Trapdoor Tapes final batch 2017

Browning Mummery – World of Shells MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Browning Mummery are a long standing and somewhat obscure Australian experimental/ industrial project whose activities dates back to 1983 (including a couple of early tapes issued on the cult Extreme and Zero Cabal labels). Being primarily the creative vehicle of Andrew Lonsdale, the lineup has also sporadically featured the late John Murphy, in addition to the contributions of many others over the years. While not having been necessarily the most active project (and there seeming to be a gap of activity between 1996 and 2008), World of Shells arrives five years after the last full length, and was recorded in 2014 as a collaboration between Andrew Lonsdale and Yvan Volochine The tape features four lengthy compositions to span around an hour of material, where the sound covers some diverse sonic scope within a broad experimental industrial style.

Predominantly the sound of the tape features deep cavernous tones framed around layered washes of muted industrial distortion. Being mid-paced and slightly muted, the tracks surges forwards with idling/ misfiring machines, squiggly sonics and a decent amount of ‘creak, crunch and clang’. By being meticulously layered, there are a multitude of sounds and textures to focus on throughout, and while loosely structured there is still clear composition as play (including some disorientating left/ right channel panning and wonky mid to high toned whistling sonic treatments). Of note, the third track Fibroscan 1 deviates from the rest given it is more meditative drone in execution, where some playful disorienting sonics build to a muted rhythmic thrum and the material coalesces into headier territory.

While not being overtly dark or morbid in tone and quite playful on occasion, World of Shells wears an ‘experimental industrial’ tag like a badge of honour in delivering a worthy release.


Halthan – Live at Obscurex Kontti MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

As per the title of the tape, this is a live set which consists of five distinct tracks spanning around 30 minutes. Crude and back to basics power electronics is the name of the game from this Finnish project who I have not checked out before, despite them being active from around 2004.

In general terms loose rumbling looped structures act as sonic bedrock, while the vocals are spat in an agonised roar and heavily echo/ flange treated to create a result quite reminiscent of those vocals of Survival Unit. Likewise with its thick grinding industrial debris, hollow tonality and repeated semi-buried samples also reminds (positively) of The Grey Wolves approach to lofi industrial noise infused power electronics. As for the recording the sound is raw and slightly distant in feel, which I am not sure if this is down to the recording or is perhaps representative of the live venue sound (as I understand it the venue it was performed in is in fact a metal shipping container, which would no doubt impact on any live sound created and any recording made thereof). Regardless, the sound is still hefty and thick, with the mood being one of subdued anger with occasional aggressive outbursts (i.e. vocals).

Overall this live tape is no frills and lofi, but definitely to the point, and very effective for it.


Kultur Operating P:N:S – Repeat Offense MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Knowing virtually nothing about this project, it seems they are more commonly known as K.O.P., where the three letters are variously used to stand for different interchangeable phases (as per the protocols established by early industrial pioneer SPK). From what information there is available, K.O.P. is a Japanese project active back in 1988 when the first tape was issued, and with a further six tapes, a 7”ep and CD issued through to 1993 before the project disappeared. Now some 25 years later the project has returned with new recordings dating from 2015-2017.

Having not heard earlier material from the project, I can comment on how this sits as a ‘comeback’ recording, but from listening to this the sound is rough, chaotic and crude in a general noise/industrial style, but also leaning more towards a nosier aesthetic.  Twelve tracks spanning around 45 minutes of material features on Repeat Offence, where Some tracks are based around fiercely raw and chaotically overblown distortion which is staunchly analogue (perhaps derived from junk metal sources?). Conversely other tracks are of an apparent digitized source and rapid-fire style, with a clean and sharp sonic tone. Yet to speak of unifying elements, the mood and feel is chaotic and choppy throughout, and where there is limited overtly rigid structure, rather being freeform and amorphous and where tracks abruptly cut out before lurching into the next piece.

With myself personally not being an avid noise listener, it is those compositions which slightly dial down on the higher pitched and harsher overblown textures which (for me) work best (such as the ambient noise mixed with radio chatter which closes out the tape). But equally that description alone will give a clear idea of whether Repeat Offense is right up your ally.


