Anima Nostra – Atraments

Anima Nostra – Atraments CD Malignant Records 2017
The collaborative duo of Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Bjorkk and Margaux Renaudin have returned and in building upon 2016’s album ‘Anima Nostra’, that title has now been adopted as the as the moniker for the project’s continuation. Although taking clear cues from the debut (reviewed here), this sophomore album demonstrates a refinement and streamlining of musical approach. While also broadly drawing influence from the multi-faceted approaches of Nordvargr over his career to date, the involvement with Margaux Renaudin allows the music to chart new stylistic territory.

Rooted in the post-industrial crossroads of dark ambient, black industrial and neo-classical, ‘Atraments’ is still more varied and complex than those genre tags might suggest. Being musically focused and almost soundtrack in stylistic orientation, Anima Nostra’s compositions are darkly cinematic in scope. Driving martial percussion and slow distorted guitars loom large on selected tracks, which clearly nods to influence from blackened, doom-drone spheres. Yet these ‘band’ instruments are wielded in an heavily abstracted way, where the music never sounds like an actual ‘band’ (…and thankfully avoids any feel of constituting a metal pastiche, or a dreaded industrial/metal hybrid). Further textural variation comes in the ritualised elements such as gongs, chimes, meditative chants, choral chanting samples and treated vocal proclamations, which are combined with shrill strings, drawling brass horns and organ dirges which all woven together into a dense post-industrial sonic tapestry.

During a couple of moments a comparison with Trepaneringsritualen comes to mind, particularly given the use of gruff yelled/ sung vocals and rhythmic/ tribal styled framework (…such as is found on ‘Anima Nostra’ and the final cut ‘The Seal’, but within the context of this album the sound is more polished and refined). For further comparative purposes ‘Atraments’ also sits within the same general sonic sphere as late era Mz.412, yet the sound charts its own individualistic direction, with is powerful atmosphere articulating its own form of grim esoteric spirituality. Despite the sheer number of albums Nordvargr has been involved with over the decades, this is yet another album and project which has struck gold, thus making Nordvargr and Margaux Renaudin akin to modern day sonic alchemists. Recommended.

…Hagshadow’s Anti State Jugend…

ANTIchildLEAGUE – Holy Ghost CD Hagshadow 2016

Godlesstate – Godlesstate CD Hagshadow 2016

Sutcliffe Jugend – Shame CD Hagshadow 2017

For this label showcase it is important to highlight that Hagshadow is run by Gaya Donadio: an Italian national, yet long term resident of London and a staple of its underground scene as a gig promoter via the Hinoeuma the Malediction banner.  Although Gaya’s role as a promoter may have reduced somewhat over the last decade (…when compared to the monthly shows in the early 2000’s), Hagshadow has been operating as a label since 2008 (…and mail-order prior to that).

Up first is ANTIchildLEAGUE, which is the solo project of Gaya herself, where ‘Holy Ghost’ appears to be the third in a trilogy of album’s starting with ‘The Father’ in 2008 and ‘The Son’ in 2014. However I am afraid to say that apart from hearing a few selected tracks from ANTIchildLEAGUE over the years, I have not heard these other trilogy releases, so cannot comment on how ‘Holy Ghost’ continues or differs from their sound. With that said, what ‘Holy Ghost’ brings is a sharp and clinically edged industrial album which bristles with fierce energy. With its 13 tracks spanning 47 minutes, the general impression is that of a collection of tracks, where differing sounds and moods are explored throughout.  With the opening title track being more of a introductory piece (i.e. solo female religious styled singing), ‘I Hate You’ follows and is a sharp and buzzing piece of looped power electronics (…think of the clinical and clean tone of Haus Arafna), with Gaya’s vocals being aggressively spat and slightly treated (…an excellent start).  As the album progresses from there, a pattern is then noted where some tracks are constructed around rhythmic programming and minimalist synth pads, while others following a stricter adherence to industrial and power electronics expression. With the vocals covering everything from spoken whispers to banshee like wails, these also mirror the moods of the tracks which themselves range from calm yet tensile, to those of controlled and/ or unhinged anger.  With some absolutely excellent tracks in among other generally solid offerings, it is perhaps an appropriate time to dig into ANTIchildLEAGUE’s back catalogue to check out what I have already missed.

