Unsound Recordings – New Releases 2017

Unsound Recordings functions as a side label to Unrest Productions, where I understand its role is to allow smaller releases to be issued more quickly with simplified packaging. Although the last items on the label date from 2015, now in 2017 it brings new releases from two young projects and new signings to the roster, namely Detrimental Effect and Code Neda. A brief rundown on each follows below.


Detrimental Effect – To Brandon Bryant MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Thematically speaking, the US military/industrial complex may be nothing new for industrial and power electronics music. However, on this debut tape Detrimental Effect have taken a different and interesting angle by focusing on Brandon Bryant – a US drone pilot and later whistle-blower who highlighted the detached methods of killing in modern warfare. Musically speaking this is clean, loud and modern sounding, which also draws heavily from traditional German power electronics/ heavy industrial sound (and perhaps Ex.Order is the closest comparison to make?) . As such the tracks are based on honed structures of shuddering loops, waving sonic elements and bristling distortion which gradually ramp up in intensity. The mood is further elevated through the heavily treated vocals (flanged and echoed), and delivered with spite and tinged with indignation.

Specific samples relating to the theme further fleshes out the concept and are used as intro or outros, or otherwise are incorporated within tracks. That Others May Die is individually noteworthy based on its base of scattered distortion, queasy central oscillation and deadpan spoken vocal line (slightly treated and echoed). Equally noteworthy is the overt fierceness of the final track Total Denial with its tonally buzzing loops and antagonist vocal attack, amounting to a very effective power electronics barrage. Direct and to the point, the material on this debut is delivered with both skill and conviction, which on occasion rises to blood boiling intensity.

Six tracks in all feature on the tape, with perhaps 30 minutes of material on offer. Without doubt Detrimental Effect is project to keep an eye on, given it also fits neatly alongside many of the other projects on the parent label Unrest Productions (such as Kevlar, Kontinent, Uncodified etc.).


Code Neda – The Death of Neda MC Unsound Recordings 2017

Code Neda are another new project signed to Unsound Recordings, but this time I know nothing about this project or who is behind it. This however appears to be Code Neda’s debut tape, and limited to 80 hand numbered copies.

Musically speaking it features sweeping death industrial which on occasion is blended with elements of ritual tinged heavy electronics (something akin to mid to late 1990’s heavy electronics sound of Loki Foundation projects is a partial comparison).  To speak of notable tracks, Tigray uses stilted heavy rhythms which provides structure to a widescreen atmospheric soundscape and sampled religious chants. Another particularly noteworthy track is ABC – Protection, which is framed around deep sub-orchestral drones, militant percussion, scraping textures and muted garbled vocals. The final track The Machine Will Be Prevented from Working at All, is perhaps the most direct death industrial track based on its heavy pounding structures, bristling loops and treated samples (and perhaps vocals? Not completely sure).

On the one hand Code Neda’s sound is dank and pounding in tone, but on the other it is balanced with other ritualistic and atmospheric elements, which functions to create an individualistic approach. Thus with six varied tracks and around 20-25 minutes of material, Code Nera have issued a very strong and interesting debut release and consequently are another new project to keep a keen eye on.


 

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Kevlar – New Fears New Fights

Kevlar – New Fears New Fights LP Unrest Productions 2017

Since 2014 Kevlar have issued two full lengths and a cassette EP, with New Fears New Fights constituting their third full album. In then making a perhaps obvious comparison to earlier output, while I do like Kevlar’s prior albums (Alpha Strife and Criteria), at the same time I found they tended to not stay in rotation long in favour of other listening choices.  But it is from this perspective where New Fears New Fights standard apart, given there is an immediate sense of urgency, increased aggression and overt antagonism to this which elevates it to the next level.

To then comment on a projects within an industrial/ power electronics style, clearly there is no shame in reflecting inspiration, but this is also on the proviso that the end result needs to be more than a mere copyist project. Although direct comparisons can be drawn here to now classic elements from German and UK scenes (i.e. simple shuddering synth lines, layered loops, cascading distortion and antagonistic flanged vocals), with their focused and honed style Kevlar absolutely achieve a personal and most importantly a current take on this sound. 8 tracks feature on the album, with each spanning 4-6 minutes each, which should give an appreciation of the direct focus on display.

