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!!!

Advertisements

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.

Zos Kia – 23

Zos Kia – 23 CD Infinite Fog 2017

For background context Zos Kia was the primary 1980’s musical vehicle of John Gosling and holds a special place within the early development phase of industrial music. This is predominantly due to their only official album Transparent, issued on cassette in 1984 via the cult label Nekrophile Rekords, and while that album was labeled as a split/collaboration with Coil, the group membership at the time were effectively interchangeable between the two. As for musical content Transparent, included a live recording of Zos Kia on Side A, being a performance made at the Berlin Atonal festival from 1983, while Side B contained a series of tracks credited to Coil/Zos Kia. In an overarching sense Transparent features early proto ritual-industrial, where tonal noise shards slash across rumbling guitar feedback and underscored with clanging metallic ritualized percussion, sampled dialogue and wailing/ screeched evocation-based vocals. But apart from this lone release, Zos Kia also issued two EP’s in the mid 1980’s, where 23 functions to collect together those EP’s and archive them with a large volume of Zos Kia recordings made over the years, with the addition of a couple of extracts from the Transparent album itself.

Having not delved into Zos Kia recordings outside of Transparent, I was immediately surprised by how different the material in 23 is in sound and execution, where the opening track Black Action has a guitar-based band groove and swagger, with spoken vocals and is unlike anything I would have ever expected from the group. The following track Be Like Me equally surprises when the solo piano format breaks out into an almost electro-funk number of constant kick drum, driving bass and central piano riff and swirling guitar line. It is only when 10 Miles High arrives that the attitude and sonic dissonance of earlier material makes an appearance, and the sinister soundscape throb of Rape calls to mind a hazy drugged sound that Coil would hone in later years, while An Absolute manages to meld the earlier sound of the project but within a ridged guitar/ programmed drum format. As for the second electro-funk excusion on Muggy The Staff, to my ear at least is an entirely redundant attempt at a commercial sound, and has me again scratching my head that this is actually the same band as featured on Transparent. As for the last quarter of CD1, this includes a number of remixes of earlier featured tracks, but which really do not warrant further comment.

CD2 opens with Ake, a squalling feedback and gabled voice-based track, and quickly follows with a doomy synth version of An Absolute, which deviates enough from the original to be individually interesting. The flowing tryptic of the lengthy unreleased tracks from 1982, including Era Vulgaris A1, Era Vulgaris A3 and Harry Wouldn’t Like It, sound to be live recordings or rehearsals and sonically reflects the chaotic ritualized dissonance of the Transparent recordings. In then moving well into the run order of the second disc, it features a short 1984 live recording of Be Like Me, as well as three tracks from the Transparent album (two tracks Baptism of Fire and Poisons from the 1983 Berlin Atonal show, as well as the lengthy tensile guitar feedback soundscape Sewn Open). The archive set is then rounded out with two unreleased tracks, including Sways Backwards from 2006 and Sleazy Said from 2000 and with their respective throbbing/ stilted programming and pulsing choral soundscape gives a clear nod to the surreal atmospheres of late area Coil. In fact, Sleazy Said is noted to be a musical collaboration between John Gosling and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and for me are perhaps the best and most interesting compositions of the entire two CD set.

Noting that I have never been a Zos Kia obsessive, which then means that while 23 is an interesting collection, from this perspective it is personally a non-essential release, particularly due to various tracks falling well outside of what I would ever bracket under an industrial/ post-industrial banner. Yet for others who Zos Kia is a pivotal artist of influence, this extensive double CD set will be of absolutely intrigue to the early industrial (and beyond) experimentations of John Gosling. A digi-book sleeve and detailed liners notes in an eight-page booklet rounds out a slick presentation.

Presidiomodelo ‎– Внутренняя Империя

Presidiomodelo Внутренняя Империя MC NKT 2018

Since 2016 the UK based NKT label has been the outlet for a small clutch of cassette releases from the aligned project Nokuit, where I personally became aware of both label and project via a 2017 release (reviewed here). Now the label has branched out to issue a new project Presidiomodelo which is a Siberian ritual ambient trio where the title of the tape Внутренняя Империя is then noted to translate to “Inner Empire”.

