Schloss Tegal – Psychometry

Schloss Tegal – Psychometry DLP La Esencia Records 2019

Thirteen long years have transpired since the last Schloss Tegal album, so you could have been forgiven for thinking a new album was an impossibility – yet here it is. Granted there was a two track 7” ep Procession Of The Dead (Undead) released in 2017, but that release did not include new music, rather featured a remix of an old track and another live recording from 2008.

Based on first impressions of Psychometry, the stunning sleeve design of the gatefold vinyl with spot varnished geometric patterns needs to be acknowledged. In my estimation this visual presentation does absolute justice the album’s conceptual themes, which themselves hark back to 1999 Black Static Transmission. Although the artwork of that earlier album let it down somewhat in term of feeling slightly amateurish in early computer-based design. Sonically speaking, Psychometry also feels to have clear linage to Black Static Transmission rather than the direct sound employed on 2006’s album The Myth Of Meat (which is explained by its source material having been drawn from sounds recorded in a working abattoir). But apart from focusing on sonic differences, Psychometry still embodies a particular sound established and easily recognized as that of Schloss Tegal. This means it is too sonically forceful to be described as dark ambient, but equally is not abrasive enough to become noise/industrial.

From the outset the album delivers grim maelstrom drones blend with dour muted melodies, while other erupting fissure of sounds seem to articulate the tearing at the hidden fabric of one sub-conscious (refer to Pyschpompus and Incorporeal Being as prime examples). The Invalid Earth is an early standout with its throbbing ritual pulse, swirling drones and disembodied radio chatter. Krononaut (Time Zero) articulates further churning emanations from the void, complete with prominent EVP voices, and based on their scratchy semi-unintelligible it gives off an unnerving and eerie effect (EVP recordings appear on a number of tracks throughout). Black Vessel then delivers a foreboding tumult of layered electronics and is one of the more direct and heavy tracks on display. Moving towards the end of the album Body Farm delivers a tensile, and shrilly cinematic composition, but which is far too short in run time. As for the concluding track We All Become Gods blends deep cinematic tinged textures with widescreen drones and (again) with an unnerving disembodied voice.

Over their discography Schloss Tegal have excelled at sonically articulating a psychic space which blends the real and perceivable with an ‘unknowable otherness’ of inter-dimensional states. Without question Psychometry is another excellent example of this approach. In a general sense this feel of being a collection of individual and separate tracks rather than the sprawling and interlinking movements on Black Static Transmission. But this is only a compositional observation and not in any way a criticism. Not to call Psychometry a ‘return to form’, as that would allude to some sort of prior drop in quality of output, rather Psychometry is a welcomed and long-awaited continuation of unique sound and approach that Schloss Tegal have always displayed. Recommended and absolutely worthy of investment in its stunning physical edition.

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Blitzkrieg Baby ‎– Homo Sapiens Parasitus

Blitzkrieg Baby Homo Sapiens Parasitus LP Neuropa Records 2019

Strictly speaking Kim Sølve’s Blitzkrieg Baby project is quite incongruent to the typical coverage of Noise Receptor Journal. Yet there is something quite special in the cynical black humor and heavily sarcastic lyrics wrapped up in a diverse song-based approach, spanning elements of cinematic/orchestral dark ambient, martial industrial, and more streamlined song-based industrial. In fact, the Looney Tunes inspired cover artwork ‎– which strongly speaks to my own childhood ‎– is an excellent visual presentation of this thematic and stylistic approach (the artwork is by Trine + Kim Design Studios, which is the graphic design firm Kim runs with his partner and showcases their talents as graphic designers). Likewise, the self-described tag of ‘Norwegian Dystopian Electronic Music’ further emphasizes the approach.

