Last Dominion Lost – Abomination of Desolation

Last Dominion Lost – Abomination of Desolation LP The Epicurean/La Esencia 2017

The sound of Last Dominion Lost has always been rooted in an early primitive industrial expression, and particularly within the archetype established by SPK on their first two albums. Yet it must also be said that Last Dominion Lost have never sounded purposefully regressive; rather their sound is reflective both of the age and creative lineage of its members (which itself in part links back to SPK). It is also unavoidable to observe that the death of key member John Murphy in 2015 looms over this album, particularly as it features his contributions made before his untimely passing. Yet even in the face of John’s death, the remaining members of Jon Evans and Julian Percy have regrouped and forged ahead, being joined by the former sessional member Till Bruggeman now as a full-time member.

While the previous album hinted at influences from early SPK, this album builds upon that influence within their own sound to deliver what is their most well realized album to date. In its broadest sense, these tracks are shorn of any feeling of being a predetermined ‘song’ format, instead they are showcased as disorientating ‘movements’ which follow their own patterns and internalized logic and elevate atmospherics over any display of overt aggression. As such, sporadic garbled whispers, yells and cries from the asylum mix with treated radio voices, shattering glass, atonal rhythmic elements (generated from a multitude of atypical percussive sources), pulsing/sweeping/brooding synth lines, abstract guitars/bass and generally perplexing tones/sounds. These elements then intermingle in the best way possible by never feeling unduly chaotic, unplanned or improvised; rather the material feels to be the result of the meticulous composition of non-musical elements to create wonky and disorienting industrial soundscapes. This is not a long album by any measure given it features 10 tracks over 40 minutes, but with the tracks being generally in the order of four minutes each, they bleed one into the next as part of a greater whole and from this perspective it is of far less importance to highlight individual tracks. Although, to speak of an individual element, John’s distinctive wailing vocalizations scattered throughout the album are a welcome reminder of his involvement and legacy.  Sound-wise the production is clean, loud and tonally separated, which in the listening provides a painstaking level of detailing across its deeper bass-addled elements and upfront micro-tonal textures.

With the sheer glut of post-industrial albums being issued over the years, thankfully albums like this come along to clearly establish how things should be done, which is then based on the degree of professionalism applied to the writing, recording and production and which is further reflected in the graphic design and presentation of the sleeve. On all fronts, this is a clear highlight of 2017.

 

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Anemone Tube / Post Scriptvm – Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes

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Anemone Tube / Post Scriptvm – Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes MCD The Epicurean 2016

With Anemone Tube and Post Scriptvm sharing this split, it is a logical pairing as they have quite individual and distinctive sounds within the post-industrial underground and both tend to frame their musical works around specific and interesting concepts.  For this release both have structured their works around a single title and conceptual theme of “Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes”, which to then quote from the promo blub: “originally applied to a particular style of ancient ritual music, in the Classical era the term Litaniae Mortuorum Discordantes attained a negative connotation and was used to criticize those compositions – which, instead of instilling listeners with the desired pious euphoria, incriminated them with a sense of dread, existential anxiety, feelings of death and decay. Finding this aesthetic choice to be most appropriate for the present era, the two post-industrial projects attempted to create their own “Discordant Death Litanies” for the XXI century”.  3 tracks are featured from each project and with a total run time of 38 minutes.