Being ancient and archaic in expression and execution, the single composition spans around 31 minutes of music in total, which is split across the two sides of the tape. Covering a wide variety of interlinked sonic moods and themes, the patter of rain provides a naturalistic setting from the outset, before droning mid-toned synths sweep into sonic frame, undercut with low key metallic scraping textures and other field recording elements, before settling down into a muted looped industrial rumble. Soon enough things evolve again with deep percussive thuds, ritual signing bowls, metallic chimes and atonal wailing of woodwind instruments, while heavily echoed treated vocals evoke a choir like effect and offset with more naturalistic elements grounds the mood in an earthbound perspective. While the mid-section it is categorized by animated and forceful cyclic drones, just a quickly the tone shifts off into varied segments of: fast paced ritual percussion; minimalist ritual chimes; sparse woodwind instrumentation; widescreen droning synths; churning bass toned thrum; while the pattering rain returns at the very end to close the loop.

On more than a few occasions I was reminded of the obscure French project Chöd and given the ritual ambient context of this release it is perhaps inevitable that a comparison to the Aural Hypnox Collective could also be made. Yet these comparisons should be read as a mark of quality, as this in no way feels to be copyist or derivative, given its own distinct compositional approach, and with at times a more muted industrial churn. Fold out multi-panel J-card with suitable archaic and ritualistic imagery rounds out the physical presentation, with a digital download also provided for good measure.

Coil Presents Black Light District ‎– A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room

Coil Presents Black Light District A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room CD Infinite Fog 2018

Originally issued on CD and vinyl in 1996, a few unofficial versions have been issued over the years, with this new version containing original tracks and an additional two bonus tracks for good measure. But personally speaking while I more than familiar with Coil, at the same time I am far from an obsessive Coil fan, which means that I have dipped in and out of their catalogue over the years, but have not heard this particular release before now. However, of note I am aware that this album marked an important transitional period for the group, where their working methods moved towards involving new external collaborators, with this album including inputs of Drew McDowall and Danny Hyde (with a collection of others). It also seems there is an ongoing spat about the validity of this version, particularly in light of the untimely deaths of John Balance and Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and the apparent lack of clarity around who officially owns and can administer the ongoing music rights (note: this release has been sanctioned by Danny Hyde).

But to speak specifically of the music, as an album A Thousand Lights In A Darkened Room can be described as being within an experimental ambient style, where one constant Coil thematic hallmark is present, being that particular wonky, surrealist and disorientating edge which shadows the majority of sonic proceedings. It is perhaps these slightly more playfully weird sonic elements which do not always gel with me, and explains why I am not a Coil obsessive, but equally, it is this quite unique sonic hallmark that Coil retained over their varied output that appeals to many.

The short Unprepared Piano opens the album, which to my ear is an awkwardly jarring track and something akin to abstract jazz piano or a cat tapdancing on a piano. This is followed by the wonky and rhythmically throbbing track Red Skeletons, but it too is overtly distracted by the inclusion telephone conversation snippets. Yet the album really hits its stride on track three, which is the lengthy ten-minute Die Wölfe Kommen Zurück, which is a particular standout with its warm enveloping and intertwining drones and cyclic factory-esque rhythmic loops. Refusal Of Leave To Land is also noteworthy for its time shifting aquatic churn, which builds across its musical span and includes a short emotive vocal croon late track. After a further run of slithering and partly rhythmic experimental soundscape styled tracks, this changes with late album track Blue Rats which stands out based on its direct minimalist programmed song focused structure and whispered/ sung vocal line. Likewise, one of the bonus tracks is Lost Rivers of London (incorrectly listed on the cover as London’s Lost Rivers), is a moody song-based format with low croon and spoken vocals of John which foreshadowed the tone Coil would later explore on Musick To Play In The Dark 1 & 2 and Astral Disaster, and here is darkly moody and contains a creepy unnerving melancholia in a way only Coil can evoke.

