Zos Kia – 23

Zos Kia – 23 CD Infinite Fog 2017

For background context Zos Kia was the primary 1980’s musical vehicle of John Gosling and holds a special place within the early development phase of industrial music. This is predominantly due to their only official album Transparent, issued on cassette in 1984 via the cult label Nekrophile Rekords, and while that album was labeled as a split/collaboration with Coil, the group membership at the time were effectively interchangeable between the two. As for musical content Transparent, included a live recording of Zos Kia on Side A, being a performance made at the Berlin Atonal festival from 1983, while Side B contained a series of tracks credited to Coil/Zos Kia. In an overarching sense Transparent features early proto ritual-industrial, where tonal noise shards slash across rumbling guitar feedback and underscored with clanging metallic ritualized percussion, sampled dialogue and wailing/ screeched evocation-based vocals. But apart from this lone release, Zos Kia also issued two EP’s in the mid 1980’s, where 23 functions to collect together those EP’s and archive them with a large volume of Zos Kia recordings made over the years, with the addition of a couple of extracts from the Transparent album itself.

Having not delved into Zos Kia recordings outside of Transparent, I was immediately surprised by how different the material in 23 is in sound and execution, where the opening track Black Action has a guitar-based band groove and swagger, with spoken vocals and is unlike anything I would have ever expected from the group. The following track Be Like Me equally surprises when the solo piano format breaks out into an almost electro-funk number of constant kick drum, driving bass and central piano riff and swirling guitar line. It is only when 10 Miles High arrives that the attitude and sonic dissonance of earlier material makes an appearance, and the sinister soundscape throb of Rape calls to mind a hazy drugged sound that Coil would hone in later years, while An Absolute manages to meld the earlier sound of the project but within a ridged guitar/ programmed drum format. As for the second electro-funk excusion on Muggy The Staff, to my ear at least is an entirely redundant attempt at a commercial sound, and has me again scratching my head that this is actually the same band as featured on Transparent. As for the last quarter of CD1, this includes a number of remixes of earlier featured tracks, but which really do not warrant further comment.

CD2 opens with Ake, a squalling feedback and gabled voice-based track, and quickly follows with a doomy synth version of An Absolute, which deviates enough from the original to be individually interesting. The flowing tryptic of the lengthy unreleased tracks from 1982, including Era Vulgaris A1, Era Vulgaris A3 and Harry Wouldn’t Like It, sound to be live recordings or rehearsals and sonically reflects the chaotic ritualized dissonance of the Transparent recordings. In then moving well into the run order of the second disc, it features a short 1984 live recording of Be Like Me, as well as three tracks from the Transparent album (two tracks Baptism of Fire and Poisons from the 1983 Berlin Atonal show, as well as the lengthy tensile guitar feedback soundscape Sewn Open). The archive set is then rounded out with two unreleased tracks, including Sways Backwards from 2006 and Sleazy Said from 2000 and with their respective throbbing/ stilted programming and pulsing choral soundscape gives a clear nod to the surreal atmospheres of late area Coil. In fact, Sleazy Said is noted to be a musical collaboration between John Gosling and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and for me are perhaps the best and most interesting compositions of the entire two CD set.

Noting that I have never been a Zos Kia obsessive, which then means that while 23 is an interesting collection, from this perspective it is personally a non-essential release, particularly due to various tracks falling well outside of what I would ever bracket under an industrial/ post-industrial banner. Yet for others who Zos Kia is a pivotal artist of influence, this extensive double CD set will be of absolutely intrigue to the early industrial (and beyond) experimentations of John Gosling. A digi-book sleeve and detailed liners notes in an eight-page booklet rounds out a slick presentation.

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Murderous Vision – Voided Landscapes

Murderous Vision – Voided Landscapes CD Live Bait Recording Foundation 2018

Voided Landscapes is the latest full length from American industrial underground stalwart Stephen Petrus who has been recording under this moniker for well over 20 years now, and whose output to date has broadly been categorized by the blurring of the lines between death industrial and dark ambient. Although not being quite sure as to exactly what number album this is, the project has issued in excess of 30 releases during the lengthy period of activity, so this album will certainly be somewhere into double figures.

