I.Corax – From Goldem Flesh to Silverb One / Kuilu

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I.Corax – From Goldem Flesh to Silverb One Aural Hypnox CD 2014

I.Corax – Kuilu CD Aural Hypnox 2014

After recently inducting I.Corax into the Aural Hypnox fold, the release campaign of the project’s back catalogue continues.  Here we have two additional reissues of earlier I.Corax albums dating from 2003 and 2004 respectively, both of which were released on the short lived Finnish record label Blue Sector.

Up first is ‘From Goldem Flesh to Silverb One’ which is credited as a live studio rehearsal which was recorded in preparation for a live performance in September, 2003.  This album spans 46 minutes with 8 interlinking untitled tracks, thus unfurls as a singular long form compositions.  Embedded within the core of the album is a hazy disorienting tone within a constantly morphing and enveloping aura.  As such the album broadly covers an animated atmosphere of layered looped elements, including wailing ritual horns, with other passages spanning serene widescreen ritual/ dark ambient soundscapes which to a degree reminds of the atmosphere of label mate Zoat Aon.  Other passages seek tensile droning ritual ambient atmospheres underscored with prominently layers of natural/ nature based field recordings, throbbing bass undercurrents, sparse ritualised chimes and twisted unintelligible vocalisations.

The next album ‘Kuilu’ was issued in 2004 its original form, however the recording itself dates from March 2002, being a live recording of I.Corax’s first live performance. As such 4 tracks spanning 40 minutes (6 to 13 minutes each) evoke sweeping and darkly brooding atmospheres which is a touch less animated and slowly paced when compared to ‘From Goldem Flesh to Silverb One’.  ‘The Face of the Sun’ opens proceedings with subdued but shimmering looped structure, where additionally sound elements and disorienting vocalizations are gradually added to greater swirling miasmic effect. This piece bleeds directly into the next tracks ‘Menhir’ which follows a similar sonic template of loose loops and scattered sonic elements but introducing a slow thumping ritual beat to provide a greater degree of focus.  Alternately with its sparse swilling structure, distant widescreen drones and low sporadic bass thumps ‘Tephra’ follows a more straight forward dark ambient sound, whilst the final of the four pieces ‘Animus Desertis’ concludes the album in a style and sound reminiscent of 1970’s space synth music, complete with darkly brooding galactic toned echoed/ droning/ sweeping synth lines and microtonal/ scratching sound elements etc.

Noting that the more recent studio recorded material of I.Corax incorporates a greater degree of synthetic elements and encompasses an overarching swirling, chaotic and at times disorientating atmosphere, these two earlier recordings are somewhat more controlled and seem to be underscored a greater reliance on actual played instrumentation.  As such this would seem to be the sonic by-product of these recordings being derived from a live setting, rather than the more complex studio recordings from the project.  As per the established visual aesthetic for Aural Hypnox, the packaging for both constitutes beautifully designed screen printed cardboard covers, with a range of printed inserts and booklets.  Both albums are available separately or otherwise housed together in a hand-made silkscreened cloth pouch in a limited edition of 77 copies.

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Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II / Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology

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Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

As should be clearly apparent from the title, this is the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series and again focuses on aspects of Sardinian criminal history and culture.  For this instalment: “The concept slightly moves from the blood-feud/knife obsessive themes of the first work, toward the aftermath of the war between families that lead the protagonist of our tale to turn into a feral life style on impenetrable mountains, ‘living like boars and sleeping like foxes’, until his capture and subsequent confinement in the notorious Boncammino’s jail. The solitude of the forced mountain life meets the despair of 30 years of life in a cage of the notorious legal larger.”

