Friday 19 May 2023

Incapacitants & Savage Gospel CD (White Centipede Noise)

Japan’s Incapacitants have been responsible for some of the most fulsome, bristling, and vibrant noise works – studio recordings but with particular renown as a live act – stretching back over 30 years. It’s often felt like a contest with only one entrant: few have been willing to try and match the efforts of Toshiji Mikawa and Fumio Kosakai.

Finns Savage Gospel bring a continentally different sensibility to the exuberant rush of Incapacitants’ take on harsh noise, but have signalled a clear intent and capacity to produce dense and high volume noise works in tribute – and perhaps in competitive comparison – to the long-standing titleholders. The tundras of Finland give an immediately different sensibility to Savage Gospel’s work compared to the vibrancy of Tokyo’s bustling stimuli, even if the primal power of noise is a common fundamental: the movement and business to Savage Gospel’s work can often occur within the track rather than moving through it, creating a more solid and impenetrable sound compared to Incapacitants’ bustle, when the volume is at 11.

Savage Gospel’s CD opener “Maxihard” is suffocating even at low volume, a slowly vibrating density and seemingly constant block of sound leaving air movement for the wisps of feedback which evaporate from the central mass of oxygen-depriving sound – even as more frantic motions take place towards the rear of the textural hierarchy.  “Missing Peace” and “Shortwaving, Not Drowning” are defiantly different, hollowed-out feedback and a slow low-end boil leading “Missing Peace” to some more familiar Incapacitants-like electronics stutter, before again falling behind a curtain of more static noise which on this track is quite fuzzy and transparent. “Shortwaving, Not Drowning” too finds spatial vibration with a less overbearing frequency expanse, its more demure opening passages again exposing the sickly insides of well-abused equipment, and even its denser bliss-outs sharpening a fierce feedback edge – even finding muscular flex in its obscured mid-range.

The blanketing effect of “Maxihard” causes oxygen to slow and time start to slip, movement imagined as much as experienced. The two remaining tracks open the door and head out into the snow to spar: the cold and dark present but clinging to more discernible movement as that becomes necessary for survival. Both approaches seek to press the listener into submission, but the grim ferocity of “Maxihard” is too good for the other tracks to be quite so effective in their capability to exert pressure.

“Extreme Mother Nights” may not be prime Incapacitants but it carries much of what makes this duo so legendary in its dense and agitated sound, which is somehow both insistently thick and roomily unsettled.  The lengthy live track starts with parts of its insides showing, garish electronics, throttled voice/filter abuse, and an initial nervousness on display all giving a hesitant glimpse into the duo’s instrumentation. But barely five minutes in the set latches on to its full exuberance, variations on a slightly muffled amplifier roar providing unsettling constancy as high-end shards and feedback tempests are repeatedly conjured from the cauldron of bubbling mass.

Even proponents as skilled as the noise world’s favourite salarymen can’t continue to escalate their sound indefinitely and the second half of “Extreme Mother Nights” recognises that, turning on itself hungrily to dig out a quasi-rhythmic thread from its dense shapelessness, before repeated drillings and angry bursts of self-harming blind fury begin to hack away at the greater whole until the set consumes itself to conclude. The gruesome attacks are as fearsome as many an Incapacitants heyday recording, but are not a constant - but rather an emergent strike against the self, each time seeming to leave a bigger hole until exhaustion and self-consumption trigger a final collapse.

It's highly appropriate this CD finds its home on White Centipede Noise, the label a bastion of pure noise appreciation (in addition to being a highly valuable store/distributor) helmed by Oskar Brummel whose enthusiasm and knowledge run deep. Even with plenty of noise around on which to blow your savings, White Centipede Noise – and this CD especially – are highly deserving of your time, support, and precious earholes. It can be easy to dismiss work as imitative or less deserving than pinnacle works (which Incapacitants 1990s output clearly is), but it can also be unfair when original, engaging, and uniquely characterised recordings such as this CD are being released.

