Volunteer Coroner ‎– Disease Colony

Volunteer Coroner Disease Colony MC Cloister Recordings 2020

Cloister Recordings have again issued a project I am not at all familiar with, but it seems Volunteer Coroner is the solo project of Preston Weippert who is also involved with the Trust Collective label. Seemingly only active since 2018, over 10 releases have been issued by the project to date.

From the outset, contemporary ambient electronica sounds are immediately evident, where the melancholy-inflected synth lines draw on the lineage of the type of material issued via the Posh Isolation label. Sweeping sustained synths and slow abstracted loops form a backbone of sorts, where other harsher elements are added and subtracted, including aquatic churn, revving distortion, crumbling static, and looped scrap metal recordings, all of which provide a solid post-industrial heft to proceedings. Yet despite these harsher tones they never fully take over the core maudlin atmosphere provided by the ever-present sustained synth lines. Dialogue also occasionally features but is treated with echo and panning effects so that careful attention is needed to pick up the content of what is being said.

With a controlled pacing and slow evolving melancholic mood, Disease Colony is an excellent example of contemporary post-industrial sounds. Collage artwork and a printed insert housed within an over-sized clamshell case nicely rounds out the physical presentation of a very enjoyable tape.

Contrastate – Recorded Evidence II

Contrastate – Recorded Evidence II Black Rose Recordings 2020

Any new release from Contrastate is welcomed, and despite 2020 being what it has been, it has also given us both a new album as well as this compiled collection of tracks which we should clearly be thankful for. Intriguingly the title indicates this to be the second release in a series, but technically speaking there was no first ‘recorded evidence’ album. But I then assume it is perhaps referring to the False Fangs For Old Werewolves compilation collection from 2005?

Recorded Evidence II functions to bring together twelve tracks lifted from compilations, 7”EPs, and three other previously unreleased tracks. As a general observation, the tracks are presented in chronological order, spanning the years of 1993 to 2019, although the project was then inactive for around a decade between 2000 to 2010. This then means there is a difference in style and tone, where early material represents ritual ambient soundscapes, while the newer material has a clearer and sharper sonic production which includes rhythmic moments and song-like passages, but where those elements are woven into larger compositional tapestries. Early album tracks English Embers and Under The Line Laying North are perfect examples of the sound of early Contrastate, being darkly hued ritual ambient soundscapes, while the former includes a trademark monologue styled vocal line. The track Haunted located at the centre of the album from 2013 then marks a shift in the production sound and style which was evident after their reformation. With a clearer and crisp tone, here being of a sub-orchestral drone style, but with occasionally interjecting string and rhythmic stabs, while the late section has a beautifully dour film noir feel. The following True Believer is then noted as the original studio version of Have You Heard the Good News? from 2016’s live album No Eden Without Annihilation. But in a studio version is in a radically different form, with swirling textures, sparse piano melody, and prominent half-sung half-spoken vocals. Likewise, late album track The People Who Control The Information is notable as a quintessential example of modern-sounding Contrastate, featuring wonky rhythmic elements as an abstract soundscape coupled with strongly delivered upfront vocals.

Given the span of years this collection is gathered from, the production and approach to songwriting differs substantially from piece to piece. Yet given that there is literally no other group within the post-industrial underground that sounds like Contrastate, this allows the twelve tracks fit together neatly as a coherent collection of material. As for the packaging, CD is pressed in a mini-gatefold cardboard sleeve and features further detailed liners notes which provide occasionally humorous (mis)information on each of the selected tracks. A great collection.

Die Kombination – Signale

Die Kombination – Signale CD / 7”EP Endangered Species / D-A Tonträger 2020

Although Signale is the second full-length album from Die Kombination personally I have not heard the 2017 debut. But as per the saying ‘first impressions count’, Signale immediately makes a heavy impression based on the packaging and presentation alone. The standard edition* is anything but standard, being reminiscent of the lavish and sophisticated packaging of the early works of Der Blutharsch and Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP). As such the CD and 7”EP are housed in a black cardboard box with the project symbol and title printed in silver foil blocking. Additional insets then include: a photograph; stamped information card; and 16-page booklet held together with coloured twine. This beautiful presentation gives an immediate sense of dedication and attention to detail which absolutely sets the tone before any of the musical content is heard.

