Of Earth and Sun – Uncoiled

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Of Earth and Sun – Uncoiled CD Malignant Records 2015

Of Earth and Sun are a new signing to the Malignant roster; being the solo project of American based Matthew Hunzeker. ‘Uncoiled’ represents the second album from the project following the 2013 self-released and self-titled digital album.

With reference to the visuals which adorn the cover, it immediately provides an impression of a ritualized focus and spiritually tinged approach. Then when further considering the album’s nine compositions which mostly exceed the 7 minute mark, it is rather telling of sprawling scope and form of the music. As such heavily throbbing drones underpins the majority of proceedings, with the sound seemingly being built on series of extended, slow morphing loops. Likewise a heavily ritualistic vibe is imbedded within all the compositions, where rolling percussion, thumping tribal drums and heavily treated chanted vocalisations are fed into the mix, which then become another blended and elongated sonic element. A wailing atonal ritual horn (bone trumpet perhaps?) is also a prominent featured within a number of compositions, again being processed and stretched within the drone framework.

Although certainly constituting ‘ritual’ music in temperament, Of Earth and Sun’s sound clearly differs from the more organic ritual dark ambient music which is being produced by (for comparative sake) the Aural Hypnox label collective, given the sound here appears to be the result of an analog modular synth setup.* So although ‘Uncoiled’ has ritualised approach, musically speaking it is far too driving and forceful to be coined as ‘dark ambient’, rather could be better described as ‘ritualised heavy electronics’, or perhaps ‘ritualised industrial drone’. The heavy driving drone approach also brings to mind elements of Abre Ojos or Theologian, yet the centrally imbedded ritualised aesthetic does set Of Earth and Sun apart.

Rather intriguingly the album liner notes indicate that the tracks were recorded live in a single take and with no overdubs, which functions to highlight the skill and control displayed in the execution of ‘Uncoiled’ given the pacing is deliberate and controlled, maintaining a constant morphing momentum throughout. Although there general ‘sameness’ to the sound and approach across its 70 minute span, its sonic force and focus provides an all-encompassing and enveloping meditative quality. Therefore if monolithic ritual drone invocations sounds intriguing, Of Earth and Sun nail such an approach effortlessly.

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* – Following the publication of the review Matthew got in touch to clarify that no electronics besides effects pedals are used; meaning there are no synths used at all. Evidently the loops are based on voice and bone trumpets which are treated live with effects, noting also an oscillator was only used on two tracks. So as such the whole album is predominantly based on bone horns, voice (bass/sub bass and ritualized chanting) and a drum machine.

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Arkhe – Rift

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Arkhe – Rift MC Cipher Productions 2015

As I understand it, the Swedish project Arkhe is effectively the continuation of an earlier project Pestdemon whose final release under that name was the rather excellent 2011 ‘Helvetesljuset’ LP (on Unrest Productions). Likewise although not having followed all of Arkhe’s output to date, I have at least heard their contribution to Styggelse’s ‘Slutstationen’ compilation and the 2013 MC ‘For Everything That Lives Is Holy’ (which itself was evidently initially conceived as a Pestdemon tape). ‘Rift’ is the latest release under the Arkhe name and constitutes an offering of two lengthy tracks (approx. 10 minutes each), and with being self-described as ‘death electronics’ this a rather apt stylistic description.

Deviating from the grindingly chaotic and occasionally harsh territories explored on ‘For Everything That Lives Is Holy’, ‘Rift’ displays controlled restraint with its industrial noise soundscapes. ‘Stoftets hus’ take up the first side, with a track of partially muffled tone and desolately intense, industrial tinged drones.   Cyclically building in its approach and style, the bulk of sound ebbs and flows as it gradually pushes towards heavier blast furnace territory, although maintains its more ambient edge throughout. ‘Tystnadens hus’ takes up the flip side, and is again concerned with subdued industrial noise, where shuddering bass addled textures are partially buried within the dank morass of sound. Being laboured and heavy in tone, it maintains a generally restrained approach as the track grinds forwards at a catatonic pace, although a slow (muffled and distorted) ritual beat rises to greater primacy though the mid to late sections.

