Alberich / Lussuria  ‎– Borgia

Alberich / Lussuria  Borgia LP Hospital Productions 2018

Here we have a reissue of a 2016 collaborative tape between Alberich and Lussira, which according to the liner notes was: “recorded live to tape using Korg Digital Synthesizers”.  With this release then being billed as ‘dark ambient’ it should be relatively clear that Lussuria has had a greater influence over the sound, particularly as what is offered differs substantially from the recognized driving and rhythmic industrial meets heavy/ power electronics sound of Alberich. However at the same time the sound is a fair bit more animated and digital in tone when compare the usual abstract approach and timeless quality which is characteristic of Lussuria.

Album opener Continuum features tensile but melancholic dark ambient styled atmospheres, while the following cut Antechamber amalgamates cyclic drones and washes of crumbling distortion which refract and fold in on themselves. Anti-Renaissance stands out in that pushes towards something resembling an Alberich rhythmic approach, yet here is remains muted in execution and backed with distant and cavernous squalling noise. Untenable is also noteworthy based on its incorporation of smatterings of sparse tribal-esque percussive textures within a maudlin power-drone framework. Alabaster is another offering which appears to be more strongly driven by Alberich’s influence given the programmed driving rhythm and melancholic synth elements, but they still remain understated in the overall sonic framework. For the final track Voice Of The Dagger it is an animated piece which features an excellent blend of of sub-orchestral drones, micro-tonal metallic textures and rhythmic throbbing undercurrent.

Although being billed as ‘dark ambient’, Borgia is varied in both approach and resulting atmosphere and maintains a strong sense of animated movement throughout. Although differing quite significantly from the typical approach of either project, both have a clear appreciation of the use of melancholic elements within an experimental dark ambient framework, meaning Borgia is a very enjoyable collaborative release. An edition of 500 copies (200 in purple and 300 in black vinyl) will likely serve demand, but won’t hang around long either.

Advertisements

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.

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.


* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

Trapdoor Tapes final batch 2017

Browning Mummery – World of Shells MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Browning Mummery are a long standing and somewhat obscure Australian experimental/ industrial project whose activities dates back to 1983 (including a couple of early tapes issued on the cult Extreme and Zero Cabal labels). Being primarily the creative vehicle of Andrew Lonsdale, the lineup has also sporadically featured the late John Murphy, in addition to the contributions of many others over the years. While not having been necessarily the most active project (and there seeming to be a gap of activity between 1996 and 2008), World of Shells arrives five years after the last full length, and was recorded in 2014 as a collaboration between Andrew Lonsdale and Yvan Volochine The tape features four lengthy compositions to span around an hour of material, where the sound covers some diverse sonic scope within a broad experimental industrial style.

Predominantly the sound of the tape features deep cavernous tones framed around layered washes of muted industrial distortion. Being mid-paced and slightly muted, the tracks surges forwards with idling/ misfiring machines, squiggly sonics and a decent amount of ‘creak, crunch and clang’. By being meticulously layered, there are a multitude of sounds and textures to focus on throughout, and while loosely structured there is still clear composition as play (including some disorientating left/ right channel panning and wonky mid to high toned whistling sonic treatments). Of note, the third track Fibroscan 1 deviates from the rest given it is more meditative drone in execution, where some playful disorienting sonics build to a muted rhythmic thrum and the material coalesces into headier territory.

While not being overtly dark or morbid in tone and quite playful on occasion, World of Shells wears an ‘experimental industrial’ tag like a badge of honour in delivering a worthy release.


Halthan – Live at Obscurex Kontti MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

As per the title of the tape, this is a live set which consists of five distinct tracks spanning around 30 minutes. Crude and back to basics power electronics is the name of the game from this Finnish project who I have not checked out before, despite them being active from around 2004.

In general terms loose rumbling looped structures act as sonic bedrock, while the vocals are spat in an agonised roar and heavily echo/ flange treated to create a result quite reminiscent of those vocals of Survival Unit. Likewise with its thick grinding industrial debris, hollow tonality and repeated semi-buried samples also reminds (positively) of The Grey Wolves approach to lofi industrial noise infused power electronics. As for the recording the sound is raw and slightly distant in feel, which I am not sure if this is down to the recording or is perhaps representative of the live venue sound (as I understand it the venue it was performed in is in fact a metal shipping container, which would no doubt impact on any live sound created and any recording made thereof). Regardless, the sound is still hefty and thick, with the mood being one of subdued anger with occasional aggressive outbursts (i.e. vocals).

