Theologian / The Vomit Arsonist ‎– The Icy Bleakness Of Things

Theologian / The Vomit Arsonist The Icy Bleakness Of Things MC Cloister Recordings US 2018

Following the 2013 collaboration Nature Is Satan’s Church between these two American artists (reviewed here), the pairing have returned for another dual effort. The Icy Bleakness Of Things sits within a style broadly similar to the earlier collaboration given it features post-industrial tinged dark ambience, rather than the blend death industrial and power electronics which broadly characterises their solo output.

The Icy Bleakness Of Things features two 30 minute long track, with each spanning a side of the pro-duplicated tape. As might be suggested by the release title, the pacing is deathly slow, while the mood encapsulating a claustrophobic wintery melancholia. A maudlin minor keyed synth melody of the title track is soon relegated to the background with the introduction of a series of throbbing industrial pulses and muted electronic static, before settling down into thick cyclic bass driven drones and sub-orchestral loops. Side B brings The Killing Sadness, which distills the mood of the first side into more abstracted sonic spheres which more readily reflects the ‘isolationist ambient’ approach of Nature Is Satan’s Church. The sub-orchestral elements are also placed deep within the background which evokes a colossal spaciousness within the mix, prior to the reappearance of slow musical motif from and throbbing industrial pulses from the first track (but presented in slightly differing guises). As for the back half of the track, it variously encapsulates: a heavy section of ‘wind tunnel’ styles ambiance: reverb drenched lone guitar; and subtle doom drone textures.

Generally speaking The Icy Bleakness Of Things is a fair a bit more animated than Nature Is Satan’s Church, yet is another high caliber and quite atypical release from this collaborative pairing. The physical edition comes in a mere 100 pro-duplicated copies, but digital download is also available.

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Nil By Mouth batch reviews

ANTIchildLEAGUE / Cronaca Nera Bruises and Bites MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2017

ANTIchildLEAGUE (aka the solo project of Gaya Donadio), has teamed up with Cronaca Nera whom I have not come across before. Although it appears they are an Italian project who issued two release back in 2001, which was then followed by a period of 13 years silence before reactivating in 2014, and now seems to be a trio including the involvement of Andrea Chiaravalli (aka Iugula-Thor).

For this collaborative tape Bruises and Bites features sonically fierce power electronics, and at times sounding completely psychologically unhinged based on the veracity of the vocals courtesy of Gaya. The title track opens the tape and complete sets the scene for the entire tape. Featuring saturated fried static, pulsating and grinding noise and aggressive echo and distortion treated vocals, these sonics elements have been cleaved into thick and punishingly loud structures which are pushed to overblown intensity. To then speak of the vocals, these are a standout element, where depending on the track, the voice appears to be barking orders and demands, and set against a secondary voice of variously choking, rasping and crying tones. Although sonically the material is choppy, loose and at times quite chaotic, there is clear compositional focus and intent which is clearly detectable under the more outwardly unhinged sonic elements.

The six distinct tracks span in the order of 30 minutes of music, which is further housed in a faux leather slip-sleeve, with further printed insert and postcards featuring group imagery in an S&M style. Issued in an unknown limitation, this is harsh, hard and high-calibre modern Italian power electronics.


Instinct Primal / Purba Forest Ritual MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2018

Here is a collaborative release between Instinct Primal (the solo project of Jan Kruml), and Purba who is a Russian musical project focusing and Bon ritual music. Purba in its current form is the solo project of Svyatoslav Ponomarev, but of note is that an earlier incarnation of the group included the membership of Alexei Tegin (from 1996-2001), who is currently recognised as the leader of the Phurpa and who also play ritual music in the Bon tradition. But aside from that point of interest and link to Phurpha, this is a Purba release where evidently Forest Ritual is the first recordings made in 18 years. Musically speaking the material on Forest Ritual, features two lengthy ten-minute tracks and is as archaic as they come, with the basis of the recordings made in October, 2016 in a forest close to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, which is the town where the infamous Sedlec ‘Bone Church’ is located. The cover then identifies the music is: “featuring snow, wind, trunks, stumps, and rusty nails in an ambient ritual of earth and fire”.