Kali Malone @ The Lab, San Francisco, 7 April 2023

My recent trip to the USA was a chance to reconnect with the depths of live underground music which I felt had eluded me since 2020 and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world recovers so too does underground and experimental music, but the return of live events – particularly outside festival events – has been slow and selective particularly in making their way to my corner of the world. Good Friday 2023 was an opportunity to hear Kali Malone perform two works principally composed for synthesizer, with a clean and encircling surround sound provided by suitably austere San Francisco venue The Lab.

2022 LP ‘Living Torch’ was an unexpected highlight to the year for me, a pinnacle of the Portraits GRM series which has produced works from an extremely high calibre of artists so far (acknowledging, of course, the legacy of INA GRM and Editions Mego which have merged into Portraits GRM). Kali’s April 2023 set had links to the humanised solemnity of ‘Living Torch’ and the eerie refraction of this year’s ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’, while given greater spatial and dynamic movement to befit a more engaged live dynamic.

The first circa 50 minute piece of the evening, which (if my recollection is correct – a troublesome assumption) was a work yet to find its way to a recorded release, synthesised stems provided by cellist Lucy Railton as was also part of the compositional language on ‘Does Spring Hide Its Joy’. Initial monotonic cycles burgeoned with sympathetic layering of synthesizer tones, which then slowly opened into harmonic dispersal and strong low-end thrust – before returning to a minimal place from which to build an even stronger second quake, further shifts of synth adopting the repetitive melodic shape of the underlying string refrain. Over visuals seeming to find microscopic detail in natural elements – a clever representation of the finessing of acoustic sounds which Kali’s work often surveys – the acoustic and electronic elements rose in tempest, before a slow retreat left more fragmented cello off-cuts to bounce against one another to finally quell the extended piece.

The second work of the evening was an eight channel spatial remaining of material from ‘Living Torch’, this time using breathy woodwind tones as the track’s building blocks rather than the tensile strings of the first set. The coarse quality of the bass clarinet notes lifted into its own low grey noise which lurked at the back of the speaker space, treated orchestral lift-outs becoming further immersed with the synth treatments, also starting to peer out from the simpler stereo presentation which started while imperceptibly stacking small interval builds over its clean tones. The result traversed more complex chordalities than the first piece of the night, and was a more diffusive work as well: not done with marking puncture holes from the increasingly dense and pressured-affected acoustic stems, a patina of storm cloud distortion moved in over the increasingly unsettled drone and embraced its tumultuous tangle, urging the piece to an aggressive climax before a retreat into remnant tonalities.

To describe Kali’s performances as drone works, while somewhat true, feels somewhat dismissive and uncongratulatory. The complexity to both, while was slow in affect and trajectory, was in focus and detail on the finer edges of sound, demanding attention as much as immersion. Whether my memory has aggrandised the live works compared to Kali’s sedate recordings, or whether the live setting added an inevitable keener dynamic, I can’t now say with confidence – but regardless the care and detail to Kali’s work easily translated to a live setting and embraced the volume and space of the venue for maximum affect.

Friday 3 March 2023

V/A ‘Mixed Noise Soup Vol. 1’ C-47 (Satatuhatta)

‘Mixed Noise Soup’ reads as an attempt to encompass the already impressive discography Satatuhatta has amassed in the last two or so years, extracting new tracks from the tentacling Finnish scene which has already proven so lucrative for the highly active label. While the likes of Freak Animal have long championed the depths of Finland’s noise and power electronics capabilities, Satatuhatta seems responsible for a groundswell of material and invigoration of projects associated with the label and its allies, all now coalesced on the label’s first compilation.

Things are stickily wicked from the beginning: Moozzhead’s opening blast casts a virulence which the remainder of the first side can only dream of meeting, thick sheets of rolling distortion compacting the left channel while bleating curls of unrepentant filtration dominate the right, further agitated sounds swarming around in further aversion. The project’s previous releases have favoured a retrovised sleazy aesthetic, and “MILF Command Til War” has both the title and squelching fluidity to match that.  Tyhjä Pää are equally prominent but replace Moozzhead’s sexual splurging with a focused hostility, “Burnout and Repeat” a prophetic title as the track unfurls densely vibrating shards of what may have once been scrap metal which has since been abused and sliced into saturated chunks of high noise viscosity, supplemented by filter sweeps which explode half-submerged like landmines with a hint of Pain Jerk-esque flair - with a crude drum machine interlude adding a drop-out dynamic fault line which somehow only increases the Kohei Gomi vibes.

