Red Wine and Sugar – Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders

Red Wine and Sugar – Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders LP Index Clean 2017

Dogs, Blood, Storms, Spiders arrives as the formal debut album of Red Wine and Sugar, which following 2016’s compilation CD Chattels + The Confidence and Humour of John (reviewed here). Although earlier material was clearly experimental in approach, this album sees a greater reliance on minimalism and abstraction. Likewise with the Discogs ‘style tags’ listing: ‘musique concrète, ‘experimental’, ‘spoken word’ and ‘sound collage’, it provides further confirmation of this perception.

With the musical framework being abstract and minimal, it is primarily constructed around pulsing textures, wavering tones and further intertwined with various field recording fragments (with detectable elements including: incidental street noise; a broom sweeping concrete; wood wind-chimes; and environmental elements such as birds, crickets, frogs, rain etc.). Coupled with the sonics are the slightly twisted/ treated spoken vocals, which generate an unnerving effect based on their deadpan delivery. Lyrically it continues the established pattern of addressing and describing a range of personalized anxiety based scenarios and internalized dialogue/ observations (while some sections feels to have been quoted from a psychological therapy type manual).

To speak of specific tracks, Entering a Room When Others Area Already Seated sonically engenders a sullen and haunted atmosphere, which is derived from is discrete piano melody and abstract and minimalist strings (cello perhaps?).  View of the Room Darkened differs given it commences with a series of sparse organ styled synth stabs (and has a more surreal edge due to the greater twisted sonic treatment of the vocals), before shifting pace with moody minimalist sub-orchestral type phrase. For the final of the five tracks, Wherever You Go, Make it so You Were Barely Ever There is the most sonically active, being based around lots of up-close micro-tonal elements and contact mic’ed recordings, while the backing structure is a dour ‘sci-fi’ synth line and minimalist atonal beat.

Whilst noting its heavily experimental preoccupations, the album also contains a dark sonic streak which functions to tie together the overall mood.  To also mention its graphic presentation, interestingly it has been designed to include all lyrics thus it results in having more of the appearance of a printed inner-sleeve (and therefore immediately skews any initial expectations). Constituting a different and distinct release, this is also a recommended one.

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Red Wine and Sugar ‎– Chattels + The Confidence and Humour of John

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Red Wine and Sugar Chattels + The Confidence and Humour of John CD Index Clean 2016

Perhaps I am missing the metaphor or slang reference of the chosen moniker, but regardless, the unusually named Red Wine and Sugar are an Australian duo featuring Mark Groves (of Dead Boomers, Von Einem etc) and Samaan Fieck (of Ghost Gums, Smash Tennis etc.).  Musically this CD revolves in experimental industrial spheres and is a re-release of their 2015 debut cassette ‘Chattels’ on Mazurka Editions, with the addition of the track ‘The Confidence and Humour of John’ (lifted from a 2016 Mazurka Editions cassette compilation).  The material has then been remastered for CD pro-pressed with a 4 panel digipack cover where all lyrics/ text are included.

Although musically describing this as ‘experimental industrial’, this is extremely restrained and minimalist in sonic execution.  A creepy mood and tensile atmosphere permeates the entirety of the album, while its structural minimalism generated through sustained drones, low semi-harmonic textures, distant radio static, fractured clatter, micro-tonal scrapings etc. Much of the impact of the album then comes from the lyrics and vocals, where a psychological/ analytical angle has been taken, as is evidenced by the lyrics focus on describing: personal desires; perceived failings; social perceptions; anxiety disorders (panic attacks etc.); and what may be text lifted from an instruction manual outlining management techniques to prevent re-offending (…’re-offending’ in exactly what manner remains unclear…).  Although the lyrics are constructed in such a way to form a disjointed mix of phrases, scenarios and thoughts, their impact is maximized given they are presented clear and upfront in the mix, being delivered in a low spoken whisper and in a cold a detached style and arc between being that of personal commentary, to that of an third person ‘observer’ perspective.

