Sadio / Caligula031 – Sadio / Caligula031

Sadio / Caligula031 – Sadio / Caligula031 LP Freak Animal Records/ Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2016

On this split the Finnish Sadio (a collaborative project between Grunt and Skin-Graft) have teamed up with the Italian Caligula031 (side project of Wertham main man Marco Deplano), and is ultimately a release which sits at the depraved and nastiest end of power electronics.

Sadio take on Side A with 3 tracks of ‘basement torture’ electronics which are even less structured than those on the debut album Sophisticated Methods In Torture (…which itself was an exercise in direct aggression over detailed or meticulous studio recording).  With more similarity than difference across the first two pieces Inhale the Animal Filth and Slavemarket, the result is absolutely rough, raw and ripping.  Here the sound, whilst having a solid lower end, is more prominent at the mid to high spectrum with overblown and hollowed out tones, barely controlled feedback squalls and occasional barked vocals rising to the surface.  The clear impression is the material has perhaps been recorded live in studio, with recording levels being max’ed out in the red, and followed with limited (if any) post production. The third and final track Innocent And Pure then shows a fair bit more restraint and opts for a slow building atmospheric cut of sweeping and fluttering mid tones and bulked out with heavier bass rumble and with the late track murky vocals being vomited somewhere off in the distance of a cavernous warehouse.

Caligula031 then encompasses a voyeur’s ‘sleaze perspective’ on Side B (4 tracks and around 20 minutes of material), which thematically focus on heroin addition and the depravity of the ‘fix’ lifestyle. Needle Park – Platzspitz 1990 is the opening piece of extremely murky, idling machine clatter to set a general mood of stasis, thus leaving ample room for the forceful vocal torrent to remain prominently throughout. Following on Nothing Comes For Free is excellent for its minimalism which is constructed with two sustained but counteracting tones (…one needling texture and the other at the mid to lower end), which allows Marco’s heavily Italian accent vocals to sit front and centre within the track. Sponge of the Sidewalk follows and is framed around subdued bass rumble and dialogue sample referencing addiction, prostitution and criminality (…which appears to have been lifted from a UK talk show), while Sob Story is the final of four tracks and is another piece of hollow mid-toned textures and heavily processed vocals.

Packaging is noteworthy for its simple white sleeve and sticker, which has been further ‘augmented’ with flecks, drips and spatters of real blood, while a double sided insert includes further thematic imagery.  Clearly a release for those knowing exactly what they are in for, and not for the squeamish or ‘scene tourist’ types, thus with its limitation of 250 copies this would be sufficient for this nasty and no-frills release to find its intended audience.

Contact caligula031@gmail.com for availability.

Slogun / Wertham – By Blood : In Blood

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Slogun / Wertham By Blood : In Blood CD Electronica Radicale Edizioni / Old Europa Café 2015

On ‘By Blood : In Blood’ the Italian stalwart Wertham and American protagonist Slogun have combined their divergent takes on power electronics for this part split / part collaboration album.  Thus for the ‘split’ part of this release each project has provided 3 individual tracks, while for the ‘collaboration’ part 2 tracks by Wertham feature John Balistreri on vocals and vise versa for Slogun’s 2 tracks (i.e. Marco Deplano on vocals).

Musically speaking this CD is exactly what is expected for a pairing of Slogun and Wertham.  The individual Slogun tracks follow the recent more composed and refined direction of the project, with fierce layered loops providing vague rhythms which are mixed with urban field recordings and clinical static as the base for the trademark wailed/ echoed vocals barrage of John Balistreri.  On this front ‘React and Destroy’ is a particularly good example of Slogun’s current sound and modus operandi.  Regarding the exclusive Wertham tracks these display a murkier and distant tone (which is essentially a bulldozing analogue sound), which comes across as the sound of some mammoth idling industrial machine, as the heavily accented vocals are semi-buried within the sonic mass.  Of particular note is Wertham’s track ‘Bloodlines’, which for the normal ferocity of the project, this piece is fiercer and static fried than typical.

For the collaborative offerings, these then (obviously) blends the two sounds, by the ‘Slogun’ sound featuring Marco’s vocals and the ‘Wertham’ sound featuring John’s distinctive vocals.  On the Wertham tracks John’s vocals are less upfront in the mix, but retain the trademark wailed spite and echoed treatment.  Likewise for the Slogun collaboration tracks, these are just a touch more subdued and experimental in approach, with Marco murky treated vocals sitting low in the mix.

