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.


 

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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.

Raison D’etre/ Troum – XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience

Raison D’etre/ Troum – XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience CD Transgredient Records 2017

To speak of this collaboration between Troum and Raison D’etre, surely at this point they do not require any sort of detailed introduction. This is their second collaboration CD following De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu from 2015 and evidently will include a third as part of a trilogy. Having heard the first collaboration, it can be regarded a decent album overall, but a general observation to be made is that it does not really amplify individual strengths, rather tends to reduce them into a more ‘typical’ dark ambient/ drone album. This however is not the case the with XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience, which accordingly to sleeve notes is: “A creation of 9 separate “worlds”, existing only at the moment you immerse into it”. Certainly this is a very succinct way to describe the key strength of this album.

Obviously in approaching this as a collection of individual tracks or musical vignettes, the opening drone oriented track In den Wellen, ein Sehnen demonstrates a greater degree of drive and sonic animation than the first CD.  This sense of drive and movement continues with The Machine Starts to Sign, which features a looped and heavily tribal percussive thrum set against roiling background drones. Also of interest, selected tracks lean more heavily to one or the other projects individual sound, such as on Eigi Einhamr, where the sweepingly bitter-sweet drone-scape is more typical to Troum’s influence, while others such as Hang’-E-Lah has the detectable bleak melancholic edge and contact-mic metallic timbres are more typical of current era Raison D’etre. Dreiklang Aus Äther then charts a careful mid-point between the sound of both projects, including the lush swelling drones of Troum and the sacral ambient elements of Raison D’etre (including sampled and treated choir styled vocals). Late album track Expulsion of the False Self is another sonically animated piece featuring a driving looped bass rhythm, wailing type horn elements and swelling forceful drones and even an accordion thrown in for good measure!

Overall I have found this second collaboration CD from Troum and Raison D’etre to be more immediate in its impact and also perhaps aligns more closely to what I would have hoped or expected from a collaboration between these two heavyweight of the dark ambient and drone underground. While drawing from the sonic palate of both projects, here it amounts to something much more than ‘just’ a merging of their individual sound and approach. The stunningly detailed and multi-layered artwork of the 6-panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation of this very much enjoyed album.

Salford Electronics – Communique No.2

Salford Electronics – Communique No.2 CD Tesco Organsiation 2017

Now that The Grey Wolves have ceased activity, former member Dave Padbury will be continuing in solo guide under the Salford Electronics moniker. In then noting that Salford is a suburb of Manchester, UK it may be reasonable to assume this is where Dave resides and it has duly informed the project title.

Perhaps of note, this debut Salford Electronics album was released a couple of months before The Grey Wolves final album Exit Strategy (reviewed here). Now having had a chance to listen to both albums in detail, there appears to be clear conceptual linage between the two (and perhaps this observation better frames Exist Strategy as being an album strongly influenced by the current sonic mind sent of Dave as evidenced on Communique No.2). Likewise, with reference to the soundtrack/ soundscape style of Exit Strategy, this mood also threads through Communique No.2 albeit in a far more controlled and ambient guise. The promo blurb also draws such parallels given its description of: “Salford Electronics is the follow up to The Grey Wolves – Communique 2 is a perfect Interzone eternal night noise or neon rain-soaked stalker science fiction vibrations for would-be blade runners, A soundtrack to the hollow hours empty of sleep”. Although ultimately differing in sonic execution, Communique 2 and Exist Strategy are two albums which work rather well together, given they explore similar thematic territory, but with slightly differing sonic result.

Given that Communique No.2 spans 41 minutes across ten interlinking tracks, it is best taken as a complete musical work. As such it is an album that is darkly moody and which sonically articulates a dystopian malaise of the dead hours of night, where the atmospheric industrial-noise/ dark ambient  soundscapes slowly ooze forwards in a minimalistic and cinematic guise. Here darkly moody elongated drones mix with sparse washes of noise, buzzing distortion, semi-buried rhythmic elements, but all the while maintaining a controlled and minimalist tone. But not being of studio construction alone, Prestwich is constructed around dank urban field recordings, minimalist electronics pulses and semi-buried radio chatter. Yet to speak of differences, This Sickness positioned at the centre of the album differs from the bulk of the album given its programmed/ electronic rhythmic structure.

