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.

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Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field

Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field 2xLP Hospital Productions 2017

With a discography of over 100 releases spanning back to 1991, Mlehst are a project I am not at all familiar with other than name alone. To then speak of The Difficulty In Crossing A Field, this is not a new recording from the solo project All Brentnall, but is a re-issue of a limited CDr dating back from 1998. As that was the same year when Hospital Productions as a label was originally launched, I am then going to assume that this album had a strong impact on label boss Dominick Fernow around that time, and hence is the reason why it has been plucked from obscurity for its reissue on double vinyl.

Sonically speak, the album is made up of four tracks of an experimental noise style, which feature as lengthy compositions on each LP side (10 to 19 minutes each). Far from being a hard and hard noise style, this is controlled and consider experimental soundscapes, including extensive quiet passages and a subtle dynamic depth and breadth of sound. While the mood and tone is loose and abstract, at the same time is not chaotic, instead showcasing a deft sense of compositional approach.

On the opening cut Flowery Twats it uses short segments or sections of choppy cut ups are used and at times are almost of quirky cartoonish quality, given way to passages of compositional restraint featuring cavernous doom addled reverb and mine shaft echo. The following piece Can Such Things Be? opts for quite prominent cyclic drones which stop short of breaking out into a noise squall, while maintaining a backdrop of sonic mineshaft depth and further augmented with indecipherable radio chatter.What Comes Round Goes Round charts a tensile muted industrial soundscape style, but the mood of this style is fractured with occasional choppy voice cut ups which become increasingly animated as the track progresses. The title track is the final of the four pieces and is clearly the nosiest, featuring a series of mid to high tone fragmented sound bursts, but which slowly morph into consolidated and thick pulsing drones, while later half then deviates off into fractured noise cut ups, before slowly descending into cavernous looped territory.

With the original CDr issued in only 100 copies, it is probably safe to assume it The Difficulty In Crossing A Field is one of the harder to find and consequently less heard releases in Mlehst’s discography. Obviously this new edition of 250 copies on gatefold vinyl, with artwork replicating the original, will then go part way to remedying that situation, given this is an enjoyable album of an experimental noise style.

Nil By Mouth batch reviews

ANTIchildLEAGUE / Cronaca Nera Bruises and Bites MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2017

ANTIchildLEAGUE (aka the solo project of Gaya Donadio), has teamed up with Cronaca Nera whom I have not come across before. Although it appears they are an Italian project who issued two release back in 2001, which was then followed by a period of 13 years silence before reactivating in 2014, and now seems to be a trio including the involvement of Andrea Chiaravalli (aka Iugula-Thor).

For this collaborative tape Bruises and Bites features sonically fierce power electronics, and at times sounding completely psychologically unhinged based on the veracity of the vocals courtesy of Gaya. The title track opens the tape and complete sets the scene for the entire tape. Featuring saturated fried static, pulsating and grinding noise and aggressive echo and distortion treated vocals, these sonics elements have been cleaved into thick and punishingly loud structures which are pushed to overblown intensity. To then speak of the vocals, these are a standout element, where depending on the track, the voice appears to be barking orders and demands, and set against a secondary voice of variously choking, rasping and crying tones. Although sonically the material is choppy, loose and at times quite chaotic, there is clear compositional focus and intent which is clearly detectable under the more outwardly unhinged sonic elements.

The six distinct tracks span in the order of 30 minutes of music, which is further housed in a faux leather slip-sleeve, with further printed insert and postcards featuring group imagery in an S&M style. Issued in an unknown limitation, this is harsh, hard and high-calibre modern Italian power electronics.


Instinct Primal / Purba Forest Ritual MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2018

Here is a collaborative release between Instinct Primal (the solo project of Jan Kruml), and Purba who is a Russian musical project focusing and Bon ritual music. Purba in its current form is the solo project of Svyatoslav Ponomarev, but of note is that an earlier incarnation of the group included the membership of Alexei Tegin (from 1996-2001), who is currently recognised as the leader of the Phurpa and who also play ritual music in the Bon tradition. But aside from that point of interest and link to Phurpha, this is a Purba release where evidently Forest Ritual is the first recordings made in 18 years. Musically speaking the material on Forest Ritual, features two lengthy ten-minute tracks and is as archaic as they come, with the basis of the recordings made in October, 2016 in a forest close to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, which is the town where the infamous Sedlec ‘Bone Church’ is located. The cover then identifies the music is: “featuring snow, wind, trunks, stumps, and rusty nails in an ambient ritual of earth and fire”.

