Pterygium – Concealing The Past

Pterygium – Concealing The Past CD Tesco Organisation 2018

The relatively new Australian project Pterygium have returned with their second full length album Concealing The Past, which follows the 2017 debut Grip (issued on a small cassette run on Algebra Of Need and reviewed here). Also of note, Pteryrium had a track on Tesco Organisation’s 2017 Projekt Neue Ordnung II 4xLP boxset, where Tesco has now subsequently issued this new and admittedly excellent sophomore album.

In noting the dual sonic approach of Grip, which blended minimalistic melodic tones with sharper distortion squalls, that approach has been both repeated and further honed here where the tonal range has been further refined and sonic depth amplified. As an album Concealing The Past is structured around nine distinct and individual pieces of between three and seven minutes each, which on the most part follow an understated melodic and minor keyed compositional framework. Being effectively an instrumental album, a variety of discreet sampled ethnic/ religious framed vocals provides an ethereal touch, as does the melancholic elements (such as piano lines, neo-orchestral strings etc.), which evokes a detached yet strongly emotive resonance (such as is immaculately displayed on A Vacant Regret). Yet there is still a willingness to let loose on select with heavy menacing drones and higher-toned noise squalls such as displayed on Entry_Exitpoint which has a raw tonal sharpness which perhaps is indicative of live in studio recording technique. A pair of late album tracks (Siphon Like Parasites & And Love Became A One Way Street) both balance on a knifes edge between the dual sonic approaches, on the one side featuring crude distortion blasts and choppy loops, which on the other are offset against bass addled drones and swelling sub-orchestral melodies.

Thematically Concealing The Past clearly fits within the broader post-industrial network, but to its credit does not sound in any way typical or derivative of a particular sub-genre. Rather, it draws extensively from various elements to create its own internalized sound and logic and is all the stronger for it, but for comparative sake the multi-faceted sound displayed by Prurient on Frozen Niagara Falls is perhaps a reasonable reference point.

Although some people continue to complain that the post-industrial music is broadly redundant for lack of new ideas and approaches, and further accused newer projects of being mere copyists of what has preceded, Pterygium is the effective antithesis of that opinion. Solo member Henry Gillet clearly understands the underground scene Pterygium operates within, but armed with a wealth of musical ideas he has creates a strong and individual sound which sidesteps being in any way derivative of genre confines of noise, industrial, dark ambient and power electronics. If the current and next generation of projects can match the creativity displayed on Concealing The Past, there is still much new ground to be explored and much to look forward to and be celebrated. A resounding recommendation from these quarters.

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Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance CD Cipher Productions 2018

Ulex Xane, the agent provocateur of Streicher infamy, has recently issued this unexpected solo album which showcases a very different experimental side. Within the extensive liner notes Ulex hints that these recordings could be bracketed under a banner of electroacoustic and musique concrete, but equally he shies away from formally using those genre descriptors. The recordings themselves span a 40 year period from 1975 to 2015, with the earliest recording made when he was only 12 years old (and evidently only recently discovered on an old cassette tape).

Working in reverse chronological order, the first eight tracks are the more recent material spanning 2015 to 2009, showcasing a subtle, yet loud and crystalline, sound. The 17-minute opening track The Inarticulate (from 2015) is sparsely cavernous, but with interjecting field recordings and micro-tonal textures, while a whispered voice (purposefully enunciated to be indecipherable; the track also concludes with a mass of unintelligible screaming voices) pans between speakers for enveloping and immersive listening. Paroxysms of Disappearance (from 2010) is another exceptional track of meticulous and chaotic sonic detailing, featuring a huge diversity of sounds (from the day-to-day mundane to the completely unidentifiable) that at times combine into tensile, almost atonal, orchestral quality. Space, Time and the Categories (from 2009) is split into four separate tracks with a combined playtime of 35 minutes. Panning and surround sound elements are used extensively, along with sonic elements including mid-toned static hissing textures, treated gongs/chimes, micro-tonal sound treatments, various fragmentary field recordings, wavering sub-orchestral tones, and the ever-present widescreen separation of sonic textures.

