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.

 

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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.

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 MC Cloister Recordings 2019

With the typical music covered within Noise Receptor Journal, it involves spending large blocks of time listening to aggressive and predominantly dissonant music, which consequently results in a certain degree of desensitisation seeping in. It then takes something at the complete opposite end of the sonic spectrum to cut through such malaise and to re-calibrate one’s ears and reinvigorate one’s curiosity about new musical discoveries. This is one such release which immediately stuck out for reasons of lush musicality and has remained on repeat listens for weeks now. While not having heard of this project before, this is the debut release from this Swedish trio.

To comment on first impressions, the cover image is not immediately evident of musical style. But if I were to hazard a guess on image alone, I would likely have picked this to be a neo-folk, neo-classical or perhaps dark-ambient aligned release – but in the end this turned out to be completely wrong. Musically speaking, this is instrumental synthesizer-based music, where emotive non-lexical female vocals are sporadically used for added melody and emotion. Not being overly dark or heavy, the pervading atmosphere is heavily cinematic with an air of bitter-sweet melancholy. At time there is a perhaps a post-rock sensibility in the elevating style of musical composition, but instrumentally there are not guitars in sight, rather it is lush, swelling orchestral synth melodies, coupled with a hand pump organ and the aforementioned non-lyrical female vocals. Through its twelve relatively compact and individual mood or ‘scene’ based tracks, there is a real sense of listening to a movie soundtrack. Interestingly this initial impression was then duly confirmed by the promo blurb which clarified: ‘Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1, is the imagined soundtrack to the book Girlfriend in a Coma by Canadian author Douglas Copeland’, so is illustrative of how successful the project’s aim has been to write music for a non-existent film.

Being limited to a physical edition of 100 pro-duplicated tape and fold out j-card, Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 is a musically melodic and emotively melancholic release which warrants due attention.

Ochu – Unproduktiw

Ochu – Unproduktiw LP Verlautbarung 2018

Ochu is the solo project of Swede Love Rosenström, and while he has been recording as Ochu since the early 2000’s I am only familiar with recent output (although I then have a vague appreciation that his current material has elevated experimentation and dialled down slightly on a harsher noise and heavier industrial aesthetic).

With the current approach based on meticulous layering and blending of textural sonic detail, Ochu’s material in highly animated and sonically nuanced. Likewise, by avoiding any semblance of stuffy academic experimental music, there is clear force and intent at play where the results are engaging and above all vital. Much of the assembled sonic content appears to have been generated from field recording or contact mic based recording sessions, but those inputs have been further manipulated and abstracted to achieve textural density and complexity. The opening track Struisvogelpolitiek is a great example of this, with tonally load creaking wood and metal, where the ‘micro-tonal’ recordings have been elevated to a loud and overblown tone which bridges the organic and the mechanical. Humos De Existencia Estática is a slow burn of a composition, where a jagged yet muted loop is overtaken by an invasive and incessant drone which fractures and multiplies in intensity, while the other rough echoed loops are used for vague ‘train carriage on tracks’ rhythmic effect.

Förnuftsflimmer (Partiellt Anfall) opens Side B are draws out a minimalist ritualised pulse which is blended with a series of forceful mechanical drones, while further micro-tonal textures are elevated to the forefront of the mix. Contra-tasking functions as a short interlude of a fractured grinding loop, which is followed by the lengthy track Segments of Destination concludes the album. Commencing with a spacious mix and again with a focus on micro-sonic detailing (i.e. rocks, wood, metal), the various elements amalgamate into loosely elevating loops, as a deep, muted bass rumble elevates with storm-front intensity. Yet clear restraint is still employed, as rather than building the track an overblown climax, the storm-front passes by and gradually recedes into concluding oblivion.

In both the sound, style and graphic presentation Unproduktiw clearly side stepped any of the typical clichés which could be levelled at the post-industrial underground, and is an album of passion and dedication to a personal sonic craft. Clearly bridging the gap between musique concrete experimentation and roughly hewn post-industrial soundscapes, Unproduktiw is a clever and expertly executed release. Recommended.

156 – Memento Mori

156 – Memento Mori 10”EP Fear of Hate and Fear 2016

Although 156 are a project I have little awareness of, Adel Souto appears to be main member and key contributor to the project. With a handful of releases issues since 2012, this EP is one of the more recent offerings. While I am not sure how this compares to other releases, on Memento Mori all tracks have been composed and recorded using only human bones as percussive or wind instruments (i.e thigh bone trumpet). Thus taking ques from one of the earliest ritual industrial pioneers Zero Kama (and more broadly Nekrophile Rekords), there is a deftly archaic and moody in feel and atmosphere to Memento Mori. However such a contextual reference point is more than a mere compassion, given that one of the tracks (Starlit Mire) is noted to be a cover of a Zero Kama track from The Secret Eye Of L.A.Y.L.A.H. 

