The long-standing project of Eric Jarl sees a continuation of his sonic explorations within experimental industrial and dark ambient spheres. The subsequent result is the generation of gloomy yet animated soundscapes where the tonality of the organic and the clinical merge and intertwine. Given the instrumental focus of Jarl’s recordings, there is an immediately recognisable amorphous approach to composition and sound construction. This means that rather than the broader sound and approach significantly changing between albums the devil is in the sonic detail.
With reference to this new album’s title, it refers to a medical condition of a reduced tolerance to sound, which can be caused by aging or exposure to loud noise, while 50% of cases are also noted in combination with a psychiatric disorder. Obviously, this amounts to an extremely suitable theme context to frame the album. So while on face value the tone is quite minimal, the sonics are extremely active and varied, ranging from pulsing clinical tones and other elements which seem rooted in organic generated sources. Likewise, apart from its outwardly apparent minimalism, the two lengthy soundscapes are extremely detailed and active, building to sonic peaks based on shrill and invasive drones. The widescreen sonic production functions to highlight each of the multiple tonal elements, which are cleanly and clearly separated, while a broader ebb and flow technique and vaguely rhymical undercurrent drive the pieces forwards.
Although by now most should be well versed in the general sonic world of Jarl, Hyperacusis is a further exploration and refinement of that approach and illustrates how expertly crafted Jarl material is. As such. the sound waveform illustrations which adorn the cover of the six-panel digipack is a clever yet simple visualisation of the sonics found herein.
Although this tape is a collaboration I am only familiar with one of the contributors prior work, being Angel’s main recording project Mytrip. So given I am not familiar with any of Linus’s music it feels like I am then unintentionally downplaying his contributions. But on that front a strong impression I get from this tape is it is very much like a more mellow and ambient version of the sound and tone of Mytrip‘s music, except where the use of rhythmic structures and beats in that project have been excluded here.
Airborne features in the order of 45 minutes and seven tracks of instrumental music, where there is a cinematic edge to the general ambient drone and electronica drift of proceedings. Opening track Initiation has a continuous cinematic streak, further underscored with muted post-industrial rumble. On the following track This Is Our Garden, the fragile intertwining melodies and slow programmed pulse of has a strong experimental electronica tone, which would not be out of place with current material being issued on the Posh Isolation. A Smoke That Will Never Clear then see the merging of cinematic drone and slow rhythmic bass pulse, while the title track as the final piece on Side A which offset sustained higher pitched tone with sweeping sonics and dour melody line. Side B delivers a further three compositions, where Phoenix Down is a short introductory track of muted tensile loops, before leading into the Spores of Humanity. This extended offering is based on muffled industrial rumbling textures while minimalist melodious lines float above. As the piece progresses, the tone takes a step up through the gradual increasing of sonic layering and sustained tonal loops, but the constant feel retains a forlorn mood. This feel continues on the final track Hope Singals, yet the final more active moments of shimmering and sweeping melodious tonality bring to mind the late era works of Fennenz.
Given the various noted references to ambient electronica and cinematic drift, Airborne can very much be appreciated as a soundtrack to a nameless dystopian focused film. The end result is a very enjoyable tape for the melancholic moods it evokes with ease.
Thankfully the Covid pandemic has had some benefits, demonstrated by the fact Fever Dreams was recorded in Berlin during lockdown in March, 2020, and now issued a year later on the Berlin based Total Black label. Ten tracks in all make up this album length tape.
Following on from the 2020 tape Methods of Submission II, that earlier release was characterised by overt sonic and thematic nastiness, whereas this new tape notably differs by arcing back to more considered and controlled power electronics compositions of earlier material. This is immediately evident on opening track Childhood Monsters, framed around morosely laboured loops, upfront microtonal contact mic noise, creaking metallic tones and buried dialog samples. Grunting Sweat then leaps into more quintessential power-electronics territory with its queasy two note synth drone, yet the myriad of other atypical and quite unidentifiably looped elements gives it a distinct edge. Black Tentacles arrives as the first vocal lead track, based around a harsh barrage crumbling distortion and wailing sirens, and when the vocals roar into frame, they are seething in their delivery and sonic treatment. The Beast Of The Sea further deviates into experimental spheres, which appears to be a track based around garbled and sonically manipulated vocalisations. And When The End Comes is the final track on Side A, and as soon as the vocals appear they are immediately recognisable as those of Martin Bladh of IRM. Likewise the backtracking track itself functions as a decent approximation of IRM’s later era sound fed through a Human Larvae filter, where IRM’s track Sebastian certainly comes to mind given the use of a ringing piano note here.