Although this is pretty much an album as expected from a pairing of these long established projects, it has still resulted in a strong collaboration. Colour digi-pack with 12 page booklet with all lyrics rounds out the visual side of things.

Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II / Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology

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Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

As should be clearly apparent from the title, this is the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series and again focuses on aspects of Sardinian criminal history and culture.  For this instalment: “The concept slightly moves from the blood-feud/knife obsessive themes of the first work, toward the aftermath of the war between families that lead the protagonist of our tale to turn into a feral life style on impenetrable mountains, ‘living like boars and sleeping like foxes’, until his capture and subsequent confinement in the notorious Boncammino’s jail. The solitude of the forced mountain life meets the despair of 30 years of life in a cage of the notorious legal larger.”

As with the first collaboration the individual sound and direction of both Uncodified and Wertham are clearly complimentary and again deliver a strong and focused amalgam of their styles.  Essentially ‘Vindicta II’ encompasses a collection of tracks where the bulk of proceedings are marked by various combinations burrowing atonal synth lines, shuddering industrial clamor, static fried frequencies and echo treated spoken/ shouted vocals.  As such the album is one which expertly combines grinding industrial noise and shuddering yet muted power electronic structures.  The sound of the album also differs from ‘Vindicta I’ in that it is far less sonically invasive in tone, where ‘Vindicta II’ also achieves a controlled and restrained feel to its outwardly aggressive elements.  With the sound frequencies generally sitting at the mid to lower range, this is also a clear differentiating point from the first instalment which contained many tracks with prominent elements of mid to high pitched tinnitus inducing noise.   Also whilst being clearly aggressive the production of ‘Vindicta II’ is one which is also low key and sweepingly atmospheric.  Noting its sonorous consistency this is an album best appreciated in its totality; as an overarching block of sound, rather than singling out specific pieces; where a tone of general noise squalor and an atmosphere of tense oppression and confinement prevail, thus suitably reflecting the album’s thematic focus.  Yet given the strong coherence of the bulk of the album the final track deviates quite markedly from the balance of the album as it encompasses the later era of Haus Arafna styled piece of subdued atonal rhythmic power-electronics.

Essentially the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series is faithful to the sound and concept of the first, yet also achieves a differing tonal approach which sets it apart.  With a third CD in the trilogy planned to round out the concept, which based on the strength of the first two is a release on the horizon to look out for.

Released at the same time as ‘Vindicta II’, ‘Hardcore Methodology’ is the new album from Uncodifed and whilst technically a solo outing, 8 of the 15 tracks feature collaborations with other artists, including: Gianlica Favaron, Bologna Violenta, Caligula 031, Sshe Retina Stimulants and Simon Balestrazzi.  Tonally ‘Hardcore Methodology’ presents a varied recording which spans many aspects of harsher underground experimental sounds and encapsulates fractures synth textures, sparse loose rhythmic elements, atonal synth drones, grinding bass tonality etc. The album displays a sharp and loud production with a certain sonic crispness to the tone and as stated by the promo sheet the album encompasses “abrasive post-industrial experimentation”.

Generally more abstract and varied in tone and approach that ‘Vindicta II’, the overarching feel of the album is as a collection of sonic experimentations rather than being structured around a strong central theme.  Evidently the album’s title does make some conceptual reference to the obsessive methodologies employed by directors of Hardcore movies, however exactly what such methodologies are and how they relate to this album is not clear (…perhaps the album is abstract homage to ‘obsessiveness’, but here focused on experimental industrial sounds?).

Although there are many strong brooding segments (such as ‘(L) Hotel’) and other tracks with excellent tonal qualities (such as the sonically invasive ‘Collection of Clothes’) which are spread throughout the album, I can’t shake the feeling that the album plays out as a collection of sporadic tracks which lacks an element of coherence due to the track’s being on the shorter side (between 0.16 seconds at the shortest and the longest at 4.10 minutes).  A clear misstep is also evident on ‘Anterooms’ where the sullen mood is jarringly interrupted by the inclusion of a pre-set rhythm from a cheap casio keyboard (?).  But countering this, late album tracks ‘Cotton Pads’ and ‘Methodology 3 (end of report)’ each contain a fierce higher range tonal spectrum which would not be out of place on the ‘Vindicta I’ album, sans the aggressive vocalisations.

