Pterygium – Concealing The Past CD Tesco Organisation 2018
The relatively new Australian project Pterygium have returned with their second full length album Concealing The Past, which follows the 2017 debut Grip (issued on a small cassette run on Algebra Of Need and reviewed here). Also of note, Pteryrium had a track on Tesco Organisation’s 2017 Projekt Neue Ordnung II 4xLP boxset, where Tesco has now subsequently issued this new and admittedly excellent sophomore album.
In noting the dual sonic approach of Grip, which blended minimalistic melodic tones with sharper distortion squalls, that approach has been both repeated and further honed here where the tonal range has been further refined and sonic depth amplified. As an album Concealing The Past is structured around nine distinct and individual pieces of between three and seven minutes each, which on the most part follow an understated melodic and minor keyed compositional framework. Being effectively an instrumental album, a variety of discreet sampled ethnic/ religious framed vocals provides an ethereal touch, as does the melancholic elements (such as piano lines, neo-orchestral strings etc.), which evokes a detached yet strongly emotive resonance (such as is immaculately displayed on A Vacant Regret). Yet there is still a willingness to let loose on select with heavy menacing drones and higher-toned noise squalls such as displayed on Entry_Exitpoint which has a raw tonal sharpness which perhaps is indicative of live in studio recording technique. A pair of late album tracks (Siphon Like Parasites & And Love Became A One Way Street) both balance on a knifes edge between the dual sonic approaches, on the one side featuring crude distortion blasts and choppy loops, which on the other are offset against bass addled drones and swelling sub-orchestral melodies.
Thematically Concealing The Past clearly fits within the broader post-industrial network, but to its credit does not sound in any way typical or derivative of a particular sub-genre. Rather, it draws extensively from various elements to create its own internalized sound and logic and is all the stronger for it, but for comparative sake the multi-faceted sound displayed by Prurient on Frozen Niagara Falls is perhaps a reasonable reference point.
Although some people continue to complain that the post-industrial music is broadly redundant for lack of new ideas and approaches, and further accused newer projects of being mere copyists of what has preceded, Pterygium is the effective antithesis of that opinion. Solo member Henry Gillet clearly understands the underground scene Pterygium operates within, but armed with a wealth of musical ideas he has creates a strong and individual sound which sidesteps being in any way derivative of genre confines of noise, industrial, dark ambient and power electronics. If the current and next generation of projects can match the creativity displayed on Concealing The Past, there is still much new ground to be explored and much to look forward to and be celebrated. A resounding recommendation from these quarters.
Concrete Mascara – Decay Sequence MC Unrest Productions 2018
Any new material from Concrete Mascara is a welcome prospect, with this EP length tape featuring six new tracks. On the last full length, Perennial Disappointment (reviewed here), the boosted mastering did not really capture the essence of Concrete Mascara’s sound but this has thankfully been reinstated here. Their trademark raw and sonically overblown distortion features heavily, hewn into rough pulsating loops and broader structural movements. The agonizingly howled vocals are also present, being partially hollowed out and flitting between being semi-buried to roared upfront.
Pleasingly, the tape contains that particular raw and ripping sound of thick chaotic distortion, where atonal and overblown synth lines are blended with higher pitched ‘whistling’ feedback textures. With an at times deep and hollowed-out aesthetic, it partially evokes a live-in-studio-type method of recording, but certainly allows for space and the separation of sonic elements within the mix. There are select moments present that are perhaps unexpectedly minimalist and restrained, which function to elevate the mood when things really let loose. Blood Discipline is one particular track which pulls back on sonic intensity in a more controlled manner, but being structured around a throbbing atonal synth line and other minimalist elements, it only functions to highlight the fierceness and aggression of other barely controlled tracks.
Limited to 123 hand-numbered copies, it has been issued on professionally duplicated tapes and features a minimalist and understated design, which gives no hint of the agonized harshness contained within.
Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix 10” EP Unrest Productions 2018
In its first version Unpunished : Appendix was issued in an extremely limited edition of 24 deluxe cassette box-sets. Only being available at a live performance in Paris, needless to say it sold out immediately, so having a repress of the four tracks on 10” vinyl is certainly welcome. Although the title refers to this being an ‘appendix’ I don’t get the impression that this is leftover material, rather new material which builds upon the themes and concepts explored on 2015’s exceptional album Unpunished (reviewed here).
