Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain LP Cloister Recordings 2021

Cryptophasia is an new American/ Russian duo, where the atypical imagery and design of the gatefold artwork, orange/gold vinyl pressing, and the translucent orange outer slip-sleeve provides a strong initial impression of this being different from typical underground fare. Likewise, despite having listen to this LP numerous times, there is an amorphous aspect to its sound and general sonic approach which defies easy genre classification within a broader post-industrial sound.

In general terms the album can be thought of in two sonics halves, where the track World of Illusory leads of Side A, which overall is moody and contemplative and of a sound and style of an earlier 80’s ritual industrial approach. As such vocal chants, filmic drones, organ melodies, muted horns, ritualised clatter, and wonky industrial textures abound, where the pacing is both slow and considered. Female spoken vocals also feature on I’m On The Inside, which are offset by a mid-toned droning loop and slowly repeated three note piano melody. As for the second sonic half, the lead off track on Side B is Word Of Pain and functions to indicate a more focused aggression displayed the back half of the album. Here the mood elevates towards a composed power electronics tone, where the ritual elements are paired back and the harder industrial textures and aggressive male vocals are brought to the fore. Condemn Me is a great example of this blends shuddering textures, queasy distortion, unintelligible dialogue and distant yet urgently yelled ‘megaphone’ vocals. As for the final track The Nightmare is a concluding highlight, which much like the album overall splits its sound between the moody ritual industrial approach with harder, aggressive and nauseating tones.

Although not an overly long album, given its variety of sonic ideas on display World Of Illusory, World Of Pain feels far longer than its relatively short runtime. Clearly rooted in post-industrial spheres, it draws equal influence from early ritual industrial soundscape experimentation as well as more modern power-electronics abrasion. But there is still a large individual streak at play here which makes this stand apart from many of its contemporaries, which is no easy feat within the current post-industrial underground.

Dieter Müh ‎– The Bjorn Tapes

Dieter Müh ‎– The Bjorn Tapes LP Force Majeure 2018

This is a prime case of what is old is made anew through a welcomed reissue, so kudos to the French based Force Majeure label, which itself is a sub-label to Nuit et Brouillard. The Bjorn Tapes is an early release from the long active UK industrial experimentalist project Dieter Müh, which I was of the understanding is the solo endeavour of Steve Cammack. Although I have now discovered that at an earlier point the project was a duo with David Uden. This recording from the early duo period, which itself is a live recording from 1999 where the sound has been further treated in the studio subsequent to the performance. The first edition of The Bjorn Tapes was fittingly on cassette, released on tape via the Japanese noise label Xerxes, run by Yasutoshi Yoshida of Government Alpha. Later in 2004 it was reissued on CDr via the Italian post-industrial Blade Records, and now has finally made it onto vinyl 19 years after it was originally recorded.

Although armed with a central experimental focus, there is a strong thread of raw post-industrial sonics present throughout. Herma is the first of three tracks and edges into frame with a distant drone and muted rhythmic loop. Later some more forcefully scratching metallic tones are added for good measure and the general approach pushed into far more active industrial territories. Low Feed follows with a similar tone of muted drones and rhythmic loops, but with the inclusion of unintelligible treated voices. Likewise, the echoed and distant sound of the raw mid-toned metallic textures give a clear sense of the live setting of the recording, while the overall atmosphere edges towards being more forceful as the track progresses. Side B features the single lengthy track Aghor, and while tonally consistent is somewhat more abstract given its span. Cavernous tones give way to a thrummed bass pulse, which in turn shift to looped aquatic rumble, sparse echoed shards and disembodied radio voices, and semi-melodious drone which builds to a choppy and chaotic peak, before collapsing late track back into more minimalist and abstracted sounds.

Presentation wise, the cover is a two-panel foldout outer-sleeve, with screen-printing on textured card with replicated original cover artwork and live photo on the back panel. This when coupled with the heavy wight vinyl pressing of 320 copies rounds out the entire package in a classy and no-frills manner.

Serration – Rites Of Flesh

Serration – Rites Of Flesh LP Cloister Recordings / Total Black 2021

With the mixed formats of releases these days I can’t quite keep up with what is deemed as an ‘album’ or other miscellaneous item. Thus while Rites Of Flesh is Serration’s ninth release, it is self-classified as debut full-length album, so who am I to argue with that? But to talk of recent years, Serration have been building a well-deserved following with their ‘military-industrial complex’ focused take on a heavy electronics sound, meaning this new recording has arrived with anticipation.

