Arbiter – Radiating Panic Source / H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny

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Arbiter – Radiating Panic Source MC Fieldwork 2016

H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny MC Fieldwork 2016

From its launch in 2013 this US tape label was quite active through to 2014 managing 11 releases in that time.  Although 2015 revealed no new releases a batch of 3 new tapes have emerged in 2016, with 2 being reviewed below (…the third tape is a split between Swedish projects Alfarmania and Treriksroset in support of their US shows in 2016).

Two years on from the 2 track ‘Negatively-Existent Cell’ (reviewed here), Arbiter have returned with a new tape ‘Radiating Panic Source’ which features 6 tracks (3 per side) and about 30 minutes of material.  Again drawing clear parallels with a northern european post-industrial ‘post-mortem’ sound, Arbiter excel with their strong focus on composition to create short ‘song-like’ tracks.  Analog grit and bass addled rumble forms the staple building blocks, with a further myriad of erupting sonic fissures and idling factory machinery for added complexity.   The opening title sets the scene perfectly with intertwining cyclic layers and a sense of cavernous depth, while the first track on the second side (‘Punitive Measures Guise’), is another standout with its distant oscillating resonances, forceful siren like alarm wails and distant industrial wasteland aesthetic. Fantastic.

With the next tape I am not at all familiar with H.C.O.D. (short for Hideous Colors Of Decay), but they do fit perfectly within the sonic and visual aesthetic of Fieldwork. After 3 tapes issues in 2013 and 2014, ‘Instruments Of Destiny’ appears to be formal full length album, with 7 tracks spanning around 60 minutes.  Although clearly within the same general sonic dimension as Arbiter, H.C.O.D’s approach is far more sprawling is scope and is a hotbed of caustic industrialized noise which bleeds out over greater length.  Caked in sonic soot, the tone is one of analog filth where the tracks work on a dual level involving sustained cavernous widescreen bass rumble over which mid-toned squall, higher pitched ‘whistling’ feedback and junk metal crunch is belched. ‘Will to Oppression’ provides some variance with its centrally featured echo tinged and half chanted vocals, as does ‘Mutilated Victory’ with its garbled and undecipherable dialogue sample.  Perhaps with its more singular overall approach, H.C.O.D.’s cassette is something akin to a marathon crawl through a post-industrial dystopian nightmare of wrack and ruin.

As with all other Fieldwork releases, the packaging is noteworthy based on their pro-printed and grimly designed J-cards, where the Arbiter tape it includes a mini-foldout poster and outer cardboard slipcase. Although both tapes are excellent examples of their chosen stylistic slant, Arbiter is my personal pick due to its focused and direct approach.

Arbiter – Negatively-Existent Cell

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Arbiter – Negatively-Existent Cell MC Fieldwork 2014

With scant information available on this apparently new project this cassette appears to be Arbiter’s debut release.  Although I am uncertain of the country of origin, if I were to hazard a guess I might suggest that Arbiter are an American project but which is heavily influenced by a Northern European ‘industrial noise’ and an analogue experimental ‘tape manipulation’ sound. Noting that the cassette format does the grit and intensity of this material suitable justice, with its short length (approximately 15 minutes) this could have equally been suited to another analogue medium – the 7” vinyl (…but with that said Fieldwork have to date been staunchly focused on cassette only releases).

Although ‘Negatively-Existent Cell’ does contain sound elements which push towards nosier realms the overarching tone is one of stalking & controlled industrial noise abstraction. Thus calling this experimental industrial or even ‘post-mortem’ is relevant with each descriptor doing this adequate justice. Also not that I like to generally quote slabs of press releases, I do feel the succinct two sentence promo statement is exactly on the mark, and I quote: “Two tracks of freezing paranoiac industrial. Rich layers of analogue synthesis and mechanical decreptitude”.

The first track ‘Lead Laden Assemblage’ by fact of its title already begins to paint a ‘mind’s eye’ picture of the sound on display. Here analogue muted industrial to droning noise characterises the opening passage to generate a thick tone and laborious atmosphere. Things then get more complex with some understated microscopic metallic ‘contact microphone’ recorded textures (i.e. think a large metal canister being slowly warped and crushed), whilst the wavering/ oscillating abstract factory clamour becomes slightly more forceful and rabid. The second piece ‘Shattered Abstractions’ is slightly more loose in construction, having a more distant and cavernous atmosphere, but gradually elevates itself into more overblown and cacophonous territory consisting of shuddering blocks of sound, where morose oscillating drones are then used to tie together the overall atmosphere to achieve a broodingly excellent track.

Fieldwork may not be the biggest or the most prolific of labels, but they are doing an excellent job in building an underground industrial noise focused micro cassette label with a striking visual aesthetic. Arbiter are an excellent addition to the roster, where this is a strong and convincing debut recording.

Aischrolatreia – Sentient Prison

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Aischrolatreia – Sentient Prison MC Fieldwork 2013

This is the debut tape for the American project Aischrolatreia and associated label Fieldwork where it seems the same two individuals are behind both entities. Noting Fieldwork’s mission statement that they are a: “NYC based label for confrontational and unique sound work on analogue formats”, this professional duplicated tape and cover fits the bill perfectly, given the presentation is slick and visually grim in equal measures. As for the sonics, the tape presents an album’s worth of grinding noise and industrial debris strewn soundscapes (4 lengthy tracks spanning 40 minutes).  The overall tone is one that verges on loosely constructed power electronics aggression, but also holds a clear affinity in style and sound to the Swedish ‘post-mortem’ project Alfarmania and associated morbid industrial noise cassette culture.

Essentially a dank claustrophobia permeates all aspects of the sound, where fractured, churning factory machine rhythms and grinding industrial filth proliferate. Although ‘noise’  is used as a descriptor, this however does not verge anywhere near HNW territory, rather there is tonal separation of noise layers to allow a breadth of sound with room to breathe (yet to further qualify this, the atmosphere of ‘Sentient Prison’ is akin to breathing a tainted atmosphere of choking smoke and ash).  As such this is obscure analogue worship of shuddering distortion and squalling noise, which are presented as loosely constructed arhythmic industrial soundscapes. Sporadic incursions of anguished vocals are also evident yet relegated to another layer in the oppressive sonic mass, thus with an unhurrued and calculated approach it generates an atmosphere of slow brooding menace despise its outwardly jagged tonality.

With the name ‘Aischrolatreia’ roughly translating to: “the cult of the obscene; the worship of filth; a devotion to or worship of filth and obscenity”, the chosen moniker could not have been better suited to the project.  Thus in a no-frills capacity ‘Sentient Prison’ is a solid, gritty and oppressive tape, and one which highlights both Aischrolatreia as a project and Fieldwork as a label to keep an interested eye on.