As for the music, Sopimus opens the album with a tone of bomb-blasted and ash-strewn landscapes, where sweeping winds and tensile sustained synth line are the main elements underpinning a lengthy Finnish speech sample. Brooding and intense, it immediately captures a tone and atmosphere often attempted but rarely achieved. A similar mood follows with Tali-Ihantala, where the stilted rhythmic synth elements have been over-processed to replicate the sound of exploding bombs. Narvan Marssi then comes as quite the musical surprise by featuring rolling martial snare drums and strident organ melody. The short track Interludium recedes into a furrow of deeply brooding slow synth melody, which functions as the introduction to Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey, which elevates into a grinding, mid-paced heavy electronics track of muted swirling tones and heavily echoed textures. Unternehmen Silberfuchs reverts to an atmosphere of minimalist battlefield atmospheres (again with lengthy dialogue samples), where synth and layers elements are added and subtracted over the course of its extended length. Playing out as a largely instrumental album, vocals then do appear on a single track Poltetun Maan, and are an absolute standout element. Here the track is based around atonal shuddering loops and sweeping widescreen textures, where the heavily processed vocals are of the classic-sounding heavy electronics type (treated with echo and distortion), and while unintelligible they sonically articulate a sense of baying anguish. The main album concludes with the short piece Erinnerung, an ambient industrial soundscape which in its features an achingly beautiful musical motif that carries through to the dying moments. To then mention the 7”EP, while it contains a further two tracks these feel to be more aligned with rounding out the thematic context of the set given they are original songs (1936 & 1942 respectively) from the period the theme of the album relates. With further reference to the theme, as titles and samples are not in English it makes it difficult to grasp the concept overall. Yet based on the title of one track (Operation “Birke”), it appears the theme relates to a conflict between Finland and Germany towards the end of WWII.

Musically speaking, clearly, there are passing shades of LJDLP, but perhaps a greater influence and homage to early 1990s German heavy electronics material such as early Predominance and Dagda Mor. Yet while such linage and inspiration are clearly noted, in no way does Signale sound to be a mere copyist as there is ample individual flair and considerable sonic and musical variety across the album. Likewise, when then sonics are appreciated in combination with the content of the lavish packaging, it ensures Signale is a mandatory album.

* – a private edition of 15 copies also exists, with the album on a cassette, with it and the 7”ep and other inserts housed in a vintage German metal ammunition box with the Die Kombination symbol sand-blasted into the paintwork.

Code Neda – The Inner Enemy

Code Neda – The Inner Enemy MC Cloister Recordings 2020

The new album from Code Neda features eleven tracks and continues on the same honed European industrial / power electronics / heavy electronics path laid down on 2019’s album Tomorrow Double The Body Count (reviewed here).

Simple but direct synth elements feature, which includes revving loops and loosely rhythmic structures to form the backbone of compositions, around which scattered distortion and other sonic textures interweave. Vocals are also an upfront element but heavily treated as an additional seething mass of sound. Tonally heavy and with its sonic elements clear and balanced, it gives the sound real impact and sense of blood boiling urgency, where the machine-gun rhythm of Best Friends Slaughter is a prime example. Dead Silence In Phnum Penh then charts a slightly more ominous and brooding tone where Tamon Miyakita of Am Not provides spoken vocals. For more variation, the looped element of The Scream provides a militant rhythmic underpinning akin to a rolling martial beat, while the final track Anfal Operation concludes the album as a heady and unhinged track of eruption noise, swirling distortion charred vocals and underpinning alarm pulse.

The Inner Enemy essentially functions as an album of eleven distinct tracks that play out as variations on the same core elements of sound. With each composition being sonically well thought out and expertly presented, Code Neda again presents material that showcases some of the best sounds of the current industrial / power electronics / heavy electronics underground.

Solus Varak ‎– Abyssal Mirror

Solus Varak Abyssal Mirror MC Polar Wounds 2020

Polar Wounds are a new discovery for me, being a micro-tape label from northern Russian. Intriguingly the label’s catalogue numbering is noted to be counting backwards from ten, so presumably, the label may cease activity to be when it reaches zero, yet I’m not entirely sure on that either. But to speak of this tape I know nothing of Solus Varak, where Abyssal Mirror is their latest tape of sweeping dark ambient soundscapes and post-industrial ruin.

Five tracks feature across this lengthy tape, with each broadly being freeform and flowing in approach, yet the material still displays a strong compositional underpinning. Accordingly the approach involves dour drones, minimalist and sweeping ‘isolationist ambience’ synths, distant field recording elements and sparse industrial debris which combine to create melancholic and contemplative soundscapes to cover off on the dark ambient description. The general ambient tone is then interrupted with other passages of distortion tarnished vocals and controlled mid-toned noise squalls which pushes the atmosphere towards more caustic post-industrial spheres. Yet even with these slightly harsher sonics, overall pacing is catatonically slow, to maintain a dour and controlled tone throughout.

