Puce Mary – The Spiral

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Puce Mary – The Spiral LP Posh Isolation 2016

Two years on from the excellent album ‘Persona’ (reviewed here), Frederikke Hoffmeier has returned with the ‘The Spiral’ which not only meets, but absolutely exceeds all pre-conceived expectations. Without doubt Frederikke has employed focused determination in refining her craft over the last couple of years, which is a work ethic that has served her well.  This includes a meticulous attention to detail in the studio, but also balanced by proving her technical prowess as a performer on stage. Interesting I am yet to hear any dissenting voices of the underground in potentially ‘denouncing’ Puce Mary as a relative newcomer, which is all the more impressive given that avoiding such criticism within the post-industrial underground is no easy feat (…and by virtue of its absence functions to closes the loop on the impression that Puce Mary is something special).

Upon listening to ‘The Spiral’ for the first time, selected tracks are immediately recognizable from her live performance at Tower Transmissions V in September 2015 (reviewed here), which again demonstrates Frederikke’s abilities to replicate her sound faithfully between the studio and stage. As such a range of styles and moods are to be found on the album: from brooding industrial noisescapes, to harsher power electronics barrages, whilst also drawing upon elements of noise and ambient for good measure.  With lyrics printed on the inner sleeve it is pleasing to see the lyrical content is equally poetic as it is impressionistic and avoids any clichés of the genres covered.  The cover is also visually apt in its abstracted tension and implied eroticism which skews the more typical visuals of the industrial genre.

The title track opens the album, and is a slow burning and building piece (depth sounder radar blips, brooding bass rumble, sparse ‘Penderecki’ like orchestral noise and stilted percussive thump), which ramps up in tensile fashion.  ‘Night is a Trap II’ follows and sees Frederikke in full flight, based on forceful oil barrel type percussion, driving drones, shrieking noise and shrill, distortion processed vocals (…truly sublime in its aggressive urgency).  The instrumental piece ‘The Temptation to Exist’ draws more heavily on industrial dark ambient styles soundscape, with fizzing static providing a sharper edge, while the final track for Side A ‘Enter Into Them’ delivers an experimental industrial soundscape (…prepared piano?, microtonal contact mic sound layers, chimes, minimalist percussive structures and dour spoken vocals).

‘Mask Are Aids II’ opens Side B and strives again for power electronics aggression through piecing high pitched noise, driving drones and heavily layered stilted industrial percussive elements, with the harsh vocals are partially buried in the mix.  ‘The Actor’ is another album highlight again demonstrating the prowess of Frederikke to produce pounding industrial soundscapes which are infused with psychological tension and upwardly spiralling urgency.  ‘No Memory’ then provides slight respite with an experimental spoken word soundscape, consisting of treated field recordings, plodding bass, droning organ textures, all underscored by a straightforward programmed beat (..for sure a divergent element for Puce Mary).  ‘Slow Agony Of A Dying Orgasm’ rounds out the 8 track album, with a track which covers all sounds and approaches displayed on album within the guise of a single song.  Commencing with tensile ambient soundscape; moving through stilled/ tensile industrial structures; and building to its conclusion framed around a pounding/ squalling/ aggression charged power electronics barrage, it is beyond fantastic.

If Puce Mary is still at the point only know by name alone, this is absolutely your loss (…and a mighty large one at that). ‘The Spiral’ is an album which has skilfully built upon and refined sound and approach from earlier releases to deliver an album which is a contender for being declared a modern classic.  Given this is no small prediction to make, it has not been made lightly, yet more importantly ‘The Spiral’ is an album which in no uncertain terms should be let to pass by unheard. Without a shadow of doubt, a mandatory recommendation for 2016.

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Armour Group – Purge

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Armour Group – Purge LP It Records / Trait Records 2015

Hailing from Melbourne Australia, the male / female duo of Amour Group (aka Luke Holland and Harriet Kate Morgan), were formed in 2012 and have been performing live on a semi-regular basis since.  ‘Purge’ is their formal debut release, noting an earlier tape was issue in 2014 as a document of two performances from 2013 (reviewed here).  Indecently ‘Purge’ was first issued on tape in a short run via Future Archaic in 2015, which has since been reissued on vinyl in collaboration between It Records and Trait Records. As for the musical focus, Armour Group encompass a somewhat direct influence from a ‘classic’ European power electronic and death industrial sound, but pleasingly this is done with complete sincerity to come off with both convincing and individualistic result.  Sonically the sound is driven by a direct mid-paced analog synth structures, coupled with smatterings of dialogue samples and apathetic distortion processed vocals (care of both Harriet and Luke depending on the track). 

Having already previously heard “Purge’ in its initial cassette edition, the first thing to be noted on the LP pressing is the mastering treatment courtesy of James Plotkin. This is immediately evident on the sonic front as it has provided a boosted and forceful production.  ‘Strength’ kicks things off with murky yet loud, revving analogue drones and semi-burred vocals.  Encompassing a solid sustained tone and with minimalist variation over its length, this leads in the next ‘untitled’ track where idling machine like loops act a backing to a police interrogation sample.  Yet it is on the third title track where things really take a step up in urgency, towards blood boiling ‘PE’ territory.  Here the track ‘Purge’ features a focus atonal pounding rhythm, buzzing synth frequencies and an avalanches of distortion, where the human element comes from further interrogation samples and the gruff vocals of Luke. 

Another ‘untitled’ track opens Side B featuring a central militant drum beat and barren war scarred landscape, which leads into ‘Conditioning’ which is by far the longest track on offer at 9 minutes. Constructed around a stilted thumping beat and layered mid-toned pulsing distortion, Harriet takes the vocal lead with slightly echoed/ flanged apathetic spoken style (…over its course the layering becomes gradually fiercer as does the urgency of the vocal delivery).  For the final album track ‘Shoot to Kill’ rounds out the LP on an absolute high.  With an introductory sample of “The hunt is over. Shoot on site. Shoot to kill.” The track launches into spitting and static driven Korg loops and semi-buried but anger fueled vocals (…repeating in part the dialogue of a number of samples littered throughout the release). This final album track it is absolutely on point and a standout, which also justifies a positive comparison to the direct aggression of early Genocide Organ.

All in all ‘Purge’ is not a long album by any stretch – totaling just under 30 minutes – but most importantly is not padded out with any filler material. With a predominance of subdued death industrial tracks, but augmented with a two direct power electronics assaults it is a very strong statement of intent as the formal debut, and clearly establishes Armour Group as a project which great things should be expected in years to come.  Although at this point in time Armour Group may not be widely known internationally, surely with the calibre of the material featured on here this is set to change.  Finally the sleeve design courtesy of Trine + Kim Design Studio is slick and understated to round out the visual presentation and with the Armour Group logo designed to resemble an explosive warhead, it is an apt metaphor of the sonics to be found within.