Day Forest Ritual (Part One) Holy Fire sonically features a myriad of field recordings including: frozen winds whipping through trees; creaking branches; footfalls tramping in the snow; and wood chopping for thudding percussive impact. Mid track contains some static noise hum before receding again and making way for throat derived vocal chants which are raw and animalistic in their delivery. The final section has the feel of being a studio treated recording of a roaring fire but elevated to shrill intensity. Night Forest Ritual (Part Two) features yet more forest derived sounds merged into vague ritualistic soundscapes, but here with a more prominent droning framework (again assumed to be the result of post recording studio treatment), and late passage contains a lone ritual drum and low garbled voice.

Definitively organic and ritualized in all aspects of sound and presentation, this is evocative and obscure in the best way possible and sits alongside the more abstract ritual sounds from the Aural Hypnox collective. The packaging also suits the feel of the music perfectly with the tape and multiple inserts with forest and nature imagery wrapped together with stained cheese cloth, twine and wire. At this point of the review, clearly you will know if this is an underground ritual obscurity for you.


Naxal Protocol The Stasi File MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2015

Being a couple of years old already, I have had this tape for some time but only recently learned that the project is helmed by Piero Stanig of the older Italian experimental noise industrial project Cazzodio. To then highlight differences, with Naxal Protocol ‎the sound is originated towards a controlled heavy electronics style, where two tracks of around ten-minutes each feature on The Stasi File.

Stop And Frisk Induction features first and is a track of ominous cyclic drones with controlled bass driven undercurrent of vague rhythmic elements and buried samples of ill-defined and undecipherable meaning. Tumultus Et Urbanae Seditiones follows on the flip side and is choppier in execution, with rough thick distortion and friend noise hewn into rough looped structures, with occasionally detective crime interview dialogue samples, but mid paced and controlled overall. Mid track the loops elevate in intensity to more direct impact, before receding again into the final section.

All in all this is an enjoyable albeit short release, where the special packaging of a ‘top secret’ envelope with various printed inserts addressing societal control via police/ government/ military force is a nice touch (and limited to a 130 copies).


 

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns LP Hospital Productions 2018

To provide background context, the two lengthy tracks on Unknowns were originally featured on a bonus cassette issued in late 2017 as part of a special bungle package of Prurient’s time stretching 7xLP release Rainbow Mirror. In its original context it appears it was conceived as a companion to the main release, however sonically speaking the material on Unknowns differs substantially form the sprawling ‘doom electronics’ synth and noise experimentation of Rainbow Mirror. Yet the resulted differences are easily explained by the involvement of Patrick O’Neal of Hanged Man’s Orgasm (aka Skin Crime) and Kris Lapke (of Alberich) providing the sonics on Unknowns. Dominick’s involvement then comes from his reading the short story published in the booklet of the Rainbow Mirror release and as highlighted by the promo blurb, “sub bass electronics”.

In The Ashes Of Science We Fall is a track which incorporates Dominick’s reading of the Rainbow Mirror short story, but with its understated and half whispered delivery which is also placed within the background of the mix, it leaves the sonics to take the prime focus. Consisting of radar channel scanning noise and Morse Code chatter, it creates a tensile minimalist industrial soundscape completely different to anything featured on Rainbow Mirror. The second track In The Peeling Birch We Remain, is sonically similar to the first, mainly due to the radar scanning type sonics, but is also is instrumental in execution and incorporates more obvious urban based field recordings which have been twisted and manipulated into low grinding and vaguely pulsing rhythmic loops towards the later half.

Despite technically being a companion release, I have found the sonic form of Unknowns to be much more engaging and direct than much of the sounds found on the parent release Rainbow Mirror. In then noting how different it is in sound and approach, regardless of its original association as a companion to Rainbow Mirror, Unknowns can be fully appreciated as a standalone release. Presentation and artwork is slick with clean graphic design which matches the look and feel of Frozen Niagra Falls, noting that the visuals for both have been completed by visual artist Adam Marnie.