The much earlier works on the album pick up at 1995 and extend all the way back to 1975. The one-minute Noise Panel #43 (from 1995) is a blink and you miss it short distortion rumble and noise blast workout, while The Disinherited Mind is based on a home recording made in 1984, which highlights the sonic clarity of more recent material. Here, the cavernous and echoed sound is more muted and grey toned, but still there is a huge diversity of tonal elements, including field recordings of blaring foghorns, aquatic textures, distant musical motifs, and a general mood of desolate urban space. The final track Farewell to Matters of Principle is the oldest on offer from 1975, recorded when Ulex was a mere boy. Clearly being the crudest and least refined of the set, it is based around choppy and spliced cassette recordings of garbled and choked vocalisations, slapped flesh, and maniacal laughing (and even the voice of his grandmother offering cooking tips); it is surprisingly unnerving in its execution.

Apart from being distinctly different from any other material issued by Ulex to date, the most pleasing aspect of this album is that it avoids any resemblance of a dry tonal range or stuffy atmosphere which can plague the more academic end of ‘sound-art’. Instead the sounds are detailed, engaging, and highly animated throughout, fiercely dynamic yet subtly restrained. The full colour and spot-varnished cover includes a 27-page booklet with extensive liner notes on the philosophical/conceptual framework of the material and inspirational sources, and it makes for excellent companion reading. Although I am far from well-versed in the electroacoustic and musique concrete spheres, I get the vague and subtle impression that Ulex is in part parodying and poking fun at the academic art-world. But, in noting Ulex’s already established legacy within the post-industrial underground, this is both an intriguing and exceptionally enjoyable release, which also functions to reinforce Ulex Xane as a complete enigma in the truest sense of the word.

Grim – Primary Pulse

Grim – Primary Pulse MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

The long standing and cult Japanese project Grim returns with a new five track recording (from 2017), issued via Trapdoor Tapes. Contextually speaking Grim has always had a left of centre approach to their power electronics/industrial noise material, with the often-weird juxtaposing elements thrown in for good measure, which is certainly continued and exemplified on Primary Pulse.

Hermit opens the tape with loose windswept noise modulations blended with manipulated voices, before Volcano Flower kicks in, framed around a series of burrowing pulsing tones which coagulate into a driving rhythmic structure coupled with distorted agonised vocals, which is a clear standout track and very much in a distinctive Grim style. The third track for Side A is Assassin’s Room, which is categorised by a wonky and off-kilter looped rhythm, while the vocals are of a garbled spoken type, prior to a classical music organ motif and stoic industrial pulse features in the final moments. Side B features another standout piece of Grim weirdness, with Melting Man featuring a strong throbbing element, central sub-orchestral melody and wailing chants of sole project member Jan Konagaya, with the atmosphere becoming progressively more unhinged as it progresses. G.T.R. concludes the tape with a blend of elements including an Asiatic toned loop, rolling industrial drums, sweeping abstracted guitar, squalling noise etc., yet never succumbs to sounding like an industrial band.

Although not overly long, Primary Pulse is an absolutely great underground industrial tape and again exemplifies a sound wholly unique to GRIM. Trademark blown out photocopied artwork courtesy of Trapdoor Tapes rounds out the perfectly suited lofi presentation.

Announcement: Spectrum Compendium book cover released!! 

I am extremely proud to reveal the finalised cover of the Spectrum Compendium book!

After a couple of design options, in the end it was decide to go with a cover design both keeps and builds upon the feel and aesthetic of the original Spectrum Magazines, which to my mind has come out as a very strong and striking visual.

The book layout is still being worked on by the publisher, but evidently I will have a copy to proof and approve this month (October, 2018).

