Rope Society – Dissolve

Scan 53

Rope Society – Dissolve MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

David Tonkin (aka Isomer) has returned with his second release under the Rope Society moniker, noting this is his side project focusing on a mix of rough analog focused industrial noise and power electronics abuse.  In an overarching sense the approach of Rope Society which could be described as David’s personal and current take on ‘classic’ hallmarks of early industrial/ power electronics cassette culture but also sidestepping any sort of cynical attempt to emulate an obvious ‘old-school’ sound.

‘Head Above Water’ commences the tape is relatively subdued fashion, with a low shuddering oscillation and semi-buried barked vocals before things really kick in with ‘Behavioural Interventions’ – a track of skuzzy, squalling and choppy industrialised noise with spoken vocals are positioned low in the mix and semi-mangled with echo treatment. A particular highlight of the tape comes in the form of the final track for Side A, where ‘Hate Campaign’ features a buzzing power electronic drone at its core which has a burrowing and corrosive sonic quality, as some more sporadic and deeply echoed metallic elements are gradually infused to building effect. A focussed and effective sound.

Side B features a further 3 tracks, where ‘Answered In The Negative’ is the first and being quite ‘post-mortem’ in sound – i.e. deep, muffled and distant sounding industrial noise clamour, with a great degree of echo and metallic heft, again with a gradually elevating intensity.  ‘Eyes Shut Tight’ then function to amplify the tone again by featuring a straightforward singularity; incorporating a bass rumbling / squealing toned sonic mass with sporadic incursions of rough barked vocals. ‘Bestial’ is the final of 6 tracks, and concludes the tape on relatively subdued industrial noise terms, with an excellent breadth and tonal separation to its layers. As such the echoed vocals sit well off in the distance; the rumbling bass textures hover ominously overhead; with clattering metallic elements separated within the mid tonal spectrum. An excellent concluding piece.

Overall ‘Dissolve’ is a strong release and to this ear is more focused than the debut ‘One Word Definition’, however this impression is also driven by my own personal sonic preferences, where this tape sits towards dank, bass intoned industrial noise, rather than harsh noise elements which were more prominently displayed on the first tape. Also noting that a few more upcoming recordings from Rope Society are already in the pipeline (including releases on Tesco Organisation and Untergeschoss), meaning the project’s profile should continue to positively increase.

Death Pact International – Australian Units


Death Pact International – Australian Units CD L.White Records 2014

Here is another instalment in the Death Pact International (DPI) conceptual ‘cultural terrorist manifesto’ experiment, where the following statement provides important context: “A moniker devised in 1985 by members of what are now The Grey Wolves. Anyone may use the DPI name to release music, publish printed material, or perform at live events. Such material has no copyright and is the property of everyone. It may be reused or reprinted by any person in any manner, provided that the DPI name is retained”.

This time around DPI constitutes a loose collective of Australian artists which should have already been self-evident from the album’s title.  Although identifying individual contributions to this album is really missing the point, nevertheless ‘Australian Units’ has been developed with the inputs of both recognized and obscured projects, including: Bonsai Kitten, Burden of Administration, Chrysalis, Die Like A God, Ebola Disco, Isomer, Michael J Ellingford, Screwtape and Streicher.  Sitting at the more scuzzy end of industrial and combined with unrefined power electronics, some pieces also veer towards a dark ambient and/ or noise vein, which collectively span a whopping 75 minutes. Yet without attempting to match tracks to contributors, some impressions and highlights of the 16 tracks are outlined below.