Certainly don’t let the obscurity of the label or project fool you – this is excellent and high calibre stuff, where they pay off in its discovery delivers in spades. The tape edition seems to be limited to 40 copies, which is far too few for material of this quality. Recommended.

Maltreatment ‎– A Searing Path To Enlightenment

Maltreatment A Searing Path To Enlightenment MC Cloister Recordings 2020

This appears to be the debut release from Maltreatment where its approach is based around controlled power electronics blended with moments of charred noise. Five tracks make up this EP length tape.

Sonically the tape demonstrates a sort of split personality, which on one level features an undercurrent of brooding synths, but over which layers of chaotic and scrabbling higher pitch noise erupts. Vocals are also an excellent element, where they featuring as a hollowed out roar sitting off in the background, which sonically treated samples are also sporadically employed and function to hint at unpalatable themes. With the tonal spectrum charting a heavy low-end rumble to fierce higher pitch squalls, there is also the tone of raw scrap metal abuse sessions forming part of the recorded input. On more than one occasion the relatively loose approach to blending elements of brooding power electronics and scattered noise reminds of Prurient, but which should be read as a compliment and not criticism.

Packaging involves an A5 booklet housed in zip-lock bag where text and collage artwork functions to hammer home the chosen theme. With the credits then providing a thank you to ‘anger, depression, anxiety & drug use’, it gives a clear indication of the strongly negative vibes captured on this tape. Certainly a strong debut.

Robert Turman – Beyond Painting

Robert Turman – Beyond Painting CD Chondritic Sound 2020

Robert Turman is a long-standing American experimental musician who has been recording since the late 1970’s, and while I am familiar by name due to the early association with NON, I am far less familiar with his recorded output over the years. But to speak specifically of Beyond Painting, it is not a new album from Robert, rather it is the second reissue of an album from 2010, given it was previously reissued in 2013 on vinyl. As for the music itself, it was recorded back in 1990 yet remained unreleased for two decades until its first issue in 2010.

The lengthy opening track Soft Self Portrait sets the scene being a melodious dronescape with a tinge of melancholy to proceedings. The floating dronescape continues on Al Qa’ida, but the prominent mid-paced bass guitar line and counterpointed melody give a completely different feel and pace. On First Quarter it sees the return of an aching melodious undercurrent, where the slow shimmering drones seem to be guitar-based, and sonically reminds of the drone works of Troum for a comparative marker. With the musical landscape established across the first three lengthy tracks, the following four and equally lengthy completions play out as variations on themes. Effectively these slow-paced drones gradually unfurl, but over which intertwining yet minimalist musical motifs such as a piano line provide more detailed focus, while other elements such as unobtrusive vocal chants make a fleeting appearance.

Far from being a ‘doom and gloom’ underground release, this is a wonderful album of slow morphing contemplative and melancholia-tinged soundscapes. The physical pressing comes in four panel digipack, and as with all of Chondritic Sound’s releases, the chosen cardboard stock is of a thick gloss type that provides and a solid and high quality feel to the packaging.

Controlled Death / Rudolf Eb.er ‎– Death Ceremonies

Controlled Death / Rudolf Eb.er Death Ceremonies LP Cold Spring Records 2020

Here we have a split album from the long-standing Swiss artist Rudolf Eb.er who has teamed up with Controlled Death which is a side project of Maso Yamazaki (aka Masonna). According to the promo blurb: ‘….a spontaneous meeting brought up their mutual interest in degraded and primitive black metal. Discussing their own latest black brews of sinister side projects gave birth to the idea of the ‘Death Ceremonies’ LP’.

Rudolf Eb.er leads off Side A with eight short experimental tracks (titled Ende Leben (Hëxapoda Cëremonia) I through VIII), which are less than three minutes each. Of note, the sound is experimental and has a particular ‘micro-tonal’ approach, while exuding a strong ritual tone to proceedings. Scratchy ill-defined tones, creaking atonal strings, rhythmic footfalls tramping through forest undergrowth, windswept sonics and horrifying garbled vocalisations sit alongside layers of humming synths with a brooding tensile tone. The cumulative result is an atmosphere which is archaic and horrifying in the best way possible, and which feels far longer than the short run time of the vinyl side.

