Ergomope – Етиологии

Ergomope – Етиологии 2xMC AMEK 2019

AMEK are a Bulgarian underground experimental label and while I have not followed all of their output, from what I have heard they are releasing a decent amount of atypical post-industrial music. In this context I have not come across the Ergomope project before, but that is also perhaps explained by the fact that Етиологии appears to be their only release to date.

Opening with short experimental and evocative piano motif which has been layered and treated in studio, it immediately catches attention in the most positive of ways, before shifting off into a length 15-minute track framed around grey hued sonic treatments of obviously urban based field records. But not to be based on raw field recordings alone, those elements are coupled with sonically melodious and shimmering drones which blend and intertwine and carries the material forward at a generally unhurried pace. Likewise, though a number of tracks the minimalist field recordings elements have been looped for vaguely rhythmic effect, while on occasion the drones and field recordings elevate in pressure and force towards an heavier post-industrial frame of reference, where the sound builds to a peak before recedes again. In other sections there appears to be what sounds like abstracted playing of a treated piano, and sections of shrill orchestral strings and percussion which have been mutated in a studio environment. Of individual note, lengthy track Whiteout functions as a sort of album centrepiece given its more prominent musicality, including layered piano playing, plucked string instruments, and elevating melodious drones late in the track.

Clearly there is lot to digest across the two cassettes, amounting to a run time of around 80 minutes. But with emotive experimental ambiental music such as this, appreciation is rewarded from an unhurried listening, allowing the shifting and morphing sonics to unfurl at their own pace. For the sake of comparison, the likes of the material released on Touch, and specifically the likes of Fennesz and BJ Nilsen comes strongly to mind, which is testament to the quality of this material, despite its relative obscurity. In then noting that the Black Sea is referenced in the promo text, and is a title of a Fennesz album, perhaps my comparative impressions are more than mere coincidence? Either way this has been both an enjoyable and rewarding listen.

Amph ‎– Control

Amph Control LP Verlautbarung 2018

Amph are a Swedish duo operating since 2010 (well according to Discogs), but I am only familiar with their contribution to Verlautbarung’s 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik. My observations of Amph’s track After Nature was that it ‘opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent’. To then provide context to this review, this earlier impression is equally applicable to this new LP.

Features two lengthy untitled tracks (one each side of the vinyl), there are definitive ‘sections’ and ‘movements’ on display. Early in the first track it features a ritual tinged industrial throb, deep heaving breathing textures, shimmering micro-tonal textures, and disembodied garbled but unintelligible vocals. Through the middle section the track becomes more mid-tone drone oriented, but this is also underscored with looped field recordings, creaking wood and metal which coalesce into quite raucously animated territory, and calms down again through the late section, complete with muted pump organ drone. Side B follows a similar trajectory, but the underlying abstracted field recording elements are looped into subtle rhythmic form. With an open and widescreen production it contains a very organic and rural sonic atmosphere, where wind-chimes and elongated drones maintain a dark edge, and thankfully far from anything remotely ‘new age’. In moving through other sonic segments, it features forceful melodically muted drones, twilight atmosphere of crickets chirping in a field, and creaking micro-tonal textures and other forceful loops.

Although with only a few releases under their belt, Verlautbarung continue to issue extremely strong and sonically divergent releases, with Amph clearly continuing this trend. With the cover featuring an image of a lit match, as a nice physical touch the cover has itself been spot charred with a lighter flame.

 

Ochu – Unproduktiw

Ochu – Unproduktiw LP Verlautbarung 2018

Ochu is the solo project of Swede Love Rosenström, and while he has been recording as Ochu since the early 2000’s I am only familiar with recent output (although I then have a vague appreciation that his current material has elevated experimentation and dialled down slightly on a harsher noise and heavier industrial aesthetic).