Of the 5 presented tracks, the pairing of ‘Often Burns Rarely Tans’ and ‘Bitter Almonds’ are particular standouts, by presenting variations on dour semi-melodious synths, looped drones, creaking metal and subdued static.  Likewise the final addendum piece ‘The Confidence and Humour of John’ is another excellent track of wonky, disorientating loops and rough textural clutter, whilst the multi-tracked vocals range from the upfront and clearly enunciated, to then being sonically warped and relegated to the background.

Given the collection of 5 tracks spans a little over 30 minutes, even in that short time-span it showcases a project with distinct musical ideas and thematic concepts, with the results being very much individualistic and not derivative of any particular genre or style. Minimalist in sonic scope, yet intense and affecting in final result, this is a recommended release.

Von Einem – The Von Einem Tapes

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Von Einem – The Von Einem Tapes 2xCD Index Clean 2016

Von Einem is the solo experimental noise-industrial project of Australian Mark Groves, who is also associated with other underground projects Absoluten Calfeutrail, Dead Boomers and the label Sabbatical. For this double CD it collects together material released on 7 tapes issued between 2011 and 2014.

To firstly make mention of the project moniker, this would appear to be integral to a large part of the thematic content.  As such ‘Von Einem’ is in reference to Bevan Spencer Von Einem who was the only individual to be convicted in association with the ‘The Family’ murders: a notorious case in Adelaide Australia where a secretive group of men were involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and murder of five young men and teenage boys during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This theme is picked up within the descriptive (yet fragmentary) style of lyrics, which make reference to various details of ‘The Family’ case, as well to other infamous Australian crimes such as the ‘Snowtown Murders’.  Of note, where lyrics are used they are presented via means of processed spoken vocals which recite various crime incidence details, psychological profile analysis, or the general context in which the events took place, but are delivered in an clinical and unemotional way to give the feel of being a passive observer (…or that of an impartial documentary narrator).

Over 2 hours of music is presented across the 2 discs, where the rather diverse material charts predominantly subdued industrial-noise soundscapes, but also draws in elements of ominous drone, rhythmically stilted heavy electronics styled programming and moments of harsher static, piercing feedback and junk metal rumble. Track lengths vary from quite short vignettes (of a couple of minutes each), through to the longest track at 12 minutes: yet the greater majority sit between 4-6 minutes each.  As such the general order of proceedings involves a display of the wide range of ways in which pieces consisting of tensile industrial churn, clinical noise reverberations and processed apathetic spoken vocals can be approached.  Tracks ‘Dirties’ and ‘Black Moods’ feature a similar style and are particular standouts, consisting of low thudding programmed beats and cyclic synth drones.  Another two tracks on the second disc equally stand out via their divergence of approach: ‘Twice in the Head’ with its distant atonal piano tune and ‘Forged Cheques’ with it moody orchestral strings sample: where these elements are set against crumbling industrial drones, higher pitch squeals and dour vocals.  The instrumental ‘Scripted Phrases’ displays further variety through its distant windswept drone and fractured rhythmic framework; as does ‘Disturbed then Refilled’ with a thick heavy electronics styled throb, mid toned invasive sustained squeal and heavily treated voice.

Although tonally being very much of an underground experimental noise-industrial type, its approach is such that ‘The Von Einem Tapes’ does not typically sound like any obvious comparisons, which is a definite positive (…the Australian accent inflected vocals further assists in setting the material apart).  Thus with its mood being categorized by a general detachment and clinical analysis of crimes of a sadistic nature, this is reflected in the cold and bleak style of the music.  Likewise despite the material has been assembled from 7 different releases, it does not sound like a disjointed compilation of incongruent material.  6 panel foldout card cover (adorned with imagery associated with the album’s thematic preoccupations), rounds out a strong release in term of is visuals, sound and theme. If you have not paid attention to Von Einem before (myself included), this release would be the perfect place to start by providing an immediate overview of the entirety of their output to date.