Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity

Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity MC No Rent Records 2020

Following Pterygium’s second excellent album Concealing The Past on Tesco Organisation (reviewed here), this new full length tape has just been issued on the American label No Rent Records.

On Stoic Ubiquity Pterygium have taken their established ‘dual edged’ sound and twisted this for more harrowing and harder results. This is immediately evident on album opener 100 Sin, with its massive bass undercurrent, vaguely orchestral yet heavily melancholic synth lines, buzzing static, and harshly impactful tonal blasts. Various sampled voices also float in and out of the mix, providing a fleeting human reference point within the sonics. God Was Incapable is notable as it provides some respite, with well-placed dialogue samples fleshing out the concept and set against mid-toned clicking loops and a catatonic yet pummelling beat. Late in the track the sounds of a church bell tolling, cawing crows, and mournful choirs add a gothic-tinged aesthetic. Force Feeding provides yet more metaphysical musings set to sweeping drones, overblown bass tones, and slashes of static that build to a squalling cacophony of shrill tones. Yet these soon fall away into a section of tragically sombre sub-orchestral melodies. A similar mood permeates final tracks A Tragedy At Point Blank and 36 Heart, given the use of brooding sub-orchestral tones blended with unhinged static blasts and an undercurrent of overloaded bass.

Being somehow more aggressive yet underscored with a greater degree of melancholy, Stoic Ubiquity is no mere re-tread of what has come before. Rather, it is a clear refinement and expansion of a style and sound that Pterygium is very much making his own; the layering, complexity, and attention to detail of the arrangements are clearly evident. At this point it perhaps goes without saying to not snooze on this, as its physical edition is a mere 100 copies. You know what to do.

Nokuit – Live at Cafe OTO

Nokuit – Live at Cafe OTO MC NKT 2020

My first introduction to Nokuit was on the Patterns Of Instability tape from 2017, which I described as ‘an abstract but very effective sound-score to a modern dystopian film’. That impression is equally applicable here, and is partially reflected in the promo blurb: ‘A soundtrack to a film that has left its screenwriters behind, the unshackled camera runs riot across the set before drifting in on itself and out into the world, asleep at the wheel’.

In kicking off the 32-minute live set, low crowd chatter can be heard at the start of the tape indicating the nature of the recording. But when the music hits its full stride, based on the tonal bulk, volume, and sonic detailing, I assume that the recording was taken directly from the soundboard and further tweaked and mastered in post-production. As a recording it unfurls as a singular interlinking live piece; segments of doomy synths from Patterns Of Instability are noted, blended with segments from other releases with which I am not familiar. Melodically melancholic synths and piano lines, and muted mechanized post-industrial debris, are the general order of the day. Charred and digitally crisp tonal slashes give a real sense of live improvisation, and are used to underscore and interlink the longer moody droning passages. News report chatter and other dialogue samples sporadically appear, further reinforcing the filmic quality, yet rather than being clear in intent or message they suggest a vague dystopian atmosphere.

Being far from a mere document of a live performance, Live at Cafe OTO is equally as strong a release as Patterns Of Instability. Although clearly aligned with the cinematically-tinged post-industrial / dark ambient sounds of the underground, I get the distinct impression that the artist behind Nokuit comes from a refined world of sound design and trained composers given the degree of tonal, sonic, and melodic refinement. But regardless of artistic angle, this is a worthy release and I am intrigued as to what will come from the Nokuit camp in future.

Leather Bath ‎– Nature’s Crackling Fire / Anarch Peak – Vitarium

Leather Bath Nature’s Crackling Fire CD Leather Bath, Inc. 2019

Anarch Peak – Vitarium CD Chondritic Sound, 2019

The common thread between these two releases is Greh Holger (of Hive Mind and the Noisextra podcast), who collaborates with John Weise as Leather Bath, and separately with Rodger Stella (formerly of Macronympha, Mother Savage, etc.) as Anarch Peak.

