Death In June – ESSENCE!

Death In June – ESSENCE! CD NER 2018

Although I have kept tabs on the neo-folk scene since my obsession with it during the late ‘90s, there are few albums issued over the past decade which have captured my attention, and virtually none of the newer crop of neo-folk groups have resonated with me. Perhaps this is indicative of my listening preferences shifting elsewhere, but it is only Death In June and Of The Wand And The Moon that I have returned to with any regularity. As it has been eight long years since the last formal album Peaceful Snow was issued, the announcement of ESSENCE! caught me completely by surprise, as I was not expecting or anticipating a new album from Douglas. Yet here it is, and with promises of drawing from the true essence of Death In June.

With the short opening track Welcome To Country being a ritualistic call to arms, God A Pale Curse arrives as the first proper song and is stylistically reminiscent of the acoustic neo-folk material featured on The Rule of Thirds (complete with introductory whistling). But whereas The Rule of Thirds was significantly stripped back in instrumentation, it is immediately evident that ESSENCE! is a much fuller album featuring multiple guitar lines, layered synths, prominent counter-pointed bass guitar, and a variety of other elements depending on the track (dialogue samples, ritual chimes, abstracted guitar feedback, studio treatments, etc.). With a perhaps ‘expected’ sound showcased so early in the album, things quickly take a detour into a far wider frame of influence and inspiration, which extends to both song-writing and playing on Douglas’s behalf. The Trigger is the first example of this and has a distinctly up-beat mood, which keeps pace with a simplistic up-tempo back-beat and prominent plodding bass. The bass guitar maintains prominence in the mix on Snipers of the Maidan, with a loose ‘60s feel to its playing and slashes of guitar noise in the background that substantially deviate from that of typical neo-folk. Humble Brag further references the ‘60s era with a swagging bass line, falsetto backing vocals, and lead guitar flourishes, and when a divergent mid-track bridge and late track (studio trickery) breakdown are thrown in for good measure it amounts to the most surprising track on the album.

In shifting back to perhaps more familiar territory, Going Dark is a particular album standout, where the single piano notes, acoustic guitar, understated bass, and ritual percussion pay homage to the mood and atmosphere of classic albums like What Ends… and Rose Clouds… and include the poignant and contemplative (repeated) vocal line of:  “Like a fly on the wall at my own funeral, I am free”. This is followed by another album standout The Dance of Life-To Shoot A Valkyrie, which is split into two distinct sections, the first characterized by an upfront and upbeat bass line, and the second half a more direct neo-folk piece, with the bass maintaining a plodding upbeat flair. No Belief displays yet more stylistic diversity in song-writing and playing, given it is characterised by a jangly style of guitar playing. Given that Death In June could never be accused of writing ‘happy music,’ it is only during the quite dour and moody What Will Become of Us? that it becomes apparent to how up-tempo the balance of the album is. This song in part even manages to hark back to the ‘80s sound of the group with the inclusion of stoic trumpet blasts, whip-cracks and woodblock percussion, but even then breaks new ground with two duelling and intertwining keyboard lines.

With 11 tracks spanning 45 minutes it is a brisk yet diverse album. After becoming fully acquainted with ESSENCE!, it is intriguing to hear how Douglas has pushed his song writing into newer regions, when he could have simply ‘rung in’ in a standard and perhaps ‘expected’ neo-folk album. But in drawing influences which fall well outside anything remotely neo-folk, to my ear a potential influence is Scott Walker’s ‘60s pop album Scott 4 (I am sure there are many other influences that have passed me by). In noting the wide array of unexpected aspects of this album, this may be to the chagrin of some neo-folk ‘purists’, but I am sure this would hardly be of any concern to Douglas. ESSENCE! is both an admirable and very enjoyable album, and all the more so as it manages to be a staunchly Death In June album, while also allowing Douglas to pursue new creative ends and buck any preconceived expectations in the process. Therein lies its true ‘essence’.

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ISSUE NO.6 OF NOISE RECEPTOR JOURNAL IS OFFICIALLY OUT!!!

ISSUE NO.6 OF NOISE RECEPTOR JOURNAL IS OFFICIALLY OUT!!!

Apart from the printer delivering the job four days late, the actual print job has come out perfectly. All pre-orders and wholesale parcels are being shipped this morning. Any orders made from 29th onwards will be shipped next Wednesday when I do my next bulk postal run.