Musically speaking the abstract industrial rumble and moody minimalist piano of album opening Purity Burns bodes extremely well, while also featuring nature-based field recordings of calm waves lapping at a shoreline and a chorus of seagull cries, which differentiates it from much of the material which has previously been issued under the Murderous Vision banner. The following track Radiate is the categorized by a static buzzing and blast furnace churn and features the first vocals which are heavily processed and agonized in their delivery, and certainly blood boiling and fist pumping overall. Again in a slightly different style, the instrumental Shifting Ash is low key and moody, featuring subtle bass addled drones, random industrial debris and sporadic rhythmic loops which elevate in prominence through the late section. The most deviating track of the entire album is Stale Earth Slumber given its minimalist martial industrial frame of reference, being structure around stoic kit percussion, deep orchestral melody and main spoken vocal, although truth be told it slightly jars the flow of the album given how stylistically different it is. After the quite musically varied first third, the album opts to settle down to a solid display of Murderous Vision’s take on a ‘mid-point’ sound between seething dark ambient and ominous death industrial. The pairing of Concussion and Empty Language both illustrate this strongly, while as the title might suggest Moss and Bone features source material of a more organic sound palate. Voided functions as a heavily layered swirling vortex of mechanized textures, while the final album track Corrosive Materials chooses to go out with heavy impact given its use of a fast paced, massively pounding industrial structures.

Nine tracks over 43 minutes displays a varied stylistic approach and composition, which is clearly rooted in the classic 1990’s era of dark ambient and death industrial, and this feeling is strongly on display, but also without being purposefully ‘retro’ in sonic expression. A 6 panel fold out digi-sleeve on matt card stock and with suitable imagery of urban decay rounds out the presentation of a very enjoyable, sonically varied underground post-industrial release.

Found Remains tape batch 2018

…newly found remains…

Found Remains are a relatively new American label, launched in 2016 and having issued six cassettes in that time. Armed with a tag line of “An electronic label adhering to the shadows of thought and sound” it clearly alludes to stylistic diversity within their catalogue, where following below are reviews of two of the recent June 2018 batch.


Kjostad – Environment Electronics MC Found Remains 2018

It should be apparent to long term readers of Noise Receptor Journal that harsh noise does not really feature in my listening preferences, and while the publication title includes the word ‘noise’ that functions more as a play on words (but the full explanation of that wordplay is not warranted here). Yet in this context I am aware that Kjostad is a project of Stefan Aune, who is also of the harsh noise project Breaking The Will, which for reasons outlined above I know by name only. However with Kjostad, it would seem that Stefan is intent on blurring the line between environmental derived sounds (aka field recordings) and man-made elements. In effect the title of Environment Electronics is a perfect synopsis of intent and approach. Track titles such as Granite Canyon Falls, Birdsong 1# and Amplified Forest gives a clear indication of originating sound sources detectable within the sonic tapestry, which are further manipulated through studio sonic treatments.

Granite Canyon Falls functions as a short opening cut, while the lengthy following piece Lake Day is an exercise in elongated and abstracted drone minimalism (is that perhaps the low hum of a boat engine?), while light washes of static merge and counterpoint singing birds, before a minimalist ‘crunch and rumble’ workout draws central focus. Boreal (Cutting into the Roots of the Timber) has a deft organic tone to the muddied sonic minimalism which gradually builds intensity with a series of scrabbling looped textures. Birdsong 1# functions blends the obvious bird calls with light metallic ‘clicking’ loops and minimalist static, while final track Amplified Forest spans close to 10 minutes, and is the most animated composition. Featuring bass rumble and mid spectrum static through which bird songs on occasional can be detected, there is a controlled choppiness to proceedings which at times verges towards the unhinged, but also stopping well short of a full noise attack.