As a general observation Rites Of Flesh builds on a recognisable template of the project. So it could be said that rather than flipping the script, here it demonstrates more minor tweaks and refinements to the established approach. This then relates to the detail and general pacing of the tracks and well as dialling down of the overtly aggressive elements. Likewise, with only five tracks featured (the shortest is five minutes, and the longest at ten), it allows each piece to find its brooding pace and explore tone in a controlled and unhurried manner, such as displayed on opening cut War On the Ground. This is followed by an early highlight The Failed Counter Insurgency, with looped Arabic prayer chant set against a swamping tide of thick throbbing synth layers, while later on the distortion drenched vocals take to the fore. The title track also charts a minimal yet menacing furrow, which then steps up into a swirling miasma of mid toned drones and aquatic squelch on Fools Of The Land. The final album track We Kill Your Man take brooding restraint to it logical conclusion, while the hefty distorted vocals pack an impact when they soar over the low toned bass drones, and sustained high-pitched needling element.

In an overarching sense the general mood of Rites Of Flesh is one of controlled restraint, yet maintaining a tensile ambience remaining throughout, while the heavily treated vocals are the most on edge and urgent element on display. Ultimately Rites Of Flesh is an expertly crafted and honed album, and well worthy of its vinyl pressing. So for those focusing only on the past classics of the genre, they are clearly missing the current highlights such as this. Limited to 200 copies on black wax and 100 on white, along with a double sided insert.

raison d’être ‎– Daemonum

raison d’être ‎– Daemonum CD Cyclic Law 2021

Three years on from 2018’s Alchymeia, raison d’être ‎continues the journey into the inner space of ones’ own subconscious ego, as described within the promo blurb: ‘With Daemonum raison d’être scrutinizes the secrets of the Shadow; the Anima/Animus archetypes and the manifestation of them as a Soul image. By learning to listen for the voice of our subconscious self, we can call that voice our Daemon, our internal genius that provide guidance, we can find hidden potential within ourselves’.

Given that Daemonum also marks three decades of activity for Peter Andersson’s main project, by now it is quite reasonable to have a strong sense of what to sonically expect from a raison d’etre album. Thus upon initial listens this new album feels very much to be a logical extension of the sound and approach of Alchymeia, where the six lengthy tracks again illustrate the slow pacing and evolution across the album’s 74 minutes. Equally, many of the expected elements are to found, such as: the deeply contemplative and achingly melancholic drones, the sublime choral laments and vocal chants, the catatonic chimes, the sporadic tolling of church bells and catacombic bass tones etc. However, of the rougher scraping metallic tonal elements which raison d’être often relies, while these are sporadically present, the tonal timbre has been pushed into the background and not as overly prominent this time around. Yet to also focus on further differences, Daemonum includes a greater prominence of contemporary classical elements such as: the abstract orchestral stings on the album opener The Implacable Portal and The Roots of Our Weakness; and the booming atonal horns on The Primordial Image. Further divergent elements also include the elevating mechanical churn at the core of Inside The Enantiodromia, while the final track Daemonium prominently stands out from the rest, based on its central echoed/ringing piano note strikes and separate minimalist mourning ivory melody.

Apart from the album’s six main tracks, there is a special edition which contains a companion album Daemoniacum which delivers a further six tracks over a 40-minute span. Conceptually it is described as thus: ‘Think of Daemoniacum as some sort of anti-polarized version of Daemonum, as if Daemonum was haunted and possessed by a demon. As if the daemon inside is turned into a demonic creature because the host becomes obsessed by the demon. As if the Anima/Animus was intruded and molested or rejected and deformed, infecting the host, causing a different and repressed output. Daemoniacum is the album manifested by the demons’. Based on this description, perhaps the resulting sonic form is not as dark, ‘demonic’ or even chaotic as might be expected. Rather the sound is comparable as a general sonic extension to the Daemonum tracks, albeit here the compositions are slightly mellower overall and on the shorter and succinct side at around seven minutes each. Although perhaps not reaching the same lofty heights as the main album tracks, Daemoniacum is far from being second rate material either and is well worth the listen for all long-term fans.

