Minamata ‎– Fukushima

Minamata ‎– Fukushima CD Force Majeure 2017

This is a slightly older CD and from a French project whose roots and activity extend all the way back to the mid-1980’s. In then being well aware of the project by name, this is however is my first proper introduction to the music of Minamata, so I can offer little in the way of comparisons to how this differs from or continues on with their earlier sonic approach.

On Fukushima it contains four freeform tracks of a cinematic experimental-industrial style that spans a runtime of around 45-minutes. Opening track tepKO commences with thick waves of semi-melodies sweeping tones blend and interweave, creating a stormy and roiling mass of sound over its nine-minute span. The second track at(H)oM commences with more subtlety but soon gives rise to calamitous crashing elements, thick melodious drones, and a disembodied voice cutting through the tonal mass. Charting more contemplative atmospherics, tsunaminamata features a sparse soundscape of panning and sweeping textures and angst-driven vocals, which shifts mid-track with rapidly buildings sonic peaks, and which metaphorically is like the swamping of land by continual tsunami waves. The final of the four tracks is eKlips, and is the longest track at 22 minutes. While not significantly different from the earlier material, does contain more direct song structures with segments of incessant pounding beat, radioactive blasting noise, dour cinematic synth melodies, and anguished vocalisations.

With the cover imagery on the six-panel digi-sleeve, as well as track titles, it is obvious this has been inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011. Consequently, the album plays out as a rather decent experimental-industrial soundtrack of sorts to the tragic events which unfolded. Worthy of attention and will certainly see me further investigating Minamata’s back catalogue.

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14 LP Force Majeure 2020

Cent Ans De Solitude is a somewhat obscure French experimental noise-industrial project of Jean-Yves Millet who has been active since the mid 1980’s. Yet the obscurity is perhaps explained by the limited output from the project over the years, which has mostly on compilations rather than his own albums. To speak of one compilation contribution, the project notably was featured on the now cult classic Zyklon B cassette compilation from 1994 which was collated and assembled by Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP).

To then talk of this recent release, the visually striking Russian Constructivism-inspired cover artwork draws immediate attention, while the title denotes this album as being a live recording from 2014. La-Bas is the short intro piece based on dour melodious elements, shimmering noise and smatterings of muted vocal chatter opens the album, which later shifts off into a lengthy experimental noise passage of drone, bowed metal shrieks and sampled radio dialogue which encapsulates a moodily atmospheric and hollowed out tone. Given the live flowing format of the recording, it is not immediately clear where one track concludes the next commences, but the later half of Side A sees jagged and metallic tonality offset against a drone of increasing intensity, and by side’s end the tone has risen into a cavernously echoed cacophony of sound. Paysages Industriels opens Side B resets the sonic approach with melodious (piano?) loop and distant creaking junk metal tones. The next track Des Visages Et Des Ruines with its layers radio chatter, rising orchestral style synths, slow pounding martial beat and muted industrial noise reminds strongly of the martial industrial approach of LJDLP, which is a high compliment from these quarters. The Unacceptable Face Of Beauty follows and charts yet further stylistic territory with prominent looped orchestral elements taking focus prior to rhythmically percussive elements being introduced later in the track. Ailleurs is the final piece and reverts to tonal noise experimentalism of the first side, featuring shimmering drones, sampled dialogue and the shrieking of bowed sheet metal, while muted dour melody and heartbeat pulse appears late in the piece.

Of note, this live recording was first issued in 2019 on CD via Jean-Yves Millet’s own label Les Nouvelles Propagandes and now been given the vinyl treatment on ‘rust’ coloured wax, which is housed in full colour screen-printed, foldout sleeve. Despite being from a lesser-known artist within the post-industrial underground this is a wonderful discovery of highly varied and atmospheric experimental noise-industrial soundscapes. Very worthy of further investigation.

Dieter Müh ‎– The Bjorn Tapes

Dieter Müh ‎– The Bjorn Tapes LP Force Majeure 2018

This is a prime case of what is old is made anew through a welcomed reissue, so kudos to the French based Force Majeure label, which itself is a sub-label to Nuit et Brouillard. The Bjorn Tapes is an early release from the long active UK industrial experimentalist project Dieter Müh, which I was of the understanding is the solo endeavour of Steve Cammack. Although I have now discovered that at an earlier point the project was a duo with David Uden. This recording from the early duo period, which itself is a live recording from 1999 where the sound has been further treated in the studio subsequent to the performance. The first edition of The Bjorn Tapes was fittingly on cassette, released on tape via the Japanese noise label Xerxes, run by Yasutoshi Yoshida of Government Alpha. Later in 2004 it was reissued on CDr via the Italian post-industrial Blade Records, and now has finally made it onto vinyl 19 years after it was originally recorded.