Album opener Hip Hip Hooray displays the cynical and darkly playful nature of the album, with a track of mid-paced bass guitar-driven swagger, while the spoken vocals break out into a chorus chant of the track’s title. After a short instrumental interlude with an industrial/orchestral dark ambient track (Apocalypse To Go), comes Boys Will be Boys, which is a perfect example fusing martial beats, orchestral synths, and dark pop-focused chorus line hooks, with the end result being swaggering rather than martially stilted. The pairing of tracks like The March of Human Progress I & II bring a more serious tone, which is mostly due to the instrumental format, thereby the cynical element brought about by the vocals is absent. On the musical front it strongly reminds me of the martial ambient industrial sound of Toroidh, given the slow dark ambient throb, sub-orchestral elements, and marching music samples. Perhaps for my own listening preferences Praise The Pig comes off as the only misstep due to the prominent chugging guitar riff (but that says more about my personal aversion to guitar-based industrial). Yet despite this criticism, the tolling church bells and chanted male vocals which appear late in the track effectively win me over. Moving towards the album’s end, the dour yet playful nature of the album is again in full flight on Pre-Cum Of The Apocalypse, with a slow brooding dark ambient/martial industrial track, where the lone piano line rings out with reverb, while the vocals are sung choir style which belies their cynical slant. The album closer, Homo Sapiens Parasitus & the Countdown to the Apocalypse is an industrial pop stormer of a composition, driving ever forwards with stoic rolling beats and vocals ranging from whispered to full rousing male choirs.

Despite its vein of cynical black humor on the thematic and lyrical front, the music itself is treated with utmost seriousness, and done exceedingly well, avoiding any notion of being ‘cheesy’ in the end result. This is no mean feat, given the use of any level of ‘humor’ in post-industrial music usually predicts my total uninterest. Wildly divergent – yet recommended at the same time.

 

BJNilsen ‎– Focus Intensity Power / Tape Dekay ‎– Decadimento Del Nastro – Decadenza Di Tutto

BJNilsen Focus Intensity Power LP Moving Furniture Records 2018

Tape Dekay Decadimento Del Nastro – Decadenza Di Tutto CD Old Captain/Narcolepsia 2019

From his first dark ambient project Morthound which had releases on Cold Meat Industry during the early 1990s, BJNilsen moved over to the Hazard moniker in the late 1990s, and from around 2004 onwards opted to record under his own name. Generally speaking, over the last 15 years BJ’s approach has been characterized by an experimental approach to sonically processing various natural and urban-based field recordings. However with Focus Intensity Power being the solo new album, it marks a decided shift away from the use of field recordings as it is a purely studio-based album, which according to the promo notes provides: ‘documents of improvised sessions using modular synthesizers, tone generators and test and measurement instruments’. Sonically this album has greater alignment with early Hazard albums than recent solo output and is certainly welcomed from these quarters. The 15-minute album opener Beam Finder is an elongated exploration of minimalist unceasing mid to lower range bass tones, coupled with micro-tonal static and machine idling drones which appear late in the track. This approach continues with The Sound Of Two Hands, although this is slightly more forceful and varied with the introduction of a ‘ticking clock’ element and other minimalist scattered electronics. The relatively short Flattened Space embodies a muted sub-orchestral tone blended with mechanical menace, while Table of Hours fits cleanly within a dark ambient drone frame of reference. The final of the five tracks, The Limits of Function, starts slow but gradually elevates with layered machine drones, and the second half of the track is driven forwards by a central rhythmic loop. In essence Focus Intensity Power is an effective celebration of sustained tonal atmospheres, which amounts to evocative sounds in their purest form. Sublime.

