Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow

Anemone Tube / Jarl / Monocube ‎– The Hunters In The Snow – A Contemplation On Pieter Bruegel‘s Series Of The Seasons CD The Epicurean / Auf Abwegen 2019

Being a three-way split of sorts, there is perhaps little point in trying to highlight who did what, particularly as their individual inputs combine and blend into a seamless whole. Yet even so, the sonic hallmarks of each project are clearly present throughout (depending on the track), which includes: the clinical and forceful ambient drones of Jarl, the archaic soundscape ambience of Monocube and the evocatively lush vs tonally harsh industrial ambience of Anemone Tube. Likewise, as is expressly stated in the title, conceptually the album is inspired by the Pieter Bruegel’s seasons paintings, of which five in the series are reproduced in the luxuriously designed eight panel double gatefold card cover, while the eight-page booklet provides further conceptually relevant liner notes.

Five tracks span just short of fifty minutes, which will give an appreciation of the long form and slow evolving compositions. Evidently composed over a span of five years, this is clearly evident in the meticulous detailing and the controlled and unhurried approach. The atmosphere effortlessly articulates the slow morphing ebb and flow of life and the cyclic nature of the seasons, and even more so when nature-based field recordings are employed within the sonic framework. The is also a huge spectrum of tonal variety employed, which makes each of the five compositions clear and distinct from each other, which spans the calm and contemplatively toned, to the compositions with greater tonal heft and force.

The Gloomy Day opens the album and embodies the mood implied by the title through sweeping minor key tonal washes and synth pulses. The Hay Harvest then significantly deviates though its use a manipulated micro-tonal contact mic recordings, lush sub-orchestral synth washes and further field recording elements (late in the track throbbing clinical drones and higher pitched sustained tones take over). The Harvesters then makes central use of field recordings, which are gradually overlaid with intense atonal synth drones and squalling distortion which makes for the noisiest composition sitting at the centre of the album. The muted synth melodies of The Return of the Herd are suitably bleak and forlorn, which is counterpointed with the forceful and intertwining crystalline drones of The Hunters In The Snow, which late track shifts into austere melancholia. With its widescreen atmospheric soundscape this final track morphs into the sound of whiteout snow blizzard which sweeps the album into concluding oblivion.

Given the glut of releases being issued year upon year in the broader dark ambient field, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in the mass, yet this album has no issue in those regards. This is an album which immediately draws you into its sonic tapestry and thematic narrative and does not let up for the entire duration. Personally, I listened to this three times back to back upon receiving it, which is proof enough of this point, and further underlines my assertion that this album warrants your detailed attention, regardless of if the contributing projects are familiar or not. Conceptually, sonically and visually, this a veritable feast for the ear, eye and mind.

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Slogun – Nothing. Ever.

Slogun – Nothing. Ever. CD Old Captain 2019

The long standing Slogun returns in 2019 with a new album which incidentally is the 19th full length* issued since the mid 1990’s (* – excluding splits and collaboration albums). With solo member John Balistreri being active under the Slogun banner for 23 years now, the sound of the project has always been defined by and is immediately recognisable for his New York drawl and bile fuelled misanthropic rants. In that regard some things remain the same, as the vocals again play a core and central role, while the thematic preoccupations are neatly wrapped up in the album tag-line of: ‘Nothing you do will ever matter. Nothing. Ever’.

On the sonic front, it is apparent just how far the sound has elevated out of a harsh free-form noise style which was prevalent in the early days of the project, but which over recent albums has been gradually moving towards greater structural and refinement. Accordingly, Nothing. Ever. spans 11 tracks and 48 minutes, where creaking metallic textures, field-recording based loops, buzzing static, digital pulses, sustained drones etc. characterise the sonic framework. But rather than built a harsh wall of sonics, clear space and separation is employed in the mix, which gives each element room to breathe. Likewise the mood is controlled in tone and tensile in atmosphere, without being overtly aggressive or punishing. This then allows the centrally prominent and delay treated vocals to amplify a more overtly attacking and antagonistic mood. To speak of the vocals, these are are hard as ever in their aggressive and strained delivery, where it is also quite a monumental effort on John’s behalf to keep delivering rock solid, psychoanalytical tinged but street level focused rants without running out of either steam or thematic ideas.

