Encephalic Death – Relentless

Encephalic Death – Relentless MC Cipher Productions 2022

Cipher Productions have dug up another new project, this time from Bangalore, India. Relentless is apparently the debut tape from the project.

Fitting within a rudimentary death industrial style, five compact tracks feature on the cassette. Some of the material charts a sound based around blown-out throbbing oscillations or stark atonal rhythms. Other tracks opt to pull back on the throttle to revel in a spacious hollow sound, based around raw scrap metal, minimalist synth pulses, and general creeping menace. Smatterings of shrieking voices and other dialogue samples are also added to create an unhinged edge.

While Encephalic Death do not reinvent a death industrial sound in any substantive way, this is nevertheless a no-frills homage to the style, and delivers its sound with confidence and directness, albeit with a rather short runtime overall. A stickered foil bag and inset round out the packaging.

Dead Boomers – Aspen Liberals

Dead Boomers – Aspen Liberals CD Cipher Productions 2022

Dead Boomers – an Australian duo of Leith Thomas and Mark Groves – may be (‘cough’) dead, but Aspen Liberals functions as a compilation to collect together a selection of material from 2015-2020. This includes previously released tracks and others issued for the first time here. But prior to getting into the details of the release, to my mind, Dead Boomers always had a uniquely Australian edge. With the snide slang of the project’s chosen name (which incidentally pre-dates the ‘OK Boomer’ phrase by a decade), thematically the project has then been concerned with localised societal themes which sardonically address: the housing market; financial/banking systems; the wealthy upper-class; the ruling conservative political party (the ‘Liberals’); and the broader societal influence and interests of the ‘baby boomer’ generation. It is this approach I have found strongly satisfying, which contained serious observations and on occasion humorously deadpan commentary, which is far removed from more typical themes within the post-industrial underground.

As a general observation the overt and unhinged aggression of some of the earlier output (such as strongly displayed on the debut album The Pig In the Python), has been dialed down a few notches. This then functions to put the controlled method of sonic composition clearly on display. Despite the material on Aspen Liberals being culled from numerous recording sessions, it hangs together surprisingly well and spans a number of composed power electronics cuts, and a larger number of subdued, experimental spoken word and post-industrial soundscapes. With regard to the power electronics focus, Half Windsor and Escorted from the Building are both anthemic standouts with their rhythmic fist-pumping pulse, scrabbling scrap metal noise, and raw spat vocals. A Gentle Occasion is also of a power electronics frame of reference and uses simplistic structures of maximum effect, with a mid-paced pulse, minimalist noise and gruff bellowed voice. Yet in opposition to these focused tracks, other cuts like Afternoon Film Club focus on post-industrial soundscapes of rumble and echo, while the deadpan spoken vocals provide a detached observational commentary. The spoken word and almost musique concrete backing of Annual Rite perhaps leans towards some of Mark’s separate recorded works, while Place of the Pink Seashells has a tensile creeping atmosphere based around sustained drones and (perhaps?) atonal piano note. The album is rounded out with the monolithic 28-minute title track, which charts numerous segments across its span, including: unhinged clawing distortion; tensile drones; sparse experimental soundscapes; processed field recordings; spoken word narrative, and media reporting sampling.

The full-colour dig-pack and printed booklet functions to further illustrate the atypical approach of Dead Boomers within the underground, while full lyrics and notes on the meaning behind the title are included for suitable context. Given Aspen Liberals appears to be a swansong release, it is an excellent final document of the later era of the project and absolutely worthy of your attention even if you have not checked out Dead Boomers earlier.

Soleil Satan – Les Couronnes De L’Aube

Soleil Satan – Les Couronnes De L’Aube CD Cipher Productions 2021

Cipher Productions has released yet another previously unknown project for me, so the promo text is then useful in providing context by placing Soleil Satan from the culturally disputed Basque region of Spain. It also clarifies the project is helmed by Miguel A. García: a sound artist ‘working mainly in the field of electro-acoustic composition and improvisation’, while this album ‘is a solemn ambient exploration of voice, guitar and electronics, recorded in a deserted factory in Bilbao’.