With a battle cry sample of “we must not be afraid to define our enemy”, Triumph Of Fear kicks in hard with driving loops buzzing distortion and crowd and alarm field recording adding to the overall tension. A great start.  With Power To Act feeling as if a lengthy bridging piece to the more focused Power Of Blade, with the later being a standout track of burrowing distortion, layered loops and flange treated if the attacking and antagonistic vocals which are mixed prominently upfront in the mix (…and which partly reminds of The Grey Wolves classic track Victory Through Violence). The title track then rounds out Side A with a stuttering rhythm, bulldozing drones and proclamation styled vocals. Another excellent track.  Mechanism opens Side B, and another example of simplicity creating fist pumping and blood boiling impact, achieved via urgent cascading loops, a general buzzing and queasy tonality (…and while a number of vocal samples are employed the main decipherable element is repeated word “incompatible”). Martyrs Crown with its brooding and atmospheric tone and looped method of construction reminds of German styled heavy electronics/ power electronics approach not too far from that of Ex.Order or early Anenzephalia. Despite is forceful tone, blown out oscillating noise and jagged tonal outbursts, Barbed Wire is entrenched with a morbid by aggressive tone to round out the album.

Based on Unrest Productions’ current roster, the label is shining a spotlight on the UK underground which from the outside looking in appears to be the strongest and most active underground scene currently operating, with Kevlar’s New Fears New Fights being a pinnacle example. Packaging wise the simple greyscale cover and insert features only basic information and functions to hammer home its direct impact. Although not reinventing the wheel Kevlar have issued an extremely impressive industrial/ power electronics LP and which is absolutely representative of the best of what the underground has to offer right now.

Am Not – The Developing World

Am Not – The Developing World LP Tesco Organisation 2017

Based on the debut album Unpunished from 2015 (reviewed here), Am Not made a strong impact on the underground. Now two years on Tamon Miyakita returns with his follow up, but this time noting a move from the original home of Unrest Productions to Tesco Organisation.

Before providing commentary on the music, an analysis of the album’s art is warranted given the cover appears to be embedded with layered symbolism. To this end an observation to be made is that the main image showing Helios, the Greek Sun God, and based on Plato’s Republic Helios is the symbolic offspring of the idea of ‘goodness’. This image is then overlaid with a semi-transparent photo of a modern skyscraper, while the album’s title is designed backwards and can only be read properly in a mirror’s reflection. An interpretation of this combined symbolism could be as a comment on whether the principle of progress and subsequent global hegemony forms part of the greater ‘good’ of the evolution of society, or in fact should be regarded with caution by developing countries as a controlling corporate agenda with negative consequences (…although these observations may be completely off the mark and others interpretations may yield other interesting and divergent results).

To then the speak of the music, the element of surprise which was generated via Unpunished has given way to a degree of expectation for this new album. Upon first listens the same song based format and meticulous approach to the construction of the tracks is noted, but at the same time the sound palate is more varied and less sharp edged or clinical, but instead opting for a rougher and harsher tone in its blend of industrial and power electronics elements. The detached and strongly observational lyrics delivered in an apathetic or deadpan style are again a standout, although the vocals on album tracks Martyr’s Little Helper 1, Market Penetration and Beleaguered and Native II do rely on a heavily flanged treatment to excellent result. Likewise the guest vocals courtesy of Martin Wilford/ Shift on The Hunt differ by being a heady barrage of unbridled anger, functioning as another layer within the sonic framework of forceful cyclic drones, spitting static and pounding junk metal clatter. White Crimes is a particular album standout, being a contemplative piece of subdued rhythmic programming, squelching/ fluttering noise and sustained drones, as the vocals drive home its clear message within a understated but anthemic style. Perhaps then constituting the ‘hit song’ of the album, Home is a revelation, with its melodious organ drone, swaying rhythm and cyclic percussive beat and now trademark spoken vocals (…which is a thematic imagining of the People’s Republic of China welcoming Hong Kong back into the fold in 1997).

With this album Am Not clearly demonstrates a project which understands its context and linage, but has taken such a template to make an individual, forward thinking thematic approach. With a highly varied sound over its 10 tracks The Developing World is no mere retread of Unpunished, but builds upon what has come before to exceptional result. The LP version comes with a full colour A4 12 page booklet with graphics and all lyrics, and overall is clearly another high recommendation.

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light

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Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light CD Malignant Records 2016

For those who missed the original LP version released by Freak Animal also in 2006 (…perhaps due to the limitation of 300 copies, or maybe vinyl is not the preferred format?), Malignant Records have been kind enough to quickly reissue this on CD.

Not to repeat the original review (which can be located here), this is an excellent album and one of the best of last year. To then quote the conclusion of the full review: “Without being in any way derivative, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ is a strong, focused and sonically diverse industrial/ power electronics release which demonstrates full control over its sonic elements, both in the recording and their construction”.

All elements of the original artwork are included here, but reformatted in the guise of a 8 panel fold over digi-pack. In a word: recommended.