Although armed with a central experimental focus, there is a strong thread of raw post-industrial sonics present throughout. Herma is the first of three tracks and edges into frame with a distant drone and muted rhythmic loop. Later some more forcefully scratching metallic tones are added for good measure and the general approach pushed into far more active industrial territories. Low Feed follows with a similar tone of muted drones and rhythmic loops, but with the inclusion of unintelligible treated voices. Likewise, the echoed and distant sound of the raw mid-toned metallic textures give a clear sense of the live setting of the recording, while the overall atmosphere edges towards being more forceful as the track progresses. Side B features the single lengthy track Aghor, and while tonally consistent is somewhat more abstract given its span. Cavernous tones give way to a thrummed bass pulse, which in turn shift to looped aquatic rumble, sparse echoed shards and disembodied radio voices, and semi-melodious drone which builds to a choppy and chaotic peak, before collapsing late track back into more minimalist and abstracted sounds.

Presentation wise, the cover is a two-panel foldout outer-sleeve, with screen-printing on textured card with replicated original cover artwork and live photo on the back panel. This when coupled with the heavy wight vinyl pressing of 320 copies rounds out the entire package in a classy and no-frills manner.

Grunt – Someone is Watching / Europe After Storm

Someone is Watching

Europe After Storm

Grunt – Someone Is Watching CD Force Majeure 2011

Grunt – Europe After Storm CD Force Majeure / Industrial Recollections 2012

These two albums are not new, instead are re-releases from the lengthy Grunt back catalogue.  Incidentally the combined material was recorded in 1998 with ‘Europe After Storm’ also containing some live tracks from 1999.  Whilst both albums clearly sit within the European power electronics genre, here there seems to be a general reliance on oscillating synth textures for a basis of the sound.  This aspect effectively highlights a clear difference between older and newer material, as recent Grunt albums appear to focus on self produced and specifically recorded sounds (sheet metal, effects units, homemade noise apparatus etc.).

In its original version ‘Someone Is Watching’ was first issued on tape in 1998 and given its limitation of 128 copies it clearly warrants this less limited CD repress of 500 copies.  Likewise as is suggested by the title, the album’s concept focuses on CCTV / video surveillance and the associated control that a faceless authority seeks to impose by such technological means.  Album opener ‘Watch Your Back’ feature a prominent synth drone, a crumbling mass of distortion and high pitched processed vocals which sweep and pan trough the mix over the extended 9 minute length.  Definitely a great start and with the track being heavy and noisy but at the same time structured and loosely composed, it establishes the prevailing theme throughout the album.  Interestingly ‘You Can’t Hide’ is quite reminiscent of Propergol’s ‘Cleanshaven’ album, due to the prominent use of movie dialogue samples and subdued ominous atmosphere, yet as ‘Cleanshaven’ was also released in 1998, the question is who might have influenced who, or are the similarities a mere coincidence?  Towards the middle of the album ‘Secrets Of Technology’ takes a much looser approach and is particularly heavy with an overloaded noise productions and metallic clatter, with the distorted vocals barely being able to break though the sonic mass.  Regarding the concluding arc of the album, the final three tracks each contain a notable controlled sweeping noise aesthetic, which evokes a stalking and threatening type mood that certainly suits the album’s concept.

Moving onto ‘Europe After Storm’ it has a slightly more storied history as it was first issued as four track cassette in 1998, before being reissued on CD in 2001 with three additional studio tracks and four live tracks.  This version contains the same material from the 2001 CD release but is packaged here is a standard jewel-case.  Although from the same era, from the outset it is evident that ‘Europe After Storm’ differs from ‘Someone Is Watching’, given it sonically it is more brutal and less atmospheric as a result.   ‘Project Eden’ opens ‘Europe After Storm’ and descends with an assemblage of rough loops, drilling synth elements and heavily processed vocals and a building mass of distortion and random clatter.   On the other hand ‘N-Force’ uses a sustained synth drone to provide a somewhat filmic quality to a backdrop of modulated noise, which is soon crushed by the following track ‘Blood On Concrete’ with squalled noise layers and prominent anger filled power electronics vocals.  Alternately ‘Peacekeepers’ stylistically shifts the sound towards a death industrial tone, due the heavy droning synth line and distant noise and sampled dialogue, although the later half of the track does morph into a proper power electronics blizzard.  ‘Cleansweep’ rounds out the collection of studio tracks, which loosely knits together layers of pulsing noise, dialogue loops and chaotic vocals. Of the four live tracks, these conceptually fit the studio tracks (two studio tracks from ‘Europe After Storm’ feature in live version), but within the live context there is a looser and heavier presentation, including the vocals that come across as more prominent and forceful.  Sonically it seems the live tracks may involve the  use of a backing track (…I could be wrong on this point), which are augmented with live noise and vocals.  Yet either way the live tracks are a solid live representation of studio material.

Clearly both of these older Grunt albums contain strong and focused material, which differ slightly in sound and style consistent with their differing themes.  Likewise both albums have stood the test of time positively and can hold their own within the context the current crop of newer power electronics releases.  Yet when these earlier albums are compared to the current Grunt album ‘World Draped in A Camouflage’, it only emphasises how far Mikko Aspa has pushed his project and the levels of sophistication he has achieved within his chosen power electronics framework.