Sonically speaking, the four tracks follow the now recognisable sound of Am Not, which, while being meticulously composed power/heavy electronics, does not forgo a suitably rough and raw industrial sonic edge. Opening track And Then We Shall Know commences relatively calmly with two intertwining loops (deep throbbing bass and higher modulated tone), which soon gives way to heavy and raw pounding industrial structures, and the proclamation-style rough vocals, achieving the typical blending of Am Not’s sound. Dark Star Kinshara follows and is another track of rough industrial-tinged heavy electronics that ups the intensity slightly and is also underscored by a dour organ-style drone. Intriguingly this track is: ‘dedicated to the ongoing Congolese space program’, which it turns out is an actual thing, but one with a lengthy and chequered history with alleged links to Nazi scientists and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Side B offers another two distinct tracks, with Extremophilia II being a mass of thick pulsing loops and swirling mid-toned textures, with prominent dialogue samples and a rough vocal barrage framing the lyrical theme. The final of the four tracks, the instrumental State Funeral, is the most surprising of the lot, blending rough junk metal timbres with highly cinematic, neo-classical elements. With its stoic martial industrial percussive leanings and central dour organ melody, this on first listen is not immediately recognisable as Am Not, yet is a stunningly great track all the same.
As for presentation, the packaging is as slick and considered as the music, including four postcard inserts and four-panel booklet with mini interview to provide further information on the group and its thematic/lyrical preoccupations. Another mandatory release from Am Not and Unrest Productions.
Megaptera – Disease CD Ur-Muzik 2018
Megaptera’s album Disease is a quintessential example of mid-1990s Swedish death industrial and exemplifies a sound which has been copied over the years, but certainly not bettered. To quickly cover its history, Disease was first issued on CD in 1996 on Art Konkret and has been out of print and unavailable for many years until this updated short run pressing. Personally speaking, I obtained the original version of Disease directly from sole project member Peter Nyström as it was already sold out everywhere (such were the days of CD pressings selling out quickly), and incidentally that contact lead to my interview with Peter in the very first issue of Spectrum Magazine issued in 1998. But I digress…
Sonically speaking, the dank and oppressive soundscapes of Disease are built around sweeping drones, atonal metallic pounding beat, sub orchestral synth pads and further augmented with well-placed movie dialogue samples. This approach is perfectly demonstrated on opening track The Passage To Your Evil Dreams. After this rather storming opening track the following two tracks Disoriented and Haunted By Demons are perhaps slightly more abstracted and windswept versions of the opener, being more ominous and slow stalking in tone, where rusted factory conveyor belts creak and buckle and unidentified morbid pulsing textures provide slight rhythmic focus. The album is rounded out by The Squire Goes Insane, which in its original version was 28 minutes (and split into four parts), but has been further expanded here with the inclusion of a newly recorded fifth part, bringing the total run time to nearly 36 minutes. With such an extended run time, the track slowly unfurls and is an excellent example of slow building tension across the bulk of the first half (assuming this to be Part 1: Warm And Relaxed). The mood takes a decided step-up around the 16-minute mark with a heavy catatonic beat and atonal horror strings (assuming this to be Part 2: Evil Thoughts Are Growing), while the later parts are both minimalist and restrained soundscapes. As for the new appended Part 5: (Resurrected As The) Walking Death, it blends in perfectly with the balance of the album by featuring loose conveyor belt loops, a grinding bass thrum, and distant windswept atmospheres.
In essence Disease embodies the sound of the grit and decay of an abandoned industrial complex mixed with a solid dose of creeping horror aesthetic, which when combined is immediately recognisable as Megaptera. Although the project would go on to outdo themselves on next album The Curse of the Scarecrow (issued in 1998), Disease is still a landmark release and it is great to have a newly remastered sound, with expanded content and newly designed asylum-themed artwork. According to the cover this release is ‘unlimited’ (a reference to the undead perhaps?) to 300 copies so is not likely to stick around too long.