Beyond those two beacons ‘Mixed Noise Soup’ never disappoints, although (as with almost any compilation) some tracks shine more than others.  The closing trio of tracks ensures the second side is the victor: Mogao’s wet and messy spray of untrimmed harsh noise defiance sweats simple metal bashing feed through cheap distortion, and Umpio’s somewhat similar “Karstanen” pummells several layers of over-crisped electronics, a rutted low-end and spitting high tone constants as the piece frays into trails of unkempt and fired-up spurts of effects-soaked virulence. Scrap Furnace then closes with a piece which could almost pass for recent The Haters material, “Radiant Praxis” cascading metal blows which are thrown into a washing machine and doused with clinging distortion for a bruising experience on par with the duo’s excellent debut cassette (no prize for guessing the label which released that).

Primitive Wings, New Boyfriends and Amek-Maj are as similarly unashamed as Mogao, the latter scrappier but each adopting an eyes shut style of noise intuition which is admirable but which is perhaps a little too uninhibited and wasteful when compared to the more energised and focused tracks found elsewhere on this cassette. While their flurries of self-propelled mastication perhaps give some time to refill your cocktail glass, their crudities are a little shallow when compared both to the excesses of the compilation’s more fervent tracks – but also the less dynamic moments of ‘Mixed Noise Soup’ which demand the listener’s return and attention. Be sure to be reseated for Corral Shut, whose “Rub It To Dry” is an unnerving meditation centering upon raw junk metal scrapes, a distant thudding repetition and blossoms of fountaining feedback ultimately imploding into a flurry of groaning metal grinds and zealous beating: all a close approximation of The New Blockaders’ penchant for raw scrap metal abuse which has none of the excesses of the likes of Moozzhead, but which permeates an oxidized atmosphere which has soaked into many of Satatuhatta’s releases. Resting Place also unfurl a more dismal industrial excursion, a prominent elongated loop casting a heavy machinery shadow over a second background repetition and a sickly feedback tone, which lingers into H.Ö.H.’s second side opener which is equally dismal and repressed, its uneven repetitions unspooling under a thick layer of pleural decay.

Add in a booklet of bespoke art, and collage art seemingly drawn from the social excesses of the 1970s, and ‘Mixed Noise Soup’ is the ideal introduction to Satatuhatta, for those few who have avoided it. Those whose shelves are already overflowing with the label’s riches have another gold bar to add to their treasure chest. I may favour the tracks at the dynamic ends of the compilation, but nothing on this compilation is sub-par: an observation applicable to the breadth of the Satatuhatta discography that I’ve heard so far.

Saturday 14 January 2023

Small Cruel Party ‘Sic In Se Sua Per Vestigia Volvitur’ C-30 (Chocolate Monk)

I’m an unashamed Small Cruel Party fan: in a world of listening excess the project burrows to the core of chosen items, microscoping into physical objects to extract the awkward and unknown sounds at their centre. While ostensibly working with ambient sounds, Key Ransome has always been more immersive in a Honey-I-Shrunk-The-Audience kind of way: I rarely think I know what is being foraged but the sounds always seem to create expanse out of minutiae, grandeur out of smaller found objects.

It’s rather surprising, then, to play ‘Sic In Se Sua Per Vestigia Volvitur’ and immediately take a step or two back, that previous intimacy replaced with a rocky low-end rumble, upper register twitter and careening filter sweeps which seem overwhelmingly synthesizer derived, and which give side A’s “De La Beatitude Malgre Soi (Pour Daniel)” its dominant formation. While not static, the piece plays on its repetitions and constancies and settles into a singular (if uneven) repetition for most of its playing time, only revealing some welcomingly screechy harmonic tension in the final few minutes.

