Jarl – Hyperacusis

Jarl CD – Hyperacusis CD Zoharum 2021

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.

Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås

Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås LP Cold Spring Records 2021

Det Kätterska Förbund is a new collaborative project between Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen and given the recent sound and direction of both projects has been stylistically aligned, this collaboration makes perfect sense. Likewise, with the moniker translating to ‘The Heretical Association’, it is a suitable descriptor of the sounds and themes contained herein.

Across the seven album tracks, a mid-paced and heavily percussive-driven ritual death industrial tone prevails, which in some ways any of the tracks could have easily been featured on either of the main projects’ albums. Yet there have also been some slight yet noticeable tweaks here and there to production and instrumentation in order to distinguish Det Kätterska Förbund. For example, the opening track He Will Fall features monk-like chants against a backdrop of swirling textures, orchestral tinges synths, martial percussion, and subtle ritual chimes. Equally Endless Gologatha differentiates itself with a more prominent programmed rhythmic beat, while Sacred Ground uses some sort of archaic string instrument to meter out a rudimentary organic rhythm. The low-spoken invocations (rather than the typical gruff vocal delivery) feature as another divergent element on Vid Hälleberg, which are then set to deep drones and a martial percussive pulse.

Ultimately this collaborative recording has a prevailing tone of potency and streamlined menace, and as such feels to be more than the simple sum of its collaborative halves. So, if you have followed and appreciated the recent output of either Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen, Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås is an album you should acquire without hesitation. But if I was to raise one criticism, it is with regard to the album’s brevity, as at only 35 minutes it leaves me wanting much more. As for the physical pressing, this has been issued on both vinyl and digipack CD. Obviously, the vinyl pressing is the pick for me for the full-scale presentation of the stunning artwork.

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP & Septic

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP Helen Scarsdale Agency ‎2021

Himukalt – Septic LP Malignant Records 2020

Straight off the mark, it is highlighted that Between My Teeth is not a new album from  Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt, rather is a welcomed vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape. Packaging is also immediately noteworthy given it comes with a full-sized 16-page booklet of Ester’s collage artwork, while the sonics have been duly given a remastered treatment. On the other hand Septic is one of Himukalt’s newer albums, and the second issued on Malignant Records.

Across the six cuts on Between My Teeth rudimentary yet fractured drum machine patterns eke out minimalist structures while spitting and fizzing fissures of distortion burst forth in chaotic and unexpected patterns. Vocals are then delivered in a laconic whispered to spoken style, but subject to further heavy echo and distortion smear treatment. I No Longer Belong is a particularly good track, based on a start/stop programmed rhythmic loop and cascading waves of bulldozing distortion, while the spoken vocals are relegated to the back of the mix. Mine, which opens Side B features a stilted and simplistic industrial techno thump, which is coupled with layered noise of jet engine proportions. In Every Stage Of This Oppression then offers a counter approach, with sustain tensile drones and spoken vocal passages which are obliterated with increasing jagged noise eruptions.

Septic does not significantly differ in approach, featuring a further five deep cuts of tonal angst. Although immediately notable is the sharpness and bulk of the recordings, as well as the power of the mastering (courtesy of Kris Lapke), where the whispered and low-spoken vocals have an immediate ‘upfront’ presence. Again the rudimentary drum machine patterns provide a basic structure to which static explosions and scrawled noise are framed. Yet with its layered mid-paced rhythmic loops, dive-bombing textures and sweeping noise The Drive Towards Oblivion charts a more straight down the power electronics sound than typical of the project, but the vocals bring an immediately recognisable tone. The title track opens Side B with a deep drone, low static loop, and spoken vocals, then using the tried-and-true method of slowly elevating intensity, which includes a stilted metallic oil barrel beat. The Gun In Her Mouth is the final track and feels to be the hit song of the album, based on its fast-paced programmed beat which when coupled with other looped elements gives it an anthemic type sway. A further sustained melodious synth line pushes the mood ever forwards, coupled with building static before peaking and collapsing at its conclusion.

To my mind, there is a thematic parallel to be drawn between the single-minded approach of Atrax Morgue and that of Himukalt. From Ester’s earliest cassette releases Himukalt arrived fully formed with a distinctly mature style and sound. Now that in excess of ten releases have been issued since 2016, there is a noted singularity of approach displayed across all of her releases, which is an element of consistency that also reminds of much of Atrax Morgue’s discography, despite the two projects sounding decidedly different. Given the sheer volume of material released in the underground these days, it is a difficult proposition to foster an individually recognisable approach and also to maintain an atmosphere of vitality over multiple releases. Yet both of these vinyl editions are equally strong testaments to Himukalt’s ability to do both with seeming ease.

