Ke/Hil – Zone O

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Ke/Hil – Zone O LP Tesco Organisation 2015

When approaching this review I quickly revisited the debut ‘Hellstation’ album from 2010 which I remembered to be a strong if not relatively straightforward album, but something more of a side note to the members’ Brigant Moloch & Wilhelm Herich main activities in Genocide Organ. Noting this re-listening confirmed my impressions of it also functioned to highlight the forward leap demonstrated on ‘Zone O’ which has substantial honed the bleak and oppressive, vaguely industrial atmospheres found on ‘Hellstation’. Essentially there feels to be a greater depth and complexity at play on ‘Zone O’ which sits more within a ‘heavy electronics’ vein given the tonal structures never pushes into harsher industrial or power electronics realms. Intriguingly the artwork of ‘Zone O’ with its reference to ‘Hellstation’ on the map based artwork seems to be building a particular concept, perhaps based of the failings of contemporary based social engineering.

The opening track ‘Work’ hits hard with its complex layering (artillery fire pulse and throbbing synths), where the spoken vocals are of a emotionless authoritarian style. ‘Church’ opts for a shuddering/ wavering tonal soundscape of muted synths and non-invasive distortion, as sampled solo choir vocals bleed into the mix to give a maudlin edge. ‘Poverty’ is a touch more rhythmic, with a muted pounding tone, wavering synths and slightly treated spoken vocals, whilst ‘Passages’ opts for a more subtle subterranean styled atmosphere of dour synth drones and subtle static shifts. This is followed by the shuffling and lurching synth textures, interweaving muted static and of ‘Bridges’ makes for an excellent ending to the first side of the LP.

Side B opens with the rather forceful ‘Infirmary Anthem’; a track of pulsing tones and queasy oscillating synths, with cyclic incursions of mid-range distortion, and when this structure is considered alongside its echoed tinged spoken vocals it is the closest that Ke/Hil have come to date of sounding like Anenzephalia. A structured rhythmic approach returns on ‘Ghosts of a Common Past’, including a central mid-paced pounding programmed beats, swirling industrial tinged soundscape, whilst ‘Children of the ‘Devolution’ steps off in another direction, featuring tensile soundscape of sub-orchestral sonic elements and distant aggressive crowd noise; with the vocals providing an apathetic proclamation of intent.

Where ‘Zone 0’ excels is in its articulation a heavy and oppressive atmosphere; one with a feel of covert surveillance and a sense of deep-seated paranoia of industrialized ‘Kafkaesque’ proportions. Noting that both members of Ke/Hil have previously functioned under the Anenzephalia banner but with that project currently on ice, perhaps this is the reason for the create step up displayed on ‘Zone 0’. Regardless of the reasons of ‘why’, if you perhaps like me were not totally blown away by the debut ‘Hellstation’, this second albums is an entirely different proposition. If it wasn’t already apparent from the above – this is a great album.

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Yen Pox – Between the Horizon and the Abyss

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Yen Pox – Between the Horizon and the Abyss CD Malignant Records 2015

Although I was not expectantly waiting for a new Yen Pox release, the announcement that 2015 would herald a new album did catch me by surprise.  I guess this is symptomatic of the glacial pace of new releases, making the fact that there is a new album from the duo all the more impressive, given it has been a LONG 15 years since the last full length ‘New Dark Age’ and some 13 years from the collaboration album ‘Mnemonic Induction’ with Troum (..with those sorts of timeframes, surely some newer fans to dark ambient music would not appreciate the impact that earlier albums had).  Whilst 2011 did see the release of a 10”ep ‘Universal Emptiness’, to my mind this was a bit of a between albums ‘stop gap’ release, as Yen Pox’s sprawling compositions are much better suited to the full length album format.

From the opening moments of ‘Between the Horizon and the Abyss’ it does not disappoint, with ‘The Awakening’ revealing a track of engulfing and downward spiralling sub-orchestral drones.  Here its sonic tapestry is multi-faceted and all encompassing, where layer upon layer of dense drones fold in on themselves; combining, fracturing and radiating out again with renewed strength. But before falling into a recognisable pattern, the next piece ‘White of the Eye’ opts to feature a main driving tone derived from a mangled only vaguely recognisable guitar, which presents a divergent tone for the group within a heavy and swirling sub-orchestral drone framework .  ‘Cold Summer Sun’ continues the expanded sonic palate with a multitude of sparse clanging metallic textures to generate a more ‘industrialised’ version of Yen Pox’s typical dark ambient sound.  Likewise further sonic variants include: the layered ghostly vocals (male and female) on ‘In Silent Fields’ (which although all separated provide a broad choir like texture); and the middle-eastern hue of the wailing horn and sparse flute playing of ‘Ashen Shroud’.  Given the vast variation in tonal quality and instrumentation used; far from being passive listening, this demands full engagement and presents a massive constantly churning mass of sound.  Towards album’s end the pair of tracks ‘Tomorrow in Ruin’ and ‘The Procession’ revert to a cataclysmic sub-orchestral dark ambient frame; which is a sound Yen Pox appear to be able to evoke with ease.

