Anakrid – Ugly/Pretty

Anakrid – Ugly/Pretty 7”ep Cipher Productions 2019

This is my first introduction to Anakrid, which is a solo project of Chris Bickel. The project then seems to have been active as far back as 1990, although the bulk of activity has been from the early 2000’s onwards. This short two track 7”ep is of an experimental abstract noise style, which primarily focuses on tone and detail than volume and harshness.

The first track Ugly is somewhat of a misnomer as the track constitutes a composition of elongated warm enveloping drones, which are tonally layered but minimalist in construction and feature a faint melodious resonance. Deep in tonal atmospherics, there is subtle complexity at play and makes for an enjoyable track, but which feels far too short in run time. In flipping over to side B, again it features a misnomer of a title. Pretty deviated stylistically by being significantly more animated with its meticulously layered approach, combining creaking metallics, cavernous tones, shrill mid-toned textures, sporadic gongs percussive like elements etc. At times reaches the shrill intensity of an orchestra string section tuning up, and in a fragmentary sense could be passed of as an atonal and abstracted contemporary orchestral track. But again the composition is far too short and it finishes just as quickly as it starts.

As alluded to above, the main criticism is the extremely brief run-time given how compositionally different but equally engaging these two tracks are. But that minor criticism can also be rectified by giving this a number of spins back to back to sate appetite. Black and white collage artwork rounds out and enjoyable, albeit short and sharp release.

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Sickness – Purgatory

Sickness – Purgatory CD Cipher Productions 2018

As per my usual disclaimer, noise music is not entirely my forte but I do dabble in listening from time to time. To then speak of noise stalwart Sickness (aka solo project of Chris Goudreau), the project has been active for over 20 years, however it turns out that Purgatory is not a new release. Rather, it was first issued on tape in 2013 (25 copies), reissued in 2015 (100 copies), and now reissued for a third time in 2018 on a less limited CD.

To speak of the music (ahem – ‘noise’), only four tracks spanning 18 minutes are featured. The opening cut The Unmagnificent Lives of Us All starts slow, but soon the building static represents a massive avalanche of sound which quickly shifts into rapid-fire noise and distortion blasts, which carries through to the next cut Not Much Left Of Me Now in increasingly chaotic form. The same approach is employed for Not Worthy of Heaven, where the choppy nature of the sonics rapidly cuts between harshness and fragmentary silence, which functions to amplify the noise when in full flight. Likewise, with the noise elements being tonally sharp and crisp it is akin to witnessing the massive sound and energy of arcing high voltage electricity. The final of the four track And I Wait is a slow burn and slow build of a needling mid-toned noise drone against a cavernous echoed backdrop, which only elevates to noise oriented territory in its final moments.

Given that noise is not my usual listening fare, the truncated format of this release functions to substantially increase its impact, but no doubt this short run time will have noise-heads wanting more. For this CD reissue, it comes in mini-cardboard gate-fold cover with imagery and text suitable to its title.

N. – Unworthy

N. – Unworthy 10”EP Cipher Productions 2018

Although N. has issued numerous releases since their 1997 debut on the cult Italian label Slaughter Productions, I am only familiar with the cassette box-set from 1998 (also issues on Slaughter Productions), and the 2017 reissue of Hospital Murders tape (originally issued in 2004). However, it can be generally surmised that N. is concerned with showcasing minimalist death industrial/ power electronics in the same or similar vein to other Italian masters of the genre.

The first side of the vinyl features three short tracks. Unworthy Situation delivers muted static, low end rumble and general sonic crunch, which continues into Images Hunter yet features a wonky organ melody that bleeds into the mix. Relapse, the third track on Side A is far more direct, with forceful choppy pulsations, grim oscillations and forced static washes. Side B delivers a single lengthy track Into Psychosis and is more direct and less experimental that the first side, and all the better for it. Based on dank, rumbling, lofi death industrial pulsations, it emulates the fractured idling of an unidentified machine of ill purpose. Minimalist but layered, the sound is thick and pulsing with a barely discernible medical related dialogue sample within the sonic mass. Clipped atonal rhythms feature (looped door creaking/ closing samples?), as do other background panning textures gradual elevate in prominence.

Like many of the releases issued on Cipher Productions there is a home-made DIY art aesthetic at play, where this is limited to a mere 100 copies features and with a cover which is effectively folded and screen-printed cloth with insert. It almost goes without saying that the pristine white cloth and lurid orange colour of the screen-printing image belies the dank, suffocating and lofi atmospheres pressed into the vinyl. A quality release of stasis and non-movement from this long-standing Italian project.

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance

Ulex Xane – Stances / Semblance CD Cipher Productions 2018

Ulex Xane, the agent provocateur of Streicher infamy, has recently issued this unexpected solo album which showcases a very different experimental side. Within the extensive liner notes Ulex hints that these recordings could be bracketed under a banner of electroacoustic and musique concrete, but equally he shies away from formally using those genre descriptors. The recordings themselves span a 40 year period from 1975 to 2015, with the earliest recording made when he was only 12 years old (and evidently only recently discovered on an old cassette tape).