Reverse side “Par Chu Fait Om Un Angle Tenir Son Doit Ades Vers Le Solel” is a more familiar vernacular, although the tonal ambient drone dominates the physical rustling which quickly cowers to the back. Long-form vocal tones, misaligned rhythm and scratchy synth cast-offs add depth to the piece but again it settles into a comfortability and very little shifts once that comfort is found. There’s something of a simmering industrial tension to the last part of the track, but as with the A side there’s a long and somewhat overwrought lead-in to that modulation which doesn't really reward the outcome.

Focus and closeness have long been central to Small Cruel Party’s work, and while ‘Sic In Se Sua Per Vestigia Volvitur’ expects both it rarely rewards either. Its layered ambience is a less iconic and more mainstream expression of ideas as compared to previous releases, even acknowledging the elongated sound components that have washed across previous releases. The cassette is listenable but quick to dissipate, and without any of the intimacy of Key’s previous work. While perhaps acceptable in isolation, ‘Sic In Se Sua Per Vestigia Volvitur’ withers against the magnetism of Small Cruel Party’s previous decades of personal and more intriguing listens.

Tuesday 27 December 2022

Astro & Shayne Bowden ‘Live At OTOOTO’ CD and Reynols ‘Plays The Audience’ 5” (Deterra)

‘Live At Otooto’ was released in 2020 but has found its way into my ears only recently, and can’t go unremarked due to tardiness on my part. The disc collects recordings from an evening at Tokyo venue OTOOTO, each performer taking to the stage for a solo set before combining forces in an evening-ending all-in. 

Shayne’s opening set conjures a piercing opening tone which is never let go: as a searing layer of distortion embraces the track its high tone continues to warble through the thick lower frequencies, eventually swallowing the denser sounds to again ring clear. The second half of the piece then alchemises that tone, subtle synth box permutations sending its upper register purity through the tonal wringer in gory slow motion, its initial viscera melted and minced into a throbbing lower spread of frequency bristle. Shayne’s high end clarity, fondness for saturation and carefully plotted movement is sure to please anyone wanting a little more gesture to the work of Rusalka, and his piece is as equally satisfying.

Not to be outdone, Rohco and Hiroshi Hasegawa each turn in transfixing performances. Rohco’s is perhaps the simplest but may also be the unassuming best, opening muffled dialogue snippets and what may be some brief clenches of sheet metal heave the only discernible additions to a series of roughly hewn and overlapped sheets of feedback and slowly tortured analogue effect roar. The set sweats from its own volume as tectonic fissures are coaxed and carefully dragged into position, the weight of Rohco’s textures supporting my vision of their being summonsed from some deeper geologic source.

Hiroshi Hasegawa’s track may not tremble with volume and fear like Rohco’s, but he has adeptly conjured immersive tracks from synths, effects, and sheet metal for sometime, and his contribution here likewise manages to work heavyweight textures with skill, a heavier synth presence and faster pace giving the set greater longevity than Rohco’s tremorous work, and showing Hiroshi’s now innate strength in crafting engaging, fluid, and unforgiving noise. Hiroshi is so productive that it can be easy to forget just how skilled he is, and how lucky we all are to have him still crafting such unrelenting and engaging pieces.

After those successes the final collaborative all-in is somewhat underwhelming; while I’m sure the event itself delivered more, the recording flattens the morass of voices to what is often a saturated flatline, coarse but undeviating blocks of distortion failing to express the depth of the previous solo tracks, let alone deliver the integration of those as would be expected. There are undeniable moments of deeper grandeur but moreso the result is singular and unflinching, only as small collection of moments delivering the depth I would have expected from this three in shared flight. Those scenes of flight do make the trip worthwhile, but after three standout solo tracks it’s hard for this final effort to deliver at quite the same level.

The rewarded OTOOTO audience is sonically absent from the CD recordings, but assume prominence for Reynols’ short-player. Not just present to applaud and vocalise, those reactions are fed into this inevitably brief record. ‘Part One’ seems to process audience reaction into submission, applause becoming a slow wave of rollercoasted breath, with a murmuring tonality and some armament-like punctuation permeating its otherwise billowy structure. ‘Part Two’ seems to be something of a selective backwards rendition of ‘Part One’, only glimpsing its waves of minimal ambience – but adding spoken word and audience reaction first in isolation but then as deepening layers, surrounding the initially simple and somewhat calmative electronics with textural confusion.

