Atrium Carceri & Eldar – Sacrosanct

AC&E

Atrium Carceri & Eldar – Sacrosanct CD 2012 Infinite Fog Productions

This is a bit of an older album which I have recently checked out, and whilst I am well aware of both projects, I have not necessarily listened to a great deal of their rather large discographies (each with 10 or so albums each to date). Likewise the projects should be recognized for their former association with the cult but now defunct Cold Meat Industry label.

So to establish where the sound of this collaboration might fall, generally speaking Atrium Carceri delve into a cinematic dark ambient sound, whilst Eldar have been more varied in the musical expression under a general ‘industrial’ banner, covering elements dark ambient, martial industrial and neo-classical etc.  Despite the differences in sound for each project, for this collaboration the sound palate has opted to largely stick to animated dark ambient realms.  Early album track ‘Tomorrow’s Dust’ is of the sweeping cinematic style with a darker undercurrent weaving throughout, whilst the programmed pulse provides an aspect of force to the compositions structure. ‘Freeman’ is a touch divergent with its minimalist programed beat (more akin to a rhythmic heart beat thump), mixed with sweeping yet solemn orchestral layers. Similar programming in the form of rolling tribal and electronics tinged percussion reappears on mid album track ‘Betrayal’, while occasional flourishes of musicality are also apparent, such as minimalist piano which features ‘So They Speak’ ‘SOL’ and ‘Burial’.

Ultimately what is delivered on ‘Sacrosanct’ is an album which sits staunchly within a dark ambient realm – a realm of dusky twilight and desolate streets filled with crumbling and abandoned buildings; and if you look closely at the mostly black cover, a darkened silhouette of a city skyline is featured which is a rather apt visual representation of the album’s mood. This a solemn and enjoyably immersive listen and although I would not put this is a ‘classic’ or even ‘astounding’ category, rather this is a strong and very enjoyable dark ambient album – nothing more, nothing less.

.

Advertisements

Concrete Mascara – Relic Of Vanity / Sick Seed – Helsingin Synagogat / Graustich – Werwolf Integrity

CMSSGS

Concrete Mascara – Relic Of Vanity 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2012

Sick Seed – Helsingin Synagogat 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2013

Graustich – Werwolf Integrity 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2014

Here is a handful of 7”ep’s which have been co-released via the two underground Finnish labels Filth & Violence and Untergeschross. Although each release can be broadly slotted under the power electronics/ industrial genres, they also differ drastically in sound and approach, thus demonstrating the diversity which can be achieved under such genre classifications. Diverse vehement malice if you will.

Up first is Concrete Mascara (with this being my first introduction to the project), who incidentally hail from the US.  From this release they clearly operate at the brutal and nasty end of power electronics and industrial noise. ‘Vapour Slave’ opens the 7”ep and works on almost on two separate levels, where this forms an amalgam of mid to high range squalling and punishing noise, which floats over a crushing bass rumble and anguished vocal attack. Weighty to say the least. ‘Pylons of Skin’ is found on the flip side, and here maintains a similar dual layered approach, balancing ear shredding high-pitched noise and a wall of crushing bass and chaotic oscillating textures.

Up next is Sick Seed with their ‘Helsingin Synagogat’ 7”ep, where they embody a rather different approach for what the project might be recognized for. The opening title track is pretty much a direct industrial ‘song’, being built around crude cave man styled bass playing, squelching feedback loop and screeched/ yelled vocals, with a later segment getting even more loose with a chaotically riffed electric slide guitar (?!?). Strange, strange indeed. Side B brings a more ‘standard’ Sick Seed approach on the blink and you will miss it ‘Teeth Pt.2’ (only 1.22 minutes in length), which brings junk metal rumble, random power tool generated sounds and yelled vocals (…for interest’s sake part 1 of ‘Teeth’ was of similar style/ length and issues on the split release with Shift). The final of three tracks ‘Angel Smith’ then reverts back to the weird. Here sparse and distant junk metal clatter are accompanied by loose twangy acoustic guitar and spoken vocals to create an ‘industrial folk’ version of Finnish noise (?!?). Noting that this track is dedicated to the ‘outsider’ folk/ blues musician Jandek, this is at least an explanation for the deviation of sound.

Up last are Graustich, who are yet another previously unknown project, but based on this 7”ep are a very promising act. On the first track ‘Es Geht Wieter’ it is introduced with a WWII radio sample, which bleeds into an undercurrent of oscillating textures, complimented with a pounding militant industrial beat, swooping aircraft bomber samples, and flanged partially buried vocals to create a simplistic yet entirely effective industrial/ power electronics sound. ‘The Roots of Evil’ follows with a heavier oscillating bass rumble and thundering catatonic beat, before a crushing wall of distortion seeps into the mix. On side B ‘Werwolf’ is more animated with thick mid-range burrowing pulse and squelching noise, German language samples, queasy descending atonal notes, and loose militant styled percussion. Although Graustich embody a relatively straight forward (semi-subdued) power electronics approach, all sonic elements are handled with skill with maximum effect.

In a general sense none of these 7″ep’s would qualify as ‘gateway’ releases for those uninitiated to the power electronics genre, but that is far from the point. Obviously both Filth & Violence and Untergeschoss are both intent on releasing the nastiest examples of power electronics/ industrial noise for the educated underground connoisseur, with each of these 7”ep’s being clear examples of this modus operandi.

raison d’etre – In Sadness, Silence And Solitude / raison d’être – The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice

RD1

RD2

raison d’etre – In Sadness, Silence And Solitude DCD :retortae: 2014

raison d’être – The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice DCD Ewers Tonkunst 2012

Noting raison d’etre have in recent years been facilitating a program of reissuing of earlier albums here are yet two more albums in this ongoing re-release agenda.  However rather than these representing mere reprints, each of these new versions have been substantially expanded through the inclusion of a second disc of additional content.

‘In Sadness, Silence And Solitude’ represents the earlier of the two, being originally released way back in 1997 (…it may also be of interest that this album holds a rather special place for this reviewer, as it was one of albums critiqued in the first issue of Spectrum Magazine from 1998).  To provide context within raison d’etre’s own discography, ‘In Sadness, Silence And Solitude’ presented a large stylistic leap away from composed song structures of earlier material.  Effectively the sound shifted towards abstract droning territory by evoking barren windswept soundscapes, but maintaining links with the past through fleeting flourishes of Gregorian vocal chants, chimes, sparse ritualistic percussion, wailing horns, swelling quasi-orchestral synth melodies and morose piano notes.   On the first disc it contains 6 original album tracks, which have been augmented by an additional 2 live tracks as well as a previously unreleased composition.  For the second disc of this expanded edition, it contains 13 additional pieces, by bringing together 9 previously issued compilation tracks and further 4 unreleased compositions. Noting that all of the material spread across the 2 discs derives from same time period (1996-97, with some being live versions of the main album tracks), they display a stylistic similarity which greatly assists in collective coherence of the listening experience.  Additionally all tracks of this 2 disc expanded edition have been fully restored and remastered for optimal sonic impact.

Regarding ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’ this constitutes an expanded edition of raison d’etre’s most recent album from 2009 (excluding the two live album released in 2010 and 2012 respectively).  On the first disc it contains the original album tracks (without augmentation), which follow raison d’etre’s established framework of abstract soundscapes and sparse monastic chants.  However the sound is also slightly more animated and layered on ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’, with a greater focus on sonic elements which embody a jagged, scrapping and metallic tonality, as well as scant harmonic/ disharmonic piano notes and sparse angular orchestral strings and brass tones.  Noting the intense and occasionally invasive sound quality, ‘The Stains Of The Embodied Sacrifice’ very much manages to balance a duality of sound and approach.  Thus the album is imbedded with an atmosphere which sways from being angelic and serene, to a feeling of being heavily oppressive (…something akin to the hellish torment of the damned).  For the expanded edition, disc 2 contains 6 additional tracks (spanning 60 minutes) which constitute previously unreleased early versions of the original album tracks.  Seemingly with these bonus tracks being constructed from the same sound sources as the main album tracks, they very much feel like alternate remixed versions.

Both releases come housed in 6 panel fold out digi-card covers which faithfully recreates the original album artwork and provides a new physical platform in which raison d’etre can continue to be appreciated as one of dark ambient’s exceptional and enduring artists.  All to do now is wait for the imminent release of new album ‘Mise en Abyme’ to see what it reveals.