Controlled Death takes up Side B and is perhaps more stereotypical of a primitive and lo-fi death industrial approach. Eight tracks feature, with each titled Death Ceremony I through VIII. A typical approach is displayed across the vinyl side, where grim and laboured atonal echoed synths tones shudder and squirm, while distorted and agonised vocals sporadically erupt. As with other material I have heard from Controlled Death, the tracks commence and cut out without warning, which gives the impression that they have been culled from larger semi-improved recording sessions. Regardless of the truth of that, the abrupt sonic result functions to amplify the primitive tone and unrefined approach.

With each side of the LP sonically distinct, Death Ceremonies is an excellent conceptual pairing of two staunch underground artists intent on creating some of the most obscure sonic death worship. The LP comes pressed on 180gm vinyl in an edition of 400 copies.

TØLERANT ‎– Advanced Exercises In Resource Denial

TØLERANT ‎– Advanced Exercises In Resource Denial MC Cloister Recordings 2020

This is my first introduction to TØLERANT, where this may also be their debut release, but I am not completely sure on that either. So, with scant information, I suspect this may be an American project, as musically speaking this tape would fit neatly alongside a recognisable American death industrial sound which has been further spliced with a controlled and seething heavy electronics bent.

Ten tracks make up the cassette where the broader atmosphere is one of control and restraint, rather than a sound of an overly aggressive attack. Careful and meticulous layering as well as clear attention to sonic detail is a key aspect of the mood, as is the slow and controlled pacing in which the compositions unfold. Slowly idling synths and revving textures function to create soundscapes of controlled atonal tension, while other rawer tones such as crumbling scrap metal abuse are added for good measure. Likewise, with a ‘widescreen’ atmosphere the heavily processed vocals sit off in the distance and provide an edge of angst and desperation. Tracks such as Peace Through Strength and Rank Slaves do slightly up the pace, but even so, they remain as mid-paced affairs. Yet Bait and Bleed stands out with a strongly warfare-oriented mood, given bombing noise and gunfire chatter underpinning the swirling atonal synth textures. The final track Tipping Point is then a monolithic standout track, featuring slow pounding beat, squelching distortion, divebombing textures and hefty vocal barrage.

If I were to through around guiding compassions, TØLERANT has carved out their own niche somewhere between the death industrial of Gnawed and the industrial / heavy electronics of Serration, meaning this is another excellent release from Cloister Recordings. An oversized clamshell case rounds out the physical presentation.

Kjostad – Extinctionist

Kjostad – Extinctionist CD Chondritic Sounds 2020

Stefan Aune’s ‘organic versus electric’ experimental noise project has been rather busy of late, with the fantastically titled Extinctionist being the latest full-length offering. Again the blending of the organic and electric elements again reigns supreme, with the tone ranging from subdued and contemplative, through to heady yet controlled noise avalanches.

Opening track Vigil blends bird calls and fizzing / erupting overblown static, prior to a detailed sonic cascade of scrap metal clatter. Moving onwards the second track Riven opts for different sonics with a deeply echoed and hollowed out track of scattered and multi-layered micro-tonal field recorded elements, which appear to have been made in urban / industrial environments and further manipulated into loosely rhymical loops. The subdued and controlled mood continues with Fort Kjostad, again using loosely constructed loops for rhythmic impact, before pulling back to low electric drones atop which a myriad of field recordings of natural environs are placed (water, wind, birds singing, etc.). Later the rhythmic scrap metal loops reappear but are relegated to the background in a distant and controlled fashion. Scavengers features as the most straight down the line track of chaotic and controlled noise, while Iron Edge commences with muted scrabbling tones (a microphone being buffeting by wind?), and slowly builds with loose caustic loops and mid-toned widescreen drones and onwards to structured territory based around creaking metallic recordings. The final title track is perhaps the loosest and nosiest track of the entire album. Being based on a substantial number of tonal layers it is a rough and erupting track of considerable sonic heft, although it waxes and wanes in the latter half before one final death throw outburst.

In noting its experimental noise approach, Extinctionist has ample rough and sonic crunch to please the noise and industrial listeners. But equally displayed extremely well controlled and composed pacing, and willingness to pull back on all-out harshness, which will no doubt be of strong interest to the listener of a more experimental yet composed field recording bent. A spot-varnished, four-panel digipack with images from an early settler era of America rounds out a classy sonic, visual, and physical presentation.