Side B brings a further five tracks. The instrumental Visions Of Gomorrha bring a slow churning tonal mass, distant siren wails and basic rhythmic elements, whiled Stained Mattress ups the mood based on the simple construction of urgent mid-paced loops and gruff vocal barrage. Rust Fills Our Lungs forms a loose collection of windblown field recordings and upfront scrabbling metallic tones, and is followed by another vocal lead track Charred Remains Of Her. Here the track is framed around minimalist cinematic melodious drones before a bombarding loop and unhinged vocals bring the sonic violence. Final track Eternal Dreams, Sweet Amber forms a moody instrumental conclusion with dour minimalist synth line and sustained unobtrusive static.
As an overall observation Fever Dreams completely nails what I most appreciate about Human Larvae, given it is hard and harsh when it needs to be, yet also is meticulously structured and composed. Also given the presentation of ten individual tracks, it means a significant amount of sonic territory is explored. Packaging wise the chrome tape is housed in an oversized cardboard box, with four double sided collage and lyrics adorned inserts. Limited to 100 and already long sold out as I understand it. Worth tracking down if you can.
Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain LP Cloister Recordings 2021
Cryptophasia is an new American/ Russian duo, where the atypical imagery and design of the gatefold artwork, orange/gold vinyl pressing, and the translucent orange outer slip-sleeve provides a strong initial impression of this being different from typical underground fare. Likewise, despite having listen to this LP numerous times, there is an amorphous aspect to its sound and general sonic approach which defies easy genre classification within a broader post-industrial sound.
In general terms the album can be thought of in two sonics halves, where the track World of Illusory leads of Side A, which overall is moody and contemplative and of a sound and style of an earlier 80’s ritual industrial approach. As such vocal chants, filmic drones, organ melodies, muted horns, ritualised clatter, and wonky industrial textures abound, where the pacing is both slow and considered. Female spoken vocals also feature on I’m On The Inside, which are offset by a mid-toned droning loop and slowly repeated three note piano melody. As for the second sonic half, the lead off track on Side B is Word Of Pain and functions to indicate a more focused aggression displayed the back half of the album. Here the mood elevates towards a composed power electronics tone, where the ritual elements are paired back and the harder industrial textures and aggressive male vocals are brought to the fore. Condemn Me is a great example of this blends shuddering textures, queasy distortion, unintelligible dialogue and distant yet urgently yelled ‘megaphone’ vocals. As for the final track The Nightmare is a concluding highlight, which much like the album overall splits its sound between the moody ritual industrial approach with harder, aggressive and nauseating tones.
Although not an overly long album, given its variety of sonic ideas on display World Of Illusory, World Of Pain feels far longer than its relatively short runtime. Clearly rooted in post-industrial spheres, it draws equal influence from early ritual industrial soundscape experimentation as well as more modern power-electronics abrasion. But there is still a large individual streak at play here which makes this stand apart from many of its contemporaries, which is no easy feat within the current post-industrial underground.
Dieter Müh – The Bjorn Tapes LP Force Majeure 2018
This is a prime case of what is old is made anew through a welcomed reissue, so kudos to the French based Force Majeure label, which itself is a sub-label to Nuit et Brouillard. The Bjorn Tapes is an early release from the long active UK industrial experimentalist project Dieter Müh, which I was of the understanding is the solo endeavour of Steve Cammack. Although I have now discovered that at an earlier point the project was a duo with David Uden. This recording from the early duo period, which itself is a live recording from 1999 where the sound has been further treated in the studio subsequent to the performance. The first edition of The Bjorn Tapes was fittingly on cassette, released on tape via the Japanese noise label Xerxes, run by Yasutoshi Yoshida of Government Alpha. Later in 2004 it was reissued on CDr via the Italian post-industrial Blade Records, and now has finally made it onto vinyl 19 years after it was originally recorded.
