UGFC – Stalinist God

UGFC – Stalinist God LP Grom & Lord Records 2019

UGFC is an obscure project from the Czech Republic, helmed by one Willhelm Grasslich, and with the acronym of ‘UGFC’ being an abbreviation for ‘Uncle Grasha’s Flying Circus’, it immediately gives a strong sense of satire at play. With some further investigation, the project is self-described as being concerned with: ‘surrealistic visions, poems and manifests of avantgarde artist Willhelm Grasslich. Avantgarde and propaganda fascinations and the topics of war, power relations, religions, ideologies, painful historical legacies etc. shape the palette of its inspiration and articulation’. As for the concept of this album, given that the sampled speeches and dialogue on the album are exclusively in Czech, it creates a clear limitation for me to grasp the detailed concept. But at least the liner notes in English provides some strong pointers – and I quote: ‘Stalinist God does not represent a personality, nor idea/myth, nor any form of transcendental being. Stalinist God is a status. A state of power that creates a blind alley for all ideologies and regimes. When your propaganda reach the maximal success and you became a God per se, you must just sound your trumpet for apocalypse and destroy everything you have created’.

Sonically speaking Stalinist God features high caliber, martial tinged industrial soundscapes. But when I refer to ‘martial industrial’, it is not in reference to the overly synthetic sound of that style from the mid-1990s to early 2000’s, rather it harks back to the raw and obscure martial industrial sounds of the earliest phase of industrial pioneers Laibach – which is obviously meant as a large compliment. Early tracks Kaitan and Kasbah are prime examples, with roughly echoed and looped industrial factory noise create grim and soot infused soundscapes atop which political rally type speeches are overlaid. Juche is equally of note, as it features a distant and partial buried martial drumming pulse, as well as samples including speeches, crowd applause and orchestral and choral music, it certainly gives nod to the sonic styling and approach of the likes of LJDLP. As further deviations Culpabilité sonically channels mid-1990’s German heavy electronics sound of subdued but bass heavy pulsing drones and radio waves, while Securitate provides a rousing atmosphere of sampled orchestral loops, speeches and rapturous crowd noise. Within the twelve tracks a number of the tracks are purely instrumental, where Anatolyevna uses loose and echoed metallic percussive as the core of its industrial soundscape (very much evoking visions of abandoned factories), while Scharnhorst uses rhythmically hewed bomb blasts and other metallic clatter. Late album track You Have To Be Death To Be Wise is the longest track at 10 minutes, and unfurls in an elevating capacity of tensile mid toned layers which rise to a rough noise peak as a moody synth melody acts as an underpinning element. Mid track muted horns appear and fade, as do other more caustic sonic layers. As for the final track Headquarters, it rounds out the album which a track which is effectively an unaltered traditional nationalistic type song.

Packaging wise, the album is presented in atypical fashion, where the cover design has been printed on white cloth which is wrapped around a plain white LP sleeve, while two  further multi-page booklet inserts provides text and imagery relevant to the concept. Although having not heard of UGFC prior to this album, this is very much a post-industrial obscurity which I am very happy to have been made aware of. Recommended.

Linekraft – Subhuman Principle

Linekraft – Subhuman Principle LP Tesco Organisation 2019

Over recent years I have heard a number of Linekraft albums, all of them solid and punishing in a freeform scrap metal abuse / noise industrial sort of way. While I have certainly enjoyed those albums, I have also stopped short of becoming an obsessive listener. Now Subhuman Principle has changed that, because this new album has twisted the known Linekraft sound into a much more focused power electronics frame of reference, and the results are simple amazing.

Eight tracks feature in all. Spitting pulsing synths, mangled sampled voices, and a rough industrial ‘beat’ open the album with Archaic. But just as it gets going, the track concludes in little over a minute, which leaves me wanting A LOT more and feels like a misfired opening shot. No Loss in Weeding Out fixes that and charts a slow building sound of wavering synths and crowd chatter/chanting, before surging forward with interweaving atonal synth lines and flourishes of junk percussion and flanger-smeared vocals. A similar sound and approach is showcased on Hunger which runs a knife’s edge between controlled and chaotic – a description that could be applied to much of the album. In essence, there is a strong compositional basis on display here, constructed around shuddering bass, looped conveyer belt rhythms, divebombing atonal synths etc., over which are overlaid more chaotic tonal bursts, shredded processed vocals, documentary samples, and sections of scrap metal abuse. Stand Alone is a late album standout with its strong pulsing rhythmic beat and urgent wavering synth textures, and is reminiscent of mid-era Genocide Organ if any sort of indication of quality was needed.