As with the first collaboration the individual sound and direction of both Uncodified and Wertham are clearly complimentary and again deliver a strong and focused amalgam of their styles.  Essentially ‘Vindicta II’ encompasses a collection of tracks where the bulk of proceedings are marked by various combinations burrowing atonal synth lines, shuddering industrial clamor, static fried frequencies and echo treated spoken/ shouted vocals.  As such the album is one which expertly combines grinding industrial noise and shuddering yet muted power electronic structures.  The sound of the album also differs from ‘Vindicta I’ in that it is far less sonically invasive in tone, where ‘Vindicta II’ also achieves a controlled and restrained feel to its outwardly aggressive elements.  With the sound frequencies generally sitting at the mid to lower range, this is also a clear differentiating point from the first instalment which contained many tracks with prominent elements of mid to high pitched tinnitus inducing noise.   Also whilst being clearly aggressive the production of ‘Vindicta II’ is one which is also low key and sweepingly atmospheric.  Noting its sonorous consistency this is an album best appreciated in its totality; as an overarching block of sound, rather than singling out specific pieces; where a tone of general noise squalor and an atmosphere of tense oppression and confinement prevail, thus suitably reflecting the album’s thematic focus.  Yet given the strong coherence of the bulk of the album the final track deviates quite markedly from the balance of the album as it encompasses the later era of Haus Arafna styled piece of subdued atonal rhythmic power-electronics.

Essentially the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series is faithful to the sound and concept of the first, yet also achieves a differing tonal approach which sets it apart.  With a third CD in the trilogy planned to round out the concept, which based on the strength of the first two is a release on the horizon to look out for.

Released at the same time as ‘Vindicta II’, ‘Hardcore Methodology’ is the new album from Uncodifed and whilst technically a solo outing, 8 of the 15 tracks feature collaborations with other artists, including: Gianlica Favaron, Bologna Violenta, Caligula 031, Sshe Retina Stimulants and Simon Balestrazzi.  Tonally ‘Hardcore Methodology’ presents a varied recording which spans many aspects of harsher underground experimental sounds and encapsulates fractures synth textures, sparse loose rhythmic elements, atonal synth drones, grinding bass tonality etc. The album displays a sharp and loud production with a certain sonic crispness to the tone and as stated by the promo sheet the album encompasses “abrasive post-industrial experimentation”.

Generally more abstract and varied in tone and approach that ‘Vindicta II’, the overarching feel of the album is as a collection of sonic experimentations rather than being structured around a strong central theme.  Evidently the album’s title does make some conceptual reference to the obsessive methodologies employed by directors of Hardcore movies, however exactly what such methodologies are and how they relate to this album is not clear (…perhaps the album is abstract homage to ‘obsessiveness’, but here focused on experimental industrial sounds?).

Although there are many strong brooding segments (such as ‘(L) Hotel’) and other tracks with excellent tonal qualities (such as the sonically invasive ‘Collection of Clothes’) which are spread throughout the album, I can’t shake the feeling that the album plays out as a collection of sporadic tracks which lacks an element of coherence due to the track’s being on the shorter side (between 0.16 seconds at the shortest and the longest at 4.10 minutes).  A clear misstep is also evident on ‘Anterooms’ where the sullen mood is jarringly interrupted by the inclusion of a pre-set rhythm from a cheap casio keyboard (?).  But countering this, late album tracks ‘Cotton Pads’ and ‘Methodology 3 (end of report)’ each contain a fierce higher range tonal spectrum which would not be out of place on the ‘Vindicta I’ album, sans the aggressive vocalisations.

Although ‘Hardcore Methodology’ constitutes an interesting listen with some excellent sonic moments, to this ear it also suffers from a bit of a scattergun approach and lack of thematic focus.  Whilst this presents somewhat of an issue for this reviewer, for others not who prefer straight sonic experiments for their own sake, this could fit the bill perfectly. But when placing ‘Hardcore Methodology’ in direct comparison with ‘Vindicta II’, the later wins out in style, focus and finesse.