From the perspective of my sonic preferences ‘Rift’ is a stronger release than other Arkhe material I have heard, although I also do not know if ‘Rift’ itself is a deviation from a more typical approach. Packaging wise Cipher Productions have done an excellent job of providing a non-standard cover, featuring an oversized clear plastic shell slipcase, with printed stickers attached to the front and back and synthetic black flowers included along with the black tape. A worthy two track tape.

Concrete Mascara – Blossoms of Shame / History of Ruin

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Concrete Mascara – Blossoms of Shame CD Corrosive Art Records 2014

Concrete Mascara – History of Ruin MC Trapdoor Tapes MC 2015

Concrete Mascara are an American power electronics trio who have been around since 2011 and in that time have issued a handful of tapes, a split CD (with Umpio), 7”ep and some digital only recordings.  In a general sense given the group approaches their style of power electronics with a rougher noise and junk metal infused sound, it sets the group apart from the sound and feel of many other current American death industrial/ power electronics projects.

The full length CD ‘Blossoms of Shame‘ from 2014 contains 9 tracks over 43 minutes and is rather diverse in approach. Featuring a general loose semblance of structure, its sonic construction includes: buzzing drones, saturated noise, erupting distortion, metallic clatter and aggressive unhinged vocals partially buried within the mix (refer to opening track ‘The Duality of Sin’ as a prime example). ‘Attrition’ then features some sporadic squalling noise which evidences a more harsh noise tonal aesthetic, although there is a degree of control to its execution. Moving toward a more subdued sound, the pairing of early album tracks ‘True Beauty Never Dies’ and ‘Monochrome’ both feature a similar a low death industrial throb; the first containing treated spoken vocals which articulate a drugged out haze, whilst the later infuses some field recording elements for tonal diversity. ‘When Only Pieces Remain’ then delivers a powerful track based on its saturated overblown junk metal distortion where the aggressive vocals barely managed to break through, while further variation is found on the slow stalking feel and tensile atmosphere of the lengthy ‘Labyrinth of Doubt’ (distant pulse, ‘upfront’ micro-tonal metallic textures and morbid spoken vocals). Late album track ‘Scalpel’ is an excellently tensile piece featuring a heavy focus on a junk metal aesthetic, where loud and detailed sounds of solid metal scraping on concrete features prominently over a low analogue drone. Further sound elements include twisted piercing noise and a saturated overblown metallic production, again with the vocals being spewed forth from the background to create a very strong track indeed. ‘A Vision Of Love’ constitutes the final composition to rounds out the album in quite divergent form. Differing in sonic guise the track features a driving/ pulsing programmed rhythmic element (a quasi-techno bass throb over which washes of noise and sweeping static are laid), although in overall execution feels relatively undeveloped compared to the balance of the album.

Moving on to their latest release, this is an 8 track 46 minute tape where their sound seemed to have evolved a touch, despite only being a year on since ‘Blossoms of Shame‘. On ‘History of Ruin’ the generated atmospheres are highly tensile, but more subdued in execution, whilst at the same time the vocals have been pushed forward and up within the mix to greater prominence. Although sharper tonal elements are use these are again presented in a controlled way; where the wailing agonized vocal style then feature as the most unhinged element to counterpoint the subdued distortion undercurrent. Opener ‘Aftertaste of Shame’ features crumbling static base with pained and agonized (slightly processed) lead vocals, which is the mirrored by a second partially burred and static infused vocal line. ‘Narcotic Vixen’ with its low buzzing static and distortion squalls moves towards noise territory, but then pulls back again on ‘History of Ruin’, being a tense stalking atmosphere (‘heart beat’ bass thumb, buried distant vocals and sparse upfront metallic textures). ‘Unending Muck’ rounds out the first side with two separate howling/ wailing vocals spat over minimalist buzzing base, being an excellent tensile atmosphere of angst and pain and highlighting the vocals as being a standout rabid element of Concrete Mascara’s sound.

‘Under Black Waves’ commences Side B with rabid static abuse and unhinged vocals, before falling away into a section of muffled distortion and ash cloaked ambience (which does burst forth into more caustic sounds late in the piece). ‘Funeral Shroud’ is another great example of the more subdued tensile sound, where noise frequencies sit in the background, as two separate vocals lines are mixed prominently upfront and being the main central focus of the piece. ‘Nothing Left To Burn’ is the most rhythmic track on offer with its mid-paced pulsing bass throb and completed with fizzing static and semi-buried gruff vocals, and although simplistic in approach makes a very strong impression. ‘Juggernaut of Truth’ is the final track to round out the tape relying on layers of caustic noise, throbbing static and unhinged vocals, but with its rudimentary approach forgoes a tensile atmosphere and consequently is not as engaging as earlier material.