Orders can be made here: https://noisereceptor.bigcartel.com/

As for content, the new issue is 114 pages in length and includes:

  • Interviews with: Death In June (exclusive), Prurient/Hospital Productions, Kevlar & Detrimental Effect
  • Detailed article on Genocide Organ’s :CIVILIZATION:, with pages of archival images of the group
    Detailed report and photos of the Tesco Organisation & Cold Meat Industry 30th Anniversary festivals
    70+ detailed review
    Cover and review section collage artwork by Dominick Fernow

International distribution via: Freak Animal, Tesco Organisation, Tesco Distro, Malignant Records, Hospital Productions, Loki Foundation, Steelwork, Amek Collective, Scream& Writhe, Deadmoon Rex, Aural Hypnox, Tordon Ljud, Cloister Recordings, Deutsch Asphalt, The Epicurean, Total Black, Hag Shadow, Cold Spring, Unrest Productions, Zine Zone, Material World – and more still to be confirmed.

 

Arktau Eos – Erēmos

Arktau Eos – Erēmos CD Aural Hypnox 2018

After the abstracted and minimalist Catacomb Resonator CD/LP from 2017, Arktau Eos have returned to a slightly more direct musical form, although this is clearly still within the enveloping ritual ambient framework for which the group is known and lauded. As is typical with this form of music, it’s structured around interlinking movements to aid flow and meditative/immersive impact; Erēmos features nine tracks, spanning 49 minutes of dour, slow evolving, minor-tuned melodies, droning soundscapes, and subtle field recordings.

The Liminal Pilgrim opens the album with swelling drones, catatonic drum pulse, and looped elements (sounding like twittering birds) which evokes a very organic and ritualistic sound, far from a computer-generated sounds palette, while a variety of other subtle layered sonic elements create diversity despite the minimalist ambient framework. After the extremely short one-and-a-half-minute track Facing The Exarchs Of Desolation, the following piece He Who Drinks The Light Of The Stars arrives with slow and sustained intertwining minor-keyed melody lines and pulsating synth tones, which further blend with various shimmering and metallic-toned ritual percussion. Autochthon is perhaps the most divergent piece by virtue of its swirling vortex of animated and surreally disorientating layers. Likewise, late album track In The Jaws Of Basalt Lions is a particular standout with its forceful droning framework, ascending/descending melodic line and sparse ritualistic percussion.

Of particular note on Erēmos is the archaic ritual- and occult-infused atmosphere embedded throughout, which is mostly derived from the deep analogue tone of the synthesizers. This generates a strong sense of mysterious and ethereal otherworldliness, but is also tinged with a strong degree of musicality in both sound and general direction, even if the instrumentation is atypical, such as a hand pump organ, archaic-toned synthesizers, and various ritual percussive implements. Although pretty much everything issued on the Aural Hypnox label constitutes mandatory listening for me, Erēmos is a pinnacle album which continues to reward with newly noted sonic details and nuances on repeat listens.

Noise Receptor Journal No.6: Pre-orders now accepted

Pre-orders on the new No.6 Issue of Noise Receptor Journal are now being accepted.

Link to Bigcartel site here: https://noisereceptor.bigcartel.com/product/1-x-copy-of-noise-receptor-issue-6

The new issue is scheduled to be released in early December, 2018. All Pre-orders will be sent immediately upon release.

International distribution is still to be organised, but all the usual suspects will be likely to stock copies.

Low resolution promo-spreads from the magazine (i.e. with text unreadable) is available here: https://noisereceptor.wordpress.com/physicality/noise-receptor-journal-issue-no-6/

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance CD Cipher Productions 2018

Ulex Xane, the agent provocateur of Streicher infamy, has recently issued this unexpected solo album which showcases a very different experimental side. Within the extensive liner notes Ulex hints that these recordings could be bracketed under a banner of electroacoustic and musique concrete, but equally he shies away from formally using those genre descriptors. The recordings themselves span a 40 year period from 1975 to 2015, with the earliest recording made when he was only 12 years old (and evidently only recently discovered on an old cassette tape).