Up next is the debut album from Godlessstate, but rather than being a young new project, it has significant pedigree in being helmed by Patrick Leagas. Noting this former Death In June member departed in 1987 and continued recording under the Sixth Comm banner, for whatever reason I have never properly investigated his releases over the years. Yet now some 30 years on from the creation of Sixth Comm comes Patrick’s new debut solo project under the Godlesstate moniker, and being: “a personal attempt to codify audibly the somewhat unfathomable ritual religious practices of our collective pre history..”.  What has been created is a rather imposing experimental tribal industrial album, based heavily around intense soundscapes and complex rhythms driven by martial drumming and hand percussion depending on the track.  The album’s rhythmic focus is further complimented by chimes, wailing horns, dulcimer, mouth harp, sub-orchestral synths, field recordings and varied vocals (i.e. whispers, chants etc. which function mostly as backing layers than providing central focus).  Selected tracks feel entirely organic in presentation, while others opt for elements of programmed electronic percussion to merge the archaic and modern (…although the consequential atmosphere is rooted in an 80’s post-industrial approach). Likewise while exploring different sounds and moods, the rhythmic approach is noted to range from Middle Eastern styled to more Euro-centric rooted sounds. With straight forward tribal industrial tracks and others of fully fledged ethno-ambient expression (…and which brings to mind a classic but short lived CMI project Memorandum), all in all this is a varied and interesting tribal industrial styled album.

Moving finally on to Sutcliffe Jugend, over the years the aura surrounding the project has been maintained by the sheer force of the extremity of their early power electronics approach, and in particular their highly coveted ‘We Spit on Their Graves’ 10xMC box-set from 1982.  Noting then then potentially difficulty in maintaining such levels of extremity, some 25 years later it was during the late 2000’s that the duo of Paul Taylor and Kevin Tomkins pulled back on the extremity to allow a greater degree of variety and experimentation to their sound. Furthermore the pair currently seem to be on a bit of creative streak as 6 albums have been issued since 2016 (…including this one). Although I have not necessarily kept up with all of the recent releases, ‘Shame’ is a considered and controlled album (…by Sutcliffe Jugend’s standards), and includes close to 50 minutes of material spanning 5 tracks. The title track opens the album, and with being based around a discernible guitar, the sound is one quite close to that of noise-rock (…sans drums) – or perhaps doom drone where the riffing has sped up to less catatonic pace. Although some nosier synth slashes are included, the guitar elements remain as the main focus throughout and the track definitely expresses a song format which extends to the vocals delivered in a half shouted/ half sung wail. Despite the musical focus of this track being far from what I initially was expecting –  it most certainly works as a listenable and engaging approach. The following track ‘Sledge’ is then more experimental with sparse atonal plucked notes and percussive sounds, leaving the vocals to issue a semi-aggressive rant.  This mood of restraint continues on ‘Hurt’ with its tensile and suspenseful tone, yet conversely the vocals are far more chaotic and unhinged in delivery and sonic treatment. Moving into the back third of the album, ‘Bait’ opts for a straight forward, mid paced pummeling riff, pounding rhythmic thuds and synth squall which are combined into a song style, which is reinforced by the ranted, half sung/ half screamed vocals. For the final of the 5 tracks, ‘Blood’ is an instrumental piece which bookends the album with a lengthy industrial soundscape of looped drones and cinematically tinged elements, which is calm yet tensile in equal measures (…and consequently and excellent track). Although I do not know how reflective this is of other recent albums and despite its quite significant deviation for my own (…perhaps ill informed) expectations, I have very much enjoyed this album.

Various Artists – Poison Vol.II

Various Artists – Poison Vol.II MC New Approach Records 2017

Over the years the post-industrial underground has clearly placed a high degree of importance on packaging and presentation, and in this context the special wooden box casing of this cassette compilation immediately caught my eye.  With it then being noted the tape features recognized artists of Kontinent and Wertham (…and the contributions of a further 4 artists), it represented a coveted item to track down.  Likewise with only 6 tracks featured it warrants a brief comment on each contribution:

  • METEK open the set with their piece ‘Prey’ features suffocating tape hiss, slashes of radio static and choking bass riddled resonances, which teeter on an ‘industrial-noise’ edge between controlled and freeform (…and a solid intro piece as a result).
  • Kontinent follow with a dose of their heavy electronics sound on ‘Hive Mind’, and is an excellent piece of droning synths, static shards, layered noise and treated dialogue samples to create a heavily paranoid vibe (…and is one of the best and immediately impacting tracks I have heard from this newish UK project).
  • Wertham are up next and do what they do best on ‘Diagram For Delinquents’, which a bulldozing wall of muted ‘blown-out’ analog distortion which resembles hissing gas in loose looped form (…but perhaps the sound is also less immediate of can usually be expected from Wertham’s given the absence of Marco’s trademark and heavily accented vocal barrage).
  • See Through Buildings opens side B with ‘Ototoxic Agents’, which is direct in its loose and chaotic noise approach (…being squalling and freeform in its distorted mid to higher pitch sonic attack, but perhaps the least to my liking given typical noise sits within my listening preferences).
  • Deterge (…who I know by name only), feature their track ‘Hg(CH3)2’, being a minimalist and droning industrial track and gruffly yelled vocal which generates an excellently morbid atmosphere (…and another tape highlight).
  • Instinct Primal then concludes the set with ‘Resonant Peak 2’, and sits towards an experimental dark ambient sound of expertly crafted proportions (…shifting droning layers mingle with micro-tonal elements to create a widescreen and barren landscape styled atmosphere as a calm conclusion to the tape).

