Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity

Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity MC No Rent Records 2020

Following Pterygium’s second excellent album Concealing The Past on Tesco Organisation (reviewed here), this new full length tape has just been issued on the American label No Rent Records.

On Stoic Ubiquity Pterygium have taken their established ‘dual edged’ sound and twisted this for more harrowing and harder results. This is immediately evident on album opener 100 Sin, with its massive bass undercurrent, vaguely orchestral yet heavily melancholic synth lines, buzzing static, and harshly impactful tonal blasts. Various sampled voices also float in and out of the mix, providing a fleeting human reference point within the sonics. God Was Incapable is notable as it provides some respite, with well-placed dialogue samples fleshing out the concept and set against mid-toned clicking loops and a catatonic yet pummelling beat. Late in the track the sounds of a church bell tolling, cawing crows, and mournful choirs add a gothic-tinged aesthetic. Force Feeding provides yet more metaphysical musings set to sweeping drones, overblown bass tones, and slashes of static that build to a squalling cacophony of shrill tones. Yet these soon fall away into a section of tragically sombre sub-orchestral melodies. A similar mood permeates final tracks A Tragedy At Point Blank and 36 Heart, given the use of brooding sub-orchestral tones blended with unhinged static blasts and an undercurrent of overloaded bass.

Being somehow more aggressive yet underscored with a greater degree of melancholy, Stoic Ubiquity is no mere re-tread of what has come before. Rather, it is a clear refinement and expansion of a style and sound that Pterygium is very much making his own; the layering, complexity, and attention to detail of the arrangements are clearly evident. At this point it perhaps goes without saying to not snooze on this, as its physical edition is a mere 100 copies. You know what to do.

Crawl of Time – Operation Black Widow

Crawl of Time – Operation Black Widow MC Fusty Cunt 2020

Crawl of Time is the solo project of Sam Montero Torres, who is one half of American power electronics group Terror Cell Unit. Operation Black Widow is the debut cassette album, following an early split release (2017) and a short promo tape (2019). Sonically speaking, Crawl of Time is not dissimilar to Terror Cell Unit, yet the differences are more substantial than the sonic comparison which could be made between Terror Cell Unit and Koufar (another side project helmed by the other half of Terror Cell Unit, to which Sam also contributes). Whereas Terror Cell Unit is focused on a hyper-aggressive sound with a cultural terrorist manifesto edge, Crawl of Time differentiates itself with a slow and laborious industrial noise / power electronics bent. Whereas in the former the themes at play are more of an observational documentary type, here there appears to be a broad focus on gangs and prison culture.

With the overtly aggressive elements slightly dialled down, the eight tracks are built around cyclic loops, well-sourced and placed samples, clean shredding mid- to higher-pitched drones, distortion, and squelching modular sounds. Vocals are predominantly spoken, sometimes with and sometimes without sonic treatment, but blend in within the mix. There are select tracks which stand apart, such as Tyrant And Slave (The Greatest War) with its stilted militant pounding beat, and Section V (Fratricide) with its harsh and needling noise assault approach.

The gold pro-pressed tape is housed in a zip-lock bag, along with an A5 booklet with collage artwork and lyrics, while the use of the ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics’ logo on the cover is a nice touch of pitch-black humour. Over the one hour run time, Crawl of Time demonstrate a wealth of ideas and a meticulous approach to sonic compositions: the end result is unhurried and impactful, making for an extremely strong debut album. Clearly a project to keep an eye on.

Absterbende ‎– Gebärmutter

Absterbende Gebärmutter MC self-released 2019

Sitting well within the depths of the post-industrial underground, here we have the debut tape from this obscure German project, which has links to another project, Die Kombination, and the Deutsch Asphalt label and distro. The title translates to ‘uterus’, derived from the Greek word root ‘hysteria’, which I have been informed provides a hint as to the thematic underpinnings. But with a predominantly instrumental presentation, and liner notes and track titles being in German, further interpretation of the theme was difficult (yet clearly something to mull over while listening to the tape if you can read the text).

The 12 tracks on offer span just over 75 minutes, and the material is perhaps better described as ‘movements’ rather than ‘compositions’. Consisting of longform / freeform layered synth oscillations and filthy analogue tones, the material is predominantly instrumental other than the use of psychological and addiction-related dialogue samples on two tracks on Side B. Sonically speaking, the tape displays an inherent paradox by being low-key yet at the same time animated. Gebärmutter contains sonic contradictions: minimalist yet detailed in layering and blending elements that are sonically forceful with others that are equally subdued. Being generally grey-hued, obscure, and unassuming, selected tracks feature wonky oscillating machine-like loops that drive the flow forward, while others have an incessant idling militant rumble blended with caustic bass tones.

