Zos Kia – 23

Zos Kia – 23 CD Infinite Fog 2017

For background context Zos Kia was the primary 1980’s musical vehicle of John Gosling and holds a special place within the early development phase of industrial music. This is predominantly due to their only official album Transparent, issued on cassette in 1984 via the cult label Nekrophile Rekords, and while that album was labeled as a split/collaboration with Coil, the group membership at the time were effectively interchangeable between the two. As for musical content Transparent, included a live recording of Zos Kia on Side A, being a performance made at the Berlin Atonal festival from 1983, while Side B contained a series of tracks credited to Coil/Zos Kia. In an overarching sense Transparent features early proto ritual-industrial, where tonal noise shards slash across rumbling guitar feedback and underscored with clanging metallic ritualized percussion, sampled dialogue and wailing/ screeched evocation-based vocals. But apart from this lone release, Zos Kia also issued two EP’s in the mid 1980’s, where 23 functions to collect together those EP’s and archive them with a large volume of Zos Kia recordings made over the years, with the addition of a couple of extracts from the Transparent album itself.

Having not delved into Zos Kia recordings outside of Transparent, I was immediately surprised by how different the material in 23 is in sound and execution, where the opening track Black Action has a guitar-based band groove and swagger, with spoken vocals and is unlike anything I would have ever expected from the group. The following track Be Like Me equally surprises when the solo piano format breaks out into an almost electro-funk number of constant kick drum, driving bass and central piano riff and swirling guitar line. It is only when 10 Miles High arrives that the attitude and sonic dissonance of earlier material makes an appearance, and the sinister soundscape throb of Rape calls to mind a hazy drugged sound that Coil would hone in later years, while An Absolute manages to meld the earlier sound of the project but within a ridged guitar/ programmed drum format. As for the second electro-funk excusion on Muggy The Staff, to my ear at least is an entirely redundant attempt at a commercial sound, and has me again scratching my head that this is actually the same band as featured on Transparent. As for the last quarter of CD1, this includes a number of remixes of earlier featured tracks, but which really do not warrant further comment.

CD2 opens with Ake, a squalling feedback and gabled voice-based track, and quickly follows with a doomy synth version of An Absolute, which deviates enough from the original to be individually interesting. The flowing tryptic of the lengthy unreleased tracks from 1982, including Era Vulgaris A1, Era Vulgaris A3 and Harry Wouldn’t Like It, sound to be live recordings or rehearsals and sonically reflects the chaotic ritualized dissonance of the Transparent recordings. In then moving well into the run order of the second disc, it features a short 1984 live recording of Be Like Me, as well as three tracks from the Transparent album (two tracks Baptism of Fire and Poisons from the 1983 Berlin Atonal show, as well as the lengthy tensile guitar feedback soundscape Sewn Open). The archive set is then rounded out with two unreleased tracks, including Sways Backwards from 2006 and Sleazy Said from 2000 and with their respective throbbing/ stilted programming and pulsing choral soundscape gives a clear nod to the surreal atmospheres of late area Coil. In fact, Sleazy Said is noted to be a musical collaboration between John Gosling and the late Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson and for me are perhaps the best and most interesting compositions of the entire two CD set.

Noting that I have never been a Zos Kia obsessive, which then means that while 23 is an interesting collection, from this perspective it is personally a non-essential release, particularly due to various tracks falling well outside of what I would ever bracket under an industrial/ post-industrial banner. Yet for others who Zos Kia is a pivotal artist of influence, this extensive double CD set will be of absolutely intrigue to the early industrial (and beyond) experimentations of John Gosling. A digi-book sleeve and detailed liners notes in an eight-page booklet rounds out a slick presentation.

Advertisements

Anenzephalia ‎– Programmatika

Anenzephalia Programmatika MC Hospital Productions 2017

For whatever reason I did not order this tape immediately upon release, where the limited 200 copies then completely sold out in a matter of days. Given that Anenzephalia are an artist who could easily sell 500+ copies, I then consoled myself with an vague assumption that its limitation implied this collection of outtakes and unreleased material might have not been up to the same standard as other main releases. But in proving that assumption completely wrong it did not take long for word to filter out regarding how great the tape was, and after a bit of searching I managed to obtain the tape at a fair price. In now having had a chance to listen to the tape myself, in my estimation Programmatika features some of the strongest material from the project in years.