Shift – Ruminations / Uncodified – Maybe All Is Not Completed

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Shift – Ruminations 10”ep Unrest Productions 2016

Uncodified – Maybe All Is Not Completed CD Unrest Productions 2016

Shift’s ‘Ruminations’ ep was first issued in 2015 in an cassette edition of 100 copies on DumpsterScore, but in my estimation this was far too few copies given the quality of the release.  Luckily the project had the same view with it being reissued on vinyl via their ‘home’ label and in a larger edition of 205 copies.

Following on from the monumental ‘Altamont Rising’ album from 2014 ‘Ruminations’ features around 20 minutes of material over two lengthy untitled tracks. Noting that Shift’s sound has evolved over a number of releases to gradually step into more aggressive power electronics territory, ‘Ruminations’ continues this evolutionary process. So whilst Shift’s trademark laborious layering again forms the general approach, here the layering is also used for maximum dynamic impact.

Track 1 quickly beds down a number of loops to provide basic structure which set the scene (i.e. idling machines, slow metallic thumps, loop of a youth yelling something unintelligible etc.). But things REALLY kick in when the distortion flayed vocals arrive (mixed prominently upfront), followed by yet more sonic layers of what can only be described as ‘jet engine’ powered distortion. As such the layered elements are gradually added which slowly build the track to monumental proportions and then sustained for the remainder of the piece. Likewise with its multi-layered approach the sound is thick and loud where each layer is clearly balanced within the mix to create a colossal sound. Track 2 then side steps the direct power of the first side somewhat by being a touch more subdued, although the sound still maintains a crushingly heaviness. As such the piece is constructed around intertwining queasy ascending/ descending atonal analogue drones, coupled with a slow rhythmic thud whilst the roared/ distorted vocals sit more to the centre of the mix (…yes, another great track).

It seems Shift are really going from strength to strength which is evidenced by the gradual refinement and honing of their overall approach towards more aggressive power electronics realms. Although being characteristically of the sound which can be recognised as that of Shift, the increased urgency and aggression of these tracks really given it a more focused and direct impact. Thick vinyl pressing and double sided cover rounds out the physical packaging. Recommended.

Moving on to Uncodified, this solo project of Corrado Atlieri has been rather prolific since 2011 (19 releases and counting – with a number being splits or collaborations), with ‘Maybe All Is Not Complete’ the latest full length album.

8 tracks spanning 40 minutes are featured on the album which very much constitutes direct and clinically tinged industrial noise and ‘instrumental’ power electronics given the distinct lack of vocals.  Buzzing and burrowing mid-toned frequencies swarm alongside micro-tonal textures and further coupled with basic rhythmic structure and whipping static etc.  These varying elements are then assembled through layered mode of construction which provide further form and direction.  As such it is the sonic layering, tonal separation and the panning of sound between speakers which adds to the general complexity of the material on offer.  Although much of the sound is loud, sharp and in most part clinical, there is also a coarse underbelly of corrosive scrap metal racket and hollow tonality, of which ‘Deception’ and ‘Overhead’ are particularly excellent examples of this duality of sound.  The final track ‘The End Is Never One’ delivers quite a sonic surprise given it approaches ‘heavy electronics meets dark ambient’ territory, and with its melancholic drones and layered sweeping windswept textures it is a serene and contemplative conclusion to the album.

When compared to the last solo full length ‘Hardcore Methodology’ from 2014 (reviewed here), this new album has a far greater degree of focus and urgency, which has consequential elevated its sonic impact. A simple black and white 4 panel digi-pack rounds out a ‘no frills’ but expertly executed album, which very much suits and fits within the sound and attitude of the expanding Unrest Productions roster.

Isomer – Three Kestrels

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Isomer – Three Kestrels LP Tesco Organisation 2016

Over a span of 15 years David Tonkin aka Isomer has generated quite varied output within the broader post-industrial underground, which has resulted from a shift in the methods of recording and production.  Of the greatest influence in the process has been the move away from the use of computers during the early days, towards the current era relying on analogue synths and individually generated sonic inputs (noise equipment, found sounds etc). Noting also that Isomer was silent between 2011 and 2015, during this period David focused on his side project Rope Society, which saw him expanded his sonic palate to rougher industrial/ junk metal/ noise, which in part has now bled back into his main project.

To talk of the new album ‘Three Kestrels’ comes 5 years on from the ‘Nil By Mouth’ EP, which itself was released to coincide with a live performance at a Tesco Organisation related festival in Germany at the time.  Given this EP included heavy inspiration from and homage to a ‘German’ power electronics sound, ‘Three Kestrels’ is a logical continuation of that sound, but perhaps oriented along a more restrained and stalking approach which also draws upon elements of heavy electronics and death industrial styles.  From this perspective the opening cut ‘Mourn’ is an excellent example of a sound which sits at a midpoint between such genres traits, featuring rough elongated drones and crumbling industrial noise with a melancholic edge, where the treated vocals are also a standout element.  The following ‘No Reply’ is slightly more in a ‘classic’ power electronics vein which mixes a queasy/ throbbing synth and rough squalling distortion, where the utilised dialogue samples counterpoints the track’s title against the apparent faithful issuing their prayers.  Then in shifting gears down a notch, ‘Basic Terrain Data’ encompasses a death industrial tone of associating drones and bass throbbing rhythms and micro-tonal textures as the dialogue samples articulates scenarios of societal unrest and violence.  ‘Gods and Men’ rounds out Side A with a solid example of crude industrial rumble and static featuring a thick, bass driven morass and junk metal clatter/ barked vocals.  