Lussuria- Standstill

Lussuria- Standstill 8xMC Hospital Productions 2017

Lussuria may not be the biggest or most well-known artist on the Hospital Production roster, but over the last decade this solo project of American Jim Mroz has issued a large array of releases which draws from a diverse sonic base, including: dark ambient, experimental industrial, muted noise, abstract techno and cinematic soundtrack styled sonic explorations. In then drawing together such a diverse sound palate, it is of interest that the end result contains a vague approximation of each chosen stylistic element, but where they are combined in such a way to sidestep the usual or expected traits of the genres being drawn from, and in the process evokes an intangible and at times mysterious aura.

To then speak of this new release, Standstill represents an exercise in stamina and endurance given that the eight cassettes feature a whopping 33 tracks (formatted as 29 tracks for the digital version), with a combined total playtime pushing almost the four-hour mark. In then choosing to issue such a monolithic release in today’s age of short attention spans, on run-time alone Standstill has to be acknowledged for its rather epic and time stretching efforts. Perhaps then of contextual interest is the fact that Jim Mroz was a contributing member who joined Dominik Fernow on Prurient’s 2017 album Rainbow Mirror – the three hour and twenty minute marathon  meaning Jim is no stranger to releases with an excessively elongated run-time.

When further considering the monumental length of Standstill it might be somewhat expected that it would be most sonically diverse. Upon listening that expectation is revealed to be true, where at times Standstill is the most purposefully musical release in Lussuria’s discography to date and consequently a fair departure from the oblique industrial and abstract techno infused experimentation of earlier works. Yet, regardless of the sheer stylistic diversity on display, the overarching mood is one of a cinematic sound-score which remains as stylistic hallmark of earlier material. Likewise while the fractured beats and rhythms of earlier works make sporadic appearances here and there, more broadly Standstill evokes a deft filmic quality and timeless atmosphere.

To talk of specifics, but without attempting the unnecessary task of describing all aspects of the release, an impression of some of the more notable moments found within the sprawling scope follow. As such the album opens with Tree of Marble, an excellent cut of hushed experimental electronica with strong underpinning tone of melancholia. Another early track Aegri Somnia channels a quite distinct archaic soviet synthesizer sound, while the combined piece Viaticum/ Spear Dance/ Companion Note features driving doom addled beats, minor keyed synth washes, and maudlin clean shimmering guitars to generate a mood driven piece of the highest order. Another combined track Acanthus Leaves/ Of Rage And Denial/ Lashes features emotive drones, radio chatter, orchestral synth washes and tribal percussion which strongly brings to mind the early 1990’s sound of Cold Meat Industry (and specifically artists such as Morthound or Deutsch Nepal), before shifting into a section of muted but driving techno-esque beats. Moving into the middle of the set list, Natura Liberari I-III – plays out as a minimalist and abstract contemporary classical piece of sparse percussion, cello piano and woodwind instrumentation, before later segments divert off into conveyor belt rhythms and looped choir like drones. Twilight Red stands out as a dark ambient track of the highest callable, where the deep sub-orchestral drones are very reminiscent of the best moments of mid era raison d’etre (and when first listening to this my mind wandered and forgot I was listening to Lussuria, where I then momentarily wondered which raison d’etre album I was listening to!). Cliff In The Red Tidal Wave shows yet more variety, by channeling a lurking, suspense styled atmospheric piece of minimalist horror stings and abstract creaking tonality, ritual chimes, and sparse clean guitar. Your Voice To Arise As Incense then completely stands out from the rest, given it is based around sampled male choral vocals (Russian? Not sure), before their tonal resonance of the vocals is harnessed and the track veers off into heady ritual drone territory. As for the final track of the entire set, De Svarta Porten strides into neo-classical and martial industrial tinged territory, but maintaining a forlorn and abstract edge through to the final moments.