‘Intro’ leads off the album being a relatively subdued and short piece of industrial noise built with shuddering tape loops, junk metal abuse and looped sample, before the 2nd ‘untitled’ track launches into a full power electronics barrage of loosely layered and distortion blizzard focused angst, including partially buried barked vocals. Both pieces are crude, aggressive and certainly hit the mark.  On the other hand the 4th track ‘Void’ is focused on chaotic distortion blasts and choppy noise cut ups where its intensity is emphasized due the sporadic gaps of almost silence. The 5th piece ‘Degenerated Blood’ then features a militant orchestral underpinning (mangled samples perhaps?) counterpointing its rough industrial noise, building to cascading intensity over its length. ‘Sins of Memory’ stands out from the bulk of material by virtue of being more industrial tinged dark ambience with its maudlin sub-orchestral synth textures and looped Australian accent inflected sample, as an agonised voice screams somewhere off in the depths of some cavernous space.  The 9th ‘untitled’ track then marks its approach with shuddering industrial noise and semi-buried vocals, with an underpinning sustained quasi-orchestral drone for solid effect.  The 12th (again) ‘untitled’ piece provides some respite from the sonic chaos of preceding pieces, where it is built around cavernous factory basement drones (…as machines slowly grind on the levels above…), with the whispered vocalisations providing an unnerving element.  Late album cut ‘You’ is a short track embodying an atmosphere of urgency, driven by harsh cyclic distortion, squalling noise and unintelligible treated vocalisations, being focused and absolutely to the point. ‘Wall of Spiders’ then forms the last official track (a 16th unlisted is featured), being chaotic and barely structured tempest of mid toned noise.

Intriguingly the final unlisted track features a prominent sample of an aggressive and psychologically unhinged phone conversation with a call centre operator (which itself is echo treated and mixed with a sweeping industrial noise backing).  Thus this sample along with a number of other excellent samples scattered throughout the album functions to collectively illustrate the harshness of the Australian accent, as well the psyche of certain aggressive and antagonistic character types, and provides a positive degree of local flavour to this particular DPI unit.  In an overarching sense ‘Australian Units’ is sprawling in feel which clearly can be put down to the multiple sources of sonic input.  Yet at the same time a general degree of coherence is provided by the generally unrefined, brutal and loose approach to its mix of power electronics and industrial, meaning the album does not feel like a collection of disparate tracks on an unfocused compilation.  For its presentation a slick ‘slim line’ DVD case with printed DPI manifesto completes the well rounded package.

Femeheim – Dominium Terrae


Femeheim – Dominium Terrae CD Death Continues Records 2014

Femeheim have returned with their second album, following the debut from only a year prior (reviewed here) and whilst it was staunchly a lo-fi death industrial affair, the sonic focus of ‘Dominium Terrae’ has been expanded to combine direct power electronics tracks within a slightly more focused death industrial framework.

Pleasingly Femeheim has maintained a direct approach to classic genre traits where album opener ‘Camera Silens’ features a stilted mechanical thrum with a filth infused analogue tone, before bleeding into the caustically ominous throbbing industrial drone of ‘Ewiger Suhnetod’.  The third piece ‘Voluntas… Infamia’ then features a direct and excellent throbbing and squelching analogue tone and garbled/ flanged vocals, noting that if this track were played in isolation without me being told who it is, I would swear it is from the earlier brute force era of Genocide Organ (as a rather direct compliment this track comes across something like an alternate slightly more laidback version of Genocide Organ’s ‘White Power Forces’).  For good measure the following piece ‘Absolute Umkehrung’ opts to channel the pummeling mechanical rhythms of Megaptera, before settling down into a tryptic of slightly more subdued death industrial territory, with lone analogue modulations, throbbing/ wavering frequencies etc.  Late album track ‘Oppertunistsche Infektion’ pushes back towards power electronics territory with the flanged vocal presentation and singular burrowing mid-toned frequency, while the title track then concludes the album which is structured around heaving mid toned cyclic throb, spoken to yelled vocals and slightly mangled choral singing.

‘Dominium Terrae’ is an album that again demonstrates Femeheim clearly understand the classic base elements of the death industrial and power electronics genre and consequently can deliver a strong, genre specific album, where this album has taken a step up from the debut given its more focused and direct approach.  Straightforward graphic presentation rounds out the release, which reflects a simplistic yet stylised visual aesthetic reminiscent of Slaughter Productions.