Although armed with a central experimental focus, there is a strong thread of raw post-industrial sonics present throughout. Herma is the first of three tracks and edges into frame with a distant drone and muted rhythmic loop. Later some more forcefully scratching metallic tones are added for good measure and the general approach pushed into far more active industrial territories. Low Feed follows with a similar tone of muted drones and rhythmic loops, but with the inclusion of unintelligible treated voices. Likewise, the echoed and distant sound of the raw mid-toned metallic textures give a clear sense of the live setting of the recording, while the overall atmosphere edges towards being more forceful as the track progresses. Side B features the single lengthy track Aghor, and while tonally consistent is somewhat more abstract given its span. Cavernous tones give way to a thrummed bass pulse, which in turn shift to looped aquatic rumble, sparse echoed shards and disembodied radio voices, and semi-melodious drone which builds to a choppy and chaotic peak, before collapsing late track back into more minimalist and abstracted sounds.
Presentation wise, the cover is a two-panel foldout outer-sleeve, with screen-printing on textured card with replicated original cover artwork and live photo on the back panel. This when coupled with the heavy wight vinyl pressing of 320 copies rounds out the entire package in a classy and no-frills manner.
Various – All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy 2CD The Epicuran 2021
By the ‘II’ tag of the title, clearly this is the second tribute release to the late and sorely missed John Murphy. This time around the double album collates material from five projects (i.e. counting Krank and Crank as the same project), where John was the creative driving force, which differs from volume ‘I‘ which mostly featured a wide variety of bands and projects where he was a contributor (reviewed here).
The twenty-minute Krank track NAOS Number 1 leads off the first CD, where despite dating from 2012 is an 80’s sounding ritual industrial soundscape, consisting of grinding synth textures, scattered wavering tones, fragmented sonic oscillations and occasional percussive elements such as bells and singing bowls etc. The composition is quite loosely structured with not real driving rhythm or beat, rather is built around blown out abstract synth chords, with a very analogue tone and associated sonic warmth. Also featured are liquidous sounding ‘micro’ tones and contact mic-ed clanging metal on metal arrhythmia. Whilst there is an element of freeform improvisational playfulness its sound, the track is also carefully controlled and paced to generate its grimly dissonant atmosphere.
Up next are six tracks from The Grimsel Path, which was a project of John Murphy and Jon Evans (both of Last Dominion Lost), noting also that the moniker The Grimsel Path has contextual links back to Last Dominion Lost, with this project name being a track title off their debut album. The six tracks are noted to be live recordings from 2012 when the group performed at the Foetus Frolics Festival in Berlin and inhabits quite a similar tonal sphere to Krank’s preceding track. Nevertheless The Grimsel Path’s tracks differ in that it is slightly more focused due to the format of shorter stand-alone tracks and includes sporadic vocalisations which are wholly absent from Krank’s track. Unhinged clanging electronics, misfiring machinery and general industrial debris mark the opening piece Deviation, whilst Scorched Earth features humming suspenseful horror synths (aka Angelo Badalamenti style), otherworldly vocalisations and a production of cavernous, echoed depths. Run Please Master then ups the ante somewhat with a stilted rhythmic drive and cinematic synths late in the track, whilst Sideshow of the Soul features a low bass throb, over which a mostly subdued but sometimes chaotic scattered industrial noise soundscape is positioned.
Following on is a project called Ophiolatreia (meaning ‘snake worship’) whom I am wholly unfamiliar, with two tracks dating from 1992 featured. Encompassing a ritual industrial/proto dark ambient material, it has an organic sound and analogue tone, complete with chimes and minimalist wailing horn. Rounding out the first disk are two tracks from My Father Of Serpents (dating from 1987 & 1988), which follows a similar primitive ritual industrial/dark ambient approach, yet there a radio voice cut up technique is employed which gives it a deviating edge.
Moving on to the second disc, it features only three tracks. The first two are short tracks from My Father Of Serpents and Ophiolatreia and continue the mood from the first disc, which is followed by a lengthy 63-minute untitled track from Crank. This extended composition dates from 1993 and is a freeform and loosely flowing industrial/ritual ambient soundscape, with the general tone of a muted mineshaft aesthetic. The pace is slow, and the control of its varied sonic elements is unhurried, allowing the mood to draw the listener in while the sonic movement unfurls. Yet from the muted opening segments through the middle of the track it elevates to noise-industrial bluff and bluster, before receding to ritual soundscape spheres one again.