With relatively compact and to the point tracks, the albums moves through at a brisk pace, which functions to maintain interest given the differing sonic compositions between each track. Clearly Nothing. Ever. this is still power electronics and industrial noise at its core, but when comparing this to much earlier output from Slogun it absolutely underlines how much emphasis has been placed on the meticulous structuring of the sonics into distinct and individual tracks. Consequently Nothing. Ever. manages to both sate expectations and surprise in equal measures, resulting in a very enjoyable album.

Sickness – Purgatory

Sickness – Purgatory CD Cipher Productions 2018

As per my usual disclaimer, noise music is not entirely my forte but I do dabble in listening from time to time. To then speak of noise stalwart Sickness (aka solo project of Chris Goudreau), the project has been active for over 20 years, however it turns out that Purgatory is not a new release. Rather, it was first issued on tape in 2013 (25 copies), reissued in 2015 (100 copies), and now reissued for a third time in 2018 on a less limited CD.

To speak of the music (ahem – ‘noise’), only four tracks spanning 18 minutes are featured. The opening cut The Unmagnificent Lives of Us All starts slow, but soon the building static represents a massive avalanche of sound which quickly shifts into rapid-fire noise and distortion blasts, which carries through to the next cut Not Much Left Of Me Now in increasingly chaotic form. The same approach is employed for Not Worthy of Heaven, where the choppy nature of the sonics rapidly cuts between harshness and fragmentary silence, which functions to amplify the noise when in full flight. Likewise, with the noise elements being tonally sharp and crisp it is akin to witnessing the massive sound and energy of arcing high voltage electricity. The final of the four track And I Wait is a slow burn and slow build of a needling mid-toned noise drone against a cavernous echoed backdrop, which only elevates to noise oriented territory in its final moments.

Given that noise is not my usual listening fare, the truncated format of this release functions to substantially increase its impact, but no doubt this short run time will have noise-heads wanting more. For this CD reissue, it comes in mini-cardboard gate-fold cover with imagery and text suitable to its title.

Amph ‎– Control

Amph Control LP Verlautbarung 2018

Amph are a Swedish duo operating since 2010 (well according to Discogs), but I am only familiar with their contribution to Verlautbarung’s 2013 compilation Stein: Interpretationen Eines Geologischen Materials Und Seiner Symbolik. My observations of Amph’s track After Nature was that it ‘opts for a queasy pulse and micro tonal layered sounds which are fine granted and detailed. The track is minimalist in structure but highly animated and rather forceful by tracks end and a great example of tape experimentations with a darker undercurrent’. To then provide context to this review, this earlier impression is equally applicable to this new LP.

Features two lengthy untitled tracks (one each side of the vinyl), there are definitive ‘sections’ and ‘movements’ on display. Early in the first track it features a ritual tinged industrial throb, deep heaving breathing textures, shimmering micro-tonal textures, and disembodied garbled but unintelligible vocals. Through the middle section the track becomes more mid-tone drone oriented, but this is also underscored with looped field recordings, creaking wood and metal which coalesce into quite raucously animated territory, and calms down again through the late section, complete with muted pump organ drone. Side B follows a similar trajectory, but the underlying abstracted field recording elements are looped into subtle rhythmic form. With an open and widescreen production it contains a very organic and rural sonic atmosphere, where wind-chimes and elongated drones maintain a dark edge, and thankfully far from anything remotely ‘new age’. In moving through other sonic segments, it features forceful melodically muted drones, twilight atmosphere of crickets chirping in a field, and creaking micro-tonal textures and other forceful loops.