The Siamese Pearl ‎– Death-Darting Eye

TSP

The Siamese Pearl ‎– Death-Darting Eye MC Spine Scepter 2012

One of the joys of writing about underground music is that quite out of the blue you can made aware of obscure hidden gems.  ‘Death-Darting Eye’ from The Siamese Pearl is one such obscurity and whilst there is limited information on the project, here we have a super limited, deluxe packaged 30 minute cassette. With its dank and occult infused atmosphere, it is immediately evident that The Siamese Pearl channels an 80’s lo-fi analogue industrial sound, which also contains selected rhythmic elements which hint at cold wave / post punk synth tone.  Interesting this release is far more ‘European’ in style, appearance and flavour and by no means typical of what you might typically assume from an underground project hailing from Miami, USA (…of all places).  To provide a sonic marker, some particular parallels for this would be the early ritual/ ambient/ experimental/ industrial based sounds of Coil or Current 93, and to a lesser degree the early works of Archon Satani. In other words The Siamese Pearl comfortably sits alongside some positive company.

On ‘Stretch of the Unkind’ it opens the tape in fine form, being a brooding ritual industrial / dark ambient track, containing a variety of layered loops and drones.  The following track ‘Hermetic Hermit’ then steps things up a notch, being based on a pulsing coldwave synth line, mid range distortion and echo treated, monotone spoken vocals.  A similar programmed synth, is also evident on ‘Night Specter’, but here follows the introductory segment containing abstract dark ambient, tape manipulations and distant horn like wails. ‘Chimera’ then opts for a composition of loosely scattered noise and abstract grinding industrial soundscapes, prior to ‘Oedipus Of The Black Orifice’ rounding out the first side of the tape with a short display of abstract tape loops, again featuring the nihilistic spoken vocals.

‘Attributable Decay’ opens the flip side which again displays a relatively melodic piece, again with coldwave synth characteristics coupled with grinding manipulated loops. Interestingly on this track an additional vocal line is paralleled with the monotone spoken vocals, which are almost rap like in their delivery.  Whilst this second vocal is rather perplexing at first, these are not as jarring as might be expected and in the end works well within the tracks sound. Up next is ‘Turnip Blood’ which presents one of the tape’s heaviest tracks, featuring looped grinding industrial factory clatter and again with the obligatory echo treated spoken vocals.  ‘Axe’ changes things up slightly with a ritual atmosphere being driven by synth drones and militant rhythms (which upon closer inspection are a looped breathing sample), constituting a solid basis for the stoic vocal invocations.  ‘He’s Not Kind To Other Wraiths’ arrives as the final of the nine tracks, and concludes the tape with a lo-fi analogue windswept soundscape of Archon Satani-esque factory ambience. Excellent to say the least.

On the packaging side of things, the snake-skin printed cassette is housed in an oversized, screen printed cardboard box (adorned with with serpent motif no less), and includes a separate lyrics booklet.  From its musical content, through to its packaging and associated occult themed visuals, ‘Death-Darting Eye’ manages to hit all the right ‘esoteric’ markers.

Propergol – Paradise Land

propergol

Propergol – Paradise Land CD Tesco Organisation 2012

After dropping off the map following their sixth album ‘Ground Proximity Warning System’ way back in 2006, seemingly out of nowhere Propergol has made a rather welcome return.  In order to provide some necessary context for this new offering, over the course of their 16 year career Propergol have always articulated a certain filmic and cinematic quality to their sound.  However in the past this has been mainly due to the use of various movie dialogue samples scattered throughout their compositions.  Also given the heaviness and harshness of the earlier material was rooted in the merging of heavy industrial and power electronics, this new album has instead opted to elevate its production to a level which feels more as the product of a professional sound studio.  Thus this time around rather than just hinting at a cinematic sound through samples, ‘Paridise Land’ comes across very much as the backing audio track to various scenes of a nameless motion picture.  Here the production is deep and bass heavy, yet crystalline and clear, which adds a tonal heaviness to the sound which isn’t as reliant on harshness as earlier material was.

After a brief introductory piece (‘Running Scared’) the second track ‘911 Dispatcher’ presents a moody orchestral strings type of dark ambience (complete with scattered radio chatter), which clearly articulates the differing approach taken on ‘Paradise Land’.  Likewise although the following track ‘Ymene’ hints at the earlier approach of Propergol, here the sound is controlled with a tense and brooding heavy industrial sound, rather than being noisy and unhinged. ‘E.R.S’ is a great example of the merging of the old and new elements of Propergol by using a well placed dialogue sample (lifted from the ‘classic’ Hollywood era movie), as synth layers and scattered industrial debris creates an atmosphere which balances on a knife edge between the etherial and the ominous.  ‘Psycho Road’ is the track which comes closest to the harshness of earlier material (freeform scattered noise and wavering distortion), yet the digital crispness of the production clearly positions this in context of the balance of the album.  The following track ‘Escape From…’ reverts to calmer territory given it evokes a sweeping dark ambient soundscape, but keeps things on edge with a stalking bass pulse and tone of brooding menace.  Also worthy of a specific mention is late album track ‘Impossible Landing’, which is one of the most divergent tracks of the album, by virtue of being constructed with a programmed electronica beat, and moody synth textures which has far more in common with Atomine Elektrine than what Propergol would be typical recognised for.  That said, there is no complaint from these quarters as this an excellent understated electronica track. The album concludes with the mammoth 16 minute ‘Bleu Nuit’ which is the most experimental of the set, being a more abstract dark ambient/ electronica/ industrial cut up which moves through a number of somewhat disjointed segments and a myriad of dialogue samples.  Whilst not a bad track at all, it however lack the focus of the material which proceeds it, meaning the album does not finish as strongly as it otherwise might have.

Spanning just on 70 minutes, there is a lot of sonic texture and detail to take in.  Clearly some have lamented the lack of overt harshness here, which has in turn lead to accusations that Propergol have moved to an entirely dark ambient ‘lite’ version of their sound.  Whilst this is certainly not the Propergol of yesteryears, it is great to see a project so confidently forging a new era of sound via unexplored sonic territories and a wider sonic palate.

RMEDL / K11 – Chthonian Music

RMEDL

RMEDL / K11 – Chthonian Music CD Cold Spring Records 2012

To provide an overview of the conceptual focus of this album, the promo blurb provides some succinct and useful insights: “This multi-dimensional collaborative opera (audio installation and concept album) is a bridge between the conception of sound within the contemporary art scene, post-industrial culture and the avant-garde black metal musical scene. It focuses on creating a dialogic development between radical forms of concrete music, unorthodox sounds, conceptual arts and experimental recording practices of acoustic phenomena”.  To counterbalance this ‘academic’ explanation, ‘Chthonian Music’ is the result of a site specific sound installation project which was prepared and presented in an archaic underground vault (or according to the liner notes: “ancient etrusian hypogeum sited in Cecina, Italy”).  If this later description is a tad confusing, a series of photos presented on the cover illustrates the archaeological space to be a series of long narrow tunnels connecting with a larger high ceiling vault.

With regard to the sound aspects of ‘Chthonian Music’ the album has been created via the collaboration of an expansive list of contributors, including: Francisco Lopez, Christina Kubisch, Massimo Bartolini, Seth Cluett, Y.E.R.M.O., Seven Guitars, Luciano Maggiore, Gianluca Becuzzi, Andrea Marutti, Philippe Petit, Deadwood, Utarm, Burial Hex, Aderlating, Nordvargr and L’Acephale.  However when considering the sheer number of contributing artists in context of the confined installation space, it is not clear from the liner notes whether contributing artists played live during the original performance, or whether source sound material was remotely submitted, which was in turn manipulated in real time during the installation by the project coordinators (Sandra Gronshi and Pietro Riparbelli).  Despite such questions, where this album ultimately succeeds is that it transcends being merely an interesting idea and manages to connect the dots between multiple genres and emphasise their sonic overlap.  It is also of interest to note that the album spans both ‘low’ (underground) and ‘high’ (academic experimental) art.  As such ‘Chthonian Music’ embodies musique concrete, experimental sounds, sweeping drones (abstract, harmonic and disharmonic), and the sonic dissonance of underground black metal (evoked through angular riffing and flailing drums).  Such sounds also intertwine with other genres including segments of contemporary classical composition and ritual ambient soundscapes, which provides a diversity of sonic terrain yet still maintaining a coherent feel.