More details on publication date will be announced later when known but getting very close now!!!

Various Artists – Darkness Descends: a post-industrial compilation

Various Artists – Darkness Descends: a post-industrial compilation CDr Live Bait Recording Foundation 2018

This release was originally issued to coincide with the festival of the same name which was held in Cleveland on 16th June, 2018, but as the festival has now been and gone, the role of this compilation has now shifted to that of a commemorative release. Featuring exclusive tracks from the ten artists who performed at the festival, they effectively form a selection of some of the best American death industrial related projects.

Being already well familiar with the output of nine of the ten artists, despite the fact that they all operate within similar genre confines, it is positive to note that each of the tracks stand apart from each other and that the individual stylistic nuances of the featured various projects shine through. The only project I not heard before is the female duo Cunting Daughters, whose piece of obtuse muffled factory ambience hints at a distant lurking horror and a positive introduction to the project. Elsewhere Murderous Vision opens the compilation with a varied death industrial offering, including rolling tribal beat and ranted religious themed sample, while the shrill strings and garbled background noise of Abjection Ritual’s delivers a strong suspense feel, before descending into looped mechanical churn and fried static. The introductory floating drones of Shock Frontier’s piece takes it time in elevating to full blast furnace intensity, while Vitriol Gauge delivery a relatively straight forward but classic toned death industrial track of mid paced looped distortion, subdued static and agonized vocals which are smeared across the sonic spectrum. Compactor’s piece stands apart given the slightly cleaner sonic edge and heady atonal pounding structure, while Gnawed’s track is far more controlled and considered than typically would be expected, here with muted sub-orchestral drones, slow mechanical agitations and trademark treated vocals. Steel Hook Prostheses follows with their distinct brand of clinical tinged death industrial, but of note is the greater than normal reliance on underpinning synths. The Vomit Arsonist also delivers with a devastatingly bleak track of minimalist rhythmic structure and cavernous rumble, while Theologian concludes the album with heavily animated rhythmic driven thrum and moody wavering synths which is strong backing for the stylized half sung/ screamed vocals.

Although technically a CDr release, this is a pro-duplicated disc housed and mini-gatefold cover and if any of the featured acts of or interest, this compilation will be of absolute interest, ans absolutely a suitable document and memento of the Darkness Descends festival.

Zos Kia – 23

Zos Kia – 23 CD Infinite Fog 2017

For background context Zos Kia was the primary 1980’s musical vehicle of John Gosling and holds a special place within the early development phase of industrial music. This is predominantly due to their only official album Transparent, issued on cassette in 1984 via the cult label Nekrophile Rekords, and while that album was labeled as a split/collaboration with Coil, the group membership at the time were effectively interchangeable between the two. As for musical content Transparent, included a live recording of Zos Kia on Side A, being a performance made at the Berlin Atonal festival from 1983, while Side B contained a series of tracks credited to Coil/Zos Kia. In an overarching sense Transparent features early proto ritual-industrial, where tonal noise shards slash across rumbling guitar feedback and underscored with clanging metallic ritualized percussion, sampled dialogue and wailing/ screeched evocation-based vocals. But apart from this lone release, Zos Kia also issued two EP’s in the mid 1980’s, where 23 functions to collect together those EP’s and archive them with a large volume of Zos Kia recordings made over the years, with the addition of a couple of extracts from the Transparent album itself.

Having not delved into Zos Kia recordings outside of Transparent, I was immediately surprised by how different the material in 23 is in sound and execution, where the opening track Black Action has a guitar-based band groove and swagger, with spoken vocals and is unlike anything I would have ever expected from the group. The following track Be Like Me equally surprises when the solo piano format breaks out into an almost electro-funk number of constant kick drum, driving bass and central piano riff and swirling guitar line. It is only when 10 Miles High arrives that the attitude and sonic dissonance of earlier material makes an appearance, and the sinister soundscape throb of Rape calls to mind a hazy drugged sound that Coil would hone in later years, while An Absolute manages to meld the earlier sound of the project but within a ridged guitar/ programmed drum format. As for the second electro-funk excusion on Muggy The Staff, to my ear at least is an entirely redundant attempt at a commercial sound, and has me again scratching my head that this is actually the same band as featured on Transparent. As for the last quarter of CD1, this includes a number of remixes of earlier featured tracks, but which really do not warrant further comment.

