Amph – Control LP Verlautbarung 2018
Amph are a Swedish duo operating since 2010 (well according to Discogs), but I am only familiar with their contribution to Verlautbarung’s 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik. My observations of Amph’s track After Nature was that it ‘opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent’. To then provide context to this review, this earlier impression is equally applicable to this new LP.
Features two lengthy untitled tracks (one each side of the vinyl), there are definitive ‘sections’ and ‘movements’ on display. Early in the first track it features a ritual tinged industrial throb, deep heaving breathing textures, shimmering micro-tonal textures, and disembodied garbled but unintelligible vocals. Through the middle section the track becomes more mid-tone drone oriented, but this is also underscored with looped field recordings, creaking wood and metal which coalesce into quite raucously animated territory, and calms down again through the late section, complete with muted pump organ drone. Side B follows a similar trajectory, but the underlying abstracted field recording elements are looped into subtle rhythmic form. With an open and widescreen production it contains a very organic and rural sonic atmosphere, where wind-chimes and elongated drones maintain a dark edge, and thankfully far from anything remotely ‘new age’. In moving through other sonic segments, it features forceful melodically muted drones, twilight atmosphere of crickets chirping in a field, and creaking micro-tonal textures and other forceful loops.
Although with only a few releases under their belt, Verlautbarung continue to issue extremely strong and sonically divergent releases, with Amph clearly continuing this trend. With the cover featuring an image of a lit match, as a nice physical touch the cover has itself been spot charred with a lighter flame.
Ochu – Unproduktiw LP Verlautbarung 2018
Ochu is the solo project of Swede Love Rosenström, and while he has been recording as Ochu since the early 2000’s I am only familiar with recent output (although I then have a vague appreciation that his current material has elevated experimentation and dialled down slightly on a harsher noise and heavier industrial aesthetic).
With the current approach based on meticulous layering and blending of textural sonic detail, Ochu’s material in highly animated and sonically nuanced. Likewise, by avoiding any semblance of stuffy academic experimental music, there is clear force and intent at play where the results are engaging and above all vital. Much of the assembled sonic content appears to have been generated from field recording or contact mic based recording sessions, but those inputs have been further manipulated and abstracted to achieve textural density and complexity. The opening track Struisvogelpolitiek is a great example of this, with tonally load creaking wood and metal, where the ‘micro-tonal’ recordings have been elevated to a loud and overblown tone which bridges the organic and the mechanical. Humos De Existencia Estática is a slow burn of a composition, where a jagged yet muted loop is overtaken by an invasive and incessant drone which fractures and multiplies in intensity, while the other rough echoed loops are used for vague ‘train carriage on tracks’ rhythmic effect.
Förnuftsflimmer (Partiellt Anfall) opens Side B are draws out a minimalist ritualised pulse which is blended with a series of forceful mechanical drones, while further micro-tonal textures are elevated to the forefront of the mix. Contra-tasking functions as a short interlude of a fractured grinding loop, which is followed by the lengthy track Segments of Destination concludes the album. Commencing with a spacious mix and again with a focus on micro-sonic detailing (i.e. rocks, wood, metal), the various elements amalgamate into loosely elevating loops, as a deep, muted bass rumble elevates with storm-front intensity. Yet clear restraint is still employed, as rather than building the track an overblown climax, the storm-front passes by and gradually recedes into concluding oblivion.
In both the sound, style and graphic presentation Unproduktiw clearly side stepped any of the typical clichés which could be levelled at the post-industrial underground, and is an album of passion and dedication to a personal sonic craft. Clearly bridging the gap between musique concrete experimentation and roughly hewn post-industrial soundscapes, Unproduktiw is a clever and expertly executed release. Recommended.
Tusen Ar Under Jord – Sandhavens Genklang LP Verlautbarung 2017
Although I was previously aware of this mysterious Swedish project, I have not had an opportunity to hear them until now, which was basically due to not being able to track down a copy of their limited debut tape.