With the current approach based on meticulous layering and blending of textural sonic detail, Ochu’s material in highly animated and sonically nuanced. Likewise, by avoiding any semblance of stuffy academic experimental music, there is clear force and intent at play where the results are engaging and above all vital. Much of the assembled sonic content appears to have been generated from field recording or contact mic based recording sessions, but those inputs have been further manipulated and abstracted to achieve textural density and complexity. The opening track Struisvogelpolitiek is a great example of this, with tonally load creaking wood and metal, where the ‘micro-tonal’ recordings have been elevated to a loud and overblown tone which bridges the organic and the mechanical. Humos De Existencia Estática is a slow burn of a composition, where a jagged yet muted loop is overtaken by an invasive and incessant drone which fractures and multiplies in intensity, while the other rough echoed loops are used for vague ‘train carriage on tracks’ rhythmic effect.

Förnuftsflimmer (Partiellt Anfall) opens Side B are draws out a minimalist ritualised pulse which is blended with a series of forceful mechanical drones, while further micro-tonal textures are elevated to the forefront of the mix. Contra-tasking functions as a short interlude of a fractured grinding loop, which is followed by the lengthy track Segments of Destination concludes the album. Commencing with a spacious mix and again with a focus on micro-sonic detailing (i.e. rocks, wood, metal), the various elements amalgamate into loosely elevating loops, as a deep, muted bass rumble elevates with storm-front intensity. Yet clear restraint is still employed, as rather than building the track an overblown climax, the storm-front passes by and gradually recedes into concluding oblivion.

In both the sound, style and graphic presentation Unproduktiw clearly side stepped any of the typical clichés which could be levelled at the post-industrial underground, and is an album of passion and dedication to a personal sonic craft. Clearly bridging the gap between musique concrete experimentation and roughly hewn post-industrial soundscapes, Unproduktiw is a clever and expertly executed release. Recommended.

Victorine Meurent ‎– Even Less Of The Harmony Of Maine

Victorine Meurent Even Less Of The Harmony Of Maine MC Found Remains 2019

Victorine Meurent are an Australia project, which I understand is the solo project of the individual behind the Vienna Press cassette label. This would appear to be the third release from the project. As for an initial observation, one of the track titles provides a nod to American abstract expressionism, which itself perhaps gives an indication of the experimental end, rather than post-industrial end of the sonic spectrum. Four tracks of a minimalist experimental ambient type spans around 26 minutes.

With reference to opening track Untitled 9, sustained, yet muted and minimalist melodies are delivered at catatonic pace and function for abstracted and meditative effect. Likewise when field recordings sporadically appear, it pushes the sound into musique concrète territory (refer to Untitled (Betty Parsons Gallery as an example). Likewise, towards the end of Here, Not There references the Australian suburbs, where the field recordings of bird calls and sparse street noise is distinctly recognisable from my own childhood experiences of growing up in the ‘burbs’. Untitled 8 rounds out the tape, and while utilizing the same droning sonic and melodic spectrum, there is an ever so slight increase in compositional urgency.

Being a slight deviation from typical fare reviewed via Noise Receptor Journal, this is artistically evocative, and showcases what can be achieved with mood and atmosphere from the most minimalist of compositional elements.

Remnants ‎– Vacant Corridor

Remnants Vacant Corridor MC Found Remains 2019

Remnants are a project I am unfamiliar with, but is a solo project of Ryan Marino who has issued over a dozen releases issued since 2010. While I am not sure how this latest release it compares to earlier output, this is a pro-printed cassette mini-album which features four tracks over 28 minutes.

Being an exercise in minimalist abstracted noise, Vacant Corridor delivers four tracks muted widescreen soundscapes with a forlorn, grey hued and nostalgic atmosphere. Vacant Corridor I displays this aesthetic and in being dour more than overtly dark in mood, the feel is of quiet contemplation. An archaic atmosphere is then implied through the title The Drawing Room, Autumn, 1918, and evoked a series of layered minimal loops deliver shimmering, creaking and crackling textures which ebb and flow throughout, while late in the track a muted melody makes an appearance, which itself seems to bend and warp out of time (akin to a stretched reel to reel tape being played). Vacant Corridor II brings more dusty (and dusky) drones, creaking doors and general haunted muted urban resonances. Into Memory (Stalker) is the final track, where I assume the title is a nod to Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker. With a continuation of the grey hued and archaic tinged atmosphere, muffled echo holds equal position to distant melodic elements including abstracted synth washes, semi-buried sporadic piano chords and late track sparse guitar melody.