Kranivm – Insanatorivm / The Brighter Edge of Death / I – The Blood

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Kranivm – Insanatorivm LP Urashima 2014

Kranivm – The Brighter Edge of Death LP Urashima 2014

Kranivm – I – The Blood LP Urashima 2014

As much knowledge as one can amass regarding underground musical obscurities (20+ years and counting on my part), there can still be projects which slip by unnoticed.  Thus it was not until Urashima recently reissued Kranivm’s entire back-catalogue across 3 separate LP’s that I became aware of the project and more importantly that it was a side project of the late Marco Corbelli aka Atrax Morgue.  Noting that Kranivm was evidently Marco’s response to his personal obsession with Brighter Death Now, it makes it even more odd that Kranivm simply passed me by for all these years (…better late than never as the saying goes). So to quickly recap on context, Kranivm was a short lived project operated for a mere two years between 1993 and 1995 with 3 x cassette’s issued on his own Slaughter Productions label.  Each of these tapes has now been pressed on its own separate LP as part of this re-issue.

Regarding Kranivm’s general sonic direction it pushed the death ambient sound of Brighter Death Now into more obscure, lo-fi and unrefined realms, where the atmosphere is dank, morose and morbid in the absolute best way possible.  There is also a definitive aura of the early to mid-1990’s which reflects the era of when this material was produced.  However one element which sets this apart from pure BDN plagiarism is the occasional use of sampled Gregorian chants, which for obvious reasons begs a passing comparison to raison d’etre, particularly with regarding to their more abstract and noisy industrial/ ambient soundscapes.

‘Insanatorivm’ was the first statement from the project and features oozing analogue, inky black, bass addled darkness, where the Gregorian chants of the opener ‘Rex Profanae’ work particularly well against the layered bass rumble.  ‘Words of Death’ then features a ‘barely there’ death ambient structure of bass layers and random semi rhythmic knockings, whilst ‘Cryptic Regions’ is pretty much spot on as the title may suggest – a dank, distant and echoed subterranean soundscape of the highest caliber.  Side B of the LP features two lengthy pieces ‘Insanatorivm pt.I’ and ‘Insanatorivm pt.II’ which are more subdued and grim in tone, with low shuddering bass tones and a general barren windswept ambience, further complimented with ranting dialogue samples on part I and distant Gregorian chants on part II.

‘The Brighter Edge of Death’ was the second Kranivm release and displays a particular homage to Brighter Death Now via its title.  Again the music is very much in a distant death ambient style, complete with metallic echo infused soundscapes, dour muted synths, sporadic low bass thuds, whilst the first track features religious laments in the form of sampled Gregorian chants.  There is also a type of continuation of the material found on the preceding ‘Insanatorivm’ LP particularly as ‘Insanatorivm pt.III’ and ‘Insanatorivm pt.IV’ are included as the first and last tracks on this LP.

‘I – Blood’ comes as the final release and deviates slightly into more ‘active’ realms by featuring 8 shorter tracks.  Opening piece ‘La Noche de Terror Ciego’ creates a classic horror soundtrack vibe with sporadic industrial noise and plodding piano (Sampled? Not sure).  Broadly speaking the death ambient tone of the first two LP’s remains here, but the layered semi-melodious synths and semi-buried sampled classical music give this a slightly differing edge.  Overall the material on ‘I – Blood’ is also a touch more active in its layering and on occasions reminds of what Brighter Death Now achieved on their early work ‘The Slaughterhouse’.

Although issued as 3 separate LP’s they are best appreciated in the complete totality of Kranivm’s recordings, rather than being separated into individual LP’s.  Although Kranivm’s work does not deviate from a relatively simplistic death ambient/ industrial template, this is done with the particular bleak minimalism which is characteristic of Marco’s work and in this context is done so with absolute finesse to nail a sound of analogue gloom perfectly.  With Urashima’s ongoing limitation of 99 copies, you best know what to do.