Anemone Tube lead off with ‘Myth and the Relation to the World’, works well to set the scene with a piece of elongated male choral chants and mid-toned sub-orchestral drones which is maudlin in feel rather than overly dark. This emotive edge continues with ‘Recueillement (Sa Propre Mort)’, where the sparse horns are particularly evocative and in line with the themes they on occasion twist and morph towards a discordant resonance (…and being something akin to a disharmonic/ harmonic effect).  Noting the sound on the first two Anemone Tube pieces differs quite drastically and where he mood, feel and sound is of almost a modern classical type, on the third Anemone Tube piece ‘Irruption of the Whore’, it charts more familiar territory of looped field recordings which are compositionally layered for vague rhythmic effect, and with its feel of mechanical churn it appropriately sets the scene for the Post Scriptvm tracks which follow.  ‘Buried In Fabula’ is the first of Post Scriptvm’s tracks and continues a feel of a slow descent through a soundscape of loose, downward spiraling drones, disembodied voices and general tones of tension and paranoia, and which is further amplified on ‘Dark and Nameless Gods’ with it greater focus on wonky rhythmic elements.  With its introductory male vocals chant third and final track is ‘Laterne D’Horreur’ reverts back to the vocal focus of Anemone Tube’s opening piece, before arcing off into an industrialized soundscape and fragmentary noise, sparse orchestral synth pads and other tonal elements representing fleeting glimpse of beauty but further underscored by an atmosphere of decay and rising dread.

When contemplating the conceptual framework which this material is structured around, I perhaps expected the material to be more discordant in feel and hellish in sonic execution. Yet this is in no way a criticism of the music itself, which is both evocative and sublime, which by should come as no surprise from both projects.  But as always, the benefit of having a strong conceptual underpinning, is the ability of a release such as this to be a multifaceted experience which engage on levels of both emotion (i.e. the music) and contemplation (i.e. the concept).  Clean graphic presentation rounds out this extremely enjoyable release, which is also issued on 2 versions of limited vinyl with alternative artwork via the Spanish label La Esencia, if wax is your preferred format.

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism III

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism III CD/ DVD The Epicurean 2016

This has been announced as the final compilation in the series, which specifically commemorated the 2016 edition of the Epicurean Escapism Festival held in Berlin on 27 & 28 May, 2016 (…an event I had hoped to attend but unfortunately did not eventuate). As with earlier editions in the compilation series, the contents seek to draw together elements of music, video and artwork presented during the festival event.  On the musical front, it features an easily digestible number of tracks, consisting if single tracks from seven performing artists.  A quick run-down on each includes:

  • Noting the ‘infamy’ surrounding early Sutcliffe Jugend output, rather than continuing with over the top harshness and aggression, the project has instead pushed into more diverse experimental realms. ‘Amuse Boche’ is an example of this approach being an industrial soundscape of tribal-esque rhythmic structures, layered noise and vocals ranging from spoken to shrieked. As I have not really kept up with current output I am not sure if this track is representative of current era Sutcliffe Jugend, but regardless of this it is a pleasing track.
  • Alfarmania are up next and deliver a track of slow stalking paranoia, containing their trademark elements of distant cavernous clatter, wavering atonal synths, buzzing static, plodding bass and ragged agonized vocals, but also featuring a prominent Swedish dialogue sample. With a 12 minute span, the track takes its time to unfurl whilst upping the tension as it proceeds, but is also quite a bit more atmospheric than other more oppressive material from the project. Excellent.
  • Last Dominion Lost offer up the piece ‘To the Master a Long Good Night’, which evokes a twilight ritual industrial soundscape based on stilted percussion, sporadic gongs, scattered electronics debris and garbled spoken voices, (…and with its titled I believe is paying homage to the late John Murphy).
  • Although I am well aware that Nikolas Schreck has a long standing legacy associated with his band Radio Werewolf, they are not to my liking as I have personally never been a fan of material with a goth / rock slant. In solo guise Nikolas Schreck retains quite a flamboyant gothic undertone, where on this track ‘Lord Sutekh’s Dream’, he delivers an earnest song of prominent crooning male vocals and minimalist synth, atmospheric tabla and martial percussive backing. However like Radio Werewolf, the gothic frame of reference means this is simply not a style I am fond of, so there is not much more to say other than this a track for skipping during my repeated listens of this comp (…different styles for different tastes really).
  • Budras follow and shifts the sound back to more pleasing sonic territories. Noting the quite unique sound of the group (which is largely down to the agonized gruff vocals), here the track features a blend of rather unusual, droning atmospheres, industrial soundscapes and their now trademark vocal presentation.
  • Gerechtigkeits Liga follow and after a short rather throw-away ‘casio keyboard intro’, the track leaps headlong into an excellent ‘post mortem’ style composition. With a murky, lo-fi and blown out sound, there is a sense of a basic looped structure, but heavily layers to achieve complexity.  An excellent offering.
  • Skin Area then have the distinction of rounding out the CD, with a strong 10 minute track, here featuring a long form muted industrial noise soundscape. With a muffled and distant tone, the piece builds with rising static and forceful drones, as Martin Bladh’s strained vocals echo forth from the far background.  Building to a mid-track crescendo, the pieces then falls back to calmer and sonically open territory for the remainder of the track.

As with earlier editions, the cover is beautifully presented as a colour multi-page page booklet, including a selection of lyrics, text and art from contributing projects and which complements the musical content perfectly.  A notable inclusion is an essay by Uwe Schneider on the conceptual underpinnings of Dave Phillip’s work, which ties in with his performance and screening of video works at the 20016 Epicurean Escapism Festival.  Although Dave Phillips is not featured on the musical compilation, he is dedicated his own stand-alone DVD with the banner title of ‘Proceed With Inquiry’, which features specific video works, footage of prior live performances and another series of video art collaborations.  While there is a huge wealth of material to go through, a single video stands out as the critical centerpiece, while the rest can be considered as additional complimentary material.  This main work in (entitled simply ‘Video Action’) is a 20 minute video work which ties seamlessly with the accompanying experimental industrial soundwork. Musically the piece is framed around sharp sonic editing of micro-tonal textures, overblown distortion, atonal piano chords, multiple higher pitched sounds pushed to disharmonic orchestral intensity and treated ‘voices’ (both human and animal).  The piece has a strong and focused concept, where text and images which are edited with razor sharpness to outline a grim analysis of man’s development and technological advancement and the impact it has had on our humanity and our treatment of animals and the environment, and the broader sentiment of mankind being out of balance with a sustainable use of the earth’s resources.

A large part of the visual material focuses on the industrial nature of our society, coupled with the mistreatment of animals in the mechanized meat production industry and a consequence of such technological development.  To highlight just a few of the statements which personally resonated with me, these included: “The despair of our culture and civilization should be defeated by acts of total honesty”; “Cynicism is a popular defense mechanism”; and “Our technology has exceeded our humanity” (which of interest clearly implicates everyone with the use of the word ‘our’).  But for its unflinching gaze and the brutality of aspects of the subject matter, this seems to be used with clear intent to shock the viewer out of complacency and to highlight a central message of respect for ALL animal life.  The video also functions as a broader call to arms, but also does not offering any simple or easy solutions, other than to take personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choices and the wider implications those choices have.  To then make sure the message of ‘Video Action’ is not lost, the DVD is armed with subtitles in 9 different languages.  With a general observation that there is a lot of thematically derivative material circulating within the underground, Dave Phillips’ work is refreshing in its directness, solid conceptual framing and and immediacy of its impact.

As with earlier editions in the Epicurean Escapism series, this is another fantastically realized musical and visual set that can either constitute an excellent ‘stand-alone’ document, or a memento the 2016 Epicurean Escapism Festival event.

Various Artists – All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy

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Various Artists – All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy 3xCD The Epicurean 2016

With John Murphy passing away on the 11th October, 2015 it was inevitable that a tribute album would be released at some point.  Thankfully this rather daunting task was taken up by The Epicurean, the label of John’s most recent output as Last Dominion Lost, Krank and The Grimsel Path, who have done a stunning job of bringing this 3xCD/ 32 page booklet together.  Also, whilst I initially perceived this to be a straight tribute, the liner notes reveal the concept was already well underway in mid-2015, with an intention for all proceeds from the release to go towards John’s medical treatments at the time.

With the musical content spanning 3 discs there is simply too much to give a track my track review, but that also would be missing the point of what this release is about – that being to celebrate the life and musical legacy of John Murphy.  On this 3 disc set it provides a broadly chronological overview of the many projects John had collaborated with or been a member of over his 30+ year musical career (…although given the sheer number of projects, some of which whose activities span many years, a strict chronological order is simply not possible).  It is then of particular interest that of the 36 artists/ projects featured herein, it still does cover all projects John has been involved in, with there being many other high profile bands and projects he has collaborated with over the years not being featured, which only goes to further highlight the eclectic nature and expansive reach of John’s career.  But of those featured herein, in order of appearance across the 3 discs it includes: Mandrix, NEWS, WhirlyWirld, Associates, Hugo Klang, Krang, Orchestra of Skin and Bone, SLUB, Dumb and the Ugly, Whitehouse, Lustmord, Sooterkin Flesh, Genocide Organ, Vhril, Blood & Iron, Wertham, Bordel Militaire, Browning Mummery, MAA, Gerechtigkeits Liga, Krank, The Walking Korpses, The Grimsel Path, My Father of Serpents & Disciples of None, Of The Wand And The Moon, David E. Williams, Shining Vhril, Nikolas Schreck, Kniffeladder, Blood Axis, Naevus, Foresta Di Ferro, Die Weisse Rose, Andrew King, Zeena Schreck and last but not least Last Dominion Lost.

With recorded material spanning the 40 years between 1975 to 2015 it includes both studio and live recordings (some of which has remained unreleased until now), coupled with these are a selection of 5 newly recorded tracks where close friends and comrades pay tribute.  In its overall trajectory the chronological track selection commences with the more ‘typical’ (albeit eclectic) bands; moving through to experimental and industrial spheres and onward though to ritual and towards neo-folk/ martial industrial expression.  The combined set also functions to highlight the gradual evolution and mutation of John’s collaborative influences within the projects where he held a central creative role.  To speak of selected highlights (based on my own sonic inclinations), these include:

  • Whitehouse: ‘Live Action 4’ from 1983 is a 20 minutes a dueling synth workout of throbbing modulations and spitting static in early chaotic Whitehouse style.
  • Krang: ‘Dissonance 2’ from -1981-1983 highlights John’s own solo industrial noise approach from around the same time as he was collaborating with Whitehouse.
  • Orchestra of Skin And Bone: feature with an excellent song ‘Flame’ from 1996, consisting of screeching horns and rolling tribalised percussion, which draws (an oblique) parallel with John’s later tribal industrial band Knifeladder.
  • Lustmord: ‘Pure’ (a track lifted from 1986’s ‘Paradise Disowned’ album), is a grinding industrial noise soundscape from the period when John was involved, and showcases the early era of the project before it evolved into the more widely recognized dark ambient behemoth it is today.
  • Vhril: Being an early 90’s collaboration project between John and Ulex Xane, ‘Transcosmic Mutations’ delivers an excellent esoteric ritual industrial track of twisting and constantly morphing sonics.
  • Genocide Organ: Although John was never a member of the Genocide Organ, he did provide sound source material on 1999’s ‘The Truth Will Make You Free’ album. On their ‘untitled’ track the group have paid tribute with an instrumental piece which is quite subdued by the group’s usual standards, but given its droning and metallic scraping experimental/ industrial soundscape it clearly is homage to John’s stylistic approach.
  • Knifeladder: Being the trio of John, Hunter Bar and Andrew Trail, they feature with a previously unreleased 2007 track ‘Long March’, which is of their trademark song styled, tribal/ industrial percussive approach.
  • Gerechtigkeits Liga: On 2009’s track ‘Dystopian Dream’ it features a fantastic elephantine percussive stomp (courtesy of John) as the key driving element of this post-industrial dirge.
  • Krank: Being John’s predominantly solo industrial project, the 2011 track ‘Drain Sounds in the Well’ features his distinctive chaotic swirling industrial maelstrom of grinding layered synths, garbled vocalisations and a mélange of found sounds/ random tonal objects.
  • Forest Di Ferro: Being the trio of John, Marco Deplano and Richard Leviathan, they feature with the 2015 track ‘Kalagni – False Dying Dawn’, which is a subdued martial ambient piece of distant rolling drumming, lead accordion melody and lamenting vocals of John.
  • Last Dominion Lost: Being the trio of John, Julian Percy and Jon Evans, they feature with 2015’s ‘Hexatom Recrudesce’. This is an alternate version to a track from 2014’s ‘Towers of Silence’ album, being a twisting garbled mass of bass throb, scattered synths, found sounds, lone woodwind flute and evocation styled vocals.
  • Of The Wand and the Moon: present a new 2016 exclusive track ‘Death Rune’, which is a beautifully haunting funeral dirge of a track with central organ/ accordion melody, ritual chimes and chanted/ whispered vocals (…simply sublime).

