Phurpa / Deathstench – Evoking Shadows Of Death

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Phurpa / Deathstench – Evoking Shadows Of Death LP Black Plagve 2016

On paper the pairing of the Russian ritual collective Phurpa and the American death industrial unit Deathstench promised to deliver intriguing results.  In the end the outcome is more of an 12”EP given that there is around 25 minutes of music in total over the two sides of vinyl.

Given the minimalist percussive/ ritual chanting slant of Phurpa, this focuses the music towards a murky ritual ambient style, as opposed to the potentially heavy, pounding, death industrial side of Deathstench’s sound.  (..let’s just describe this ‘ritual death ambient’).  For the two ‘untitled’ compositions each follow similar sonic trajectories which involves deep ‘mineshaft’ bass rumbles and sparse atonal guitar riffing (obviously courtesy of Deathstench), which are coupled with the distinctive drawling Tibetan ‘throat signing’ chants and organic ritual percussion (obviously courtesy of Phurpa), which each gradually elevate to weighty crushing heaviness.

Although heavy and enveloping in its sonic darkness, there is also ample breadth to the sound palate to provide tonal separation of individual elements within the mix.  Sonically this release is relatively straight down the line in sound and is faithful to what could be expected from a paring of the projects, but also perhaps leaves me wanting something ‘more’ (…although being a solid release, it also does not quite reach a ‘pinnacle’ level that was anticipated).  Visually the cover suits the music perfectly, but for those slow to the punch the vinyl pressing of 150 copies is evidently already sold out.

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Unknown Artist – The Church Eternal / Musikalisches Opfer

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Unknown Artist – The Church Eternal MC Fanaticism 2015

Unknown Artist – Musikalisches Opfer MC Fanaticism 2016

This mysterious ‘anonymous’ project released 6 tapes during 2014 and 2015, being were issued on various tape labels and in different versions and editions.  Evidently the Fanaticism tape label was then established to draw together all musical works by the unnamed project under the single label and conceptual banner.  The consequential result has been the reissuing of the tapes with a unifying colour scheme of black and blood red J cards and solid black cassette tapes.  With reference to 3 tapes ‘Yirat HaShem’, ‘HaIOTh HaKODeSh’ and ‘Ecclesiastical Reich’, these broadly feature sacral tinged noise-industrial soundscapes. As for the other 2 tapes reviewed here, they build upon the established sonic base, but at the same time also displaying a greater restraint with respect of the harsher and nosier elements.

On ‘The Church Eternal’ it displays an approach which is more ambiental than the material on preceding tapes, but is still quite forcefully droning in sections.  The 28 minute piece on Side A is titled ‘Sancta Mater Ecclesia, Dominatrix Populorum’, which itself translates to: ‘Our Holy Mother, the Church , Mistress of the People’.  The lengthy has a type of cyclic, slow building droning noise approach, which elevates in intensity, including the use of loose jagged metallic reverberations, which eventually makes way for a heavy church organ dirge at the midpoint of the track. Following this, the piece pares back to almost silence, before slowing building again, being built around an ominous droning churn and slow atonal bass guitar (…or perhaps the thudding notes of a prepared piano?), which by tracks end has built back up to heavy ritualized droning noise. Interestingly its sacral experimental soundscapes bring to mind the non-metal sound of Reverorum ib Malact during more than one moment – which should be taken as solid praise.  Side B then features the track ‘Nulla Salus Extra Ecclesiam’ (translating to ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’), and is more restrained and catacomal in tone, which reminds of a less refined and sonically murkier version of raison d’etre current era of abstract industrialized dark ambient soundscapes.  Here deep and distant tones radiate out, shrill tone flutters overhead, slow percussion of doom provides some structural focus, with the human element is derived from ominous choir chants and French dialogue sample recites some form of speech/ sermon.  A fantastic enveloping ritual soundscape to simple get lost within its cavernous depths and arcane atmospheres.

Moving onto ‘Musikalisches Opfer’ it is another tape of newly released material, featuring 2 lengthy but untitled tracks (1 each side). Side A bring a piece with forward momentum driven by plodding atonal bass, where swirling loops and cyclic chants further elevates the piece.  A sacral dark ambient sound prevails, where the vocal chants become more anguished lamentations through the middle, which itself evolves into a cyclic grinding mass of analogue sounds (i.e. hum, drone and rumble) under which a sampled religious sermon is buried, being barely audible within the sonic mass (…and in the process very much reminding of old Archon Satani – in other words fantastic).  Side B bring another approximate 30 minute track, where a subdued low bass drone and even more distant buried religious sermons are used, over which a range of sparse atonal plucked and bowed string instruments and sampled choral chants creates an abstract modern classical feel. But things gradually morph away from this, given the cyclic drones ratchets up the tension to create something like subdued and sacral themed doom drone. Another very strong and extremely atmospheric offering.