Given the debut tape Sorgsendömet Fobos from 2013 was described as one which “transcends the border lines between drone, ambient and dark echoes of the past”, this follow up LP is noted to be a different beast altogether. Sonically speaking Sandhavens Genklang is rooted in a ‘exotic’ middle eastern sound, where it would appear this album is constructed from sampling and looping fragments of old and forgotten records which were otherwise reconciled to the dustbin of history. In resurrecting fragments of those sampled records, the music is mostly framed around prominent elements of hypnotic tabla percussion, melodious woodwinds, bowed traditional string instruments, wailing horns and tribal chimes, which generates an atmosphere of a dusty and bustling market place in some unnamed city in ancient times. The sampling of old records also means the finished recording contains prominent ‘artifacts’ of hiss, pop and crackle which adds to the sonic allure and general sense of sonic mystery and sets the tone far form being modern digitally produced recording. On the visual front, the cover also exudes an exotic flavour, with the project name and title printed on a piece of cloth affixed to the cover, along with a postcard featuring a drawing of the pyramids of Giza and what may just be a UFO hovering above.
Essentially the strength of this release is it completely transcends any genre confines and thereby completely skews associated expectations to reside in its own musical sphere. Although being a highly atmospheric recording, equally it is not overtly ‘dark’ in mood, but does contain a quite uniquely exotic vibe and aura which will appeal to the sonically curious who are looking for something divergent from the usual underground ilk. Recommended.
Various Artists – Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik 2xLP, 7”ep Verlautbarung 2013
Compilations can be approached in a couple of ways. On one hand they might be ‘just’ a collection of tracks and on the other they may be structured around a strongly defined theme or concept. This compilation is definitely of the later where ‘stone’ forms the thematic focus. 15 predominantly northern European artists have provided contributions (although at least 3 acts are from the UK), who have made a wide variety of interpretations in sonically approaching this theme and in the process created a diverse and comprehensive listen. Although collectively the artists’ have an general experimental bent, this is not of a clinical academic type, rather all artists’ have a solid footing in the darker genres spanning: experimental, noise, industrial, field recording, ritual ambient etc. As such this is not a compilation of stuffy academic experimental sounds, rather it is the dirty and caustic sounds of the underground. So, on with a track by track run down:
- Irgun Z’wai Leumi – ‘Landslide Floorfiller’: This somewhat obscure side project of Proiekt Hat bring a piece of filth infested, heavy burrowing distortion and mid paced mechanised tape loops. Having a thick, weighty, yet warm analogue sound (where overlapping layered loops build in intensity), it is an excellent introduction.
- Amph – ‘After Nature’: opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent.
- Hal Hutchinson – ‘Dead Weight’: delivers an example of his recognised raw junk metal abuse which has lots of tonal space and depth. Not being overlay chaotic, this is noise from a ‘breathing’ experimental angle, where it sounds to be have been constructed with multiple junk metal recording sessions. With an atmosphere of cascading metallic clatter, it very much sounds like a washing machine being thrown down a stairwell.
- Enklav – ‘Skiffer – Förbannad Jord’: sits within a 1980’s ‘clanging’ analogue industrial sound, which combines loose thumping rhythms with micro tonal textures sitting well in the background. Death industrial meets tape experimentations perhaps?
- Vårtgård – ‘Grufvan’: delivers forceful electronics waves as an example of solid old school death industrial grinding structures, burrowing textures etc. Being of a monotonous structure there is only gradual evolution throughout.
- Clew Of Theseus – ‘Stronghold’: forms a track of meditative drones which is quasi-ritual in tone. The mood in one where a deep, hollow and distant drone merges with metallic synth elements which contain a buried harmonic quality.
- Kristian Olsson – ‘Stenlunga’: is loose and less chaotic and oppressive than Kristian’s main work as Alfarmania. Sparse tape manipulations build with a muffled sound and distant squall – like being inside a tornado bunker as the storm rages outside. What sounds like a lone organ drone lament is buried within the mix which a nice touch.
- Niellerade Fallibilisthorstar – ‘Kilhacka’: delivers a distant, muffled and hollow drone which cyclically builds with more fine grained ‘crunching’ textures. Metallic gong like tones, dense rumbles and random textural sounds add sonic diversity.
