Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism I

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism I CD / DVD Silken Tofu / The Epicurian 2014

In August 2014 the third instalment of the Epicurean Escapism Festival was held in Berlin, when concurrently this ‘Epicurean Escapism I’ compilation was released to commemorate the first instalment of the festival from 2012.  So whilst such a post festival release would not ordinarily cause too much confusion, this is despite the fact that a compilation tape and accompanying DVD was already issued in 2012 in association with the first Epicurean Escapism festival (reviewed here), and intriguingly the majority of content on the original version is not featured on this set.  For this updated version it includes new and additional material from the majority of the same acts whom were featured on the original tape compilation.  Likewise the packaging here differs from the original in that it mirrors the style and formant of the ‘Epicurean Escapism II’ compilation (released in 2013), where the CD and DVD were housed in a catalogue booklet to provide a visual document of participating artists. Does all this amount to unnecessary confusion? Possibly, yet it is ultimately the quality and interest of this compilations content which is of far greater importance.

For the musical parts, Krank leads off the CD (the rebranded Kraang project of the John Murphy), but now featuring the inputs of Annie Stubbs and Till Brüggemann.  Here the project delivers a hazy and disorientating industrial soundscape of sporadic horns, loose loops, swirling industrial fragments and ritualised sonic clutter.  However the surprise comes with the edition of late night lounge/ jazz vocals courtesy of Annie Stubbs, where these ‘song’ focused vocals are clearly an interesting and divergent addition to counter the generally non-musical focus of the post-industrial soundscape.

IRM follow next and whereas a live track was featured on the original tape compilation, here they step up with an exclusive contribution in the form of a lengthy track ‘Triptych’.  This 17 minute track effectively which amounts to ‘medley’ composition which remixes material lifted from the conceptual triptych formed by 2008’s ‘Indications of Nigredo’ MLP, 2010’s ‘Order4’ and the recently issued 2014 album ‘Closure’.  Moving through three main segments, this track covers the majority of known and lauded elements of IRM and it almost goes without saying that the group are revered around these parts with this track being no exception.  Agonised physiological focused vocals, tense droning soundscapes, thrummed atonal bass, and crunching metallic noise mark the path, and whilst recognised elements of original tracks remains, these have been recontextualised into new and engaging forms to compete a strong and focused track.

For the third track Human Larvae and Anemone Tube have collaborated on an extended piece, noting that both previously featured separate tracks on the original tape.  With both acts having quite distinctive sounds, they have certainly achieved a pleasing amalgam here. Effectively containing two halves, the first part is an excellent slower burner of cyclic layered loops to generate droning power electronics soundscape, with the sharp distortion and delay treated vocals of Human Larvae sitting perfectly within the mix.  For the latter half the piece moves toward more serene quasi-orchestral drone to dark ambient territory, where I assume that Human Larvae’s aesthetic has driven the first half, whilst Anemone Tube the later.  All in all it is a great pairing of the divergent sound of these two projects.

Jarl – being the solo project of Erik Jarl of IRM – should be a relatively well-recognised project by now, whom presents the fourth and final track of the CD compilation.  Here Jarl deliver a monolithic 25 minute track ‘A Case Of Inbreeding: A Homage To My Doppelganger’, where Jarl does what he does rather well.  Essentially a subtle drone and low pulse mark the introduction, where there track forges a gradually droning evolution as additional looped layers and added at a glacially pace.  The atmosphere of the track balances the ominous with the serene and spans its length with ease and general fits the recognised Jarl sound.

Moving onto the DVD Martin Bladh presents a collection of his experimental short films under the rather self explanatory title of ‘Video Works’.  Following full immersion with these collected film works the overarching impression is that it is very much like being plunged rather voyeuristically into the personal mindset of Martin’s obsessions, which might have otherwise been conducted in private beyond prying eyes if not for the existence of these films.  Across the complete series of films the camera captures various obsessive scenes playing out, where the camera itself is occasionally visible in a strategically placed mirror, which functions to blurs the line between participant, observer and voyeur.  Essentially experimental filmmaking in its styling, the short video juxtaposes visual cuts ups of various scenes – some somewhat disturbing – being acted out, complimented with a soundtrack ranging from interview/ dialogue to industrial noise soundscapes.  The scenes across the five short films involve numerous cut up scenes which visualise different versions of physco-sexual themes which have been reflected across the bulk of his artistic output to date. Some of the various elements on display include the exploration of the self/ ego, sexual obsessions, death, murder, self-mutilation and self-castration.  Some obvious influences from Francis Bacon and Hermann Nitsch and the Viennese Actionist movement are clearly evident (and have been acknowledged by Martin himself), yet the central placement of his own obsessions at the core of his work, without flinching from any ramifications concerning how he may be perceived, clearly elevates his work to a point where it is wholly his own.  Brief context and associated impressions of each of the short film follows below:

  • ‘DES’ forms part of his artistic study of Martin’s fascination with the UK serial killer Dennis Nilsen, where this video is the video counterpart of the book of the same name and obviously exploring the same thematic material. Of particular interest is that some of the more poetic spoken lyrics of this piece were also utilised on IRM’s latest album ‘Closure’, which illustrates Martin’s cross pollination of themes and ideas across multiple artistic platforms. The film cuts between various stages scenes which also reflects the book’s content, and also uses extensive dialogue samples from both interviews with Dennis as well as audio sampled from an audiobook for Brian Master’s biography on Dennis entitled ‘Killing For Company: Case of Dennis Nilsen’.
  • ‘Cycle’ functionally operates as a visually comparative work, which appears to contrast a young and happy child (old home footage of who appears to be a young smiling Martin), counterpointed with visuals potentially relating to the person he has evolved into through the explorations of his obsessions, which is set to interview dialogue and sporadically harsh but generally subdued experimental industrial noise backing.
  • ‘Pig and Tomboy’ (the only film featured on the original compilation version), involves a naked seated figure and a standing aggressor in a pig mask who manipulates his compliant and possibly drugged subject. This main scene (amongst others) progresses seemingly in response to an audio collage of interview dialogue (which has been collated and contributed by Peter Sotos), which deals with a girl’s decent into drug use, prostitution and subsequent death by unknown means.
  • ‘Hole’ is the shortest film work on offer, which with its visual cutup of close up shots of teeth, lips and the inside of the mouth set to an anxiety inducing and skittish soundscape, is mostly abstract in its delivery and potential interpretation.
  • The title of the final film ‘Matt 5:29 – 30’ obviously refers to the biblical passage which states: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell”.  However here this passage has been reinterpreted in context of Martin’s own obsessive preoccupations. Thus within the film it shows two small mirrors placed at right angles in front of a short stool, where the naked figure of Martin (back to the camera) performs what is clearly meant to represent self-castration. Noting this has been a constant theme of Martin’s work and particularly as this was a central theme of the IRM album ‘Order4’, the film’s low droning soundscape and thematic preoccupations could be considered as a visual addendum to ‘Order4’.

Given that the content and concepts explored are obviously deeply personal to Martin, his film works are a bold display of his personal obsessions and perhaps internalised perceptions of himself. Whilst some may view the visual material as ‘shocking’, this is far from amounting to any sort of clumsy attempt at shock value. Although these video works may not clearly be of interest to all, but for anyone intrigued by Martin’s lyrical and conceptual preoccupations, these films provide further visual exploration.

Moving onto the visual presentation of the compilation set, within the oversized cardboard booklet ‘catalogue’ cover, Martin Bladh provides further art and writing under the title of ‘Victim and Executioner’. Across 24 pages it provides artwork and a range of writings providing additional information on Martin’s inspirations and obsessions. This includes quotes from third parties, personal impressions and background information framing the context of his own film works, in addition to a conceptual written piece ‘Off-Stage Slideshow’, as well as structural details for a theatre piece ‘Death of Narcissus II’. This additional visual and written material certainly makes for complimentary and interesting reading and functions to both confirm and refute some of the above impressions of Martin’s film works (particularly given the above review of the short films were written prior to reading this information).

Over the 3 years that the Epicurean Escapism festival has been operating it has quickly elevated itself to being at the forefront of multi-angled festival which seeks to bring together music, film, visual art. For those not able to attend in person, these releases are excellent documents of each of the events, to ensure there is a legacy beyond the merely the memory of those in attendance. This is also another fine example of how a well a compilation as a format can work when a focused and nonstandard approach is employed. Recommended.

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Last Dominion Lost – Towers of Silence

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Last Dominion Lost – Towers of Silence LP Silken Tofu / The Epicurean 2014

Although a semi-obscured project Last Dominion Lost do have a certain aura surrounding them which is particularly derived from the legacy of its various members.  Thus in their original early 90’s incarnation the project included two former SPK members – Dominik Guerin and John Murphy – who teamed up with John Evans to complete the trio.  Yet the material recorded during this initial formative period remained unreleased until 2004, when at the time Tesco Organisation issued ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ album as a historic archive of the group’s earliest recordings.  To then fast forward another decade, the sophomore album has now been issued which includes recent recordings made between 2012 and 2014.  Noting that Dominik Guerin has departed the group, for this album John Murphy and John Evans remain as the core members, who have enlisted the input of Julian Percy alongside guest contributions of Ash Wednesday, Till Brüggemann, Annie Stubbs, David Barrett, and Ricky Garrett.

What is revealed on initial listens is that ‘Towers of Silence’ is very much a direct continuation of the early industrial era – aka the pivotal 1970-80’s period during which the genre base elements were being set down.  Likewise given the pedigree of core members a direct lineage can be drawn to the tribal infused, percussive industrial sound of early pioneers SPK.  Certain tracks also draw linage with early industrial experimental soundscape works of Current 93, where incidentally John Murphy was involved with their seminal classic ‘Dog’s Blood Rising’ album.  However is not like Last Dominion Lost have purposefully aimed to sound ‘retro’ or ‘old school’, rather this is simply the project going about creating their brand of industrial music which reflects the both legacy of members and length of time being involved in the industrial and related underground music scenes.  Also what sets the sound ‘Towers of Silence’ apart from being merely being regressively focused is the James Plotkin’s mastering which has provided the album a sharp, loud, forceful and modern tenor.

Covering a wide myriad of tonal territory across its 10 compositions the range of sonic elements include shuddering/ wavering analogue synths, clanging metallic rhythms, maudlin vocals (spoken, chanted and disembodied evocations), wailing horns, stoic martial kit percussion, disorientating tonal pulses, warbling sound layers, etc.  Yet despite the diversity of sound on display one constant characteristic is an unnerving aura which weaves through ‘Towers of Silence’, regardless of whether the tracks encompass subdued soundscapes or embody industrial percussive clamour.

The first cut ‘Stagma’ represents a strong opening statement of clanging metallic textures, revving atonal synths, sporadic heavy percussion and aggressive vocal treatments – yet this piece hardly characterises the balance of the album.  The following ‘Sektor F’ then seeks to balance brooding analogue synths and gradually elevating metallic industrial outbursts (which becomes rather chaotic towards track’s end), complete with cyborg vocals which replicate those of the Daleks in their sonic treatment and which completely works despite what this description implies.  On ‘S.E.A.T.O’ the group merges an industrial soundscape with tribalised percussion, where the lamenting vocal line of John Murphy informs us to: “Leave us. We don’t Want You. You’re not relevant anymore. You have nothing that we need” etc. Here the vocals are drawled over subdued soundscape and rolling tribal/ militant percussion, which in their playing style are also clearly that of Mr Murphy – being forceful but equally understated.  ‘Caesium Sunrise’ then features as an excellent queasy atmospheric soundscape of wavering droning synths, garbled vocals and ritualised industrial clamour.  ‘Kavam’ potentially represents the most typical genre type track of the album, being a minimalist and loose experimental industrial soundscape which acts as a base for interview dialogue sample of a woman talking through a disturbing imprisonment ordeal.  Whilst not a bad track is a little lacklustre compared to the balance of the album (…and somewhat tellingly this piece is relegated to the end of the first side of the vinyl).

Moving back into a strongly focused tribal/ militant/ industrial style side B opens with ‘Hexatom’ – a track of sparse percussion, wailing horns and dominant half sung vocals. Although the track ‘Chlorpromazine’ would seem to be making a direct reference to a pharmaceutical drug used to treat schizophrenia, here the composition’s hazy and anxiety infused atmosphere is clearly more akin to as internal soundscape of a mentally unhinged mind.  ‘Chöd Ritual’ then arrives as another album standout and spanning yet more deviating terrain where percussive hand drumming, warbling vocalisations and sustained eastern tinged horns generate a track of sweepingly hazy tribal industrial.  For the final two album cuts ‘Minol’ spans a loose industrial/ noise soundscape with creaking metallic debris, whilst the final title track follows a similar path but is augmented with militant percussive thrum and wailing ethnic tinged textures.

Given that any new material from Last Dominion Lost was not an expected proposition, this has allowed the project used the element of surprise to deliver a categorically authoritative and quintessentially industrial album – where the descriptor of ‘industrial’ is used in widest context of the term.  The artwork and presentation of the album is also perfectly suited, being slick and understated and incorporating visual representations of the ‘Towers of Silence’ and the religious practice of using such structures for sky burials.  Whereas the debut was very much a historical document and testament to the past and early phase of the project, ‘Towers of Silence’ is very much a distinct marker for the rather promising future of Last Dominion Lost.  However let’s hope it is not another decade before the next album surfaces.

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism II

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism II CD/ DVD / Catalogue The Epicurian / Silken Tofu / Peripheral Records 2013

‘Epicurean Escapism II’ forms the multi-media companion release to the festival of the same name (held in Berlin on 15th June, 2013).  Noting this is the second festival release, when reflecting on the cassette/ DVD/ special packaging of the first compilation, this time around the format has been stepped up a notch to more comprehensively reflect the multi-media format of the festival.  Here the release incorporates elements of all artistic aspects including: reproductions of a selection of exhibited artworks, a CD of material contributed by performing acts and a DVD that reproduces the screened short experimental films.  These audio and visual elements have then been housed in an impeccably designed DVD sized fold out cardboard cover, highlighting that there have been no half measures when approaching this release.

To address the musical content first and noting the musical heritage of Ke/Hil, their heavily ominous and coldly nihilistic track is a great way to open the CD.  ‘Dark Germany’ amounts to an expertly crafted and dense layered composition of slow throbbing synths, swirling noise and distortion frayed vocals.  Anemone Tube follow and deliver a pair a solid tracks (‘Apocalyptic Fantasy’ and ‘Accumulations’), which both adhere a general pattern of invasive cyclic noise, looped metallic clattered, managed/ barely recognisable field recordings and understated melancholic droning synth elements.  Each of these tracks (again) displays the particular sound attributable to Anemone Tube, which as I have said before is testament to the mastery of his sonic craft.  Moving on to ‘Leprous Driver’, Post Scriptvm evoke more filmic composition imbedded with an atmosphere brooding menace, here consisting of a slab of crystalline dark ambience (aka droning syths, spares piano notes, and unobtrusively layered background tones/ noise).  Following next is the mighty Trepaneringsritualen, who contribute two tracks on the shorter side (3 to 5 minutes each). ‘Vanärat Är Ditt Namn’ takes to a rhythmic song based approach of a repetitive throbbing beat and yelled verse/ chorus/ verse type vocals, while ‘End of Flesh’ opts for slow ritual ambience, where a catatonic bass throb provides some sense of structure amongst the layers of swirling vocal invocations.  To round out the compilation Dieter Müh issues forth the hefty 20 minute composition ‘Bethlehem’, which is a highlight amongst highlights.  Here the track commences with a beautifully understated modern classical tone, with distant melancholic piano and abstract vocal sample cut ups.  However this fragile segment ultimately acts as the intro passage for the main bulk of the tracks which features a mid paced, tribally infused dark ambience, which in some ways reminds of the early works of Morthound.  To provide a final comment on the compilation, to my mind if the curation of such releases is not managed correctly they can either become frustratingly long due to the number of contributions and/ or suffer from submission of poor or second rate material.  Thankfully no such complaints exist here, as with a (mere) seven excellent tracks by five artists, it is an easily digestible and most importantly an engaging and enjoyable listen throughout.

For the DVD segment of this release, this consists of six short films by Mike Dando of Con-Dom, issued under the collective title ‘We Who Were Living Are Now Dying’.  Whilst not constituting new material from Con-Dom, the DVD sees the formal publication of six archival experimental films that Con-Dom produced between 1983 to 1994.  Here these short films effectively act as the visual counterpart to a number of Con-Dom’s heavy and harsh power electronics tracks, and whilst relatively crude and experimental in style, they consist of filmed footage and still images which are cut together as a sprawling visual collage.  Conceptually there are a range of themes at play including: belief, religion, sin, spirituality, suffering, religious ecstasy, pornography, masturbation, sexual ecstasy, medical deformities, birth, death, race, racial hatred, family, honour, authority, war atrocities, crime etc.  With its cut up collage technique the multiple utilised themes are presented for the viewer to analyse and pick apart in trying to stitch together the conceptual threads on display.   Visually the films are quite dark and textured and which suits the material well, while there is also a faint black line flicker moving through the visuals.  This later aspect could be due to the material being filmed on video, or otherwise as a result of the transfer to digital format from super 8 film – but either way this effect adds to the lo-fi grainy aesthetic of the films.  As with Con-Dom’s more recognised musical outputs, there is always a clear message at the core of Mike’s work even if it gets somewhat muddied by the brute force approach.  As such it is great to see that a similar approach is embodied within Con-Dom’s experimental films, where it will take time to analyse presented content.

For the last part of this release it has sought to in part document the group art exhibition displayed as part of the festival (which incidentally was curated by African Paper Magazine).  Contributing artists whose artworks were featured from Alex Tenningkeit, Andrew Liles, Carmen Burguess, Dennis Rudolph and Phillip Best, Rudolf Eb.er, and whilst each artist’s outputs vary wildly in materials, style and aesthetic output they do generally hinge on a darker and/ or subversive tangents.  Here a selection of the artists works are published in a 16 page full colour booklet, along with an essay by Uwe Schneider which outlines the concept of the festival and compilation and neatly ties together the various artist’s inputs.

Although in the first instance this release is a memento of the festival it seeks to document, with its meticulous execution and sheer quality of its content, Epicurean Escapism II transcends this mere documentary role, to become an exceptionally focused multi-media release.  Definitely worthy of detailed investigation and limited to a mere 350 copies.

Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death 2 x CD Malignant Records / Silken Tofu 2013

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Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death 2 x CD Malignant Records / Silken Tofu 2013

With a decent number of limited and relatively obscure vinyls and cassettes issued since 2008, Trepaneringsritualen (TxRxP) have now stepped up to deliver their first CD release/s.  Essentially forming a double compilation album – issued simultaneously in two parts on two separate labels – ‘The Totality of Death’ features a hand picked selection of tracks lifted from TxRxP’s rare and out of print back catalogue, along with a handful of previously unreleased pieces.  Likewise with further reference to TxRxP’s discography, interestingly ‘The Totality of Death’ title was previously used for a 2011 private edition cassette compilation (..but containing a different track list to here), before being conceptually recontextualised for these official releases.

Although at its core ‘The Totality of Death’ is a compilation album, it has not been a case of merely reproducing used material in chronological order.  Rather through careful selection and re-ordering of tracks it provides both albums’ with an entirely focused coherence.  Thus for the uninitiated ‘The Totality of Death’ contains a superb blend of material spanning all aspects of TxRxP’s occult and ritual infused death industrial sound – a sound which encompasses barren windswept soundscapes, queasy lurching rhythms, oozing ritual menace, croaked/ distortion scarred vocals and tribal focused percussion, all delivered with a damp, musty and inky black production.

Opening ‘Programme A’ (aka CD1 released via Malignant Records) ‘Death Reveler’ is a fantastic statement of intent with its dank atmosphere of clanging ritualized rhythms and caustic garbled vocals.  With a similar rhythmic bent ‘All Hail the Black Flame’ is also a great example of TxRxP’s lurching death industrial sound, which subsequently shifts towards more tense and ominous ceremonial soundscapes on the following a pair of tracks ‘Cherem’ and ‘Lord of This World’ (…the later of which rather symbolically has a run time of 3.33 minutes).  The lengthy ‘Van Zeven Manieren Van Heilige Minne’ appears to be one of the previously unreleased track, being is a collaborative piece with Hadewych.  Over its 14 ritualized minutes the cavernous echoed soundscape relies on distant metallic clatter, sporadic ritual gong tones, disembodied vocals (in both spoken and choral guise), and some more formal instrumentation with the use of minimalist guitar and piano.  With the sparse construction for much of the track it oozes forward at a sprawling pace, which shifts during the final third where heavy ritual percussion coalesces the track into a more focused and forceful guise.  ‘Judas Goat’ – which is effectively TxRxP’s hit single – is a welcomed late album feature, which then leads into ‘C’Est Un Reve’ (which is credited as a Death In June cover).  Here the repeated vocal line is yelled here over a repetitive, lurching and relatively up tempo militant programmed backing and although virtually unrecognisable as a cover song, it is a forceful conclusion to ‘Programme A’.

Moving over to ‘Programme B’ (aka CD2 released via Silken Tofu), it continues the journey through the shadowy underworld of TxRxP’s sound.  Early album track ‘Eurcarist of Shit & Piss’ takes a stripped back and direct approach to it crude and distorted atonal pulsing beat and screeched vocals, whilst ‘Sacrament and Crucifixion’ displays TxRxP in full death ambient / Brighter Death Now worship mode.  Moving ever onwards through the combined 2 hours of material, there are yet a few more examples of compositions which align with the streamlined ‘song’ based approach TxRxP.  These include the stilted clanging uptempo intensity of ‘Veil the World’ with its croaked, distortion scarred vocals, which is equally applicable to the swaying voodoo tribal intensity of ‘Didymus Christ’.  Used as the concluding piece for ‘Programme B’, the monolithic ‘Den Fallne Domaldrs Lik’ opts for a slow grinding soundscape of catatonic drums and melancholic synth textures to evoke an atmosphere of brooding ritual menace.

Regarding presentation, both CD’s feature almost identical graphics (save for minor variations in images and text), each being issued as 6 panel digi-packs to form complimentary companion releases.  Likewise given TxRxP’s penchant for hidden symbolism it is noted that track eight on both CD’s features previously unreleased material, which perhaps symbolically represents the number ’88’, which itself can be interpreted in a number of ways (…intentional or coincidence I wonder?). Beyond such potential symbolic clues, if cult interest with TxRxP has not already been generated by their earlier releases, surely the ‘The Totality of Death’ constitutes a pair of albums to serve this function for a much wider audience.  However noting that ‘The Totality of Death’ does not contain all material featured on earlier releases, these compilation albums can be also considered as the likely generator of additional obsessive TxRxP complete-ists, who will be intent on tracking down all the original cassette and vinyl releases.  Worthy, very worthy indeed.

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism MC / DVDr The Epicurean / Silken Tofu 2012

Not a typical compilation in the traditional sense, here we have a multi-media document that was issued as a companion release for a live festival of the same name (held in Berlin on 7th of July 2012).  This release features all artists who performed live, including:  IRM, Krank, Anemone Tube, Jarl, Human Larvae, as well as further contributions from Dissecting Table and Martin Bladh (who both presented video screenings at the festival).  Although festival compilations can often be somewhat uninspired, ‘Epicurean Escapism’ avoids this pitfall in term of both the artistic contributions and the packaging and presentation (silver bubble wrap pocket sleeve and pro-duplicated tape).

Krank (an old resurrected project of John Murphy) is first up, presenting a dose of ritual industrial sounds – multi-tracked vocals and myriad on tonal textures are the order the day here.  Anemone Tube follow with a remixed track from the excellent ‘Dream Landscape’ album, presenting a multi-dimensional dark ambient track constructed field recording and droning synth textures – great stuff as expected.  The next track is a devastating live attack from IRM, here presenting the title track from their last album ‘Order4’.  Built on a base of heavy droning distortion and crumbling static Martin Bladh’s vocals suitably unhinged, sounding if he is pushing himself to an absolute point of collapse.  Jarl rounds out the first side of the tape and present an animated yet meditative ambient track consisting of a multitude of clinical throbs and pulsing elements, and a looped bass line that is quite reminiscent of early Deutsch Nepal.

