Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies

Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies 4xMC Cloister Recordings 2018

Micahel Idehall is a name I have been familiar with for a number of years, but for whatever reason never got around to checking any of his material until now. But in then being introduced to his music via this release, I have been advised that this is VERY different to his usual output, which I understand may be more rhythmic based and song focused. As for Four Prophecies, it very much an exercise in endurance as the four tapes contain a long-form 45-minute composition on each side, thereby totally a whopping six hours of music. As an overarching descriptor, this can be bracketed under minimalist and industrial tinged dark ambience, where the eight tracks are massively sprawling as may be expected from the format.

Given the sheer elongated run-time, there is a certain process of shifting your mindset when approach this, and very much seeking to slow the chatter and internal dialogue of your mind so as to better succumb to the slow evolutionary flow on display. Each piece effectively inhabits is own sound palette and minimalist stylistic slant and slowly unfurls over its duration. Sonically the industrial-ambient soundscapes are darkly hued, structured around layering of muted atonal drones and grey echoed sound washes, and while being predominantly instrumental, whispered vocals, and distant chants do make sporadic appearances. Select tracks have a more pronounced rhythmic undercurrents, including low bass throbs, stilted ritualized percussion and other mechanical textures (clicking sounds, distant machine idling etc).  There is also a notable darker abstracted ritual atmosphere throughout a number of compositions, which for the sake of comparison reminds of the late era minimalism of Archon Satani.

Given the long-form run time it is perhaps an overly obvious statement that it encompasses a meditative quality. But given the catatonic evolution of each piece, once your mind is drawn in it quickly generates an impression that there is no beginning and no end – but only the ever present now – where the mind slowly floats along in the ever-flowing sonic stream. Packaging wise does the set suitable justice with four pro-printed tapes and j-cards housed in an oversized pro-printed cardboard slider box. Clearly not a release for those with a short attention span, but a rewarding one for those with patience and willingness on focus on the minuscule sonic details and gradual tonal shifts.

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Zyklon SS – Racial Superiority

Zyklon SS – Racial Superiority LP Viva Angel Press 2019

After numerous releases since the debut cassette in 2014 (including: various tapes + CD reissues, a further live CD, a DVD, 7”ep and 10” ep), Racial Superiority is billed as the formal debut album from the project. To then make mention of the ZSS’s previously self-described ‘war against moral remediation’, the fact this is issued on a label from China functions to up the stakes and amplify the confusion around what is the actual meaning and message of the project, particularly when taken context of its title. This situation is then further reinforced by the statement on the back cover which notes: ‘wielded in faith, illusion is the ultimate weapon’.

From the liner notes, the material which forms the eight tracks of the album were recorded and assembled over ten years spanning 2008 to 2018, which technically speaking the earlier years predate the first release from the project. But sonically this sit squarely within the ongoing evolution of the project’s sound, where it displays a further reduction of the raw noise and increase of the structured and brooding industrial elements. Thus with the incessantly oscillating noise and slowly grinding loops, the prevalent atmosphere of this album is one of laboured and morose stasis, and quite noticeably only five tracks featuring the morbid toned phaser/ flanged vocals.

On Side A, the admittedly excellent vocals are sparing used and only feature on one track, given two tracks are instrumental, while a fourth Ascension Cycle then utilises a prominent looped sample of the Lord’s Prayer atop cavernous rumbling loops and ominous industrial soundscape backing. Given the use of controlled restraint, it is not until the end of Side B when the mood shifts towards blood boiling intensity, with the final two tracks providing suitable tension release. We Belong To The Lord  brings the goods with a mid-paced waivering drone and ominously pounding beat, as the brutal and antagonistic processed vocals rip through the centre of the mix. Bullets Of Flesh rounds out the album a steps up another notch with a forceful and militant beat, and incessant industrial drones, while the phaser treated vocals generate a clear anthemic quality.

In a general sense the atmosphere feels perhaps overly subdued on initial listens, but on repeated listens gives ways to a mood of controlled tension created through careful restraint. But when played at suitably high volume the massively seething bass layers add a solid sonic punch. Thematically the album appears to be mostly focused on religion, belief and fanaticism, while the overall mood and feel of the album draws a clear parallel to Genocide Organ’s The Truth Will Make Your Free album from 1999, which itself was a clear exercise in control and restraint, as is mirrored here. Limited to only 100 copies, this was promptly sold out, so will no doubt be highly sought after, but don’t despair as it would seem that a CD reissue on Freak Animal is already planned.

 

 

 

S.T.A.B. Electronics – Enemy OF Pigs

S.T.A.B. Electronics – Enemy OF Pigs LP Unrest Productions 2019

Is it really four years since the last S.T.A.B. Electronics was issued in 2015? I guess that is the truth of it, but it certainly feels it was only a couple of years ago at most. Ah, how time flies. Anyway, here is the new brutal power electronics offering from this UK project, and in pulling no punches Enemy Of Pigs is without question an aggressive aural attack. But also in truth this was perhaps was to be expected.

Given its relatively straight forward and no-frills power electronics approach, each of the seven tracks are structured around a number of blended sonic layers, broadly consisting of looped/ mid-toned harsh distortion, industrial strength/ noise infused drones and smatterings of dialogue samples. In also acknowledging the project’s trademark and standout vocals, these are again present in their white knuckled profanity laden rage, where lyrical focus spans both social commentary on matters such as identify politics, as well as those tracks of clear personal catharsis. Yet it is pleasing that tonal variation has been employed in the way which the vocals have been treated, processed, mixed and layered, meaning they are far from one dimensional in approach.