Overall this live tape is no frills and lofi, but definitely to the point, and very effective for it.


Kultur Operating P:N:S – Repeat Offense MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Knowing virtually nothing about this project, it seems they are more commonly known as K.O.P., where the three letters are variously used to stand for different interchangeable phases (as per the protocols established by early industrial pioneer SPK). From what information there is available, K.O.P. is a Japanese project active back in 1988 when the first tape was issued, and with a further six tapes, a 7”ep and CD issued through to 1993 before the project disappeared. Now some 25 years later the project has returned with new recordings dating from 2015-2017.

Having not heard earlier material from the project, I can comment on how this sits as a ‘comeback’ recording, but from listening to this the sound is rough, chaotic and crude in a general noise/industrial style, but also leaning more towards a nosier aesthetic.  Twelve tracks spanning around 45 minutes of material features on Repeat Offence, where Some tracks are based around fiercely raw and chaotically overblown distortion which is staunchly analogue (perhaps derived from junk metal sources?). Conversely other tracks are of an apparent digitized source and rapid-fire style, with a clean and sharp sonic tone. Yet to speak of unifying elements, the mood and feel is chaotic and choppy throughout, and where there is limited overtly rigid structure, rather being freeform and amorphous and where tracks abruptly cut out before lurching into the next piece.

With myself personally not being an avid noise listener, it is those compositions which slightly dial down on the higher pitched and harsher overblown textures which (for me) work best (such as the ambient noise mixed with radio chatter which closes out the tape). But equally that description alone will give a clear idea of whether Repeat Offense is right up your ally.


Neurasthenia Psychological Reincarnation MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Neurasthenia ‎is a new Japanese/ Australia collaboration born out of a recording session when Luke Holland (of Armour Group, Mshing, Word Of Life Church SS, Trapdoor Tapes etc.) and Tom Miller (of Word Of Life Church SS, Psychward etc.) toured Japan in September, 2016 and met up with Hiroshi Hasegawa (of C.C.C.C., Astro, Mortal Vision, Nord). According to the notes on the cover, the two tracks on this 60-minute tape (one lengthy track per side) were recording live in a single take and delivers a solid dose of archaic industrial noise.

The title track features on the first side of the tape and steps through a number of distinct passages. Commencing with detailed dynamic noise and spitting/crumbling static, the mood gradually moves towards a passage of hollowed out industrial rumble and the inclusion quasi ritual elements provided by junk metal clatter. Later segments feature crude loops and sparse crumbling textures which resemble the distant thunder of heavy waves. Cardiac Neurosis follows on the flip side and is a more subdued and controlled offering. Initial segments are sparse and cavernous in tone and complimented with ritual chimes, before a rough base of sustained and modulated ‘catacomb’ distortion is set down and gradually tweaked and twisted.  Late sections are further augmented with radio frequency type scanning noise and garbled semi-buried vocals, before ramping up to more chaotic and forceful intent in the final segment.

Given the ‘live in a single take’ method of recording, based on the end results it appears there would have been some clear discussion and pre-planning, as this sounds to be much more than a basic improvised session and particularly given its careful balancing of chaos and restraint (and being able to strategically pull back on the harsher elements throughout the tape for added sonic impact). So, all in all Psychological Reincarnation is a convincing and enjoyable tape in a style which radiates a sound of decades past than anything remotely modern.


 

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.

Stromstad ‎– New Devoted Human

Stromstad New Devoted Human LP Malignant Records 2017

This debut release from Stromstad is revealed to be collaborative album between the Finnish duo STROM.ec and Norwegian Kristoffer Oustad – and what a debut it is. With STROM.ec being recognized for a highly refined blend of industrial and heavy electronics and with Kristoffer Oustad inhabiting an evocative industrial smeared dark ambient sound, the creative collaboration between the two was always going to be an interesting one. Yet the creativity and flair on display completely exceeds any initial expectations.

