Dominion of Flesh: 5 Years of Cloister Recordings: Festival Report 2019

Full and detailed show report with photos can be located here.

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 pained 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.

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God MC Oxen 2019

With six new releases issued in 2019 alone, the determined forward march of Terror Cell Unit continues. This short 20-minute cassette features four tracks, noted to have been recorded in March, 2019, and based on the chosen cover imagery it appears the thematic focus may be Christian fanaticism and evangelical firebrand preaching. Although this cannot be confirmed as the lyrics are not included and much of the vocals are processed beyond recognition.

A Watchful Eye solidly kicks off proceedings featuring monumentally thick throbbing bass, heavily treated vocals and relatively clean mid-toned sound. The following A Different Path lives up to its title, given it veers towards a pounding death industrial structures based on a massive drubbing beat grimly smeared synth layers and the heavily processed rabid vocals sitting semi-buried at the centre of the mix. Side B brings a further two tracks where a religious focused sampled introduces His Wrath Setting Fire In The Sky, being a track of layered looped elements, where the noise wheezes, crumbles and squelches in equally measure. Calling Your Bluff finishes on a particular high note with tonal drones and loosely looped rhythms, and when the vocals appear, apart from a slight delay treatment, are fully intelligible.

Embodying a now immediately recognisable sound of Terror Cell Unit which showcases a modular synth derived and sharply incisive tone, this is another high calibre industrial strength power electronics release.

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.

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War / On The Heels Of Insignificance

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War 2xMC Slave Chandelier 2019

Heretic Grail – On The Heels Of Insignificance LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

Instruments of War constitutes my introduction to Heretic Grail, yet it seems that as of April, 2019 the project may have already ceased activity. If that is the case the project was active for less than a year since mid-2018, but still managed to issue twelve releases in that time.

The six tracks featured on Instruments of War are spread across the two tapes, totalling around 37 minutes. With a strongly militant edge to the sound, the industrial/power electronics approach is based on loosely constructed and generally mid-paced compositions. As for the broad approach on display, the tracks feature windswept battlefield ambience based on blended layers of caustic electronics consisting of: idling static; trembling distortion; erupting fissures of noise; smatterings of dialogue samples; and rounded out with strained, echo-smeared vocals (which are ranted but unintelligible). To talk specifics, Tortured Lullaby stands out positively with its melodious synth drone and shuddering bass. Regrets Of Termination And Conquest also follows a similar sonic template, but is defined by a dialogue sample where a soldier recounts his first kill in combat (which is revealed to be civilian and in the telling is tinged with repent). Beyond the sonic side of things, specific mention also needs to be made of the packaging, where the two pro-printed tapes are housed in a black elongated paper envelope along with a myriad of collage-based inserts. But being limited to only 60 copies, this is already likely to be difficult to track down.

Although also issued in 2019 On The Heels Of Insignificance is not a current recording from the project, rather is a vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape issued on Fusty Cunt. Although it does inhabit the same general sound sphere as Instruments of War, this LP is also less refined and slightly more direct in sonic expression. In a general sense an elevated level of tension is evident, where the tracks are built around grimly grinding machine like loops and augmented with vocals and/or dialogue samples. Swine.Cleaner sitting at the centre of the album is particularly impacting, based on its searing distortion and grinding noise-based approach which elevates to wind-tunnel intensity.

For the chosen style and approach Heretic Grail have delivered releases which perhaps not necessarily rising to a ‘mandatory’ status, both releases remain strongly enjoyable for what they are in their chosen style. In then comparing the two Instruments of War is the more varied and refined release of the two, and perhaps also warrants a re-edition – hopefully on vinyl.