Fieberflug – über Calais / Schande

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Fieberflug über Calais CDr Les Forges Alliées 2014

Fieberflug – Schande MC Les Forges Alliées 2014

These releases represent my first introduction to Fieberflug, however for some reason I had the impression that the project was much older than 2009 (being the year when their debut release was issued – perhaps I am confusing them with another project of which I now can’t recall?). Regardless, Fieberflug is a German industrial project of one Daniel Simon whom also operates under the more possibly well know monikers of Flutwacht (power electronics) and Amputation Desire (ambient industrial). With Fieberflug Daniel is concerned with a classic German industrial sound, which also draws from northern European expressions of death ambient and death industrial. Here we have two recent releases which have been issued on the small DIY French label Les Forges Alliées.

Up first is the ‘über Calais’ CDr, this features 4 tracks: 3 apparently studio works and the 4th being recorded live during a concert in Calais on 17 January, 2014. Here the sound is generally death industrial in approach, utilizing a heavy dose of metallic focused, echo and reverb toned factory clatter. The cavernous opener (‘Inkubationsphase1’) features an industrial soundscape of sustained windswept drones, before bleeding into the heavy metallic clanging tone of ‘Inkubationsphase2’, where metal on metal sounds generate a slow pounding industrial rhythm. The third piece ‘Neberwachter’ functions more as a subdued cyclic industrial drone, where sparse looped metallic elements and stoic quasi militant percussion provide structure and focus over its extended length. The 4th and final piece is the live recording (and longest at 25 minutes), which seeks to merge distant muted industrial drones with more focused metallic ‘factory ambience’ orientated loops, and sporadic metallic bangs and clangs. The sound is slightly more muffled than the preceding studio pieces and has a slow burn approach as the track gradually morphs into more overblown scope, but stopping short of full power electronics territory. Mid to late track pulling back to calmer realms of sustained industrial drones combined with semi-rhythmic loops, prior to the final push back into distorted and overblown spheres and although a solid piece, to this ear the studio tracks come across as more convincingly overall. Packaging is slightly divergent to the norm by including a plain unbranded CDr and a series of 4 transparent card, which are housed in a zip lock bag.

Moving onto the more recent ‘Schande’ tape, it contains 4 tracks: the first three on side A and a lengthy forth piece on the side B. This tape is mostly concerned with lo-fi mechanical death ambient musings. The material is minimalistic focused, staunchly analogue and suitably dank and cavernous in its tone. Rough, slow and sporadic metallic clangs and ringing notes (sounding like industrial sized Tibetan singing bowls), give some semblance of structure, as the underpinning factory ambience drones bleed off into the inky blackness. Slow paced metallic loops, distant factory clatter and random bumps, thuds and clangs are gradually added and subtracted as the material progresses, where a prominent wheezing sound element is perhaps some heavily treated vocals. The lengthier tape side final piece ‘Schande’ sits in more minimalist windswept plains, with semi-buried throbbing elements, cyclic cavernous loops, distant clangs and echo treated vocal moans.  With the later section of the track the morphs from a death ambient to death industrial sound through the introduction of more forceful loops and metallic elements.  Overall the mood of ‘Schande’ is one which edges towards the early sound of Brighter Death Now or Archon Satani (which is rather large praise from these quarters), albeit slightly less ‘evil’ sounding. Packaging consists of a clear tape with labels and 2 x transparent inserts housed in a zip lock bag.

Regardless of the fact that Fieberflug are not really bringing anything new to the table, I am still a sucker for this sort of dankly atmospheric analogue industrial music. With Fieberflug’s material being focused yet unhurried in pace it brings to mind the sound of the early 90’s underground coming from the pre CMI tape label Sound Source or perhaps Slaughter Productions; where this description alone will be a indicator of if this is something for you. I also appreciate Fieberflug’s music more than what I have previously heard from Flutwacht and Amputation Desire, meaning for me at least this is more than a ‘mere’ side-project. Lastly if you were to start with either of these releases the ‘Schande’ tape would be the pick for its minimalist old school death industrial sound.

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Cold Life – Cold Life / Military Position – Anti-Human

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Cold Life – Cold Life MC Trapdoor Tapes 2014

Military Position – Anti-Human MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

Here is another batch of releases from Trapdoor Tapes which function to collectively illustrate the diversity of ‘industrial’ material being issued by the label.