On the opening track ‘Mundvs’, natural woodland field recordings (insects, rain and distant thunder) mix with deep and rumbling bass drones before abstract distorted organ harmonics fleshes out the sound, resulting in a relatively gentle album introduction.  Although the album consists of 3 tracks, the second composition ‘Katabasis’ is split into 5 separate parts which play out as very much as individual tracks (rather than combining into a singular monster 55 minute composition).  To provide a quick rundown of each segment:

  • Part 1: ritual gongs/ chimes sit in the foreground, as experimental tones and      layered ominous drones gradually build to moments of shrill intensity.
  • Part 2: sub-bass drones mix with doomy acoustic guitars and croaked vocals,      where the piece gradually elevates itself to ecstatic heights with its mechanised grinding loops, chanted vocals, dissonant black metal riffing and hammering metal kit drumming. This is black metal channelled in a very avant-garde manner and this is how I imagine current era SWANS would sound like if they ever tried their hand at black metal.
  • Part 3: after the onslaught of the prior track, the next segment presents a      melancholically beautiful piano piece, where the composition is loose, free flowing and heavily reverb treated, which is in turn underscored with a variety of other drone based elements. Mid track an organ takes over as the leading instrument to draw the track towards its conclusion.
  • Part 4: is more tonally abstract, being constructed with field records/ musique      concrete sounds and tense harmonic droning elements, before descending into a      maelstrom of random metallic clatter, guitar reverb/ feedback and chaotic freeform kit drumming.
  • Part 5: merges abstract musique concrete and ritual ambient elements with what sounds to be slow rumbling and reverberating doom drone guitar – however as a guitar is not listed instrument on the liner notes, this element may in fact be a heavily treated organ tone.

For the final album track ‘Nuktelia’ it draws the album to a conclusion with a broad assemblage of the various sounds which precede it.  Here the tone and atmosphere is one of an expansive cavernous space, where a lone violin plays out a maudlin melody against a backdrop of windswept drones.  Later in the track, noise feedback, abstract riffed guitars, pummelling percussion and a moody piano tune each take turns in making an appearance.

For what is a rather academically focused concept album involving the contributions of a large list of artists, ‘Chthonian Music’ hangs together extremely well as a varied yet coherent and immersive album.  There is a lot to like here, whether it is channel the most abstract aspects of underground metal or flirting with more academic experimental sounds.  As such the role of the project coordinators’ in organising the original sound installation and this complimentary album to formally document the event should not be underestimated.

Singular Cleansweep Operations – Final Service

SOC

Singular Cleansweep Operations – Final Service CD Teito Sound Company 2012

Rather than being a new underground project, Singular Cleansweep Operations are an obscure solo act which has direct linage to the equally mysterious German power electronics duo Operation Cleansweep.  Yet apart from this limited information there appears is scant other details available – which is at least reflective of the parent projects modus operandi.

From the liner notes it nominates that the material on ‘Final Service’ is derived from 1996 to 2010, yet it is unclear as to whether this means Operation Cleansweep is now a redundant project and this is the continuation of a solo member; or whether the album represents the final gasp and last remaining unreleased archival material (which is partially suggested by the title).  Despite such questions, based on the underground status of Operation Cleansweep this offshoot release has at least raised some intrigue.

From cursory listens it quickly becomes apparent that whilst sitting within a general power electronics framework, the mood and tone is slightly more subdued than Operation Cleansweep.  This in some ways this could be a potential pitfall, as having a direct link to the main project through its moniker, may give a false impression of what to expect.  Yet as none of the material here constitutes second rate or throwaway material, it is really a matter of how the listener chooses to approach the album.  Likewise to provide some context and to guide expectation, a good comparison would be the slightly more subdued and stalking approach Ex.Order take with their power electronics sound.

Across its 12 tracks (ranging in length from 3 to 6 minutes), each feature differing combinations of thick throbbing syths, well placed dialogue samples, slow pounding beats and hazy layers of sweeping noise.  On a number of the tracks the oppressive atmospheres are amplified by morbid vocalisations, which are deadpan delivered and slightly distortion treated.  Alternately some of the tracks articulate a cold military warfare type ambience based on abstract mechanised beats, radar blips and scattered radio chatter, whilst others utilise elements such as looped atonal piano notes, and disharmonic rhythmic elements.  Mid album track ‘Verbrenne, Mensch!’ pushes ever so slightly towards a full power electronics attack, with its ominous, oscillating textures and heavily flanged vocals – simple, straight forward and damn effective.  Likewise ‘Revolutionary Suicide Council’ is built on a potentially overused Jim Jones’ last stand suicide sample, but works effectively here coupled with a prominent crackling / throbbing synth layer.

Rather than being overtly aggressive and brute force in sound, Singular Cleansweep Operations opt for queasy, uneasy and tonally threatening atmospheres.  Whilst certainly not a classic of the genre, ‘Final Service’ contains material of more than just elemental quality, meaning it is a solidly decent album overall.