To speak of specific tracks, album opener High Infant Mortality features a Jim Jones ‘drink the kool-aid’ related sample, which itself has been looped and repeats throughout a track of shuddering bass heavy noise and vocals which are smeared with distortion across the mix. The following track Slug then ups the brutality with churning static and vocals which barely contain their spite and rage. Her Dead Eyes is another visceral standout based on the hard and nails sonics, as well as the delivery of and thematic focus of the vocals. Likewise, the cascading looped distortion and quivering noise Sic Semper Tyranis provides the backing for another vocal barrage, which themselves have been pitched and slowed for added impact.

If you have heard earlier material from S.T.A.B. Electronics you are going to know what to expect here. Yet even with that said there is a noticeable refinement and control in the way in which these tracks have been constructed, layered and mixed, making for yet another storming addition to the S.T.A.B. discography. Issued in limited editions on vinyl and cassette.

Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow

Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow – A Contemplation On Pieter Bruegel‘s Series Of The Seasons CD The Epicurean / Auf Abwegen 2019

Being a three-way split of sorts, there is perhaps little point in trying to highlight who did what, particularly as their individual inputs combine and blend into a seamless whole. Yet even so, the sonic hallmarks of each project are clearly present throughout (depending on the track), which includes: the clinical and forceful ambient drones of Jarl, the archaic soundscape ambience of Monocube and the evocatively lush vs tonally harsh industrial ambience of Anemone Tube. Likewise, as is expressly stated in the title, conceptually the album is inspired by the Pieter Bruegel’s seasons paintings, of which five in the series are reproduced in the luxuriously designed eight panel double gatefold card cover, while the eight-page booklet provides further conceptually relevant liner notes.

Five tracks span just short of fifty minutes, which will give an appreciation of the long form and slow evolving compositions. Evidently composed over a span of five years, this is clearly evident in the meticulous detailing and the controlled and unhurried approach. The atmosphere effortlessly articulates the slow morphing ebb and flow of life and the cyclic nature of the seasons, and even more so when nature-based field recordings are employed within the sonic framework. The is also a huge spectrum of tonal variety employed, which makes each of the five compositions clear and distinct from each other, which spans the calm and contemplatively toned, to the compositions with greater tonal heft and force.

The Gloomy Day opens the album and embodies the mood implied by the title through sweeping minor key tonal washes and synth pulses. The Hay Harvest then significantly deviates though its use a manipulated micro-tonal contact mic recordings, lush sub-orchestral synth washes and further field recording elements (late in the track throbbing clinical drones and higher pitched sustained tones take over). The Harvesters then makes central use of field recordings, which are gradually overlaid with intense atonal synth drones and squalling distortion which makes for the noisiest composition sitting at the centre of the album. The muted synth melodies of The Return of the Herd are suitably bleak and forlorn, which is counterpointed with the forceful and intertwining crystalline drones of The Hunters In The Snow, which late track shifts into austere melancholia. With its widescreen atmospheric soundscape this final track morphs into the sound of whiteout snow blizzard which sweeps the album into concluding oblivion.

Given the glut of releases being issued year upon year in the broader dark ambient field, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in the mass, yet this album has no issue in those regards. This is an album which immediately draws you into its sonic tapestry and thematic narrative and does not let up for the entire duration. Personally, I listened to this three times back to back upon receiving it, which is proof enough of this point, and further underlines my assertion that this album warrants your detailed attention, regardless of if the contributing projects are familiar or not. Conceptually, sonically and visually, this a veritable feast for the ear, eye and mind.

Slogun – Nothing. Ever.

Slogun – Nothing. Ever. CD Old Captain 2019

The long standing Slogun returns in 2019 with a new album which incidentally is the 19th full length* issued since the mid 1990’s (* – excluding splits and collaboration albums). With solo member John Balistreri being active under the Slogun banner for 23 years now, the sound of the project has always been defined by and is immediately recognisable for his New York drawl and bile fuelled misanthropic rants. In that regard some things remain the same, as the vocals again play a core and central role, while the thematic preoccupations are neatly wrapped up in the album tag-line of: ‘Nothing you do will ever matter. Nothing. Ever’.

On the sonic front, it is apparent just how far the sound has elevated out of a harsh free-form noise style which was prevalent in the early days of the project, but which over recent albums has been gradually moving towards greater structural and refinement. Accordingly, Nothing. Ever. spans 11 tracks and 48 minutes, where creaking metallic textures, field-recording based loops, buzzing static, digital pulses, sustained drones etc. characterise the sonic framework. But rather than built a harsh wall of sonics, clear space and separation is employed in the mix, which gives each element room to breathe. Likewise the mood is controlled in tone and tensile in atmosphere, without being overtly aggressive or punishing. This then allows the centrally prominent and delay treated vocals to amplify a more overtly attacking and antagonistic mood. To speak of the vocals, these are are hard as ever in their aggressive and strained delivery, where it is also quite a monumental effort on John’s behalf to keep delivering rock solid, psychoanalytical tinged but street level focused rants without running out of either steam or thematic ideas.

With relatively compact and to the point tracks, the albums moves through at a brisk pace, which functions to maintain interest given the differing sonic compositions between each track. Clearly Nothing. Ever. this is still power electronics and industrial noise at its core, but when comparing this to much earlier output from Slogun it absolutely underlines how much emphasis has been placed on the meticulous structuring of the sonics into distinct and individual tracks. Consequently Nothing. Ever. manages to both sate expectations and surprise in equal measures, resulting in a very enjoyable album.