Although having not heard all of Concrete Mascara’s recording output to date, from the few releases I have heard, personally I would favor their most recent material, where the tensile sound and prominent dual vocal barrage is extremely effective. Although ‘Blossoms of Shame’ is a strong and varied album, the newer ‘History of Ruin’ tape is also step up and standout, particularly on the vocal front.

Zyklon SS – War of Terror

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Zyklon SS – War of Terror 7”ep Unrest Productions 2015

Following the amazing presentation of the debut cassette “Anti-Personnel Explosive Device” (i.e. tape housed in a large metal tin surrounded with broken glass and rusted nails), the intentionally antagonistic Zyklon SS have returned with their second release on a more standard 7” format. Continuing in much the same vein as the debut, this constitutes crude power electronics delivered via overblown junk metal attack.

‘Nation of Pig’ is the first track single track on side A which sonically functions on two levels. The first consists of a roughly hewn chaotic junk metal sound which is then underscored with a low pulsing/ wavering analogue synth tones to provide just enough hint of structure. On Side B ‘Anal Ripper’ is another rough junk metal driven track, but contains a touch more drive given its underpinning idling rhythm. ‘Slaves Give Birth to Slaves’ is the final of 3 tracks and the most subdued on display and by removing the focused junk metal attack it pushes more towards a classic PE sound of throbbing atonal analogue synths, subdued distortion manipulations and central speech sample of ‘questionable’ politics.

Noting the thematic ‘middle-finger’ antagonism on display and when coupled with its rough and crude approach there appears to be a heavy influence of Streicher at play. This impression is further evidenced by the track title ‘Anal Ripper’, which is assumed to be in homage to the name of Ulex Xane’s own studio.  So without necessarily being plagiarist in sonic approach, in their own way Zyklon SS are paying suitable homage to Streicher’s ongoing legacy. Through this release Zyklon SS again demonstrate they have an provocative attitude and approach, where will be interesting to see how the project develops on subsequent releases as part of their self-professed ongoing “war against moral remediation”.

Asolaar – Obliterate

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Asolaar – Obliterate LP Metaphysik 2013

Being a project and label I have not come across before, Asolaar choose work with a corrosive blend of drone, noise and industrial, without being slavish to any of these particular sounds. Although billed as a full length, ‘Obliterate’ is a relatively short release, so actually more of an mini LP at around 22 minutes, given the shortest tracks come in at around 2 minutes, whilst the longest is around 6 minutes.

The longest track on offer, ‘Anxiety Disintegrated’ opens the album with muted shuddering industrial drones and mid-toned buzzing static which functions as a mid-paced rhythmic pulse to drive the track forwards. Garbled unintelligible voices also bleed into the mix as the piece gradually builds to a quite intense and forceful sound. The following two side A pieces collectively deliver grinding layers within a coarse production, but also maintain a subdued atmosphere, where a clinical but rough tonal squall characterises proceedings. ‘Telsen’ (the first piece on side B) is an excellent example of tense and anxiety inducing electronics, where an undercurrent of dank and caustic industrial distortion is counter balanced by crackling electrics and buzzing industrial static. Moving on to the title track, it is far more subdued that its name may suggest, where low thudding industrial drones and a cavernous production gives way to a forceful yet muted lurching rhythmic throb, whilst ‘La Gloria de Tlitlizen’ is the most experimental toned of the album with a buzzing rhythmic pulse, sweeping static and heavily treated quasi-techno beat.

By cherry picking tonal elements from the broad industrial, noise and drone spheres, Asolaar have bent these to their own agenda and created an interesting experimental blend in the process, but with the industrial elements taking greatest prominence this should be of clear interest to noise receptor readers. Packaging consists of a hand screen printed cover, with rough feel of the screen printed ink on the uncoated card stock providing some pleasing ‘physicality’ to the release.

Sektor 304 – Communiphones / Ruby

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Sektor 304 – Communiphones CD New Approach Recordings 2014

Martin Bladh & Sektor 304 – Ruby CDr Annihilvs 2014

Over a number of years Sektor 304 have become a highly lauded group for their ‘band collective’ take on classic industrial music elements. However here are a pair of Sektor 304 albums which are not of their recognized style; rather both sitting squarely within a dark ambient/ experimental frame of reference.