Although ‘Hardcore Methodology’ constitutes an interesting listen with some excellent sonic moments, to this ear it also suffers from a bit of a scattergun approach and lack of thematic focus.  Whilst this presents somewhat of an issue for this reviewer, for others not who prefer straight sonic experiments for their own sake, this could fit the bill perfectly. But when placing ‘Hardcore Methodology’ in direct comparison with ‘Vindicta II’, the later wins out in style, focus and finesse.

The Grey Wolves / Wertham / Survival Instinct – Ramraiding Thee Abyss

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The Grey Wolves / Wertham / Survival Instinct – Ramraiding Thee Abyss LP Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2013

Here is a new three-way split/ collaboration album which in many ways reflects the past, present and future of the contributing acts, whilst also remaining devoted to the underground scene from which they have been collectively spawned.  Obviously the Grey Wolves and Wertham should already be well-known, however this LP also functions to introduce Survival Instinct who are noted to be: a splinter cell and an exit strategy, of and from, the Grey Wolves”.  Noting the potential ambiguity of this statement that seems to allude to a potential end to the Grey Wolves, this may or may not in fact be the case.  Or perhaps it is just a solo project of either of the Grey Wolves members David Padbury or Trevor Ward?  Not too sure on this point, so on with the review.

Noting the aggressive atmospheric noise meets power electronics tone of both the Grey Wolves and Wertham, in an overall sense this LP delivers exactly what is expected.  Thus ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’ opens with ‘No Good Deeds Will Be Left Unpunished’, which is appropriately a three-way collaboration, where the layered, mid-range fluctuating distortion and partially buried vocalisations combine into a heavy and urgent statement of intent.  ‘Latin Day (Flashback – Ipswich Agro)’ quickly follows and sees the Grey Wolves operating in the vein of their classic sound.  That is to say it includes vague shuddering industrial rhythms which are caked in layers of noise filth, as antagonistic echoed vocals deliver an unintelligible sermon. ‘Shankill Butchers’ sees Wertham functioning on their own, delivering intense cyclic, mid to low range rumbling distortion, with a heavily treated vocal attack.  Straight forward and to the point with it scathing layered noise approach, TV reporter dialogue samples are also used to flesh out thematic context.  ‘Rise Above the Flames’ then follows and is the first solo offering of Survival Instinct and based on this track they are a very promising act.  This piece takes a subdued and brooding approach which leans towards a death industrial sound.  Here the production is less based on overloaded distortion, rather opting for composed and echoed treated tribal/ mechanical rhythms mixed with atmospheric noise.  Certainly an excellent introduction to the project.

For the flip side of the vinyl Wertham in collusion with Survival Instinct deliver an instrumental track ‘Towards a Dark Horizon’ which charts a course of composed industrial factory rhythms and an undercurrent of generally subdued sweeping and crumbling clamour.  The Grey Wolves then appear again in solo guise on ‘Edging Ever Closer’, which is more atmospheric than typically grating, again with layered droning noise, scattered electronics and unhinged vocalisations.  ‘Friday Night Boot Party’ is another solo offering courtesy of Wertham, here looped conveyor belt sonics combine with atmospheric burrowing noise, which underscore the distortion infused vocals which are barked in delivery.  The album is then concluded by another solo track from Survival Instinct, where moody synth textures of ‘New Phase Dawns’ counterbalance mid paced jagged industrial loops and sporadic heavy bass tone blasts.  Another great moment from this new project.

Without sounding like a patchwork of various projects, the three contributing acts manage to find common and complimentary ground on ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’, be it on solo standalone tracks or in otherwise collaborative guise.  Likewise given the sheer number of years the Grey Wolves have been in existence as an active scene contributor (…28 years and counting), it is great to see that they have lost none of their urgency, antagonism and attitude.  Pressed in pristine black vinyl (THE perfect format for this type of release), and with a slick gatefold sleeve adorned with suitable ‘cultural terrorist manifesto’ type statements and imagery, this album is everything it was hoped it could be, and in fact delivers more, given the strength and distinctive sounds of the Survival Instinct solo cuts.