Delivering equal parts moody and mysterious (and coupled with an undercurrent seemingly implying existential dread), Vacant Corridor is a subtle but sonically nuanced release. Likewise by effectively replicating the atmosphere and visual aesthetic of Stalker in musical form, makes for a very worthwhile listening experience.

Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger

Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger 2xCD Death Continues 2018

Over the past twelve years Sutcliffe Jugend – the duo of Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor – have been rather productive and issued 20 releases in that time-frame. Specifically 2006 appears to be the particular point in time when the project was reactivated, following a five year gap from 1999’s viscerally direct The Victim As Beauty album, while also shifting towards wider sonic experimentation. Although today’s version Sutcliffe Jugend is a very different beast from the sonic brutality issued during the initial 1980’s phase, they have remained a power electronics act at heart and in overall attitude. But in forging new paths by dialing down on the all-out sonic assault and seeking out far more diverse sonic treatments and stylistic experimentation, this approach is in full display on this sprawling double CD.

On the early album track The Mute Shall Speak, the crisp digital noise squalls is perhaps partially reminiscent of later era Whitehouse, while Sehnusucht features a stuttering fast paced rhythmic programming coupled with jagged digital shards stabbing at the ears from the background. This track is also noteworthy as it demonstrates the vocals of Kevin Tomkins being in a strong trademark style, which are delivered in a drawling semi whispered rant which on occasion steps up to being half sung and half screamed. Lyrically the album is noted to be densely rendered, which have a particular psychoanalytical bent in various description of the power dynamic in personal relationships; first person internalised dialogue; and at times ‘stream of conciseness’ narration. Yet Cause comes as the first major surprise by featuring a ‘doom jazz’ sound of minimalist piano and double bass (and consequently wholly reminiscent of Bohren & Der House of Gore), yet further augmented with spoken vocals and swathes of minimalist backing distortion. But not to stop there, the sonic surprises just keep on coming, where Crushed delivers pump organ, synth drones, sparse xylophone and meditative spoken vocals, and Unashamed with its quirky programmed electronica. From there the rest of the first CD deviates through musique concrète (Dissonance); maudlin piano melody and abstracted strings (Angels Flying Into The Burning Gates of Hell); emotive sub-orchestral drones (A Room Full of Knives and Eulogy); while the closing track The Pain Will Take Everything Away is a doom drone oriented work with treated ethereal female vocals and moody bowed cello etc.

The second CD delivers a further ten tracks spanning an hour which builds upon the wide frame of experimentation of the first disc. The Lost is built around misfiring digital noise and a rabid vocal attack, but is quickly offset by the moody and contemplative Authors Note of sonically over-processed synth line. Blindfold charts more abstracted sounds and half formed melodies which at times verges on musique concrète, while the loose guitars of Dancehall Etiquette evokes the sound of noise rock (minus drums). Perhaps the only major misstep of the entire two CD set is All I have Forgotten, which sounds to be based on improvised abstracted piano and accompany cello, but sonically the tinkling piano awkwardly jars the prevailing album atmosphere. As for the title track, this arrives as a 15 minute monster of sprawling yet tensile shifting bass drones sub-orchestral elements, as the spoken vocals gradually ramp up in aggression to match the upward trajectory of the choppy and chaotic digital noise. As for the final album cut My Crumbling Walls, it is an instrumental offering it is quite cinematically toned with its building string orchestral elements, which build and recede in intensity.

Apart from the 2xCD version, there is a special bonus third digital album, recorded at the same time at The Hunger. Featuring 6 tracks across 50 minutes, this bonus album is limited to 100 by virtue of only being available via plastic business card sized plastic download card. On a whole the bonus album is more subdued overall, by broadly opting for a series of tensile sub-orchestral droning tracks, where vocals do not rise above a narrative whisper.