Moving on to the review of Tape Dekay, this is not a new project but a quite obscure side project of BJNilsen. In fact, before this debut CD only two tracks were previously issued from the project on two separate compilation releases dating from 1999 and 2008. Given that in recent decades BJ has mostly worked under his own name with manipulated field recordings/electroacoustic material, for Tape Dekay the sleeves have been rolled up to tackle the more direct fields of noise. But as might be expected with someone with such refined experimental compositional skills, these have been employed here to generate a clean and loud production. While ‘noise’ is the name of the game, it is also not ‘harsh noise’ by any stretch; this is more of an exercise in experimental noise and an exploration in tone and sonic construction technique. Although select passages build to a certain noise heft, including crumbling bass, static rumble, and slashes of sound, the album is also not harsh by typical measures. Other tracks employ a vague structure of off-kilter factory rhythms, driven forwards with weighty machine-like drones and monolithic industrial loops. With melodic elements being entirely absent (except for what sounds like processed male choirs in one track), the employed tone and the separation of sonic elements function to maintain detailed interest throughout. Likewise, given the level of meticulous construction which has been employed within compositions, there is a real sense of sonic complexity spanning the seven tracks.

Both of these albums from BJ Nilsen are certainly different in approach and equally enjoyable in their own right and chosen musical spheres. But from a purely personal position, Focus Intensity Power is the album which I have kept returning to over many months.

Anakrid – Ugly/Pretty

Anakrid – Ugly/Pretty 7”ep Cipher Productions 2019

This is my first introduction to Anakrid, which is a solo project of Chris Bickel. The project then seems to have been active as far back as 1990, although the bulk of activity has been from the early 2000’s onwards. This short two track 7”ep is of an experimental abstract noise style, which primarily focuses on tone and detail than volume and harshness.

The first track Ugly is somewhat of a misnomer as the track constitutes a composition of elongated warm enveloping drones, which are tonally layered but minimalist in construction and feature a faint melodious resonance. Deep in tonal atmospherics, there is subtle complexity at play and makes for an enjoyable track, but which feels far too short in run time. In flipping over to side B, again it features a misnomer of a title. Pretty deviated stylistically by being significantly more animated with its meticulously layered approach, combining creaking metallics, cavernous tones, shrill mid-toned textures, sporadic gongs percussive like elements etc. At times reaches the shrill intensity of an orchestra string section tuning up, and in a fragmentary sense could be passed of as an atonal and abstracted contemporary orchestral track. But again the composition is far too short and it finishes just as quickly as it starts.

As alluded to above, the main criticism is the extremely brief run-time given how compositionally different but equally engaging these two tracks are. But that minor criticism can also be rectified by giving this a number of spins back to back to sate appetite. Black and white collage artwork rounds out and enjoyable, albeit short and sharp release.

Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies

Michael Idehall – Four Prophecies 4xMC Cloister Recordings 2018

Micahel Idehall is a name I have been familiar with for a number of years, but for whatever reason never got around to checking any of his material until now. But in then being introduced to his music via this release, I have been advised that this is VERY different to his usual output, which I understand may be more rhythmic based and song focused. As for Four Prophecies, it very much an exercise in endurance as the four tapes contain a long-form 45-minute composition on each side, thereby totally a whopping six hours of music. As an overarching descriptor, this can be bracketed under minimalist and industrial tinged dark ambience, where the eight tracks are massively sprawling as may be expected from the format.

Given the sheer elongated run-time, there is a certain process of shifting your mindset when approach this, and very much seeking to slow the chatter and internal dialogue of your mind so as to better succumb to the slow evolutionary flow on display. Each piece effectively inhabits is own sound palette and minimalist stylistic slant and slowly unfurls over its duration. Sonically the industrial-ambient soundscapes are darkly hued, structured around layering of muted atonal drones and grey echoed sound washes, and while being predominantly instrumental, whispered vocals, and distant chants do make sporadic appearances. Select tracks have a more pronounced rhythmic undercurrents, including low bass throbs, stilted ritualized percussion and other mechanical textures (clicking sounds, distant machine idling etc).  There is also a notable darker abstracted ritual atmosphere throughout a number of compositions, which for the sake of comparison reminds of the late era minimalism of Archon Satani.

