Anenzephalia ‎– Programmatika

Anenzephalia Programmatika MC Hospital Productions 2017

For whatever reason I did not order this tape immediately upon release, where the limited 200 copies then completely sold out in a matter of days. Given that Anenzephalia are an artist who could easily sell 500+ copies, I then consoled myself with an vague assumption that its limitation implied this collection of outtakes and unreleased material might have not been up to the same standard as other main releases. But in proving that assumption completely wrong it did not take long for word to filter out regarding how great the tape was, and after a bit of searching I managed to obtain the tape at a fair price. In now having had a chance to listen to the tape myself, in my estimation Programmatika features some of the strongest material from the project in years.

Thematically Programmatika uses artwork and samples to cleverly comment on social engineering which seeks an idealistic Utopian future, but juxtaposes this against the creation of a soulless Dystopian nightmare. The tape features 18 listed tracks, which in reality each bleeds into a larger continuous composition. Sonically this perhaps sits towards the slightly more subdued sounds from the project post the year 2000, yet equally there is lots of sonic variety and detailing to maintain attention. According to the liner notes, all sounds were created 1989-2006 and further remastered 2016, however it seems that there are a variety of sonic elements which have been used in different formations on other releases. One of the most obvious of these is the clearly recognizable sample from A Tribute, featured on 1998’s mini LP New World Disorder. During a few select moments Programmatika features heavier industrialized textures, including atonal metallic clanging, swarming analogue distortion and queasy disorientating rhythms, but in the most part the mood is subdued and controlled. Likewise radio chatter and what sounds like German political speech samples occasionally bleed into the mix. Also of particular note, the end of Side B mirrors the first moments of the tape on Side A, while the end of Side A replicates the start of Side B. This functions to effectively create a conceptual ‘infinity loop’ of unchanging stasis, which would seem to represent the perpetual unchanging present without the possibility of a past or a future. To further frame the conceptual commentary, Programmatika is concludes with a deadpan voice repeatedly instructing the listener to “be happy”.

Without doubt I have been extremely surprised by how strong Programmatika is as a complete and focused release, and in no way feels to have been cobbled together from outtakes or throwaway material. As such Programmatika deserves to be heard by more that the few hundred that a 200 copy edition without a digital version allows, so here is hoping that a repress will be issued at some point. Vinyl perhaps?

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Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field

Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field 2xLP Hospital Productions 2017

With a discography of over 100 releases spanning back to 1991, Mlehst are a project I am not at all familiar with other than name alone. To then speak of The Difficulty In Crossing A Field, this is not a new recording from the solo project All Brentnall, but is a re-issue of a limited CDr dating back from 1998. As that was the same year when Hospital Productions as a label was originally launched, I am then going to assume that this album had a strong impact on label boss Dominick Fernow around that time, and hence is the reason why it has been plucked from obscurity for its reissue on double vinyl.

Sonically speak, the album is made up of four tracks of an experimental noise style, which feature as lengthy compositions on each LP side (10 to 19 minutes each). Far from being a hard and hard noise style, this is controlled and consider experimental soundscapes, including extensive quiet passages and a subtle dynamic depth and breadth of sound. While the mood and tone is loose and abstract, at the same time is not chaotic, instead showcasing a deft sense of compositional approach.

On the opening cut Flowery Twats it uses short segments or sections of choppy cut ups are used and at times are almost of quirky cartoonish quality, given way to passages of compositional restraint featuring cavernous doom addled reverb and mine shaft echo. The following piece Can Such Things Be? opts for quite prominent cyclic drones which stop short of breaking out into a noise squall, while maintaining a backdrop of sonic mineshaft depth and further augmented with indecipherable radio chatter.What Comes Round Goes Round charts a tensile muted industrial soundscape style, but the mood of this style is fractured with occasional choppy voice cut ups which become increasingly animated as the track progresses. The title track is the final of the four pieces and is clearly the nosiest, featuring a series of mid to high tone fragmented sound bursts, but which slowly morph into consolidated and thick pulsing drones, while later half then deviates off into fractured noise cut ups, before slowly descending into cavernous looped territory.

With the original CDr issued in only 100 copies, it is probably safe to assume it The Difficulty In Crossing A Field is one of the harder to find and consequently less heard releases in Mlehst’s discography. Obviously this new edition of 250 copies on gatefold vinyl, with artwork replicating the original, will then go part way to remedying that situation, given this is an enjoyable album of an experimental noise style.

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns

Prurient / Hanged Mans Orgasm – Unknowns LP Hospital Productions 2018

To provide background context, the two lengthy tracks on Unknowns were originally featured on a bonus cassette issued in late 2017 as part of a special bungle package of Prurient’s time stretching 7xLP release Rainbow Mirror. In its original context it appears it was conceived as a companion to the main release, however sonically speaking the material on Unknowns differs substantially form the sprawling ‘doom electronics’ synth and noise experimentation of Rainbow Mirror. Yet the resulted differences are easily explained by the involvement of Patrick O’Neal of Hanged Man’s Orgasm (aka Skin Crime) and Kris Lapke (of Alberich) providing the sonics on Unknowns. Dominick’s involvement then comes from his reading the short story published in the booklet of the Rainbow Mirror release and as highlighted by the promo blurb, “sub bass electronics”.