Despite the various monikers featured across this double album there is also a general sonic consistency and tone to the featured post-industrial soundscape to ritual dark ambient material, where the two discs can be let to simply play through without the flow and atmosphere jarring between projects and features material. Without questions this is another wonderful tribute to John and demonstrates the strength of his output during the pivotal developmental phase of the post-industrial underground and across subsequent decades, even if he perhaps did not receive wider recognition for it during his own lifetime. As with all releases on The Epicurean, the packaging and design is exquisite and makes owning the physical artefact a mandatory recommendation.
New Age Of Death was fittingly issued in the final month of the ‘plague year’ of 2020, and followed quite quickly on the heals of the Brain album also on Aussaat (reviewed here). For this new offering, it features four lengthy tracks of freeform psychedelic and ritually tinged experimental noise.
Thunderbolt Gate Invocation opens the album with slow paced meandering serpentine coils of sound, warped tones and thick bass focused aquatic rumble. There is a sparse calmness to proceedings, where the heavy use of echo and reverb provides hallucinogenic effect. The slow unfurling pace continues on Phowa which opts for a more straight down the line doom-drone oriented offering, where the abstracted bass guitar distortion is sonically notable, but does become more freeform as the track progresses. The title track is the longest piece at 20 minutes, consisting of a thick washes of hollow wind-tunnel styled textures, and minimalist underpinning bass drone, while a slow swirling churn to proceedings remains throughout. Final track Maitreya elevates a ritualised and psychedelic sound above all, framed around a central shimmering tone given the impression of a hurdy gurdy, further combined with a variety of sparse ritualised chimes.
Based on the length of the four tracks and their overall slow pacing, clearly this is an album on the much calmer end of what Haare do, so certainly an album contemplative and meditative appreciation. A mini-gatefold card cover rounds out the dark vein of psychedelic spirituality nicely, with the physical edition limited to a mere 200 copies.
Smell & Quim – Cuntybubbles LP Cheeses International 2020
Look at the cover. Stare at the detail. Take in all of its garish, oddly surreal and theoretically offensive but more specifically hilarious visual elements. Even without reading a further description of the sonics found on Cuntybubbles, the cover is a clear statement of what to expect. Thus with the visuals being an effective counterpart of the sonics, it all combines to create a complete package of disturbed yet satirical improvised noise weirdness that only Smell & Quim can deliver. It then perhaps goes without saying that Smell & Quim are very much an acquired taste, and in my early years of getting into the post-industrial underground in the late 1990’s I found their surreal and absurd approach off-putting for my ‘too serious for my own good’ attitude at the time, so consequently I never deep dived into their now rather extensive catalogue. But with the passage of time, it means I am approaching Smell & Quim completely different light with an older mind.
The opening track Cleopatra Frankenstein kicks off in fine form with a mid-paced lumbering elephantine rhythmic stomp further blended with mutant noise. Later this gives way to a spoken word passage akin to a BBC radio story, and also sees the backing with shamanic drumming and random pop beats which cuts in and out. The very English titled Old Spunker is an extended length track framed around rhythmically looped sex noise (not kidding), elongated loops, and other sonic randomness, while a rising wall of wind tunnel noise elevates in the background. The fantastically titled Jimmy Saville – Timelord concludes Side A, in a short track of layered vocal cuts up and pulsating noise. Side B brings a further four tracks of sonic weirdness. Another fantastically titled Quim Reaper charts a sound akin to Smell & Quim trying their hand at death industrial, where a soundscape of grinding echo textures and descending synth tones acts as the backing to a looped vocal stating ‘and now we’re going to die’. Bang Out Of Order further delivers with a brute force industrial noise flair in all its overloaded distortion and bluster yet Smell & Quim stamp their trademark eccentricity through the inclusion of a sampled nationalist type song. The Cuntybubbles Variations follows and is the track where things get seriously weird – if they were not weird enough already. Being a track split into five parts it plays out as an LSD tip gone bad, chopping between noise cuts ups, odd spoken word, and more vaguely structure and rhythmic sonic passages. Rounding out the album is The Wicker Thing and returned to BBC radio story territory, with tolling church bells, minimalist countryside soundscape field recordings, spoken word vocals and a concluding acapella rural folk ditty sung by what I presume is an aging farmer.
As can be gleaned from the above, this is a rather sonically diverse and darkly surreal album as to be expected from the group, but is a strong and coherent album too, functioning on its own internal logic which pulls you into its weird and bleakly humorous sonic world. I have read the commentary of others that Cuntybubbles is as strong as their any of their best prior material, but I will leave it up to other long-standing fans to determine the validity of that. As a final note, this release sees the relaunch of UK label Cheeses International which has been inactive since the early 2000’s.
