Salford Electronics – Communique No.2

Salford Electronics – Communique No.2 CD Tesco Organsiation 2017

Now that The Grey Wolves have ceased activity, former member Dave Padbury will be continuing in solo guide under the Salford Electronics moniker. In then noting that Salford is a suburb of Manchester, UK it may be reasonable to assume this is where Dave resides and it has duly informed the project title.

Perhaps of note, this debut Salford Electronics album was released a couple of months before The Grey Wolves final album Exit Strategy (reviewed here). Now having had a chance to listen to both albums in detail, there appears to be clear conceptual linage between the two (and perhaps this observation better frames Exist Strategy as being an album strongly influenced by the current sonic mind sent of Dave as evidenced on Communique No.2). Likewise, with reference to the soundtrack/ soundscape style of Exit Strategy, this mood also threads through Communique No.2 albeit in a far more controlled and ambient guise. The promo blurb also draws such parallels given its description of: “Salford Electronics is the follow up to The Grey Wolves – Communique 2 is a perfect Interzone eternal night noise or neon rain-soaked stalker science fiction vibrations for would-be blade runners, A soundtrack to the hollow hours empty of sleep”. Although ultimately differing in sonic execution, Communique 2 and Exist Strategy are two albums which work rather well together, given they explore similar thematic territory, but with slightly differing sonic result.

Given that Communique No.2 spans 41 minutes across ten interlinking tracks, it is best taken as a complete musical work. As such it is an album that is darkly moody and which sonically articulates a dystopian malaise of the dead hours of night, where the atmospheric industrial-noise/ dark ambient  soundscapes slowly ooze forwards in a minimalistic and cinematic guise. Here darkly moody elongated drones mix with sparse washes of noise, buzzing distortion, semi-buried rhythmic elements, but all the while maintaining a controlled and minimalist tone. But not being of studio construction alone, Prestwich is constructed around dank urban field recordings, minimalist electronics pulses and semi-buried radio chatter. Yet to speak of differences, This Sickness positioned at the centre of the album differs from the bulk of the album given its programmed/ electronic rhythmic structure.

With the effective ‘non-existent’ album artwork giving no visual reference points, it functions to redirect all focus on the musical framework, which reveals a highly detailed work of dank minimalist atmospherics and interspersed with occasional moments of biting tensile sonics. The fact that such a strong solo project has emerged from the ashes The Grey Wolves should be welcomed news, and hopefully bodes well for more high caliber material being delivered by Dave Padbury via the Salford Electronics moniker. Recommended.

Advertisements

The Grey Wolves – Exit Strategy

The Grey Wolves – Exit Strategy LP Tesco Organisation 2017

So here we are, 14 years on from the last official Grey Wolves album Division released in 2003. Being many years in the making, Exit Strategy has also been announced as the final album from this long standing and rather revered group, with its release also coinciding with their final live ‘action’ at Tesco Organisation’s 30th Anniversary show in Mannheim in October, 2017. So as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end” – and end they have, but not before this ‘exist strategy’ was devised.

Having spent some time becoming acquainted with Exit Strategy, from the outset there is no way of getting around the fact that the sound of the album is not representative of what would typically be expected from The Grey Wolves. This comment is then made in full acknowledgement that the project has over their 30+ years of activity covered a diverse range of sounds, which has included: atmospheric dark ambient; murky industrial noise; and harsh power electronics. However much of the perception of Exist Strategy not sounding like The Grey Wolves comes down the general cleanliness of the sound and the clarity of the production.  This situation would then seem to be somewhat explained by the album’s liner notes that: “Exit Strategy was produced, mixed, mastered with additional audio and artwork by Jerome Nougaillon” (aka Propergol – and perhaps tellingly if Exist Strategy were played to me without being told who it was, chances are I would have said it sounded like the sharp and clinical approach employed by Propergol). So, although far from confirmed, I suspect that Jerome had a central role in the creation of this album, and this may have gone as far as being responsible for reworking and finalising a range of source material and/ or unfinished tracks from the group. Whether or not the truth on how the album was completed comes to light, remains to be seen.