Neurasthenia Psychological Reincarnation MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Neurasthenia ‎is a new Japanese/ Australia collaboration born out of a recording session when Luke Holland (of Armour Group, Mshing, Word Of Life Church SS, Trapdoor Tapes etc.) and Tom Miller (of Word Of Life Church SS, Psychward etc.) toured Japan in September, 2016 and met up with Hiroshi Hasegawa (of C.C.C.C., Astro, Mortal Vision, Nord). According to the notes on the cover, the two tracks on this 60-minute tape (one lengthy track per side) were recording live in a single take and delivers a solid dose of archaic industrial noise.

The title track features on the first side of the tape and steps through a number of distinct passages. Commencing with detailed dynamic noise and spitting/crumbling static, the mood gradually moves towards a passage of hollowed out industrial rumble and the inclusion quasi ritual elements provided by junk metal clatter. Later segments feature crude loops and sparse crumbling textures which resemble the distant thunder of heavy waves. Cardiac Neurosis follows on the flip side and is a more subdued and controlled offering. Initial segments are sparse and cavernous in tone and complimented with ritual chimes, before a rough base of sustained and modulated ‘catacomb’ distortion is set down and gradually tweaked and twisted.  Late sections are further augmented with radio frequency type scanning noise and garbled semi-buried vocals, before ramping up to more chaotic and forceful intent in the final segment.

Given the ‘live in a single take’ method of recording, based on the end results it appears there would have been some clear discussion and pre-planning, as this sounds to be much more than a basic improvised session and particularly given its careful balancing of chaos and restraint (and being able to strategically pull back on the harsher elements throughout the tape for added sonic impact). So, all in all Psychological Reincarnation is a convincing and enjoyable tape in a style which radiates a sound of decades past than anything remotely modern.


 

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Trapdoor Tapes 2015 / 2016 batch

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Mshing / Sentenced to Life – split MC Trapdoor Tapes 2016

Luke Holland – Stir MC Trapdoor Tapes 2016

World of Life Church SS – The Ceremony of Life and Death MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

The first tape for review sees two obscure Australian projects Mshing and Sentenced to Life team up to each take a side of the tape each.  Mshing is the solo project of Luke Holland (also of Armour Group) and delivers a live recording or as it is referenced on the cover ‘Live Assault 2015/2013’.  Commencing with a cyclic death industrial throb it hits an early groove, but then moves into more obscure grinding noise industrial territory with semi-buried samples and gruff vocalizations. While the track is decent enough, with the distant muffled sound of the recording it only serves to hint at the actual live performance/s being of far greater volume and sonic impact.  Sentenced for Life take up the flip side, with the single track ‘Despertar De La Bestia’ and presents an atmospheric ‘post-mortem’ soundscape of muffled layered analogue filth.  Featuring a broadly cyclic approach, there is an interweaving interplay between the layered elements which generates an excellent complexity of rumbling industrial distortion, revving drones, distant sirens, cavernous clatter and indistinguishable voices.  This is both a strong track and the highlight of this tape given its murky and immersive qualities.

On the ‘Stir’ MC, Luke Holland goes it alone (again) but here functioning under his own name.  Compared to the last solo tape ‘Decomposition’, this time around he has taken a rougher, a more caustic industrial-noise approach.  With the single 16 minute track (repeating on both side), the squalling mid to high pitched chaotic noise is coupled with a deluge of dialogue samples.  Featuring a sense of improvised urgency the samples are then taken from Australian 1980s film ‘Stir’, referencing prison life, outsider attitude and cut throat violence. Some ritualistic clanging elements change up the sound mid piece to offset the more intense and sustained background distortion, while the piece bleeds out into looser, scattered abstract across the last section before abruptly cutting out.  Noting the driving urgency this tape of greater impact that than the ‘Decomposition’ recording.

Lastly, the World of Life Church SS tape features 5 untitled tracks in all, the first track being driven by a direct militant industrial ‘beat’, around which scattered noise and distortion interweave, all capped off with barked/ spat distorted vocals.  Rough and direct it is an excellent opening, while later tracks are broadly looser and more chaotic in their rough analog approach: essentially charting a course in a broad spheres relating to scattered noise-industrial to overblown power electronics squall.  With a sound which is a perfect fit for the obscure sounds Trapdoor Tapes is known, this delivers strong results, although admittedly it sounds more like a solo or duo project, than otherwise might be expected from a project featuring 4 members.