Working in reverse chronological order, the first eight tracks are the more recent material spanning 2015 to 2009, showcasing a subtle, yet loud and crystalline, sound. The 17-minute opening track The Inarticulate (from 2015) is sparsely cavernous, but with interjecting field recordings and micro-tonal textures, while a whispered voice (purposefully enunciated to be indecipherable; the track also concludes with a mass of unintelligible screaming voices) pans between speakers for enveloping and immersive listening. Paroxysms of Disappearance (from 2010) is another exceptional track of meticulous and chaotic sonic detailing, featuring a huge diversity of sounds (from the day-to-day mundane to the completely unidentifiable) that at times combine into tensile, almost atonal, orchestral quality. Space, Time and the Categories (from 2009) is split into four separate tracks with a combined playtime of 35 minutes. Panning and surround sound elements are used extensively, along with sonic elements including mid-toned static hissing textures, treated gongs/chimes, micro-tonal sound treatments, various fragmentary field recordings, wavering sub-orchestral tones, and the ever-present widescreen separation of sonic textures.

The much earlier works on the album pick up at 1995 and extend all the way back to 1975. The one-minute Noise Panel #43 (from 1995) is a blink and you miss it short distortion rumble and noise blast workout, while The Disinherited Mind is based on a home recording made in 1984, which highlights the sonic clarity of more recent material. Here, the cavernous and echoed sound is more muted and grey toned, but still there is a huge diversity of tonal elements, including field recordings of blaring foghorns, aquatic textures, distant musical motifs, and a general mood of desolate urban space. The final track Farewell to Matters of Principle is the oldest on offer from 1975, recorded when Ulex was a mere boy. Clearly being the crudest and least refined of the set, it is based around choppy and spliced cassette recordings of garbled and choked vocalisations, slapped flesh, and maniacal laughing (and even the voice of his grandmother offering cooking tips); it is surprisingly unnerving in its execution.

Apart from being distinctly different from any other material issued by Ulex to date, the most pleasing aspect of this album is that it avoids any resemblance of a dry tonal range or stuffy atmosphere which can plague the more academic end of ‘sound-art’. Instead the sounds are detailed, engaging, and highly animated throughout, fiercely dynamic yet subtly restrained. The full colour and spot-varnished cover includes a 27-page booklet with extensive liner notes on the philosophical/conceptual framework of the material and inspirational sources, and it makes for excellent companion reading. Although I am far from well-versed in the electroacoustic and musique concrete spheres, I get the vague and subtle impression that Ulex is in part parodying and poking fun at the academic art-world. But, in noting Ulex’s already established legacy within the post-industrial underground, this is both an intriguing and exceptionally enjoyable release, which also functions to reinforce Ulex Xane as a complete enigma in the truest sense of the word.

Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix

Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix 10” EP Unrest Productions 2018

In its first version Unpunished : Appendix was issued in an extremely limited edition of 24 deluxe cassette box-sets. Only being available at a live performance in Paris, needless to say it sold out immediately, so having a repress of the four tracks on 10” vinyl is certainly welcome. Although the title refers to this being an ‘appendix’ I don’t get the impression that this is leftover material, rather new material which builds upon the themes and concepts explored on 2015’s exceptional album Unpunished (reviewed here).

Sonically speaking, the four tracks follow the now recognisable sound of Am Not, which, while being meticulously composed power/heavy electronics, does not forgo a suitably rough and raw industrial sonic edge. Opening track And Then We Shall Know commences relatively calmly with two intertwining loops (deep throbbing bass and higher modulated tone), which soon gives way to heavy and raw pounding industrial structures, and the proclamation-style rough vocals, achieving the typical blending of Am Not’s sound. Dark Star Kinshara follows and is another track of rough industrial-tinged heavy electronics that ups the intensity slightly and is also underscored by a dour organ-style drone. Intriguingly this track is: dedicated to the ongoing Congolese space program’, which it turns out is an actual thing, but one with a lengthy and chequered history with alleged links to Nazi scientists and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Side B offers another two distinct tracks, with Extremophilia II being a mass of thick pulsing loops and swirling mid-toned textures, with prominent dialogue samples and a rough vocal barrage framing the lyrical theme. The final of the four tracks, the instrumental State Funeral, is the most surprising of the lot, blending rough junk metal timbres with highly cinematic, neo-classical elements. With its stoic martial industrial percussive leanings and central dour organ melody, this on first listen is not immediately recognisable as Am Not, yet is a stunningly great track all the same.

As for presentation, the packaging is as slick and considered as the music, including four postcard inserts and four-panel booklet with mini interview to provide further information on the group and its thematic/lyrical preoccupations. Another mandatory release from Am Not and Unrest Productions.