Trapdoor Tapes Batch 2017

Here is another batch of underground goodness from the ever-reliable Trapdoor Tapes label, with a short overview of each provided below.


Luke Holland – Purgatory Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Purgatory is another solo release from the Trapdoor Tapes head honcho, but upon further investigation it is noted to be a re-issue of a 2015 tape released on Altered States Tapes. Featuring a single track of around 16 minutes (repeating on both sides), the sound is rough yet muted, minimalist death industrial. Accordingly slow morphing and oscillating textures set a grim and minimalist mood, while the later section is differentiated by a dose of heavy thuds and distorted rumble. Short but effective and certainly to the point.


Luke Holland / Mama Baer – Split Trapdoor Tapes 2017

On Luke’s split with Mama Baer, each feature around 20 minutes of material. Luke takes the first side with two tracks of his death industrial meets industrial noise crudeness and which effectively bleed into one longer continues piece. While continuing its repetitive and minimalist approach, the sound is quite bit more animated than Purgatory, featuring splitting and grinding loops to hammer home an invasive industrial noise atmosphere. Being absolutely grim in tone, it also ratchets up its squalling intensity with late sonic textures reminiscent of distant wailing fog horns, and overall is more ‘on point’ material from Luke.

Having then not come across Mama Baer before, it is the solo project of A. K. I. Hjuler and based on this material this sits more towards an experimental industrial approach. The first track Matecto is a wonky layers soundscape of pulsing sound and swirling textures and processed chats/ vocalisations, while other random sound cut and slash across the track, while on Regina which follows and spans a sweeping dark ambient piece, fused with a heavy dose of spitting static. However, the final track Seaworld is not really to my sonic taste, based on its weird playful mood derived from programmed rhythms and stilted musical elements ( and two out of three is a reasonable strike rate though).



Nothinghunger – Livestock Management Strategies Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Nothinghunger, this is the (death) industrial project of Jael Edwards who is perhaps more recognised from his underground death metal band Ignovomous. However Nothinghunger is then not to be considered a ‘fly by night’ side project given it is reflective of his decades long interest in the post-industrial underground. Commencing with a sample relating to society control the first piece Illuminate quickly establishes a brooding mood of a churning mid paced rhythm, layered sustained drones and associated burrowing tones. The following cut Livestock Management opts for a more minimalist path of muted rumble, wavering drones and occasional dialogue sample, which all sprawls out over extended length. Only For Slaves rounds out the tape, following a similar path by featuring minimalist wonky loops, repeated sample and occasional tonal stabs for good measure.

In an overarching sense the approach displayed on of Livestock Management Strategies reminds of the no-frills death industrial sounds being explored on early Sound Source or Old Europa Cafe cassette tape releases from the 1990’s (or even the approach of Puissance as featured on their two early demos before they headed off into far more produced martial industrial and neoclassical realms). So while Nothinghunger certainly engender a sound rooted in the 1990’s northern European industrial underground (complete with a large number of dialogue samples peppered throughout), the resulting impression is this tape is not purposefully regressive, rather is the simply the resultant sound of Jael’s writing and recording process. Perhaps sitting midway between dark ambient and death industrial mood, this is a decent tape for those yearning for ‘that’ particular sound of yesteryear.


Rudolf Eb.er – 4444 Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Rudolf Eb.er (aka Ruzelstirn & Gurglestock), is someone I have been aware of for a long time, but admittedly have not familiarised myself with his recording output due to the rather imposing back catalogue. This tape now rectifies that and while I get the feeling the sounds on 4444 does not deviate from his established approach, equally I am not certain on this either. Anyway, on 4444 it feature disorientating and minimalist experimental industrial soundscapes, being framed around sustained yet sparse mid-spectrum tones, and static washes which are further augmented with lots of unidentifiable minute ‘up-close’ elements and on occasion a slow ritual like thudding beat.

Although four tracks are featured, these play out less as individual pieces, rather the tone is akin to listening to the audio track of an experimental film but without benefit of seeing the visuals, with this impression only being amplified by the fact that over the course of the tape with the sound randomly flicking or cutting between segments. Adding to the surreal edge are various morphed and twisted voices, choking vocal sounds and a multitude of field recordings elements, but also the material never sounds random or improvised, given it has been meticulously constructed (and also executed in line with the agenda of the artist which has been described on Discogs as:“Combining abreactive and cleansing actionism with sonic rituals and psychoactive acoustics, Eb.er generates audio-environments into which he plants grotesque psycho-magic rituals and tantric exercises to trigger a higher awareness”).