For the Cold Life tape this would appear to be their debut tape, which is focused on analogue, synth driven, minimal industrial to post-punk music (which I must admit seems to be relatively in vogue in recent years).  5 short-ish tracks feature here (being repeating both sides of the tape), where the material is structured around simplistic programed mid-paced to up-tempo beats, over which the straight-forward synth melodies generally follow. Vocals are then overlaid in a partly spoken/ sung style, which are also partially treated with a flange or vocoder effect depending on the track. There is also a rough ‘under-produced’ and noise infused feel to the production which gives it a degree of sonic grit and texture, which obviously works well with the analogue tape format. The mid tape track ‘Safe’ slightly deviates from the general approach described above, by featuring a darker edge to its soundscape, built around a minor keys synth line and more subdued programming.

As demonstrated on this tape Cold Life nails its chosen analog electronic post-punk style with flair and a certain ‘no-frills’ directness. Although not necessarily bringing anything new to the table this will obviously be of clear interest for those into this style.

Military Position on the other hand is the solo project of Harriet Kate Morgan which focuses on crude analogue industrial expression mixed with elements of a muted power electronics tone. This 22 minute tape features 4 tracks (2 each side) with the visual presentation opting to skew the typically expected colours and visual themes.

‘We Rot’ commences the tape with a relatively simplistic heavy and ominous toned analogue industrial loop (being gradually morphed over its length), and slightly flanged spoken vocals brings to mind the delivery of vocals of Puce Mary – which no doubt is based on the fact that both projects being female fronted and inhabiting a similar sonic style. ‘Destruction and Abuse’ follows, being constructed with ‘idling machine’ sounding loops, where the spoken vocals are mostly buried under the sonic mass (a section consisting of a ‘whipping’ loop is tacked onto the end before it cuts out as the side finishes). ‘The Personal is the Political’ opens the second side of the tape, although is listed on the cover as the final of the 4 tracks. With its apathy inflected and mild echo and distortion addled spoken vocals, it again bringing to mind the vocals of Puce Mary, which here are combined with rumbling bass tone and minimalist death industrial pulse. This is the standout of track of the tape by nailing a convincing analogue death industrial sound. The final track ‘Privileged and Weak’ contains a couple of segments, including a short interlude of heavy mid-paced pounding industrial beat and flanged vocals (great!) which cuts out somewhat abruptly before the main section arrives with slow and queasy oscillations (proceeding through a few sectional rotations before cutting out due to tape length).

Overall ‘Anti-Human’ is a solid offering insofar as it demonstrates some strong ideas from a project finding its feet. This is not faultless tape, noting that added volume for sonic punch and more layering of elements for extra complexity and diversity would steps things up a notch.  But such quibbles aside, more importantly it displays all the hallmarks of having the right sound, direction and ideas: where the approach of Military Position will no doubt be further refined with future releases.

Melanchoholics – Solar Café

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Melanchoholics – Solar Café CD Eibon Records 2014

The Melancholics are a project whom I was previously aware of by name alone; but had never heard their music until now.  ‘Solar Cafe’ is their third and final album, given the group has disbanded due to the untimely passing of a group member.  Noting that the project moniker obviously hints at darker realms of the human psyche, what we have here is abstract guitar driven dark ambient soundscapes.  As such a floating, hazy and maudlin ambience marks the bulk of proceedings, where the predominantly abstracted guitars intermingle with drones and tonal washes of sound.

Essentially cinematic in scope, the soundscapes of ‘Solar Café’ are constructed with treated synths drones and shimmering guitars, where ringing bass notes and scattered unobtrusive industrial debris flesh out the sound.  Treated spoken/ sampled vocals on occasion flit in and out of the mix, coupled with what sound like looped field recordings to provide further textural depth.  Clearly the sparse clean guitars resplendent with radiating reverb provide a melodic underpinning to various segments, where the understated playing also adds to the emotional impact.  Interestingly there is also slight ‘post-rock’ quality to the melodic scale of the guitars, although this is far from ‘riffed’ driving musical songs; being more akin to an sparser version of Neil Young’s extremely sparse guitar work on the ‘Dead Man’ soundtrack (but here with a reduction of the particular Americana twang which characterized Neil’s guitar playing).  To pick out a particularly track from the 9 compositions (46 minutes), ‘The End Belongs To This World’ it contains a somewhat out of place and jarring interludes, where what can only be described as lo-fi basement black metal sporadically interject; being almost as if the result of crossed radio frequency.  Although an interesting sonic effect, it however has the negative impact of distracting from the overarching mood of the album which both precedes and follows it.

Perhaps boarder compassions could be drawn to the occasionally guitar driven album ‘The Goddess Who Could Make the Ugly World Beautiful’ by Morthound; or the recent ambient/ post-rock tinged Sigma Octantis album ‘Dissipations’.  But specific comparisons aside, ‘Solar Care’ evokes an effortlessly bleak and melancholic yet occasionally beautiful atmosphere, which will clearly appeal to listeners of cinematic scoped dark ambient and abstract guitar based music.

