Hal Hutchinson – Cold Industrial Experience CD Freak Animal 2022
Although I have heard only select releases in Hal’s extensive discography, I have the impression that typically his solo material is of a harsh noise scrap metal type. Cold Industrial Experience is the latest full-length, evidently ‘assembled’ in 2021.
Five tracks in all make up this instrumental industrial-noise album, and upon initial and subsequent listens I have been struck by how subdued and controlled it is overall. Clearly far less raw and brutal than other solo material I have heard, here the sonics have been hewn into a series of filthy industrial factory soundscapes, further structured around queasy wavering tones, monolithic loops, the slow semi-rhythmic beating of oil barrels, and controlled sheet metal abuse. This gives rise to a greater impression that a couple of tracks align with the later more subdued material of the Zyklon SS project – which speaks volumes of how the sonic timbre and the general industrial styled compositions appeal strongly to my stylistic preferences. The final album track Into Christ is perhaps the loosest on display, with heavy reverbed drenched catacomb rumble and sheet metal sonics. Although it does elevate to increased chaotic territory as the track progresses, even so, there is a ton of breathing space in the mix, and is far from being brick-walled and overloaded in production.
The six-panel digipack perfectly rounds out the visuals with impacts of black and white historic wartime images of twisted metal resulting from an obvious firestorm bombing campaign. An excellent album, but one which may catch harsh noise heads slightly by surprise.
Encephalic Death – Relentless MC Cipher Productions 2022
Cipher Productions have dug up another new project, this time from Bangalore, India. Relentless is apparently the debut tape from the project.
Fitting within a rudimentary death industrial style, five compact tracks feature on the cassette. Some of the material charts a sound based around blown-out throbbing oscillations or stark atonal rhythms. Other tracks opt to pull back on the throttle to revel in a spacious hollow sound, based around raw scrap metal, minimalist synth pulses, and general creeping menace. Smatterings of shrieking voices and other dialogue samples are also added to create an unhinged edge.
While Encephalic Death do not reinvent a death industrial sound in any substantive way, this is nevertheless a no-frills homage to the style, and delivers its sound with confidence and directness, albeit with a rather short runtime overall. A stickered foil bag and inset round out the packaging.
Shrine & Mytrip – Descent 7”EP Amek Collective / Corvus Records 2022
For this short two-track release, these two Bulgarian artists have teamed up with an apparent intent on bridging the gap between their respective sounds. To be a little more specific on that assertion, Shine are typically known for deep cinematic dark ambience tinged with organic toned field recordings, while Mytrip is concerned with electronic-ambient soundscapes which also push towards rhythmic and beat-driven spheres.
The first track is Ruin Dweller is concerned with inky black tonal washes, deep guttural drones and lighter echoed textures to provide the perception of sonic depth. Minimalist orchestral synth pads provide a melodious edge, and a mid-paced flow pushing the track forwards its six or so minutes pass rather quickly. The flip side brings Dark Rays of Light which is a tad (‘ahem’) lighter, where the soundscape has a slightly less forceful ebb and flow, instead settles into a central melodious churn. Of note, the minimalist rhythmic textures sitting within the background have a clear fingerprint of Mytrip, while the widescreen shimmering textures bring clearly to mind Shine’s approach.
Ultimately Descent is a successful release that delivers an interesting but all too short EP of sonic material that sits comfortably at the sonics midpoint of the two contributing artists. A high gloss gatefold cover completes the package.
Dead Boomers – Aspen Liberals CD Cipher Productions 2022
Dead Boomers – an Australian duo of Leith Thomas and Mark Groves – may be (‘cough’) dead, but Aspen Liberals functions as a compilation to collect together a selection of material from 2015-2020. This includes previously released tracks and others issued for the first time here. But prior to getting into the details of the release, to my mind, Dead Boomers always had a uniquely Australian edge. With the snide slang of the project’s chosen name (which incidentally pre-dates the ‘OK Boomer’ phrase by a decade), thematically the project has then been concerned with localised societal themes which sardonically address: the housing market; financial/banking systems; the wealthy upper-class; the ruling conservative political party (the ‘Liberals’); and the broader societal influence and interests of the ‘baby boomer’ generation. It is this approach I have found strongly satisfying, which contained serious observations and on occasion humorously deadpan commentary, which is far removed from more typical themes within the post-industrial underground.
As a general observation the overt and unhinged aggression of some of the earlier output (such as strongly displayed on the debut album The Pig In the Python), has been dialed down a few notches. This then functions to put the controlled method of sonic composition clearly on display. Despite the material on Aspen Liberals being culled from numerous recording sessions, it hangs together surprisingly well and spans a number of composed power electronics cuts, and a larger number of subdued, experimental spoken word and post-industrial soundscapes. With regard to the power electronics focus, Half Windsor and Escorted from the Building are both anthemic standouts with their rhythmic fist-pumping pulse, scrabbling scrap metal noise, and raw spat vocals. A Gentle Occasion is also of a power electronics frame of reference and uses simplistic structures of maximum effect, with a mid-paced pulse, minimalist noise and gruff bellowed voice. Yet in opposition to these focused tracks, other cuts like Afternoon Film Club focus on post-industrial soundscapes of rumble and echo, while the deadpan spoken vocals provide a detached observational commentary. The spoken word and almost musique concrete backing of Annual Rite perhaps leans towards some of Mark’s separate recorded works, while Place of the Pink Seashells has a tensile creeping atmosphere based around sustained drones and (perhaps?) atonal piano note. The album is rounded out with the monolithic 28-minute title track, which charts numerous segments across its span, including: unhinged clawing distortion; tensile drones; sparse experimental soundscapes; processed field recordings; spoken word narrative, and media reporting sampling.
The full-colour dig-pack and printed booklet functions to further illustrate the atypical approach of Dead Boomers within the underground, while full lyrics and notes on the meaning behind the title are included for suitable context. Given Aspen Liberals appears to be a swansong release, it is an excellent final document of the later era of the project and absolutely worthy of your attention even if you have not checked out Dead Boomers earlier.
Totenrune / Sarin Snow – श्रवो अक्षितम् / Κλέος Άφθιτον 7”ep Novichok 2022
Here is a quick dose of Novichok poison, being another split 7″ep in the ongoing series. This release sees the Australian Totenrune paired with the American Sarin Snow, who have each sought to thematically focus on a warrior archetype derived from the ancient world.
Totenrune leads off with an instrumental track based around muted buzzing oscillations which are partially buried under multitudes of raw metallic textures and general static fizz. Being consistently seething and edging towards the chaotic, the layering still remains paced and controlled, while equally infused with a distant and hollow tone. Despite the general bulk and heft of the track’s layering, the end result is far less brute force than other material I heard from Totenrune, here achieving imposing industrial noise result. Sarin Snow then takes up the flip side, which is immediately characterised by a queasy and swaying synth line, further blended with sparse and echoed metallic clatter, faint rhythmic pulse, tensile drone, and numerous other crumbling textures. The ominous vocals feature as another layer of distortion smear, and while being unintelligible, all the same they give the strong impression of being a harbinger of doom.
With both tracks focusing on generally controlled and contemplative atmospheres, each project duly impresses on this short split, and again commendably demonstrates the strength of Novichok’s label vision. Double-sided, pro-printed sleeve and insert rounds out the presentation.