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.

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Pterygium – Concealing The Past

Pterygium – Concealing The Past CD Tesco Organisation 2018

The relatively new Australian project Pterygium have returned with their second full length album Concealing The Past, which follows the 2017 debut Grip (issued on a small cassette run on Algebra Of Need and reviewed here). Also of note, Pteryrium had a track on Tesco Organisation’s 2017 Projekt Neue Ordnung II 4xLP boxset, where Tesco has now subsequently issued this new and admittedly excellent sophomore album.

In noting the dual sonic approach of Grip, which blended minimalistic melodic tones with sharper distortion squalls, that approach has been both repeated and further honed here where the tonal range has been further refined and sonic depth amplified. As an album Concealing The Past is structured around nine distinct and individual pieces of between three and seven minutes each, which on the most part follow an understated melodic and minor keyed compositional framework. Being effectively an instrumental album, a variety of discreet sampled ethnic/ religious framed vocals provides an ethereal touch, as does the melancholic elements (such as piano lines, neo-orchestral strings etc.), which evokes a detached yet strongly emotive resonance (such as is immaculately displayed on A Vacant Regret). Yet there is still a willingness to let loose on select with heavy menacing drones and higher-toned noise squalls such as displayed on Entry_Exitpoint which has a raw tonal sharpness which perhaps is indicative of a live in studio recording technique. A pair of late album tracks (Siphon Like Parasites & And Love Became A One Way Street) both balance on a knifes edge between the dual sonic approaches, on the one side featuring crude distortion blasts and choppy loops, which on the other are offset against bass addled drones and swelling sub-orchestral melodies.

Thematically Concealing The Past clearly fits within the broader post-industrial network, but to its credit does not sound in any way typical or derivative of a particular sub-genre. Rather, it draws extensively from various elements to create its own internalized sound and logic and is all the stronger for it, but for comparative sake the multi-faceted sound displayed by Prurient on Frozen Niagara Falls is perhaps a reasonable reference point.

Although some people continue to complain that the post-industrial music is broadly redundant for lack of new ideas and approaches, and further accuse newer projects of being mere copyists of the originators, Pterygium is the effective antithesis of that opinion. Solo member Henry Gillet clearly understands the underground scene Pterygium operates within, but armed with a wealth of musical ideas he has creates a strong and individual sound which sidesteps being in any way derivative of genre confines of noise, industrial, dark ambient and power electronics. If the current and next generation of projects can match the creativity displayed on Concealing The Past, there is still much new ground to be explored and much to look forward to and be celebrated. A resounding recommendation from these quarters.

Concrete Mascara – Decay Sequence

Concrete Mascara – Decay Sequence MC Unrest Productions 2018
Any new material from Concrete Mascara is a welcome prospect, with this EP length tape featuring six new tracks. On the last full length, Perennial Disappointment (reviewed here), the boosted mastering did not really capture the essence of Concrete Mascara’s sound but this has thankfully been reinstated here. Their trademark raw and sonically overblown distortion features heavily, hewn into rough pulsating loops and broader structural movements. The agonizingly howled vocals are also present, being partially hollowed out and flitting between being semi-buried to roared upfront.
Pleasingly, the tape contains that particular raw and ripping sound of thick chaotic distortion, where atonal and overblown synth lines are blended with higher pitched ‘whistling’ feedback textures. With an at times deep and hollowed-out aesthetic, it partially evokes a live-in-studio-type method of recording, but certainly allows for space and the separation of sonic elements within the mix. There are select moments present that are perhaps unexpectedly minimalist and restrained, which function to elevate the mood when things really let loose. Blood Discipline is one particular track which pulls back on sonic intensity in a more controlled manner, but being structured around a throbbing atonal synth line and other minimalist elements, it only functions to highlight the fierceness and aggression of other barely controlled tracks.
Limited to 123 hand-numbered copies, it has been issued on professionally duplicated tapes and features a minimalist and understated design, which gives no hint of the agonized harshness contained within.

Inflated Climax – Inflated Climax

Inflated Climax – Inflated Climax MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

Inflated Climax are a new anonymous project on Trapdoor Tapes where their self-titled tape delivers crude and lo-fi industrial noise/death industrial sounds.

This self-titled tape contains a single lengthy untitled instrumental track, which repeats on both sides. The composition has then obviously been spliced together from a series of recording sessions as the cover indicates this was recorded between 2015-2017. Overall the mood is dank and morose which is achieved through atonal, slow throbbing rhythms which are mixed with thick bass driven distortion. In one section, the slow throbbing beat rolls catatonically onwards, akin a container train lurching forwards to the end destination of an unidentified death-camp, while other segments feature stasis inducing minimal looped rhythms, or looser tonal modulations infused with soot and ash. In some way this reminds of some of the long form experimentation of Atrax Morgue, but where that project’s free form sound was often clinical and mid to higher pitch, here the sound is a deep rumbling lo-fi death industrial approach in a restrictive and suffocating way, which certainly matches the visual cues of the cover.

Obscure, crude and understated in equal measures, packaging comes in a plastic pocket with two double sided photocopy sheets with rubber fetish imagery.