Thematically and visually the album is concerned with the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea – aka Cambodia). The title is partially explained by a fragment of the promo blurb: ‘Controlling the people is to kill their bodies and spirits. Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group. Music presented here is a soundtrack for “subhumans” who starts to act by oneself’. The visuals reinforce the horrendous human toll of the more than a million people who died during the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979. Sonically and thematically, this is another essential album from Tesco Organisation HQ.

Death Kneel – Adaptive Emotional Use

Death Kneel Adaptive Emotional Use LP Total Black 2019

This album is my formal introduction to the works of Death Kneel, the project of Max Klebanoff. Seemingly active since 2014, 13 cassette releases have been issued in that time, but Adaptive Emotional Use is the first release on vinyl.

Stripped to the Ivory Core opens the album with detailed micro-tonal scrap metal and field recording tones, but ample depth in the mix and the separation of sounds makes for detailed and engaging listening. A brooding atonal synth rumble and looped conveyor belt provide slight momentum and structure, but mid-track the whole mood shifts into wondrously minimalist and melancholic synth melodies. The title track follows and continues with shimmering melodious synth elements, yet these are force-fed through sonic filters which changes their tonal quality to scattered and fractured. Later in the track a pounding industrial undercurrent appears while the sweeping maudlin sub-orchestral textures gain focus and prominence. In clear contrast to the controlled and moody elements which precede it, Trauma Martyr opts for a more direct expression, consisting of choppy cut-up static and chaotic junk metal noise, with a rumbling bass distortion undercurrent. Would Anyone Die For Me? features a moody piano melody, minimalist scrabbling textures, and fractured mid-toned synth elements, generating a mood of melancholy and restraint. For the final track Redemption Angel (Corpse Criteria) the harsh and choppy cascade of noise returns, sitting at the mid to lower tonal range and clearly based on layered and processed scrap metal abuse – yet midway in it coalesces into a mangled mass of sub-orchestral synths and shimmering, fragmented, mid-toned noise.

With its wildly divergent sound, but one which is clearly the result of detailed attention to the structure and composition of sonic elements, Adaptive Emotional Use could be filed alongside the likes of Puce Mary or Damien Dubrovnik, without necessarily sounding like either of those. With its clear attention to detail and the careful juxtaposing of harsh sounds against melodious elements, Death Kneel have delivered an evocative and artistic take on experimental industrial noise.

Monocube & Troum ‎– Contemplator Caeli

Monocube & Troum Contemplator Caeli LP Transgredient Records 2019

Although being familiar with both projects, the first thing that drew me to this album was the stunning gothic and celestial-tinged artwork. Upon investigation the visuals specifically tie in with the album’s theme which ‘denotes the antique notion and skill of immersing into the (night-) sky, in order to feel connected to the immeasurable dimensions of the universe and the unearthly powers. The celestial spheres and objects are interpreted as living entities, building a shelter for the earth and the humans, reflecting an eternal cosmic order and its principles. The sky is being watched with deep humbleness, amazement and praise’.

Circularis Et Perpetua opens the album, blending mournful drones and what appear to be treated choirs sitting in the middle to the back of the mix. Hitting its stride early, the tone swells in a cyclic rising and falling manner and hints at grandiose night-time vistas; this maintains consistency over the eight-minute span. In contrast to the ethereal mood that the choirs provide on the first track, a more earthbound perspective is articulated on Precessio Aequinoctiorum via the use of a lone male singing (courtesy of Monocube?), blended with widescreen enveloping drones. Stellae Errantis opens Side B, and is slightly less flowing than the preceding material as the caustic and tensile atmosphere sounds to be constructed around treated field recordings and layered foghorn drones. But the absolute highlight track is the final one, Digressio: an amazing piece of melancholy minimalism, based around reverb-drenched and catatonically plucked strings (acoustic guitar?), blended with widescreen melodious bass drones that rise and recede over an extended length.

If you enjoy the output of either or both projects, you will clearly find much to like with this release. While the first three tracks are enjoyably good, it is the fourth that is the absolute standout. Pressed in 200 copies in clear coloured vinyl, a full colour cover and insert rounds out the exquisite presentation.

 

Ditch State ‎– Purge

Ditch State Purge MC Cloister Recordings 2019

Ditch State is a new and purposefully anonymous project signed to Cloister Recordings. Yet, if I were to hazard a guess, this has connections to the Northern European sound and approach that radiated out from the now-classic 1990s / 2000s Cold Meat Industry era. Sonically speaking, Ditch State are clearly of a post-industrial type, but perhaps this could be described as taking raw death industrial tracks which are underscored with a martial-inspired song-based frame of reference. Given the stoic and heavily pounding standing kit drum, plodding atonal bass guitar, and song-focused vocals, a partial parallel could also be drawn between Ditch State and the approach showcased on recent albums from Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen – except that the ritual elements of those two have been replaced with a focused militant tone.