To then speak of the album’s construction and flow, it is an instrumental and soundscape oriented in style and approach. A heavy dystopian mood and cinematic atmosphere permeates the album, where this perception is duly confirmed by the promo blub which states: “The soundtrack to an as yet unmade Hong Kong splatter movie. A seemingly endless march through cinematic urban decay. The original sound reduced to its basic structure through loops, repetition, distortion and other alienation techniques. it’s time to think about an Exit Strategy. The sodium orange hours of the city make you believe in the apocalypse”. Yet given the ‘soundtrack to a non-existent film’ format, there is also a conspicuous absence of the trademark vocals which are without doubt a sorely missed element. But to speak of specifics, the opening track In Our Time is a strong and tensile introduction based around pulsing textures, driving drones, a lone pounding ‘beat’ and mid-toned static shards. The Precinct then steps up a notch in urgency with a shuddering obliquely rhythmic framework with is further coupled with radio chatter for further cinematic effect. Another track worthy of individual mention is In Too Deep with it scattered sweeping textures and sparse programmed ‘Morse-code’ type rhythm.  Seizure then deviates completely from a recognized sound, given its hard pounding programmed beats and static blasts resembles a type of industrial techno along the lines of Alberich (and for this reason alone is likely to be the most divisive track on the album). In rounding out the album Flatline uses a prominent movie dialogue sample of Samuel L Jackson, and while for me personally it negatively jars the overarching mood and would have been better excluded altogether, thankfully it is used only once and not repeated (as often dialogue samples tend to be in this type of music). Sonically speaking this track is a tensile blend of jarring (digital?) noise, sporadically rhythmic outbreaks and doom addled atmospheric drones.

Although this review may on face value appear to be overly critical, such commentary should be taken more as observations which highlight the clear differences between initial expectation and the actual reality of the final The Grey Wolves album. Ultimately Exist Strategy IS a strong and enjoyable album in its own right, but can only be acknowledged after getting over the initial expectations of what you may want it to be. So, if you are able to divorce yourself from expectations that this album should be something like The Grey Wolves’ magnum opus, and instead simply approach it for what it is, some excellent material awaits and functions as a sort of unexpected addendum to their established and celebrated legacy.

Tusen Ar Under Jord – Sandhavens Genklang

Tusen Ar Under Jord – Sandhavens Genklang LP Verlautbarung 2017

Although I was previously aware of this mysterious Swedish project, I have not had an opportunity to hear them until now, which was basically due to not being able to track down a copy of their limited debut tape.

Given the debut tape Sorgsendömet Fobos from 2013 was described as one which “transcends the border lines between drone, ambient and dark echoes of the past”, this follow up LP is noted to be a different beast altogether. Sonically speaking Sandhavens Genklang is rooted in a ‘exotic’ middle eastern sound, where it would appear this album is constructed from sampling and looping fragments of old and forgotten records which were otherwise reconciled to the dustbin of history. In resurrecting fragments of those sampled records, the music is mostly framed around prominent elements of hypnotic tabla percussion, melodious woodwinds, bowed traditional string instruments, wailing horns and tribal chimes, which generates an atmosphere of a dusty and bustling market place in some unnamed city in ancient times. The sampling of old records also means the finished recording contains prominent ‘artifacts’ of hiss, pop and crackle which adds to the sonic allure and general sense of sonic mystery and sets the tone far form being modern digitally produced recording.  On the visual front, the cover also exudes an exotic flavour, with the project name and title printed on a piece of cloth affixed to the cover, along with a postcard featuring a drawing of the pyramids of Giza and what may just be a UFO hovering above.

Essentially the strength of this release is it completely transcends any genre confines and thereby completely skews associated expectations to reside in its own musical sphere. Although being a highly atmospheric recording, equally it is not overtly ‘dark’ in mood, but does contain a quite uniquely exotic vibe and aura which will appeal to the sonically curious who are looking for something divergent from the usual underground ilk. Recommended.

Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat – Flugornas Herrar

Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat – Flugornas Herrar MC Styggelse 2017

The prolific collaboration between Alfarmania and Proiekt Hat rolls on with Flugornas Herrar released in time to coincide with their performance at Tesco 30th Anniversary Festival. This new album length tape follows on from 2016’s honed and rather short Mardrömd Dödsström LP (reviewed here), and shifts gears into a sprawling long form format spanning 16 tracks and over 80 minutes of material. The liner notes then reveal the material itself was recorded between 2010-2017, while the title appropriately translates to: ‘The Lord of the Flies’. As an initial general observation Flugornas Herrar pairs back on the more urgent sonic elements of prior collaborative material, the general mood of the album is one of slow stalking morbidity and controlled psychedelic angst. 

On side A (its subtitle translating to: “Though Enchanting Atmospheres”), an early track In the Dungeon of Solitude plays out as the duo’s interpretation of the early death ambient approach of Brighter Death Now (aka Great Death era), with its two note plodding bass, creaking metallic textures and garbled vocal chants. Then on Life-Extinguisher of Multitudes the wavering sonic tones, grinding synth lines, sparse symbol crashes and deep bass addled elements elevate the mood slightly, while the fantastically titled Soul Searching at Gunpoint, demonstrates how a darkly morbid tone can be generated with minimal of sonic elements. Rain of Oblivion round out the first side of the tape with a short piece based on a wonky synth line and myriad of looped elements. Effective and to the point.

Like the translated subtitle “Through Oppressive Atmospheres” of Side B suggests, the mood takes a downward turn on an already negative tangent. Featuring a collection of tracks with a heavier grinding approach, this includes Genom Förtryckande Atmosfärer with its grim tone which builds to heavy sonic intensity, and the invasive tonal shards and creaking metallic resonance of Abnormal Gestation Termination. Late album track  Magplask I Ett Bollhav Av Glödlampor rates a mention given its general sonic negativity, while another short track Soot Gruel focuses on pulsing and interweaving synth elements of queasy tonality.  To then conclude the tape, the suitably titled Exact Moment Of Death Prolonged A Thousand Times features a hypnotic vortex of spiralling mid-toned synth lines, creaking metal and a dour organ sounding element to create yet more top notch material.

It a general sense it would seem that the pairing of the minds or Mr Alfarmania and Mr Proiekt Hat and functions in such a way that high calibre material is generated with apparent ease, particularly given the wealth of material which has been issued in recent years.  While this tape functions as a collection of individual tracks, there is still distinct flow between each piece, where final track ordering would also appear to have been carefully planned. Packaging wise, it consists of an 8 panel fold out J-card with suitably grim artwork and layout courtesy of Mr Alfarmania. Without it being a case of Flugornas Herrar being ‘better’ or an ‘improvement’ on earlier material, this is simply on an equal level to what has come before, meaning it is another mandatory release from the duo.

Genocide Organ – Kahane Chai / Ke/Hil – Atopical Exercises

Here are two new Tesco Organisation releases, both of which were issued as special items as part of the Tesco Organisation 30th Anniversary Festival in October, 2017.


Genocide Organ – Kahane Chai 7”EP Tesco Organisation 2017

Any new release from Genocide Organ is welcomed news, where for this new 7”EP the group’s analysis of ‘nationalism’ in all its varied perspectives has been applied to Rabbi Kahane and his radical Israeli Orthodox Jewish ‘ultranationalist’ political party Kach, which later splintered into Kahane Chai – a hard-line Israeli militant advocating for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel. Interview samples of Rabbi Kahane are used within both tracks, where it it becomes quickly apparent to why Kach as a political organisation was barred from elections on the basis of inciting of racism against Arabs. Two dates are also printed on either side of the vinyl, which reference the date of his birthday (1 August, 1932), as well as the date of his assassination (5 November, 1990).

To speak of the music, Kahane Chai on Side A features a backbone of straight forward wavering synth loops, mixed with mid-toned squelching textures, while the vocals differ form the usual style in that that are treated in a heavy wash of blurred distortion which bleeds from the top to the bottom of the mix (and consequential picking the lyrical content becomes extremely difficult to decipher). Kach on Side B is far less aggressive than the first, featuring a lone low pulsing synth line and coupled only with interview samples and slightly treated whispered vocals, and while extremely minimal by usual Genocide Organ standards, it is still a very effective mood driven track.