Day Forest Ritual (Part One) Holy Fire sonically features a myriad of field recordings including: frozen winds whipping through trees; creaking branches; footfalls tramping in the snow; and wood chopping for thudding percussive impact. Mid track contains some static noise hum before receding again and making way for throat derived vocal chants which are raw and animalistic in their delivery. The final section has the feel of being a studio treated recording of a roaring fire but elevated to shrill intensity. Night Forest Ritual (Part Two) features yet more forest derived sounds merged into vague ritualistic soundscapes, but here with a more prominent droning framework (again assumed to be the result of post recording studio treatment), and late passage contains a lone ritual drum and low garbled voice.

Definitively organic and ritualized in all aspects of sound and presentation, this is evocative and obscure in the best way possible and sits alongside the more abstract ritual sounds from the Aural Hypnox collective. The packaging also suits the feel of the music perfectly with the tape and multiple inserts with forest and nature imagery wrapped together with stained cheese cloth, twine and wire. At this point of the review, clearly you will know if this is an underground ritual obscurity for you.


Naxal Protocol The Stasi File MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2015

Being a couple of years old already, I have had this tape for some time but only recently learned that the project is helmed by Piero Stanig of the older Italian experimental noise industrial project Cazzodio. To then highlight differences, with Naxal Protocol ‎the sound is originated towards a controlled heavy electronics style, where two tracks of around ten-minutes each feature on The Stasi File.

Stop And Frisk Induction features first and is a track of ominous cyclic drones with controlled bass driven undercurrent of vague rhythmic elements and buried samples of ill-defined and undecipherable meaning. Tumultus Et Urbanae Seditiones follows on the flip side and is choppier in execution, with rough thick distortion and friend noise hewn into rough looped structures, with occasionally detective crime interview dialogue samples, but mid paced and controlled overall. Mid track the loops elevate in intensity to more direct impact, before receding again into the final section.

All in all this is an enjoyable albeit short release, where the special packaging of a ‘top secret’ envelope with various printed inserts addressing societal control via police/ government/ military force is a nice touch (and limited to a 130 copies).


 

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns LP Hospital Productions 2018

To provide background context, the two lengthy tracks on Unknowns were originally featured on a bonus cassette issued in late 2017 as part of a special bungle package of Prurient’s time stretching 7xLP release Rainbow Mirror. In its original context it appears it was conceived as a companion to the main release, however sonically speaking the material on Unknowns differs substantially form the sprawling ‘doom electronics’ synth and noise experimentation of Rainbow Mirror. Yet the resulted differences are easily explained by the involvement of Patrick O’Neal of Hanged Man’s Orgasm (aka Skin Crime) and Kris Lapke (of Alberich) providing the sonics on Unknowns. Dominick’s involvement then comes from his reading the short story published in the booklet of the Rainbow Mirror release and as highlighted by the promo blurb, “sub bass electronics”.

In The Ashes Of Science We Fall is a track which incorporates Dominick’s reading of the Rainbow Mirror short story, but with its understated and half whispered delivery which is also placed within the background of the mix, it leaves the sonics to take the prime focus. Consisting of radar channel scanning noise and Morse Code chatter, it creates a tensile minimalist industrial soundscape completely different to anything featured on Rainbow Mirror. The second track In The Peeling Birch We Remain, is sonically similar to the first, mainly due to the radar scanning type sonics, but is also is instrumental in execution and incorporates more obvious urban based field recordings which have been twisted and manipulated into low grinding and vaguely pulsing rhythmic loops towards the later half.

Despite technically being a companion release, I have found the sonic form of Unknowns to be much more engaging and direct than much of the sounds found on the parent release Rainbow Mirror. In then noting how different it is in sound and approach, regardless of its original association as a companion to Rainbow Mirror, Unknowns can be fully appreciated as a standalone release. Presentation and artwork is slick with clean graphic design which matches the look and feel of Frozen Niagra Falls, noting that the visuals for both have been completed by visual artist Adam Marnie.

Lussuria- Standstill

Lussuria- Standstill 8xMC Hospital Productions 2017

Lussuria may not be the biggest or most well-known artist on the Hospital Production roster, but over the last decade this solo project of American Jim Mroz has issued a large array of releases which draws from a diverse sonic base, including: dark ambient, experimental industrial, muted noise, abstract techno and cinematic soundtrack styled sonic explorations. In then drawing together such a diverse sound palate, it is of interest that the end result contains a vague approximation of each chosen stylistic element, but where they are combined in such a way to sidestep the usual or expected traits of the genres being drawn from, and in the process evokes an intangible and at times mysterious aura.