As for the resultant sonics, the material is relatively simple and straight forward in execution, including minimalist percussive thrum, micro-tonal scraping textures and wailing atonal bone trumpet notes. Yet clearly the source material has been subject to studio treatment in the form of manipulating the recordings into series of structural loops and more widescreen soundscape drones. With nine tracks in all, each is a relatively short exploration of its tone and mood (with tracks ranging from one to five minutes each), with some being meditative and ritualistic, while others are heavily percussive driven. Rather intriguingly, the vinyl has been cut at 45rpm, with the intent that it can also be purposely played at 33rpm to create a slower elongated experience of the offered tracks.

For the physical manifestation, the music has been pressed into a hefty slab of bone coloured vinyl. The printed cover is then noted to feature a colour scheme which gives a further nod to Zero Kama, given it replicates the colours of The Goatherd And The Beast 10”EP. Archaic and obscure in the best way possible, Memento Mori is very much worthy of investigation.

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.

Various Artists – Troum Transformation Tapes: The 20th Anniversary Celebration (1997-2017)

Various Artists – Troum Transformation Tapes: The 20th Anniversary Celebration (1997-2017) 2xCD Transgredient Records 2018

The idea behind this compilation was to gather like-minded artists to help celebrate 20 years of Troum. But rather than being a ‘mere’ remix of existing Troum tracks, contributor were invited to do whatever they like – be it covering, reinterpreting or reprocessing existing Troum sounds. So, while perhaps my first expectations were for a double CD of predominantly drone related material (and while drone does form a backbone of sorts), there is also a rather wide variety of diverse and quite surprising results found on this set. To then speak of contributing artists, this is a stellar line up, including (in alphabetical order): Allseits, Bad Sector, Cisfinitum, Contrstate, Dual, Inade, Marrow C, Martin Bates, Moljebka Pvlse, [Multer], Nadja, O16 vs. Myrrman, QST, Raison D’etre, Reutoff, Tarkatak, Ure Thrall, Vance Orchestra & V.O.S. Thus, with the sheer number or artists on this compilation, it is perhaps more useful to highlight some of the most interesting and divergent pieces on offer, rather than provide a track of track review of all contributions.

Allseits’ track Times functions as an effective warm up for the first disc of the compilation, which features a widescreen, sub-orchestral droning ambience. But things then quickly shift sideways on Contrastate’s track The Silent Fish, which features the distinctive shimmering abstract guitars and post-industrial sounds, while the poetic and impassioned spoken vocals are a trademark element (yet overall the track and lyrical component is far too short). With reference to the contributions from the rather well known Inade and raison d’etre, both tracks are good if not perhaps expected is style and sound (i.e. Inade = archaic cosmic toned ambience and raison d’etre = sacral meditative framed ambience), so functionally do not warrant further detailed analysis here. However, the previously unknown to me Tarkatak delivers an excellent minimalist track of low bass rumble, sparse ritual percussions and ethereal chanted vocals. Nadja also impress with Mirrored In You, a tracking a cyclic loops which builds to quite forceful intensity over its ten-minute span. [Multer] closes the first disc with a subtle and contemplative 15-minute windswept composition of muted sub-orchestral drones and subtle mechanised rhythmic loops for great effect.

Moving on to the second disc, Kapotte Muziek opens with a most surprisingly unexpected swaggering and snappy electronica beat driven track, which gives way to Ure Thrall’s slow morphing, moody and contemplative drone-scape with what sounds to be abstracted shimmer guitars. Equally, the mid paced driving beat driver affair of O16 vs. Myrrman channels a dark underground vein of dance oriented vein, while Dual also deviates from expectation with their low-key piece of sweeping melancholic electronica. Although perhaps within an expected frame of reference, Bad Sector do not disappoint with their technological toned power drones and sub-orchestral melodies, while Ruutoff also excels with their blend of rhythmic loops, throbbing driving beat and minor keys floating melodies. Impressive stuff. Moljebka Pvlse then closes out the second disc and the overall compilation with a minimalist and contemplative forlorn drone work.

Apart from the top notch sonics spread across the two discs, packaging wise, it is presented in 6 panel digi-pack sleeve (complete with jewel-case tray holders for CD which gives a nice solid feel), along with a 16 page booklet with liners notes. All in all a quite impressive set and worthy celebration of Troum’s 20th anniversary.