The album opens with the paired tracks Live to Destroy and Flattened Mounds, each of which is rhythmically framed around driving/pounding drum beats (played not programmed) and blended with bass, raw industrial loops, and minimal synth lines; the vocals are in a gruff and roughly yelled style. Silent Waves, in contrast, is a dour soundscape piece with vocals resembling an unanswered message broadcast over the airwaves. With these three opening tracks, the greater arc of the album is demonstrated, with subsequent tracks falling into one of two camps. The first are militant percussive-driven compositions (seven of the ten tracks). The second camp are interlude soundscape compositions that evoke the brooding ambience of a crater-blasted battlefield once the forces have swept through. All of the 10 tracks are on the shorter side (the longest is less than six minutes), meaning they function as standalone tracks.

Offhand, I can’t think of many direct comparisons to the specific sound of Ditch State (which is itself positive), but the militant-inspired death industrial style clearly has the potential to find an appreciative audience within the post-industrial underground. Packaging wise, the tape is housed in an oversized high-gloss cardboard box with the shredded flag logo printed in black on the front of the box. Limited to 100 copies.

Leather Bath ‎– Nature’s Crackling Fire / Anarch Peak – Vitarium

Leather Bath Nature’s Crackling Fire CD Leather Bath, Inc. 2019

Anarch Peak – Vitarium CD Chondritic Sound, 2019

The common thread between these two releases is Greh Holger (of Hive Mind and the Noisextra podcast), who collaborates with John Weise as Leather Bath, and separately with Rodger Stella (formerly of Macronympha, Mother Savage, etc.) as Anarch Peak.

In turning attention to Leather Bath first, they seem to have been active since around 2012 with a clutch of releases, yet Nature’s Crackling Fire is the first album proper from the group. As might be suggested by the album title this can be described as experimental noise and musique concrète, with an underpinning drone framework. Two lengthy tracks feature, the 23-minute In Temporary Suspension and 17-minute Hunter Horn. Although the musique concrète descriptor is used, this is by no means stuffy or academic in tone. Likewise, with reference to the ‘noise’ descriptor, the sound is ‘detailed’ rather than loud, meaning there are tons of close-up micro-tonal sonic textures throughout. There is considerable depth, with various tonal elements sitting far off in the background, offset against the upfront elements, while speaker panning is also used for surround-sound immersion. In Temporary Suspension exudes an open tonal quality, with lots of space to breathe between the sound of stone, wood, and metal which is creaked, bowed, struck, and scraped. Hunter Horn differs from the first track with a greater focus on droning elements, scrabbling textures, and treated horn elements, while field recordings provide further natural and human resonances. Later the track involves a metal-on-metal tonal workout and echoed footfalls, which are dragged to their conclusion with animated windswept drones.

Moving on to Anarch Peak, the first thing to be noted is the psychedelic sci-fi style artwork that adorns the six-panel digipack. This sci-fi angle is reinforced with some abstracted surreal text included as part of the digipack. Sonically speaking, Greh handles the synthesizers and minimalist metal-derived inputs, while Rodger mans the theremin – by listing that instrument alone, it should be clear that Anarch Peak are not dealing with a harsh / junk noise approach. Two longform tracks make up Vitarium, the 37-minute Alpha in Dissent and 33-minute Driftglass. In the opening to Alpha in Dissent the atonal synths and theremin drones slowly unfurl, while some subdued metallic clatter is noted far off in the depths of the mix. Like an ebbing and flowing tide, the track slowly builds and recedes over extended passages. Not being chaotic or loud, the track does build up a certain bulk and tonal weight through the middle and later sections, where discordant wailing textures sit at the middle to lower end rather than resembling a high-pitched squall. In the last third, some doom-addled sub-orchestral synth melodies appear and sweep the track’s mood in a completely different direction, more into sci-fi territory (perhaps akin to being slowly dragged towards the event horizon by the gravitational pull of a black hole). Driftglass differs by being tonally fragmented and fragile, with subdued wonky tones, minimalist crackling textures, and low-level static, while a melodious organ-like drone slowly appears to provide focus and forward movement. The middle to back end of the track sonically articulates intertwining corkscrew spirals, while the final movement uses metallic tones in a stilted rhythmic fashion.

Neither of the albums are overly dark, but each is characterized by being experimental or artistic in tone in their own way. The material across both albums is animated and varied, with each making for a detailed and engaging listen. The above descriptions should clearly indicate whether either or both albums will be to your liking.