On this apparent debut album, an organ-like sustained drone opens proceedings and further sees other sparse acoustic, percussive and reverberating elements flit and weave. Equally the depth of the sound production functions to give a strong impression of a cavernous and echoed space, which obviously typifies the chosen abandoned factory location for the recording. Later on, sparse whispered vocals appear, as do guitars, yet the strings are played in an atypical fashion to provide for elongated and abstract droning effect. This general approach found on the opening tracks continues through the balance of the album’s 40 or so interlinked minutes. Here creaking sounds and a myriad of unidentifiable atonal elements bleed into the sonic frame and very much embedding the impression of experimental and broadly ambient framed post-industrial soundscapes. Although in a few moments the tone does push upwards towards headier and noisier sonic peaks.

A pro-pressed CD and four-panel mini-gatefold sleeve round out the visual presentation of what is an enjoyable and strongly engaging introduction to Soleil Satan.

Gruntsplatter & Wilt – The Trough of Armageddon

Gruntsplatter & Wilt – The Trough of Armageddon 2xCD Phange Tapes / Cipher Productions 2021

This split release is from two long-standing American projects and is conceptually interesting given each CD features a single artist who has used sonic source material from the other as the starting basis, and further sculpted and augmented it into their own material.

Gruntsplatter leads off with the first disc titled Indoctrination and functionally twists Wilt’s source material into Gruntsplatter’s own frame of reference, which means it is a textbook example of their crushing claustrophobic bleakness. Foreboding waves of corrosive sounds abound, with nary a fleck of light managing to piece the tonal gloom. Functionally, the tracks are minimalist but also operate as hefty atmospheric soundscapes, where multiple tonal layers combine into a grinding sonic mass. In generally articulating a barren post-apocalyptic landscape and ashen cloud atmosphere, the tonally windswept elements have a natural timbre, combined with others elements with a clear mechanical churn.

Moving onto the second disc, Wilt’s album is titled Repercussion and differs from Gruntsplatter’s side given it immediately displays a subtle spaciousness to the sonics. Melancholic and contemplative is the general flavour of proceedings, with an open and floating sparseness, coupled with the occasional tasteful use of minimal synth melodies. Although through the middle and back half of the album the sound of several tracks do contain a more forceful tonal bluster, and sees the use of abstracted mechanical rhythmic loops which gives a nod to the more typical sonic elements of Gruntspatter.

The end result of this collaborative release is one that displays the best elements of each project, and while there are subtle differences between each half, they are equally very complimentary as a combined release of high-grade, noise-industrial inflected dark ambience. The double gatefold dig-pack on thick card stock rounds out the cleanly designed and packaged presentation.

Human Larvae – Methods of Submission II

Human Larvae – Methods of Submission II MC Cipher Productions 2020

Methods of Submission II follows the first tape in the series from 2017 (reviewed here). That earlier tape featured two lengthy tracks of churning industrial noise filth, which deviated from the usual refinement found within Human Larvae’s main albums. Although this new tape includes 10 distinct tracks, like the first tape it explores harsher and nastier sonic territory.

Playing out very much as a full-length album, Methods of Submission II has pushed a filthy and nasty atmosphere into the foreground. This is articulated through track titles and dialogue samples, such as the lengthy scat film sample used on the opening track Shit Slave, which is set to little more than a distant humming drone. Need Violence then follows, with an excellent cut based on a straightforward bulldozing loop, shuddering distortion, and roared aggressive vocals. Elsewhere tracks such as Sick leap headlong into noise territory, featuring charred scrabbling noise within a mid to higher range squall, while the trademark vocals pull it back towards power electronics territory. On Your Knees rounds out Side A and pulls back to a simplistic needling loop coupled with a sample of a wailing woman that, while decent enough, simply does not match the meticulous layering and detail of the standout tracks of Human Larvae. Sadistic Pleasures opens Side B and provides a blasting track of harsh noise, while Slave Training initially pulls back on the sonic intensity, instead opting for hollowed-out idling distortion and partially buried dialogue samples, but which elevates with crumbling static over its extended length. And The Dog Ate From Its Bowl is an excellent example of a forceful industrial drone, framed around multiple sonic layers, while a crude stilled loop with monologue spoken vocals features on Burden. As for the final track Total Submission, this shifts back into the trademark slow rhythmic scrap metal structures and fiercely bellowed and distortion-charred vocals.

Given the prevalence of harsher sonic elements and the overall nasty and oppressive atmosphere created, Methods of Submission II could be said to comfortably align with the material being released on the Filth and Violence label, and therefore slightly differs from the meticulous level of layering and sonic detail typically associated with the project. Packaging wise, this new tape reflects the same aesthetic as the earlier album, with the tape and four-panel booklet housed with the tape in a canvas over-wrap and front panel cut-a-way.

