Streicher – Annihilism / Kulmhof – Morality’s Simulacra

annihilismkulmhof_originalStreicher – Annihilism CD Old Captain 2015

Kulmhof – Morality’s Simulacra MC Major Carew 2015

Over the last few years the influence and dare I say it cult of Streicher seems to have been perceptibly rising, thanks in part to the re-release campaign spearheaded by the Freak Animal side label Industrial Recollections, but most importantly due to the distinctive sound that Ulex Xane cultivated as part of his power electronics aka ‘Oi! Noise’ project. Although Industrial Recollections previously issued a compilation CD in 2009 with all of the ‘Annihilism’ tracks (in addition to other rare pieces), here Old Captain has re-issued ‘Annihilism’ as a 20th anniversary edition, with revised and updated artwork courtesy of Marco Deplano.

The music itself comes from the early recording period (1989 to 1991 but not released until 1995), with the philosophy of the project neatly wrapped up in the “Annihilism” title. Yet if the implied meaning of the album title was somehow missed, the opening spoken word piece leaves no opportunity for confusion about what the group stands for (…and surely the heavily accented spoken female voice only adds to the strange allure of Streicher for non-Australians). It is then of interest that Streicher’s ongoing legacy and influence can be distinctly heard on tracks such as: ‘Rectify or Cease’, ‘Mutilation Victim’, ‘Decomposed Whore’ and ‘Destroy You Motherfuckers’. Noting that time and age have not wearied the force of these pieces, direct linage can be drawn from muffled mechanical churn, chaotic distortion and general industrial unease of these tracks to the likes of Alfarmania and similar ilk. Equally tracks such as ‘Nothing Has Any Meaning’ and ‘I Don’t Give a Fuck’ function to deliver a hammer blow of Streicher’s crude power electronics complete with the harsh and growled vocal barrage of Ulex, although comparatively speaking these pieces do not stand up as well today and perhaps now lack the direct impact they may have had some decades ago. ‘Nullify/ Obit’ stands out substantially from the rest, given it is a spoken word passage read over a classical music backing, whilst the album concludes with the short but excellent ‘Parade Fascisti’; a sullen track of stoic rolling martial drums which fade into silence before one last vocal barrage attack.

Given that it is great to have ‘Annihilism’ more widely available again, it is a shame that the label has chosen to press the digi-pack in rather flimsy cardboard stock which is prone to easy denting and marking. Although a minor gripe this re-release deserved better.

Not to be one to rest on legacy alone, Ulex Xane over the years has issued a large volume of material under a variety of guises. Kulmhof appears to be the latest adopted moniker which functions in general Streicher territory, albeit featuring a slightly updated, louder and less muffled sound. With this being the debut release, although uncredited to an actual label it has been released by ‘Major Carew’ – a pseudonym of a UK underground artist.

‘Sterilization of Species’ is the first piece: an instrumental track of granulated distortion, buzzing tonality and vaguely agitated mechanised loops/ rhythms, with a sound that the rough and suitably loud. Sitting squarely on the power electronics/ industrial rather than harsh noise side of the fence and with little to no variation or evolution, this track is caustic and invasive in the best way possible. ‘Mémoires Retards’ on Side B is a differing affair, based on a subdued, slightly fractured pulsing/ rhythmic loop where added layers push into churning distorted territory over its length, yet still remain subdued compared to Side A.

With a total run time of nearly 20 minutes, Kulmhof is a clear display of the fact that time has not cowed Ulex from producing harsh and direct power electronics/ industrial material. The pro-duplicated tape and colour cover appear to be intentionally lurid in design (fluro green tape) with quote on the cover from Jean Baudrillard giving a hint at thematic preoccupations (perception of reality and its ‘reproduction’), despite being entirely instrumental. An obscurity worth tracking down, with further details for ordering available via:



Abre Ojos – Häxan

abre ojos

Abre Ojos – Häxan DVDr not on label (self released) 2012

Abre Ojos are a project that I have only been made aware of recently, but from their self-described tag line of “improvised sound and vision for dystopian meditation” it provides a strong indication that the project is concerned with more than just its audial aspects.  Further investigation reveals that Abre Ojos functions as a staunchly multi-media project where the visuals as a counterpoint to the music are considered an integral part of the overall whole.  Evidently ‘Häxan’ is their fifth release since 2009.

Conceptually the album has utilised a 1922 silent film titled ‘Häxan – Witchcraft Through the Ages’ as an initial inspiration source (…albeit with a intention of inverting the message of the film).  Likewise visual elements from the film have been sampled and in turn manipulated and processed beyond recognition.  The end result is a multi-media album containing specific visuals for six tracks (which incidentally span 66.6 minutes to obviously align with the conceptual content).

Given the multi-media nature of the project it would be remiss not to mention the visual aspects first which are certainly a visual feast of kaleidoscopic effects. Here the viewers’ retinas are treated to multi-coloured miasma of computer generated geometric shapes which are constantly shifting and morphing into new patterns and sequenced formations. During some sections the visuals are limited to a swirling mass at the centre of a black screen, whilst during others they extend across the entire visual frame.  Although it is somewhat difficult to describe the visuals in words*, they are most definitely hypnotic to watch and constitute the perfect visual backdrop for this type of music in a live setting – of which Abre Ojos do exactly that when playing live. (*Hint: the album covers gives a good indication of what to expect).

Coupled with the visuals the audio elements consist of some excellent archaic drones and cosmic dark ambience, where each of the six tracks follow a similar sound palate and sonic structure.  Effectively this is droning dark ambience done with a heavy dose of pulsing cosmic radiance, bass heavy rumblings and sections of jagged tonality that avoid becoming all out noise.  Likewise there is a heavily processed aspect to the sustained synth textures and cyclic drones, which are also occasionally underscored by slightly more animated pulsing rhythms and crystalline metallic elements.  Yet this is not to say that ‘Häxan’ is a totally alien soundscape bereft of human aspects, as ritual chimes and processed vocals (ranging from whispers to chanted choir like textures) are sporadically utilised, thus providing some earthly grounding to the material.  To give some more focused and comparative markers, ‘Häxan’ has a certain linage with the dark ambient material coming from the likes of Malignant Records or Loki Foundation – think Phelios, Phaenon, Sphäre Sechs, Blood Box etc and possibly the abstract elements of Inade for suitable reference.

From the liner notes evidently both the music and visuals are interactive and were performed and recorded live in the studio, which is surprising as both the music and visuals come across as far more considered and composed than a live studio recording might suggest.  However due to the similarity of the sound across the six tracks ‘Häxan’ is best approached as a singular metamorphosing and meditative composition.  Likewise despite being a multi-media project when approached from a mediative listening perspective the music is such that it can actually stand on its own as a pure audio piece.

Noting this is a self released production the overall packaging and presentation is slick and professional and although the physical release was limited to a mere 50 hand numbered copies, the full release is available for viewing or download via their website and bandcamp pages.  At this point Abre Ojos may be an obscure project to many, but based on ‘Häxan’ further attention is warranted.