Clearly these two tapes (along with the others released under the Fanaticism banner) have a certain amount of ‘kvlt’ obscurity and appeal given their presentation and its concealed thematic approach.  On the later front I am personally still sifting through the thematic clues of each of the 5 tapes to determine my own thoughts on an interpretation of potential stance or message, so won’t proffer any specific thoughts at this juncture (…particularly as there seems to be greater intent than merely seeking to invert the meaning of the overtly religious content).  But the mere fact that such clues are semi-buried and cloaked in obscurity, makes for all the more engaging listening.  I also do not have sense of whether the person behind this project may be from the post-industrial or black metal underground (or perhaps outside of any such scene affiliations altogether?), but irrespective of this these are extremely well executed tapes in terms of their sound, concept and presentation.

 

Slogun / Wertham – By Blood : In Blood

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Slogun / Wertham By Blood : In Blood CD Electronica Radicale Edizioni / Old Europa Café 2015

On ‘By Blood : In Blood’ the Italian stalwart Wertham and American protagonist Slogun have combined their divergent takes on power electronics for this part split / part collaboration album.  Thus for the ‘split’ part of this release each project has provided 3 individual tracks, while for the ‘collaboration’ part 2 tracks by Wertham feature John Balistreri on vocals and vise versa for Slogun’s 2 tracks (i.e. Marco Deplano on vocals).

Musically speaking this CD is exactly what is expected for a pairing of Slogun and Wertham.  The individual Slogun tracks follow the recent more composed and refined direction of the project, with fierce layered loops providing vague rhythms which are mixed with urban field recordings and clinical static as the base for the trademark wailed/ echoed vocals barrage of John Balistreri.  On this front ‘React and Destroy’ is a particularly good example of Slogun’s current sound and modus operandi.  Regarding the exclusive Wertham tracks these display a murkier and distant tone (which is essentially a bulldozing analogue sound), which comes across as the sound of some mammoth idling industrial machine, as the heavily accented vocals are semi-buried within the sonic mass.  Of particular note is Wertham’s track ‘Bloodlines’, which for the normal ferocity of the project, this piece is fiercer and static fried than typical.

For the collaborative offerings, these then (obviously) blends the two sounds, by the ‘Slogun’ sound featuring Marco’s vocals and the ‘Wertham’ sound featuring John’s distinctive vocals.  On the Wertham tracks John’s vocals are less upfront in the mix, but retain the trademark wailed spite and echoed treatment.  Likewise for the Slogun collaboration tracks, these are just a touch more subdued and experimental in approach, with Marco murky treated vocals sitting low in the mix.

Although this is pretty much an album as expected from a pairing of these long established projects, it has still resulted in a strong collaboration. Colour digi-pack with 12 page booklet with all lyrics rounds out the visual side of things.

Anemone Tube – Golden Temple

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Anemone Tube – Golden Temple CD Raubbau 2016

Being issued reasonably quickly after the excellent cassette EP ‘In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality’ (reviewed here), ‘Golden Temple’ is Anemone Tube’s third formal album since resurrecting the project in 2010.  It is also the third work in a conceptual ‘Suicide Series’ which involves an abstract analyses of humanities contradictory nature and in part contemplates modern technologies/ societies which are fundamentally out of balance with nature at a global scale. 

Before getting to the music on this new album, the presentation and packaging is noteworthy, featuring gold print on rough matt black card stock, resplendent with a selection of images of modern Asian city-scapes and reproductions of old masters paintings from the 12th to early 20th century (…which function to juxtapose the modern with the historic, as well as the realistic with the mythological or dreamlike).  With such visuals and associated quotes, a core theme begins to emerge, being: the drive for personal spiritualism within a modern world focused on a spiritless pursuit of consumerisms and hedonism.  Likewise other evident themes from such text and imagery would appear to include: humanities yearning desire for the spiritual and divine; the omnipresence and inevitability of death; self-obsession and personal narcissism. Yet far from representing some sort of ‘academic’ approach to music and theme, Anemone Tube is clearly rooted in and product of underground (post) industrial spheres, and in the current era where in certain underground quarters there is a drive to see how far matters of distaste and revulsion can be pushed*, Stefan’s work is refreshing in its sophisticated conceptual approach given its individualist slant and inspiration.