With the monolithic sound of Yen Pox’s dark ambient soundscapes, they effortlessly articulate a vast cosmic sonic scale which overshadows a human scale perspective, which is perfectly reflected in the artwork.  Noting that the artwork of ‘New Dark Age’ was lacklustre at best (and downright cheesy at worst), it did not go anywhere near doing the music of that particular album the justice it deserved. That failing has been rectified here, where the artwork is superb in evoking a sense of monolithic scale and awe through complex geometric patterns and a stand of ominous monoliths.  On this new offering Yen Pox hit all of their old hallmarks, whilst expanding the sound anew with a varied sonic palate and source instrumentation.  ‘Between the Horizon and the Abyss’ is no less than a revelation and welcomed return of a pinnacle act.

Jarl / Envenomist – Tunguska Event

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Jarl / Envenomist – Tunguska Event CD

For this album the Swedish Jarl (aka Erik Jarl of IRM) has teamed up with Envenomist; an American project helmed by David Reed whom I incidentally have not come across before. Thematically this album refers to the ‘Tunguska Event’ which occurred in Siberia in 1908, where there was a massive unexplained explosion (estimates ranged from 3 to 30 megatons) caused possibly by an asteroid or comet exploding in the upper atmosphere, whilst other theories have included: an explosion of underground gas; a crashed UFO; or black hole passing through the earth.  So although this event and potential explanations make perfect thematic fodder for this type of release, rather than the music taking a literal interpretation of the theme; sonically the album engenders a ‘mysterious’ and ‘covert scientific research’ type of tonal aesthetic.

5 tracks spanning 43 minutes makes up the album and with the title of each track being relegated to being referenced as Part I to V, is it is a partial acknowledgement that each part covers a tonally similar sound by playing out variations on the clinically edged and animated dark ambient sound.  Here a tensile sonic aesthetic prevails; one where mid-ranged tonal shards of sound and surgical pulses swirl and entwine, but also never reaching harsh noise oriented realms.  Being multi-layered in construction, the tracks are often built on a base of a low level rhythmic mechanical churn, over which radar buzzing sounds, subdued siren tones and sweeping drone textures interweave. Noting that much of Jarl’s output inhabits a more minimalist realm, a fair amount of morphing and twisting territory is traversed here and having not heard Envenomist’s material before I can’t say how it directly compares, but it would seem logical that his input has provided the more dynamic edge to material.

Packaging consists of a 6 panel fold out eco-wallet, design courtesy of Karolina Urbaniak, and features what appears to be aerial satellite photography of the region to match the album’s theme. Although ‘Tunguska Event’ is a dark ambient album at its core, it also skews the typical cavernous/ deep space sonic aesthetic of much of the genre by its sound being heavily rooted in clinical industrialized tones within a fluid and flowing structure, making an interesting album in the process.

Wilt – From Depths Profound And Inconceivable / A Daemonic Alteration

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Wilt – From Depths Profound And Inconceivable CD Fall of Nature 2015

Wilt – A Daemonic Alteration MC Fall of Nature 2015

Wilt are a project I was vaguely aware of in the early 2000’s but dropped off my radar for whatever reason, but if remembering correctly the project focused on experimental dark ambient with a slightly noisier slant. From a quick look at their ‘Discogs’ listing Wilt have remained continually active since 1999 and over the last 15 years have been extremely active in fact, with in excess of 70 releases to their name. Here are two new releases from the project, issued at the same time, but on differing formats. On the aesthetic front, it appears the group have evolved towards a more occult focus as evidenced by both by titles and the darker, yawning, black noise tinged dark ambient sound.

‘From Depths Profound And Inconceivable’ features 14 tracks (between 3 and 7 minutes each), with nearly 70 minutes of music. Although all generally dark and brooding in sonic texture, there is a myriad of musical angles on display; some being staunchly dark ambient, whilst others having a doom drone frame of reference due to the use of guitars (both distorted and clean depending on the track). A crumbling, distorted rumble which underpins many pieces indicates a rougher edge to proceedings; yet depth and space is also evident within the drone framework, thus providing a broadly expansive and enveloping tone. Regarding particular tracks, ‘Buried Temples of Belial’ starts the album strongly with sampled Tibetan throat chanting, before the introduction of a heavy and prominent (slow plucked) atonally distorted guitar.  Although the introductory programmed synths on ‘Into the Sightless Vortex of the Unimaginable’ are rather uninspired and stock-standard; later the sound morphs positively to include a multitude of caustic and distorted layers (abstract guitars and overblown ritual singing bowl playing?). ‘Shadowed Souls Around A Blazing Alter’ represents a particularly doom drone focused piece, of rising /falling static riddled cyclic guitar waves while ‘An Ancient Circle of Monoliths’ is a great example of the ‘yawning abyss’ style of echoed abstract synth derived dark ambience (including mid-range static coursing through the centre of the composition). After a series of both noisy and subdued droning styled pieces, the final album track ‘Desolate Mountains’ provides a nice deviation with its dour interweaving acoustic guitars and distant rumbling backing.

