Puce Mary ‎– The Drought

Puce Mary The Drought LP Pan 2019

Already three years since the release of the excellent album The Spiral (reviewed here), Frederikke Hoffmeier’s new Puce Mary album has finally been released. Although technically speaking the digital version of the album was available in October 2018, the vinyl version was plagued by delays and not released until April 2019. While not being entirely clear as the to the reason for the delay, it has been absolutely worth the wait to have this on vinyl.

In building upon the template of the last album, The Drought is another standout and it is a joy to behold the meticulous way in which Frederikke approaches noise as a compositional element to build tension. Each track is distinct in stylistic character, where sound elements are constructed for maximum impact: sustained noise comes to resemble shrill orchestral strings, while grinding bass loops and abstracted monolithic thuds provide vague rhythmic structures. Compositions are carefully layered to ratchet up the tension, as is expertly displayed on A Feast Before The Drought which runs a knife’s edge through to an explosive crescendo. To Possess Is To Be In Control charts slightly new territory by commencing with an almost modern classical tone and confessional spoken vocals, but soon enough the sound veers off into a tensile high-calibre industrial track. A similar nod to an experimental modern classical tone extends throughout the second half of the album, covering tracks such as Red Desert, Coagulate, The Size of Our Desire and The Transformation, where synth elements give the impression of shrill orchestral strings. But even with these shrilly melodious semi-orchestral moments, the compositions do not forgo scattered micro-tonal noise and pummelling industrial elements. Likewise, the mid-paced throb and sweeping distortion of Fragments Of A Lily has an undeniable fist-pumping quality, and the album concludes with Slouching Uphill, another expertly executed track of elevating tension and subsequent emotive release.

As an artist Frederikke Hoffmeier displays absolute mastery of her craft, and in the process has developed a sound which is immediately recognizable and wholly her own. Building on what has come before, but also pushing her sound further into uncharted territory, makes for another stunning and absolutely mandatory album.

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Feberdröm – Blind Eden / Offerlammet

Feberdröm – Blind Eden MC Emesis 2018

Feberdröm – Offerlammet MC Emesis 2018

The Swedish project Feberdröm (translating to ‘fever-dream’) have been lurking around in the post-industrial underground since 2011 and amassed fifteen releases in that time (mostly issued on cassette). Emesis is then noted to be run by the same person behind Feberdröm, with these two tapes being the first items issued on the label. On the musical front Feberdröm are slightly difficult to classify, given they draw from a wide cross-section of underground sounds, including: industrial noise, abstracted rhythmic/ ritual movements, caustic heavy electronics, experimental guitar drone and other more ethereal atmospheres. But perhaps a descriptor of ‘abrasive ambient’ is a suitable catch all.

Blind Eden is then characteristic of this wide stylistic palette, where the track Blind Eden Falls is a particularly good example of moody droning atmospheres, abrasive textures and agonized ranted vocals. Likewise, the stilled rhythmic elements as featured on Death Of A Snake warrants a fleeting comparison to another Swedish project Stratvm Terror. Incinerators opens side B and mines a heavy electronics tone, as does the grindingly morose Concrete Apocalypse, while The Deed is Done rounds out the tape with sub-orchestral synth pads and a generally ethereal mood. On a whole Offerlammet is slightly less varied than Blind Eden, although there are abstract noise-scapes sitting adjacent to other tracks of programmed drums and atonal guitar drone. In fact Offerlammet is characterized by its greater reliance on guitar which is wielded in an experimental fashion than anything resembling standard playing, therefore resembles a doom-drones style at times – albeit without obvious riffs.

Given both tapes feature eight tracks each and both span 40 minutes, as a general comment I would say there are some excellent tracks which sit alongside more standard or typical ones. Thus perhaps then with a more focused and discerning track selection, it would take the material in a step up towards greatness. But even with that said, there is a lot to enjoy here and certainly nothing that it poor or woeful. Also for my own personal preferences, I find tracks which use abstracted guitars to be less engaging overall, which makes Blind Eden my pick of these two tapes. In noting the above, I imagine Feberdröm are a project to keep a watchful eye on.

Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies

Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies 4xMC Cloister Recordings 2018

Micahel Idehall is a name I have been familiar with for a number of years, but for whatever reason never got around to checking any of his material until now. But in then being introduced to his music via this release, I have been advised that this is VERY different to his usual output, which I understand may be more rhythmic based and song focused. As for Four Prophecies, it very much an exercise in endurance as the four tapes contain a long-form 45-minute composition on each side, thereby totally a whopping six hours of music. As an overarching descriptor, this can be bracketed under minimalist and industrial tinged dark ambience, where the eight tracks are massively sprawling as may be expected from the format.