Regarding the music, this is split into the main bulk of album tracks, bracketing 6 compositions under the ‘Golden Temple’ and the final 2 tracks feature as an addendum of sorts, under the ‘Arkadia – Dreamland and Myth’ heading.  The opening track ‘L’Homme Et Les Sirènes’, a piece representing a slow building cyclic maelstrom of swilling manipulated feedback and creaking, twisted and treated field recordings**, and harks back to the feel of the last album ‘Death Over China’.  It is a sound which balances structure and chaos perfectly, one which has taken the complex randomness of field recordings of busy Asian streetscapes and crafted them into sculpted soundscapes of jagged yet structured tonality.  The following pieces ‘Apocalyptic Fantasy’ and ‘Tower of Evil (The Ultimate Truth)’ shifts the mood by having a greater reliance on synths, which again balances the contradictory elements of the moody harmonic synth lines against the harsher disharmonic elements of shrill sustained feedback (…despite is more sonically challenging elements, the mood managed to remain as one of solemn reflection).  ‘Negation of Myth’ is another moody piece which again traverses a knife’s edge of dour harmonic sustained melodies and disharmonic tones which ebb and flow throughout.  ‘Sea of Lights (Golden Temple)’ sees the return of the more prominent manipulated street noise field recordings, although by tracks end these have all but disappeared leaving the synth melody to carry the piece to its conclusion.  The final of the ‘Golden Temple’ series of tracks is ‘Anthropocene – The Dark Abyss of Time’, which arcs back to the harsh sonic maelstrom and sustained charged static and manipulated field recording elements of the opening piece – again an expert display of the refined balancing of sonic element of structure and chaos as well as melody and disharmony.

‘I, Death, Rule Even in Arcadia’ is the first track under the ‘Arkadia – Dreamland and Myth’ grouping, which clearly differs from the material which precedes it by virtue of its sparse and minimalist approach, which leaves lot more sonic room in the layered of looped field recording elements, which interweave and overlap with building intensity.  The final piece ‘Tojinbo – Tranquil Sea Of Equanimity’*** then comes courtesy of the experimental sound artists Dave Phillips, who has recorded a 14 minute piece from source material provided by Anemone Tube.  Although selected field recording elements are audible (water, wind, voices etc.), Dave Phillips has wielded these in a more experimental and minimal fashion when compared the preceding tracks by Anemone Tube, and in the process created a clinical soundscape of shifting sound and tone.

Noting the sophisticated levels achieved on earlier Anemone Tube albums (both from conceptual and musical perspectives), ‘Golden Temple’ is a work which has exceeded the emotive heights of Stefan Hanser’s own rather imposing high water mark.  Although drawing on sonic elements from broad post-industrial spheres (dark ambient, industrial, noise, experimental etc), this is hardly derivative any of these genres given Anemone Tube have distinctive and individual sound which is essentially without comparison (…an equilibrium of structure & chaos and a balancing of harmony & disharmony).  This album has been long awaited and is a veritable feast for the eye, ear and mind – as any good work of musical art should be – meaning ‘Golden Temple’ comes with a mandatory recommendation from these quarters.

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* – It must be acknowledged that focusing on matters of distaste and revulsion within post-industrial spheres can have thematically interesting results, but on the specific proviso that is facilitated in a non-cliched way and not merely copying supposed genre ‘rules’.

** – The liner notes indicate the utilised field recordings were made in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nanjing and Shanghai in 2007/2009.

*** – This track contains field recordings made in Tojinbo, Japan which is a series of basaltic cliffs on the Sea of Japan, and infamous suicide spot, which therefore conceptually fits with the balance of the album and the broader ‘Suicide Series’.

Yen Pox’s modern classic on vinyl

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Yen Pox ‎– Beyond The Horizon And The Abyss 2xLP Malignant Records ‎/ Burning Inside Records ‎2016

Originally issued in 2015 on the always dependable CD format for dark ambient music, interestingly it is a musical style which does not regularly get the vinyl treatment. This is in some ways understandable given the digital formal of the CD suits the tonal range and subtler aspects of dark ambience, but not that this should preclude vinyl pressings altogether.

Yet sometimes a dark ambient album comes along which is a clear milestone and specifically commands a vinyl pressing: such as Yen Pox’s latest epic ‘Beyond The Horizon And The Abyss’.  With its complex, expansive and enveloping style, its pressing on pristine vinyl sounds simply amazing. Equally the artwork of the CD version also very much warrants the larger format of a gatefold LP and looks stunning here, having been issued in an edition of 250 copies in either black or yellow. In passing this is a veritable modern classic of the genre, so don’t miss it if vinyl is your medium of choice.  

Full noise receptor journal review here.