Although with only a few releases under their belt, Verlautbarung continue to issue extremely strong and sonically divergent releases, with Amph clearly continuing this trend. With the cover featuring an image of a lit match, as a nice physical touch the cover has itself been spot charred with a lighter flame.

 

Bladh / Urbaniak ‎– On The New Revelations Of Being

Bladh / Urbaniak On The New Revelations Of Being CD/DVD Infinity Land Press Ltd. 2019

Artistically speaking Martin Bladh has always blended a physical and cerebral approach to post-industrial/power electronics, which clearly deviates from the perhaps more typical bare white knuckled rage often ascribed to the genre. This CD/DVD set is a continuation of that process and is a collaboration between Martin Bladh and Karolina Urbaniak who are both behind the Infinity Land Press publishing house, and while I am less familiar with Karolina’s artistic output, she is self described as: ‘a photographer and multimedia producer’. Regarding the collaboration Martin is credited for libretto & voice and Karolina is credited for sound, visuals & production. To provide further context to the release a passage from the promo text states: ‘On The New Revelations of Being is a multimedia work based on Antonin Artaud’s apocalyptic manifesto from 1937. It envisions the end of the world and the death of God through a series of cataclysmic occurrences of Artaudian cruelty. The piece was originally performed as a part of Artaud & Sound: To Have Done with the Judgment of God, at the Visconti Studio, London, on 15th September 2018. This final event in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of Artaud’s death, after previous events at Cabinet and Whitechapel Gallery, focused on Artaud’s experiments with sound and noise, and on contemporary responses to them. This CD/DVD set contains the full audio recording, the backdrop film and the full libretto from the performance’.

As for the media content both the CD and DVD contain the same 22-minute compositions On The New Revelation Of Being, where obviously the DVD includes accompany visual material. Sonically speaking the ‘music’ sits clearly within an experimental sphere, but one which heavily leans towards and is rooted in the darker elements of the post-industrial underground. Animated drones, scattered noise, sharp piecing tones, sparse percussion, wailing horns, atonal keys, crushing junk metal and sharply edited/panning sonic cut-ups define proceedings, where there is also a distinct use of loud and quiet passages which dovetail with the vocals. As for the predominantly spoken vocals, these are highly animated and enunciated in an occasionally theatrical way, and are distinctively those of Martin’s for anyone who has followed is primary output as part of IRM and Skin Area, while later in the piece rise to a more agonized style for which he is known.

For the visual side of things, a similar sharp editing cut-up style is evident, with a kaleidoscope of apocalyptic imagery is employed, variously including visual illustration of: the immense power of nature (from a human scale perspective), autopsy footage, sex-change medical procedures, crucifixions, the brutal survivalist instincts of the animal world etc, etc. Perhaps the suite of visuals is somewhat expected for post-industrial spheres, yet the slick, clean, rapid-fire editing elevates this far above the realm of mere shock tactics. The overall presentation and particularly the visual component very much places this in a contemporary art sphere and would not at all be out of place as a art gallery video installation. To that end, and while clearly different in its ultimate visual execution, when watching the unflinching and intensely apocalyptic visuals, I was strongly reminded of of a time when I was perhaps eleven years old when I by happenstance came across a video installation in an art gallery of one of Hermann Nitsch’s live actions (and perhaps something which had a pivotal and lasting impact on my artistic sensibilities and preferences).

Apart from the CD/ DVD, it comes with a 24 page A5 sized booklet which provides further images and full presented text to flesh out the detailed theme and context. Noting the literary and artistic slant of On The New Revelations Of Being makes this for a release which strongly appeals to my own artistic sensibilities, by now it should be clearly apparent if this is of interest to you (and very much should be if you are already a follower of Martin Bladh’s output). Limited to a mere 100 copies.