With the overall massive run-time being what it is, it was simply not possible to consume this in a single sitting, rather it was approached in larger blocks of tracks over a number of listening sessions. But given the distinct individual focus of the tracks which make up Standstill, it means the material can be approached in this way without hampering its appreciation. In noting from the above description of particular standout moments, it perhaps indicates that not every moment of Standstill is of the same high level. Yet even with that said there is no poor quality or skippable content, which in of itself is an impressive feat when dealing with literally hours of music.

With its monolithic scope and creative diversity Standstill is a stellar release and the most varied and engaging material I have heard from Lussuria to date. But as this was issued in an physical edition of a mere 150 copies (already long sold out), this leaves only the digital version as the means in which to experience this. As a final comment, it is noted that Hospital Productions have previously issued similar 8xMC’s from a number of their artists. So perhaps like Alberich’s original 8xMC NATO-Uniformen from 2010 which was treated to a ‘best of selection’ reissue on 2xLP in 2014, in future Standstill may also be given the same ‘best of’ reissue treatment. We shall see.

Phurpa ‎– Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo

Phurpa Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo CD Old Europa Café 2017

Phurpa has been a rising name in the underground in recent years, which is somewhat expected given their distinct sound and approach which effectively sees this Russian group performing Bon ritual music in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Primarily based around chanted vocals of a Tibetan throat singing style, this is mixed with an array of abstracted and minimal traditional ritual instrumentation including horns, cymbals and various percussive implements. Having previously heard a couple of albums from the group, I was then surprised to discover that they now have 26 releases to their name which have been issued over the past decade. Although I have not been able to confirm it, I have an impression that the majority (if not all) of these releases are straight recordings of live performances, rather than studio albums.

On Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo the album features a single track spanning close to 80 minutes, and which displays the sonic hallmarks of being a direct recording of one of Phurpa’s live rituals. Sparse percussive sounds provide a droning introduction to the album, before the low guttural throat singing chants arrive full force at around the two-minute mark, and by this stage the catatonic pacing of the vocal driven soundscapes has been firmly set. On occasion the mood elevates to crashing crescendos of cymbals, deep drawling horns, higher pitched atonal wailing thighbone trumpets and a general subterranean percussive thrum, where structurally these instrumentation driven passages are used to bridge and interlink the sections of the cavernous throat chanted vocals.

Having heard this album, in comparison to the others I have also heard, they are noted to be broadly in the same sonic palate and style, where it raises the question of whether you need to hear more than a couple of albums to gain a decent appreciation of what the collective is about. Personally I have enjoyed the experience of becoming acquainted with Phurpha’s atypical musical style and approach, but equally I perhaps don’t anticipate myself regularly revisiting these albums either. I also suspect that there is a far greater inherent power in being able to hear and experience Phurpa’s music in a live ritual setting, where an element of its sonic impact is likely to be lost in the recorded album format. Whether or not I get the opportunity to see the group perform live remains to be seen, but albums such these album’s do at least provide an opportunity to experience the ritual works of Phurpa.

Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm ‎– Live Ceremony

Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm Live Ceremony CD Old Europa Café 2015

With Mz.412 having infrequently graced the stage over the years, it was way back in 2000 (18th August) when two of the three members (i.e. Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and Jouni ‘Ulvtharm’ Ollila) teamed up to perform at the Collapse festival in Rostock, Germany. Being billed as Mz.412 vs Folkstorm at the time, this goes partway to explain the harder and harsher elements of this recording which incidentally was previously issued via Pagan Dance in 2004 in a limited edition of 412 copies. This has now been reissued by Old Europa Café with new artwork and the inclusion of additional bonus tracks not included on the original version.