Concrete Mascara – Blossoms of Shame / History of Ruin

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Concrete Mascara – Blossoms of Shame CD Corrosive Art Records 2014

Concrete Mascara – History of Ruin MC Trapdoor Tapes MC 2015

Concrete Mascara are an American power electronics trio who have been around since 2011 and in that time have issued a handful of tapes, a split CD (with Umpio), 7”ep and some digital only recordings.  In a general sense given the group approaches their style of power electronics with a rougher noise and junk metal infused sound, it sets the group apart from the sound and feel of many other current American death industrial/ power electronics projects.

The full length CD ‘Blossoms of Shame‘ from 2014 contains 9 tracks over 43 minutes and is rather diverse in approach. Featuring a general loose semblance of structure, its sonic construction includes: buzzing drones, saturated noise, erupting distortion, metallic clatter and aggressive unhinged vocals partially buried within the mix (refer to opening track ‘The Duality of Sin’ as a prime example). ‘Attrition’ then features some sporadic squalling noise which evidences a more harsh noise tonal aesthetic, although there is a degree of control to its execution. Moving toward a more subdued sound, the pairing of early album tracks ‘True Beauty Never Dies’ and ‘Monochrome’ both feature a similar a low death industrial throb; the first containing treated spoken vocals which articulate a drugged out haze, whilst the later infuses some field recording elements for tonal diversity. ‘When Only Pieces Remain’ then delivers a powerful track based on its saturated overblown junk metal distortion where the aggressive vocals barely managed to break through, while further variation is found on the slow stalking feel and tensile atmosphere of the lengthy ‘Labyrinth of Doubt’ (distant pulse, ‘upfront’ micro-tonal metallic textures and morbid spoken vocals). Late album track ‘Scalpel’ is an excellently tensile piece featuring a heavy focus on a junk metal aesthetic, where loud and detailed sounds of solid metal scraping on concrete features prominently over a low analogue drone. Further sound elements include twisted piercing noise and a saturated overblown metallic production, again with the vocals being spewed forth from the background to create a very strong track indeed. ‘A Vision Of Love’ constitutes the final composition to rounds out the album in quite divergent form. Differing in sonic guise the track features a driving/ pulsing programmed rhythmic element (a quasi-techno bass throb over which washes of noise and sweeping static are laid), although in overall execution feels relatively undeveloped compared to the balance of the album.

Moving on to their latest release, this is an 8 track 46 minute tape where their sound seemed to have evolved a touch, despite only being a year on since ‘Blossoms of Shame‘. On ‘History of Ruin’ the generated atmospheres are highly tensile, but more subdued in execution, whilst at the same time the vocals have been pushed forward and up within the mix to greater prominence. Although sharper tonal elements are use these are again presented in a controlled way; where the wailing agonized vocal style then feature as the most unhinged element to counterpoint the subdued distortion undercurrent. Opener ‘Aftertaste of Shame’ features crumbling static base with pained and agonized (slightly processed) lead vocals, which is the mirrored by a second partially burred and static infused vocal line. ‘Narcotic Vixen’ with its low buzzing static and distortion squalls moves towards noise territory, but then pulls back again on ‘History of Ruin’, being a tense stalking atmosphere (‘heart beat’ bass thumb, buried distant vocals and sparse upfront metallic textures). ‘Unending Muck’ rounds out the first side with two separate howling/ wailing vocals spat over minimalist buzzing base, being an excellent tensile atmosphere of angst and pain and highlighting the vocals as being a standout rabid element of Concrete Mascara’s sound.

‘Under Black Waves’ commences Side B with rabid static abuse and unhinged vocals, before falling away into a section of muffled distortion and ash cloaked ambience (which does burst forth into more caustic sounds late in the piece). ‘Funeral Shroud’ is another great example of the more subdued tensile sound, where noise frequencies sit in the background, as two separate vocals lines are mixed prominently upfront and being the main central focus of the piece. ‘Nothing Left To Burn’ is the most rhythmic track on offer with its mid-paced pulsing bass throb and completed with fizzing static and semi-buried gruff vocals, and although simplistic in approach makes a very strong impression. ‘Juggernaut of Truth’ is the final track to round out the tape relying on layers of caustic noise, throbbing static and unhinged vocals, but with its rudimentary approach forgoes a tensile atmosphere and consequently is not as engaging as earlier material.