Flipping over to side two Human Larvae present two short tracks in quick succession. The first is a layered dark ambient / industrial track with an ominous droning atmosphere, whilst the second drives a more static riddled power electronics tone including obligatory yelled/ distorted vocals.  As my first introduction to Human Larvae both are solid and enjoyable tracks in their given styles.  Dissecting Table follows whose track is the longest of the compilation, but from my perspective is the weakest (…but to qualify this view I have never been a huge fan).  The track presented here is freeform noisy industrial, with cascading waves of distortion and heavy dose of digital clatter, rounded out with aggressive processed vocals in the dying minutes.  Anemone Tube return to conclude the music part of the release with a calm and melancholic track, built on a dour synth line and ‘composed’ field recording elements – again an excellent contribution.

In addition to the music, a short art film by Martin Bladh is presented entitled ‘Pig and Tomboy’.  Experimental filmmaking in its styling, the short video juxtaposes visual cuts ups of various disturbing scenes being acted out (…Martin Bladh and an accomplice in a pig mask).  These images play out seemingly in response to an audio collage of interview dialogue which has been collated and contributed by Peter Sotos (…dealing with a girl’s decent into drug use, prostitution and subsequent death by unknown means).  Interestingly in some sections the footage is filmed via the reflection of a mirror, where the tripod camera that has captured the scene is clearly visible in frame, which raises questions of whether the audience is a mere passive viewer, or perhaps an active voyeur just out of frame.  The video certainly warrants more analysis and dissection than can be provided here, but it is uncompromisingly executed by Martin Bladh, which should be no surprise at this point given his artistic endeavours to date.

From packing to the multiple formats of contributed material, it provides ‘Epicurean Escapism’ with a clear point of difference from the more ‘standard’ approach to a festival oriented compilation. Yes this is ludicrously limited at 100 copies, but worthy of investigation all the same.

Anemone Tube – Death Over China

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Anemone Tube – Death Over China CD Topheth Prophet / Silken Tofu 2011

Although a 2011 release ‘Death Over China’ is the latest from Anemone Tube and an album I had read a number of very positive reviews about before checking this out myself.  This also constitutes the second release in a trilogy which commenced with the ‘Dream Landscape’ album from 2010.  Conceptually the album is focused on China and from an analysis of the track titles and various cover photos (included within the beautifully designed DVD sized ten panel cardboard fold out cover), it appears to be making conceptual commentary on the negative cultural and environmental impacts of rampant industrial development and progress experienced in China over recent decades.

At its most simplistic level the sound of ‘Death over China’ is very much one rooted in a sphere of dark ambient and heavy industrial, which edges towards power electronics territories during a couple of segments.  However such a statement effectively ignores the means of how this album was constructed and composed.  Interestingly the album’s liner notes states that all music was solely created by field recordings made by the artist during a trip to China in 2007 (specifically Nanjing and Shanghai), with additional synthesiser elements added to only two of the six album compositions.  This sort of dedicated concept for the construction of the music makes the overall sound and atmosphere of this album all the more remarkable.

Of the six varied album tracks they each take a multi-layered approach to composition, where recognisable field recording elements (car horns, passing traffic, police whistles, loudspeaker/ radio announcements and general urban chatter etc.) are looped in combination with other less recognisable distortion and static driven sounds to achieve vague soundtrack like movements.  Likewise with new looped elements being continually introduced, the atmosphere is one that morphs and builds in tone and intensity as the tracks progress.

With the sound source predominantly consisting of field recordings it engenders the album with a varied and interesting tonal quality, which is rich and unique when compared to dark ambient and industrial material that is reliant on synthesised and computer generated sounds.  Effectively Anemone Tube achieves a sound that spans the divide between ‘academic’ experimental material and ‘underground’ industrial territory.  Likewise within this context Anemone Tube have achieved a particularly unique sound, which these days can be a challenge to say the least within ambient/ industrial spheres.

With is central reliance on field recordings ‘Death Over China’ avoids the pitfalls of the field recordings which can come across as unnecessarily abstract or academic.  Anemone Tube has also successfully realised the concept of utilising field recordings as a instrument and in the process has executed an album which is intricate and tonally varied, yet highly listenable.  With its complexities and nuances this warrants and demands multiple rotations and detailed attention.