Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity

Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity MC No Rent Records 2020

Following Pterygium’s second excellent album Concealing The Past on Tesco Organisation (reviewed here), this new full length tape has just been issued on the American label No Rent Records.

On Stoic Ubiquity Pterygium have taken their established ‘dual edged’ sound and twisted this for more harrowing and harder results. This is immediately evident on album opener 100 Sin, with its massive bass undercurrent, vaguely orchestral yet heavily melancholic synth lines, buzzing static, and harshly impactful tonal blasts. Various sampled voices also float in and out of the mix, providing a fleeting human reference point within the sonics. God Was Incapable is notable as it provides some respite, with well-placed dialogue samples fleshing out the concept and set against mid-toned clicking loops and a catatonic yet pummelling beat. Late in the track the sounds of a church bell tolling, cawing crows, and mournful choirs add a gothic-tinged aesthetic. Force Feeding provides yet more metaphysical musings set to sweeping drones, overblown bass tones, and slashes of static that build to a squalling cacophony of shrill tones. Yet these soon fall away into a section of tragically sombre sub-orchestral melodies. A similar mood permeates final tracks A Tragedy At Point Blank and 36 Heart, given the use of brooding sub-orchestral tones blended with unhinged static blasts and an undercurrent of overloaded bass.

Being somehow more aggressive yet underscored with a greater degree of melancholy, Stoic Ubiquity is no mere re-tread of what has come before. Rather, it is a clear refinement and expansion of a style and sound that Pterygium is very much making his own; the layering, complexity, and attention to detail of the arrangements are clearly evident. At this point it perhaps goes without saying to not snooze on this, as its physical edition is a mere 100 copies. You know what to do.

Leather Bath ‎– Nature’s Crackling Fire / Anarch Peak – Vitarium

Leather Bath Nature’s Crackling Fire CD Leather Bath, Inc. 2019

Anarch Peak – Vitarium CD Chondritic Sound, 2019

The common thread between these two releases is Greh Holger (of Hive Mind and the Noisextra podcast), who collaborates with John Weise as Leather Bath, and separately with Rodger Stella (formerly of Macronympha, Mother Savage, etc.) as Anarch Peak.

In turning attention to Leather Bath first, they seem to have been active since around 2012 with a clutch of releases, yet Nature’s Crackling Fire is the first album proper from the group. As might be suggested by the album title this can be described as experimental noise and musique concrète, with an underpinning drone framework. Two lengthy tracks feature, the 23-minute In Temporary Suspension and 17-minute Hunter Horn. Although the musique concrète descriptor is used, this is by no means stuffy or academic in tone. Likewise, with reference to the ‘noise’ descriptor, the sound is ‘detailed’ rather than loud, meaning there are tons of close-up micro-tonal sonic textures throughout. There is considerable depth, with various tonal elements sitting far off in the background, offset against the upfront elements, while speaker panning is also used for surround-sound immersion. In Temporary Suspension exudes an open tonal quality, with lots of space to breathe between the sound of stone, wood, and metal which is creaked, bowed, struck, and scraped. Hunter Horn differs from the first track with a greater focus on droning elements, scrabbling textures, and treated horn elements, while field recordings provide further natural and human resonances. Later the track involves a metal-on-metal tonal workout and echoed footfalls, which are dragged to their conclusion with animated windswept drones.

Moving on to Anarch Peak, the first thing to be noted is the psychedelic sci-fi style artwork that adorns the six-panel digipack. This sci-fi angle is reinforced with some abstracted surreal text included as part of the digipack. Sonically speaking, Greh handles the synthesizers and minimalist metal-derived inputs, while Rodger mans the theremin – by listing that instrument alone, it should be clear that Anarch Peak are not dealing with a harsh / junk noise approach. Two longform tracks make up Vitarium, the 37-minute Alpha in Dissent and 33-minute Driftglass. In the opening to Alpha in Dissent the atonal synths and theremin drones slowly unfurl, while some subdued metallic clatter is noted far off in the depths of the mix. Like an ebbing and flowing tide, the track slowly builds and recedes over extended passages. Not being chaotic or loud, the track does build up a certain bulk and tonal weight through the middle and later sections, where discordant wailing textures sit at the middle to lower end rather than resembling a high-pitched squall. In the last third, some doom-addled sub-orchestral synth melodies appear and sweep the track’s mood in a completely different direction, more into sci-fi territory (perhaps akin to being slowly dragged towards the event horizon by the gravitational pull of a black hole). Driftglass differs by being tonally fragmented and fragile, with subdued wonky tones, minimalist crackling textures, and low-level static, while a melodious organ-like drone slowly appears to provide focus and forward movement. The middle to back end of the track sonically articulates intertwining corkscrew spirals, while the final movement uses metallic tones in a stilted rhythmic fashion.

Neither of the albums are overly dark, but each is characterized by being experimental or artistic in tone in their own way. The material across both albums is animated and varied, with each making for a detailed and engaging listen. The above descriptions should clearly indicate whether either or both albums will be to your liking.