Moving on to ‘A Daemonic Alteration’, it forms another complete album with 9 tracks in all, but with each being on the shorter side the overall play time is far less than the companion CD. The title track which opens the tape includes buried mechanised rhythms which intermingle with crumbling sub-orchestral drones, whereas organ dirge tones and treated abstract guitars are added to ‘Fallen’ as a slight deviation to the ambient drone framework.  The short piece ‘Some Nameless Thing’ is then cut from a darker hue, with its layers and heavier toned bedrock distortion which cyclically push towards a death industrial tone. Side B opens with ‘A Shadowed Portal’ which is far weightier and crushing than preceding material (blast furnace walls of industrial distortion and doom drone feedback), before the sustained and elongated quasi-orchestral drones of ‘An Abyss Of Seething Chaos And Cerulean Splendor’ take over. The final track ‘Winter Solstice Procession’ maudlin mood of slow manipulated choir like textures, sparse clanging elements and minimalist undercurrent plays out like a raison d’etre cast off (from the early days of the project), which although hardly original, nails this sound and tone with flair.

To directly compare the two releases, the cassette comes across as the more focused work whereas the CD plays out as a sprawling collection of individual pieces, yet each demonstrates interesting ideas through their blending of elements drawn from black ambient/ dark ambient spheres as well as smatterings of a doom drone sound, without necessarily being slavish to either of these genres.

Trepaneringsritualen – Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring / Veil The World

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Trepaneringsritualen – Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring Infinite Fog Productions 2014 Trepaneringsritualen – Veil The World CD Cold Spring Records 2015

Noting the limited and obscure nature of much of Trepaneringsritualen’s (TxRxP) earliest output, coupled with increasing interest in the project in recent years, there has been obvious label interest in re-releasing this material. Hence Infinite Fog Productions and Cold Spring Records have been good enough to give the first 2 releases from TxRxP a repress in a less limited CD format.

Although the debut tape ‘Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring’ from 2008 had already been repressed on vinyl in 2012 (in an edition of 275 copies), ‘Infinite Fog Productions’ has issued this new edition on CD with the inclusion of 2 bonus tracks. Given I have already reviewed the LP version previously (reviewed here), I will focus this review on the additional tracks. ‘Death Is Your Friend’ is the first bonus offering and originally featured on an obscure 2008 compilation cassette ‘White Nights’. This piece is rather straight forward in structure, which means it deviates from the main bulk of sprawling death industrial soundscapes.  Here rough and forceful grinding loops blend with overblown distortion, while garbled vocals and voice snippets are wrapped up into a dank muffled production. The second bonus track is ‘Seeing What I Suffer’, which delves into a militant occult sound, featuring ritualistic drones and heavy militaristic drumming, all the while the vocals pushing it into the song oriented approach of recent material. This particular track is of epic proportions (even by TxRxP’s standards), and whilst ‘Death Is Your Friend’ is a relatively stock standard offering, ‘Seeing What I Suffer’ is a fantastic bonus and conclusion to the expanded album. The packaging for ‘Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring’ is rounded out with slick 4 panel digi-pack with new inner panel imagery of trepanning to match that of the cover.

In its original form ‘Veil the World’ was issued in 2011 in an edition of 40 tapes and housed in an embossed and varnished box including art prints and rusty nails, and so as to keep some visual continuity with this re-release, images of nails feature prominently on the 6 panel digi-pack. In reflecting today on the music featured on ‘Veil the World’, on selected tracks it demonstrates the gradual move of TxRxP towards more structure focused realms.  Also although 6 of the 9 original tracks of ‘Veil the World’ were featured on the 2 compilation CD’s titled ‘The Totality of Death’, it is nevertheless great to have the original collection of tracks together under the proper release banner (…but to add an element of confusion, the original 7th track ‘Field of Blood’ has been replaced with another track ‘Akeldama’ and the order of the last 2 tracks switched).

‘Cherem’ opens ‘Veil the World’ as a ominous ceremonial soundscape which paves the way for the title track, and when it comes roaring from the speakers it is in the guise of pounding tribal militancy, resplendent with the now trademark croaked vocalisations. Alternately ‘Lightbringer’ has a more a slow burning feel, with droning beat and vocals sitting amongst swirling layered noise, while ‘Drunk with Blood’ is another focused rhythmically swaying offering (here the rhythm is based on looped mid-range distortion and shuddering sonic textures).  This focused piece is followed by a triptych of tensile death industrial soundscapes (‘Nekyia’, ‘Akeldama’ and ‘Invocation’), each featuring disembodied vocalisations or invocation focused dialogue samples for good measure. The final of the 9 album tracks is ‘C’est Un Reve’, which is technically a Death in June cover song, where the chanted vocal line is yelled here over a repetitive, lurching and relatively up tempo militant death industrial backing.  In truth this is virtually unrecognisable as a cover song, meaning TxRxP have absolutely made it their own and in the process providing a forceful conclusion to the album.

Given the limited nature of original versions both of these re-releases are worthy editions to TxRxP’s discography, and functions to showcase the early evolution of sound and differing approaches the project has taken within a Swedish death industrial framework.