Given the sheer elongated run-time, there is a certain process of shifting your mindset when approach this, and very much seeking to slow the chatter and internal dialogue of your mind so as to better succumb to the slow evolutionary flow on display. Each piece effectively inhabits is own sound palette and minimalist stylistic slant and slowly unfurls over its duration. Sonically the industrial-ambient soundscapes are darkly hued, structured around layering of muted atonal drones and grey echoed sound washes, and while being predominantly instrumental, whispered vocals, and distant chants do make sporadic appearances. Select tracks have a more pronounced rhythmic undercurrents, including low bass throbs, stilted ritualized percussion and other mechanical textures (clicking sounds, distant machine idling etc).  There is also a notable darker abstracted ritual atmosphere throughout a number of compositions, which for the sake of comparison reminds of the late era minimalism of Archon Satani.

Given the long-form run time it is perhaps an overly obvious statement that it encompasses a meditative quality. But given the catatonic evolution of each piece, once your mind is drawn in it quickly generates an impression that there is no beginning and no end – but only the ever present now – where the mind slowly floats along in the ever-flowing sonic stream. Packaging wise does the set suitable justice with four pro-printed tapes and j-cards housed in an oversized pro-printed cardboard slider box. Clearly not a release for those with a short attention span, but a rewarding one for those with patience and willingness on focus on the minuscule sonic details and gradual tonal shifts.

Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow

Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow – A Contemplation On Pieter Bruegel‘s Series Of The Seasons CD The Epicurean / Auf Abwegen 2019

Being a three-way split of sorts, there is perhaps little point in trying to highlight who did what, particularly as their individual inputs combine and blend into a seamless whole. Yet even so, the sonic hallmarks of each project are clearly present throughout (depending on the track), which includes: the clinical and forceful ambient drones of Jarl, the archaic soundscape ambience of Monocube and the evocatively lush vs tonally harsh industrial ambience of Anemone Tube. Likewise, as is expressly stated in the title, conceptually the album is inspired by the Pieter Bruegel’s seasons paintings, of which five in the series are reproduced in the luxuriously designed eight panel double gatefold card cover, while the eight-page booklet provides further conceptually relevant liner notes.

Five tracks span just short of fifty minutes, which will give an appreciation of the long form and slow evolving compositions. Evidently composed over a span of five years, this is clearly evident in the meticulous detailing and the controlled and unhurried approach. The atmosphere effortlessly articulates the slow morphing ebb and flow of life and the cyclic nature of the seasons, and even more so when nature-based field recordings are employed within the sonic framework. The is also a huge spectrum of tonal variety employed, which makes each of the five compositions clear and distinct from each other, which spans the calm and contemplatively toned, to the compositions with greater tonal heft and force.

The Gloomy Day opens the album and embodies the mood implied by the title through sweeping minor key tonal washes and synth pulses. The Hay Harvest then significantly deviates though its use a manipulated micro-tonal contact mic recordings, lush sub-orchestral synth washes and further field recording elements (late in the track throbbing clinical drones and higher pitched sustained tones take over). The Harvesters then makes central use of field recordings, which are gradually overlaid with intense atonal synth drones and squalling distortion which makes for the noisiest composition sitting at the centre of the album. The muted synth melodies of The Return of the Herd are suitably bleak and forlorn, which is counterpointed with the forceful and intertwining crystalline drones of The Hunters In The Snow, which late track shifts into austere melancholia. With its widescreen atmospheric soundscape this final track morphs into the sound of whiteout snow blizzard which sweeps the album into concluding oblivion.

Given the glut of releases being issued year upon year in the broader dark ambient field, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in the mass, yet this album has no issue in those regards. This is an album which immediately draws you into its sonic tapestry and thematic narrative and does not let up for the entire duration. Personally, I listened to this three times back to back upon receiving it, which is proof enough of this point, and further underlines my assertion that this album warrants your detailed attention, regardless of if the contributing projects are familiar or not. Conceptually, sonically and visually, this a veritable feast for the ear, eye and mind.

Amph ‎– Control

Amph Control LP Verlautbarung 2018

Amph are a Swedish duo operating since 2010 (well according to Discogs), but I am only familiar with their contribution to Verlautbarung’s 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik. My observations of Amph’s track After Nature was that it ‘opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent’. To then provide context to this review, this earlier impression is equally applicable to this new LP.

Features two lengthy untitled tracks (one each side of the vinyl), there are definitive ‘sections’ and ‘movements’ on display. Early in the first track it features a ritual tinged industrial throb, deep heaving breathing textures, shimmering micro-tonal textures, and disembodied garbled but unintelligible vocals. Through the middle section the track becomes more mid-tone drone oriented, but this is also underscored with looped field recordings, creaking wood and metal which coalesce into quite raucously animated territory, and calms down again through the late section, complete with muted pump organ drone. Side B follows a similar trajectory, but the underlying abstracted field recording elements are looped into subtle rhythmic form. With an open and widescreen production it contains a very organic and rural sonic atmosphere, where wind-chimes and elongated drones maintain a dark edge, and thankfully far from anything remotely ‘new age’. In moving through other sonic segments, it features forceful melodically muted drones, twilight atmosphere of crickets chirping in a field, and creaking micro-tonal textures and other forceful loops.

