Various Artists – Darkness Descends: a post-industrial compilation

Various Artists – Darkness Descends: a post-industrial compilation CDr Live Bait Recording Foundation 2018

This release was originally issued to coincide with the festival of the same name which was held in Cleveland on 16th June, 2018, but as the festival has now been and gone, the role of this compilation has now shifted to that of a commemorative release. Featuring exclusive tracks from the ten artists who performed at the festival, they effectively form a selection of some of the best American death industrial related projects.

Being already well familiar with the output of nine of the ten artists, despite the fact that they all operate within similar genre confines, it is positive to note that each of the tracks stand apart from each other and that the individual stylistic nuances of the featured various projects shine through. The only project I not heard before is the female duo Cunting Daughters, whose piece of obtuse muffled factory ambience hints at a distant lurking horror and a positive introduction to the project. Elsewhere Murderous Vision opens the compilation with a varied death industrial offering, including rolling tribal beat and ranted religious themed sample, while the shrill strings and garbled background noise of Abjection Ritual’s delivers a strong suspense feel, before descending into looped mechanical churn and fried static. The introductory floating drones of Shock Frontier’s piece takes it time in elevating to full blast furnace intensity, while Vitriol Gauge delivery a relatively straight forward but classic toned death industrial track of mid paced looped distortion, subdued static and agonized vocals which are smeared across the sonic spectrum. Compactor’s piece stands apart given the slightly cleaner sonic edge and heady atonal pounding structure, while Gnawed’s track is far more controlled and considered than typically would be expected, here with muted sub-orchestral drones, slow mechanical agitations and trademark treated vocals. Steel Hook Prostheses follows with their distinct brand of clinical tinged death industrial, but of note is the greater than normal reliance on underpinning synths. The Vomit Arsonist also delivers with a devastatingly bleak track of minimalist rhythmic structure and cavernous rumble, while Theologian concludes the album with heavily animated rhythmic driven thrum and moody wavering synths which is strong backing for the stylized half sung/ screamed vocals.

Although technically a CDr release, this is a pro-duplicated disc housed and mini-gatefold cover and if any of the featured acts of or interest, this compilation will be of absolute interest, ans absolutely a suitable document and memento of the Darkness Descends festival.

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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.


 

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.

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.

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.