Working in reverse chronological order, the first eight tracks are the more recent material spanning 2015 to 2009, showcasing a subtle, yet loud and crystalline, sound. The 17-minute opening track The Inarticulate (from 2015) is sparsely cavernous, but with interjecting field recordings and micro-tonal textures, while a whispered voice (purposefully enunciated to be indecipherable; the track also concludes with a mass of unintelligible screaming voices) pans between speakers for enveloping and immersive listening. Paroxysms of Disappearance (from 2010) is another exceptional track of meticulous and chaotic sonic detailing, featuring a huge diversity of sounds (from the day-to-day mundane to the completely unidentifiable) that at times combine into tensile, almost atonal, orchestral quality. Space, Time and the Categories (from 2009) is split into four separate tracks with a combined playtime of 35 minutes. Panning and surround sound elements are used extensively, along with sonic elements including mid-toned static hissing textures, treated gongs/chimes, micro-tonal sound treatments, various fragmentary field recordings, wavering sub-orchestral tones, and the ever-present widescreen separation of sonic textures.

The much earlier works on the album pick up at 1995 and extend all the way back to 1975. The one-minute Noise Panel #43 (from 1995) is a blink and you miss it short distortion rumble and noise blast workout, while The Disinherited Mind is based on a home recording made in 1984, which highlights the sonic clarity of more recent material. Here, the cavernous and echoed sound is more muted and grey toned, but still there is a huge diversity of tonal elements, including field recordings of blaring foghorns, aquatic textures, distant musical motifs, and a general mood of desolate urban space. The final track Farewell to Matters of Principle is the oldest on offer from 1975, recorded when Ulex was a mere boy. Clearly being the crudest and least refined of the set, it is based around choppy and spliced cassette recordings of garbled and choked vocalisations, slapped flesh, and maniacal laughing (and even the voice of his grandmother offering cooking tips); it is surprisingly unnerving in its execution.

Apart from being distinctly different from any other material issued by Ulex to date, the most pleasing aspect of this album is that it avoids any resemblance of a dry tonal range or stuffy atmosphere which can plague the more academic end of ‘sound-art’. Instead the sounds are detailed, engaging, and highly animated throughout, fiercely dynamic yet subtly restrained. The full colour and spot-varnished cover includes a 27-page booklet with extensive liner notes on the philosophical/conceptual framework of the material and inspirational sources, and it makes for excellent companion reading. Although I am far from well-versed in the electroacoustic and musique concrete spheres, I get the vague and subtle impression that Ulex is in part parodying and poking fun at the academic art-world. But, in noting Ulex’s already established legacy within the post-industrial underground, this is both an intriguing and exceptionally enjoyable release, which also functions to reinforce Ulex Xane as a complete enigma in the truest sense of the word.

Human Larvae – Methods of Submission

Human Larvae – Methods of Submission MC Cipher Productions 2017

With new material from Human Larvae always being a welcomed prospect, this release has followed quite quickly from the last exceptional album ‘Behind Blinding Light’ (reviewed here).  On ‘Methods of Submission’ it features in the order of 30 minutes of material via a single untitled track on each side of the tape, thus noting that this new tape shifts into a longer, freeform style, it steps away from the more focused power electronics and death industrial sound of recent albums.

Side A reveals a long form cut of rough and caustic, mid-toned and mid paced industrial noise. Featuring a heavily layered approach, various elements of churning distortion, spitting static and a solid industrial crunch (…which may just be sourced from junk metal). Sonically this track sits at the mid to lower ranged realm, and does not reach anywhere near ear shrieking intensity, but also pack a weighty sound all the same.  Side B follows a similar elongated sonic path, yet here the static and distortion are tonally pushed up a notch, while a number of forceful droning loops provide a sense of drive and forward momentum (…a half buried screaming sample introduced later in the piece also functions to generating a sadistic edge to the mood).

Although perhaps lacking the immediacy of tracks found on ‘Behind Blinding Light’, ‘Methods of Submission’ is a solidly intense and unrelenting dose of churning industrial noise filth, which certainly suits and reflects the BSDM theme of the artwork.  Packaging wise, Cipher Productions have produced more excellent results, with the cover featuring a small 8 page booklet housed with the tape in a canvas over-wrap and front panel cut-a-way.  With a short limitation of 75 copies, this is unlikely to be available for long.

Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church

Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church DLP Cipher Productions 2016

Originally released as limited CDR in 2013 on Oppressive Resistance Recordings, Cipher Productions have seen fit to reissue this on vinyl with all new artwork and 3 lengthy remixes appended for good measure.  Thematically the album functions as a direct homage to to Lars Von Trier’s film ‘Antichrist’ (….or perhaps can be considered an alternate soundtrack of sorts?), and certainly manages to capture the mood of mental anguish and emotional desolation of the film.  Sonically speaking this music found herein is far removed from what might be typically expected from either project, where ‘Nature Is Satan’s Church’ features industrial orientated drones and minimalist dark ambient soundscapes (…which then verges on the isolationist ambient side of things at times). In then tying back to its inspiration source, this minimalism has replicated and expanded upon the the harrowing and starkly minimalist sound design (…which is only fleetingly employed within ‘Antichrist’), while each of the 6 album track titles specifically replicate each of the chapter titles of the film.