Thematically Programmatika uses artwork and samples to cleverly comment on social engineering which seeks an idealistic Utopian future, but juxtaposes this against the creation of a soulless Dystopian nightmare. The tape features 18 listed tracks, which in reality each bleeds into a larger continuous composition. Sonically this perhaps sits towards the slightly more subdued sounds from the project post the year 2000, yet equally there is lots of sonic variety and detailing to maintain attention. According to the liner notes, all sounds were created 1989-2006 and further remastered 2016, however it seems that there are a variety of sonic elements which have been used in different formations on other releases. One of the most obvious of these is the clearly recognizable sample from A Tribute, featured on 1998’s mini LP New World Disorder. During a few select moments Programmatika features heavier industrialized textures, including atonal metallic clanging, swarming analogue distortion and queasy disorientating rhythms, but in the most part the mood is subdued and controlled. Likewise radio chatter and what sounds like German political speech samples occasionally bleed into the mix. Also of particular note, the end of Side B mirrors the first moments of the tape on Side A, while the end of Side A replicates the start of Side B. This functions to effectively create a conceptual ‘infinity loop’ of unchanging stasis, which would seem to represent the perpetual unchanging present without the possibility of a past or a future. To further frame the conceptual commentary, Programmatika is concludes with a deadpan voice repeatedly instructing the listener to “be happy”.

Without doubt I have been extremely surprised by how strong Programmatika is as a complete and focused release, and in no way feels to have been cobbled together from outtakes or throwaway material. As such Programmatika deserves to be heard by more that the few hundred that a 200 copy edition without a digital version allows, so here is hoping that a repress will be issued at some point. Vinyl perhaps?

Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field

Mlehst – The Difficulty In Crossing A Field 2xLP Hospital Productions 2017

With a discography of over 100 releases spanning back to 1991, Mlehst are a project I am not at all familiar with other than name alone. To then speak of The Difficulty In Crossing A Field, this is not a new recording from the solo project All Brentnall, but is a re-issue of a limited CDr dating back from 1998. As that was the same year when Hospital Productions as a label was originally launched, I am then going to assume that this album had a strong impact on label boss Dominick Fernow around that time, and hence is the reason why it has been plucked from obscurity for its reissue on double vinyl.

Sonically speak, the album is made up of four tracks of an experimental noise style, which feature as lengthy compositions on each LP side (10 to 19 minutes each). Far from being a hard and hard noise style, this is controlled and consider experimental soundscapes, including extensive quiet passages and a subtle dynamic depth and breadth of sound. While the mood and tone is loose and abstract, at the same time is not chaotic, instead showcasing a deft sense of compositional approach.

On the opening cut Flowery Twats it uses short segments or sections of choppy cut ups are used and at times are almost of quirky cartoonish quality, given way to passages of compositional restraint featuring cavernous doom addled reverb and mine shaft echo. The following piece Can Such Things Be? opts for quite prominent cyclic drones which stop short of breaking out into a noise squall, while maintaining a backdrop of sonic mineshaft depth and further augmented with indecipherable radio chatter.What Comes Round Goes Round charts a tensile muted industrial soundscape style, but the mood of this style is fractured with occasional choppy voice cut ups which become increasingly animated as the track progresses. The title track is the final of the four pieces and is clearly the nosiest, featuring a series of mid to high tone fragmented sound bursts, but which slowly morph into consolidated and thick pulsing drones, while later half then deviates off into fractured noise cut ups, before slowly descending into cavernous looped territory.

With the original CDr issued in only 100 copies, it is probably safe to assume it The Difficulty In Crossing A Field is one of the harder to find and consequently less heard releases in Mlehst’s discography. Obviously this new edition of 250 copies on gatefold vinyl, with artwork replicating the original, will then go part way to remedying that situation, given this is an enjoyable album of an experimental noise style.

Nil By Mouth batch reviews

ANTIchildLEAGUE / Cronaca Nera Bruises and Bites MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2017

ANTIchildLEAGUE (aka the solo project of Gaya Donadio), has teamed up with Cronaca Nera whom I have not come across before. Although it appears they are an Italian project who issued two release back in 2001, which was then followed by a period of 13 years silence before reactivating in 2014, and now seems to be a trio including the involvement of Andrea Chiaravalli (aka Iugula-Thor).