Hypnosmord – Thurnemanimprovisationerna / The Thurneman Improvisations MC Hypnosmord Förlag / Styggelse Tapes / The AJNA Offensive 2021
As alluded to by the title, this tape is inspired by Sigvard Thurneman who was a somewhat obscure Swedish occultist, serial killer, and leader of the criminal-esoteric society ‘Den Magiska Cirkeln’ during the 1930s. There are various oddities associated with the case (more than can be explained here), that warrant further exploration for the interested. It is worth noting that this tape is a companion of sorts to a book just released in English by The Ajna Offensive, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman. As for the project Hypnosmord, this seems to be a collective of musicians where the main performer Hans K. Styggelsen is aided by Gammalsjul, Sten Röse, Hector Meinhof, Brynolf Ledung, and Siegfried Holst. The recordings on this tape features two 30-minute compositions, which function as sinister improvisational piano movements for the shadowy twilight hours.
Although the liner notes indicate that the hour runtime contains five suites, the material flows together continuously on each side of the tape. The overall atmosphere is distant, obscure, and forlorn; slow moving, minor keyed piano melodies float through the twilight ether, and on occasion devolve into sections where the playing becomes mere sparse atonal stabs at the ivory keys. Apart from the piano element there are scant backing elements of what sounds like the crackling of a gramophone needle, creaking wood, echoed bass thuds, passages of Swedish spoken vocals, unintelligible mournful wailings, distant vaguely rhythmic elements, and a variety of other unidentifiable haunting tones with a sinister-edged musique concrete sound. When all of these aspects are brought together with the spacious and reverb-tinged keys, it evokes a vision of a grand piano being played in a crumbling abandoned mansion, where the psychic barrier between the waking and spirit world is slowly dissolving in response to the improvised musical evocations.
Being very much music for late night solo appreciation and deep contemplation, this is an excellent underground obscurity of sinister spectral music. Limited to a mere 141 copies, a double-sided multi-panel insert rounds out the visual presentation.
Infinexhuma – Frontier DCD Alchemy Labor Unit 2021
Infinexhuma are a previously unknown project for me, but seven albums including this new album have been issued since 2018. With 12 lengthy tracks spanning 100 minutes and two separate CDs, three of the tracks feature collaborations with Blood Box, NERATERRÆ, and Common Eider, King Eider. Given the album collaborators, this is an album to be filed under a broad dark ambient banner.
The first notable feature is the artwork of Frontier’s six-panel digipack, which features images of monolithic elements of nature, including the ocean and mountains, coupled with other earthbound visuals and abstracted colours and shapes. This gives a strong indication that the sound is one which is concerned with sonically articulating the colossal scale of the elemental forces of nature, although at times the tone could also pass for galactic-scale dark ambience and cosmic deep space drone. Accordingly, this means a large part of the album in concerned with spiraling corkscrew drones that seamlessly blend widescreen sub-orchestral atmospheres and rhythmic emanations from cavernous depths. Far from being one-dimensional, there is a meticulous approach to composition and complex sonic layering, where hints of vocal chants, chimes, and other abstracted field recordings are dotted throughout, further adding to the sonic depth. Yet, rather than the general mood being a sedate or catatonic affair, the overall tone has bulk, heft, and strong sonic drive, making for a commanding sonic presence. Given how strongly active the tone is, this invites detailed attention and focus rather than receding to be mere atmospheric background music. Apart from the deep sub-orchestral spheres and isolationist ambience sonics, there are a few further curve balls thrown in on the second disc. One example is In The End, which features a mutated driving industrial electro beat that, along with the gruff half-sung emotive vocals, makes for the most deviating and anthemic song-focused track of the album, a genuinely positive surprise. Equally the mid-section Every Door flirts with a passage of clinical-tinged death industrial bluster before the late section introduces loosely played and abstracted guitar riffing.
Much of the material found on Frontier very much aligns with the monolithic dark ambience of similar material on the likes of Loki Foundation or Malignant Records, and this is a comparative marker of the quality found here. Yet, the willingness of Infinexhuma to push their sound beyond strict genre confines on selected tracks makes for a refreshing listen, and an excellent album overall.