Maison Close – Maison Close

Masion Close

Maison Close – Maison Close CD Force Majeure 2012

Maison Close is not a new project/ album, rather is a ten year anniversary repress which has been reissued in much the same presentation and content as the original release.

Regarding its genre Maison Close could be described as something like noise infused dark ambience, which verges on a windswept power electronics sound.  As such the sonic palette consists of sustained analogue drones, sweeping ominous textures and slow grinding loops which evokes a partial linage to the early Loki Foundation heavy electronics style – think Predominance, Dagda Mor, Ex.Order and early Inade.  The overall atmosphere generated by the heavy use of dialogue samples is also reminiscent of what Propergol would later do with the same concept, yet Maison Close generates a more consistent soundtrack type atmosphere due to the singular source which the movie dialogue is sampled from.

Regarding its usage of sampled dialogue, thematically the album focuses on the 1971’s motion picture ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ which makes for great conceptual fodder.  Although the movie is in effect an anti war tome told from the perspective of an severely wounded soldier, here Maison Close have focused on aspects which address the existential fear of being mentally cognisant, but trapped in a comatose and non-responsible body with the following panic and terror which would ensue.  Noting the albums visuals have also been lifted from the movie, the album very much plays out as an alternate experimental soundtrack to the source material.

Noting the calmer arc of the first half, things step up on mid album track ‘Tom-nihil-rec’ that contains the first use of prominent vocals, presented in an agonised power electronics style that soar above the sonic undercurrent of grinding and crumbling noise.   The track ‘Pain’ also utilised prominent vocals, which achieves an agonizing climax with its combination of swelling distortion and deranged vocal delivery.  ‘Interferences’ mines a similar vein to Brighter Death Now’s death ambient sound, which here combines a cavernous echo chamber ambience with a prominent singular mid range piecing tone that burrows deep into your psyche and making this track anything but easy listening.  A heavy noise squall and agonised vocals then reappear on ‘Eclats de vie’ before one final section of sampled movie dialogue to conclude the album (“SOS help me… SOS help me…” repeated…).

Given where others have taken this sort of sound in the years following the original release, I would not necessarily call this classic or ground-breaking.  Yet it is still a solid album all the same which had successfully merged its overall tone and atmosphere with its conceptual context.

Mind &Flesh – Martyr Generation

Mind&Flesh

Mind & Flesh – Martyr Generation CD Force Majeure 2012

Although Norway might not be a highly recognised country for death industrial and power electronics music, this has done little to hamper the enthusiasm of Anders B with his Mind & Flesh project.  It also seems this is not Anders first release, as he has previously issued two albums under a separate moniker Babyflesh, before rebooting under the guise of this new project name.

Being the Mind & Flesh debut, ‘Martyr Generation’ consists of nine tracks recorded between 2005-2008 and by way of indicative sonic markers, this is musically in the vicinity of early Genocide Organ, early Haus Arafna, Brighter Death Now etc, yet does manage to evoke a sound of its own.  Overall the album follows a path of being loose and unpolished in delivery, being built on repeated looped structures to form the basis of each piece.  Likewise the tracks are structured enough to not appear improvised, but chaotic enough to suit its death industrial/ power electronics guise.

The roughly stilted loops and acerbic distorted vocals of ‘Walking Target’ introduce the album and include the dually consoling/ menacing lyrics of: “I will keep you safe. Nothing is going harm you. As long as you play my game”.  Yet things really kick in with full force on ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’ with fast, pulsing metallic loops and flanged vocals that hint at the vocal style delivery of the Grey Wolves. This track is blunt and to the point and all the more effective for it, and continues in a similar stylistic slant on ‘Alone Against All’ which also brings the mid era Brighter Death Now compassions to the fore.  The elongated length of ‘Blodskam’ evokes some great droning death industrial (complete with distant wailing chants), whilst ‘Destroyers’ achieves a more loose rhythmic sound with its various loops and decent amount of crisp and sharp distortion.  Noting that ‘Purgatorium’ is credited to both Mind & Flesh and Atrax Morgue (aka the late Marco Corbelli who regrettably committed suicide in 2007), there is no further information regarding this collaboration, but obviously this was composed before Marco’s untimely passing.  Here ‘Purgatorium’ presents a cavernous atmosphere built with a basic yet crushing beat and sermon like distortion treated vocals, being broadly characteristic of the minimalist approach of Atrax Morgue.  Alternately the final track ‘Clashing Icons’ bleeds out over an extended 10 minute length, evoking a cavernous death ambient soundscape of echoes, metallic textures and occasional vocal wails (…a commendable conclusion which is certainly a hell of a lot calmer than much of the material which precedes it).

With ‘Martyr Generation’ Mind & Flesh delivers a solid and no frills death industrial/ power electronics album.  Whilst it may display its influences fairly prominently, when armed with such conviction and delivered with such passion as displayed here, it provides Mind & Flesh with requisite individualistic flair, thus worthy of full attention.