In turning attention to Leather Bath first, they seem to have been active since around 2012 with a clutch of releases, yet Nature’s Crackling Fire is the first album proper from the group. As might be suggested by the album title this can be described as experimental noise and musique concrète, with an underpinning drone framework. Two lengthy tracks feature, the 23-minute In Temporary Suspension and 17-minute Hunter Horn. Although the musique concrète descriptor is used, this is by no means stuffy or academic in tone. Likewise, with reference to the ‘noise’ descriptor, the sound is ‘detailed’ rather than loud, meaning there are tons of close-up micro-tonal sonic textures throughout. There is considerable depth, with various tonal elements sitting far off in the background, offset against the upfront elements, while speaker panning is also used for surround-sound immersion. In Temporary Suspension exudes an open tonal quality, with lots of space to breathe between the sound of stone, wood, and metal which is creaked, bowed, struck, and scraped. Hunter Horn differs from the first track with a greater focus on droning elements, scrabbling textures, and treated horn elements, while field recordings provide further natural and human resonances. Later the track involves a metal-on-metal tonal workout and echoed footfalls, which are dragged to their conclusion with animated windswept drones.

Moving on to Anarch Peak, the first thing to be noted is the psychedelic sci-fi style artwork that adorns the six-panel digipack. This sci-fi angle is reinforced with some abstracted surreal text included as part of the digipack. Sonically speaking, Greh handles the synthesizers and minimalist metal-derived inputs, while Rodger mans the theremin – by listing that instrument alone, it should be clear that Anarch Peak are not dealing with a harsh / junk noise approach. Two longform tracks make up Vitarium, the 37-minute Alpha in Dissent and 33-minute Driftglass. In the opening to Alpha in Dissent the atonal synths and theremin drones slowly unfurl, while some subdued metallic clatter is noted far off in the depths of the mix. Like an ebbing and flowing tide, the track slowly builds and recedes over extended passages. Not being chaotic or loud, the track does build up a certain bulk and tonal weight through the middle and later sections, where discordant wailing textures sit at the middle to lower end rather than resembling a high-pitched squall. In the last third, some doom-addled sub-orchestral synth melodies appear and sweep the track’s mood in a completely different direction, more into sci-fi territory (perhaps akin to being slowly dragged towards the event horizon by the gravitational pull of a black hole). Driftglass differs by being tonally fragmented and fragile, with subdued wonky tones, minimalist crackling textures, and low-level static, while a melodious organ-like drone slowly appears to provide focus and forward movement. The middle to back end of the track sonically articulates intertwining corkscrew spirals, while the final movement uses metallic tones in a stilted rhythmic fashion.

Neither of the albums are overly dark, but each is characterized by being experimental or artistic in tone in their own way. The material across both albums is animated and varied, with each making for a detailed and engaging listen. The above descriptions should clearly indicate whether either or both albums will be to your liking.

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality MC Unrest Productions 2019

This new Am Not release comes in relative quick succession to other two other limited cassette releases issued in 2018. Those being the Unpunished : Appendix tape (reviewed here) and the Incursions tape (reviewed here). Extraterritoriality is a six track / 24 minute, pro-pressed and labeled tape is also limited to 102 copies, and according to the liner notes was recorded in ‘Grand Bexia’ which clearly alludes to thematic preoccupations.

Speaking of theme, Side A addresses ‘Brexit’ and the current turmoil on both sides of the stay / leave divide, while also juxtaposing this against earlier debates over such matters as Commonwealth immigration. But like all good post-industrial music no clear stance or easy answer is provided either (cleverly Side A of the tape is noted to be labelled as ‘exit’). Cleansing Violence opens the tape a straight down the line Am Not track with pulsing bass tone, jagged noise and aggressive processed vocals, which could have easily been lifted from any of the main albums. In other words an excellent track, but when lyrical phrase “rivers of blood” is used it would no doubt be a direct reference to Enoch Powell’s infamous and controversial political speech from 1968, and perhaps within the context of this release is referring to the extreme right views of fringe Brexiters. Things then take a decided left turn with Better Together chats quite an experimental angle with simplistic rhythmic pulse, distant noise and cleanly spoken vocals. The sonic approach then gets even weirder on Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?, which features a sample of Kirsty MacColl’s song A New England, but slowed down to a crawling pace which then generates a euphorically maudlin tone. Added to this are 1970’s interview samples which decry the loss of ‘England’ to mismanagement of immigration, while the track is concluded with Johnny Rotten sneeringly asking the question of the track’s title. Conceptually this track is extremely strong and certainly effective in a pitch-black humor sort of way.