Given that 2016’s Offal and 2017’s Shame (reviewed here) were albums with a more singular sound and musical vision, The Hunger stands out by the sheer diversity displayed, and consequently is a far stronger album for it. Likewise, while unhinged aggression is an underpinning element of The Hunger, this is more a case of being implied through tonal tension and lyrical phrasing, rather than actual sonic execution. As an album issued so far into Sutcliffe Jugend’s extensive discography, The Hunger is an extremely well executed and sonically diverse collection of tracks, where it seems there is no shortage of musical and lyrical ideas, nor any sense of slowing down from the Sutcliffe Jugend camp. Recommended.

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance CD Cipher Productions 2018

Ulex Xane, the agent provocateur of Streicher infamy, has recently issued this unexpected solo album which showcases a very different experimental side. Within the extensive liner notes Ulex hints that these recordings could be bracketed under a banner of electroacoustic and musique concrete, but equally he shies away from formally using those genre descriptors. The recordings themselves span a 40 year period from 1975 to 2015, with the earliest recording made when he was only 12 years old (and evidently only recently discovered on an old cassette tape).

Working in reverse chronological order, the first eight tracks are the more recent material spanning 2015 to 2009, showcasing a subtle, yet loud and crystalline, sound. The 17-minute opening track The Inarticulate (from 2015) is sparsely cavernous, but with interjecting field recordings and micro-tonal textures, while a whispered voice (purposefully enunciated to be indecipherable; the track also concludes with a mass of unintelligible screaming voices) pans between speakers for enveloping and immersive listening. Paroxysms of Disappearance (from 2010) is another exceptional track of meticulous and chaotic sonic detailing, featuring a huge diversity of sounds (from the day-to-day mundane to the completely unidentifiable) that at times combine into tensile, almost atonal, orchestral quality. Space, Time and the Categories (from 2009) is split into four separate tracks with a combined playtime of 35 minutes. Panning and surround sound elements are used extensively, along with sonic elements including mid-toned static hissing textures, treated gongs/chimes, micro-tonal sound treatments, various fragmentary field recordings, wavering sub-orchestral tones, and the ever-present widescreen separation of sonic textures.

The much earlier works on the album pick up at 1995 and extend all the way back to 1975. The one-minute Noise Panel #43 (from 1995) is a blink and you miss it short distortion rumble and noise blast workout, while The Disinherited Mind is based on a home recording made in 1984, which highlights the sonic clarity of more recent material. Here, the cavernous and echoed sound is more muted and grey toned, but still there is a huge diversity of tonal elements, including field recordings of blaring foghorns, aquatic textures, distant musical motifs, and a general mood of desolate urban space. The final track Farewell to Matters of Principle is the oldest on offer from 1975, recorded when Ulex was a mere boy. Clearly being the crudest and least refined of the set, it is based around choppy and spliced cassette recordings of garbled and choked vocalisations, slapped flesh, and maniacal laughing (and even the voice of his grandmother offering cooking tips); it is surprisingly unnerving in its execution.

Apart from being distinctly different from any other material issued by Ulex to date, the most pleasing aspect of this album is that it avoids any resemblance of a dry tonal range or stuffy atmosphere which can plague the more academic end of ‘sound-art’. Instead the sounds are detailed, engaging, and highly animated throughout, fiercely dynamic yet subtly restrained. The full colour and spot-varnished cover includes a 27-page booklet with extensive liner notes on the philosophical/conceptual framework of the material and inspirational sources, and it makes for excellent companion reading. Although I am far from well-versed in the electroacoustic and musique concrete spheres, I get the vague and subtle impression that Ulex is in part parodying and poking fun at the academic art-world. But, in noting Ulex’s already established legacy within the post-industrial underground, this is both an intriguing and exceptionally enjoyable release, which also functions to reinforce Ulex Xane as a complete enigma in the truest sense of the word.