 

 

 

Utøya – Lay Down And Rot

Utøya – Lay Down And Rot MC Cipher Productions 2020

When I previously tried to check out Utøya I missed out on available stock when attempting to order from various distros. I was luckier with Lay Down And Rot which is the third solo release from this newish project in as many years, and it functions as an excellent introduction. The presentation of the release immediately sets a grim tone, with the ‘standard’ edition featuring a cover image affixed to a hand-painted paper envelope. The ‘special’ edition includes the same cover image affixed to a black zip-loc bag which is wrapped in sturdy wire and slathered with thick tar paint.

Five tracks are spread across the two sides of the tape, and there is a degree of singularity in the approach to tone and composition which generally sits within a heavy/power electronics frame of reference. Specifically, the tracks are structured around raw static, buzzing noise, looped oscillations, morbid sustained synth tones, and semi-buried samples, rounded out with guttural vocals. There is also a notable hollowness to the tone, where its sonic elements are amply separated, while the slow rhythmic loop and sustained alarm wailing on Enough Is Enough injects a clear death industrial tone to proceedings.

Overall Lay Down And Rot demonstrates a clear directness, although not necessarily ‘unique’ or bringing something new to the genre. Despite this, it is still an extremely enjoyable tape of straightforward death industrial and controlled heavy/power electronics sounds.

Un Regard Froid ‎– Accélération

Un Regard Froid Accélération CD Cipher Productions 2020

Un Regard Froid are a French-Canadian industrial/power electronics project whom I am not overly familiar with, but who have issued a handful of releases dating back to 2013.I then note that the project is intriguingly self-described as ‘Inhumanist Singularity Electronics’ (whatever that is meant to mean).

Opening with Géotraumatisme (Introduction), it is a track of muted granular rumble blended with erupting fissures of sounds, before distortion charred and ripping unintelligible vocals of angst and disarray. As an introductory piece, this is fairly straight down the line stuff, but on the following tracks the album splays off into significantly more diverse territory, blending elements of power electronics, industrial, noise and other varied sonics. Layering and composition is also noted a critical component, where despite its jagged tones and sharp, noise and distortion, these are looped, chopped and sliced into clearly composed tracks. Early album track Attrition with its crumbling noise and weird pulsing electronics reminds of the long defunct Swedish project Iron Justice, yet the French language of the vocals clearly sets it apart. Verticalité follows with hefty track of looped industrial rhythmic elements and lower to mid-toned distortion, again with the gruff aggressive vocals being a key element. However, to this ear Piratage sounds to be so out of place to actually interrupt the album’s flow, given it features a fast programmed pulsing beat and atonal guitar representing a sort of industrial black metal riff, but the end this is just an odd combination which does not really work. This misstep is soon forgotten given the following track Infrarouge/Greffes delivers a militantly rhythmic track of pounding programmed beat blended with flayed noise and gruff up-front vocals. Towards the back of the album Singularité is schizophrenic in its sonics display, the first section features French dialogue samples, minimalist wonky tones and gruff echoed vocals, before launching into a heady pulsing barrage of brutally thick distortion. As for the final track Inhumanisme (Conclusion) it finishes the album on a high note, it features with layered loops ranges from tensile sound textures to pulsing overblown bass drones, while the vocals are delivered as an echoed whispered (and appear to be the only vocals presented in English and reciting mathematical equations of all things).

To make further comment on the vocals, given they are presented almost exclusively in French, it means I have no idea of what is being articulated, so I can only comment on how they sound in enunciation and delivery. This then leads to the observation that I am not sure if French is the most suitable language for power electronics. Compared to blunt harshness of the tone of other non-English languages such as Finnish, aggressive vocals in French don’t seem to hold the same razor-sharp spite (however I expect the impression from French speakers will be quite different to mine). Likewise, with a variety of French language samples spread throughout the album, clearly I am missing aspects of both themes and concepts on display. Yet, in the post-industrial underground it is no surprise that there are many projects with follow a similar approach and sound. In this context to not fall into that trap and Un Regard Froid should be commended for creating something quite different and diverse in the process. Although not all of the tracks nail it, the positive strike rate is certainly greater than the misses. Packaging includes a small cardboard board with 16 page booklet with lyrics (in French) and collage artwork.

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.

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.