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority CD Freak Animal 2019

Vigilantism are a new Finnish industrial noise project from one of the members of another Finnish noise project Edge Of Decay, with Incessant Authority being Vigilantism’s debut release.

Perhaps then as might be expected for a project from Finland, there is a rough, aggressive and chaotic edge to proceedings. Thus Punkt Ohne Wiederkehr opens the album with fried and fracture mid tones bass rumble, while raw scrap metal type distortion features heavily. With a thick and overblown sound, its elements have been sculpted into a grueling track, while forward momentum is also provided with a slow stilted pounding throb, while occasional distortion drenched vocals also bleed across the sonic frame. Yet on the second track Never Cross the mood takes a decided step up with an incessantly pounding martial-esque ‘beat’ and swirling fissures of caustic distortion, while dialogue samples are buried and barely intelligible in the mix. Although still distorted and rough, Chemical Conversation features greater space and depth within the mix, where grinding layers loop and intertwine, while alarm like buzzing tones elevate the tensile atmosphere. Unbinding The Angst differs again, being of a composed industrial/ power electronics approach, based around a pulsing rhythm and bass pounding tone, duly completed with apathetic and distortion tinged vocals. Although aspects of both sound and visual presentation of Incessant Authority could be described as aligning with the likes of Zyklon SS (which is a clear positive in my estimation), the final track Stepson Diaries is the most obvious example of this. Featuring caustic noise, urgent wavering tones, scrap metal crunch and completed with suitably grim dialogue sample, it is an excellent conclusion.

With its raw, direct and no-frills approach, Incessant Authority is a varied and creative recording across its approximate 40-minute run-time. A cleanly designed 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation. Clearly you will already know if this album if for you, but recommended from these quarters.

Trapdoor Tapes batch 2019

Hal Hutchinson – Steelwork Fabricators MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Modelbau – The Whole Truth MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Luke Holland – Virtues Of Torture MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Being well aware of Hal’s activities in his other projects, I am then not as well versed with his solo output – other than understanding it is of a raw scrap metal noise type. Steelwork Fabricators features two untitled tracks, which are both excellent examples of what can be achieved with slow control noise, opposed to an overtly chaotic noise attack. Thus a laborious and roughly hewn scrap metal approach is the order of the day. Clearly not being from a singular improvised recording session, Hal has taken a multi-layered approach, where the tracks are carefully constructed layered for maximum impact. With a slow, jagged, hefty and ripping bass tone, the production is also thickly hollow, and in select moments contains a thunderous but abstracted oil barrel beat. In essence the sound is amazing and could be creatively described as an the rusting hulk of an abandoned steel cargo ship being slowly crushed and swallowed by expanding sheets of ice. With only 20 minutes run time, this is far too short and leaves me wanting much more.

Regarding Modelbau I I had not heard of the project before before, but then immediately recognised the name behind the project – Frans de Waard – formerly of Kapotte Muziek and the Staalplaat shop/ label, and currently of the Vital Weekly online publication. But to talk specifically of Modelbau, the project is concerned with densely detailed tape experimentation, where two length tracks feature on each side of the tape. The title track leads off with highly animated lo-fi noise, which is blended with treated bells or gongs and a plethora of detailed natural field recordings elements (wind, water, birds, voices etc). Extremely dense in sound, the atmosphere is one of an elevating maelstrom of sound than anything remotely ambient or relaxing. Back There features on Side B, and steps the sound up a notch with a more direct sound which verges on industrial-noise. Here scrambling and scattered distortion sit in the foreground, while abstracted metallic tones and distant echoed field recording elements site far back within the mix. With around 50 releases issued since 2012, this is an intriguing introduction to Modelbau and their forcefully detailed, yet engaging low-fi approach.

On Virtues of Torture, Luke Holland delivers a single lengthy 28 minute track of his particular brand of muted industrial noise. But from the lead off, it is immediately apparent that the the track displays more of an affinity with a loosely rhythmic death industrial sound. As such the slow ‘two note’ rhythmic pulse and windswept oscillating layers generates an excellent dank minimalism, which sits at a mid-point somewhere between Atrax Morgue and early Brighter Death Now. Being an instrumental track and with its elongated length, the track takes its time to gradually morph and shift, but generally not straying too far from the core framework, until a quite dramatic shift late in the track to a section of crumbling distortion, forceful bass tones and wailing horns of death. All in all another solid offering from the Trapdoor Tapes label head.

Striations – Keepsakes

Striations – Keepsakes LP Fusty Cunt 2019

Off the back of my introduction to this US industrial/noise/power electronics project (via the Vietnamization DCD – reviewed here), Keepsakes comes as the latest album from Striations. The first thing is note is the packing, which has all the hallmarks of classic over the top DIY approach to presentation. Here a think and weighty vinyl floor tile has been stencilled with the project name and attached to a spray painted LP cover. Further housed in a yellow dust cover, the whole packaging is sealed with an obi-strip made from police tape.