I’ve listened to ‘Plays The Audience’ a lot and I’m sure I still don’t grasp its full effect: the rough seemingly audience-made recording adds another titular veneer to the work but also further distances its purport, the simple and effective radiance of ‘Part One’, gunned by its brief staccato interference, becomes a disorienting experience of unmerited applause, jeer and multi-layered voices – but both too sort to make sense of, betraying different sensibilities on repeat listens. There’s an inevitable curio watermark to most 5” records but ‘Plays The Audience’ digs that hole much deeper, ensuring a quizzical experience over one or multiple listens. 

Both releases are still available notwithstanding the limited run of the Reynols 5” and the live disc being a few years old at this point. Deterra releases may not be so frequent but each is done with care and love for the material, something which is clear from both.

Friday 10 June 2022

Control & Gruntsplatter 'A Fatal Circle' 7" (Raubbau)

There's long been a closeness between Control and Gruntsplatter - in outlook, aesthetic choices, mastering and production commonality, and a shared familiarity with tragedy and trauma. ‘A Fatal Circle’ features a track from each which at least superficially plays to the duo’s parallels, but in doing so ultimately spotlights some of their differences in detail, both specific to this 7” but also more reflective of general stylistic differences in approach, and which permeate the two pieces which make up this split 7”.

Grunsplatter’s “Hunting Extinction” is drenched in melancholy, each developing tone as dark and despairing as the next. The piece opens with synth layers which raise somewhat quickly in register and menace, a dark low-end tone and slowed heartbeat underpinning the upper register movement, eventually multiplying into a larger swarm of synth voices which emerge from expanding cracks within the original inputs only to distort, warp and burn when exposed to air. Even with a heavy immersion of distended mid-range tentacles emerging from the unsightly central mass, ugly low-end upset and hints of uncomfortable high-end screams are flung from the middle of the piece like satellites destined for solar system reaches only to eventually become unreachable as they drift further from the centrepiece of seething blackness.

Control uses similar compositional elements but adopts a more forceful and direct approach. “In The Blood” finds a similar bradycardic pulse, before adding indecipherable vocal utterings which are cloaked heavily in effects whenever they emerge from the miasma of the piece. While there’s a symbiosis to the dark heart of both pieces on this 7”, Control commands a greater segregation of components and a more threatening aura, in particular found in the storm clouds of low-end tinged vocals of the opening which explode into a more familiar explosive hostility later in the piece. Linked to those sprays of vocal upheaval are uprisings of bleak electronics which explode from the seething electronics are the core of the piece, escalating the depth of the piece as each syllable is screamed. 

While there is a central shadow to both pieces, Gruntsplatter explores the unknown and uncertain whereas Control finds hints of structure, melody and a more defined purpose to the portions which make up its side. Both sides circulate dark semi-tonal elements, however Control seems to pre-empt and allocate the sounds in a more regimented approach – while also remaining mired in a compared to Gruntsplatter’s reactionary interferences. The differences in approach don’t affect the outcome, however: both have summonsed a deep and gloomy mass of death industrial electronics in a manner consistent with the innate sensibilities each has, their core differences in approach encouraging quite personal six minute expressions.

The 7” is limited to 100 copies, abandoning some of the intricacies of Raubbau’s recent releases for a black sleeve adorned with geometric distress in thickly textural paint: fitting perfectly with the more extreme and bleak end of Ant Zen/Raubbau’s interests and picking up the label’s preference for bold and layered aesthetics which are consistently striking and well-realised: the recent run of harsher sonics is a welcome dark cloud across the label’s mix of underground genres, with the label’s strong design and quality control both reasons to trust this release even if – and what the fuck? – you’re not already familiar. 