Steel Hook Prostheses – Wounds Bathed In Piss Water

Steel Hook Prostheses – Wounds Bathed In Piss Water DLP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

Wounds Bathed In Piss Water is not a new album by Steel Hook Prostheses, rather it is a reissue of an older obscurity. Originally issued as a CDr in 2007 in an edition of 100 copies on the Italian label Blade Records, few will have managed to hear this. The 2019 reissue has also been remastered for good measure. Generally, perhaps Wounds Bathed In Piss Water is less tonally sharp, refined, and clinical than current material from the group, but it nevertheless features the high calibre, US-style death industrial that the group assisted in defining. The medical obsessions remain as a thematic core, with smatterings of related dialogue samples. The vocals are heavily processed with smeared distortion, although their sound is not yet of the seething trademark style which would characterise later albums.

As a listening experience Wounds Bathed In Piss Water functions as a collection of individual tracks spanning three to six minutes each, allowing differing moods and sonic approaches to be explored. Graft is notable, with its blend of subdued death industrial and melancholic-tinged synths, over which the vocals feature in an upfront spoken style. Ether Dream also stands out with varied passages, swinging from fried static to machine rhythms with upfront vocals and onward to widescreen ambience. Rounding out the 11 tracks is Drifting Towards The Light, which – as the name might suggest – is a widescreen dark ambient affair of muted intertwining drones and deep echoed production. A bonus track has been added in the form of Hunting For Humans – Tribute To Schloss Tegal, which is a rather faithful, yet slightly more urgent, cover of the Schloss Tegal track of the same name.

With a high-gloss gatefold sleeve this is a solid release that fills a gap in the back catalogue, also illustrating the refinement of the group’s sound on subsequent releases following the original release of Wounds Bathed In Piss Water.

Absterbende ‎– Gebärmutter

Absterbende Gebärmutter MC self-released 2019

Sitting well within the depths of the post-industrial underground, here we have the debut tape from this obscure German project, which has links to another project, Die Kombination, and the Deutsch Asphalt label and distro. The title translates to ‘uterus’, derived from the Greek word root ‘hysteria’, which I have been informed provides a hint as to the thematic underpinnings. But with a predominantly instrumental presentation, and liner notes and track titles being in German, further interpretation of the theme was difficult (yet clearly something to mull over while listening to the tape if you can read the text).

The 12 tracks on offer span just over 75 minutes, and the material is perhaps better described as ‘movements’ rather than ‘compositions’. Consisting of longform / freeform layered synth oscillations and filthy analogue tones, the material is predominantly instrumental other than the use of psychological and addiction-related dialogue samples on two tracks on Side B. Sonically speaking, the tape displays an inherent paradox by being low-key yet at the same time animated. Gebärmutter contains sonic contradictions: minimalist yet detailed in layering and blending elements that are sonically forceful with others that are equally subdued. Being generally grey-hued, obscure, and unassuming, selected tracks feature wonky oscillating machine-like loops that drive the flow forward, while others have an incessant idling militant rumble blended with caustic bass tones.

For contextual rather than comparative purposes, the material featured on this tape sits somewhere in the dank in-between spaces characterized by the off-kilter industrial post-mortem sounds of Proiekt Hat, the long-form modulating synth experimentations of Atrax Morgue, and the subdued power electronics / heavy electronics tone of later-era Anenzephalia. Although not sonically derivative, those comparisons should nevertheless give a clear indication of the post-industrial furrow being ploughed by Absterbende. Gebärmutter is a tape I have both enjoyed and returned to for numerous repeat listens, which is clear enough indication of its quality. Although this tape is limited to only 50 copies, evidently a re-release on CD is to occur at some point which is a welcome proposition to give this greater coverage and reach.

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality

Am Not –  Extraterritoriality MC Unrest Productions 2019

This new Am Not release comes in relative quick succession to other two other limited cassette releases issued in 2018. Those being the Unpunished : Appendix tape (reviewed here) and the Incursions tape (reviewed here). Extraterritoriality is a six track / 24 minute, pro-pressed and labeled tape is also limited to 102 copies, and according to the liner notes was recorded in ‘Grand Brexia’ which clearly alludes to thematic preoccupations.

