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 Bexia’ 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.

Envenomist & Murderous Vision ‎– Liminal Presence

Envenomist & Murderous Vision Liminal Presence CD Live Bait Recording Foundation 2019

Being more than familiar with Murderous Vision’s dark ambient and death industrial output (which now spans decades), this is less the case with Envenomist, who have released around two dozen albums issued since the mid 2000’s. Of those albums I have only heard the Chariots LP from 2007, and while tagged as dark ambient and drone, it also stood out for its tensile, animated and invasive sound. On Liminal Presence, it is a part collaboration and part split, and by that I meant that each project contributes four tracks each, while the album is bookended by a further two collaborative tracks. But unlike typical splits which effectively segments a release into halves, here the track order is mixed between projects. So rather than seeking to identify ‘who did what’ this review has considered the album as a whole (although it warrants a mention that Murdurous Vision’s contributions sit towards a dark ambient than death industrial sound).

As an overall comment Liminal Presence sits at the ambient and abstracted end of sonic expression, and excels with its blend of caustic industrial drone and abstracted and tensile sub-orchestral ambiences. As a general observation deep rumbling industrial drones are cut across with shrill sonic textures resembling orchestral strings, while in other tracks muted and sustained piano notes reinforce the dank sub-orchestral tone. The pacing is slow and unhurried, yet some occasional looped rhythmic textures provide a sense of laborious forward momentum. Equally the production has a widescreen breadth, while equally being deep and cavernous, which either sprawls out towards the event horizon, or otherwise sonically spirals downward into an unfathomable yawning abyss. The chosen track titles function as being vividly representative of what to expect, with applicable examples including: Time Dilation, Sleepwalker, Naked Singularities, Fathomless Light, Inverted Realm & Liminiferous Aether.

While clearly being a genre-oriented piece given that it does not seek to being in new elements or approaches to dark ambient/drone, Liminal Presence remains as an expertly executed which maintain attention and interest throughout. As may be expected for this type of material, listening to this on headphones perhaps yields best sonic results. A 6 panel cardboard digi-sleeve round out the presentation with artistically abstracted shapes, in a limitation of 300 copies.

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority CD Freak Animal 2019

Vigilantism are a new Finnish industrial noise project from one of the members of another Finnish noise project Edge Of Decay, with Incessant Authority being Vigilantism’s debut release.

Perhaps then as might be expected for a project from Finland, there is a rough, aggressive and chaotic edge to proceedings. Thus Punkt Ohne Wiederkehr opens the album with fried and fracture mid tones bass rumble, while raw scrap metal type distortion features heavily. With a thick and overblown sound, its elements have been sculpted into a grueling track, while forward momentum is also provided with a slow stilted pounding throb, while occasional distortion drenched vocals also bleed across the sonic frame. Yet on the second track Never Cross the mood takes a decided step up with an incessantly pounding martial-esque ‘beat’ and swirling fissures of caustic distortion, while dialogue samples are buried and barely intelligible in the mix. Although still distorted and rough, Chemical Conversation features greater space and depth within the mix, where grinding layers loop and intertwine, while alarm like buzzing tones elevate the tensile atmosphere. Unbinding The Angst differs again, being of a composed industrial/ power electronics approach, based around a pulsing rhythm and bass pounding tone, duly completed with apathetic and distortion tinged vocals. Although aspects of both sound and visual presentation of Incessant Authority could be described as aligning with the likes of Zyklon SS (which is a clear positive in my estimation), the final track Stepson Diaries is the most obvious example of this. Featuring caustic noise, urgent wavering tones, scrap metal crunch and completed with suitably grim dialogue sample, it is an excellent conclusion.

With its raw, direct and no-frills approach, Incessant Authority is a varied and creative recording across its approximate 40-minute run-time. A cleanly designed 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation. Clearly you will already know if this album if for you, but recommended from these quarters.