From concept to execution this is extremely well-done tape, which carefully balances the organic and man-made tonal elements, and although clearly field recording derived Environment Electronics is far from an academic exercise, given the end result sits well towards an industrial noise approach.


C.L. Lobbestael Particle Dissolution MC Found Remains 2018

This is the first release I have heard from Cody (aka C.L. Lobbestael), where based on this EP the produced music is of an evocative and understated cinematic ambient type, which is effectively subtle synth exploration of melody and mood.

Like the cold and clinical nighttime image of a city skyscrapers which adorns the cover, a distant and forlorn melancholia permeates the tape, where abstracted orchestral toned and minor keyed melodies evoke late hours melancholia which comes from urban desolation. With a strongly filmic sonic aura of swelling grey tones bleeding off into the blackness of the murky horizon, the atmosphere across the 4 tracks and 28 minutes is consistently bleak, yet warmly enveloping. Likewise, the central melodic motifs provide a degree of consistency, but noting these equally shift and mutate across the four tracks.

Being subtle, moody and contemplative, personally I have found this tape an extremely enjoyable one, particularly as it functions to counter-point the bulk of harder, harsher and aggressive material covered by Noise Receptor Journal. In a word – recommended.


 

Puissance – Let The State Collapse

Puissance – Let The State Collapse 3xCD Infinite Fog Productions 2018

In terms of historical context, Puissance (the Swedish duo of Fredrik Söderlund, Henry Möller) spearheaded and were a front runner of the martial industrial/neo-classical movement of the mid 1990’s. That sound was particularly big by the turn of the century and extended through to the mid 2000’s, but the style gradually fell out of favor due to the scene being flooded by lacklustre second tier acts and bland releases. But in parallel to that, Puissance gradually honed and evolved their own approach, and garnered strong praise and a loyal following with their apocalyptic and misanthropic worldview set to rousing neo-classical infused martial industrial movements.

Noting that Puissance been mostly inactive over the last decade (save for a single track Nox issued in 2014 on the Pylons Of The Adversary split album), Let The State Collapse functions to collect together various scattered threads issued outside of the main albums, including: the first two demos; a number of 7”EP’s; various compilation appearances; interlude tracks written for other bands; the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP; the War On compilation collection; as well as a number of previously unreleased alternate versions. Although for reasons unexplained, it is noted that 1997’s Totalitarian Hearts 7”EP has been omitted from this set.

CD1 starts from the earliest Puissance works with the inclusion of the fledgling steps of the group as illustrated on their first two demos. The first demo Krieg from 1995 sits squarely within a rough post-industrial soundscape style, where the muted and ominous mechanical drones and stilted factory rhythms evoke abstracted orchestral undertones, but overall Krieg is a minimalist death-industrial affair than a neo-classical one. Releases the same year, the second demo Obey, Hate, Die then showcases a marked shift towards orchestral neo-classical sound and martial drumming sensibilities, which would become the main focus of the debut album Let Us Lead released a year later in 1996 (in fact, a number of songs from Obey, Hate, Die where included in upgraded and more powerful versions on the debut). Apart from archival completion, the importance of the inclusion of these demos here is that they illustrate how quickly Puissance evolved over an extremely short space of time, where the following collection of seven tracks from various 7”EP’s highlights the further honing of their sound. Of particular note is A Call to Arms from 2000, which is a rousing track framed around a melancholy infused piano line and strident martial rhythmic backing. Anthemic and apocalyptic is the best way possible.

Moving onto CD2, it functions to collect together five tracks from various compilations; eight interlude tracks contributed to the albums of underground black metal bands; and three previously unreleased alternate versions. In an overarching sense the majority of the tracks on this set are short instrumental neo-classical/ orchestral pieces, which reflects their role on the original releases. This however makes for slightly patchy listening and flow between tracks, and where some tracks suffer from a slightly over synthetic orchestral sound. But these are also minor issues, given the benefit of them having been complied on one CD for convenience, and for which many of these I have not heard before previously. Standouts of this CD include: Speak My Voice (instrumental); An Incarnations Dream (which features rousing sampled choral vocals and pounding militant rolling snare drums), and the beyond epic unreleased version of Biological Waste and A Call to Arms (instrumental).

