Celebrity Appreciation Society – Selected Case Studies Volume 1: Loss of Innocence

Celebrity Appreciation Society – Selected Case Studies Volume 1: Loss of Innocence MC Institute of Paraphilia Studies 2016

Here we have an anonymous project which according to the cover claims to have been recorded in Orania, South Africa – but considering that Orania is an ‘Afrikaner-only’ South African town I suspect this is a case of ‘bait and switch’ tactics. Yet besides the question of who is behind the project, Celebrity Appreciation Society has an interesting thematic framework given its focus: “is interested in exploring the obsession developed by large groups of people for public characters. Actors and actresses, models and singers, starlets and porn stars, historical characters and victims of heinous crimes: whenever a human being reaches the limelight, hordes of fans will develop questionable urges that can turn admiration into sexual obsession that often leads to trolling and stalking activities”. On Volume 1 of an ongoing series, the focus is on the public figures of Anne Frank and Dana Plato (actress who played Kimberly Drummond on Different Strokes and died of a drug overdose in 1999), with each being dedicated a side of the tape.

A large part of the sound is focused around samples of interviews and other associated dialogue, the music is mid to higher pitch in tone, with sustained sonic elements ranging from windswept to whistling/ needling elements, while the vocals when sporadically used are then another layer of blown out feedback. With an elongated method of composition and with the sound being clear and crystalline, it perhaps points towards a digital method of recording and production, given the overt lack of analog murkiness. Although not being an overly long tape (around 20 minutes), it nevertheless makes a strong impact in its short run-time, though Side B is more direct and forceful overall.

Noting the highly conceptual nature of this material, the personalities it explores and the questions it raises through the presentation of its ideas and concepts are just as important as the sonic elements, and for me at least this dual aspect of sonics and theme is exactly what I appreciate in underground industrial spheres. Two printed double sided fold-out inserts provide further conceptual context, where I perhaps now need to track down Volume 2 in the series.

…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.

Anemone Tube – In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality

Anemone Tube – In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality CD Blossoming Fern 2017

Noting that a 20 minute cassette EP was issued in 2015 under the same name, this is not a simple re-release on a new format, rather it represents the augmentation and expansion of that material into a 44 full length album (…through the inclusion of 4 new compositions and a reworked version of the opening track).

Within the review of the original tape (located here), some of the observations made included: “…it is a further display of Anemone Tube’s particular style of harmonic/ disharmonic infused dark ambient/ industrial music”; and that it was a: “…demonstration of Stefan Hanser’s ability to create deeply evocative soundscapes built around melodious elements, sculpted field recordings and squalling feedback”.  Those comments still stand here and equally can be applied to the new material which follows the same sonic template. The entire album has then been re-mastered by Hunter Barr (of Knifeladder, Black Light Ascension etc.), which has given it a notable different in sonic edge when compared to tracks features on the original tape (i.e. a tonally sharper yet more spacious mix).

Without going into a track by track breakdown, the material based around a blend of looped and processed field recordings and orchestral oriented synth pads which combine to creates an overall mood which is beautiful, tragic and forlorn in equal measures.  A dual nature to the sound is also displayed through the balancing of disparate elements, where compositions are underpinned harmonic synths, and then offset by washes of higher pitched disharmonic noise and tonal drones.  With the inclusion of 4 additional tracks, these fit seamlessly into the framework of the balance of the tracks, and never stand out of feel like awkward additions (…in fact I had to compare the run order of both the original tape and this CD to work out where the new compositions had been inserted).  As for the final album track ‘Like The Streaming Of A Giant River, Life Is Passing, Without Ever Turning Around’ this is contributed piece from the Ukranian project Monocube who have composed their track from field recordings made by Anemone Tube and slightly deviates in sound based on this external influence and input, given it is more geared towards a ritual and tribal infused drone type approach (…although the harmonic/ disharmonic elements retains a familiar edge).

Presentation wise, the 6 panel fold out sleeve is beautifully designed at the hands of Stefan Hanser (aka Anemone Tube), and includes quotes from Friedrich Nietzche and Friedrich Schlegel to further flesh out the conceptual framework of the release. Another excellent addition to Anemone Tube’s discography.

Note: An LP version is also available but features a different/ replacement second track.

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.