Given the long-form run time it is perhaps an overly obvious statement that it encompasses a meditative quality. But given the catatonic evolution of each piece, once your mind is drawn in it quickly generates an impression that there is no beginning and no end – but only the ever present now – where the mind slowly floats along in the ever-flowing sonic stream. Packaging wise does the set suitable justice with four pro-printed tapes and j-cards housed in an oversized pro-printed cardboard slider box. Clearly not a release for those with a short attention span, but a rewarding one for those with patience and willingness on focus on the minuscule sonic details and gradual tonal shifts.

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.

 

Bladh / Urbaniak ‎– On The New Revelations Of Being

Bladh / Urbaniak On The New Revelations Of Being CD/DVD Infinity Land Press Ltd. 2019

Artistically speaking Martin Bladh has always blended a physical and cerebral approach to post-industrial/power electronics, which clearly deviates from the perhaps more typical bare white knuckled rage often ascribed to the genre. This CD/DVD set is a continuation of that process and is a collaboration between Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak who are both behind the Infinity Land Press publishing house, and while I am less familiar with Karolina’s artistic output, she is self described as: ‘a photographer and multimedia producer’. Regarding the collaboration Martin is credited for libretto & voice and Karolina is credited for sound, visuals & production. To provide further context to the release a passage from the promo text states: ‘On The New Revelations of Being is a multimedia work based on Antonin Artaud’s apocalyptic manifesto from 1937. It envisions the end of the world and the death of God through a series of cataclysmic occurrences of Artaudian cruelty. The piece was originally performed as a part of Artaud & Sound: To Have Done with the Judgment of God, at the Visconti Studio, London, on 15th September 2018. This final event in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of Artaud’s death, after previous events at Cabinet and Whitechapel Gallery, focused on Artaud’s experiments with sound and noise, and on contemporary responses to them. This CD/DVD set contains the full audio recording, the backdrop film and the full libretto from the performance’.

As for the media content both the CD and DVD contain the same 22-minute compositions On The New Revelation Of Being, where obviously the DVD includes accompany visual material. Sonically speaking the ‘music’ sits clearly within an experimental sphere, but one which heavily leans towards and is rooted in the darker elements of the post-industrial underground. Animated drones, scattered noise, sharp piecing tones, sparse percussion, wailing horns, atonal keys, crushing junk metal and sharply edited/panning sonic cut-ups define proceedings, where there is also a distinct use of loud and quiet passages which dovetail with the vocals. As for the predominantly spoken vocals, these are highly animated and enunciated in an occasionally theatrical way, and are distinctively those of Martin’s for anyone who has followed is primary output as part of IRM and Skin Area, while later in the piece rise to a more agonized style for which he is known.

For the visual side of things, a similar sharp editing cut-up style is evident, with a kaleidoscope of apocalyptic imagery is employed, variously including visual illustration of: the immense power of nature (from a human scale perspective), autopsy footage, sex-change medical procedures, crucifixions, the brutal survivalist instincts of the animal world etc, etc. Perhaps the suite of visuals is somewhat expected for post-industrial spheres, yet the slick, clean, rapid-fire editing elevates this far above the realm of mere shock tactics. The overall presentation and particularly the visual component very much places this in a contemporary art sphere and would not at all be out of place as a art gallery video installation. To that end, and while clearly different in its ultimate visual execution, when watching the unflinching and intensely apocalyptic visuals, I was strongly reminded of of a time when I was perhaps eleven years old when I by happenstance came across a video installation in an art gallery of one of Hermann Nitsch’s live actions (and perhaps something which had a pivotal and lasting impact on my artistic sensibilities and preferences).

Apart from the CD/ DVD, it comes with a 24 page A5 sized booklet which provides further images and full presented text to flesh out the detailed theme and context. Noting the literary and artistic slant of On The New Revelations Of Being makes this for a release which strongly appeals to my own artistic sensibilities, by now it should be clearly apparent if this is of interest to you (and very much should be if you are already a follower of Martin Bladh’s output). Limited to a mere 100 copies.