Overall I would say this is a strong compilation, but all the same is perhaps not quite to the level of a mandatory one. But with that said the packaging absolutely targets the fetishistic aspects of the post-industrial underground and certainly makes for and adds to the overall experience of listening to the contributions on the cassette and one I am glad to have tracked down.

Mytrip – Filament

Mytrip – Filament LP Amek 2016

Although not having come across this Bulgarian solo project before, sole member Angel Simitchiev has issued a dozen releases since 2007, with ‘Filament’ being his latest offering.  And although the project is billed as an ambient / drone project, this release operates at the border regions between dark ambient, drone, (modern) industrial and (abstracted) experimental techno, therefore encompassing a sound that defies easy categorisation.

‘All Black’ opens the album with a slow spiraling, vortex inducing drones (…think of a more mellow Yen Pox), while the following cut ‘Fibre Mask’ blends some excellent micro-tonal textures, smattering of keys, slow throbbing kick and deep ‘dub’ rhythm to drive the mood (…and consequently is the first album standout).  ‘Dust’ then rounds out the first side with a short piece of mid-toned shimmering synths, combined with deep bass addled drones and minimalist rhythmic programming towards the end for good measure.  Another album highlight in the form of ‘Lustre’ opens the flip side of the vinyl, which after an extended, laid back droning introduction adds a driving mid-paced kick-drum, moody synths and additional swirling drones.  ‘Adaptive’ regresses with sub-orchestral vortices and a dour synth melody (…coupled with some seriously heavy bass rumbles), while ‘Soft/ Outer’ closes out the album with a dark and heady mix of moody minimalist dark ambient, bass driven drones and laid back beat (…a sublime conclusion).

Sonically and visually this release would slot quite easily into the current rosters of the likes of Posh Isolation, Hospital Productions or Northern Electronics, which should give a clue to the hallmarks of this as a high quality production. Also after having used the group’s Bandcamp page to first sample this release, I can say that online listening does not do this release full justice, as the vinyl mastering really elevates the sound through its deep and heavy bass production.  Perhaps this release slightly deviates from the usual types of releases reviewed herein, but ‘Filament’ demonstrates some clever intermingling and styles and influences without being overtly slavish to any one particular genre. A slick matt card gatefold cover rounds outs the visual and physical presentation, with the music pressed on the black vinyl being worthy of investigation if this review has raised any interest or intrigue.

Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church

Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church DLP Cipher Productions 2016

Originally released as limited CDR in 2013 on Oppressive Resistance Recordings, Cipher Productions have seen fit to reissue this on vinyl with all new artwork and 3 lengthy remixes appended for good measure.  Thematically the album functions as a direct homage to to Lars Von Trier’s film ‘Antichrist’ (….or perhaps can be considered an alternate soundtrack of sorts?), and certainly manages to capture the mood of mental anguish and emotional desolation of the film.  Sonically speaking this music found herein is far removed from what might be typically expected from either project, where ‘Nature Is Satan’s Church’ features industrial orientated drones and minimalist dark ambient soundscapes (…which then verges on the isolationist ambient side of things at times). In then tying back to its inspiration source, this minimalism has replicated and expanded upon the the harrowing and starkly minimalist sound design (…which is only fleetingly employed within ‘Antichrist’), while each of the 6 album track titles specifically replicate each of the chapter titles of the film.

‘Prologue’ commences the 6 main album tracks and sets the scene with a moody series of orchestral type loops and a lone female choir vocal sample, which is clearly a nod to the music of film’s opening chapter.  This track then turns out to be the most ‘musical’ on offer (…which again is reflective of the film’s sound score) and functions as the gateway into a slow descent of creeping anxiety and rising dread. This is particularly demonstrated on the second track ‘Grief’ with is foggy enveloping ambience and sonically wintery landscapes, but later in the piece it ramps up with added windswept force (…including a section of echoed knocking tones which creates a haunted basement vibe for exceptional effect).  ‘Pain (Chaos Reigns)’ on Side B is structured around a series of minimalist but quite forcefully driving loops with gradually elevating momentum which culminate in foghorn styled intensity.  ‘Depair (Gynocide)’ continues the album’s established dank and oppressive minimalism mixing layered bass rumble, and a heavy dose of echo and reverb, while ‘The Three Beggars’ continues a comparable droning blast furnace styled approach. ‘Epilogue’ rounds out the final of the main album tracks with an general sense of stasis, where its gradual sonic fadeout drags the sound down into ultimate oblivion.