‘Prologue’ commences the 6 main album tracks and sets the scene with a moody series of orchestral type loops and a lone female choir vocal sample, which is clearly a nod to the music of film’s opening chapter.  This track then turns out to be the most ‘musical’ on offer (…which again is reflective of the film’s sound score) and functions as the gateway into a slow descent of creeping anxiety and rising dread. This is particularly demonstrated on the second track ‘Grief’ with is foggy enveloping ambience and sonically wintery landscapes, but later in the piece it ramps up with added windswept force (…including a section of echoed knocking tones which creates a haunted basement vibe for exceptional effect).  ‘Pain (Chaos Reigns)’ on Side B is structured around a series of minimalist but quite forcefully driving loops with gradually elevating momentum which culminate in foghorn styled intensity.  ‘Depair (Gynocide)’ continues the album’s established dank and oppressive minimalism mixing layered bass rumble, and a heavy dose of echo and reverb, while ‘The Three Beggars’ continues a comparable droning blast furnace styled approach. ‘Epilogue’ rounds out the final of the main album tracks with an general sense of stasis, where its gradual sonic fadeout drags the sound down into ultimate oblivion.

With the 3 re-mix tracks, these broadly maintain an underlying feel and mood of the source material, but also provides individualistic sonic flair on each.  Four Pi Movement features first with ‘Despair Remix’, where the mood of this piece features some prominent and driving ‘cosmic’ type synth elements.  Worms of the Earth follows with ‘Chaos Reigns Remix’, which is sonically more consistent with the source material, but here with the main augmented/ additional elements consisting of driving synth melody, sparse percussion and sampled Gregorian chants for excellent ritualistic result. Iszoloscope then rounds out the remixes (…and album overall) with ‘Pain Remix’, being a quite minimalist drone affair and generally closest to the sound of the main album tracks.

Having heard this previously this via its original CDR edition, I did observe that due to its sprawling scope, minimalist construction and continuous soundscape format, that if full and attentive listening was not facilitated you could get lost along the way as to exactly which track was playing.  While this is not in any way a criticism of the music, I do perhaps feel the vinyl format is a much better fit for this album as there is ongoing engagement with the material due to having to change sides as the album progresses.  As for the cover, the photography courtesy of Gretchen Heinel functions as a stunning visual counterpoint the featured sonics, which also appears to pay homage to the style, colour palate and visual mood of ‘Antichrist’. Overall this is an excellently realised release: from concept, to visual representation and ultimately its sonic execution and should not be passed over despite its limited pressing of 150 copies.

Hiroshi Hasegawa / Leid-Linie – Hiroshi Hasegawa / Leid-Linie

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Hiroshi Hasegawa / Leid-Linie – Hiroshi Hasegawa / Leid-Linie CD Cipher Productions 2016

For any long term readers of noise receptor journal, it is abundantly clear that straight up harsh noise is not a big part of what I listen to and write about, so please excuse any technical faux pas on my part (…and on with the review).

Hiroshi Hasegawa (he of other recognized Japanese noise projects Astro and C.C.C.C.) leads off this split album and features a single 21 minute piece psychedelic noise maelstrom.  Although clearly to be filed under ‘noise’, this is far from being HNW, given it is far more complex and dynamic in approach.  Elements of screeching/ creaking junk metal, children’s’ voices, church bells and straight up static are fed into a sonic blender and treated with a heavy dose of echo and reverb to creating wildly varied sound.  An immersive quality is generated from is wildly lurching sound which cuts from moments of relative calm to sections representing an all-out noise assault.  Sonically the mix is extremely loud and crystalline, including lots of micro tonal detailing, cut up textures, whipping static and rabid vocals towards tracks end, but also retains a sense of direction and purpose in its execution (I am not sure if ‘psychedelic noise’ is the correct reference here, but it certainly jumps to mind for me personally during more than one moment).

As for Leid-Linie’s half (a solo project of Sascha Mandler), it features 4 tracks spanning 17 minutes in total, with the recordings spanning from 2009 to 2013.  In general the approach remains to feature rabid, spitting textures, high speed cut ups and high tones static which spew forth as a cascade of harsh static, but like the first half these are juxtaposed with calm retrained moment to generate a complete sense of depth and dynamics.  Some of the underlying elements have a grim and caustic ‘post-industrial’ tinged sonic aesthetic, which means Leid-Linie’s side is less ‘psychedelic noise’ than Hiroshi Hasegawa’s offering, although the final track from 2013, with its panning high speed cut ups and pulsing structures does certainly push close to that sound.

Although I doubt that harsh noise will ever become a main focus of my listening habits, I can certainly appreciate there is a degree of unbridled ‘elation’ when choosing to fully immersing oneself, and for that reason alone this album has been an enjoyable experience.