Metaphorically speaking Daemonum encapsulates a sound which sonically articles dimly lit and claustrophobic underground passages which sporadically given way to soaring cathedral ceiling spaces. Equally the towering heights and crushing depths of the soundscapes hint at the psychological knife’s edge separating redemption or damnation of ones’ own psyche/ego. To not put too much of a point on it Daemonum is again another standout showcase of Peter Andersson’s skill in evoking and composing his profoundly emotive sound-works. Daemonum is available in the standard CD or 2xLP set, or as the special edition with the supplementary album Daemoniacum as a 2xCD or 3xLP set.


JT Whitfield – Pressed Pill

JT Whitfield – Pressed Pill 7”ep Damned Gates Recordings 2021

The name JT Whitfield was vaguely familiar when I received this, although equally I could not immediately place it. But with further investigation it is noted that JT is a Texas based artist operating within the underground and specifically the in-between spaces where noise, industrial, dark ambient and experimental techno collide. In further contemplating the abstracted skull image of the cover and the unintelligible font (which is somewhere between a black metal logo and calligraphic scrawl), it belies the actual musical content pressed on the wax.

As for those sounds, the 45prm 7”ep features two tracks of lumbering, caustic and stilted industrial rhythms which equally hints at a tone of experimental noise and industrial techno without fully embodying these either. A thick fractured bass pulse and fleeting horror synths kick things off on Press 1, while further fractured off kilter rhythmic elements keep thing darkly wonky. Slowly tidal washes of rising distortion are added for good measure and there may be a vocal line in there too – or is that just another noise texture? Not quite sure. Press 2 follows on the flipside, and contains more of a mutated techno kick combined with mid toned scrabbling textures, but it too retains an off kilter and slow-paced forward roll. Also, although not specifically recommended, I did note that this can also be played at 33prm without sounding wrong and actually provides an positive ‘screwed’ effect – meaning that of a drawling drugged haze provided by the slower speed.

The limited run pressing of 50 copies also comes with a series of screen-printed insets, rounding out a decent little release, issued on this boutique Melbourne based label.

Various ‎– All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy

Various ‎– All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy 2CD The Epicuran 2021

By the ‘II’ tag of the title, clearly this is the second tribute release to the late and sorely missed John Murphy. This time around the double album collates material from five projects (i.e. counting Krank and Crank as the same project), where John was the creative driving force, which differs from volume ‘I‘ which mostly featured a wide variety of bands and projects where he was a contributor (reviewed here).

The twenty-minute Krank track NAOS Number 1 leads off the first CD, where despite dating from 2012 is an 80’s sounding ritual industrial soundscape, consisting of grinding synth textures, scattered wavering tones, fragmented sonic oscillations and occasional percussive elements such as bells and singing bowls etc. The composition is quite loosely structured with not real driving rhythm or beat, rather is built around blown out abstract synth chords, with a very analogue tone and associated sonic warmth. Also featured are liquidous sounding ‘micro’ tones and contact mic-ed clanging metal on metal arrhythmia. Whilst there is an element of freeform improvisational playfulness its sound, the track is also carefully controlled and paced to generate its grimly dissonant atmosphere.

Up next are six tracks from The Grimsel Path, which was a project of John Murphy and Jon Evans (both of Last Dominion Lost), noting also that the moniker The Grimsel Path has contextual links back to Last Dominion Lost, with this project name being a track title off their debut album. The six tracks are noted to be live recordings from 2012 when the group performed at the Foetus Frolics Festival in Berlin and inhabits quite a similar tonal sphere to Krank’s preceding track. Nevertheless The Grimsel Path’s tracks differ in that it is slightly more focused due to the format of shorter stand-alone tracks and includes sporadic vocalisations which are wholly absent from Krank’s track. Unhinged clanging electronics, misfiring machinery and general industrial debris mark the opening piece Deviation, whilst Scorched Earth features humming suspenseful horror synths (aka Angelo Badalamenti style), otherworldly vocalisations and a production of cavernous, echoed depths. Run Please Master then ups the ante somewhat with a stilted rhythmic drive and cinematic synths late in the track, whilst Sideshow of the Soul features a low bass throb, over which a mostly subdued but sometimes chaotic scattered industrial noise soundscape is positioned.

Following on is a project called Ophiolatreia (meaning ‘snake worship’) whom I am wholly unfamiliar, with two tracks dating from 1992 featured. Encompassing a ritual industrial/proto dark ambient material, it has an organic sound and analogue tone, complete with chimes and minimalist wailing horn. Rounding out the first disk are two tracks from My Father Of Serpents (dating from 1987 & 1988), which follows a similar primitive ritual industrial/dark ambient approach, yet there a radio voice cut up technique is employed which gives it a deviating edge.