Having previous heard the Mz.412 live album Hekatomb (recorded at Cold Spring’s 21st Anniversary show at The Garage, London, 5 March 2011 – reviewed here), that recording illustrated a more refined presentation of their existing studio works in a live setting. However on Live Ceremony, the recording is a far rougher sonic affair which would seem to reflect an approach of only partially relying pre-recorded segments of music, in order to focus on the live generation of distortion and feedback. Without the inclusion of actual track names, the seven live tracks have been referred at as Act I through Act VII. But by way of example, Act I includes a short fragment of the classic track God of Fifty Names which cuts through live scattered noise, while an additional dialogue sample more thematically aligned with Folkstorm. Vocals are also present in the live setting, but which are heavily treated and again reflect the Folkstorm angle to the live proceedings. As with Act I, a number of recognizable snippets of studio works are used over the seven live tracks, such as on Act III when Der Kampf Geht Weiter from Nordic Battle Signs is blended with the introduction of Deklaration Of Holy War from Burning the Temple of God. But these recognisable fragments of albums function as short interludes which bridge the live sections of loose distorted noise and on occasion tribal/ ritual rhythmic movements, while he final short Act VII relies on sample of a Penderecki styled choral work to conclude the set.

As for the bonus tracks, the two Folkstorm tracks are solid examples of the spitting noise and raw militant industrial meets power electronics material that the project was producing in the early 2000’s. However perhaps of greater interest are the two-short bonus Mz.412, where there is no indication as to which era these are derived from (although Nordvargr later confirmed these are from around 2006/07).  Mors Solum Initium Est is the first of the bonus offerings and is a darkly ritualistic affair with a deeply cavernous atmosphere, rattling metallic tones and distant wailing textures, and perhaps more reminiscent of early Archon Satani than typically Mz.412 – but an excellent track all the same. Congregation of the Abyss follows to round out the album and slightly differs given its focus on intensive multi-layered garbled to guttural roaring vocals and sweeping sub-orchestral undercurrent, which overall is a replication of the sound of the Domine Rex Inferum album and another decent track.

Being a generally loose, and at time chaotic live recording, this is a worthwhile document of the live performance, but perhaps not an essential release in Mz.412’s discography. But even in saying that, the inclusion of the two bonus Mz.412 tracks gives clear incentive to track this down.

Arktau Eos ‎– Catacomb Resonator

Arktau Eos Catacomb Resonator CD Aural Hypnox 2017

By way of background, the Finnish duo of Arktau Eos released their first three albums via Aural Hypnox label between 2006 and 2009, while the fourth and fifth albums were then simultaneously issued on Svart Records in 2012. Now after a 5 years absence Arktau Eos have returned with new material and again issued via Aural Hypnox, and although Catacomb Resonator is billed as the new ‘album’, in reality it features only a single track of 37 minutes in length.

Although all projects on the Aural Hypnox label can be broadly slotted under the ritual/drone/dark ambient categories, in the past Arktau Eos have displayed a greater degree of musicality and instrumentation than other roster artists, which on early albums made compositions feels to be more akin ‘songs’ than sonic ‘movements’. Yet that established approach has been forgone on Catacomb Resonator, given it has opted for a sprawling drone and vocal chant oriented framework. As I understand it, this album is a predominantly a vocal based work, where this both provides the focus and source material which has been subject of additional treatment and coupled with a minimalist backing of electronics (‘archaic bells’ are also noted on the cover as a sound input, but these are not individually detectable).

The use of word ‘catacomb’ within the title perhaps gives an immediate clue to the tonal depth and sonic reverb employed, which allows low deep chants to rise from the depth to central prominence, to then cyclically fall away only to rise and build again. Those vocal elements are then counterpointed by spartan synth elements which follows the same cyclic rise/ fall pattern.  Vocally speaking the chants do not appear to be articulating specific words or lyrics, and given the applied sonic treatments they resemble a drone ambient element. Likewise given the meditative and catatonic pacing of the track, it is very much a dark and minimalist sound you have to immerse yourself in to get the most out of it.

For me personally, I already have established favorite releases from the group which includes Mirrorion, as well as the sprawling double album Ai Ma Ra.  While for me Catacomb Resonator does not surpass either of those releases, this says more of its deviating approach than any sort of lack of quality, as regardless of my personal preferences all Arktau Eos releases to date have been of excellent quality (this included). Presentation wise Catacomb Resonator has been issued on both CD with screen printed foldout 7”ep sized cover, and on LP in two colour variations for the screen printed sleeve.