Moving on to Side B, ‘Induction’ reminds of the stasis based approach of Proiekt Hat, where the repetitive throbbing loops and rumble sets the scene for a prison based dialogue sample which outlines various systems and processes within within a prison complex, yet ultimately functions to outline a nightmare of banal incarcerated boredom.  Yet even with this implied negativity, the track manages to engender a ray of hope through a lone voice advising that there is nothing wrong with feeling suicidal, but not to give up as you never know how far away success is.  With its sustained drone, modulating textures and dour melody ‘730’ feels as if a bridging piece to the concluding title track which is another clear standout to these ears (as with the album opener).  Framed around a base a modulating synth rumbles, the distant and distortion scarred roared vocals (although unintelligible) articles a strong and emotive edge, with their emotional impact further increased through the sustained, minor keyed melody cutting a strong melancholic tone.

In a discographic sense ‘Three Kestrels’ is perhaps David’s strongest and most well rounded release.  Likewise with its focus on rough heavy electronics and subdued power electronics, it is such that it sonically warrants and benefits from its vinyl pressing.  Apart from the greater bulk of material pushing towards a sharper and aggressive tones, it is of note that a mournful and melancholic thread underscores the album.  This more emotive edge seems to be clearly rooted in some significant personal upheavals David and his family have been working through during the period in which this album was recorded, which only adds to the depth and impact of its final result.   A great album.

Vril Jäger – Vril Jäger

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Vril Jäger – Vril Jäger LP Heiðrunar Myrkrunar 2016

Vril Jäger is a new project featuring Kim Larsen – better known for his main neo-folk project Of the Wand and the Moon, and Thomas Bojden – better known for his main martial industrial project Die Weisse Rose.  Perhaps then in making a concerted effort to side step any direct comparisons or similarities to their main projects, Vril Jäger stands apart by evoking an early to mid 1990’s ‘heavy electronics’ sound, but further augmented with ritual / martial styled percussion and sub-orchestral dark ambient elements. The music framework is then completed with dialogue samples and strong commanding vocals (both spoken and whispered with slight studio treatments being applied).  Thematically speaking the lyrics and dialogue samples reveal a focus on a variety of interlinked conspiracy theories and occult symbolism including: Vril Society/ Vril energy, electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), parallel dimensions, hollow earth hypothesis etc, which works rather well to present a strong conceptual base.

For the opening track ‘Vril-Ya’ presents a lengthy piece, assembled around ominous drones, slow booming Japanese war drums, atonal drawling horns and clattering ritual percussion, where the whispered and slightly treated vocals providing a ceremonial edge (…without doubt an excellent start).  Interestingly the following track ‘Maw of Kalki’ constitutes a direct channeling the atmosphere of early works of Predominance (a high compliment from these quarters), but noting the sub-orchestral synths and choral type vocals gives rise to this comparison, here it twisted to individual result with its martial / ritual percussion.  With the first side of the LP featuring only 2 lengthy track, instead the second side features 4, consisting of 2 short vignettes to bookend the other 2 middle tracks of 6 to 8 minutes each.  Following a similar sonic scope to the first side, ‘Through The Firmaments’ is a drawling soundscapes featuring driving ritual percussion and layered wailing horns, while ‘Radio Wyrd’ is noteworthy fort its shrill strings of rising dread as a backing to a documentary dialogue sample talks of EVP/ inter-dimensional phenomenon. ‘Sanctified by Constellations’ then concludes the album in short and simple guise, featuring a sparse yet achingly morose sub-orchestral melody, with a short poetic tome.

Despite the label promo stating that Vril Jäger should not be considered a ‘side project’, nevertheless it came to my attention on the basis of its members. But making good on their assertion that Vril Jäger is not a mere ‘side project’, it has still caught me by surprise me by how different it actually is when compared to initial ‘face value’ expectations.  As such Vril Jäger have arrived as a fully formed and thematically focused group, whom in the process have delivered an excellent debut album.  As a final note on the album’s presentation, whilst the spot varnished logo of the cover is slick and understated, it is also rather plain and uninspired, where the group’s photo presented on the back cover would have in my estimation made a more compelling front cover.