CD3 rounds out the set and collates the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP and the War On compilation. Hail The Mushroom Cloud was originally issued in 1999 shortly after the third album Mother Of Disease, where the four tracks are titled Act I through Act IV. With each track being instrumental, they are noteworthy for the first use of a purposefully synthetic programming sound for the underpinning militant beats and rhythms, which would become a mainstay of Puissance’s sound through the mid 2000’s. Sampled choral vocals also feature heavily to further amplify the neo-classical bombast of these tracks. Following the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP is the War On which in its original form was a remix complication of sorts. Featuring eight tracks it effectively lifted two of the most militantly bombastic/neo-classical songs from each of the first three Puissance albums (Let Us Lead, Back In Control and Mother Of Disease), provided those tracks a sonic refurbishment and update, and combined them with a further two unreleased tracks. The inclusion War On tracks here is clearly welcomed addition, as it again illustrates the rousing Wagnerian heights Puissance reached with their martial industrial/neo-classical hymns.

For me personally, this collection strongly showcases the rapid evolution of the project and hits a particular sweet spot of Puissance’s martial industrial/neo-classical sound which extended to through to the early 2000’s. The period showcased on this set was somewhat superseded by the albums from the mid 2000’s forwards, which shifted to a more streamlined song based format, with a much heavier focus on programmed rhythmic beats which at times bordered on militant and misanthropic angst-pop structures. But to conclude on this release, the lavish digi-book cover and newly designed artwork does this set complete justice. Apart from being a beautiful physical archive piece, it has been a very rewarding and nostalgic experience to revisit the early and most productive period of the project. Recommended.

Himukalt – Come October

Himukalt – Come October MC Found Remains 2018

Following quickly on the heals of the recent Knife Through The Spine vinyl LP issued on Malignant Records, Come October is the sixth release since 2016 from Himukalt, which is the solo project of Nevada based Ester Kärkkäinen.

With a sound that is rough and decidedly gritty, the analogue derived tones are soot and rust infused, while the vocals feature as emotional and bile drenched (aka echo distorted/ treated). Minimal structure is employed throughout, based around crude abstracted rhythmic programming, choppy static, shuddering distortion and occasional tonal blasts, but the end result is an industrial noise ‘post-mortem’ style than anything typically of a harsh noise variety. The minimalist approach to sound and composition gives a clear nod to the likes of the psychological and death obsessed sounds Atrax Morgue, while the sonic treatment of vocals renders them for tonal impact rather than decipherable intent. Yet based on their at times pained delivery, I gather their lyrical content functions for a degree of personalized catharsis that anything resembling a role for externalized ‘entertainment’.

Opening track Ruined-Raped is an absolute stormer and functions to illustrate Ester’s command of compositional restraint, as well as the perfect execution of controlled tension in building it to a liberating release. Again and Again is another standout track, structured around a rhythmic percussive junk metal loop, upon which fluttering textures, distortion smears and treated agonized vocals are laid, where all elements are gradually elevated in intensity over its elongated length. Apology uses composed minimalism in the best way possible, where wavering tonal elements, needling drones and apathetic but heavily treated vocals gradually makes way for throbbing beat before abruptly concluding. For the late track No Longer Her Dominant, a pathological atmosphere pervades proceedings, which carefully balances the minimalism of its tonally droning sonics, where it is also the only track where the spoken vocals are (partially) decipherable.

In a relatively short space of time Ester has clearly garnered positive attention within the underground, which is solely down to the strength and intensity of her output. With six tracks feature on Come October, and running to just short of 40 minutes it makes it an effective album length tape, and is as good a place as any to either be introduced to or otherwise better acquainted with Himukalt. For the physical edition, the tape is professional printed, with clean graphic design, and comes with a download code for those so inclined.

