Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP Helen Scarsdale Agency 2021
Himukalt – Septic LP Malignant Records 2020
Straight off the mark, it is highlighted that Between My Teeth is not a new album from Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt, rather is a welcomed vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape. Packaging is also immediately noteworthy given it comes with a full-sized 16-page booklet of Ester’s collage artwork, while the sonics have been duly given a remastered treatment. On the other hand Septic is one of Himukalt’s newer albums, and the second issued on Malignant Records.
Across the six cuts on Between My Teeth rudimentary yet fractured drum machine patterns eke out minimalist structures while spitting and fizzing fissures of distortion burst forth in chaotic and unexpected patterns. Vocals are then delivered in a laconic whispered to spoken style, but subject to further heavy echo and distortion smear treatment. I No Longer Belong is a particularly good track, based on a start/stop programmed rhythmic loop and cascading waves of bulldozing distortion, while the spoken vocals are relegated to the back of the mix. Mine, which opens Side B features a stilted and simplistic industrial techno thump, which is coupled with layered noise of jet engine proportions. In Every Stage Of This Oppression then offers a counter approach, with sustain tensile drones and spoken vocal passages which are obliterated with increasing jagged noise eruptions.
Septic does not significantly differ in approach, featuring a further five deep cuts of tonal angst. Although immediately notable is the sharpness and bulk of the recordings, as well as the power of the mastering (courtesy of Kris Lapke), where the whispered and low-spoken vocals have an immediate ‘upfront’ presence. Again the rudimentary drum machine patterns provide a basic structure to which static explosions and scrawled noise are framed. Yet with its layered mid-paced rhythmic loops, dive-bombing textures and sweeping noise The Drive Towards Oblivion charts a more straight down the power electronics sound than typical of the project, but the vocals bring an immediately recognisable tone. The title track opens Side B with a deep drone, low static loop, and spoken vocals, then using the tried-and-true method of slowly elevating intensity, which includes a stilted metallic oil barrel beat. The Gun In Her Mouth is the final track and feels to be the hit song of the album, based on its fast-paced programmed beat which when coupled with other looped elements gives it an anthemic type sway. A further sustained melodious synth line pushes the mood ever forwards, coupled with building static before peaking and collapsing at its conclusion.
To my mind, there is a thematic parallel to be drawn between the single-minded approach of Atrax Morgue and that of Himukalt. From Ester’s earliest cassette releases Himukalt arrived fully formed with a distinctly mature style and sound. Now that in excess of ten releases have been issued since 2016, there is a noted singularity of approach displayed across all of her releases, which is an element of consistency that also reminds of much of Atrax Morgue’s discography, despite the two projects sounding decidedly different. Given the sheer volume of material released in the underground these days, it is a difficult proposition to foster an individually recognisable approach and also to maintain an atmosphere of vitality over multiple releases. Yet both of these vinyl editions are equally strong testaments to Himukalt’s ability to do both with seeming ease.