Sunday 1 May 2022

Blood Incantation 'Timewave Zero' 12" + CD


When seeing Blood Incantation support Arcturus in 2017, little did I know the Americans would be the ones to thereafter be responsible for best probing the galaxial reaches – notwithstanding the Norwegians' long and respectful career of astral aspiration  as Blood Incantation’s amazing 2019 full-length ‘Hidden History Of The Human Race’ in particular drove the quartet beyond immediate orbit to comb the stars for suitable confrontation. While the group’s renowned death metal explorations have looked for alien life to end our own, ‘Timewave Zero’ sheds the metal instrumentation for an array of synthesizers and integrated analogue electronics, used to wind out long-form meditative compositions which betrays the realisation that the weight of the universe can crush humankind without extra-terrestrial intervention.

Opener “Io” builds steadily on its opening synth drone, further tonal layers added repeatedly as its base elongated tone is used to trigger thriving layered drone, smaller synth flickers and light  , before blossoming into a melodic arpeggiation which flickers the underlying drone to life, finding a contour which supports the upper register as it reaches full Tangerine Dream worship mode. Even when the piece returns to an unchanging droned note it can’t escape the tender chordal shapes which have now emerged, with subtle waveform shifts and derivative melodic shapes opening space for lingering acoustic guitar to weave its own chordal shapes into the trembling synth layers.

Second side “Ea” launches straight into those familiar arpeggiated melodies, additional single note lines supporting that shape with the piece maintaining a greater momentum than “Io”’s peaks and troughs. Even when the synths decline in “Ea” there’s a more active acoustic guitar added to pick out the piece’s ongoing chordal refrain as the melody line remains with the synth (and what I think is a subtle gong is added in the distance), before returning that task to the electronics with some classic dense synthesis and slowed discourse, before descending into a final tonal melt. While neither track is better or worse for it, “Ea” has a more homogenous approach than “Io”, perhaps hitting a more intuitive or familiar shape than “Io” which binds “Ea”’s parts tighter than the wave forms of the first side.

Get any of the vinyl pressings and you’ll get a CD of the same material. However the CD/blu-ray set includes an additional track, “Chronophagia” – also locatable with some resourceful YouTube-ing. The additional track flows with a distinctly darker Lustmord-ian hue or pallour lifted from Klaus Schulze’s bleakest solo work, shadowy electronics underpinning a more inhibited effort than the album proper. The strong arpeggios of “Io” and “Ea” emerge only hesitatingly and nervously, muted by “Cronophagia”’s swelling central desolate tones, thick fumes of displeasure, and comparably uncomfortable harmonic profile. The billowy profile of the piece seems to be hiding something, and it eventually that proves correct: as the smog clears a languid melody emerges with strong overtones of Vangelis’ ‘Blade Runner’ soundtrack, supported by a clean upper register piano refrain and remnants of the group’s still smouldering electronics. If “Io” and “Ea” give the impression that space travel was some stream-of-light euphoria, “Cronophagia” is a reality that the travel is one of isolation, darkness, and emptiness: for all their far-flung searches, Blood Incantation are still confined to the same flesh vessels as the rest of us.

‘Timewave Zero’ wears its influences boldly and plays to them closely, even down to the meditative outdoor scene in the gatefold which could easily have been plastered inside ‘Ricochet’ or ‘Encore’. The reaction from those looking only for more of what ‘Hidden History Of The Human Race’ offered, is predictable albeit understandable, but the chance to do something different – and do it convincingly – is for me even more exciting.  With its intentionally regressed soundset ‘Timewave Zero’ is a break from expectations but also cleverly within idiom, opening Blood Incantation up to further exploration and ambition whether they break from their tradition again or not.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Kazumoto Endo & Boar 12” (Peyote Tapes)


When I first heard Kazumoto Endo’s work – I’m pretty sure it was “Most Of My Problems Are Solved By An Afternoon Snooze”, his split 7” with Incapacitants – I was immediately affected by the gravamen of silence, the way a return to volume can make a sound more powerful than were it sitting in a cluster of similarity.

“Homebrew” reflects an updated wisdom from Kazumoto Endo, initial tracts of silence quickly perforated rather than left hanging, part of a multi-faceted experience in which forceful blasts of chopped-up high end discharge are incessantly and unpredictably fired into the air. Initially that strafing encounters relative calm, but as the piece entrenches those uncomfortable silences disappear, removed by what at first is a layer of secondary skirmish with effected scrap metal but what builds, through an acquisition of rapid loops and further magnetised attractions, into a surrounding arsenal firing of backup weaponry; and while resolute in mirroring the frequency profile of the dominant shares of brutalised focus, playing “Homebrew” out also sparks hits of liquefied low-end shudder which add an unexpected haunt to the central shrill tones. The silences which first drew me in are still there at the end – but found within layers which are overlapping others, and which are themselves feeding into Kazumoto’s increasingly hectic and crowded palette.

In comparison Boar’s sounds are far more flayed and finessed, whittled down to highly charged fragments of noise which have been intensely scrutinised, diced, and splayed across the stereo spectrum. Highly processed contact microphoned refuse seems a vase source of choice, but snippets of synth, manipulated feedback, and pure noise saturation all feature, lapsing into occasional loops but more often tumbling in free-fall, discarding cut-up components as it descends unpredictably and unhesitatingly. Single toned scrap metal crunch can give way to sonorous oil barrel thud, and seemingly inconsequential refrains find themselves double-tracked and spotlighted, all part of Boar’s microscopic focus and keenness for upset which propels “Metal Bound Flesh” in its reckless orbit.

It's not just the effort which has gone into shaping the sounds and micro-sounds, but the frantic pace of their unravelling and the segues into uncertain calmative moments which fill sudden moments of space. Boar has poured everything into “Metal Bound Flesh” and it shows: the piece is among the most finicky modern cut-up noise you will hear, riddled with detail and burning with momentum.

While sharing technique, both artists use it for different means: Kazumoto Endo’s side builds in size and intensity as it piles components; Boar sheds its parts as fast as it accumulates them, throwing components into the void as it hurtles forwards blindly but firmly in control. Both more than achieve their purpose, making this LP a standout not only for their respective technical abilities but for how those skills are used to achieve a much cleverer and listenable aim.

Thursday 17 March 2022

Nurse With Wound ‘The Hovels Of The Rich Or The Rigid Digit’ 3”CD (Lenka Lente)


‘The Hovels Of The Rich Or The Rigid Digit’ marks the tenth collaboration between Nurse With Wound and French publisher Lenka Lente, their history found across a succession of 3”CDs paired with short books authored by historic European writers including Frank Kafka, Antonin Artaud, Adolf Wölfli, and for this volume French writer, journalist and pessimist Alphonse Rabbe. The discs have afforded Steven Stapleton’s modern guise opportunities to work on a short-form piece (usually around 10 minutes playing time) within an ostensibly abstracted format, and the previous discs have sat in a comfortable, and I wonder if somewhat overlooked, fringe to Nurse With Wound’s ever-expanding discography.

For this release the book is again in French and with no translation, so any ties between music and text are for me at least imagined. Just perhaps Rabbe’s withdrawal from society is mirrored in the choice of intangible murmurs which are fed into Nurse With Wound’s piece, but I doubt it: that kind of attribution would give every experimental artist an immediately vague lofty literary link, and I put Nurse With Wound a step beyond that. The connection between Rabbe’s drug addiction and Nurse With Wound’s recent ‘Opium Cabaret’ CD and LP is probably coincidental, but ‘The Hovels Of The Rich Or The Rigid Digit’ does fall broadly into the ambient bracket of Steven Stapleton and Co’s work – although without the drama which makes ‘Opium Cabaret’ one of the standouts of modern Nurse With Wound.

Rather, this 3”CD is a more serene and stagnant work, emphasising a higher frequency register to remain in the air at all times with a simplicity and glissando of movement more in line with a truncated ‘Soliloquy For Lilith’. The opening delicate shimmer quickly opens up a broader and loosely cycled clutch of tones, concocted tones seeming to merge with slowed and shaped acoustic material in the way of bowed cymbals or resonant piano strings, the interplay of effected and organic constantly difficult to separate and made even more difficult when a subtle layer of further manipulation emerges from the digital concrète rattling which lurks in the shadows of the piece. Those soft tonal interplays continue as the piece dilates slowly and incrementally, the upper register tones kept prominent to obscure a diaphragmatic lower register drone which adds a barely perceptible weight to the piece. Even the piece’s climax doesn’t break the slow drift of the piece, an arc of more urgent staccato clattering and even a rare glimmer of feedback with the electronic tones failing to ignite the gaseous elements of the piece.