Gruntsplatter – Dowsing In The Cancer Lands

Gruntsplatter – Dowsing In The Cancer Lands CD Crionic Mind 2021

The last full-length Gruntsplatter album was issued way back in 2005, and apart from some compilation collections dating from 2015 and 2020 respectively, 2021 has seen some renewed activity from Scott Candey’s main project, as well as his label Crionic Mind. Noting that I came across Grunsplatter from their early days of activity in the late 1990’s, Scott always excelled and blending sounds from disparate underground genres such as dark ambient, noise and death industrial, yet combining these elements in his own unique way. As is then illustrated on Dowsing In The Cancer Lands this broader approach has not altered and still remains the core of his sound.

From the opening moments of the album, molasses think waves of industrial-grade dark ambience abound, further combined with noise-infused drones, providing an excellent indication of what is to play out over the following 12 tracks/ 70 minutes. A suffocating claustrophobia remains a constant mood which is threaded throughout, while sonic detailing and a meticulous approach to the laying of the multitude of its sounds elements also characterises proceedings. As such buzzing drones, mechanical churn and radioactive bluster form a bedrock of sorts. Added to this are higher-pitched tonal shards which slash through thick inky black soot clouds, while in other segments extremely minimal rhythms and muted doom addled melodious elements appear and recede. Scarlet Quarry manages to then stand apart however thanks to the lone melancholic violin which floats above a roiling tonal mass. The album mastering by Thomas Garrison is also noteworthy has also given the sound significant presence and bulk without being overblown or losing depth and separation of sound layers.

As is clearly on display here Scott is clearly not seeking to reinvent Grunsplatter’s sound. Rather this new album builds upon what has come before and plays out as an expertly crafted and surprising vital sounding recording. This is then the sort of release which is best appreciated as an album in its entirety, rather than singling out specific tracks. A cleanly designed and suitably darkly grey-hued 6-panel digipack rounds out the physical presentation.

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14 LP Force Majeure 2020

Cent Ans De Solitude is a somewhat obscure French experimental noise-industrial project of Jean-Yves Millet who has been active since the mid 1980’s. Yet the obscurity is perhaps explained by the limited output from the project over the years, which has mostly on compilations rather than his own albums. To speak of one compilation contribution, the project notably was featured on the now cult classic Zyklon B cassette compilation from 1994 which was collated and assembled by Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP).

To then talk of this recent release, the visually striking Russian Constructivism-inspired cover artwork draws immediate attention, while the title denotes this album as being a live recording from 2014. La-Bas is the short intro piece based on dour melodious elements, shimmering noise and smatterings of muted vocal chatter opens the album, which later shifts off into a lengthy experimental noise passage of drone, bowed metal shrieks and sampled radio dialogue which encapsulates a moodily atmospheric and hollowed out tone. Given the live flowing format of the recording, it is not immediately clear where one track concludes the next commences, but the later half of Side A sees jagged and metallic tonality offset against a drone of increasing intensity, and by side’s end the tone has risen into a cavernously echoed cacophony of sound. Paysages Industriels opens Side B resets the sonic approach with melodious (piano?) loop and distant creaking junk metal tones. The next track Des Visages Et Des Ruines with its layers radio chatter, rising orchestral style synths, slow pounding martial beat and muted industrial noise reminds strongly of the martial industrial approach of LJDLP, which is a high compliment from these quarters. The Unacceptable Face Of Beauty follows and charts yet further stylistic territory with prominent looped orchestral elements taking focus prior to rhythmically percussive elements being introduced later in the track. Ailleurs is the final piece and reverts to tonal noise experimentalism of the first side, featuring shimmering drones, sampled dialogue and the shrieking of bowed sheet metal, while muted dour melody and heartbeat pulse appears late in the piece.

Of note, this live recording was first issued in 2019 on CD via Jean-Yves Millet’s own label Les Nouvelles Propagandes and now been given the vinyl treatment on ‘rust’ coloured wax, which is housed in full colour screen-printed, foldout sleeve. Despite being from a lesser-known artist within the post-industrial underground this is a wonderful discovery of highly varied and atmospheric experimental noise-industrial soundscapes. Very worthy of further investigation.