With the 3 re-mix tracks, these broadly maintain an underlying feel and mood of the source material, but also provides individualistic sonic flair on each.  Four Pi Movement features first with ‘Despair Remix’, where the mood of this piece features some prominent and driving ‘cosmic’ type synth elements.  Worms of the Earth follows with ‘Chaos Reigns Remix’, which is sonically more consistent with the source material, but here with the main augmented/ additional elements consisting of driving synth melody, sparse percussion and sampled Gregorian chants for excellent ritualistic result. Iszoloscope then rounds out the remixes (…and album overall) with ‘Pain Remix’, being a quite minimalist drone affair and generally closest to the sound of the main album tracks.

Having heard this previously this via its original CDR edition, I did observe that due to its sprawling scope, minimalist construction and continuous soundscape format, that if full and attentive listening was not facilitated you could get lost along the way as to exactly which track was playing.  While this is not in any way a criticism of the music, I do perhaps feel the vinyl format is a much better fit for this album as there is ongoing engagement with the material due to having to change sides as the album progresses.  As for the cover, the photography courtesy of Gretchen Heinel functions as a stunning visual counterpoint the featured sonics, which also appears to pay homage to the style, colour palate and visual mood of ‘Antichrist’. Overall this is an excellently realised release: from concept, to visual representation and ultimately its sonic execution and should not be passed over despite its limited pressing of 150 copies.

Altarmang – Void / The Solar Zine – No.2

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Altarmang – Void MC / The Solar Zine – No.2 Hypnagoga Press 2016

Although I have not previously come across Hypnagoga Press, they are a small independent Swedish record label and publishing house, being run by siblings Pär and Åsa Boström as an outlet for their own creative works (…and close affiliates).  This particular release combines a cassette by Altarmang, which is only available with issue No.2 of The Solar Zine.

To speak of The Solar Zone No.2, this constitutes a small 20 page A5 ‘booklet’ printed on textured card stock and features: a number of brief interviews; details of future publishing plan/ music releases; obscure artworks; images of winter landscapes etc.  An interview with Kenneth Hansson and Pär Boström of Altarmang then functions to highlight the recording process employed on the ‘Void’ tape; while the short interview with Primeval Vision (…aka the design / packaging side business of Aural Hypnox), also ties in with ‘Void’ release (…given they designed and screen printed the tape’s cardboard cover/ outer casing). Although not overly long, The Solar Zine is artistically refined and archaic in aesthetic, which brings to mind that special ‘obscure and esoteric’ feel of the newsletters issued by the likes of Cold Meat Industry and Dark Age Productions back in the mid to late 1990’s (…a visual feast if you will).

To then turn attention to the audio context of the ‘Void’ tape, this features a single lengthy track on each side of the tape, which is self-described as: “intuitive reel-to-reel tape storytelling, herbal alchemy and ceremonial surrendering”. More specifically the sound featured is not too far away from the atmosphere of many Aural Hypnox releases albeit ‘Void’ is certainly more drone and dark ambient focused overall (…and lacks any overt ritual/ percussive elements that a comparison to Aural Hypnox might suggest).  ‘Sulpher’ leads off side A, with a slow pace and layers drone elements which slowly rise out of the murky background. Cyclic and oscillating in form, the sound gradually elevates to a more tonally forceful frame of reference.  With a brooding and meditative tone spanning the 19 minute span, there is however one ‘mid-toned’ wavering sound element which is perhaps slightly too prominent and distracting (…but equally is perhaps explained by the improvised nature of the initial recordings).  ‘Aether’ then features on side B as a 15 minute track which is more ghostly and darkly ethereal in scope.  Containing lighter ‘distant’ elements (…female voices? …male chants? …not quite sure…), which are grounded with lower ranged bass toned drones. As with the first, the piece gradually elevates in tonal force, where the piece allows full sonic immersion and ultimately meditative result. Although both tracks have their own character and particular strengths, ‘Aether’ is clearly the pick of the two.

