Hive Mind – Hollow Slumber

Hive Mind – Hollow Slumber CD Difficult Interactions 2021

The American label Difficult Interactions issued the last rather excellent album by Hive Mind Elysian Alarms (reviewed here), and have quickly followed up with this newly issued item. However upon further investigation Hollow Slumber is not a new release, rather is a reissue of an earlier limited tape from 2008. On this version, the featured material is slightly extended in length and presented as a remastered 33.33 minute track, rather than being split over two sides of the original tape.

Being an exploration of extremely low sub-bass frequencies, this is music to be felt as it is much to be heard given its invasive sub-audible tone. As such catatonically slow modulated bass drones rise and fall throughout, as other subtle pulses and minimalist textural elements provide ever so slight variation. Equally, there is an ever glacial elevation in tone across its length, but that gradual shift in sound is nigh on undetectable as you are sonically enveloped in an ultra-dense fog of sound. As a comparative observation. given the deep tonal focus and churning minimalist construct, Hollow Slumber does beg a passing comparison to the likes of the subterranean industrial ambient excursions of Swedish artist Jarl.

With its extreme low-end and bass-heavy tone, Hollow Slumber is best appreciated on decent stereo and speakers where the volume can be turned up a couple of notches to give sonic breadth to the deep sub-bass frequencies and allow open-air propulsion of the enveloping sound waves. The resultant impact is the literal vibration of walls and windows as the sound waves can be felt filling the room like oozing black tar. This then clearly differs from headphone listening, as regardless of being armed with decent studio pair, the overloaded bass makes for a rather oppressive listening experience even at low volume. A four-panel digipack rounds out a rather tasty release.

Heart of Palm – Tropique Concrète: Collected

Heart of Palm – Tropique Concrète: Collected CD Difficult Interactions 2021

Knowing effectively nothing about this project it has been approached at face value, where the album title then gives a clear indication it involves musique concrète  experimentation. This is duly confirmed on the opening track Her Tears Shed In Paradises Grotto, which is based on field recordings of distant rumbling tropical thunder, lapping waves, sparse bird calls, and minimalist single note synth melody provides a forlorn yet dreamlike atmosphere. Elsewhere muted rhythmic metal clangs, looped field recording elements, and micro-tonal clatter provides a more ‘post-industrial’ vibe. Yet the overall tone and atmosphere is kept purposely subtle and moody thanks to the minimalist underpinning melodies, which on occasion includes a tropical-tinged guitar. Vocals also sporadically appear as an additional tonal element, but are treated with sonic smear which prevents interpretation, and which are further placed far off in the background of the mix for added obscurity.

As further alluded to by the album title, this release functions to collect material from a number of limited-edition tapes from 2016-2018 (plus 2021 bonus track), but notably it all hangs together strongly here as a standalone album of post-industrial inflected and darker toned musique concrète works. A six-panel pastel pink digi-pack adorned with suitable imagery provides further visual references to align with the coastal concept, which is then self-described as: ‘subconscious tropical concrète atmosphere & malaise’. The end result is a divergently intriguing album that is slightly left of centre of the usual type of material covered by Noise Receptor.

Hive Mind – Elysian Alarms

Hive Mind – Elysian Alarms CD Difficult Interactions 2020

It would seem Elysian Alarms is the first new full-length album from Hive Mind since 2012, with only a handful of shorter releases issued in the intervening years. Yet from the initial listens to Elysian Alarms it is immediately obvious that it has not been merely a matter of hitting record and letting fly. Rather it is clear that a significant amount of planning and attention to detail has gone into the sonic crafting of this instrumental album, which inhabits industrial drone and controlled experimental noise.

Opening cut Wish Contact sets the tone for the entire album, given it covers invasive layered drones, caustic loops, vaguely rhythmic structures and an undercurrent of scrabbling insectile textures. With the first track bleeding into the next piece Mars, Cloaked in Leather a broader ‘ebb and flow’ approach is revealed. Wavering drones with an off-kilter sway blend with, crumbling bass distorted loops and erupting fissures of electric static which continually interweave as the track unfolds. The Roses in Bagatelle Gardens follows a similar sonic trajectory but introduces some raw scrap metal field recordings for good measure. To slightly change tact, House Without a Key includes semi-melodious synth stabs and a backbone of a loosely rhythmic throb, further blended with windswept noise, while Come Alone features more raw metallic field recordings set against a bedrock of thick industrialized drones and insectile noise akin to the shrill singing of an army of robotic cicadas. Pawns Put Back Together, being the sixth and final track, arcs back to quieter controlled territory of depth and echo, where deep tonal drones slowly unfurl to the album’s conclusion just shy of 40 minutes in total.

The overall pacing of Elysian Alarms is an obvious highlight, given it is perfectly controlled by gradually pushing to roiling noise peaks and receding to more subdued sonic valleys. In some ways, the broader mood of the album reminds of the disorientating and alien-esque industrial drone-scapes of Jarl, yet there is quite a bit more movement and sonic heft on display here. A cleanly designed 4-panel dig-pack rounds out a slick presentation of the CD, with the album also issued on limited vinyl. An excellent album overall.