Kontinent – Pornography of Power

Kontinent – Pornography of Power MC Unrest Productions 2018

As an initial comment I am not sure if Kontinent should be referred to as a ‘side project’ of Kevlar, however putting such designations aside, Kontinent is the solo project of one of the duo behind Kevlar. In then noting that Kontinent’s past releases have broadly been within a modern post-industrial/ power electronics style, this is no different to what is displayed on Pornography of Power, albeit there is a noted increase in aggression and sonic fieriness.

This new release follows relatively quickly on the back of 2017’s album Statis, where Pornography of Power is another expertly crafted release, featuring eight brisk and focused tracks within an industrial meets heavy/ power electronics framework. On the thematic front, song titles such as Pure Power, Bring Back The Violence and Higher Civilisation provide a hint at preoccupations, given the vocals can only be deciphered in a fragmentary fashion due to sonic treatment. Yet the cover imagery provides further context, which of note includes an image of Anders Breivik and a quote appearing to be attributed to him, being: “violence is the mother of change”. As for the sonic content, the detailing and layering of the tracks provided variation and complexity throughout, where looped elements converge and intertwine, while gradually falling in and out of sync to disorientating effect. The distorted and echo treated vocals make them a standout element in their anger infused, proclamation styled delivery.

To some degree there is a certain blurring of lines between the sound, style and approach between Kontinent and Kevlar, which is be expected given who is involved. Yet there is simply no complaint on this point if the high calibre material such as this continues to be issued from both projects. With Pornography of Power being limited to 123 pro-duplicated tapes, I suspect this may get a re-issue on vinyl at some point, which would be a welcomed prospect.

Compactor ‎– Technology Worship

Compactor Technology Worship CD Oppressive Resistance Recordings 2018

Compactor is the latest project from long standing New York underground musician Derek Rush, who is perhaps best known for Dream Into Dust, as well as other collaborative projects A Murder Of Angels and Of Unknown Origin. Yet within the context of Compactor, Derek has forgone using own name, instead adopting the moniker ‘The Worker’, who is an employee of a corporate entity known as Waste MGT (aka Waste Management). To then set the scene for this review, prior to listening to this album I had heard a couple of Compactor tracks here and there, and from those noted a fair dose of influence from underground club-related genres. In truth, those elements were not typically to my liking, but by way of comparison they are effectively absent from Technology Worship, which then functions to frame this album far more towards my own listening preferences, namely post-industrial sounds of power electronics and noise-infused industrial.

To first speak of the sound of the project, this deviates quite significantly from the musical approach which Derek has produced in the past. On face value this would seem to be derived from the approach of using a range of obsolete technology, and bending and abusing the output to desired effect. On select occasions it perhaps leaning towards the cleaner and rhythmic sounding end of the underground industrial spectrum (i.e. that labels like Ant-Zen typically deals with), where album opener Ease Of Use is a clear demonstration of this approach with its mid-paced pounding industrialised rhythm. Yet equally, there are numerous other tracks which are in no way rhythmic derived or focused, rather focus on varied frameworks of distorted loops, flayed noise and splitting and glitched distortion. Vaporware stands out from the bulk of other material given the greater spaciousness of its industrial noise soundscape, although the track evolves into a harsh crumbling distortion workout at the end. The partly rhythmic but fully ominous and tensile structure of Screen Hypnosis is another excellent track, but at just short of three minutes is far too short.  Final album track Church of Virtual Reality spans close to eleven minutes, being a good sonic representation of a grinding distortion and furnace blasting sonics.

In essence Compactor is effectively the most straightforward and direct music I have heard from Derek to date, but where he has applied a heavy degree of compositional focus and control which in turn has achieved a tonally varied output. By embracing elements of sonic chaos but bending these to structural and focused effect, Technology Worship is an solid and direct listen within a clean industrial noise and power electronics infused style, further bolstered by a strong thematic concept.