Despite my own reservations of the more playful and purposefully weird aspects of this album (and Coil’s sound overall), equally those elements will specifically attract Coil devotes, so no doubt you will already know if this is a Coil reissue for you. A four-panel digi-pack with original artwork and 4 panel insert with new liner notes rounds out the presentation.

It Only Gets Worse ‎– Fireplace Road

It Only Gets Worse Fireplace Road MC Cloister Recordings/ Black Horizons US 2018

When I was first heard about this project I was unaware that it is another musical outlet for Maurice De Jong, he of the more widely recognized projects Gnaw Their Tongues and Aderlating. For this project Maurice has provided the music and has teamed up with American Matt Finney to provide lyrics and vocals, and based on the project name I perhaps excepted this would be death industrial type music, however that assumption was completely wrong. What is featured is a bit of an odd blend of post-rock musically sensibilities, ambient soundscapes and late 1990’s/ early 2000’s beat drive electronica.

On the opening untitled track a mellow post-rock mood comes through strongly, which is framed around piano and synths rather than guitars, while the following track Jackson dives headlong into a piece of mid paced kit drumming, programmed beats and squelching bass rhythm, with the guitars again being an understated element. In forging further variation, a mood of uplifting melancholy permeates the upbeat Lee, which is mostly derived from the layered shimmering synths. However to speak of less successful moments Painting On Glass contains fractured programmed elements which jar against the mood of preceding tracks. Beyond the music, the vocals on various tracks are spoken in a heavily inflected southern American drawl, which are musings on life, tragedy and loss, but handled in a poetically oblique and non-direct style.

Six tracks feature on the pro-duplicated tape, with around a total of around 24 minutes minutes of material, and while the end result caught me by surprise, it is an enjoyable tape all the same. So, if you are at all curious leave your expectations at the door as this is nothing like Maurice’s usual output, where perhaps the closest comparison is the less known side project Seirom which in the past has delivered some beautiful cinematic quality, droning instrumental post-rock/ shoegaze styled soundscapes.

Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution

Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution LP Cloister Recordings / Black Horizons 2018

Evidently Leila Abdul-Rauf is active in a number of other projects, including some underground metal bands, but as I am not familiar with any of those my only reference point is with her last album Insomnia from 2015 (reviewed here). In building upon on the earlier sonic template, Leila’s new album Diminution can be considered through the definition of its title which amounts to: “the act, process, or an instance of becoming gradually less”. In this context, the dusky film noir atmospheres established on Insomnia have been further distilled down to a core, slighted abstracted emotional essence, although conversely a lengthier and at times song-tinged format has been employed.

On the opening title track a sparse piano motif sits in the foreground, while a lone haunting trumpet plays off in the foggy distance, and thus with the evoked mood of late hours melancholia, this remains as the constant tone throughout the balance of the album. Half of the eight album tracks include vocals courtesy of Leila, but these remain understated and effectively float through the ether as another haunting textural element, and on occasion layered and multi-tracked for subtle choral effect. With the combination of vocals and music has an ethereal dreamlike quality, but always of a darker emotive hue rather than anything resembling a light or whimsical tone. Likewise the feel of abandoned and desolate nighttime urban streets remains an atmospheric constant (as represented by dour minor keyed synth washes) which blends perfectly with late-night jazz tone (derived from the sporadic lone trumpet playing), to create a deft film noir/ late night ‘Lynchian’ vibe. Late album track Hindsight deviates ever so slightly, through the introduction of a sparse and understated picked acoustic guitar, while final album track Light Rising concludes as a highlight in its convergence of elements described above, but delivered in a slightly more urgent musical framework.

While the artwork in the form of an original painting by Matthew Jaffe would perhaps tend to suggest a more typical dark ambient album, this is far from the reality of what is musically presented, which is hauntingly eloquent in it chosen musical expression, where this album has been the perfect soundtrack to cold autumn nights (being the current Australian season in which the album is being reviewed). In taking the atmospheric mood of Insomnia and building upon it, Diminution stands above as a more impressive and emotionally impacting album. With the vinyl version being jointly issued by Cloister Recordings and Black Horizons, should CD be the preferred format, that is being handled by Malignant Records.