Grim – Primary Pulse

Grim – Primary Pulse MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

The long standing and cult Japanese project Grim returns with a new five track recording (from 2017), issued via Trapdoor Tapes. Contextually speaking Grim has always had a left of centre approach to their power electronics/industrial noise material, with the often-weird juxtaposing elements thrown in for good measure, which is certainly continued and exemplified on Primary Pulse.

Hermit opens the tape with loose windswept noise modulations blended with manipulated voices, before Volcano Flower kicks in, framed around a series of burrowing pulsing tones which coagulate into a driving rhythmic structure coupled with distorted agonised vocals, which is a clear standout track and very much in a distinctive Grim style. The third track for Side A is Assassin’s Room, which is categorised by a wonky and off-kilter looped rhythm, while the vocals are of a garbled spoken type, prior to a classical music organ motif and stoic industrial pulse features in the final moments. Side B features another standout piece of Grim weirdness, with Melting Man featuring a strong throbbing element, central sub-orchestral melody and wailing chants of sole project member Jan Konagaya, with the atmosphere becoming progressively more unhinged as it progresses. G.T.R. concludes the tape with a blend of elements including an Asiatic toned loop, rolling industrial drums, sweeping abstracted guitar, squalling noise etc., yet never succumbs to sounding like an industrial band.

Although not overly long, Primary Pulse is an absolutely great underground industrial tape and again exemplifies a sound wholly unique to GRIM. Trademark blown out photocopied artwork courtesy of Trapdoor Tapes rounds out the perfectly suited lofi presentation.

Announcement: Spectrum Compendium book cover released!! 

I am extremely proud to reveal the finalised cover of the Spectrum Compendium book!

After a couple of design options, in the end it was decide to go with a cover design both keeps and builds upon the feel and aesthetic of the original Spectrum Magazines, which to my mind has come out as a very strong and striking visual.

The book layout is still being worked on by the publisher, but evidently I will have a copy to proof and approve this month (October, 2018).

More details on publication date will be announced later when known but getting very close now!!!

Straight Panic – CYCLE

Straight Panic – CYCLE LP Breathing Problems Productions 2018

As a musical style power electronics music is routinely used as a platform to explore a range of transgressive subject matter or as a vehicle for personal obsessions, but on less frequent occasions for specifically politicized agendas and direct societal critiques. In this context Straight Panic is the solo project of Thomas Boettner, and by name alone should provide an immediate indication of thematic intent, but if not, the self-described ‘queer power electronics’ leaves no room for any confusion. So, although other post-industrial projects such as Death in June, Coil, Richard Ramirez/Black Leather Jesus and Hirsute Pursuit have included a gay perspective, in the case of Straight Panic Thomas has drawn upon his own observations and experiences and contextualized them into a direct criticism of religious and societal conservatism.

On the release front, Straight Panic has issued a substantial volume of material since 2014 (in excess of 30 releases and counting) which has functioned to garner increasing interest in the project. Yet from my own perspective I had not previously checked out the project before due to the ‘where do I start?’ factor. So, given that CYCLE is the first album I have become acquainted with, perhaps tellingly of its intended status and standing within the project’s discography it is the first release to be issued on vinyl. Also, on the thematic front CYCLE differs slightly as it is based on Dennis Cooper’s George Miles Cycle, which was a series of five semi-autobiographical novels spanning 1989-2000.

Noting that CYCLE features a mere four tracks spanning 32 minutes, it is a short and to the point album, where the flow of the album is book-ended by two 10-minute tracks with two six minutes tracks sitting in the middle. Teenage Wasteland kicks things off where frantic static and noise shards slashes across an underpinning maudlin organ synth drone, while the rabidly strained vocals bleed and coagulate with the harsher sonic elements. 1988 follows with a similar template of the merging the melodious and the harsh, where the looped melody is all but buried by tracks end. Third track Haunted House plays out as a more direct, harsh and choppy noise workout, but remains mid-paced in flow while an underpinning bass throb retains an industrial edge, before momentarily exploding late track with a frenetic vocal barrage. The final of four tracks Black merges with black, black merges with black is the standout piece which charts a knifes edge of bulldozing distortion and moody synths, which cyclically elevates over its extensive run-time. In the concluding moments the synths fall away leaving a monumental industrial-noise rumble, as if to represent the final death throes of the album.

Stylistically, CYCLE works best with its merging of cascading distortion with minor keyed synths, and particularly on the first and last pieces, where this dual sonic focus of distortion and dour melody could be compared to modern era Prurient. Likewise, by briefly dipping into the extensive back catalogue to get a better appreciation of context, it is clear that CYCLE is by far the most composed and refined release from Straight Panic to date. However, with the large volume of releases which have been issued in relatively quick succession, there is the potential for CYCLE to be overlooked, which would be a clear mistake given how strong and sonically honed this is. Presentation wise the black and white collage of the cover, as well as the explicit art and text within the separate 16 page ‘zine specifically reflects the Dennis Cooper’s source inspiration and fits perfectly with overall ‘angst malaise’ infused mood. A release worthy of investigation.