Theologian – Pain of the Saints

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Theologian – Pain of the Saints DCD Malignant Records 2015

Since the disbandment of his Navicon Torture Technologies (NTT) project in around 2010, Lee Bartow (aka Theologian Prime) has spent the last few years building the profile of his new project Theologian. So, to quickly reflect on NTT’s legacy, Lee demonstrated a hyper productivity to his output by issuing 60 NTT releases in the years between 1997 and 2010. This work ethic has then translated over into Theologian where he has outdone himself even by his own standards; having issued a massive 45 releases since 2010.  With many of these releases being collaborations or live material, ‘Pain of the Saints’ is the latest ‘official’ album, where the presented material spans two discs and in excess 2.5 hours of music.  Interestingly on the thematic front Lee has moved away from internalised topics of personal anguish and catharsis, towards an externalised analysis of the hypocrisy of the church, including matters relating to martyrdom and later sainthood.

By now Lee has undoubtedly established a recognisable approach which draws from death industrial, dark ambient, (industrialised) noise and doom drone spheres; where these elements are combined with a particular ‘sonically overloaded’ and weighty approach, meaning from the opening moments this feels and sounds very much like Theologian.  As such massive slow pounding rhythmic loops often provide the structural backbone, whilst multiple synth drones and layered sub-orchestral elements are then bedded down over an extended length (the longest track sits at excess of 13 minutes). Vocals also range from an anguished wail to partially sung, but are rendered indecipherable with shredding distortion or elongated drone treatment which coagulate within the sonic mass.

CD1 (subtitled ‘piss’) contains a wide range of sonic styles where the opening cut ‘Savages’ acts as a sort of microcosm of this layered multi-directional approach. Here the cyclic layered shimmering drones, sweeping sub-orchestral layers and rolling militant percussion set the scene, before looped mechanized elements take hold and settles into a lengthy 10 minute industrialised groove.  ‘Infection’ then presents sustained drones and thundering militant rhythmic chaos and although the following ‘Serpentine Angels’ commences in rather serene fashion soon enough the stoic industrial pounded beat and shredded vocals reappear.  Ultimately some respite is found in the shimmering laid back spectral sub-orchestral sound of ‘Gravity’ which is a revelation and standout of a track based on its moody cinematic ebb and flow. For the later half of the first CD it continues the established pattern of looped and rhythmically / percussively driven offerings, where vague melodic elements are buried within the vast wide-screen structures. For the final track of CD1, ‘Sainthood is Suffering’ comes across as a rather divergent piece due to its throbbing, almost dancefloor oriented industrial beats. Although an interesting track it however feels slightly out of place and more like a ‘tacked on’ remix than a proper album track.

CD2 (subtitled ‘jism’) continues the journey by showcasing more monolithic tonal blocks of sound, where aside from the vast rhythmic/ percussive structures of the opener (‘The Lies Of The Past Become The Prayers Of The Future’), the tracks are generally more subdued and cinematic, including an elongated compositional style for hypnotic effect. ‘Suppuration’ is a piece which works particularly well in blending the moody synth drones, scarred vocalisations and more abrasive rhythmic elements (being the inverse of many other compositions as the heavier elements gradually drop away to reveal the serene drones). ‘Their Gelded and Rapacious Hearts’ follows a similar path where its maudlin synth driven tone remains the focus throughout its 10 minute expanse, whilst ‘Blessed Prey’ also stands out due to its prominent violin motif within the sweeping ambient drone framework.  ‘Redemption Is An Impossibility’ presents a slight deviation with its use of thrummed bass guitar and rolling drum kit percussion that edges the peice towards more chaotic realms. Much like CD1, the second disc is concluded with a rather sonically divergent track; here ‘Self-Flagellation as Faith’ is a dark synth driven rock song (complete with kit drumming) and comes across very much like that of Jarboe era SWANS due to the crooning female vocals (…an excellent concluding moment).

‘Pain of the Saints’ clearly succeeds in its presentation of a strong and varied collection of tracks which demonstrates the focused and high calibre output of Theologian. Despite its extended length the album is not bogged down by superfluous content, although with the sheer volume of material here it is a takes a certain focused resolve to listen to this album in full given it warrants full emersion and not sporadic ‘cherry-picked’ listening.  Rounding out the release is an oversized 8 panel digi-pack with beautiful cover painting and slick graphic design care of Lee himself.  If you haven’t kept up with the hyper-productive output of recent years, this would be a perfect place recommence your appreciation of Theologian’s cinematically rendered yet resolutely industrialised sonic world.