Monocube ‎– Substratum

Monocube Substratum CD Malignant Records/Cyclic Law 2019

Like a monumental ancient breath issuing forth from the bowels of the earth, Monocube have returned with their fourth album of archaic soundscape ambience, issued again on Malignant Records but this time having been co-released by Cyclic Law. As an initial observation, on a whole Substratum has a more consistent sound palette overall than last album The Ritual (2016), which was more varied between tracks and on occasion used prominent musical motifs and ritual percussion. And while musical and melodic motifs are still employed here, it is in a much more subtle way, often semi-obscured within the elongated widescreen droning ambience.

Depth, breadth, and reverb play a huge part in setting the tone and atmosphere of the album, where early in the album foggy and enveloping twilight drones and deep throat chants characterize the lengthy Prima Materia. This piece seamlessly blends into Luft which is differentiated by its subtle and minimal plucked instrument (guitar?) and use of what may be field recordings of blustering storm winds, which perfectly offsets the elongated melodious drones. The semblance of natural field recording elements also weaves through the middle and later sections, providing the consistency in mood across the album. As with the last album, a number of tracks are based on collaborations, here featuring Visions on one composition, and Antti Litmanen of Arktau Eos on another, but without reading the liner notes to determine which tracks these are, their contributions are not immediately evident from sound alone – and again refers back to my comments on the consistent sound palette.

With the tone and atmosphere of Substratum fitting like a glove with similar archaic ambient droning material issued on both Cyclic Law and Malignant, this is another fine album to submerge one’s inner psyche with and effectively lose yourself over its hour-plus timespan.

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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.

Arktau Eos – Erēmos

Arktau Eos – Erēmos CD Aural Hypnox 2018

After the abstracted and minimalist Catacomb Resonator CD/LP from 2017, Arktau Eos have returned to a slightly more direct musical form, although this is clearly still within the enveloping ritual ambient framework for which the group is known and lauded. As is typical with this form of music, it’s structured around interlinking movements to aid flow and meditative/immersive impact; Erēmos features nine tracks, spanning 49 minutes of dour, slow evolving, minor-tuned melodies, droning soundscapes, and subtle field recordings.

The Liminal Pilgrim opens the album with swelling drones, catatonic drum pulse, and looped elements (sounding like twittering birds) which evokes a very organic and ritualistic sound, far from a computer-generated sounds palette, while a variety of other subtle layered sonic elements create diversity despite the minimalist ambient framework. After the extremely short one-and-a-half-minute track Facing The Exarchs Of Desolation, the following piece He Who Drinks The Light Of The Stars arrives with slow and sustained intertwining minor-keyed melody lines and pulsating synth tones, which further blend with various shimmering and metallic-toned ritual percussion. Autochthon is perhaps the most divergent piece by virtue of its swirling vortex of animated and surreally disorientating layers. Likewise, late album track In The Jaws Of Basalt Lions is a particular standout with its forceful droning framework, ascending/descending melodic line and sparse ritualistic percussion.

Of particular note on Erēmos is the archaic ritual- and occult-infused atmosphere embedded throughout, which is mostly derived from the deep analogue tone of the synthesizers. This generates a strong sense of mysterious and ethereal otherworldliness, but is also tinged with a strong degree of musicality in both sound and general direction, even if the instrumentation is atypical, such as a hand pump organ, archaic-toned synthesizers, and various ritual percussive implements. Although pretty much everything issued on the Aural Hypnox label constitutes mandatory listening for me, Erēmos is a pinnacle album which continues to reward with newly noted sonic details and nuances on repeat listens.

School For Cadavers – Re Education

School For Cadavers – Re Education MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

School For Cadavers is a new project featuring Jon Evans and Julian Percy, who are both members of Last Dominion Lost. In noting that context, there are clearly some strong parallels which can be drawn between the sound of these two project. Yet with reference to School For Cadavers, the tribal industrial elements of Last Dominion Lost has been toned down for a more streamlined industrial noise approach, which on a few occasion furrows within a dank death industrial style.

The tape features seven tracks in all and while three of those are denoted as being live recordings, this is not immediately evident given the consistency in recorded sound spanning all tracks. Sonar opens the tape with a screeching distortion, indecipherable yelled vocals and underpinned but an understated rhythmic loops, while the following track Spirit Of The Air contains a quite distinctly wonky and disorienting tone. Dead Time is a clear standout piece, based around cyclic throbbing mid paced layered loops and other sweeping tones which build in intensity, while other random slashes and cuts of churning sounds continual interject and gradually take over. Side B brings the absolute standout track Demise Of Logic, which is a monolithic pounding ritual death industrial track, completely with wailing air raid sirens, shuddering synth tones and garbled evocations. As for the final track Last Look blends a suspenseful horror soundtrack styled mood and coupled with a central slow pounding death industrial beat, while another screeched distortion layer ratchets up the tension. Great stuff.

Like the very much underrated and under appreciated Last Dominion Lost, School For Cadavers deliver expertly executed high calibre material, and should not be ignored or overlooked.

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!!!

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.