Noting that each of the eight tracks are relatively confined (between three and six minutes each), this functions to generate a sense of urgency across the album, where its shifting and morphing elements draw from abrasive mechanical programming, controlled noise, lush sub-orchestral pads and gruff processed vocals. As an example, the fizzing/ buzzing looped static of the album opener Inherent Resurrection soon gives way to rolling tribal percussion and rough yelled vocals (clearly recognisable as those of STROM.ec), and functions very much as a statement of intent of what is explored over the balance of the album. Fever Wave Dream Function quickly following with woozy drones and off-kilter metallic clatter, shimmering synths and all underscored with a throbbing programmed element which leaps into heavily rhythmic section late in the track. The central buzzing tonality and stilted mechanical textures drives Blood Consciousness and when coupled with the gruff, slightly treated vocals is perhaps the piece most comparable to a straight STROM.ec composition.  The sub-orchestral strains of Nattsvermer constitutes the first effective respite of the album, being a semi-melodious cinematic drone-scape which reminds of mid era raison detre (and particularly so where some distant choir textures are used). In a somewhat unexpected guest contribution, Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved provides vocals on Reluctant Traveler, another track of stilted mechanical rhythms and buzzing fissures of static mixed with moody orchestral textures, while Gruttle’s vocals range from spoken, guttural chants and urgent yells (a late track guitar gives a partial nod to the current prog metal direction of Enslaved). The title track is positioned towards the album’s ends is in some ways the most straight forward with rapid fire looped beat, tempered static and vocals relegated to the middle of the mix, but in the later half it veers off into moody sub-orchestral territory, while the final album track Kosto then deviates the most, with a synth derived neo-classical piece of moody swelling strings, and with a definite modern sci-fi edge to the sound.

Not being an overly long album, all the same it delivers a heavy impact across its multiple creative arcs, and which consequently makes it feel to be a much longer album than its actual run-time. While New Devoted Human could be said to be of the genres it draws from, at the same time it steps well beyond them given its inspired use and application of such influences. Effectively the album excels by the fact of how vital the finished result sounds, and in the process generates new creative ways of approaching recognizable genre sound elements. Issued on vinyl in gate-fold sleeve, CD or digital formats, it is simply a matter of taking your pick of preferred format. But as a word of advice, do not let this album pass you by.

Atomine Elektrine – The Second Moon

Atomine Elektrine – The Second Moon CD Old Europa Café 2017

Operating since the mid 1990’s, Atomine Elektrine is perhaps Peter Andersson’s most well-known and recognized side project of raison d’être.  The Second Moon is the new and sixth full length album, if not including demo collections and live material which have also been formally released on CD.

With the project name being the Lithuanian word for ‘nuclear power plant’, there has always been and ‘Eastern Bloc’ angle to the sound and approach of the project, where it could also be suggested that the deep space elements and melodic passages sonically articulate the space program era of the Soviet Union. To then quickly speak of context, personally the project hit an absolute high mark with their second album Archimetrical Universe from 1999, which perfectly blended abstract deep space movements with more melodious compositions and occasionally beat driven programming. While the albums which followed experimented with this template, more often than not the abstracted and experimental elements took greater focus, but did not archive the same sonic coherence of Archimetrical Universe (although it must be said that none of the following albums could be considered lackluster or poor in quality by any means).

As a general observation The Second Moon builds on the template of 2015’s Laniakea album, which was framed around sparse and floating deep space drones, which are augmented with looping musical phrases which gives a nod to 1970’s era cosmic space synth music of Tangerine Dream and the like. Yet on this new album there feels to be a greater degree of cohesion and focus to the combination of the deep space drones and pulsing melodious elements. Structurally the album has a drifting and enveloping quality, where the drones and melodies elevate in intensity, to then recede again and build anew, which makes it an album length experience, rather than one focusing on individual musical pieces (featuring only five track, it still has an expansive run time given the shortest track is eight minutes and the longest twenty minutes in length).

Although I have followed and enjoyed all of Atomine Elektrine’s outputs over the years, equally I have found The Second Moon to be one of the most listened to of the last few albums, which is predominantly down to its refinement and balancing of its sonically abstracted and melodious parts. A cleanly designed, 4 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation.