Leila Abdul-Rauf – Insomnia

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Leila Abdul-Rauf – Insomnia CD Malignant Antibody 2015

From the initial moment of the opening track ‘Midnight’ where disembodied echoed female vocalisations float forth from the speakers in combination with a musty soundscape and distant chimes, it inevitably draws comparisons to the sound of classic female fronted CMI act Aghast and stands as a very strong and positive introduction to the album. Yet this initial comparison is quickly shattered as the album continues and moves through a number of hazy night-time atmospheres to present an overall musicality to eclipse the initial comparative impression.

Although ‘Insomnia’ is steeped in elements of dark ambience, it is also imbedded with a level musicality and evocative atmospheres which make it much more ‘filmic’ and soundtrack styled. Likewise the use of a floating and hazy trumpet throughout a number of the tracks, coupled with the clean sung haunting female vocals and understated piano provides a dusky and darkly hued night-time atmosphere. ‘He Sits in His Room’ deviates slightly with its more focused musical frame of plucked to sweeping synth notes and prominent ethereal female vocals (the late track sweeping trumpet solo again evokes a twilight feel).

The overarching mood of ‘Insomnia’ is one a bleak cinematic film-noir style, where the hazy solo trumpet gives a haunting late night cabaret vibe; akin to something from a David Lynch film where a vaguely nightmarishly edge lurks at the periphery of perception. In some ways the filmic musicality on ‘Insomnia’ feels rather alien to the larger focus and output of Malignant Records, but also illustrates that darkness can also be exquisitely beautiful. Divergently recommended.

Sigma Octantis – Dissipations

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Sigma Octantis – Dissipations CD Malignant Antibody / OPN 2014

In collaboration with the French label OPN, Malignant Records have used their sub-label ‘Malignant Antibody’ to issue the fourth album and apparently the final release from Sigma Octantis. Although having not heard of Sigma Octantis before, from the introduction provided by ‘Dissipations’ they deliver an interesting amalgam of stylistic elements cherry picked from a number of genres (including: animated dark ambient, 1990’s era tribal-industrial and post-rock), where these disparate elements are blended in such a way as to not sound derivative of any of the genres in particular.  Noting also that the defunct cult Swedish project Morthound is used a reference point within the promo blurb, this is actually quite a spot on reference point, given a similar musicality, diversity and playfulness is demonstrated here (and particularly reference Morthound’s albums ‘Spindrift’ and ‘The Goddess Who Could Make the Ugly World Beautiful’).

Album opener ‘Vieil ocean, aux vagues de cristal’ starts proceedings with a typical dark ambient drone melody but it is not long before rousing tribal rhythms kick in over which a solo piano melody provides a dour, down tuned mood, yet the tone morphs again with the later introduction of a twanging guitar line providing a post-rock sensibility. On ‘Errance Definitive’ the tribal-industrial rhythms sound as if almost an outtake of Deutsch Nepal’s classic album ‘Deflagration of Hell’, but the later section soars off into territory all its own through the use of shimmering synths and quasi-orchestral textures (late track again morphing towards a post-rock tone).  Likewise with its slightly middle eastern tinged melodies, ‘Des astres tranquilles’ encompasses a sonic atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of the most mellow and musical passages found on ISIS’s final album ‘Wavering Radiant’ (which is a complimentary comparison to make).  The final track ‘Farewell’ is also an absolute album standout, being a moody melancholic track of swelling cinematic orchestral melodies and driving tribal industrial hand percussion.  Throughout its course it drops away into quiet segments of post-rock tremolo guitars and rock kit drums before building to the final crescendo to rival the build ups of Mono or Explosions in the Sky and generating an absolutely stunning and sublime song in the process.

Eight tracks in all cover just short of an hours play time and although my personal listening habits extend to a wide range of music outside the main focus of noise receptor journal, Sigma Octantis are not a project which have ever cropped up on my radar before.  Therefore recognition should be afforded to Malignant Records for issuing this album which is slightly off tangent the main bulk of their musical output, particularly as it is a great album which may have otherwise passed by unnoticed.

Various Artists – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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Various Artists – No Good Deed Goes Unpunished DCDr Malignant Antibody 2014

Personal tragedy struck Stephen Petrus on the 8th January, 2014, when fire destroyed his home and all his possessions.  And who exactly is Stephen Petrus you ask?  Well, if you even have to ask that question, clearly you have missed his long standing commitment and contribution to the underground (15+ years) through Murderous Vision, In Death Throes, Umbra (amongst many other projects), in addition to being label boss of Live Bait Recording Foundation and director of the 2010 ‘City/Ruins: Art in the Face of Industrial Decay’ documetary (which focused on the underground industrial/ noise scene of Cleaveland, Ohio).  This DCDr is a benefit release kindly coordinated by Malignant Records, with all proceeds being donated to Stephen to assist in him with the re-establishment process.

Clearly this is a great initiative and a positive cause to support by buying a copy of this release.  But apart from the provision of financial assistence to a fellow underground member, as a bonus you just so happen to get a two CDr stellar compilation of tracks from underground artists (both leading and emerging), including: Phragments, Inade, Kristoffer Nystroms Orkester, The Vomit Arsonist, Æther & Trepaneringsritualen, Shock Frontier, The Scapegoat Mechanism, Theologian, Bereft, Megaptera, United Front & Shock Frontier, Sewer Goddess, Sektor 304, Steel Hook Prostheses, Blitzkrieg Baby, Dreaded, Fire In the Head, Swollen Organs, and Naxal Protocol.

As all musical contributions are of a quality ranging from good, to great, to excellent, there is absolutely no excuse to hem and haw about whether to pick this up.  Likewise the quality of the artwork and pro-CDr pressing elevates it above a ‘mere’ CDr release, which evidently was done so to keep this in print as long as there is demand.  To conclude with a question: exactly what are you waiting for?