distinct Contrastate flavour. ‘Beauty in darkness’ seems a complimentary description for this dark midnight and film noir type atmosphere.
- Feine Trinkers Bei Pinkels Daheim – ‘Notschrei’: Last album track reverts to the experimental where sound clutter and sweeping atonal textures function in an ebb and flow style. The track also moves into animated ‘wind tunnel’ drone territory as well as sacral drone ambient with orchestral elements and sampled choirs.
‘Stein’ is an example of a compilation which absolutely works in terms of both sonic variety and conceptual focus. It features a strong, varied and intelligent set of experimental underground compositions, made all the more engaging due to the presence of a solid conceptual basis. Pressed on heavy weight vinyl, housed in a thick card stock cover and complimented with additional booklet containing individual artwork and text for each project’s offering rounds out the presentation. A rock solid compilation (…if such an obvious metaphor is not in poor taste).