Grunt – Kraniometria

Grunt – Kraniometria 3” MCD Freak Animal 2019

Over the past decade Grunt have issued a stellar run of composed power electronics releases, yet Grunt’s new offering has reverted to harsh noise territory, featuring three tracks and around 21 minutes of material. Although this mini CD is concerned with harsh noise, that tonal spectrum is no stranger given it has been a staple element in Grunt’s sound where it has been employed as a core compositional element.

But on Kraniometria harsh noise is used as a free-flowing element, and evidently the end result has been edited from hours of recordings. The opening four-minute track Eschatological Uterus features a raw and blown out/hollowed out sound which has the fierceness and energy of arching high voltage electricity, while the multitude of layers employed gives it a multi-textural sound. Flowing between clear sections, it builds to chaos and recedes to moments of relative calm, rather than employing a singular one-dimensional tone.

The second track is Sex-Paralys-Appeal and under two minutes in length, again with electricity tones arching over a deft raw and heavy junk metal rumble. The title track clocks in at 15 minutes, and while following the same tonal spectrum as the first two tracks, the flow is more fiercely freeform, cutting between distinct sections and segments, including choppy and whistling overblown feedback and a late-track section of almost orchestral intensity, maintaining a prevalent intensity throughout.

Brutally loud, but roughly echoed and hollowed in depth and tone, this is a good short and sharp release to hear Mikko letting loose with noise under the Grunt moniker.

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Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace

Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace 3” MCD Freak Animal Records 2019

Evidently Jaakko had been working for many years on a full length follow up to 2012’s Here Be Lions. But instead the best fruits of that labour have been culled and issued as a five-track 21-minute mini CD, and literally not a second is wasted across its short span.

While I am not an avid noise listener, when I do so it warrants listening to the best and Jaakko is certainly widely recognized as a master of his craft. Yet Jaakko’s modus operandi is far from an improvisational ‘one take’ approach; rather the sonics are meticulously spliced together from a myriad of separate recording sessions, and this absolutely shines through in the end result. The scalpel-like precision of sonic editing generates an ever-changing and evolving chaotic sonic maelstrom which is simply a joy to listen to, particularly as the production tone is loud, crystalline, and detailed. Here the varying elements include rapid-fire screeching noise, shredding junk metal sonics, ripping distortion, sustained needling elements, and detailed micro-tonal textures that blend, overlap, and radiate off one another. Stereo panning between speakers functions to then further amplify the beautiful aural chaos, and on final track Sword of Death the use of a melodious synth undercurrent provides a vague orchestrally cinematic aura.

There is little point in completing a track by track review, although track titles do perhaps imply arcane and esoteric themes such as Iris Star and Blood Arcanum. Yet the above description functions to capture the essence of the mini CD and highlight the compositional approach of the recordings, which must be heard fully to appreciate this noise master at work. A mini cardboard-gatefold cover rounds out a slick presentation for a fantastic release.

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex CD Freak Animal 2019

Kristian Olsson – of Alfarmania and Survival Unit infamy – should really need no introduction. Ligranorex is a solo recording, but not a new one. Originally issued on cassette in 2012, it has been reissued here with an additional track added for good measure.

In a general sense, Kristian’s solo recordings are not light years away from those of Alfarmania; however, a clear differentiator is that his solo recordings are far less aggressive and more ritualized in scope. The opening 22-minute title track, despite its ritualized undercurrent, is overall quite noisy and tonally blustery, begging comparison to Alfarmania works. But from second track Sippurator, the catacombic and esoteric depths at the core of this album are revealed. Here a track of dank cavernous ritualized atmospheres is fully realized, where shuddering darkness comes to life and seems to articulate the psychic membrane separating the real from the unreal and the waking state from the dream. Floating subdued male chants allude to human form, but equally these could be from a netherworld beyond the edges of waking perception. Later, cyclic bass drones provide greater movement to the composition, but the general mood is of drawing you into its fold. Haruspex announces itself with the wailing of a thighbone trumpet, dank and slow-paced ritual percussion, and sparse ceremonial chimes. These sit at the forefront of sound that articulates cavernous archaic depths  sonically receding far off into the distance. Spanning 21 minutes, the mood and pacing is slow and drawling, whereas throughout the middle and later sections the percussive pulse becomes more urgent, coupled with a prominent ascending/descending drone loop. Although lerul is noted to be a bonus track, it fits perfectly with the flow, mood, and balance of the album. Grey-hued and tonally stark soundscapes are releveled and further infused with archaic ritual atmospheres. Yet with its incessant bass throb and wavering sustained drones, it at times begins to resemble a slightly more ritualized version of Anenzephalia’s subdued heavy electronics offerings.

