Grim – Primary Pulse

Grim – Primary Pulse MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

The long standing and cult Japanese project Grim returns with a new five track recording (from 2017), issued via Trapdoor Tapes. Contextually speaking Grim has always had a left of centre approach to their power electronics/industrial noise material, with the often-weird juxtaposing elements thrown in for good measure, which is certainly continued and exemplified on Primary Pulse.

Hermit opens the tape with loose windswept noise modulations blended with manipulated voices, before Volcano Flower kicks in, framed around a series of burrowing pulsing tones which coagulate into a driving rhythmic structure coupled with distorted agonised vocals, which is a clear standout track and very much in a distinctive Grim style. The third track for Side A is Assassin’s Room, which is categorised by a wonky and off-kilter looped rhythm, while the vocals are of a garbled spoken type, prior to a classical music organ motif and stoic industrial pulse features in the final moments. Side B features another standout piece of Grim weirdness, with Melting Man featuring a strong throbbing element, central sub-orchestral melody and wailing chants of sole project member Jan Konagaya, with the atmosphere becoming progressively more unhinged as it progresses. G.T.R. concludes the tape with a blend of elements including an Asiatic toned loop, rolling industrial drums, sweeping abstracted guitar, squalling noise etc., yet never succumbs to sounding like an industrial band.

Although not overly long, Primary Pulse is an absolutely great underground industrial tape and again exemplifies a sound wholly unique to GRIM. Trademark blown out photocopied artwork courtesy of Trapdoor Tapes rounds out the perfectly suited lofi presentation.

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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!!!

Straight Panic – CYCLE

Straight Panic – CYCLE LP Breathing Problems Productions 2018

As a musical style power electronics music is routinely used as a platform to explore a range of transgressive subject matter or as a vehicle for personal obsessions, but on less frequent occasions for specifically politicized agendas and direct societal critiques. In this context Straight Panic is the solo project of Thomas Boettner, and by name alone should provide an immediate indication of thematic intent, but if not, the self-described ‘queer power electronics’ leaves no room for any confusion. So, although other post-industrial projects such as Death in June, Coil, Richard Ramirez/Black Leather Jesus and Hirsute Pursuit have included a gay perspective, in the case of Straight Panic Thomas has drawn upon his own observations and experiences and contextualized them into a direct criticism of religious and societal conservatism.

On the release front, Straight Panic has issued a substantial volume of material since 2014 (in excess of 30 releases and counting) which has functioned to garner increasing interest in the project. Yet from my own perspective I had not previously checked out the project before due to the ‘where do I start?’ factor. So, given that CYCLE is the first album I have become acquainted with, perhaps tellingly of its intended status and standing within the project’s discography it is the first release to be issued on vinyl. Also, on the thematic front CYCLE differs slightly as it is based on Dennis Cooper’s George Miles Cycle, which was a series of five semi-autobiographical novels spanning 1989-2000.

Noting that CYCLE features a mere four tracks spanning 32 minutes, it is a short and to the point album, where the flow of the album is book-ended by two 10-minute tracks with two six minutes tracks sitting in the middle. Teenage Wasteland kicks things off where frantic static and noise shards slashes across an underpinning maudlin organ synth drone, while the rabidly strained vocals bleed and coagulate with the harsher sonic elements. 1988 follows with a similar template of the merging the melodious and the harsh, where the looped melody is all but buried by tracks end. Third track Haunted House plays out as a more direct, harsh and choppy noise workout, but remains mid-paced in flow while an underpinning bass throb retains an industrial edge, before momentarily exploding late track with a frenetic vocal barrage. The final of four tracks Black merges with black, black merges with black is the standout piece which charts a knifes edge of bulldozing distortion and moody synths, which cyclically elevates over its extensive run-time. In the concluding moments the synths fall away leaving a monumental industrial-noise rumble, as if to represent the final death throes of the album.

Stylistically, CYCLE works best with its merging of cascading distortion with minor keyed synths, and particularly on the first and last pieces, where this dual sonic focus of distortion and dour melody could be compared to modern era Prurient. Likewise, by briefly dipping into the extensive back catalogue to get a better appreciation of context, it is clear that CYCLE is by far the most composed and refined release from Straight Panic to date. However, with the large volume of releases which have been issued in relatively quick succession, there is the potential for CYCLE to be overlooked, which would be a clear mistake given how strong and sonically honed this is. Presentation wise the black and white collage of the cover, as well as the explicit art and text within the separate 16 page ‘zine specifically reflects the Dennis Cooper’s source inspiration and fits perfectly with overall ‘angst malaise’ infused mood. A release worthy of investigation.

Detrimental Effect ‎– Be My Enemy

Detrimental Effect ‎– Be My Enemy LP Unsound Recordings 2018

Following relatively quickly on the heels of 2017’s debut tape (reviewed here), sole project member Kim Vann has returned with his debut vinyl release. To make reference back to my review of the debut tape I noted that: ‘Detrimental Effect is project to keep an eye on’, which is proven absolutely correct with the release of Be My Enemy. This new album has also been issued with the following ideological statement, which frames its thematic focus and intent: ‘A perplexed continent adrift with ever more fractions while claiming to have the solution for the crisis at hand. Indifference or resignation is no longer an option and confrontation is called for’.

