Nokuit – Live at Cafe OTO

Nokuit – Live at Cafe OTO MC NKT 2020

My first introduction to Nokuit was on the Patterns Of Instability tape from 2017, which I described as ‘an abstract but very effective sound-score to a modern dystopian film’. That impression is equally applicable here, and is partially reflected in the promo blurb: ‘A soundtrack to a film that has left its screenwriters behind, the unshackled camera runs riot across the set before drifting in on itself and out into the world, asleep at the wheel’.

In kicking off the 32-minute live set, low crowd chatter can be heard at the start of the tape indicating the nature of the recording. But when the music hits its full stride, based on the tonal bulk, volume, and sonic detailing, I assume that the recording was taken directly from the soundboard and further tweaked and mastered in post-production. As a recording it unfurls as a singular interlinking live piece; segments of doomy synths from Patterns Of Instability are noted, blended with segments from other releases with which I am not familiar. Melodically melancholic synths and piano lines, and muted mechanized post-industrial debris, are the general order of the day. Charred and digitally crisp tonal slashes give a real sense of live improvisation, and are used to underscore and interlink the longer moody droning passages. News report chatter and other dialogue samples sporadically appear, further reinforcing the filmic quality, yet rather than being clear in intent or message they suggest a vague dystopian atmosphere.

Being far from a mere document of a live performance, Live at Cafe OTO is equally as strong a release as Patterns Of Instability. Although clearly aligned with the cinematically-tinged post-industrial / dark ambient sounds of the underground, I get the distinct impression that the artist behind Nokuit comes from a refined world of sound design and trained composers given the degree of tonal, sonic, and melodic refinement. But regardless of artistic angle, this is a worthy release and I am intrigued as to what will come from the Nokuit camp in future.

Ergomope – Етиологии

Ergomope – Етиологии 2xMC AMEK 2019

AMEK are a Bulgarian underground experimental label and while I have not followed all of their output, from what I have heard they are releasing a decent amount of atypical post-industrial music. In this context I have not come across the Ergomope project before, but that is also perhaps explained by the fact that Етиологии appears to be their only release to date.

Opening with short experimental and evocative piano motif which has been layered and treated in studio, it immediately catches attention in the most positive of ways, before shifting off into a length 15-minute track framed around grey hued sonic treatments of obviously urban based field records. But not to be based on raw field recordings alone, those elements are coupled with sonically melodious and shimmering drones which blend and intertwine and carries the material forward at a generally unhurried pace. Likewise, though a number of tracks the minimalist field recordings elements have been looped for vaguely rhythmic effect, while on occasion the drones and field recordings elevate in pressure and force towards an heavier post-industrial frame of reference, where the sound builds to a peak before recedes again. In other sections there appears to be what sounds like abstracted playing of a treated piano, and sections of shrill orchestral strings and percussion which have been mutated in a studio environment. Of individual note, lengthy track Whiteout functions as a sort of album centrepiece given its more prominent musicality, including layered piano playing, plucked string instruments, and elevating melodious drones late in the track.

Clearly there is lot to digest across the two cassettes, amounting to a run time of around 80 minutes. But with emotive experimental ambiental music such as this, appreciation is rewarded from an unhurried listening, allowing the shifting and morphing sonics to unfurl at their own pace. For the sake of comparison, the likes of the material released on Touch, and specifically the likes of Fennesz and BJ Nilsen comes strongly to mind, which is testament to the quality of this material, despite its relative obscurity. In then noting that the Black Sea is referenced in the promo text, and is a title of a Fennesz album, perhaps my comparative impressions are more than mere coincidence? Either way this has been both an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

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.