Although with only a few releases under their belt, Verlautbarung continue to issue extremely strong and sonically divergent releases, with Amph clearly continuing this trend. With the cover featuring an image of a lit match, as a nice physical touch the cover has itself been spot charred with a lighter flame.

 

Bladh / Urbaniak ‎– On The New Revelations Of Being

Bladh / Urbaniak On The New Revelations Of Being CD/DVD Infinity Land Press Ltd. 2019

Artistically speaking Martin Bladh has always blended a physical and cerebral approach to post-industrial/power electronics, which clearly deviates from the perhaps more typical bare white knuckled rage often ascribed to the genre. This CD/DVD set is a continuation of that process and is a collaboration between Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak who are both behind the Infinity Land Press publishing house, and while I am less familiar with Karolina’s artistic output, she is self described as: ‘a photographer and multimedia producer’. Regarding the collaboration Martin is credited for libretto & voice and Karolina is credited for sound, visuals & production. To provide further context to the release a passage from the promo text states: ‘On The New Revelations of Being is a multimedia work based on Antonin Artaud’s apocalyptic manifesto from 1937. It envisions the end of the world and the death of God through a series of cataclysmic occurrences of Artaudian cruelty. The piece was originally performed as a part of Artaud & Sound: To Have Done with the Judgment of God, at the Visconti Studio, London, on 15th September 2018. This final event in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of Artaud’s death, after previous events at Cabinet and Whitechapel Gallery, focused on Artaud’s experiments with sound and noise, and on contemporary responses to them. This CD/DVD set contains the full audio recording, the backdrop film and the full libretto from the performance’.

As for the media content both the CD and DVD contain the same 22-minute compositions On The New Revelation Of Being, where obviously the DVD includes accompany visual material. Sonically speaking the ‘music’ sits clearly within an experimental sphere, but one which heavily leans towards and is rooted in the darker elements of the post-industrial underground. Animated drones, scattered noise, sharp piecing tones, sparse percussion, wailing horns, atonal keys, crushing junk metal and sharply edited/panning sonic cut-ups define proceedings, where there is also a distinct use of loud and quiet passages which dovetail with the vocals. As for the predominantly spoken vocals, these are highly animated and enunciated in an occasionally theatrical way, and are distinctively those of Martin’s for anyone who has followed is primary output as part of IRM and Skin Area, while later in the piece rise to a more agonized style for which he is known.

For the visual side of things, a similar sharp editing cut-up style is evident, with a kaleidoscope of apocalyptic imagery is employed, variously including visual illustration of: the immense power of nature (from a human scale perspective), autopsy footage, sex-change medical procedures, crucifixions, the brutal survivalist instincts of the animal world etc, etc. Perhaps the suite of visuals is somewhat expected for post-industrial spheres, yet the slick, clean, rapid-fire editing elevates this far above the realm of mere shock tactics. The overall presentation and particularly the visual component very much places this in a contemporary art sphere and would not at all be out of place as a art gallery video installation. To that end, and while clearly different in its ultimate visual execution, when watching the unflinching and intensely apocalyptic visuals, I was strongly reminded of of a time when I was perhaps eleven years old when I by happenstance came across a video installation in an art gallery of one of Hermann Nitsch’s live actions (and perhaps something which had a pivotal and lasting impact on my artistic sensibilities and preferences).

Apart from the CD/ DVD, it comes with a 24 page A5 sized booklet which provides further images and full presented text to flesh out the detailed theme and context. Noting the literary and artistic slant of On The New Revelations Of Being makes this for a release which strongly appeals to my own artistic sensibilities, by now it should be clearly apparent if this is of interest to you (and very much should be if you are already a follower of Martin Bladh’s output). Limited to a mere 100 copies.

Victorine Meurent ‎– Even Less Of The Harmony Of Maine

Victorine Meurent Even Less Of The Harmony Of Maine MC Found Remains 2019

Victorine Meurent are an Australia project, which I understand is the solo project of the individual behind the Vienna Press cassette label. This would appear to be the third release from the project. As for an initial observation, one of the track titles provides a nod to American abstract expressionism, which itself perhaps gives an indication of the experimental end, rather than post-industrial end of the sonic spectrum. Four tracks of a minimalist experimental ambient type spans around 26 minutes.

With reference to opening track Untitled 9, sustained, yet muted and minimalist melodies are delivered at catatonic pace and function for abstracted and meditative effect. Likewise when field recordings sporadically appear, it pushes the sound into musique concrète territory (refer to Untitled (Betty Parsons Gallery as an example). Likewise, towards the end of Here, Not There references the Australian suburbs, where the field recordings of bird calls and sparse street noise is distinctly recognisable from my own childhood experiences of growing up in the ‘burbs’. Untitled 8 rounds out the tape, and while utilizing the same droning sonic and melodic spectrum, there is an ever so slight increase in compositional urgency.

Being a slight deviation from typical fare reviewed via Noise Receptor Journal, this is artistically evocative, and showcases what can be achieved with mood and atmosphere from the most minimalist of compositional elements.