Flipping over to Side B, it thematically it returns to focusing on Hong Kong returning to China (this side is labeled ‘entry’), which was previously addressed by the track Home from The Developing World album (reviewed here). In fact the track Homecoming plays out as an alternate instrumental version of Home, given the same rolling militant rhythmic structure is employed with crowd babble and protest singing overlaid. The following track Red Emperor, White Forces arc back to a directly punishing power electronics track, with wailing crowd chatter, incessant pounding / grinding structures and flange processed vocals. Great stuff. I Will Not Be Reborn In The People’s Republic Of China is the last on offer siting within more of an ambient frame of reference with intertwining synth drones and central interview sample talking of reincarnation being a spiritual matter and not a political concern.

By now Am Not’s name and status in the underground is well established. Extraterritoriality is equally high quality as the balance of Tamon’s output, but also slanted towards a more playfully experiential expression. Evidently this is explained by the fact that for this release Tamon applied a methodology to work faster than typical and within a limited space to time. But regardless of how this came about, I am pleased a secured a copy of this quite limited release.

Post Scriptvm – Variola Vera

Post Scriptvm – Variola Vera LP Tesco Organisation 2019

Variola Vera comes as the eighth album for Post Scriptvm in twenty years of activity. While the project has perhaps slightly flown under the radar compared to other post-industrial projects, they continue to blend, splice and manipulate elements of dark ambient, death industrial, and heavy / power electronics into quite uniquely sounding material.

As with earlier works, the broader feel of the album is one of a paranoid ‘Kafkaesque’ disassociated miasma of ever shifting sound textures, sonics treatments and disembodied voices, which equally would not be out of place as an alternative sound-score to the classic sci-fi film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. Yet these impressions do not cut to the core of the album’s theme, given the promotional notes identify that it is: ‘Titled after the outbreak of smallpox in the 1970s socialist Yugoslavia, unintentionally brought in by the pilgrims returning from a quest for divine illumination, Variola Vera is the soundtrack to the somatic and the metaphysical epidemics steering the human enterprise towards its termination’.

For its broadly consistent stylistic approach Born Into Trauma stands out based on its partly experimental and partly heavy electronics menace. Infected with a mutant strain of industrial techno, interestingly an underpinning bass kick is entirely absent, yet the techno pulse remains as a constant thread, while the aggressive, treated vocals push a perilous tone. Another particular album standout which functions to draw together all preceding sonic threads is Storm Puppets based on wonky and warbling intertwining textures and processed scrap metal clatter which are pushed into a heavy electronics expression, complete with treated, seething vocals is one of the album’s standouts. Fondamenta Degli Incurabili concludes the album with a piece of floating abstracted melancholia, where muted synth melodies float and waver. Mid-track some slow thumping and rhythmic textures emphasized a drugged sway which carries the album to its conclusion.

Rather than being any sort of significant deviation from Post Scriptvm, this is an album which demonstrates a honing and refinement of their established sound, which is subtlety more active, varied and sonically complex, building to occasional moments of menace and aggression. Clearly Variola Vera will absolutely be to the liking of ardent followers of the project, yet it is also important to highlight that it is also some of the strongest and varied material to come from the project yet. The printed cover and inner sleeve rounds out the visual side of things with darkly abstracted and slightly surreal visuals. Yes, this is recommended.