Moving on to the second disc, it features only three tracks. The first two are short tracks from My Father Of Serpents and Ophiolatreia and continue the mood from the first disc, which is followed by a lengthy 63-minute untitled track from Crank. This extended composition dates from 1993 and is a freeform and loosely flowing industrial/ritual ambient soundscape, with the general tone of a muted mineshaft aesthetic. The pace is slow, and the control of its varied sonic elements is unhurried, allowing the mood to draw the listener in while the sonic movement unfurls. Yet from the muted opening segments through the middle of the track it elevates to noise-industrial bluff and bluster, before receding to ritual soundscape spheres one again.

Despite the various monikers featured across this double album there is also a general sonic consistency and tone to the featured post-industrial soundscape to ritual dark ambient material, where the two discs can be let to simply play through without the flow and atmosphere jarring between projects and features material. Without questions this is another wonderful tribute to John and demonstrates the strength of his output during the pivotal developmental phase of the post-industrial underground and across subsequent decades, even if he perhaps did not receive wider recognition for it during his own lifetime. As with all releases on The Epicurean, the packaging and design is exquisite and makes owning the physical artefact a mandatory recommendation.

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия 7”ep Novichok ‎2021

Novichok ‎is a new Australian based label with the chosen name specifically referencing a Soviet developed nerve agent. Clearly this split release has carried on with this general theme, given Am Not’s track is also titled Nerve Agents and the cover features an image of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic (although in truth I did not immediately recognise who was on the cover as the image is of a much younger Mikhail, meaning I had to seek assistance in identifying who it was). The interior panel of the cover also features an image of the interior of Salisbury Cathedral, UK which would be a reference to the 2018 novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, who is a former Russian military officer and double agent for the British intelligence agencies.

Rope Society leads off Side A with the track Bite The Hand. In noting that Rope Society is a side project to Isomer which was primarily launched to focused on harsher sonics, it is interesting that this track partially arcs back to the sound of an earlier Isomer MCD Nil By Mouth. A Russian dialogue sample and low squelching heavy electronics modulating pulse opens the track, over which a seething distorted vocal is spat and further coupled with smattering of static smears. Space and separation of tonal elements provide a spacious production which is controlled rather than unhinged in mood. Am Not follows on the flipside, and feature a track of composed yet harsh power electronics, based predominantly on an idling machine line tone around which more jagged tonal elements are framed. But where the metered vocal delivery of Tamon is a usual and trademark element of Am Not, they are notably absent here. Instead the vocals are provided courtesy of Shift, and are completely flesh searing in their aggressive intensity, where through further sonic treatment are pushed to a point of being yet another distorted sound layered.

Given the short and sharp format of this 7”ep, both groups deliver a poisonous dual dose on this very commendable release. With a number of split 7”ep’s having already issued on the label, it will be rather interesting to watch how Novichok develops.

Haare ‎– New Age Of Death

Haare ‎– New Age Of Death CD Aussaat 2020

New Age Of Death was fittingly issued in the final month of the ‘plague year’ of 2020, and followed quite quickly on the heals of the Brain album also on Aussaat (reviewed here). For this new offering, it features four lengthy tracks of freeform psychedelic and ritually tinged experimental noise.

Thunderbolt Gate Invocation opens the album with slow paced meandering serpentine coils of sound, warped tones and thick bass focused aquatic rumble. There is a sparse calmness to proceedings, where the heavy use of echo and reverb provides hallucinogenic effect. The slow unfurling pace continues on Phowa which opts for a more straight down the line doom-drone oriented offering, where the abstracted bass guitar distortion is sonically notable, but does become more freeform as the track progresses. The title track is the longest piece at 20 minutes, consisting of a thick washes of hollow wind-tunnel styled textures, and minimalist underpinning bass drone, while a slow swirling churn to proceedings remains throughout. Final track Maitreya elevates a ritualised and psychedelic sound above all, framed around a central shimmering tone given the impression of a hurdy gurdy, further combined with a variety of sparse ritualised chimes.

Based on the length of the four tracks and their overall slow pacing, clearly this is an album on the much calmer end of what Haare do, so certainly an album contemplative and meditative appreciation. A mini-gatefold card cover rounds out the dark vein of psychedelic spirituality nicely, with the physical edition limited to a mere 200 copies.