In The Ashes Of Science We Fall is a track which incorporates Dominick’s reading of the Rainbow Mirror short story, but with its understated and half whispered delivery which is also placed within the background of the mix, it leaves the sonics to take the prime focus. Consisting of radar channel scanning noise and Morse Code chatter, it creates a tensile minimalist industrial soundscape completely different to anything featured on Rainbow Mirror. The second track In The Peeling Birch We Remain, is sonically similar to the first, mainly due to the radar scanning type sonics, but is also is instrumental in execution and incorporates more obvious urban based field recordings which have been twisted and manipulated into low grinding and vaguely pulsing rhythmic loops towards the later half.

Despite technically being a companion release, I have found the sonic form of Unknowns to be much more engaging and direct than much of the sounds found on the parent release Rainbow Mirror. In then noting how different it is in sound and approach, regardless of its original association as a companion to Rainbow Mirror, Unknowns can be fully appreciated as a standalone release. Presentation and artwork is slick with clean graphic design which matches the look and feel of Frozen Niagra Falls, noting that the visuals for both have been completed by visual artist Adam Marnie.

Alberich / Lussuria  ‎– Borgia

Alberich / Lussuria  Borgia LP Hospital Productions 2018

Here we have a reissue of a 2016 collaborative tape between Alberich and Lussira, which according to the liner notes was: “recorded live to tape using Korg Digital Synthesizers”.  With this release then being billed as ‘dark ambient’ it should be relatively clear that Lussuria has had a greater influence over the sound, particularly as what is offered differs substantially from the recognized driving and rhythmic industrial meets heavy/ power electronics sound of Alberich. However at the same time the sound is a fair bit more animated and digital in tone when compare the usual abstract approach and timeless quality which is characteristic of Lussuria.

Album opener Continuum features tensile but melancholic dark ambient styled atmospheres, while the following cut Antechamber amalgamates cyclic drones and washes of crumbling distortion which refract and fold in on themselves. Anti-Renaissance stands out in that pushes towards something resembling an Alberich rhythmic approach, yet here is remains muted in execution and backed with distant and cavernous squalling noise. Untenable is also noteworthy based on its incorporation of smatterings of sparse tribal-esque percussive textures within a maudlin power-drone framework. Alabaster is another offering which appears to be more strongly driven by Alberich’s influence given the programmed driving rhythm and melancholic synth elements, but they still remain understated in the overall sonic framework. For the final track Voice Of The Dagger it is an animated piece which features an excellent blend of sub-orchestral drones, micro-tonal metallic textures and rhythmic throbbing undercurrent.

Although being billed as ‘dark ambient’, Borgia is varied in both approach and resulting atmosphere and maintains a strong sense of animated movement throughout. Although differing quite significantly from the typical approach of either project, both have a clear appreciation of the use of melancholic elements within an experimental dark ambient framework, meaning Borgia is a very enjoyable collaborative release. An edition of 500 copies (200 in purple and 300 in black vinyl) will likely serve demand, but won’t hang around long either.

Lussuria- Standstill

Lussuria- Standstill 8xMC Hospital Productions 2017

Lussuria may not be the biggest or most well-known artist on the Hospital Production roster, but over the last decade this solo project of American Jim Mroz has issued a large array of releases which draws from a diverse sonic base, including: dark ambient, experimental industrial, muted noise, abstract techno and cinematic soundtrack styled sonic explorations. In then drawing together such a diverse sound palate, it is of interest that the end result contains a vague approximation of each chosen stylistic element, but where they are combined in such a way to sidestep the usual or expected traits of the genres being drawn from, and in the process evokes an intangible and at times mysterious aura.

To then speak of this new release, Standstill represents an exercise in stamina and endurance given that the eight cassettes feature a whopping 33 tracks (formatted as 29 tracks for the digital version), with a combined total playtime pushing almost the four-hour mark. In then choosing to issue such a monolithic release in today’s age of short attention spans, on run-time alone Standstill has to be acknowledged for its rather epic and time stretching efforts. Perhaps then of contextual interest is the fact that Jim Mroz was a contributing member who joined Dominik Fernow on Prurient’s 2017 album Rainbow Mirror – the three hour and twenty minute marathon  meaning Jim is no stranger to releases with an excessively elongated run-time.

When further considering the monumental length of Standstill it might be somewhat expected that it would be most sonically diverse. Upon listening that expectation is revealed to be true, where at times Standstill is the most purposefully musical release in Lussuria’s discography to date and consequently a fair departure from the oblique industrial and abstract techno infused experimentation of earlier works. Yet, regardless of the sheer stylistic diversity on display, the overarching mood is one of a cinematic sound-score which remains as stylistic hallmark of earlier material. Likewise while the fractured beats and rhythms of earlier works make sporadic appearances here and there, more broadly Standstill evokes a deft filmic quality and timeless atmosphere.

