Gnosis functions as my introduction to Sa Bruxa, yet ten or so releases have already been issued since 2016 on various formats (digital, CD and cassette). But in then noting that the project name translates to ‘the witch’ in Sardinian, it provides a strong indication that there is likely to be a ritualised sound at play. This turns out to be correct and being self-described as ‘hexed electronics’, where there is a darkly archaic ritual ambient/industrial timbre to proceedings.
The album features nine distinct but untitled compositions, each around six to ten minutes each. With a slow unfurling of its ritual sonic tapestries, Gnosis displays substantive musical ideas and sonic detailing across the album’s 65 minutes. Each distinct piece is frames around a variety of tonal elements, variously including: dank subterranean drones, bleak but strangely unidentifiable field recordings, tribal rhythmic elements, ritual percussive clatter, and on occasion abstracted garbled/chanted vocals and dour rudimentary synth melodies. Thus, with the core of the material seemingly being framed around seething field recordings and coupled within real instrumentation and occasional vocals, it pushes the overall tone well away from a cleanly produced studio sound, and one which at times gives a slightly more modern nod to the ritual sonic spheres of the cult Nekrophile Rekords roster.
In an overarching sense there both clear character and atmosphere at a play on Gnosis, which makes for a rather sullen experience given its darkly claustrophobic and soot-infused pitch-black atmospheres. Thus with reference to text on the digi-pack which states: ‘Gnosis is a journey into occult emotional soundscapes, articulated in ten nameless rituals’, rather than being a statement of bluff and bluster it is a very spot on and accurate description of what the album delivers.
Smell & Quim – Cuntybubbles LP Cheeses International 2020
Look at the cover. Stare at the detail. Take in all of its garish, oddly surreal and theoretically offensive but more specifically hilarious visual elements. Even without reading a further description of the sonics found on Cuntybubbles, the cover is a clear statement of what to expect. Thus with the visuals being an effective counterpart of the sonics, it all combines to create a complete package of disturbed yet satirical improvised noise weirdness that only Smell & Quim can deliver. It then perhaps goes without saying that Smell & Quim are very much an acquired taste, and in my early years of getting into the post-industrial underground in the late 1990’s I found their surreal and absurd approach off-putting for my ‘too serious for my own good’ attitude at the time, so consequently I never deep dived into their now rather extensive catalogue. But with the passage of time, it means I am approaching Smell & Quim completely different light with an older mind.
The opening track Cleopatra Frankenstein kicks off in fine form with a mid-paced lumbering elephantine rhythmic stomp further blended with mutant noise. Later this gives way to a spoken word passage akin to a BBC radio story, and also sees the backing with shamanic drumming and random pop beats which cuts in and out. The very English titled Old Spunker is an extended length track framed around rhythmically looped sex noise (not kidding), elongated loops, and other sonic randomness, while a rising wall of wind tunnel noise elevates in the background. The fantastically titled Jimmy Saville – Timelord concludes Side A, in a short track of layered vocal cuts up and pulsating noise. Side B brings a further four tracks of sonic weirdness. Another fantastically titled Quim Reaper charts a sound akin to Smell & Quim trying their hand at death industrial, where a soundscape of grinding echo textures and descending synth tones acts as the backing to a looped vocal stating ‘and now we’re going to die’. Bang Out Of Order further delivers with a brute force industrial noise flair in all its overloaded distortion and bluster yet Smell & Quim stamp their trademark eccentricity through the inclusion of a sampled nationalist type song. The Cuntybubbles Variations follows and is the track where things get seriously weird – if they were not weird enough already. Being a track split into five parts it plays out as an LSD tip gone bad, chopping between noise cuts ups, odd spoken word, and more vaguely structure and rhythmic sonic passages. Rounding out the album is The Wicker Thing and returned to BBC radio story territory, with tolling church bells, minimalist countryside soundscape field recordings, spoken word vocals and a concluding acapella rural folk ditty sung by what I presume is an aging farmer.
As can be gleaned from the above, this is a rather sonically diverse and darkly surreal album as to be expected from the group, but is a strong and coherent album too, functioning on its own internal logic which pulls you into its weird and bleakly humorous sonic world. I have read the commentary of others that Cuntybubbles is as strong as their any of their best prior material, but I will leave it up to other long-standing fans to determine the validity of that. As a final note, this release sees the relaunch of UK label Cheeses International which has been inactive since the early 2000’s.
Hypnosmord – Thurnemanimprovisationerna / The Thurneman Improvisations MC Hypnosmord Förlag / Styggelse Tapes / The AJNA Offensive 2021
As alluded to by the title, this tape is inspired by Sigvard Thurneman who was a somewhat obscure Swedish occultist, serial killer, and leader of the criminal-esoteric society ‘Den Magiska Cirkeln’ during the 1930s. There are various oddities associated with the case (more than can be explained here), that warrant further exploration for the interested. It is worth noting that this tape is a companion of sorts to a book just released in English by The Ajna Offensive, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman. As for the project Hypnosmord, this seems to be a collective of musicians where the main performer Hans K. Styggelsen is aided by Gammalsjul, Sten Röse, Hector Meinhof, Brynolf Ledung, and Siegfried Holst. The recordings on this tape features two 30-minute compositions, which function as sinister improvisational piano movements for the shadowy twilight hours.