To then speak of this new release, Standstill represents an exercise in stamina and endurance given that the eight cassettes feature a whopping 33 tracks (formatted as 29 tracks for the digital version), with a combined total playtime pushing almost the four-hour mark. In then choosing to issue such a monolithic release in today’s age of short attention spans, on run-time alone Standstill has to be acknowledged for its rather epic and time stretching efforts. Perhaps then of contextual interest is the fact that Jim Mroz was a contributing member who joined Dominik Fernow on Prurient’s 2017 album Rainbow Mirror – the three hour and twenty minute marathon  meaning Jim is no stranger to releases with an excessively elongated run-time.

When further considering the monumental length of Standstill it might be somewhat expected that it would be most sonically diverse. Upon listening that expectation is revealed to be true, where at times Standstill is the most purposefully musical release in Lussuria’s discography to date and consequently a fair departure from the oblique industrial and abstract techno infused experimentation of earlier works. Yet, regardless of the sheer stylistic diversity on display, the overarching mood is one of a cinematic sound-score which remains as stylistic hallmark of earlier material. Likewise while the fractured beats and rhythms of earlier works make sporadic appearances here and there, more broadly Standstill evokes a deft filmic quality and timeless atmosphere.

To talk of specifics, but without attempting the unnecessary task of describing all aspects of the release, an impression of some of the more notable moments found within the sprawling scope follow. As such the album opens with Tree of Marble, an excellent cut of hushed experimental electronica with strong underpinning tone of melancholia. Another early track Aegri Somnia channels a quite distinct archaic soviet synthesizer sound, while the combined piece Viaticum/ Spear Dance/ Companion Note features driving doom addled beats, minor keyed synth washes, and maudlin clean shimmering guitars to generate a mood driven piece of the highest order. Another combined track Acanthus Leaves/ Of Rage And Denial/ Lashes features emotive drones, radio chatter, orchestral synth washes and tribal percussion which strongly brings to mind the early 1990’s sound of Cold Meat Industry (and specifically artists such as Morthound or Deutsch Nepal), before shifting into a section of muted but driving techno-esque beats. Moving into the middle of the set list, Natura Liberari I-III – plays out as a minimalist and abstract contemporary classical piece of sparse percussion, cello piano and woodwind instrumentation, before later segments divert off into conveyor belt rhythms and looped choir like drones. Twilight Red stands out as a dark ambient track of the highest callable, where the deep sub-orchestral drones are very reminiscent of the best moments of mid era raison d’etre (and when first listening to this my mind wandered and forgot I was listening to Lussuria, where I then momentarily wondered which raison d’etre album I was listening to!). Cliff In The Red Tidal Wave shows yet more variety, by channeling a lurking, suspense styled atmospheric piece of minimalist horror stings and abstract creaking tonality, ritual chimes, and sparse clean guitar. Your Voice To Arise As Incense then completely stands out from the rest, given it is based around sampled male choral vocals (Russian? Not sure), before their tonal resonance of the vocals is harnessed and the track veers off into heady ritual drone territory. As for the final track of the entire set, De Svarta Porten strides into neo-classical and martial industrial tinged territory, but maintaining a forlorn and abstract edge through to the final moments.

With the overall massive run-time being what it is, it was simply not possible to consume this in a single sitting, rather it was approached in larger blocks of tracks over a number of listening sessions. But given the distinct individual focus of the tracks which make up Standstill, it means the material can be approached in this way without hampering its appreciation. In noting from the above description of particular standout moments, it perhaps indicates that not every moment of Standstill is of the same high level. Yet even with that said there is no poor quality or skippable content, which in of itself is an impressive feat when dealing with literally hours of music.

With its monolithic scope and creative diversity Standstill is a stellar release and the most varied and engaging material I have heard from Lussuria to date. But as this was issued in an physical edition of a mere 150 copies (already long sold out), this leaves only the digital version as the means in which to experience this. As a final comment, it is noted that Hospital Productions have previously issued similar 8xMC’s from a number of their artists. So perhaps like Alberich’s original 8xMC NATO-Uniformen from 2010 which was treated to a ‘best of selection’ reissue on 2xLP in 2014, in future Standstill may also be given the same ‘best of’ reissue treatment. We shall see.

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.


* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.