 

Halo Manash – Se Its En

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Halo Manash – Se Its En CD Aural Hypnox 2014

This CD is not a new album for Halo Manash, rather is the release of their super limited debut album from 2003 which was issued in an edition of only 100 copies.  Accordingly the liner notes associated with the original version provides useful context: “Se Its En is an album dedicated to seven specific dreams I saw between November 2002 and February 2003. Basically every track is an individual separate part, but when they are listened in a given order they form entirety – A guide to transformation, to dynamic wholeness. Se Its En perfects the whole”.

Noting the central focus of later Halo Manash albums is a reliance on played instruments and ritual percussive implements, this debut differs in that organic instrumentation is coupled with a far more prominent droning synthetic base.  As such the sound and atmosphere is drive and underpinned by melodious and sustained analogue synthesiser generated notes, where combinations of sparse percussion provides a general sense of structure within selected tracks.  Additionally low whispered to garble chanted vocalisations add to the spiritual and ritualised atmosphere.  The format of the album follows a reasonably focused and strict format of 7 tracks, equally exactly 7 minutes each, yet with the tracks morphing and interlinking into each other, as with most of Aural Hypnox’s releases, they form singular enveloping album length meditative journeys.  Halo Manash have always operated in the regions between dark ambient and ritual ambient, overall ‘Se Its En’ typically leans towards a dark ambient framework, with some ritual ambient elements incorporated for good measure.  Yet interestingly it is the fifth composition ‘Ulterior’ with its prominent tribalised percussive drive partially reflects a sound and style of Halo Manash’s latest album ‘Wesieni Wainajat’.

Although that the personal preference of this review leans more heavily towards Halo Manash’s organic ritual ambient style found later albums, ‘Se Its En’ is still a fine debut and demonstration of where the project began and where they have evolved over the course of subsequent albums.  Packaging reflects the current Aural Hypnox format of cardboard fold out sleeve, and printed screen printed booklet and inserts.

Arbiter – Negatively-Existent Cell

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Arbiter – Negatively-Existent Cell MC Fieldwork 2014

With scant information available on this apparently new project this cassette appears to be Arbiter’s debut release.  Although I am uncertain of the country of origin, if I were to hazard a guess I might suggest that Arbiter are an American project but which is heavily influenced by a Northern European ‘industrial noise’ and an analogue experimental ‘tape manipulation’ sound. Noting that the cassette format does the grit and intensity of this material suitable justice, with its short length (approximately 15 minutes) this could have equally been suited to another analogue medium – the 7” vinyl (…but with that said Fieldwork have to date been staunchly focused on cassette only releases).

Although ‘Negatively-Existent Cell’ does contain sound elements which push towards nosier realms the overarching tone is one of stalking & controlled industrial noise abstraction. Thus calling this experimental industrial or even ‘post-mortem’ is relevant with each descriptor doing this adequate justice. Also not that I like to generally quote slabs of press releases, I do feel the succinct two sentence promo statement is exactly on the mark, and I quote: “Two tracks of freezing paranoiac industrial. Rich layers of analogue synthesis and mechanical decreptitude”.

The first track ‘Lead Laden Assemblage’ by fact of its title already begins to paint a ‘mind’s eye’ picture of the sound on display. Here analogue muted industrial to droning noise characterises the opening passage to generate a thick tone and laborious atmosphere. Things then get more complex with some understated microscopic metallic ‘contact microphone’ recorded textures (i.e. think a large metal canister being slowly warped and crushed), whilst the wavering/ oscillating abstract factory clamour becomes slightly more forceful and rabid. The second piece ‘Shattered Abstractions’ is slightly more loose in construction, having a more distant and cavernous atmosphere, but gradually elevates itself into more overblown and cacophonous territory consisting of shuddering blocks of sound, where morose oscillating drones are then used to tie together the overall atmosphere to achieve a broodingly excellent track.

Fieldwork may not be the biggest or the most prolific of labels, but they are doing an excellent job in building an underground industrial noise focused micro cassette label with a striking visual aesthetic. Arbiter are an excellent addition to the roster, where this is a strong and convincing debut recording.