Although having not heard all of Concrete Mascara’s recording output to date, from the few releases I have heard, personally I would favor their most recent material, where the tensile sound and prominent dual vocal barrage is extremely effective. Although ‘Blossoms of Shame’ is a strong and varied album, the newer ‘History of Ruin’ tape is also step up and standout, particularly on the vocal front.

Praetorian Guard – Ever Bloom Those Flowers of Rome

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Praetorian Guard – Ever Bloom Those Flowers of Rome MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

Praetorian Guard are a group focusing on militant tinged industrial soundscapes, being the collaborative result of Matt Casey and Ben Taylor of Ebola Disco and Andrew McIntosh of Screwtape (but also not sounding nothing like these projects). I have no idea if this is a one off recording collaboration or something more permanent, but ‘Ever Bloom Those Flowers of Rome’ appears to be their only available recording.

With the stormy industrial soundscapes on display, there is a miasmic swirl to the layering of sonic elements and general analog roughness to the sound, thus providing a muted windswept quality. Sustained synth textures and rumbling bass addled distortion provide the backbone, where a semi-buried militant orchestral feel is also apparat, but it is not really a case of there being prominent orchestral elements rather just a feel of this to drones and on sporadic occasion partially buried violins and trumpets (samples or synths? Not sure). In other segments a militant percussive thump gives a greater degree of movement, coupled with sampled choir vocals. Vocals are also featured throughout, taking a variety of guises, including: spoken style but blended low within the mix; pitch shift morphed beyond easy recognition; or agonisingly yelled to match the passages pushes towards slightly more chaotic and overblown territory.

Although the militant industrial atmospheres created do in part hit their intended mark, with the material spanning 2 hours and containing no individual tracks (elongated soundscapes span the entirety of each side of the tape), the overall release is in part ambling and aimless, thus ending up being a bit of a slog to maintain interest and focus for the entire duration. So although this tape suits its purpose in short doses, it is also something I have not listened to in its entirety of a single listening session. Regardless of whether Praetorian Guard are intending to continue as a project, some greater focus and shorter length would no doubt strengthen the end result.

Rope Society – Dissolve

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Rope Society – Dissolve MC Trapdoor Tapes 2015

David Tonkin (aka Isomer) has returned with his second release under the Rope Society moniker, noting this is his side project focusing on a mix of rough analog focused industrial noise and power electronics abuse.  In an overarching sense the approach of Rope Society which could be described as David’s personal and current take on ‘classic’ hallmarks of early industrial/ power electronics cassette culture but also sidestepping any sort of cynical attempt to emulate an obvious ‘old-school’ sound.

‘Head Above Water’ commences the tape is relatively subdued fashion, with a low shuddering oscillation and semi-buried barked vocals before things really kick in with ‘Behavioural Interventions’ – a track of skuzzy, squalling and choppy industrialised noise with spoken vocals are positioned low in the mix and semi-mangled with echo treatment. A particular highlight of the tape comes in the form of the final track for Side A, where ‘Hate Campaign’ features a buzzing power electronic drone at its core which has a burrowing and corrosive sonic quality, as some more sporadic and deeply echoed metallic elements are gradually infused to building effect. A focussed and effective sound.

Side B features a further 3 tracks, where ‘Answered In The Negative’ is the first and being quite ‘post-mortem’ in sound – i.e. deep, muffled and distant sounding industrial noise clamour, with a great degree of echo and metallic heft, again with a gradually elevating intensity.  ‘Eyes Shut Tight’ then function to amplify the tone again by featuring a straightforward singularity; incorporating a bass rumbling / squealing toned sonic mass with sporadic incursions of rough barked vocals. ‘Bestial’ is the final of 6 tracks, and concludes the tape on relatively subdued industrial noise terms, with an excellent breadth and tonal separation to its layers. As such the echoed vocals sit well off in the distance; the rumbling bass textures hover ominously overhead; with clattering metallic elements separated within the mid tonal spectrum. An excellent concluding piece.

Overall ‘Dissolve’ is a strong release and to this ear is more focused than the debut ‘One Word Definition’, however this impression is also driven by my own personal sonic preferences, where this tape sits towards dank, bass intoned industrial noise, rather than harsh noise elements which were more prominently displayed on the first tape. Also noting that a few more upcoming recordings from Rope Society are already in the pipeline (including releases on Tesco Organisation and Untergeschoss), meaning the project’s profile should continue to positively increase.