Unlike ‘Opium Cabaret’ the detail to ‘The Hovels Of The Rich Or The Rigid Digit’ is much harder to extract, and it’s easier to appreciate the piece in its drift rather than in the finer elements which are there to support the larger structure. It wouldn’t necessarily make for a strong full-length work, but Nurse With Wound’s latest Lenka Lente creation works well as a short escape into the atmosphere with which to return and pick up something else. There’s no doubt Steven Stapleton is skilled in immersive ambience, and ‘The Hovels Of The Rich Or The Rigid Digit’ is proof even if some of Stapleton’s stronger skills are responsible for subtler elements which sit around a perhaps simpler central drone creation.

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Sewer Election ‘Horse Utopie’ CD (iDeal)

Sewer Election has aced a number of different sub-genres while blazing through the noise underground for over two decades, and Dan’s current productivity and proficiency has produced a staggering breadth and quality of releases in the last couple of years which – coupled with a penchant for micro-edition obscurity amongst larger release set pieces – is even more difficult than ever to fully appreciate.

‘Horse Utopie’ is not the moody disintegration of ‘Skärvor Av’ (LP on Second Sleep) or the dense noise punishment of ‘Glorious’ (cassette on Receiving Vault), and it’s nowhere near the soft synth pleasantries of ‘Psychic Panorama’ (CD on Discreet Music) or Dan’s intriguing collaborative endeavours; instead the CD revels in instantaneous harsh noise, a looser noise exclamation seemingly crafted from live-to-disc sessions and finalised with minimal further intervention which in the project’s early days would have perhaps been used as cut-up fodder but is presented here intact.

Opener “Filter Wound” delivers on its title, skin gashes opening up as contact microphone stammer bolsters a scrappy distortion line which steroids up into thicker and more virulent surges of free-flowing noise sensibility and a largely confined mid-range emphasis, until some breakout high-end synth ignitions and a subtly booming low-end spring from the piece in its final minute or so. The track is linear and constantly developmental, its shifts in tone and emphasis coming from the unseen changes in pedals permutations, but all well buried behind the waves of responsive distortion in which the remainder of the piece is immersed.

Interlude “Dripping Star” strips back most of its rumbling distortion to reveal internal workings of squelching synth, almost slowing to a standstill before hits of blown-out junk metal ravage the piece: the same elements which one suspects drive ‘Horse Utopie’ throughout, but removed from the effects chains which clothe the remainder of the disc. The raw junk metal is pleasing in a CD otherwise light on any identifiably physical sound sources, but particularly so for its torrential quality, swamping the second half of “Dripping Star” in hostility.

Final track “Carve Mono” is the peak noise exaltation, digging deeper and pushing longer (well over half the disc’s playing time) to fill out the frequency profile by running what seems to be two independent or semi-independent effects chains while also spending most of its playing time in a far more invigorated state than “Filter Wound”, this final piece surging as its lines engorge.  Passing clumps of burned-out filter sweep, strangled feedback, thumping contact microphone disruption and blasting synth warfare all become dangerous submersibles in an unstable and unpredictable divergence of competing torrents of coursing distortion, which is susceptible to constant frequency adjustments and captivates a surprisingly strong undercurrent of grittier mid/low range grind.

‘Horse Utopie’ seems to do away with the deeper statements and explorations of other recent Sewer Election releases, instead existing with a certain “because I can” pugnaciousness stemming from its innate creation. It exists for its own sake, and in celebration of what immediacy can bring to harsh noise; learning from the compositional aspirations of other release but ultimately born from fire, finesse and freedom. Without the deeper motivations of other Sewer Election releases I had initially thought ‘Horse Utopie’ may suffer, but the opposite may actually prevail: the disc is motivated by an appreciation for pure and immediate noise making, without needing any further purpose.