Inflated Climax – Inflated Climax MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
Inflated Climax are a new anonymous project on Trapdoor Tapes where their self-titled tape delivers crude and lo-fi industrial noise/death industrial sounds.
This self-titled tape contains a single lengthy untitled instrumental track, which repeats on both sides. The composition has then obviously been spliced together from a series of recording sessions as the cover indicates this was recorded between 2015-2017. Overall the mood is dank and morose which is achieved through atonal, slow throbbing rhythms which are mixed with thick bass driven distortion. In one section, the slow throbbing beat rolls catatonically onwards, akin a container train lurching forwards to the end destination of an unidentified death-camp, while other segments feature stasis inducing minimal looped rhythms, or looser tonal modulations infused with soot and ash. In some way this reminds of some of the long form experimentation of Atrax Morgue, but where that project’s free form sound was often clinical and mid to higher pitch, here the sound is a deep rumbling lo-fi death industrial approach in a restrictive and suffocating way, which certainly matches the visual cues of the cover.
Obscure, crude and understated in equal measures, packaging comes in a plastic pocket with two double sided photocopy sheets with rubber fetish imagery.
School For Cadavers – Re Education MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
School For Cadavers is a new project featuring Jon Evans and Julian Percy, who are both members of Last Dominion Lost. In noting that context, there are clearly some strong parallels which can be drawn between the sound of these two project. Yet with reference to School For Cadavers, the tribal industrial elements of Last Dominion Lost has been toned down for a more streamlined industrial noise approach, which on a few occasion furrows within a dank death industrial style.
The tape features seven tracks in all and while three of those are denoted as being live recordings, this is not immediately evident given the consistency in recorded sound spanning all tracks. Sonar opens the tape with a screeching distortion, indecipherable yelled vocals and underpinned but an understated rhythmic loops, while the following track Spirit Of The Air contains a quite distinctly wonky and disorienting tone. Dead Time is a clear standout piece, based around cyclic throbbing mid paced layered loops and other sweeping tones which build in intensity, while other random slashes and cuts of churning sounds continual interject and gradually take over. Side B brings the absolute standout track Demise Of Logic, which is a monolithic pounding ritual death industrial track, completely with wailing air raid sirens, shuddering synth tones and garbled evocations. As for the final track Last Look blends a suspenseful horror soundtrack styled mood and coupled with a central slow pounding death industrial beat, while another screeched distortion layer ratchets up the tension. Great stuff.
Like the very much underrated and under appreciated Last Dominion Lost, School For Cadavers deliver expertly executed high calibre material, and should not be ignored or overlooked.
Grim – Primary Pulse MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
The long standing and cult Japanese project Grim returns with a new five track recording (from 2017), issued via Trapdoor Tapes. Contextually speaking Grim has always had a left of centre approach to their power electronics/industrial noise material, with the often-weird juxtaposing elements thrown in for good measure, which is certainly continued and exemplified on Primary Pulse.
Hermit opens the tape with loose windswept noise modulations blended with manipulated voices, before Volcano Flower kicks in, framed around a series of burrowing pulsing tones which coagulate into a driving rhythmic structure coupled with distorted agonised vocals, which is a clear standout track and very much in a distinctive Grim style. The third track for Side A is Assassin’s Room, which is categorised by a wonky and off-kilter looped rhythm, while the vocals are of a garbled spoken type, prior to a classical music organ motif and stoic industrial pulse features in the final moments. Side B features another standout piece of Grim weirdness, with Melting Man featuring a strong throbbing element, central sub-orchestral melody and wailing chants of sole project member Jan Konagaya, with the atmosphere becoming progressively more unhinged as it progresses. G.T.R. concludes the tape with a blend of elements including an Asiatic toned loop, rolling industrial drums, sweeping abstracted guitar, squalling noise etc., yet never succumbs to sounding like an industrial band.
Although not overly long, Primary Pulse is an absolutely great underground industrial tape and again exemplifies a sound wholly unique to GRIM. Trademark blown out photocopied artwork courtesy of Trapdoor Tapes rounds out the perfectly suited lofi presentation.