Analfabetism ‎– Sjön Där Hon Dränkte Sina Djur

Analfabetism Sjön Där Hon Dränkte Sina Djur Not On Label (self-released) 2019

Following a couple of albums on Malignant Records in 2015 and 2017, Analfabetism have issued two self-released albums in 2018 & 2019. Sjön Där Hon Dränkte Sina Djur is the latest album from mid-2019.

Based on the earlier Malignant albums I have heard, they displayed a distinct Swedish death industrial angle. Clearly that sound remains here, but from the opening moment of Vættr there is a greater display of experimentation, where dank liquidous tones and deep bass rumbles blend with up front ‘micro-tonal’ textures, while the second have the track focuses on heavier atonal industrial elements. On the following track Kråkeld, given its murky production, distant rhythmic elements, erupting fissures of distortion and garbled voices it is an effective case study in Swedish death industrial. Pushing a more direct and aggressive tone, Vedergällning evokes a mood of seething menace, with the mid-toned droning layers pushing up towards higher pitched distortion, coupled with the vocals being rendered as another seething layer. Elsewhere Miðgarðsormr deliveries a track of thick and laborious muted bass tones, which mid track briefly explodes with noxious distortion. Ihjäl de vittra rounds out the 50-minute album with more muted bass rumble and features an effective use of panning voices between speakers to generate an off kilter feel.

As a general comment I would say that Analfabetism are something of a workhorse project, who with little fanfare delivers strong and varied material within the chosen niche style. As such everything I have heard from the project, including this new album, is both top notch and certainly an enjoyable genre piece. Also, don’t let the ‘self-released’ status colour your impression in any way. The cover is slickly designed and has been professionally printed as a 6 panel dig-pack that suitably rounds out the physical presentation.

Deutsch Nepal – Staring At My Wall

Deutsch Nepal – Staring At My Wall CD Entartete Musikk 2019

By now Lina Baby Doll’s project Deutsch Nepal is recognised as a long standing, unique and ever dependent fixture of the post-industrial underground. Staring At My Wall comes some four years on from 2014’s Alcohology, although in between there was a couple of splits and compilation collections, as well as a vocal collaboration album Easting the Dust with Reutoff.

In leaping straight in, the music of the opening title track is notable as it specifically harks back to the classic sound of the long regarded classic first album Deflagration of Hell. As such the stellar track features mid paced hypnotic looped rhythms, driving beat and dark drones, while the vocals themselves are also recognised from the track Terrible Place featured on the collaboration album with Reutoff. With this basic structure set, the album rolls through collection of tracks of quintessential vocal lead Deutsch Nepal compositions. This means that some tracks are ambient and mellow, while others are more direct based on looped percussion and bass rhythms, all the while Lina’s bellowed and crooned vocals gives an immediately distinct edge. Butterfly is then notable as it charts both of these styles, where the first passage is a mellow ambient soundscape, before launching into a rousing looped rhythmic and vocal led passage for the balance of the track. How Low in its original form was on 1999’s Erosion but is featured here in a completely new version titled How Low… 2017. While the original featured low crooned vocals and an atmospheric soundscape articulating a floating drugged haze, here in its new version it features brute force martial percussion and commanding vocal delivery, thus very much feels to be a completely different track. Pasolini also stands out positively brooding orchestral drones, muted ticking/ swaying rhythmic elements and surreal and dreamlike lyrics. The final track Let Go And Slip Away then completely surprises given its upbeat and happy ditty of a melody and sporadic hand-clapped beat, yet with Lina’s vocals and mid track twist into nightmarish territory provides enough of a surreal edge to keep a foot squarely in the Deutsch Nepal camp.

With near enough to three decades of activity by now Deutsch Nepal should be a household name in the post-industrial underground. So, while on one hand Staring At My Wall certainly delivers a sound that could only be from mind of Lina. But on the other this new album is both playfully creative and addictively engaging, and a clear demonstration that Lina is still on his game. A worthy addition to the Deutsch Nepal discography.