- MNEM – ‘Troktopillar’: forms a track of heavy industrial noise loop manipulations, where stilted conveyor belt type loops form the main basis as more forceful looped layers are added and subtracted from the composition.
- Jeph Jerman – ‘Lithiary Redux’: focuses on experimental, micro-tonal sound textures which are somewhat ‘wet’ in tone and sounding like field recordings made in the hull of a ship. Here is the track has a great detailed atmosphere built on blend of scratching, tapping, scraping sound elements.
- Doroga – ‘Kiviteline’: constitutes an excellent ritual ambient track which is sparse in composition, featuring gongs, chimes and slow thudding ritualistic beat, with the overarching atmosphere being of an echoed depths of catacomb. With skin, metal and bones listed as sound sources/ instruments this provides an idea of the ominous tone.
- Dieter Müh – Fältspat: delivers an experimental ambient soundscape which is located somewhere between the borders of dark ambient to post-industrial music. Vague rhythmic structures, stone scraping sounds and distant, minimal drones mix to generate a mysterious sonic aura.
- Ochu – ‘Ren Marmor (För George Mallory)’: Here loose ritual percussive elements mix with minimal tape loops etc. Sparse and echoed, with a gradual layering of micro-sounds textures (contact microphone in a bowl of rocks?) and occasional gong hits provides a solid and engaging atmosphere.
- Contrastate – ‘Haunted’: Sounding only as Contrastate can, their offering is distant, forlorn, mysterious, tragic in equal measures. Here warm layered organ type drones, occasional rhythmic loops and slow drawling poetic vocals give a distinct Contrastate flavour. ‘Beauty in darkness’ seems a complimentary description for this dark midnight and film noir type atmosphere.
- Feine Trinkers Bei Pinkels Daheim – ‘Notschrei’: Last album track reverts to the experimental where sound clutter and sweeping atonal textures function in an ebb and flow style. The track also moves into animated ‘wind tunnel’ drone territory as well as sacral drone ambient with orchestral elements and sampled choirs.
‘Stein’ is an example of a compilation which absolutely works in terms of both sonic variety and conceptual focus. It features a strong, varied and intelligent set of experimental underground compositions, made all the more engaging due to the presence of a solid conceptual basis. Pressed on heavy weight vinyl, housed in a thick card stock cover and complimented with additional booklet containing individual artwork and text for each project’s offering rounds out the presentation. A rock solid compilation (…if such an obvious metaphor is not in poor taste).
Trepaneringsritualen – Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring LP Strömkarlen / Verlautbarung 2012
Although not constituting a new album from T x R x P, this is a welcomed vinyl reissue of their debut cassette from 2008. As the tape was issued in an almost unobtainable run of 75 copies it is a positive to be given the opportunity to obtain an insight into the early works of this project via this re-release.
From the commencement of the first track it is clearly evident that the sound of ‘Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring’ differs from the more composed and occult / ritualised sound of recent material. Rather the sound presented here is of the lo-fi murky death industrial type, which draws parallels and comparisons with the more ambient works of Brighter Death Now. As such the prevalent atmosphere could be hyperbolically described as ‘the creeping dread of the unknown’, or ‘the rising horror of what might be lurking in the basement’.
‘Bloodletting Ritual’ opens the album and delivers a cavernous echoed undercurrent offset with gritty, lo-fi grinding textures. ‘Black Heaven/ White Hell’ follows with a sporadic knocking percussive element coupled with mid to high pitched noise squeals, before settling into a grinding bass loaded furrow (…the track bleeding out over an extended 13+ minutes).
‘Knife Play’ opens the second side and is slightly more animated with its bass percussive pulse again being partially buried by echoed lo-fi muck, before falling away into a muffled ambient segment with occasional rasping vocalisations. Alternately ‘Bestraffning & Beloning’ is one of the more composed tracks of the album, with a slow pounding beat and oscillating noise frequencies providing the death industrial rhythm, and is one of the main contenders for the aforementioned Brighter Death Now compassion.
With the overall presentation, the design of the predominantly black LP sleeve is simple and classy, adorned with images of trephination (both medieval woodcuts and photographic examples). Noting that this was issued with a print run of a mere 250 it is anticipated that copies won’t hang around for too long.