Kjostad – Environment Electronics CD Found Remains 2020
Environment Electronics was first issued by Found Remains on cassette in 2018 (reviewed here). Now it has been reissued on CD with updated artwork, along with two additional tracks and subjected to remastering treatment by Grant Richardson (Gnawed) for good measure.
The original tape version of Environment Electronics featured six tracks intent on blurring the line between environmental field recordings and man-made elements, self-described on the cover as ‘exercises in electronic-organic synthesis’. The original tracks span a variety of sonic textures and approaches including elongated and abstracted drone minimalism, light washes of static counterpointed with bird song, and a general underpinning of bass rumble and mid-spectrum static. Of the extra tracks on the CD, first bonus track Regression was originally issued on the 2019 Found Remains tape compilation Through A Glass Darkly and, based on the micro-tonal detailing, it sounds to be mostly the sonic result of a night-time forest walk complete with insect noise and bird calls. The means by which the sounds have been captured and processed is unclear, but they sound amplified and hyper-real in tonality. The middle of the track evolves into more mechanized territory with a series of intertwining elevating loops and panning static rumble. The second bonus track, Arrowhead Killer, is an abrasive cut of ‘upfront’ and detailed junk metal tones and overblown sonic textures put alongside other naturally-toned sound elements. With its careful looping and layering of elements, it makes for sonically complex and engaging listening.
The careful balancing of organic and man-made tonal elements here maintains an industrial noise rather than academic ‘sound art’ approach. The newly remastered sonics pleasingly elevate the sound to greater heights and, with the bonus tracks and new artwork, this a welcome reissue and expansion of the limited original tape.
Linekraft – Subhuman Principle LP Tesco Organisation 2019
Over recent years I have heard a number of Linekraft albums, all of them solid and punishing in a freeform scrap metal abuse / noise industrial sort of way. While I have certainly enjoyed those albums, I have also stopped short of becoming an obsessive listener. Now Subhuman Principle has changed that, because this new album has twisted the known Linekraft sound into a much more focused power electronics frame of reference, and the results are simple amazing.
Eight tracks feature in all. Spitting pulsing synths, mangled sampled voices, and a rough industrial ‘beat’ open the album with Archaic. But just as it gets going, the track concludes in little over a minute, which leaves me wanting A LOT more and feels like a misfired opening shot. No Loss in Weeding Out fixes that and charts a slow building sound of wavering synths and crowd chatter/chanting, before surging forward with interweaving atonal synth lines and flourishes of junk percussion and flanger-smeared vocals. A similar sound and approach is showcased on Hunger which runs a knife’s edge between controlled and chaotic – a description that could be applied to much of the album. In essence, there is a strong compositional basis on display here, constructed around shuddering bass, looped conveyer belt rhythms, divebombing atonal synths etc., over which are overlaid more chaotic tonal bursts, shredded processed vocals, documentary samples, and sections of scrap metal abuse. Stand Alone is a late album standout with its strong pulsing rhythmic beat and urgent wavering synth textures, and is reminiscent of mid-era Genocide Organ if any sort of indication of quality was needed.
Thematically and visually the album is concerned with the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea – aka Cambodia). The title is partially explained by a fragment of the promo blurb: ‘Controlling the people is to kill their bodies and spirits. Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group. Music presented here is a soundtrack for “subhumans” who starts to act by oneself’. The visuals reinforce the horrendous human toll of the more than a million people who died during the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979. Sonically and thematically, this is another essential album from Tesco Organisation HQ.
Death Kneel – Adaptive Emotional Use LP Total Black 2019
This album is my formal introduction to the works of Death Kneel, the project of Max Klebanoff. Seemingly active since 2014, 13 cassette releases have been issued in that time, but Adaptive Emotional Use is the first release on vinyl.
Stripped to the Ivory Core opens the album with detailed micro-tonal scrap metal and field recording tones, but ample depth in the mix and the separation of sounds makes for detailed and engaging listening. A brooding atonal synth rumble and looped conveyor belt provide slight momentum and structure, but mid-track the whole mood shifts into wondrously minimalist and melancholic synth melodies. The title track follows and continues with shimmering melodious synth elements, yet these are force-fed through sonic filters which changes their tonal quality to scattered and fractured. Later in the track a pounding industrial undercurrent appears while the sweeping maudlin sub-orchestral textures gain focus and prominence. In clear contrast to the controlled and moody elements which precede it, Trauma Martyr opts for a more direct expression, consisting of choppy cut-up static and chaotic junk metal noise, with a rumbling bass distortion undercurrent. Would Anyone Die For Me? features a moody piano melody, minimalist scrabbling textures, and fractured mid-toned synth elements, generating a mood of melancholy and restraint. For the final track Redemption Angel (Corpse Criteria) the harsh and choppy cascade of noise returns, sitting at the mid to lower tonal range and clearly based on layered and processed scrap metal abuse – yet midway in it coalesces into a mangled mass of sub-orchestral synths and shimmering, fragmented, mid-toned noise.
With its wildly divergent sound, but one which is clearly the result of detailed attention to the structure and composition of sonic elements, Adaptive Emotional Use could be filed alongside the likes of Puce Mary or Damien Dubrovnik, without necessarily sounding like either of those. With its clear attention to detail and the careful juxtaposing of harsh sounds against melodious elements, Death Kneel have delivered an evocative and artistic take on experimental industrial noise.
Himukalt – Vulgar CD Found Remains 2020
By way of background, in 2018 Found Remains released Himukalt’s fifth release, Come October, on cassette in a limited run of 100 (reviewed here), and a year later reissued it on CD. In 2020, Found Remains have turned their attention to another earlier Himukalt release for the reissue treatment: fourth cassette, Vulgar, which was originally released in 2018 via No Rent Records. For this version, two bonus tracks have been added to the original eight tracks, and remastered by Grant Richardson (Gnawed), which makes for an extremely impactful result balancing sonic clarity with ample tonal filth.
Although this is one of the early releases from Himukalt, it is intriguing that the project appeared ‘fully formed’ in 2016 and – rather than showing ‘improvement’ or ‘refinement’ over subsequent releases – it has been more of a case of variations on a composed, razor-sharp approach to industrial noise / power electronics. This is very much the case with Vulgar. The eight original tracks are broadly framed around erupting fissures of analogue muck, pulsing atonal synth textures, roughly oscillating ‘conveyor belt’ loops, and misfiring drum machine ‘beats’. Such elements have then been hewn into a selection of equally brooding yet punishing compositions, where vocals and dialogue samples sporadically break through the sonic muck, yet for the most part are unintelligible or only partly detectable. Of the bonus tracks on the CD, Not In This Body was originally issued on the 2019 Found Remains tape compilation, and is slightly more tonally ferocious than the material that precedes it. Featuring a droning and sonically stalking aesthetic, tension builds before sporadically erupting with pulsing bass hewn malice. The final track Want You To See Me (The Voyeur Tapes #15) is by far the longest track at over 16 minutes – twice as long as the longest track of the main collection. The track unfurls in a traditional pulsing death industrial style, with a consistent bass thumping pulse, while mid-tone drones interweave in a sonically invasive fashion, and become increasingly unhinged as the track proceeds.
The original tape version featured non-existent black artwork, but this reissue comes with a 16-page booklet featuring evocative collage artwork by the artist. The quality of the printing and weight of the card stock is also noteworthy, creating a solid tactile presentation that perfectly suits the fetishization of physical media in an era blighted by the instant gratification of media streaming. The liner notes are also an intriguing addition which provide further detail about both source material and inspiration. Recommended.