If nothing else this release demonstrates the sheer diversity of musical involvement and output of John over the years, but though mid to later periods showcasing darker sounds and esoteric themes providing the thread to neatly knit it all together.  Regarding package it is stunningly designed, featuring photos of John’s own amulets and jewelry, while the 32 page booklet includes written pieces provided by Stefan Hanser (label head of The Epicurean), Jon Evans, Alan Bamford and Andrew King provides further insight regarding the life and wide reaching musical involvement of John and are broadly framed around significant periods of his musical career (i.e. Australia and first England period (1997-1984), second period in England (1996-2008) and the final period in Berlin (2008-2015)).

With its limitation of 750 copies, and exquisite packaging and graphic presentation apart from being a window into John’s expansive sonic world, it has more real world implications given that all proceeds from sale are to be donated to John’s widow. A worthy document, testament and above all a celebration of the life and legacy of John Murphy.

Anemone Tube – In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality

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Anemone Tube – In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality MC The Epicurean 2015

In advance of the (soon to be released) new album, this cassette EP represents a tasty appetizer.  Featuring 5 tracks over 20 minutes (ranging from the shortest at around 1 minute to the longest at 8.5 minutes), it is a further display of Anemone Tube’s particular style of harmonic/ disharmonic infused dark ambient/ industrial music.

The first and lengthiest track at eight and a half minutes, ‘In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality / Le Pont Du Diable’ is an excellent example of Anemone Tube’s approach. However it is also of interest to note that the track is more heavily reliant on orchestral oriented synth melodies than the usual solid base of looped and processed field recordings.  Featuring an atmosphere which is beautiful, tragic and forlorn in equal measures it is a composition with underpinning harmonic synths, which are countered by washes of higher pitched disharmonic noise and tonal drones.  Although this track is quite musically direct, field recording elements do appear in the later half (sirens, jack hammers and general street noise being clearly audible and evidently derived from Toyko and Kyoto).  With sustained wailing feedback and maudlin synth washes the tape continues its knifes edge balancing of elements through the shorter pieces ‘Turm Des Bösen (Die Letzte Weisheit)’ and ‘In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality II’, both of which reach similar musically oriented mood of the opening piece.  The final piece ‘Evangelium Der Weltharmonie’ concludes the tape and is a touch more subdued than the rest – here featuring a sacral mood evoked through subtle tonal washes and eastern toned ritual chimes and gongs (courtesy of Post Scriptvm).  Yet to speak of potential missteps, this would relate to the short 52 second track ‘Terror of Nature’ which jars the mood of the material preceding it, given it is not much more than a sparse twinkling melody and movie dialogue sampled from the 1984 animation film ‘Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’.