Via the two short tracks Genocide Organ again demonstrate their total mastery of using the simple and/ or minimal sonic elements, but wielding them in such a way to make them sound far more powerful than the sum of their mere parts. When this then is coupled with the strong conceptual underpinnings, it makes for yet another excellent release in their discography.  The festival edition of 250 copies (blue vinyl), and the regular edition (black vinyl) are already sold out (as might be expected), so happy hunting if you want to track one down at a reasonable price.


Ke/Hil – Atopical Exercises 12”EP Tesco Organisaton 2017

With many lamenting the demise of Anenzephalia in 2014 (excluding the brief reformation for the live performance at Tesco 30th Anniversary), the continuation of Ke/Hil was a partial consolation given it features the same duo of Brigant Moloch and Wilhem Herich. It has been a bit of a revelation to see exactly how far the project has evolved in sound and approach from the 2010 Ke/Hil debut Hellstation.

This new three track 12″EP Atopical Exercises has followed quickly on the heals of the third album Syndrome/Antidrome (also from 2017 and reviewed here). Repulsive Appreciation leads off and sets the scene with wailing emergency sirens and a heavy and hollowed out loop, before a wonky rhythm and maudlin synth drone kicks in hard along with the apathetic yet semon styled vocals (which aligns with the established theme of social conditioning through urban design). Very much of the now established Ke/Hil heavy electronics style, this is also a pinnacle track within their catalogue.  Little Rose follows in a laid-back style, and while simple in construction, it is a very effective example of hard hitting minimalism. With a central revving ascending/ descending drone and a scattered backing of echoed junk metal elements and a muted vocals delivery (which rather than lyrics appears to be the reciting and repeating two lines of a poem). Syn/Kope features as the final track on Side B and is more akin to a sprawling death industrial style given its slow bass kick, wavering lower end textures and cavernous sonic aesthetic. While a dialogue sample also sit within the mix, it takes a secondary position to the main vocals which sit prominently front and centre, which strongly advises us to “beware the beast-man”.

A clear observation to be made is that this new 12”EP is very much a continuation of the gradual honing of the sound of Ke/Hil, and certainly bodes very well for what is anticipated to still come from the project. Limited to 250 copies and surprising that it is still available at the time of writing.


 

Nokuit – Patterns of Instability

Nokuit – Patterns of Instability MC NKT 2017

In knowing effectively nothing about this project, a quick perusal of their website gave some clues they may be London, United Kingdom based. But regardless of the truth of this, the promo blurb for this release initially captured my attention: “Swirling drones become a sonic lens which drifts and roams through the currents and threads within the contemporary landscape. Mingling amongst the town square demonstration, flipped upside down through the cameras into the news media rooms and editing suites, dragged up into helicopters looking down into streets and homes, then bounced across the globe by satellites floating in the atmosphere. Spam bots and malware, encryption data, analysis of YouTube, uploads and text messages. Rather than focusing in on any specific geographical event, ‘Patterns of Instability’ takes a widescreen approach to our contemporary age of discontent and digs deep into timeless feelings of frustration”. In then relating this description back to London, it certainly reflects the pervading ‘angst malaise’ riddled atmosphere I experienced during my five years of residency there in the early 2000’s (and also included the observation of the Government’s overt obsession with public CCTV surveillance – which is now found within the majority of the UK’s urban spaces). But I digress from the review at hand.

Musically speaking the tape features two untitled and lengthy tracks (24 and 21 minutes respectively), which is dark ambient mixed with post-industrial sonic expression. Being broadly soundscape orientated in its construction, there is a darkly meandering and at times paranoid atmosphere at play.  From the opening of track one, a dourly muted and minimal synth line provide a semblance of fleeting melody, while distant crowd noise, creaking gates and other sparse industrialized debris engenders a distinct, slightly detached ‘Kafkaesque’ tone. Yet things evolve substantially from there, as at around the 10-minute mark it tonally shifts into a soundscape of forceful, semi-melodious drones. When coupled with sampled choral vocals and an Army marching drill, it all combines to (fleetingly) sound like a more industrialized version of Les Joyaux De La Princesse, while the final segment of the track then evolves towards a doom riddled dark ambience with strong orchestral styled synth pads.