In essence 4444 has caught me by surprise and is an excellent and particularly rewarding experiencing if fully submitting to its slightly surreal and experimental approach (which is also a slight deviation from the harder and harsher focus of many of Trapdoor Tapes releases).


 

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quick fix of cassette fifth

odiumblut

Luke Holland Odium 2xMC Moral Defeat 2016

Blut Bound & Gagged MC Trapdoor Tapes 2016

Luke Holland (head honcho of Trapdoor Tapes) has recently issues some more of his solo works on the Danish micro-label Moral Defeat (which mostly deals with tapes but has been known to delve into vinyl formats).  For this new double tape release it features 4 tracks (recorded in 2016, spread across the 4 sides), which amount to further explorations in minimalist industrial/ droning noise.

‘Traumatic Bonding’ opens the set and furrows a throbbing, modulating form, before forceful and blown out rumbling noise elevates the sound.  Nice.  Flipping over to Side B ‘Power And Control’ delivers idling noise and crumbling static to spawn a attitude of unmoving stasis, although the later introduction of a mid-paced pounding/ stilted beat provides some forward momentum.  Moving onto the second tape, whilst the title track ‘Odium’ does not overtly alter the sound or approach, it is delivered with grim intensity and more grinding and forceful than what has proceeded it.  The final of the 4 tracks ‘No Longer a Victim’ retains a similar forceful, driving and pulsing tone to ‘Odium’, but as with the entirety of the tape it maintains an obscure and introspective edge throughout.

With the stylistic approach being of an elongated and minimalist ‘rough’ industrial style, clearly the focus is on thick layers of analog filth which coalesce into meditative ‘noise-scapes‘.  Thus over the 4 tracks Luke positively demonstrates variations on this theme, which also displays differing degrees of sonic force depending on the track.

Moving on to the debut tape of Blut, they are a purposefully anonymous project on Trapdoor Tapes, which through both titles and artwork addresses it themes in a direct fashion.  To speak first of concept, although S&M themes are hardly a new idea, conversely over the decades it has perhaps been overused within the industrial underground, which has subsequently reduced its subversive and transgressive potential.  So while although Blut may have much deeper and personal interests in the themes broached, based on this tape it mostly comes across as a rather formulaic industrial trope.*

But what of the music? Well pleasingly, this tapes contains some excellent high calibre material.  The opening title track sees the use of some blisteringly flanged vocals, which are heavily processed to the point of emulating an echoed robotic style.  These are then mixed upfront to float over a grimy undercurrent of rough, grinding tones, idling clatter and crude dive-bombing textures.  ‘Whip Therapy’ continues is similar sonic guise, but the slow pounding, echoed oil barrel percussion gives it an excellent cavernous sonic depth (…and in part brings to mind a subdued version of Bizarre Uproar).   The minimalist industrial noise-scapes featured on ‘Slaves Lesson: Part 1 & 2’ are relatively loose form and meandering (with understand grinding filth and sex tape sample), but due to extended length are less focused and engaging than preceding material.  Yet the final two tracks on Side B return to focused gutter-noise/ power electronics, where ’Hog Tied’ is an exploration of looped caustic modulations, while final track ‘Punishment’ is built around queasy layers, distant blown out noise, buried industrial pulse and the inclusion of Blut’s rather trademark robotic vocal treatment.

By way of a concluding comment, if you are seeking a quick fix of obscure caustic analogue industrial fifth, these two cassettes absolutely fit the bill. Nothing more nothing less and you should know by now if you are the intended target audience.


* –  Although such themes have become in part a thematic mainstay of underground industrial music, in parallel a project like Bizarre Uproar has adopted such themes and pushed them far beyond being a cliché.  This has been achieved by main member Pasi making his personal fetishes and obsessions central to the project, which have been reinforced by his unflinching willingness to hold nothing back in his desire to publicly revel in filth and humiliation.  The consequence of this has been to demonstrate that ‘boundaries’ within the underground can still be pushed some 4 decades on from the origins of industrial music, and also functions make any other project broaching such themes without similar dedication appear shallow or merely surface level.