Cloister Recordings cassette batch 2021

Subklinik – Neuroskizm MC Cloister Recordings 2021

The long-standing death industrial/ death ambient project Subklinik returns with a new four track tape, where the featured material heavily slanted toward a death ambient sound. A constant element found across the tape are the low brooding synth layers which ebb forwards in various atonal patterns. Sonic variation is then provided with windswept textures, muted ritualised beats, lamenting chants, wailing horns and semi-burred dialog samples etc. However, the shortest track Pulverise stands out substantially for the rest with its employment of a rudimentary drum machine beat, which when coupled with angular stabs of sound reminds of the early pivotal phase of SPK. The remaining three tracks then have greater consistency, being expertly crafted and sonically restrained in capturing a tone of creeping dread. An all-round strong tape.

Lust Fist – Forflatning MC Cloister Recordings 2021

Forflatning is the follow up to the debut tape Kropper Uten Mellomrom (reviewed here), which showcases a further five tracks of no-frills but absolutely on point European styled power electronics. The title opening track is a brooding instrumental and features a sample commenting on the current ills of society by referencing “moral starvation”. The following track then edges things up a notch with multi-layered caustic loops and wavering modulations, with the shredded megaphone vocals being semi-buried in the mix. The Birth Of A New Man Regenerated Through Labour opts for a gloomy cinematic edge, and feature the flange processed and over-saturated vocals which were such a standout element of the debut. To then make reference to my review of the debut, it highlighted that tape: ‘deftly balances aggression with a sense of lurking menace’, which is equally applicable here. Yet perhaps there is an elevated attention to sonic detailing as well as tonal variation between each of the tracks on display. Without doubt Lust Fist again strongly impress on their new release.

DAYOFWRATH – And The World Will Perish In Flames MC Cloister Recordings 2021

As I understand it DAYOFWRATH is a new solo project which has risen from the ashes of the defunct Barcelona based ritual ambient/ death industrial project DE·TA·US·TO·AS. Therefore, based on general similarities in sound, this new project can be viewed as a follow on from the earlier project (final DE·TA·US·TO·AS release reviewed here). Four tracks feature on the tape, where the lead off track Voidhanger very much wears its Trepaneringsritualen influence on its sleeve. Heavily pounding ritual percussion drives the track forwards, coupled with gruff invocation-based vocals, while a black metal tremolo riffed guitar line is relegated to the background. A similar tone and instrument construct is featured on Imperfection And Oblivion, but the overt forward drive is paired back slightly to brooding pace. The programmed and almost industrial-techno beat of The Warior’s Pilgrimage functions to give DAYOFWRATH’s sound a more individual slant, and which continues on the final track Death To The World. Here the black metal riffed guitars are brought to the fore and coupled with further pounding rhythmic programming to create an anthemic track with undercurrent of a ritualised rhythmic sway. As an overall comment the driving ritual death industrial mood remains the central focus, and regardless of the obvious influence, the use of the tremolo riffed guitars and programming functions sets DAYOFWRATH apart. For a formal debut this is a very impressive tape.

Human Larvae – Fever Dreams

Human Larvae – Fever Dreams MC Total Black 2021

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

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

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.

JT Whitfield – Pressed Pill

JT Whitfield – Pressed Pill 7”ep Damned Gates Recordings 2021

The name JT Whitfield was vaguely familiar when I received this, although equally I could not immediately place it. But with further investigation it is noted that JT is a Texas based artist operating within the underground and specifically the in-between spaces where noise, industrial, dark ambient and experimental techno collide. In further contemplating the abstracted skull image of the cover and the unintelligible font (which is somewhere between a black metal logo and calligraphic scrawl), it belies the actual musical content pressed on the wax.

As for those sounds, the 45prm 7”ep features two tracks of lumbering, caustic and stilted industrial rhythms which equally hints at a tone of experimental noise and industrial techno without fully embodying these either. A thick fractured bass pulse and fleeting horror synths kick things off on Press 1, while further fractured off kilter rhythmic elements keep thing darkly wonky. Slowly tidal washes of rising distortion are added for good measure and there may be a vocal line in there too – or is that just another noise texture? Not quite sure. Press 2 follows on the flipside, and contains more of a mutated techno kick combined with mid toned scrabbling textures, but it too retains an off kilter and slow-paced forward roll. Also, although not specifically recommended, I did note that this can also be played at 33prm without sounding wrong and actually provides an positive ‘screwed’ effect – meaning that of a drawling drugged haze provided by the slower speed.

The limited run pressing of 50 copies also comes with a series of screen-printed insets, rounding out a decent little release, issued on this boutique Melbourne based label.