For contextual rather than comparative purposes, the material featured on this tape sits somewhere in the dank in-between spaces characterized by the off-kilter industrial post-mortem sounds of Proiekt Hat, the long-form modulating synth experimentations of Atrax Morgue, and the subdued power electronics / heavy electronics tone of later-era Anenzephalia. Although not sonically derivative, those comparisons should nevertheless give a clear indication of the post-industrial furrow being ploughed by Absterbende. Gebärmutter is a tape I have both enjoyed and returned to for numerous repeat listens, which is clear enough indication of its quality. Although this tape is limited to only 50 copies, evidently a re-release on CD is to occur at some point which is a welcome proposition to give this greater coverage and reach.

Serration – The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction / Force of Damnation

Serration The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction CD Chondritic Sounds 2020

Serration Force of Damnation MC Total Black 2020

Serration have been on a bit of a roll in recent years with a slew of releases since 2018. If you have heard any of Serration’s prior material, both of these new titles continue the established sound of brooding and militant industrial / heavy electronics.

Turning to The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction first, from the outset saturated synth lines waver and dive-bomb in intertwining unison, while the heavily processed vocals are sonically smeared to convey an urgent mood, despite being wholly unintelligible. Inexhaustible Conflict follows in a similar vein but takes a gradual step up with a wailing siren texture and catatonic underpinning beat. A.P.C. embodies yet more tensile militant atmospheres, being a soundscape rather than rhythm-driven; the vocals, subdued and spoken, are heavily processed. The Storm Of Ash And Steel stands apart with what sounds to be a looped synth line replicating an orchestral tone against a backdrop of seething invasive mid-toned drones, and echo-panned production, while the final track is a live recording of A.P.C. made in Chicago in March 2018. Being slightly more hollowed in tone than its studio counterpart, given the noted absence of crowd noise it is clear this material is a recording taken directly from the mixing desk (if it was not identified as a live recording, it would not be immediately apparent). At only 22 minutes long, this is a short and to-the-point release. The packaging is rounded out with a six-panel digipack on heavy card stock with cleanly designed visuals.

Force of Damnation delivers a further five new tracks, also spanning around 22 minutes of material. W.I.T.W opens the tape; immediately obvious is how the vocals have been pushed to the fore and are all the more powerful for it, blended with urban guerrilla battlefield type recordings and seething / brooding synth textures. March Of Lies makes great use of laboriously intertwining synth layers, radio chatter, and hefty processed vocals. Further vocal variation is evident on Survive_Comply where, with reduced sonic treatment for the most part, they are intelligible; the backing is relatively subdued mid- to higher-toned synth drones and Middle Eastern crowd chatter. The tape rounds out with Grease And Blood, another mid-toned mass of seething synths, sonically charred vocals, and urban warfare / machine gun chatter. For the physical presentation a cleanly designed cover rounds out a thus far consistent visual aesthetic for the group, in a limited edition of 125.

Although perhaps splitting hairs between these two releases, the production of Force of Damnation is wider in sonic scope given the separation of its tonal elements, while the mood is ever so slightly more subdued. Yet this is an extremely minor critique: both releases are high calibre and very worthy additions to Serration’s quickly expanding discography, highlighting why the group have been receiving so many positive accolades of late.

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality MC Unrest Productions 2019

This new Am Not release comes in relative quick succession to other two other limited cassette releases issued in 2018. Those being the Unpunished : Appendix tape (reviewed here) and the Incursions tape (reviewed here). Extraterritoriality is a six track / 24 minute, pro-pressed and labeled tape is also limited to 102 copies, and according to the liner notes was recorded in ‘Grand Bexia’ which clearly alludes to thematic preoccupations.

Speaking of theme, Side A addresses ‘Brexit’ and the current turmoil on both sides of the stay / leave divide, while also juxtaposing this against earlier debates over such matters as Commonwealth immigration. But like all good post-industrial music no clear stance or easy answer is provided either (cleverly Side A of the tape is noted to be labelled as ‘exit’). Cleansing Violence opens the tape a straight down the line Am Not track with pulsing bass tone, jagged noise and aggressive processed vocals, which could have easily been lifted from any of the main albums. In other words an excellent track, but when lyrical phrase “rivers of blood” is used it would no doubt be a direct reference to Enoch Powell’s infamous and controversial political speech from 1968, and perhaps within the context of this release is referring to the extreme right views of fringe Brexiters. Things then take a decided left turn with Better Together chats quite an experimental angle with simplistic rhythmic pulse, distant noise and cleanly spoken vocals. The sonic approach then gets even weirder on Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?, which features a sample of Kirsty MacColl’s song A New England, but slowed down to a crawling pace which then generates a euphorically maudlin tone. Added to this are 1970’s interview samples which decry the loss of ‘England’ to mismanagement of immigration, while the track is concluded with Johnny Rotten sneeringly asking the question of the track’s title. Conceptually this track is extremely strong and certainly effective in a pitch-black humor sort of way.