Armour Group – Live Assault / German Army – German Army / Word of Life Church SS

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Armour Group – Live Assault MC Trapdoor Tapes 2014

German Army – German Army MC Trapdoor Tapes 2014

Word of Life Church SS – Death Pig MC Trapdoor Tapes/ Magik Crowbar 2013

By way of a brief label introduction, Trapdoor Tapes are a micro-tape label from Australia that has issued around 80 releases in relative obscurity since 2005.  Releasing material from both local projects and known international acts, the general focus is on the murky end of underground noise and industrial they have carved out their own particular niche, issuing limited editions with a lo-fi sound and rough DIY photocopied visual aesthetic.  Following below is a short rundown of a recent batch of releases from the label.

Amour Group is up first and a rather mysterious project.  From the limited available information Armour Group is an Australian act involving Harriet Kate Morgan & Luke Holland.  ‘Live Assault’ seems to be debut release and as is suggested by the title is a 16 minute tape of two short live recordings (…or perhaps are excerpts of longer live sets?).  Here the sound is concerned with ominous shuddering industrial noise with a rough, grinding, reverb drenched tone. Mangled vocals are then spewed forth over this analogue base, whipping in their distorted intensity.  Being rather loose and chaotic but also maintaining a vague sense of structure, the predominant lower end rumble occasionally breaks out into a high pitched noise squall. Likewise with the recording being somewhat muffled in tone, it only tends to amplify the audio grit. Essentially the static fried frequencies, cascading noise, war zone samples and muffled industrialised rumble generates fierce and oppressive battlefield ambience. In a no-frills capacity Armour Group deliver a grime and chaos infused atmosphere which builds to overblown intensity.  Solid and aggressive stuff.

Up next is a new tape from hyper productive German Army (in excess of 20 releases since 2011) which delivers another eclectic offering.  Possibly to be described as a bizarre version of post-punk mixed with tribal post-industrial, this description still does not quite do this justice.  To provide another marker there is something similar to the quirky playfulness of Deutsch Nepal, but which German Army also entirely make their own.  Being less post-punk and slightly weirder in scope than other German Army material I have heard, there is a psychedelic ‘stream of consciousness’ style to the material.  Spanning 12 tracks and 32 minutes the material is mostly instrumental where there is an overarching hazy lo-fi aesthetic at play.  Here the compositions rely on quirky groupings of elements which include: layered tribal-esque rhythms and beats, ritualistic gongs/ chimes, meandering bass, casio keyboards and programmed beats, weird synth soundscapes, samples choral vocals, overblown drone riffs etc.  Where vocals are infrequently used they feature in a strangely twisted spoken disembodied style and to add to the twisted and disorientating nature of the tracks, they occasionally sound like multiple songs are being played over one another.  The final album track ‘Pagan Fruit’ rates a mention for its beach sunset Americana vibe where layered bluesy but uplifting guitars shine.  On this tape German Army retains a consistent quality of output, despite the hyper speed of new releases.

For the final of the tapes Word of Life Church SS is not all like what the project name might suggest, meaning this is neither martial industrial nor power electronics. Rather the group’s sound delivers lo-fi analogue industrial noise soundscapes.  For sake of context this Australian project appears to consist of a loose collective of contributors which have included the inputs of Ben Taylor, Harriet Kate Morgan, Luke Holland and Tom Miller depending on the release (…noting that Ben Taylor is not featured on this particular recording).  Two lengthy untitled tracks make up this 30 minute tape, where the lo-fi, muddied post-industrial sprawling filth is loose and semi-improvised in feel.  Likewise its subdued and muffled analogue rumble begs a comparison to a European ‘post-mortem’ cassette culture sound.  With a hollow, muffled and distant echoed tone the atmosphere is one of slow grinding and general elevating menace.  The flip side features a similar tone, where some stilted quasi militant percussion provides a muted semblance of structure which gradually gets buried under layered sonic grit.  Being rather more subdued than my initial expectation, on face value this tape sounds more like a solo project than the product of a collective approach. An oppressive analogue electronic tape nonetheless.

To wrap up the mini-label showcase, from sound to DIY visual aesthetic Trapdoor Tapes have a focused and well-rounded understanding of what they are seeking to achieve, and will surely please listeners who seek out industrial, noise and general weird underground musical obscurities.