Luke Holland – Decomposition

LHD

Luke Holland – Decomposition MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

Luke Holland of Amour Group and Mshing, (as well as being the label boss of Trapdoor Tapes), has opted to use his own name for this solo effort.   Being more subdued than his other works, this tape features industrialised dark ambient drones.  Seemingly the product of analogue synths and assorted equipment, the sound is befittingly rough to suit the tape format and photocopied styled art.

‘Decomposition 1’ takes up the first side of the tape and features tensile, elongated, industrial tinged drones with a sustained tonality and shimmering high-toned textures, which abruptly cuts out at the end of the tape.  ‘Decomposition 2’ follows a similar stylistic arc, but the tonality is more subdued and mid-toned, with what appear to be quasi-orchestral sustained synth notes mixed with a decent dose of crackle and hiss for rough textural quality.  Mid track it abruptly cuts from one segment to the next to feature a singular subdued oscillation coupled with sporadic static manipulations and gradually elevating rough distortion and drawling bass tone.

Overall the compositional approach on display could be viewed as being relatively uncomplicated and straightforward for this type of material, all the same it makes for suitably enjoyable listening, particularly given its analogue means of production and presentation on tape format.

Cold Life – Cold Life / Military Position – Anti-Human

Cold Life Scan 55

Cold Life – Cold Life MC Trapdoor Tapes 2014

Military Position – Anti-Human MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

Here is another batch of releases from Trapdoor Tapes which function to collectively illustrate the diversity of ‘industrial’ material being issued by the label.

For the Cold Life tape this would appear to be their debut tape, which is focused on analogue, synth driven, minimal industrial to post-punk music (which I must admit seems to be relatively in vogue in recent years).  5 short-ish tracks feature here (being repeating both sides of the tape), where the material is structured around simplistic programed mid-paced to up-tempo beats, over which the straight-forward synth melodies generally follow. Vocals are then overlaid in a partly spoken/ sung style, which are also partially treated with a flange or vocoder effect depending on the track. There is also a rough ‘under-produced’ and noise infused feel to the production which gives it a degree of sonic grit and texture, which obviously works well with the analogue tape format. The mid tape track ‘Safe’ slightly deviates from the general approach described above, by featuring a darker edge to its soundscape, built around a minor keys synth line and more subdued programming.

As demonstrated on this tape Cold Life nails its chosen analog electronic post-punk style with flair and a certain ‘no-frills’ directness. Although not necessarily bringing anything new to the table this will obviously be of clear interest for those into this style.

Military Position on the other hand is the solo project of Harriet Kate Morgan which focuses on crude analogue industrial expression mixed with elements of a muted power electronics tone. This 22 minute tape features 4 tracks (2 each side) with the visual presentation opting to skew the typically expected colours and visual themes.

‘We Rot’ commences the tape with a relatively simplistic heavy and ominous toned analogue industrial loop (being gradually morphed over its length), and slightly flanged spoken vocals brings to mind the delivery of vocals of Puce Mary – which no doubt is based on the fact that both projects being female fronted and inhabiting a similar sonic style. ‘Destruction and Abuse’ follows, being constructed with ‘idling machine’ sounding loops, where the spoken vocals are mostly buried under the sonic mass (a section consisting of a ‘whipping’ loop is tacked onto the end before it cuts out as the side finishes). ‘The Personal is the Political’ opens the second side of the tape, although is listed on the cover as the final of the 4 tracks. With its apathy inflected and mild echo and distortion addled spoken vocals, it again bringing to mind the vocals of Puce Mary, which here are combined with rumbling bass tone and minimalist death industrial pulse. This is the standout of track of the tape by nailing a convincing analogue death industrial sound. The final track ‘Privileged and Weak’ contains a couple of segments, including a short interlude of heavy mid-paced pounding industrial beat and flanged vocals (great!) which cuts out somewhat abruptly before the main section arrives with slow and queasy oscillations (proceeding through a few sectional rotations before cutting out due to tape length).

Overall ‘Anti-Human’ is a solid offering insofar as it demonstrates some strong ideas from a project finding its feet. This is not faultless tape, noting that added volume for sonic punch and more layering of elements for extra complexity and diversity would steps things up a notch.  But such quibbles aside, more importantly it displays all the hallmarks of having the right sound, direction and ideas: where the approach of Military Position will no doubt be further refined with future releases.