Funerary Call / Crown Of Bone – Self-titled / Trauma – After Visiting Hours


Funerary Call / Crown Of Bone – Funerary Call / Crown Of Bone MC Fall of Nature 2015

Trauma – After Visiting Hours MC Fall of Nature 2015

Although Fall of Nature was effectively silent during 2014, 2015 is off to a strong start with a swag of new releases; two of which are reviewed below.  The first cassette is a split between the ritual dark ambient Funerary Call and the harsh noise Crown of Bone, whilst the second tape is a re-release from an obscure UK death industrial project Trauma.  Both releases are slickly presented, including professionally pressed and printed cassettes and J cards, which is noteworthy given the small editions of each.

On the split cassette Funerary Call lead off by featuring two lengthy tracks of sparse yet intense dark ambience, and whilst building upon their recognized ritualised aesthetic the tracks sit at the longer, free form and abstract end of what the project do.  The first track ‘Idols Of Perdition’ is more animated and heavingly heavy than usual and works on two broad levels, including yawning cavernous black depths and focused micro tonal ‘scratching’ elements. Grinding synths (emulating hellish horns of death) and creaking metallic elements also substantially augment the mood, and when vocals are also present which amount to a hoarse whisper bleeding into the overall sonic mass.  The second piece ‘Silent Prayers Of Execration’ commences in sparse ritual chimes and sustained wailing elements, before a prominent cyclic bass drone gradually sweeps the track to its conclusion.  All in all a solid two track offering from Funerary Call.

Noting that straight forward harsh noise has never quite been my favorite of styles, Crown of Bone’s side was always going to compare with difficultly to Funerary Call’s side.  Nevertheless Crown of Bone deliver two lengthy tracks of grim static and blasting back noise which effectively combine to form a single cassette side track.  As such a sustained mid-range distortion is coupled with lower bass rumble, whilst vocals of a grim black metal rasp can be detected semi-buried within the mix.  Likewise underneath the wall of static there are detectable dynamics, constituting a gradual shift and flow to various the layers of distortion, where on occasion the mid-range elements fall away to reveal the underpinning/ grinding bass tone structures, which then themselves are gradually elevated in bulk and force.  Mid-way through their side of the tape the blasting wall of mid-range static sheds back into the mix, again with the grim static shredded vocalizations.

Noting my own personal listening tastes, Funerary Call’s side was always likely to be preferred side (and has been proven in the detailed listening), however Crown of Bone do a commendable grimly focused black noise approach, which compliments the occult thematic stance of the tape, as evidenced by its visuals.

For the second reviewed release Fall of Nature have dug up a rather obscure UK project to reissue their 2008 CDr  ‘After Visiting Hours’ on tape.  Self-described as “Slow Growing Surgical Death Noise”, this is good descriptor of what to expect.  As such the material is sparsely constructed, where there is definite room to breathe between sonic elements, including loose looped mechanical rhythms, clinical toned drones, throbbing textures etc.  A slow and controlled pacing across the 8 tracks is also a clear hallmark, where each piece averages a length between 5-6 minutes.  Occasional dialogue samples are utilized to compliment the basic medical themes, whilst there is also definite affinity with the sound and visual aesthetic of early Slaughter Productions releases.  Noting its mid-90’s minimalist style it is impregnated with a certain clinical morbidity and although Trauma’s tape will not change perceptions of this type of material, this has an unrefined and obscured charm all the same.  Clearly Fall of Nature should be commended for excavating this from the underground to give the project some greater spotlight and evidently new material from Trauma will be released on Fall of Nature will be issued in future, so something to look out for.

Consumer Electronics – Estuary English


Consumer Electronics – Estuary English 2 x LP Dirter Promotions 2014

Following William Bennett’s disbandment of Whitehouse in 2008, Phillip Best obviously threw his attention into his own Consumer Electronics project, which since its reactivation in 2007 has gone through a couple of collaborative line-ups.  Most recently it has solidified around Phillip Best (obviously), Russell Haswell as producer/ electronics and Sarah Froelich (now Sarah Best) also on electronics and occasional vocals.  Yet in the months before this album was released a minor ‘internet controversy’ erupted in response to a number of recent live shows, raising question of what could potential be expected from the new album.  Topics of contention focused on the supposed digital sound of new material, the use of (gasp!) ‘techno beats’, and not least Sarah’s vocals.  Such controversy was further stoked when it was announced the new album was a mere 22 minutes long, but being pressed at 45rpm on 2xLP.