On the musical front, album opener Unseen (Body Dump), wastes no time and leaps straight in with deep, distant loops blended with mid-to higher toned noise. With an elevating trajectory it charts crudely constructed, loose shuddering noise and rabid flanged vocals, and when bleeding directly into Transgression I, the swirling and shuddering noise takes a step up in intensity. Keepsakes comes next and mines a sound of metallic bass rumble, programmed rhythmic pulse and jumbled noise, which squares off against a deep metallic production and hollowed out and howled vocal barrage. Rounding out the first side is Odontology, which is a short instrumental noise drone, where a short serial killer related news report sample plays out as the Side A outro. The same news report sample then continues on Side B, prior to Manifestation kicking in with queasy dive-bombing atonal synth lines, muted and modulated distortion, searing high-pitch noise and flanged semi-buried vocals. Modern Predator differs by making great use of rhythmic revving distortion and loosely looped scrap metal recordings, and again with the intense vocals which are flange treated beyond recognition. Fantastic stuff. The quite short piece Transgression II features greater tonal breath by dialling down on the higher pitched elements, and features a deeply echoed metallic soundscape. For the final track Definition of Abuse it is introduced with a TV talk show interview, and when the track gets going it is perhaps the album standout, with slow laboured bass pulse, fluttering mid-toned noise and treated vocals floating above. In a word, excellent.

Clearly Keepsakes is both a shorter and more fiercely direct album than Vietnamization. While there may less immediately obvious thematic fodder than Vietnamization (i.e. extensive documentary samples), the short vocals snippets and track titles provide clear indicators of thematic preoccupations.  Limited to a mere 100 copies, this is perhaps more a byproduct of the work required to construct the packaging, but musically speaking Keepsakes certainly warrants a bigger edition.

Blood Rhythms – Civil War

Blood Rhythms – Civil War LP No Part Of It 2019

The Blood Rhythms project is primarily helmed by Arvo Zylo who also employs the collective inputs of a raft of other musicians. This collaborative process has led to a broadly power electronics defined expression, but which also flirts with varied experimental elements and musically tinged post-industrial sounds.

The first thing of note about Civil War is the packaging, with the beautifully designed, high gloss gate-fold cover and large 11” sized 16-page art booklet, also printed on weighty high gloss stock and containing a selection of darkly abstracted images. For the sonic side of proceedings (En) Closure (Heart’s On Fire) kicks off the album, and based on the layered atonal horn blasts it is immediately clear that Civil War is far from a ‘business as usual’ power electronics album. Embodying an abstracted dark experimental jazz-noir mood in the first section, by track’s end the jumbled vocals and scratching textures have gradually built into a heady noise piece. Onism (Sick Skin) follows and is very much an exercise in endurance given its high-pitched needling textures which are sustained throughout. With its raw unhinged vocals and overblown noise approach, as a comparison it reminds of some of the nastiest and rawest material to come from the Filth & Violence label in recent times. Locked Away provides some welcomed respite being far moodier with slow crumbling drones and muted melodies. Yet the elevating distortion, driving mechanical whine and slow drawled vocals places the track squarely within post-industrial spheres. Paris Window is the most atmospheric track on offer with sampled film-noir melody and windswept melodious drones, yet a fleeting vein of muted noise is also noted. The Face is perhaps the most song-oriented track of the album, where its digital squelching loop is reminiscent of late era Whitehouse, while the slow drawled/yelled vocals completely sets it apart. Mid track it launches into an atonal jazz saxophone freak-out (where the shrill layering verges on Penderecki style strings), before diverging off into a trial percussive rhythm and noise section. The album is rounded out with Alchemy & Grief (Part I & II). Part I features blown out noise, radio chatter, creaking junk metal and ritual styled gongs. On the other hand Part II is a concluding highlight featuring a sluggish pounding bass pulse, slow panning saxophone melody and roughly bellowed vocals, while detailed noise and general backing clatter fleshes out the throbbing post-industrial sound.

Far from being a power electronics ‘genre’ piece, this is a wildly varied and creative release, where Civil War manages to continually surprise despite its relatively short overall run time. If it is not already apparent, Civil War is a perfect album for those craving sonic diversity well beyond the expected norms of a more typical ‘power electronics’ offering.

Graustich – See You When You Get There

Graustich – See You When You Get There MC Cloister Recordings 2019

After 2018’s excellent Morality Ends album (reviewed here), Graustich return with a single instrumental track, issued on a home dubbed, single-sided cassette.

Clocking in at over 15 minutes, the approach follows the sound of the earlier album, which is an exercise in sustained industrial-noise, and in essence could have been lifted from the same recording session. Over its duration the multilayered deep shuddering distortion and bass addled textures give the impression of idling of factory machinery, with the overall sonics treated to have a raw and roughly blown out sound. Grim, crushing and laborious in tone and atmosphere, the noise-industrial atmospheres grind forwards incessantly, where total submission is the only effective choice (although in the later sections the oscillating tones increase in urgency, thus providing some variation).

A simple j-card design rounds out the presentation, while the project name has been carved into the tape with a blade, which when combined with the oppressive sonics all amounts to a solid underground obscurity.