Pterygium – The Revival of Unwritten Laws MC Algebra of Need 2014
Broken Fingers – Mer de Ruines MC Algebra of Need 2014
Grafted Soma – St. Quentin’s Enigma MC Cabin Fever Networks 2016
Algebra of Need are a relatively new ‘micro-label’ focusing on vinyl and cassette releases, where issued material spans a wide arc capturing dark ambient, industrial, power-electronics, experimental techno etc. Being run by Henry Gillett & Thomas Barnes and having issued over a dozen releases since 2013, where the impression I get from perusing their catalogue is that the look, feel and artistic approach of Algebra of Need fits neatly alongside current labels like Posh Isolation, Hospital Productions and Northern Electronics.
Up first for review is ‘The Revival of Unwritten Laws’ 2014’s debut tape by Pterygium, which is the solo project of Henry Gillett. The material on the tape is a blend of experimental industrial noise and dark ambient, which has evidently been created from sampling history library audio and this source material being looped and treated with layered distortion etc. Opening track ‘Experience In Imperial Government’ is a grinding, droning mass which sonically forceful and blown out in tone, which is further infused with middle-eastern tribal samples (voice and percussion), which given an darkly exotic edge. With the first track abruptly cutting out, ‘Blood Tie’ quickly follows with a piece of cyclic, hollow toned and layered drones, again with samples of middle-eastern religious chants (…as the track progresses it gets progressively more overblown until it too abruptly cuts out). The flip side ‘Cause of Expansion’ follows a similar trajectory to the first, with layered droning noise and prominent middle-eastern tribal ritual samples but ramps up its tonal force to ‘jet engine’ effect. Final of 4 tracks ‘Never Once Did I Recover A Revelation’ opts to pull back on the distortion while duly increases the cyclic, rolling tribal rhythm to the point where it could easily be passed off as an outtake from the early classic era of Deutsch Nepal. In an overall sense the material on this tape is definitely enjoyable, where its non-typical source material gives a distinct edge, however the way a number of the tracks abruptly cut out does fracture the mood and flow slightly. With regard to packaging, there is high degree of attention to detail, given the tape is packaged in a small gloss printed slider ‘matchbox’ cover and with the tape wrapped in red satin cloth.
Up next is a short 2 track cassette from Broken Fingers, which is a project of Melbourne based Thomas Wojcicki. ’Barbed Wire Gag’ is the first Side A track, with a clean and clinical track of pulsing electronics, which are structured as part melodious drone and part rhythmic thrum, and where a comparison to the programmed works of Bad Sector is not too far off the mark. Side B brings the track ‘Kittens’, which is a rougher and more straight forward with its stilted rhythmic structure. Given it slots within a clinical, programmed power electronics vein, the piece is further completed with smatterings of distortion and sporadic dialogue samples. With two tracks spanning two different styles, it delivers an agreeable sound on each, but then amounting to less than 10 minutes of material it also feels like it is an almost ‘blink and you miss it’ length. Colour J-card and printed outer casing ‘wrap’ rounds out the clean and simple packaging.
Moving on to to the final tape, Grafted Soma is a new collaboration between Henry Gillett, Thomas Wojcicki and this being their debut tape, on the new Cabin Fever Network ‘micro-label’, which is a further collaboration between the two. 4 mid-length tracks make up the tape and interestingly all titles are 1 word and starting with the letter ‘C’ (i.e. ‘Curfew’, ‘Coercion’, ‘Composure’ & ‘Consequence’). Drawing on elements of droning dark ambient and muted yet blown out industrial noise the material works on a split level of meditative melancholic to borderline abrasive (…depending on the track). In fact it just so happens that the first 2 tracks are the more abrasive ones, while the second 2 are more squarely of the meditative dark ambient type. Apart from thick drones and soundscape oriented layers, vocals/ dialogue snippets and choir like textures bleed in and out of the mix (…but as these are mostly undecipherable they are used for added sonic effect). The third track is the clear standout of the tape and the most forceful, where its strong and moody sub-orchestral textures reminds of the most active works of Yen Pox (…a similar yet slightly less forceful sound also features on the last track). Handmade J-cards rounds out an excellent debut tape for both project and label, and is the clear pick of this bunch.