With the effective ‘non-existent’ album artwork giving no visual reference points, it functions to redirect all focus on the musical framework, which reveals a highly detailed work of dank minimalist atmospherics and interspersed with occasional moments of biting tensile sonics. The fact that such a strong solo project has emerged from the ashes The Grey Wolves should be welcomed news, and hopefully bodes well for more high caliber material being delivered by Dave Padbury via the Salford Electronics moniker. Recommended.

The Grey Wolves – Exit Strategy

The Grey Wolves – Exit Strategy LP Tesco Organisation 2017

So here we are, 14 years on from the last official Grey Wolves album Division released in 2003. Being many years in the making, Exit Strategy has also been announced as the final album from this long standing and rather revered group, with its release also coinciding with their final live ‘action’ at Tesco Organisation’s 30th Anniversary show in Mannheim in October, 2017. So as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end” – and end they have, but not before this ‘exist strategy’ was devised.

Having spent some time becoming acquainted with Exit Strategy, from the outset there is no way of getting around the fact that the sound of the album is not representative of what would typically be expected from The Grey Wolves. This comment is then made in full acknowledgement that the project has over their 30+ years of activity covered a diverse range of sounds, which has included: atmospheric dark ambient; murky industrial noise; and harsh power electronics. However much of the perception of Exist Strategy not sounding like The Grey Wolves comes down the general cleanliness of the sound and the clarity of the production.  This situation would then seem to be somewhat explained by the album’s liner notes that: “Exit Strategy was produced, mixed, mastered with additional audio and artwork by Jerome Nougaillon” (aka Propergol – and perhaps tellingly if Exist Strategy were played to me without being told who it was, chances are I would have said it sounded like the sharp and clinical approach employed by Propergol). So, although far from confirmed, I suspect that Jerome had a central role in the creation of this album, and this may have gone as far as being responsible for reworking and finalising a range of source material and/ or unfinished tracks from the group. Whether or not the truth on how the album was completed comes to light, remains to be seen.

To then speak of the album’s construction and flow, it is an instrumental and soundscape oriented in style and approach. A heavy dystopian mood and cinematic atmosphere permeates the album, where this perception is duly confirmed by the promo blub which states: “The soundtrack to an as yet unmade Hong Kong splatter movie. A seemingly endless march through cinematic urban decay. The original sound reduced to its basic structure through loops, repetition, distortion and other alienation techniques. it’s time to think about an Exit Strategy. The sodium orange hours of the city make you believe in the apocalypse”. Yet given the ‘soundtrack to a non-existent film’ format, there is also a conspicuous absence of the trademark vocals which are without doubt a sorely missed element. But to speak of specifics, the opening track In Our Time is a strong and tensile introduction based around pulsing textures, driving drones, a lone pounding ‘beat’ and mid-toned static shards. The Precinct then steps up a notch in urgency with a shuddering obliquely rhythmic framework with is further coupled with radio chatter for further cinematic effect. Another track worthy of individual mention is In Too Deep with it scattered sweeping textures and sparse programmed ‘Morse-code’ type rhythm.  Seizure then deviates completely from a recognized sound, given its hard pounding programmed beats and static blasts resembles a type of industrial techno along the lines of Alberich (and for this reason alone is likely to be the most divisive track on the album). In rounding out the album Flatline uses a prominent movie dialogue sample of Samuel L Jackson, and while for me personally it negatively jars the overarching mood and would have been better excluded altogether, thankfully it is used only once and not repeated (as often dialogue samples tend to be in this type of music). Sonically speaking this track is a tensile blend of jarring (digital?) noise, sporadically rhythmic outbreaks and doom addled atmospheric drones.

Although this review may on face value appear to be overly critical, such commentary should be taken more as observations which highlight the clear differences between initial expectation and the actual reality of the final The Grey Wolves album. Ultimately Exist Strategy IS a strong and enjoyable album in its own right, but can only be acknowledged after getting over the initial expectations of what you may want it to be. So, if you are able to divorce yourself from expectations that this album should be something like The Grey Wolves’ magnum opus, and instead simply approach it for what it is, some excellent material awaits and functions as a sort of unexpected addendum to their established and celebrated legacy.