Form Hunter – Form Hunter

Form Hunter – Form Hunter CD Found Remains 2020

Form Hunter are an American harsh noise duo consisting of Stefan Aune (of Breaking The Will, Kjostad and Found Remains) and Weston Czerkies (of Sunken Cheek). Following a slew of cassettes issues between 2018 and 2019, this is their self-titled debut album.

Commencing with a hefty noise blast Sprung Trap is as the title suggests, while an undercurrent of scrap metal clatter underneath makes it anything but one dimensional. Mid-track the headier noise elements drop away and with the resultant tonal space, it allows for the back half the track to focus on raw sheet metal manipulations. Dry Storage functions a veritable lava flow of raw and overblown metallic generated noise, while the following piece Tracks Left in Snow provides sonic respite with shuddering and echoed sounds of undefined sonic sources. Using a cyclic echoed structure, the tone is gradually elevated through additional layering, and where the creaking metallics again take focus from mid track onward, yet never becoming completely overblown save for that dying moments of the track. Drawstring opts for a more uniform upfront blasting noise, yet the undercurrent of metallic sound-sources remains a constant with both detail and variation. With each of the preceding tracks being around five minutes each, the final album track is the monolithic 17-minute piece Blood Trail. Leaving the harshest track to last, it commences with a section of looped mid-toned creaking sheet-metal manipulations, which is gradually built into a voluminous avalanche of hefty and aggressive distortion. With the tonal range extending from low bass addled distortion to mid to higher pitched metallic squalls, there is constant variation of sonics at play, while the late track respite provided by a segment of layered scrap metal loops is a particular highlight, before launching back headlong into a harsh noise cascade.

Although raw and free-form, there is clear dynamics at play, given there is careful pacing in the way the tracks are constructed and where the raw metallic noise is hewn into loosely composed structures, as opposed to simply sounding like a free-form improvised noise jam. While personally I may not listen to harsh noise all that regularly, this is clearly an album where it represents just how creative and sonically diverse harsh noise can be. Packaging wise the album is pressed on a cleanly designed digi-pack on thick card stock, while a vinyl version is also available.

Lamia Vox ‎– Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer

Lamia Vox ‎– Alles Ist Ufer. Ewig Ruft Das Meer Cylic Law 2020

Lamia Vox’s second album Sigillium Diaboli * was released all the way back in 2013 (reviewed here), which means new material has been long awaited and strongly anticipated from Alina Antonova’s ritual/dark ambient project. But from the outset the new album’s theme and focus strongly captured my attention – and I quote: “… the album isn’t presented merely as a musical piece but bears a deep spiritual message and a counterblast to the rational, materialistic and post-theist nihilism of current age. Inspired by early modern poetry, Hermeticism, fin-de-siècle symbolism and naturphilosophie, this new opus celebrates another vision of the world, one of higher dimensions and beyond the human sphere, a world of intoxicated and ecstatic alchemy of poetic language and ideas”.

As an initial observation, this new full length is perhaps less immediate than Sigillium Diaboli, but in then being a slow burn album, upon repeat listens has demonstrated itself to be a much more of a confident and sophisticated release. Although broadly referred to as dark ambient, the album is very much a musical one based on individual songs which feature strong threads of martial and neo-classical sensibility. The album open Three Dreams sweeps into frame with a brooding orchestral synths (produced to sound anything but synthetic), where layered vocals ranges from spoken to ethereal choir-esque in delivery. When this further is combined with wind and lapping waves samples, it provides a strong mind’s eye vision that the vocals are those of the mythological Greek Sirens calling unwitting sailors to their doom. The following track Eternity with it rolling percussion, deep brass horns and hammered dulcimer comes across as more darkly gothic take on early classic Dead Can Dance. Equally this impression is also mirrored and reinforced by the intoxicating ritualised tone Dionysos complete with its ethnic percussive strains. Song of Destiny evokes a further ritualised ethereal mood through ringing piano notes, sweeping string, rolling drums and choral female vocals, while late album track Animis, with militant drums, sweeping orchestral backing and the understated yet equally edging towards soaring lead female vocals of Alina. I Call the Stars On High is another soaring and epic track of driving percussion and brass and strings orchestral melodies, while Alina’s commanding vocals are multi-tracked for choral effect.

The seven tracks combine to make a relatively short album at only 35 minutes, but in that time not a second is wasted, nor any tracks could be relegated to filler status. While Lamia Vox is in effect the logical extension of a mid to late 1990’s ‘Cold Meat Industry’ sound, Alina has also expanded on her song writing skills into realms of much greater confidence, where the end result is now very much immediately recognisable as that of Lamia Vox. The professional production and Alina’s multi-tracked vocals are very much a part of this, and when complemented with such rousing musical song focused format it has resulted in an album which has been most certainly worth the extended wait.

* – Sigillium Diaboli is being reissued by Cyclic Law at the same time as this new album, featuring alternative artwork, both on CD and pressed on double vinyl for the first time.

Mnem – Elyktrion

Mnem – Elyktrion LP Verlautbarung 2020

Mnem are an obscure Finnish project I have been aware of by name for many years, yet apart from their single track featured on the 2xLP 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik (reviewed here), I have somehow missed checking out other output. Elyktrion would appear to be their sixth album since 2000 yet has functioned as my proper introduction to the group.

Similar to the other hand assembled covers of other releases on Verlautbarung, Elyktrion features a beautifully textured cover, which is in fact a plain black sleeve which has been purposefully distressed (most likely by hand with sandpaper). With further printed elements attached, combined with a further two insets, the presentation immediately gives a special and oddly obscure feel which perfectly matches the minimalist sonics. Given that one of the inserts indicated that the album was: ‘recorded with reel-to reel tapes and effect pedals and mixed on 8-track compact cassette recorder’ and functions to provide an immediate indication of the likely tone and sonic approach.

Seven instrumental tracks feature across both sides of the black wax, and function to articulate variations on the theme of minimalist and instrumental tape explorations of the looped variety. A general muted and grey hued tone articulates the broader atmospheric aesthetic, where the sound can be further described as the erratic idling of archaic machines of ill-defined purpose. Likewise the slow movement of the sound is sonically insistent rather that hefty or forceful, where each track features a slow burning cyclic churn which sonically articulates both stasis and momentum at the same time. Of specific note Stimulus Hauler includes slow panning sound between the speakers creates a hypnotic trance inducing effect, while another track warranting specific mention is the final alum track Oblivion Arc edges slightly towards a catacombic ritual ambient sound of Archon Satani’s Mind Of Flesh & Bones album.

Elyktrion is an album I have very much enjoy from the initial listen to detailed appreciation during follow up spins, and will certainly have me seeking out the earlier material from Mnem. The LP comes in an edition of a mere 104 copies, and the tape in a similar number of 100.

Mytrip – Keeper

Mytrip – Keeper LP Amek Collective 2020

It has been a couple of years since I last checked in with the activities of Mytrip, but their 2016 album Filament was an excellent release which has received occasional spins over the years. In my review from 2017 I noted it: ‘operates at the border regions between dark ambient, drone, (modern) industrial and (abstracted) experimental techno, therefore encompassing a sound that defies easy categorisation’ (full review here). Keeper is the brand-new six tracks album and while continues also substantially builds on the earlier sonic framework by blending its elements in more varied yet unified way. Also, according to the promo blurb, the core of the album has its basis in a 2018 live performance at the Bulgarian National Radio, which has been further expanded and reworked.

Eyepiece opens the album with amorphous and ethereal drones blended with jittery programming and functions to immediately draw focused attention, before the mid-track it twists off in a different direction with sustained synth melodies. We Are All Shadow People follows and has a sense of stationary motionlessness resulting a series of duelling looped textures and abstracted synth lines. In then arcing away from this stasis, Unsealing Colossus divergently features widescreen vistas with sweeping ‘wind textured’ drones, muted melodious pulses and other semi-fractured rhythmic elements. Blood Black Like Water is then as brooding as the title suggests, based around a murky aquatic churn and throbbing base pulse, while a slow bass kick edges the track forwards. Upheaval shifts the mood again and is extremely filmic in tone, given its driving / throbbing techno pulse and maudlin cinematic synths, while the album’s concluding piece Warmth Patterns, is perhaps the most melodious track of all, with interweaving ‘glimmering’ textures (and perhaps draws a fleeting compassion to the likes of Fennesz).

Each of the six album tracks sits at around the five-minute mark, meaning the total run time is around 30 or so minutes, yet given its compositional variation it nebulously feels to be much longer than this. Equally the abstracted line-work found within nature as illustrated on the the cover is a suitable visual metaphor for the flowing complexity of the music. More varied, freeform and self-assured than Filament, Keeper is equally immediate as it complex in sonic construction, meaning it draws attention on first listen and maintains it on repeated rotations. Recommended.

Haare – Brain

Haare – Brain CD Aussaat 2020

This Finnish project have been recordings since the early 2000’s and in the process has generated an imposing back catalogue of raw industrial noise and muted power drones enveloped in hallucinogenic bad vibes. Personally, I am only familiar with a handful of releases, but I do have an impression that rather than jut using synths and noise equipment, Haare utilizes a guitar as a key sonic input, albeit one which is used in a very abstracted and atypical way.

Of the earlier Haare material I have heard it was noted to contain a greater degree of shrilly harsh, raw and freeform industrial noise. That sound then differs somewhat from this latest album, and when the promo blurb describing this a ‘psychedelic industrial monolith’ this is quite an apt and spot on description. The opening track Electric Buddha functions to set the scene and unfurls slowly with an aquatic rumble, off-kilter sounds, mid-toned abstracted guitar squalls and vague melodious strumming. The title track follows and burrows into the sensory cortex with thickly echoed, yet muted looping drones, which also embodied an early 1980’s industrial noise type. At the centre of the album Azathoth is the sound of an acid trip turned sour, with muted rumble, disembodied whispered voices, flailing percussion and free-form guitars. The back half of the album features two lengthy tracks. The first, Spirit Trip, is perhaps the wonkiest track on offer, with segments of ritualized percussion, interspersed with lengthy passage of sweeping atonal guitar drones. The final of the five album tracks is Portal which concludes the album with a meditative tone. With a crawling pace the muted layered drones and catacombic industrial rumble it generates a suitably dank atmosphere over its close to ten-minute span.

Beyond the sonics, the ‘acid generation’ imagery of the artwork in combination with the lime green, black and white colour scheme reinforces the psychedelic edge of the album. Brain is an album that will clearly appeal to listeners of raw industrial sounds, yet more importantly it contains ample elements of individual weirdness to stand completely apart from the pack.