Given that I personally do not care for the digital vs analogue debate; I am more interested in the overall feel and impact of a recording.  So yes, ‘Estuary English’ does feature a digital, crisp, clean and most importantly loud production, but this works given the tonal variety across its 6 main tracks and the sheer force of its sonics.  But this is also a Consumer Electronics album; where a huge degree of focus will be on the vocals and lyrics.  Thankfully ‘Estuary English’ features some of Phillip’s most focused and densely constructed lyrics to date, which are all the more powerful given the force of their delivery and most importantly the quality of their recording.  Effectively each spat word drips with disgust and sheer disdain, being an eviscerating ‘naughty word’ laden examination of contemporary UK society and cutting individual focused psychoanalysis. In fact, regardless of its sonic backing it is the lyrics, the spiteful means of their delivery and their clarity which makes them THE standout element of the album.

‘Teknon’ opens proceedings, with a clear focus on the vocals which can hardly be ignored given they are sharply focused and mixed upfront – the only musical elements being a ‘barely there’ fractured squelching tone.  ‘Affirmation’ follows and is structured around an queasy oscillating drone and scattered sound elements, with the ranting vocals again being pushed to the front of the mix.  ‘Sex Offender Boyfriend’ is easily the album standout; an absolute revelation of a track, featuring muted muffled semi rhythmic beat and droning sweeping layers which pan left and right through the speakers, whilst the brilliantly dense and manic vocals are pushed to over the top, self-choking intensity.  This album is worth it for this piece alone in all its 4.26 minute glory.  ‘Come Clean’ follows, constituting a fierce reworking of ‘Cockpit’ from ‘Crowd Pleaser LP from 2009, here being a 2 minute blasting wall of piercing tones and shuddering, overdriven noise mayhem; the vocals processed with a sharp digital edge and semi-buried within the mangled sonic mass.  Another album highlight.  However ‘Co-opted’ is the weakest track on offer (and longest at 5.18 minutes), but not so much for the musical framework of grinding semi-muted 4/4 techno structures and pulsing sweeping digital noise (….although the ‘music’ does sound somewhat pedestrian and uninspired).  Rather this track is the weakest for its absolute lack of lyrics, where only the single phrase “Co-opted by Cunts” is repeated over and over, consequently becoming flaccid in its potential impact.  But then again maybe I am missing the point and each listener is meant to critically self-evaluable whether they are in fact one of the ‘cunts’ co-opting the underground power electronics scene? Interestingly this is the only piece where Sarah gets to display her vocals but which are relegated to a mere couple of wailing backing vocal lines late in the track.  Critically speaking Sarah’s vocals pail in compassion to the rock hardened spite of Phillip’s, so it remains to be seen whether Sarah’s vocals will become a lead feature on future albums.  After this somewhat filler of a piece, the title track redeems proceedings with blasting digital mayhem and the sharply invasive lyrical tirade. Finishing with a rather poetic 30 second spoken word piece ‘Air Lock’, ‘Estuary English’ feels FAR longer than its mere 22 minutes play time, which only exemplifies the extent of ideas crammed into this album over such a short span.

Noting I did not come to this album with any of expectations of what I wanted it to be, rather I aimed to listen with an open ears to the potential alternative directions Phillip might be pushing the project.  Regardless of the back and forth arguments over the short run time, its digital sound, the chosen format of 2 x 45rpm LP’s for such a short release etc., this has been for me at least one of the most listened to and appreciated albums of recent times.  It is an album I have returned to regularly, and despite its outwardly spiteful negativity, when it hits its mark there is an aspect of unbridled ecstasy when listening to this.  The apparent outward chaos on initial listens also falls away over repeated listens, to revealed the degree of meticulous detail of the album’s construction.  Although Consumer Electronics have often been passed off as a mere a side note to Whitehouse, ‘Estuary English’ demonstrates they remain an individual force to be reckoned with.