Although the liner notes indicate that the hour runtime contains five suites, the material flows together continuously on each side of the tape. The overall atmosphere is distant, obscure, and forlorn; slow moving, minor keyed piano melodies float through the twilight ether, and on occasion devolve into sections where the playing becomes mere sparse atonal stabs at the ivory keys. Apart from the piano element there are scant backing elements of what sounds like the crackling of a gramophone needle, creaking wood, echoed bass thuds, passages of Swedish spoken vocals, unintelligible mournful wailings, distant vaguely rhythmic elements, and a variety of other unidentifiable haunting tones with a sinister-edged musique concrete sound. When all of these aspects are brought together with the spacious and reverb-tinged keys, it evokes a vision of a grand piano being played in a crumbling abandoned mansion, where the psychic barrier between the waking and spirit world is slowly dissolving in response to the improvised musical evocations.
Being very much music for late night solo appreciation and deep contemplation, this is an excellent underground obscurity of sinister spectral music. Limited to a mere 141 copies, a double-sided multi-panel insert rounds out the visual presentation.
Hollow Men – Burial of the Unheard MC Styggelse 2021
Hollow Men will perhaps not be a recognized name, but this is the precursor of Memorandum, the tribal death industrial project of Petter Marklund, who was also behind the cult but short-lived label Mechanik Cassettes. As Memorandum’s early releases are considered classics that were instrumental in establishing the late 80s and early 90s sound of Cold Meat Industry, it was with significant intrigue that I approached these complete Hollow Men recordings compiled from material dating from the mid 1980s.
From the outset it becomes apparent that the sound of Hollow Men differs from that of Memorandum, given it has forgone any tribal/rhythmic elements, and functions at a more obscure and rudimentary level of early Nordic industrial experimentation. This is also evidenced by the shorter length of tracks which are mostly a couple of minutes each, except for the final track which is eight minutes. In many ways the overall approach constitutes the early building blocks of a sound which would later evolve into a recognisable Swedish Death Industrial, albeit here at a less refined level. As such, soot-soaked and deep analogue tones feature as loosely constructed mechanized structures and slow-paced rhythmic movements, while the treated apathetic spoken vocals evoke a morbid tone. Coupled with these sonics are sampled elements of film/documentary dialogue, choral vocals etc. which blend in with the general sonic muck. The early pairing of tracks Our Souls and Do You Hear Them? stands out from the rest due to their minimalist synth sound, and despite its simplicity the pulsating rhythm and two-note melody used in both tracks has quite an odd charm. The final title track is also notable as an excellent death ambient track of muffled droning tonality coupled with a slow ‘train on the tracks’ rhythmic element during the first phase, which later morphs into a prototype death industrial sound in the final section.
Clearly Burial of the Unheard is an important archival release given its heritage and pedigree, providing early context for what would later come from the Swedish industrial underground. But more importantly it contains ample no-frills charm and a certain obscure factor that makes for very enjoyable listening (and therefore more than simply a release to be collected and filed away by archivists).
Silence Of Vacuum – 6: The Rubberist MC Institute Of Paraphilia Studies 2020
For those unaware, Silence Of Vacuum is a side project of Mikko Aspa focusing on the specific theme of rubber fetishists, articulating this through visuals and sound.
As per the title this is the sixth in the series and features two untitled 10-minute tracks. Each of the tracks is based around laboriously grinding and seething layers of mid-toned droning distortion which is equally muted and minimalist. Clearly there is a muffled and ‘suffocating’ aspect to the atmosphere which aligns with the theme perfectly; there is limited sonic movement or tonal change displayed over the 20-minute run time.
As for the presentation, the tape is housed in an oversized black plastic box with a 20-page full colour booklet of vintage rubber fetishist imagery. Between the sound and the visuals, you can almost smell the latex, talcum powder, and sweat.
ASRAR’s vinyl reissue campaign of early Streicher material continues, with this being the third LP following Annihilism and Hammerskins. Although Genius Of Victory technically constitutes a new title within the Streicher discography, in actuality it is a compilation collection of three impossible to find early 1990s tapes, including Der Stürmer, Gnadelos, and Oi Terroristen.
Der Stürmer opens the album and is a track demonstrating the basic essence of industrial noise, being framed around coarse monotones and sustained synth static and crumbling textures. Streicher Skins follows with a more militaristic approach that very much embodies the self-described ‘tactical electronics’ descriptor, with upfront incessantly oscillating tones paired with a looser undercurrent of semi-rhythmic metallic loops. Des Stürmers Kampf differs through its use of a sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song, before diverging into a bulldozing track of interweaving and pulsing bass tones and sampled crowd chanting; again, simplicity and directness is the order of the day and absolutely succeeds with the end result. Side B brings a further three tracks, where Purimfest 1946 stands out with its high-pitched needling texture offset against a lower-end idling machine tone and further crowd chanting, while the latter half of the track arcs back to another sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song. While the crude and basic sonics of Boot Party retains the consistent ‘tactical electronics’ approach, this is coupled with the trademark gruff ‘skinhead thug’-style vocals of Ulex that makes Streicher so immediately recognisable. This approach also follows on final track Skragkraft,but is more sonically consistent with Streicher Skins given its framing around invasive high-pitched modulating tones against a shifting tide-scrabbling lower bass static, while Ulex spits gravelly vocals referencing “skinhead survival”.
Given the focus of the featured tracks, there is a singularity of approach which provides a surprising directness and immediacy that hangs together excellently as a standalone full length, rather than potentially being a disjointed compilation collection. The white vinyl pressing is of a thick 180g weight, as is the chosen card stock of the cover; this and a double-sided insert including reproductions of the original cassette artwork does this release suitable justice.