‘Communiphones’ is up first, being a single 35 minute experimental composition (the recording dating from 2012), which has been composed by the main dup of Andre Coelho and Gustavo Costa. Here the piece seems to be underscored by factory/ warehouse based field recordings and an undercurrent of buzzing static drones, over which multi-layered micro-tonal metallic scrapping sounds and textures are arranged. The pacing is slow and controlled, with tonal washes of sound bleeding in and out of the mix over extended passages, which function to highlight specific segments or movements. Additionally a mood of general tenseness permeates the overall atmosphere, with the impression created by the creaking, twisting and generally jagged metallic tones off the field recording elements. Through the middle of the piece the piece falls away into a lengthy passage which oscillates between a low ambient throbbing hum and windswept cavernous drones, again with the distant sound of metallic objects being shunted around on a factory floor. The final third then moves towards its conclusion with a gradually building synth drone, and despite its long form composition and general abstract tonality ‘Communiphones’ maintains drive, direction and interest throughout its duration.

Up next is ‘Ruby’, a collaboration between the group and IRM vocalist Martin Bladh, which is presented as another single track (52 minutes); although the album cover does designate 8 separate pieces or segments (‘I’ through ‘VIII’). Noting that Sektor 304 have previously collaborated with Martin Bladh on their half of the ‘Utopia / Decay’ split LP with Dissection Table, perhaps ‘Ruby’ can be considered as an extension of that collaborative process. The ‘Ruby’ recording dates then from 2012-2013 and apart from Martin’s text and vocal contributions, features the inputs of 5 individuals (Andre Coelho, Gustavo Costa, Joao Filipe, Henrique Fernandes & Angelica Salvi). Although broadly experimental, the music has a feel of being slightly more ‘band’ or ‘collective’ focused, given the tracks are slightly more composed and urgent.  Yet with an amorphous and abstract feel ‘Ruby’ is a far cry from the song based material of other Sektor 304 albums. As such the musical movements are soundscape oriented with vague thrummed bass, sparse metallic/ junk metal percussion, experimental drones and general waves of distortion. Martin’s vocals are then dispersed throughout and either spoken or whispered in delivery and presented in a general narrative and/ or personal ‘psychoanalytical’ type style and intriguingly sound bizarrely childlike at times (from either pronunciation or having been warped in post-production). Given its general abstract experimental style, one segment stands out due to its divergent use of a solo harp melody and the lone accompaniment to Martin multi-layered whispered/ spoken vocals. The final track has a sound of a ‘typical’ band formation, but here is far more of a standard alt-rock feel (aka SWANS), given its straight forward guitars and percussion, but with that said the sweeping electronics drones and metallic percussion giving it a more underground industrial edge.

Noting both albums have little benchmarks or points of reference to the main Sektor 304 albums, these are still excellent recordings for completely different reasons. But rather than pointing to new territory, it seems these albums may be a means to issue the last remaining recorded output of the project given Sektor 304 have quietly called it a day as an active project. Given it is an absolute shame that Sektor 304 has ceased recording activity, these recordings stand as testament to the varied output and approach of the group.

Thoughts on noise receptor journal no.3 from Marco Deplano / Wertham

Some very inspired and kind words from Marco Deplano of Wertham:

“After a couple of months in my possession, I finally got the chance to go through the complete new issue of Noise Receptor. Mr. Stevenson, of Spectrum magazine fame, overdid himself with a bulk of interviews and reviews that keep up the expectations I had after the two excellent previous tomes. Differently by most today’s superficial underground magazines voted to hip minimalism and non-sense, Noise Receptor stands out and enters the category of “things you will read and re-read hundreds of time”, thanks to thorough sincere reviews (a section I gladly skip most of the time in other occasions) and in depth interviews. I can proudly state Richard conducted one of the most intense interrogatories I have ever been submitted to, and the same is valid for the superb discussions to Kristian Olsson, Puce Mary, etc. I really enjoyed the GO special, a project I will never fail to praise… Not one single second of boredom despite the many pages…. So, highly suggested and I really hope we won’t have to wait too long for issue 4!”

Link to original text: https://wertham.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/must-buy-noise-receptor-3/