CD2 opens with Ake, a squalling feedback and gabled voice-based track, and quickly follows with a doomy synth version of An Absolute, which deviates enough from the original to be individually interesting. The flowing tryptic of the lengthy unreleased tracks from 1982, including Era Vulgaris A1, Era Vulgaris A3 and Harry Wouldn’t Like It, sound to be live recordings or rehearsals and sonically reflects the chaotic ritualized dissonance of the Transparent recordings. In then moving well into the run order of the second disc, it features a short 1984 live recording of Be Like Me, as well as three tracks from the Transparent album (two tracks Baptism of Fire and Poisons from the 1983 Berlin Atonal show, as well as the lengthy tensile guitar feedback soundscape Sewn Open). The archive set is then rounded out with two unreleased tracks, including Sways Backwards from 2006 and Sleazy Said from 2000 and with their respective throbbing/ stilted programming and pulsing choral soundscape gives a clear nod to the surreal atmospheres of late area Coil. In fact, Sleazy Said is noted to be a musical collaboration between John Gosling and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and for me are perhaps the best and most interesting compositions of the entire two CD set.

Noting that I have never been a Zos Kia obsessive, which then means that while 23 is an interesting collection, from this perspective it is personally a non-essential release, particularly due to various tracks falling well outside of what I would ever bracket under an industrial/ post-industrial banner. Yet for others who Zos Kia is a pivotal artist of influence, this extensive double CD set will be of absolutely intrigue to the early industrial (and beyond) experimentations of John Gosling. A digi-book sleeve and detailed liners notes in an eight-page booklet rounds out a slick presentation.

Presidiomodelo ‎– Внутренняя Империя

Presidiomodelo Внутренняя Империя MC NKT 2018

Since 2016 the UK based NKT label has been the outlet for a small clutch of cassette releases from the aligned project Nokuit, where I personally became aware of both label and project via a 2017 release (reviewed here). Now the label has branched out to issue a new project Presidiomodelo which is a Siberian ritual ambient trio where the title of the tape Внутренняя Империя is then noted to translate to “Inner Empire”.

Being ancient and archaic in expression and execution, the single composition spans around 31 minutes of music in total, which is split across the two sides of the tape. Covering a wide variety of interlinked sonic moods and themes, the patter of rain provides a naturalistic setting from the outset, before droning mid-toned synths sweep into sonic frame, undercut with low key metallic scraping textures and other field recording elements, before settling down into a muted looped industrial rumble. Soon enough things evolve again with deep percussive thuds, ritual signing bowls, metallic chimes and atonal wailing of woodwind instruments, while heavily echoed treated vocals evoke a choir like effect and offset with more naturalistic elements grounds the mood in an earthbound perspective. While the mid-section it is categorized by animated and forceful cyclic drones, just a quickly the tone shifts off into varied segments of: fast paced ritual percussion; minimalist ritual chimes; sparse woodwind instrumentation; widescreen droning synths; churning bass toned thrum; while the pattering rain returns at the very end to close the loop.

On more than a few occasions I was reminded of the obscure French project Chöd and given the ritual ambient context of this release it is perhaps inevitable that a comparison to the Aural Hypnox Collective could also be made. Yet these comparisons should be read as a mark of quality, as this in no way feels to be copyist or derivative, given its own distinct compositional approach, and with at times a more muted industrial churn. Fold out multi-panel J-card with suitable archaic and ritualistic imagery rounds out the physical presentation, with a digital download also provided for good measure.