Packaging wise, the six-panel digi-pack is exquisitely presented with a selection of Kristian’s artwork, including the same artwork used for the cover of Issue No.3 of Noise Receptor Journal.

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.

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.

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light

HL

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light LP Freak Animal 2016

Daniel Burfoot’s Human Larvae project has only issued 3 albums (including this) in 8 years since the debut was issued in 2008.  Although each have been individually strong and focused noise industrial/ power electronics releases, a gradual step up in refinement has also been noted.  Likewise while last album ‘Womb Worship’ (reviewed here) received high rotation, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ then contains a focused directness and immediacy beyond anything previously displayed by Human Larvae.  Working with wide variety of sonic elements and stylistic approaches, this new album contains a degree or familiarity and which beg parallels comparisons with the likes of IRM, Prurient and Grunt*, but Daniel cleverly has twisted them to his own ends under the Human Larvae banner.

‘Paradigm Shift’ leads off in exceptional ‘controlled tension’ style, where its subdued windscreen drone and detailed junk metal sounds displays depth in the recording and production. ‘Severing Sirens’ is the second track of stilted quasi death-industrial pounding structures and cathartic vocals, which gradually builds to a crescendo of aggression and feedback squall.  After reaching a particular peak the mood falls away to one of tense restraint, where he microtonal textures, shimmering static drones and distant choir like solo female vocals (perhaps a mythical ‘Siren’ of the track’s title?), while creaking sheet metal provides a sharper rusted industrial aesthetic.  The cathartic lyrics of ‘Isolation of the Stain’ and their gruff roared delivery brings to mind the approach of Prurient, although the musical undercurrent is more restrained than typical Prurient, where it balances between static, drone and feedback.

On Side B, the first track is ‘Psychosis’, where the guest vocals of Levas (of the Lithuanian project Pogrom), provides a deeper and harder masculine edge to a undercurrent of widescreen drones, which then take second stage to a rough and chaotic layering of junk metal and sprayed distortion.  At 10 minutes in length ‘Epiphany’ is an album highlight, where the elements of widescreen drone and clanging junk metal have been looped and structured into a focused rhythmic industrial/ power electronics track which perfectly balances structure and chaos (…where the elevating scraping feedback is used as an element to ratchet up the tension and augment the rough barked vocals of Daniel).  In the final third of the track the mood shifts to a segment built around looped clean guitar lines, which itself leads directly in the short track ‘Exit Elend’ to concludes the album.  This final piece, is then a back to basics display of a rough and shuddering industrial drone and course flange track vocals (repeating: “nothing changes” in a frantic yell).

Being the first Human Larvae album to be pressed on vinyl, this is an album which absolutely warrants such a pressing, where the collage artwork suits the sound and feel of the album.  Without being in any way derivative, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ is a strong, focused and sonically diverse industrial/ power electronics release which demonstrates full control over its sonic elements, both in the recording and their construction.  Recommended.

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* – while I acknowledge that these artists were mentioned in the promo text, this is not merely me ‘retreading’ the promo material, rather highlights that I completed agree with the comparisons (…although I don’t so much agree with the promo text’s comparison to Control).

Grunt – Sacrosanct Imperium

GruntMC

Grunt – Sacrosanct Imperium MC Freak Animal 2015

Evidently recorded over the same period as ‘Myth of Blood’, Mikko has also specifically pointed out that material featured herein does not constitute abandoned or leftover material. So, regardless of origin ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ is a short and tasty 20 minute three track cassette which continues to push Grunt’s audibly recognisable blend of power electronics filth and industrialised noise.

‘Prologue for Plague’ opens site A with a subdued sound that is not at all characteristic of Grunt, where sampled male operatic vocal and semi-orchestral tones weaves in out of a subdued crumbling noise drone. With this acting as a bit of a ‘intro’ piece ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ then delivers a hard hammer blow, with squelching mid-toned noise and fast paced throbbing militant tinged beat which is loose and unhinged in presentation. Mikko’s vocals are then used sporadically, where they are an urgent high pitched wail to match the urgency and unhinged aspects of the throbbing noise backing, which sprawls out over an extended length. Excellent stuff. ‘Gas Fumes’ is then a single extended piece which takes up Side B, where spitting static fried noise, and lower revving noise loops makes up the bulk of the sound, whilst the noise lines interweave, overlap and interject in equal measures, where vocals are more of the typical gruff shouted type, featuring a slight treated edge and only sporadically used. Late in the piece things calm down somewhat with a mid-toned sustained maudlin organ dirge tone, but with spitting, static fried noise remaining in the foreground. Simply put, another excellent track.

Feeling very much as a companion release to the ‘Myth of Blood’ album, ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ should not be passed over due to its cassette only format and is another very strong release to add to Grunt’s ever growing discography.