For this collaborative tape Bruises and Bites features sonically fierce power electronics, and at times sounding completely psychologically unhinged based on the veracity of the vocals courtesy of Gaya. The title track opens the tape and complete sets the scene for the entire tape. Featuring saturated fried static, pulsating and grinding noise and aggressive echo and distortion treated vocals, these sonics elements have been cleaved into thick and punishingly loud structures which are pushed to overblown intensity. To then speak of the vocals, these are a standout element, where depending on the track, the voice appears to be barking orders and demands, and set against a secondary voice of variously choking, rasping and crying tones. Although sonically the material is choppy, loose and at times quite chaotic, there is clear compositional focus and intent which is clearly detectable under the more outwardly unhinged sonic elements.

The six distinct tracks span in the order of 30 minutes of music, which is further housed in a faux leather slip-sleeve, with further printed insert and postcards featuring group imagery in an S&M style. Issued in an unknown limitation, this is harsh, hard and high-calibre modern Italian power electronics.


Instinct Primal / Purba Forest Ritual MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2018

Here is a collaborative release between Instinct Primal (the solo project of Jan Kruml), and Purba who is a Russian musical project focusing and Bon ritual music. Purba in its current form is the solo project of Svyatoslav Ponomarev, but of note is that an earlier incarnation of the group included the membership of Alexei Tegin (from 1996-2001), who is currently recognised as the leader of the Phurpa and who also play ritual music in the Bon tradition. But aside from that point of interest and link to Phurpha, this is a Purba release where evidently Forest Ritual is the first recordings made in 18 years. Musically speaking the material on Forest Ritual, features two lengthy ten-minute tracks and is as archaic as they come, with the basis of the recordings made in October, 2016 in a forest close to Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, which is the town where the infamous Sedlec ‘Bone Church’ is located. The cover then identifies the music is: “featuring snow, wind, trunks, stumps, and rusty nails in an ambient ritual of earth and fire”.

Day Forest Ritual (Part One) Holy Fire sonically features a myriad of field recordings including: frozen winds whipping through trees; creaking branches; footfalls tramping in the snow; and wood chopping for thudding percussive impact. Mid track contains some static noise hum before receding again and making way for throat derived vocal chants which are raw and animalistic in their delivery. The final section has the feel of being a studio treated recording of a roaring fire but elevated to shrill intensity. Night Forest Ritual (Part Two) features yet more forest derived sounds merged into vague ritualistic soundscapes, but here with a more prominent droning framework (again assumed to be the result of post recording studio treatment), and late passage contains a lone ritual drum and low garbled voice.

Definitively organic and ritualized in all aspects of sound and presentation, this is evocative and obscure in the best way possible and sits alongside the more abstract ritual sounds from the Aural Hypnox collective. The packaging also suits the feel of the music perfectly with the tape and multiple inserts with forest and nature imagery wrapped together with stained cheese cloth, twine and wire. At this point of the review, clearly you will know if this is an underground ritual obscurity for you.


Naxal Protocol The Stasi File MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2015

Being a couple of years old already, I have had this tape for some time but only recently learned that the project is helmed by Piero Stanig of the older Italian experimental noise industrial project Cazzodio. To then highlight differences, with Naxal Protocol ‎the sound is originated towards a controlled heavy electronics style, where two tracks of around ten-minutes each feature on The Stasi File.

Stop And Frisk Induction features first and is a track of ominous cyclic drones with controlled bass driven undercurrent of vague rhythmic elements and buried samples of ill-defined and undecipherable meaning. Tumultus Et Urbanae Seditiones follows on the flip side and is choppier in execution, with rough thick distortion and friend noise hewn into rough looped structures, with occasionally detective crime interview dialogue samples, but mid paced and controlled overall. Mid track the loops elevate in intensity to more direct impact, before receding again into the final section.

All in all this is an enjoyable albeit short release, where the special packaging of a ‘top secret’ envelope with various printed inserts addressing societal control via police/ government/ military force is a nice touch (and limited to a 130 copies).


 

Alberich / Lussuria  ‎– Borgia

Alberich / Lussuria  Borgia LP Hospital Productions 2018

Here we have a reissue of a 2016 collaborative tape between Alberich and Lussira, which according to the liner notes was: “recorded live to tape using Korg Digital Synthesizers”.  With this release then being billed as ‘dark ambient’ it should be relatively clear that Lussuria has had a greater influence over the sound, particularly as what is offered differs substantially from the recognized driving and rhythmic industrial meets heavy/ power electronics sound of Alberich. However at the same time the sound is a fair bit more animated and digital in tone when compare the usual abstract approach and timeless quality which is characteristic of Lussuria.

Album opener Continuum features tensile but melancholic dark ambient styled atmospheres, while the following cut Antechamber amalgamates cyclic drones and washes of crumbling distortion which refract and fold in on themselves. Anti-Renaissance stands out in that pushes towards something resembling an Alberich rhythmic approach, yet here is remains muted in execution and backed with distant and cavernous squalling noise. Untenable is also noteworthy based on its incorporation of smatterings of sparse tribal-esque percussive textures within a maudlin power-drone framework. Alabaster is another offering which appears to be more strongly driven by Alberich’s influence given the programmed driving rhythm and melancholic synth elements, but they still remain understated in the overall sonic framework. For the final track Voice Of The Dagger it is an animated piece which features an excellent blend of sub-orchestral drones, micro-tonal metallic textures and rhythmic throbbing undercurrent.

Although being billed as ‘dark ambient’, Borgia is varied in both approach and resulting atmosphere and maintains a strong sense of animated movement throughout. Although differing quite significantly from the typical approach of either project, both have a clear appreciation of the use of melancholic elements within an experimental dark ambient framework, meaning Borgia is a very enjoyable collaborative release. An edition of 500 copies (200 in purple and 300 in black vinyl) will likely serve demand, but won’t hang around long either.

Augure Concret ‎– An Act Of Desperation / Cephalophore

 

Augure Concret An Act Of Desperation MC Fall Of Nature 2017

Augure Concret Cephalophore MC Unrest Productions 2018

Augure Concret are a new industrial / power electronics project from the UK who have issued two tapes in relative quick succession (in November, 2017 and February, 2018 respectively), however I have no idea as to the time-frames over which the material on these two tapes were composed and recorded. Regardless of this, An Act Of Desperation is the debut release, featuring eight compact and to the point tracks which are framed around an ominously aggressive mood. Compositionally the track feature layering of caustic loops, deeps slow percussive thuds, raw junk metal type noise, semi-melodious loops and somewhat distant vocals which are still decipherable in their yelled presentation with slight echo treatment. The overall sonic tone is thick and hefty, where the slow plodding motion of the tracks gradually elevates in intensity. Some tracks specifically bring to mind Grunt of Human Larvae and their penchant for using creaking junk metal sound sources as a central part of their sonic framework. Therefore such comparisons should give an indication of the detailed compositional approach and rawer and ripping noise infused edge of the material found on An Act Of Desperation.

Cephalophore is the second follow up tape and demonstrates a clear evolution in sound and approach, given it features four untitled longer form tracks which sprawl out over greater length. Thick and spitting distortion open the album as a backing to a dialogue sample discussing schizophrenia, before launching into a chaotic noise infused ‘rocks in a cement mixer’ loops, while a melancholic synth line cuts through strongly and the vocals are rendered unintelligible through their distortion treatment. The second track is split into two halves, where the first segment incorporates whistling noise, mid-toned tensile drones and roared vocals, while the later section is instrumental in scope and shows a willingness of the project to explore controlled and atmospheric spheres through the use of looped and layered orchestral strings which are underpinned by a plodding bass hum and muted mid-toned static. Excellent stuff. The first track on Side B is a particular standout with its shuddering cascading loops, distant underpinning synth line and semi-buried gruff vocals, with gradually elevating momentum and mid pitched noise.  For the final track it is controlled rather than outwardly aggressive, being subdued and sparse overall, vocals are cavernous and distant and mid-toned, chattering noise.

Clearly both of these tapes demonstrate Augure Concret to have definite level of skill and a wealth of compositional ideas. However in comparing the two Cephalophore stands above An Act Of Desperation, as it is more varied overall in style and approach and willingness to pair back on overt aggression and bodes well for Augure Concret caving out their own niche sound and approach within a power electronics infused industrial style. Best be quick if interested in these as both of these professionally duplicated tapes are extremely limited – 60 copies for An Act Of Desperation and 121 copies for Cephalophore.

Lussuria- Standstill

Lussuria- Standstill 8xMC Hospital Productions 2017

Lussuria may not be the biggest or most well-known artist on the Hospital Production roster, but over the last decade this solo project of American Jim Mroz has issued a large array of releases which draws from a diverse sonic base, including: dark ambient, experimental industrial, muted noise, abstract techno and cinematic soundtrack styled sonic explorations. In then drawing together such a diverse sound palate, it is of interest that the end result contains a vague approximation of each chosen stylistic element, but where they are combined in such a way to sidestep the usual or expected traits of the genres being drawn from, and in the process evokes an intangible and at times mysterious aura.

To then speak of this new release, Standstill represents an exercise in stamina and endurance given that the eight cassettes feature a whopping 33 tracks (formatted as 29 tracks for the digital version), with a combined total playtime pushing almost the four-hour mark. In then choosing to issue such a monolithic release in today’s age of short attention spans, on run-time alone Standstill has to be acknowledged for its rather epic and time stretching efforts. Perhaps then of contextual interest is the fact that Jim Mroz was a contributing member who joined Dominik Fernow on Prurient’s 2017 album Rainbow Mirror – the three hour and twenty minute marathon  meaning Jim is no stranger to releases with an excessively elongated run-time.

When further considering the monumental length of Standstill it might be somewhat expected that it would be most sonically diverse. Upon listening that expectation is revealed to be true, where at times Standstill is the most purposefully musical release in Lussuria’s discography to date and consequently a fair departure from the oblique industrial and abstract techno infused experimentation of earlier works. Yet, regardless of the sheer stylistic diversity on display, the overarching mood is one of a cinematic sound-score which remains as stylistic hallmark of earlier material. Likewise while the fractured beats and rhythms of earlier works make sporadic appearances here and there, more broadly Standstill evokes a deft filmic quality and timeless atmosphere.

To talk of specifics, but without attempting the unnecessary task of describing all aspects of the release, an impression of some of the more notable moments found within the sprawling scope follow. As such the album opens with Tree of Marble, an excellent cut of hushed experimental electronica with strong underpinning tone of melancholia. Another early track Aegri Somnia channels a quite distinct archaic soviet synthesizer sound, while the combined piece Viaticum/ Spear Dance/ Companion Note features driving doom addled beats, minor keyed synth washes, and maudlin clean shimmering guitars to generate a mood driven piece of the highest order. Another combined track Acanthus Leaves/ Of Rage And Denial/ Lashes features emotive drones, radio chatter, orchestral synth washes and tribal percussion which strongly brings to mind the early 1990’s sound of Cold Meat Industry (and specifically artists such as Morthound or Deutsch Nepal), before shifting into a section of muted but driving techno-esque beats. Moving into the middle of the set list, Natura Liberari I-III – plays out as a minimalist and abstract contemporary classical piece of sparse percussion, cello piano and woodwind instrumentation, before later segments divert off into conveyor belt rhythms and looped choir like drones. Twilight Red stands out as a dark ambient track of the highest callable, where the deep sub-orchestral drones are very reminiscent of the best moments of mid era raison d’etre (and when first listening to this my mind wandered and forgot I was listening to Lussuria, where I then momentarily wondered which raison d’etre album I was listening to!). Cliff In The Red Tidal Wave shows yet more variety, by channeling a lurking, suspense styled atmospheric piece of minimalist horror stings and abstract creaking tonality, ritual chimes, and sparse clean guitar. Your Voice To Arise As Incense then completely stands out from the rest, given it is based around sampled male choral vocals (Russian? Not sure), before their tonal resonance of the vocals is harnessed and the track veers off into heady ritual drone territory. As for the final track of the entire set, De Svarta Porten strides into neo-classical and martial industrial tinged territory, but maintaining a forlorn and abstract edge through to the final moments.

With the overall massive run-time being what it is, it was simply not possible to consume this in a single sitting, rather it was approached in larger blocks of tracks over a number of listening sessions. But given the distinct individual focus of the tracks which make up Standstill, it means the material can be approached in this way without hampering its appreciation. In noting from the above description of particular standout moments, it perhaps indicates that not every moment of Standstill is of the same high level. Yet even with that said there is no poor quality or skippable content, which in of itself is an impressive feat when dealing with literally hours of music.

With its monolithic scope and creative diversity Standstill is a stellar release and the most varied and engaging material I have heard from Lussuria to date. But as this was issued in an physical edition of a mere 150 copies (already long sold out), this leaves only the digital version as the means in which to experience this. As a final comment, it is noted that Hospital Productions have previously issued similar 8xMC’s from a number of their artists. So perhaps like Alberich’s original 8xMC NATO-Uniformen from 2010 which was treated to a ‘best of selection’ reissue on 2xLP in 2014, in future Standstill may also be given the same ‘best of’ reissue treatment. We shall see.