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1

Småland – Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 MC Cloister Recordings 2019

With the typical music covered within Noise Receptor Journal, it involves spending large blocks of time listening to aggressive and predominantly dissonant music, which consequently results in a certain degree of desensitisation seeping in. It then takes something at the complete opposite end of the sonic spectrum to cut through such malaise and to re-calibrate one’s ears and reinvigorate one’s curiosity about new musical discoveries. This is one such release which immediately stuck out for reasons of lush musicality and has remained on repeat listens for weeks now. While not having heard of this project before, this is the debut release from this Swedish trio.

To comment on first impressions, the cover image is not immediately evident of musical style. But if I were to hazard a guess on image alone, I would likely have picked this to be a neo-folk, neo-classical or perhaps dark-ambient aligned release – but in the end this turned out to be completely wrong. Musically speaking, this is instrumental synthesizer-based music, where emotive non-lexical female vocals are sporadically used for added melody and emotion. Not being overly dark or heavy, the pervading atmosphere is heavily cinematic with an air of bitter-sweet melancholy. At time there is a perhaps a post-rock sensibility in the elevating style of musical composition, but instrumentally there are not guitars in sight, rather it is lush, swelling orchestral synth melodies, coupled with a hand pump organ and the aforementioned non-lyrical female vocals. Through its twelve relatively compact and individual mood or ‘scene’ based tracks, there is a real sense of listening to a movie soundtrack. Interestingly this initial impression was then duly confirmed by the promo blurb which clarified: ‘Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1, is the imagined soundtrack to the book Girlfriend in a Coma by Canadian author Douglas Copeland’, so is illustrative of how successful the project’s aim has been to write music for a non-existent film.

Being limited to a physical edition of 100 pro-duplicated tape and fold out j-card, Ljudspårsmusik Vol. 1 is a musically melodic and emotively melancholic release which warrants due attention.

Ochu – Unproduktiw

Ochu – Unproduktiw LP Verlautbarung 2018

Ochu is the solo project of Swede Love Rosenström, and while he has been recording as Ochu since the early 2000’s I am only familiar with recent output (although I then have a vague appreciation that his current material has elevated experimentation and dialled down slightly on a harsher noise and heavier industrial aesthetic).

With the current approach based on meticulous layering and blending of textural sonic detail, Ochu’s material in highly animated and sonically nuanced. Likewise, by avoiding any semblance of stuffy academic experimental music, there is clear force and intent at play where the results are engaging and above all vital. Much of the assembled sonic content appears to have been generated from field recording or contact mic based recording sessions, but those inputs have been further manipulated and abstracted to achieve textural density and complexity. The opening track Struisvogelpolitiek is a great example of this, with tonally load creaking wood and metal, where the ‘micro-tonal’ recordings have been elevated to a loud and overblown tone which bridges the organic and the mechanical. Humos De Existencia Estática is a slow burn of a composition, where a jagged yet muted loop is overtaken by an invasive and incessant drone which fractures and multiplies in intensity, while the other rough echoed loops are used for vague ‘train carriage on tracks’ rhythmic effect.

Förnuftsflimmer (Partiellt Anfall) opens Side B are draws out a minimalist ritualised pulse which is blended with a series of forceful mechanical drones, while further micro-tonal textures are elevated to the forefront of the mix. Contra-tasking functions as a short interlude of a fractured grinding loop, which is followed by the lengthy track Segments of Destination concludes the album. Commencing with a spacious mix and again with a focus on micro-sonic detailing (i.e. rocks, wood, metal), the various elements amalgamate into loosely elevating loops, as a deep, muted bass rumble elevates with storm-front intensity. Yet clear restraint is still employed, as rather than building the track an overblown climax, the storm-front passes by and gradually recedes into concluding oblivion.

In both the sound, style and graphic presentation Unproduktiw clearly side stepped any of the typical clichés which could be levelled at the post-industrial underground, and is an album of passion and dedication to a personal sonic craft. Clearly bridging the gap between musique concrete experimentation and roughly hewn post-industrial soundscapes, Unproduktiw is a clever and expertly executed release. Recommended.