Flipping over to Side B, it thematically it returns to focusing on Hong Kong returning to China (this side is labeled ‘entry’), which was previously addressed by the track Home from The Developing World album (reviewed here). In fact the track Homecoming plays out as an alternate instrumental version of Home, given the same rolling militant rhythmic structure is employed with crowd babble and protest singing overlaid. The following track Red Emperor, White Forces arc back to a directly punishing power electronics track, with wailing crowd chatter, incessant pounding / grinding structures and flange processed vocals. Great stuff. I Will Not Be Reborn In The People’s Republic Of China is the last on offer siting within more of an ambient frame of reference with intertwining synth drones and central interview sample talking of reincarnation being a spiritual matter and not a political concern.

By now Am Not’s name and status in the underground is well established. Extraterritoriality is equally high quality as the balance of Tamon’s output, but also slanted towards a more playfully experiential expression. Evidently this is explained by the fact that for this release Tamon applied a methodology to work faster than typical and within a limited space to time. But regardless of how this came about, I am pleased a secured a copy of this quite limited release.

Liebestod ‎– Escaping Freedom

Liebestod Escaping Freedom Chondritic Sound CD 2019

My introduction to Liebestod came from their first full length Beta Male from 2016 (reviewed here), but I then missed the self-titled cassette from 2017, and had already missed another self-titled cassette from 2014 (featuring different material). Thankfully Escaping Freedom functions to reissue all tracks from both of these earlier cassettes. In an overarching sense it is again a case that atonal shuddering synths, pulsing static, throbbing / squelching tones, distortion charred vocals and an underbelly of field recordings are the order of the day, with variations of these elements chopped spliced and structured into distinct noise compositions. As such Escaping Freedom again demonstrates Liebestod balancing a sound on a razor’s edge between a heavy electronics and power electronics sound.

The 2014 tracks come first, where For the First Time I Look Vulgar features an early tensile standout with wonky intertwining textures and a heavy elevating tone. The Most Irritating Pose is another noteworthy track of sonic restraint yet building tension, while vocals feature in an echo tinged deadpan delivery. Darkness is Easeful rounds out the collection of 2014 tracks with a solid offering which aligns with a modern and direct American death industrial tone. Going Home arrives as the first of the 2017 tracks, and uses a very effective use of a distressed voice set against a grimly brooding synth drone and field recording backing, while a rhythmic pulse appears only briefly in the later segment. One Day In April works quite distinctly on two separate levels: the first with lower end drones providing an ominous quality, while the higher shrill tones, erupting gunfire and charred vocals function to elevate the tension. Crimes Of Love provides yet further sonic diversity, featuring sonic breadth and space. Here the synths are pushed into the background, leaving the field recording in the foreground (dripping water in an abandoned building?), couple with upfront and whispered vocals for a ‘stalking’ tension driven track. This mood bleeds through into the instrumental track Strokes, before moving onto a deliver a sonic pummeling on The Things I Learned From Men. That track is very much an noise and aggression fueled power electronics piece framed around a stilted pounding rhythm, spliced with fluttering mid-toned distortion and guttural vocal barrage.

Despite featuring tracks from two separate releases, the combined material actually hangs together well as a single album collection spanning 12 tracks and 45 minutes. Yet if any criticism is to be leveled, it is in relation to the tracks being quite on the short side, given the shortest is under two minutes and the longest is just over four minutes. But this is also a sort of compliment, as based on the sheer breadth and variety of sonic ideas on display many pieces could be extended for greater impact and without losing focus, tension or momentum. Presentation wise featured a pro-printed six panel digi-pack with artistically designed imagery which hints rather that hits you over the head with grim imagery.

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority CD Freak Animal 2019

Vigilantism are a new Finnish industrial noise project from one of the members of another Finnish noise project Edge Of Decay, with Incessant Authority being Vigilantism’s debut release.

Perhaps then as might be expected for a project from Finland, there is a rough, aggressive and chaotic edge to proceedings. Thus Punkt Ohne Wiederkehr opens the album with fried and fracture mid tones bass rumble, while raw scrap metal type distortion features heavily. With a thick and overblown sound, its elements have been sculpted into a grueling track, while forward momentum is also provided with a slow stilted pounding throb, while occasional distortion drenched vocals also bleed across the sonic frame. Yet on the second track Never Cross the mood takes a decided step up with an incessantly pounding martial-esque ‘beat’ and swirling fissures of caustic distortion, while dialogue samples are buried and barely intelligible in the mix. Although still distorted and rough, Chemical Conversation features greater space and depth within the mix, where grinding layers loop and intertwine, while alarm like buzzing tones elevate the tensile atmosphere. Unbinding The Angst differs again, being of a composed industrial/ power electronics approach, based around a pulsing rhythm and bass pounding tone, duly completed with apathetic and distortion tinged vocals. Although aspects of both sound and visual presentation of Incessant Authority could be described as aligning with the likes of Zyklon SS (which is a clear positive in my estimation), the final track Stepson Diaries is the most obvious example of this. Featuring caustic noise, urgent wavering tones, scrap metal crunch and completed with suitably grim dialogue sample, it is an excellent conclusion.

With its raw, direct and no-frills approach, Incessant Authority is a varied and creative recording across its approximate 40-minute run-time. A cleanly designed 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation. Clearly you will already know if this album if for you, but recommended from these quarters.