On the flip side, the second track opens with a passage of animated and driving sonics based around a multitude of sweeping layers and pulsing bass tones, further mixed with crowd chatter and other field recording elements. Yet soon enough these falls away to feature another sparse yet forceful melancholic synth line, and from there slowly evolves into a more abrasive and textural sweeping soundscape. The final concluding segment features, muted noise, a lone and sustained piano note and backed by layered media voices (and while the voices are spoken to sound serious and earnest, the juxtaposed mood makes them sound decidedly dishonest and/ or untruthful in their message).

Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to describe Patterns of Instability and an abstract but very effective sound-score to a modern dystopian film (think Children of Men or similar). As such this album is a varied and nuanced, mood driven work, which is highlighted through its meticulous sonic detailing and post-industrial/ experimental compositional flair. Limited to 100 pro-duplicated tapes, and fold out J-card, this is absolutely worth your while in investigating further.

Unsound Recordings – New Releases 2017

Unsound Recordings functions as a side label to Unrest Productions, where I understand its role is to allow smaller releases to be issued more quickly with simplified packaging. Although the last items on the label date from 2015, now in 2017 it brings new releases from two young projects and new signings to the roster, namely Detrimental Effect and Code Neda. A brief rundown on each follows below.


Detrimental Effect – To Brandon Bryant MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Thematically speaking, the US military/industrial complex may be nothing new for industrial and power electronics music. However, on this debut tape Detrimental Effect have taken a different and interesting angle by focusing on Brandon Bryant – a US drone pilot and later whistle-blower who highlighted the detached methods of killing in modern warfare. Musically speaking this is clean, loud and modern sounding, which also draws heavily from traditional German power electronics/ heavy industrial sound (and perhaps Ex.Order is the closest comparison to make?) . As such the tracks are based on honed structures of shuddering loops, waving sonic elements and bristling distortion which gradually ramp up in intensity. The mood is further elevated through the heavily treated vocals (flanged and echoed), and delivered with spite and tinged with indignation.

Specific samples relating to the theme further fleshes out the concept and are used as intro or outros, or otherwise are incorporated within tracks. That Others May Die is individually noteworthy based on its base of scattered distortion, queasy central oscillation and deadpan spoken vocal line (slightly treated and echoed). Equally noteworthy is the overt fierceness of the final track Total Denial with its tonally buzzing loops and antagonist vocal attack, amounting to a very effective power electronics barrage. Direct and to the point, the material on this debut is delivered with both skill and conviction, which on occasion rises to blood boiling intensity.

Six tracks in all feature on the tape, with perhaps 30 minutes of material on offer. Without doubt Detrimental Effect is project to keep an eye on, given it also fits neatly alongside many of the other projects on the parent label Unrest Productions (such as Kevlar, Kontinent, Uncodified etc.).


Code Neda – The Death of Neda MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Code Neda are another new project signed to Unsound Recordings, but this time I know nothing about this project or who is behind it. This however appears to be Code Neda’s debut tape, and limited to 80 hand numbered copies.

Musically speaking it features sweeping death industrial which on occasion is blended with elements of ritual tinged heavy electronics (something akin to mid to late 1990’s heavy electronics sound of Loki Foundation projects is a partial comparison).  To speak of notable tracks, Tigray uses stilted heavy rhythms which provides structure to a widescreen atmospheric soundscape and sampled religious chants. Another particularly noteworthy track is ABC – Protection, which is framed around deep sub-orchestral drones, militant percussion, scraping textures and muted garbled vocals. The final track The Machine Will Be Prevented from Working at All, is perhaps the most direct death industrial track based on its heavy pounding structures, bristling loops and treated samples (and perhaps vocals? Not completely sure).

On the one hand Code Neda’s sound is dank and pounding in tone, but on the other it is balanced with other ritualistic and atmospheric elements, which functions to create an individualistic approach. Thus with six varied tracks and around 20-25 minutes of material, Code Nera have issued a very strong and interesting debut release and consequently are another new project to keep a keen eye on.