Speaking of theme, Side A addresses ‘Brexit’ and the current turmoil on both sides of the stay / leave divide, while also juxtaposing this against earlier debates over such matters as Commonwealth immigration. But like all good post-industrial music no clear stance or easy answer is provided either (cleverly Side A of the tape is noted to be labelled as ‘exit’). Cleansing Violence opens the tape a straight down the line Am Not track with pulsing bass tone, jagged noise and aggressive processed vocals, which could have easily been lifted from any of the main albums. In other words an excellent track, but when lyrical phrase “rivers of blood” is used it would no doubt be a direct reference to Enoch Powell’s infamous and controversial political speech from 1968, and perhaps within the context of this release is referring to the extreme right views of fringe Brexiters. Things then take a decided left turn with Better Together chats quite an experimental angle with simplistic rhythmic pulse, distant noise and cleanly spoken vocals. The sonic approach then gets even weirder on Ever Get The Feeling You’ve Been Cheated?, which features a sample of Kirsty MacColl’s song A New England, but slowed down to a crawling pace which then generates a euphorically maudlin tone. Added to this are 1970’s interview samples which decry the loss of ‘England’ to mismanagement of immigration, while the track is concluded with Johnny Rotten sneeringly asking the question of the track’s title. Conceptually this track is extremely strong and certainly effective in a pitch-black humor sort of way.

Flipping over to Side B, it thematically it returns to focusing on Hong Kong returning to China (this side is labeled ‘entry’), which was previously addressed by the track Home from The Developing World album (reviewed here). In fact the track Homecoming plays out as an alternate instrumental version of Home, given the same rolling militant rhythmic structure is employed with crowd babble and protest singing overlaid. The following track Red Emperor, White Forces arc back to a directly punishing power electronics track, with wailing crowd chatter, incessant pounding / grinding structures and flange processed vocals. Great stuff. I Will Not Be Reborn In The People’s Republic Of China is the last on offer siting within more of an ambient frame of reference with intertwining synth drones and central interview sample talking of reincarnation being a spiritual matter and not a political concern.

By now Am Not’s name and status in the underground is well established. Extraterritoriality is equally high quality as the balance of Tamon’s output, but also slanted towards a more playfully experiential expression. Evidently this is explained by the fact that for this release Tamon applied a methodology to work faster than typical and within a limited space to time. But regardless of how this came about, I am pleased a secured a copy of this quite limited release.

Liebestod ‎– Escaping Freedom

Liebestod Escaping Freedom Chondritic Sound CD 2019

My introduction to Liebestod came from their first full length Beta Male from 2016 (reviewed here), but I then missed the self-titled cassette from 2017, and had already missed another self-titled cassette from 2014 (featuring different material). Thankfully Escaping Freedom functions to reissue all tracks from both of these earlier cassettes. In an overarching sense it is again a case that atonal shuddering synths, pulsing static, throbbing / squelching tones, distortion charred vocals and an underbelly of field recordings are the order of the day, with variations of these elements chopped spliced and structured into distinct noise compositions. As such Escaping Freedom again demonstrates Liebestod balancing a sound on a razor’s edge between a heavy electronics and power electronics sound.

The 2014 tracks come first, where For the First Time I Look Vulgar features an early tensile standout with wonky intertwining textures and a heavy elevating tone. The Most Irritating Pose is another noteworthy track of sonic restraint yet building tension, while vocals feature in an echo tinged deadpan delivery. Darkness is Easeful rounds out the collection of 2014 tracks with a solid offering which aligns with a modern and direct American death industrial tone. Going Home arrives as the first of the 2017 tracks, and uses a very effective use of a distressed voice set against a grimly brooding synth drone and field recording backing, while a rhythmic pulse appears only briefly in the later segment. One Day In April works quite distinctly on two separate levels: the first with lower end drones providing an ominous quality, while the higher shrill tones, erupting gunfire and charred vocals function to elevate the tension. Crimes Of Love provides yet further sonic diversity, featuring sonic breadth and space. Here the synths are pushed into the background, leaving the field recording in the foreground (dripping water in an abandoned building?), couple with upfront and whispered vocals for a ‘stalking’ tension driven track. This mood bleeds through into the instrumental track Strokes, before moving onto a deliver a sonic pummeling on The Things I Learned From Men. That track is very much an noise and aggression fueled power electronics piece framed around a stilted pounding rhythm, spliced with fluttering mid-toned distortion and guttural vocal barrage.

Despite featuring tracks from two separate releases, the combined material actually hangs together well as a single album collection spanning 12 tracks and 45 minutes. Yet if any criticism is to be leveled, it is in relation to the tracks being quite on the short side, given the shortest is under two minutes and the longest is just over four minutes. But this is also a sort of compliment, as based on the sheer breadth and variety of sonic ideas on display many pieces could be extended for greater impact and without losing focus, tension or momentum. Presentation wise featured a pro-printed six panel digi-pack with artistically designed imagery which hints rather that hits you over the head with grim imagery.