Le Syndicat Faction Vivante – Morceaux De Choix

Le Syndicat Faction Vivante Morceaux De Choix CD Aussaat 2017

By virtue of the project’s name the direct relationship with the long standing French project Le Syndicat should be clear. Likewise with some further sleuthing it reveals that Ruelgo (…currently the only permanent member of Le Syndicat), has been joined by Saphi of another French project Nocturne (…but even then it is still not clear as to whether this pairing is for this album only or on a more permanent basis, or whether his joining is the reason for the slight moniker variation).

To speak of its sound and style, personally I do not have a clear appreciation of Le Syndicat’s rather extensive back catalogue (…extending back to 1982), thus I can’t say how this new album generally compares.  Yet from direct listening it can be deduced ‘Morceaux De Choix’ is rooted in a general amalgam of experimental, noise and industrial styles. The promo sheet further indicates that a particularly studio process referred to as ‘reflex piloting’ has been used in album’s production, which: integrates the loss of control and the surprise of generative errors, creating new unexpected sound forms.  Noting this statement provides a brief explanation of the creative process of recording, it provides some clear cues as to how the album sounds.  Equally the final results seem in part to emulate a style and approach derived from a much earlier era of experimental industrial noise music (…meaning the 1980’s from a time where sub-genres where far less defined).

With its mixed sonic approach, the tracks meander and swing wildly between moments of calm and chaos, where the overt layering of sound elements provides a high degree of complexity to the material.  Selected tracks follow atonal rhythmic industrial approach (…formed around pounding and manipulated programmed beats); while other pieces feature fractured higher pitched ‘needling’ elements and panning stabs and slashes of distortion; and yet others employ fast paced and disorientating sonic cut-ups (…which embodies a sense of creative control, despite these looser and jagged tonal elements).  As for the sound production, it has achieved a sharp and clear sonic palate, and with its forceful and clinical edge it at times articulates a type of ‘mad sonic professor’ vibe.

With 10 tracks spanning the best part of an hour, this is an interesting concept but based on my own sonic preferences which does not extend to being a ‘noise connoisseur’ I am not likely to return to on a regular basis, thus this release is best suited to those who lean towards an appreciation of controlled and occasionally frenzied dynamic noise (…with more fleeting industrial and experimental type sonic textures).

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.

Nordvargr – The Secret Barbarous Names

barbarous-cover-rgb

Nordvargr – The Secret Barbarous Names CD Malignant Records 2017

The longstanding and highly renowned Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Björkk should need no introduction given his near 3 decade involvement in the post-industrial underground.  Yet to make specific reference to his most active solo guise he has issued upwards of 50 releases under the Nordvargr banner since the early 2000’s, where each have explored a wide range of sounds and stylistic approaches.  Although I have not personally heard all of the solo Nordvargr releases, of the 15 or so I have they demonstrate a high level of creative flair and with more than a select few rising to laudable greatness.

For this new release ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’, it sees Henrik exploring a vocal focused stylistic approach and also is notable as the first time the Nordvargr project has appeared on Malignant. Bracketed under an amalgam of droning ritual dark ambient/ post-industrial drone, the album utilizes vocals as a central element of the compositional structure, noting this focus on the vocal elements sets this album apart from other Nordvargr albums (…evidently based on Draconian and Typhonian traditions, the thematic context relates to the inherent and hidden power of scripture text which can be manifested through their correct utterance, as opposed to their specific meaning).  As such the vocal delivery ranges from whispered invocations, meditative hums and low drawling to croaked chants, which the latter drawing parallels with Tibetan throat singing.  With the vocals themselves being multi-layered and treated with a fair dose of reverb and echo they forum the bulk of the tonal soundscapes, where underpinning widescreen drones rise and fall in force and prominence depending on the track. Although predominantly sitting within a certain tonal spectrum overs its 49 minute span, on occasion swelling orchestral strings and slow ritual percussive drums appear to given further sonic variation.

As should be expected from a Nordvargr album, its rendered sonic world is darkly hewn, but the slow pacing here manages to maintain an omnipresent meditative and ritualistic quality.  Nothing also that Henrik has used the Nordvargr project to explore varied approaches, including abstract glitch (i.e. ‘I End Forever’ album) and ambient techno (i.e. ‘Resignation 2’ album) , modular synth drone (i.e. ‘Murkhr’ album) and all manner of dark ambient in-between, ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’ represents yet further variation in stylistic approach.  But most importantly these new recordings sound both inspired and invigorated and certainly stands out as a pinnacle album within Nordvargr’s rather imposing back-catalogue. Regardless of whether you need a place to start, or a reason to reengage with Nordvargr’s current creative arc, this is a praiseworthy album.