Contrastate ‎– An Exercise In Defascination

Contrastate An Exercise In Defascination 7”ep Black Rose Recordings, 2019

With their immediately recognisable darkly surreal soundscapes, which are further characterised by poetically metaphoric vocal narratives, Contrastate have always been an anomaly within the post-industrial underground. It has then been some time since 2012’s last full length A Breeding Ground For Flies, noting that 2016’s No Eden Without Annihilation was not an album proper, but rather a collection of live recordings. An Exercise In Defascination arrives as a precursor to the upcoming full length album, where the liner notes highlight that the two featured tracks: ‘are alternate mixes from our ongoing studio recordings for the next Contrastate album. The album concept is inspired by the Italian giallo films of 1970s’.

The instrumental title track arrives on the first side, and within the first minute manages to span cinematic synths, rolling percussion and pitch-shifted sonics. From there the surreal serpentine soundscape is derived from shimmering textures, abstracted guitars and a myriad of other sonic elements, while a shrill drone and rising strings through the later part of the tracks functions to create tensile and urgent tone. Spasmo takes up the flip side with more shimmering drones and abstracted guitars, but the mood is more stayed overall in a drugged miasma sort of way. Snippets of vocals are present but are sonically warped and fragmentary in presentation, rather than their usual focus of a central narrative based tool. Regardless, the resultant feel is a darkly surreal one.

With this 7”ep effectively being a short taster to the new album, but on their own form a welcomed slice of Contrastate experimental post-industrial eccentricity. It will then be equally interesting to see how these compositions will fit within the greater whole of the upcoming full length. As for this release it is limited to 250 copies.

Blitzkrieg Baby ‎– Homo Sapiens Parasitus

Blitzkrieg Baby Homo Sapiens Parasitus LP Neuropa Records 2019

Strictly speaking Kim Sølve’s Blitzkrieg Baby project is quite incongruent to the typical coverage of Noise Receptor Journal. Yet there is something quite special in the cynical black humor and heavily sarcastic lyrics wrapped up in a diverse song-based approach, spanning elements of cinematic/orchestral dark ambient, martial industrial, and more streamlined song-based industrial. In fact, the Looney Tunes inspired cover artwork ‎– which strongly speaks to my own childhood ‎– is an excellent visual presentation of this thematic and stylistic approach (the artwork is by Trine + Kim Design Studios, which is the graphic design firm Kim runs with his partner and showcases their talents as graphic designers). Likewise, the self-described tag of ‘Norwegian Dystopian Electronic Music’ further emphasizes the approach.

Album opener Hip Hip Hooray displays the cynical and darkly playful nature of the album, with a track of mid-paced bass guitar-driven swagger, while the spoken vocals break out into a chorus chant of the track’s title. After a short instrumental interlude with an industrial/orchestral dark ambient track (Apocalypse To Go), comes Boys Will be Boys, which is a perfect example fusing martial beats, orchestral synths, and dark pop-focused chorus line hooks, with the end result being swaggering rather than martially stilted. The pairing of tracks like The March of Human Progress I & II bring a more serious tone, which is mostly due to the instrumental format, thereby the cynical element brought about by the vocals is absent. On the musical front it strongly reminds me of the martial ambient industrial sound of Toroidh, given the slow dark ambient throb, sub-orchestral elements, and marching music samples. Perhaps for my own listening preferences Praise The Pig comes off as the only misstep due to the prominent chugging guitar riff (but that says more about my personal aversion to guitar-based industrial). Yet despite this criticism, the tolling church bells and chanted male vocals which appear late in the track effectively win me over. Moving towards the album’s end, the dour yet playful nature of the album is again in full flight on Pre-Cum Of The Apocalypse, with a slow brooding dark ambient/martial industrial track, where the lone piano line rings out with reverb, while the vocals are sung choir style which belies their cynical slant. The album closer, Homo Sapiens Parasitus & the Countdown to the Apocalypse is an industrial pop stormer of a composition, driving ever forwards with stoic rolling beats and vocals ranging from whispered to full rousing male choirs.

Despite its vein of cynical black humor on the thematic and lyrical front, the music itself is treated with utmost seriousness, and done exceedingly well, avoiding any notion of being ‘cheesy’ in the end result. This is no mean feat, given the use of any level of ‘humor’ in post-industrial music usually predicts my total uninterest. Wildly divergent – yet recommended at the same time.

 

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 MC Cloister Recordings 2019

With the typical music covered within Noise Receptor Journal, it involves spending large blocks of time listening to aggressive and predominantly dissonant music, which consequently results in a certain degree of desensitisation seeping in. It then takes something at the complete opposite end of the sonic spectrum to cut through such malaise and to re-calibrate one’s ears and reinvigorate one’s curiosity about new musical discoveries. This is one such release which immediately stuck out for reasons of lush musicality and has remained on repeat listens for weeks now. While not having heard of this project before, this is the debut release from this Swedish trio.

To comment on first impressions, the cover image is not immediately evident of musical style. But if I were to hazard a guess on image alone, I would likely have picked this to be a neo-folk, neo-classical or perhaps dark-ambient aligned release – but in the end this turned out to be completely wrong. Musically speaking, this is instrumental synthesizer-based music, where emotive non-lexical female vocals are sporadically used for added melody and emotion. Not being overly dark or heavy, the pervading atmosphere is heavily cinematic with an air of bitter-sweet melancholy. At time there is a perhaps a post-rock sensibility in the elevating style of musical composition, but instrumentally there are not guitars in sight, rather it is lush, swelling orchestral synth melodies, coupled with a hand pump organ and the aforementioned non-lyrical female vocals. Through its twelve relatively compact and individual mood or ‘scene’ based tracks, there is a real sense of listening to a movie soundtrack. Interestingly this initial impression was then duly confirmed by the promo blurb which clarified: ‘Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1, is the imagined soundtrack to the book Girlfriend in a Coma by Canadian author Douglas Copeland’, so is illustrative of how successful the project’s aim has been to write music for a non-existent film.

Being limited to a physical edition of 100 pro-duplicated tape and fold out j-card, Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 is a musically melodic and emotively melancholic release which warrants due attention.