From sound, concept*, and visual presentation, Anemone Tube’s releases are always highly considered affairs.  Consequently ‘In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality’ is far from being any sort of filler release, rather represents some of Anemone Tube’s strongest work to date and yet another demonstration of Stefan Hanser’s ability to create deeply evocative soundscapes built around melodious elements, sculpted field recordings and squalling feedback. With the new album ‘Golden Temple’ due for release in February, 2016, it is an album awaited with anticipation. This pro-duplicated tape and professionally printed cover has been issued with limitation of 150 copies.

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* – the concept of this tape is: “Related to Nietzsche`s notion of the Wagerian music drama as a revelation of the abysmal truth about man, “In The Vortex of Dionysian Reality” allures us into the Dionysian dreamland, where tragedy reigns, in pursuit of the ultimate oneness”.

Krank / The Grimsel Path – Verdant Hum

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Krank / The Grimsel Path – Verdant Hum MC The Epicurean 2014

This split tape features two of John Murphy’s current musical outlets and contextually functions as a sort of unofficial addendum to the recent Last Dominion Lost ‘Towers of Silence’ LP, particularly as the two releases were issued at the same time and via the same label. By way of background Krank is John Murphy’s long running solo project which has a legacy spanning back to 1981 (under the original Krang Music name), but is assisted here by Till Brüggemann, who incidentally also guested on Last Dominion Lost’s recent album.  Alternately The Grimsel Path features the two main Last Dominion Lost members John Murphy and Jon Evans, noting also that the moniker The Grimsel Path has contextual links back to Last Dominion Lost, with this project name being a track title off the first Last Dominion Lost album.

With background context out of the way Krank lead off the tape with the single 20 minute composition ‘NAOS Number 1’. The piece is an 80’s sounding ritual industrial soundscape, consisting of grinding synth textures, scattered wavering tones, fragmented sonic oscillations and occasional percussive elements such as bells and singing bowls etc.  The composition is quite loosely structured with not real driving rhythm or beat, rather is built around blown out abstract synth chords, with a very analogue tone and associated sonic warmth. Also featured are liquidous sounding ‘micro’ tones and contact mic-ed clanging metal on metal arrhythmia.  Whilst there is an element of freeform improvisational playfulness its sound, the track is also carefully controlled and paced to generate its grimly dissonant atmosphere.

For The Grimsel Path’s six tracks, these are live recordings from 2012 when the group performed at the Foetus Frolics Festival in Berlin and inhabits quite a similar tonal sphere to Krank’s side. In fact if you were to not closely listen to the material you might be of the impression that both sides of the tape are from the same project. Nevertheless where The Grimsel Path’s side differs is that it is slightly more focused due to the format of shorter stand alone tracks and includes sporadic vocalisations which are wholly absent from Krank’s side. The sound could also be described a slightly less refined version of the experimental/ industrial/ ritual soundscapes found on the recent Last Dominion Lost offering.  Unhinged clanging electronics, misfiring machinery and general industrial debris mark the opening piece ‘Deviation’, whilst ‘Scortched Earth’ features humming suspenseful horror synths (aka Angelo Badalamenti style), otherworldly vocalisations and a production of cavernous echoed depths.  ‘Run Please Master’ then ups the ante somewhat with a stilted rhythmic drive and cinematic synths late in the track, whilst ‘Sideshow of the Soul’ features a low bass throb, over which a mostly subdued but sometimes chaotic scattered industrial noise soundscape is positioned.

For the visual side of things the collage artwork courtesy of Kristian Olsson is suitably grim and ‘industrial’ in tone, with the music featured on a pro-duplicated tape. Where ‘Verdant Hum’ succeeds is in the fact that it is another fine example of a release featuring the best elements of an early industrial ritual sound without sounding purposefully ‘retro’ or ‘old school’. A worthy release warranting more than the limitation of 100 copies which were pressed, and perhaps demands a vinyl repress at some point.

 

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.