In noting that the debut tape showcased a modern take on the traditional German power/heavy electronics/industrial blended sound, pleasingly everything on Be My Enemy has been refined and stepped up a notch. Essentially this is demonstrated with devastating impact on the opening track Relentless, based on jittery and tensile fractured loops, prior to a vocal barrage blasting into frame. And to speak of the vocals, these have become a standout element of Be My Enemy where everything from their delivery to sonic treatment is perfectly executed. Although the saturation with delay/pitch/phaser treatment effectively renders the vocals another sonic element in the mix, yet the aggression and force of their delivery is still palpable in their blood boiling intensity. An array of samples are scattered throughout the eight tracks, where some take key focus, and at other times they function as track intros/outros. One such example is on Grinding You Down, where the minimalist atonal throb and sustained wavering noise backs a lengthy movie dialogue sample, prior to the standout vocals appearing front and centre late in the track. The pairing of tracks No Borders, No Nations and Victim Morality as the second half of Side A uses simplicity in the best way possible, with variations on the use of cyclic throbbing loops, fluttering noise, bulldozing static and the standout vocal attack.  Side B maintains the momentum of the first, where Herded Into Submission features slight sonic variation with a mid toned, fast paced modulated throb, sporadic panning distortion blasts. In then pulling back on overt aggression Gods & Guns evokes controlled queasy atmosphere with its central swaying loop. The final of the eight tracks The Burden of Symbols also functions to widen out the project’s sound palate by showcasing a slightly mellower and melodic drone approach, which is a partial reprieve following the sonic barrage which precedes it.

In many ways the sound and approach of Detrimental Effect on this album could be deemed to be an updated, modern and slightly more direct and attacking version of Operation Cleansweep’s heavy electronics approach, where I apply such a comparison with absolute high praise and respect. Yet, a limited pressing of 100 copies seems too few for an album of this quality but is partly explained but the current emerging status of the project. But don’t let either this limitation or current obscurity of Detrimental Effect turn your away, as surely this will be sought after album in years to come. In a word – recommended.

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.

Kontinent – Pornography of Power

Kontinent – Pornography of Power MC Unrest Productions 2018

As an initial comment I am not sure if Kontinent should be referred to as a ‘side project’ of Kevlar, however putting such designations aside, Kontinent is the solo project of one of the duo behind Kevlar. In then noting that Kontinent’s past releases have broadly been within a modern post-industrial/ power electronics style, this is no different to what is displayed on Pornography of Power, albeit there is a noted increase in aggression and sonic fieriness.

This new release follows relatively quickly on the back of 2017’s album Statis, where Pornography of Power is another expertly crafted release, featuring eight brisk and focused tracks within an industrial meets heavy/ power electronics framework. On the thematic front, song titles such as Pure Power, Bring Back The Violence and Higher Civilisation provide a hint at preoccupations, given the vocals can only be deciphered in a fragmentary fashion due to sonic treatment. Yet the cover imagery provides further context, which of note includes an image of Anders Breivik and a quote appearing to be attributed to him, being: “violence is the mother of change”. As for the sonic content, the detailing and layering of the tracks provided variation and complexity throughout, where looped elements converge and intertwine, while gradually falling in and out of sync to disorientating effect. The distorted and echo treated vocals make them a standout element in their anger infused, proclamation styled delivery.

To some degree there is a certain blurring of lines between the sound, style and approach between Kontinent and Kevlar, which is be expected given who is involved. Yet there is simply no complaint on this point if the high calibre material such as this continues to be issued from both projects. With Pornography of Power being limited to 123 pro-duplicated tapes, I suspect this may get a re-issue on vinyl at some point, which would be a welcomed prospect.

Compactor ‎– Technology Worship

Compactor Technology Worship CD Oppressive Resistance Recordings 2018

Compactor is the latest project from long standing New York underground musician Derek Rush, who is perhaps best known for Dream Into Dust, as well as other collaborative projects A Murder Of Angels and Of Unknown Origin. Yet within the context of Compactor, Derek has forgone using own name, instead adopting the moniker ‘The Worker’, who is an employee of a corporate entity known as Waste MGT (aka Waste Management). To then set the scene for this review, prior to listening to this album I had heard a couple of Compactor tracks here and there, and from those noted a fair dose of influence from underground club-related genres. In truth, those elements were not typically to my liking, but by way of comparison they are effectively absent from Technology Worship, which then functions to frame this album far more towards my own listening preferences, namely post-industrial sounds of power electronics and noise-infused industrial.

To first speak of the sound of the project, this deviates quite significantly from the musical approach which Derek has produced in the past. On face value this would seem to be derived from the approach of using a range of obsolete technology, and bending and abusing the output to desired effect. On select occasions it perhaps leaning towards the cleaner and rhythmic sounding end of the underground industrial spectrum (i.e. that labels like Ant-Zen typically deals with), where album opener Ease Of Use is a clear demonstration of this approach with its mid-paced pounding industrialised rhythm. Yet equally, there are numerous other tracks which are in no way rhythmic derived or focused, rather focus on varied frameworks of distorted loops, flayed noise and splitting and glitched distortion. Vaporware stands out from the bulk of other material given the greater spaciousness of its industrial noise soundscape, although the track evolves into a harsh crumbling distortion workout at the end. The partly rhythmic but fully ominous and tensile structure of Screen Hypnosis is another excellent track, but at just short of three minutes is far too short.  Final album track Church of Virtual Reality spans close to eleven minutes, being a good sonic representation of a grinding distortion and furnace blasting sonics.

In essence Compactor is effectively the most straightforward and direct music I have heard from Derek to date, but where he has applied a heavy degree of compositional focus and control which in turn has achieved a tonally varied output. By embracing elements of sonic chaos but bending these to structural and focused effect, Technology Worship is an solid and direct listen within a clean industrial noise and power electronics infused style, further bolstered by a strong thematic concept.