Of specific note is the special level of care and attention to detail applied to be both tape and zine, which makes them worth tracking down for their physical manifestation, but with the limitation to a mere 50 copies this is potentially already out of print.  Yet with respect of the ‘Void’ recording, this can still be obtained digitally and evidently is going to be repressed on vinyl in 2017 via Autarkeia.

Pterygium – The Revival of Unwritten Laws / Broken Fingers – Mer de Ruines / Grafted Soma – St. Quentin’s Enigma

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Pterygium – The Revival of Unwritten Laws MC Algebra of Need 2014
Broken Fingers – Mer de Ruines MC Algebra of Need 2014
Grafted Soma – St. Quentin’s Enigma MC Cabin Fever Networks 2016

Algebra of Need are a relatively new ‘micro-label’ focusing on vinyl and cassette releases, where issued material spans a wide arc capturing dark ambient, industrial, power-electronics, experimental techno etc. Being run by Henry Gillett & Thomas Barnes and having issued over a dozen releases since 2013, where the impression I get from perusing their catalogue is that the look, feel and artistic approach of Algebra of Need fits neatly alongside current labels like Posh Isolation, Hospital Productions and Northern Electronics.

Up first for review is ‘The Revival of Unwritten Laws’ 2014’s debut tape by Pterygium, which is the solo project of Henry Gillett. The material on the tape is a blend of experimental industrial noise and dark ambient, which has evidently been created from sampling history library audio and this source material being looped and treated with layered distortion etc. Opening track ‘Experience In Imperial Government’ is a grinding, droning mass which sonically forceful and blown out in tone, which is further infused with middle-eastern tribal samples (voice and percussion), which given an darkly exotic edge. With the first track abruptly cutting out, ‘Blood Tie’ quickly follows with a piece of cyclic, hollow toned and layered drones, again with samples of middle-eastern religious chants (…as the track progresses it gets progressively more overblown until it too abruptly cuts out). The flip side ‘Cause of Expansion’ follows a similar trajectory to the first, with layered droning noise and prominent middle-eastern tribal ritual samples but ramps up its tonal force to ‘jet engine’ effect. Final of 4 tracks ‘Never Once Did I Recover A Revelation’ opts to pull back on the distortion while duly increases the cyclic, rolling tribal rhythm to the point where it could easily be passed off as an outtake from the early classic era of Deutsch Nepal.  In an overall sense the material on this tape is definitely enjoyable, where its non-typical source material gives a distinct edge, however the way a number of the tracks abruptly cut out does fracture the mood and flow slightly.  With regard to packaging, there is high degree of attention to detail, given the tape is packaged in a small gloss printed slider ‘matchbox’ cover and with the tape wrapped in red satin cloth.

Up next is a short 2 track cassette from Broken Fingers, which is a project of Melbourne based Thomas Wojcicki. ’Barbed Wire Gag’ is the first Side A track, with a clean and clinical track of pulsing electronics, which are structured as part melodious drone and part rhythmic thrum, and where a comparison to the programmed works of Bad Sector is not too far off the mark. Side B brings the track ‘Kittens’, which is a rougher and more straight forward with its stilted rhythmic structure.  Given it slots within a clinical, programmed power electronics vein, the piece is further completed with smatterings of distortion and sporadic dialogue samples. With two tracks spanning two different styles, it delivers an agreeable sound on each, but then amounting to less than 10 minutes of material it also feels like it is an almost ‘blink and you miss it’ length. Colour J-card and printed outer casing ‘wrap’ rounds out the clean and simple packaging.

Moving on to to the final tape, Grafted Soma is a new collaboration between Henry Gillett, Thomas Wojcicki and this being their debut tape, on the new Cabin Fever Network ‘micro-label’, which is a further collaboration between the two. 4 mid-length tracks make up the tape and interestingly all titles are 1 word and starting with the letter ‘C’ (i.e. ‘Curfew’, ‘Coercion’, ‘Composure’ & ‘Consequence’). Drawing on elements of droning dark ambient and muted yet blown out industrial noise the material works on a split level of meditative melancholic to borderline abrasive (…depending on the track). In fact it just so happens that the first 2 tracks are the more abrasive ones, while the second 2 are more squarely of the meditative dark ambient type. Apart from thick drones and soundscape oriented layers, vocals/ dialogue snippets and choir like textures bleed in and out of the mix (…but as these are mostly undecipherable they are used for added sonic effect). The third track is the clear standout of the tape and the most forceful, where its strong and moody sub-orchestral textures reminds of the most active works of Yen Pox (…a similar yet slightly less forceful sound also features on the last track). Handmade J-cards rounds out an excellent debut tape for both project and label, and is the clear pick of this bunch.