To talk of specifics, but without attempting the unnecessary task of describing all aspects of the release, an impression of some of the more notable moments found within the sprawling scope follow. As such the album opens with Tree of Marble, an excellent cut of hushed experimental electronica with strong underpinning tone of melancholia. Another early track Aegri Somnia channels a quite distinct archaic soviet synthesizer sound, while the combined piece Viaticum/ Spear Dance/ Companion Note features driving doom addled beats, minor keyed synth washes, and maudlin clean shimmering guitars to generate a mood driven piece of the highest order. Another combined track Acanthus Leaves/ Of Rage And Denial/ Lashes features emotive drones, radio chatter, orchestral synth washes and tribal percussion which strongly brings to mind the early 1990’s sound of Cold Meat Industry (and specifically artists such as Morthound or Deutsch Nepal), before shifting into a section of muted but driving techno-esque beats. Moving into the middle of the set list, Natura Liberari I-III – plays out as a minimalist and abstract contemporary classical piece of sparse percussion, cello piano and woodwind instrumentation, before later segments divert off into conveyor belt rhythms and looped choir like drones. Twilight Red stands out as a dark ambient track of the highest callable, where the deep sub-orchestral drones are very reminiscent of the best moments of mid era raison d’etre (and when first listening to this my mind wandered and forgot I was listening to Lussuria, where I then momentarily wondered which raison d’etre album I was listening to!). Cliff In The Red Tidal Wave shows yet more variety, by channeling a lurking, suspense styled atmospheric piece of minimalist horror stings and abstract creaking tonality, ritual chimes, and sparse clean guitar. Your Voice To Arise As Incense then completely stands out from the rest, given it is based around sampled male choral vocals (Russian? Not sure), before their tonal resonance of the vocals is harnessed and the track veers off into heady ritual drone territory. As for the final track of the entire set, De Svarta Porten strides into neo-classical and martial industrial tinged territory, but maintaining a forlorn and abstract edge through to the final moments.

With the overall massive run-time being what it is, it was simply not possible to consume this in a single sitting, rather it was approached in larger blocks of tracks over a number of listening sessions. But given the distinct individual focus of the tracks which make up Standstill, it means the material can be approached in this way without hampering its appreciation. In noting from the above description of particular standout moments, it perhaps indicates that not every moment of Standstill is of the same high level. Yet even with that said there is no poor quality or skippable content, which in of itself is an impressive feat when dealing with literally hours of music.

With its monolithic scope and creative diversity Standstill is a stellar release and the most varied and engaging material I have heard from Lussuria to date. But as this was issued in an physical edition of a mere 150 copies (already long sold out), this leaves only the digital version as the means in which to experience this. As a final comment, it is noted that Hospital Productions have previously issued similar 8xMC’s from a number of their artists. So perhaps like Alberich’s original 8xMC NATO-Uniformen from 2010 which was treated to a ‘best of selection’ reissue on 2xLP in 2014, in future Standstill may also be given the same ‘best of’ reissue treatment. We shall see.

Alberich – Precursor

Alberich – Precursor MC Hospital Productions 2018

Kris Lapke has been issuing material under the Alberich moniker since 2005 and has amassed 18 releases in that time. But with many of those being issued on cassettes and in small runs, it has made it rather difficult to keep track of Alberich’s output, which in turn has created an elusive aura around the project. However, 2014’s 2xLP reissue of the 8xMC NATO-Uniformen (in a larger edition of 700 copies), functioned to raise greater awareness of the project and showcased the distinct blend of rhythmic industrial arrangements and controlled heavy/ power electronics atmospheres. While Precursor is technically the latest release, in actual fact it is a live recording from 2017, where the title should then perhaps be read as a statement given it has been issued prior to the upcoming and anticipated new full length Quantized Angel.

With Precursor being a live recording, as might be expected it plays out as a singular interconnected 35 minute piece which moves through a series distinct tracks and passages. In the process it then delivers all of the recognized and lauded elements of the project’s style, including: the driving rhythmic industrial beats, the pounding techno-esque movements; minor keyed melancholic synth washes; and sporadic but heavily treated vocals. In fact there are some massive artillery grade and explosively pounding beats on display here, with the melancholy synth washes offsetting those by providing an otherworldly tone.

Being expertly crafted and controlled in its delivery, on face value the recording does not at all sound to be a live recording, so I gather it has been made directly from the soundboard due to the clarity and volume of the sonics. Likewise, with is relatively short run time and brisk pacing of material the tape breezes by and concludes all too quickly, leaving a distinct sense of wanting more – a lot more in fact. So, here’s hoping that such demands will be duly sated by the upcoming full length – which is then pretty much guaranteed given it seems this live set features live versions of various new tracks. In the meantime this is a rather worthy tape to track down, issued in an edition of 300 copies.