Music Reviews

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Artist: Anatoly Pereslegin (@)
Title: Xenophobia
Format: CD
Label: Electroshock Records (@)
Distributor: Eurock
Rated: *****
We've got a lot of releases from the Russian Electroshock Records label to review, so let's dig right in. When you review for Chain D.L.K., you never know what you're going to get, so you have to be prepared for anything. Actually, Anatoly Pereslegin's 'Xenophobia' was the first CD out of the big batch recently received from Chain D.L.K. HQ to review that I auditioned, but decided to put aside until my ears worked up the courage to hear it a couple of more times. Yes, it is that harsh. Xenophobia is defined as a fear of foreigners, or other races and cultures. Perhaps in the context of this work, it could mean races alien to the planet Earth, as it sounds about as alien as you can get, and is sure to alienate the 'average Joe' listener.

Anatoly Pereslegin is a Russian avant-garde artist of some renown (at least in Europe) and has an association (and several releases) with the Electroshock going back to 2000. Some of Pereslegin's other releases have included symphonic and orchestral elements and have been more accessible than 'Xenophobia,' which is PURE NOISE. Well, the vast majority of it is. I don't often encounter noise releases that are as brutal and uncompromising (throughout) as say, Merzbow, but this is certainly one of them.

Since the Noise music genre encompasses such a wide spectrum of form and style, it is necessary to define what we are dealing with here. First ' Drone- a constant, linear wave of sound devoid of any rhythmic properties. Not all drones are pleasant or ambient in nature; some drones (like the sound of a swarm of bees) make for uneasy listening. This is the type of drone we're dealing with on 'Xenophobia'. As for ambient, the traditional use of the term applies to background music or noise; a sonic environment that serves as atmosphere rather than the focus of attention. 'Xenophobia' is more along the lines of noise pollution rather than ambient in the same way the sound of a crackling campfire may be construed as ambient and the sound of a firestorm is not. In order to be ambient (at least for me), the sonic environment must be tolerable (and likely even enjoyable) over a lengthy duration. This is an aesthetic that perhaps not everyone will agree with, but for me, is necessary to establish. If I were to call this release 'ambient,' someone might get the impression that the sonic environment of 'Xenophobia' was subdued. It certainly is not.

Unless you're a real pure noise enthusiast, you are likely to have stopped reading this review and moved on by now. With that in mind, the rest of the review is for the purists. I have often wondered what it is about the harsh noise genre that attracts listeners to it. It is easy enough to understand the artists' motivation in making musical statements, but listening to unpleasant walls of sound is no easy task. It seems like more an intellectual exercise than an emotional experience. For me, I prefer Noise music with a variety of sonic events, or changes over time. Sometimes there can be a bit of subtlety to the process, but it's difficult to be subtle when the predominate character of the music is a harsh sonic environment.
'Xenophobia' consists of three lengthy pieces, ranging from about 21 to 27 minutes each. There is little respite in any of these pieces. They are all made up of complex electronic drones and squalls that carry on throughout each. The first piece, 'Kiss of the White Dwarf' begins with a drone that sounds like the previously mentioned swarm of bees. There is some pitch variation, other waveforms and harmonics that join in, some LFO oscillation modulation, ring modulation, and white noise elements. There is a subtle undercurrent of orchestration, but it is really subtle and sporadic. The piece wavers in intensity where at times only the (filtered) white noise element is present. The mix of pitches is interesting to a degree as it seems to flow seamlessly. The tonality and texture of the composition morphs over time. Frequencies are mostly in the mid-range, although there are lower and higher frequencies introduced at various points over time. The piece has an ebb and flow which is an interesting aspect, but in a disturbing way. None of the sonic events are enough to hold your attention, but like a train wreck, the music allows for no distraction either.

'Rape Quantum' is the toughest listen on Xenophobia (and longest track too), as it is a thick plume of noise often as screechingly uncomfortable as fingernails scraped across a blackboard. It is as uncompromising as it gets in the harsh power noise genre with varying degrees of intensity; a seemingly relentless oil plume of noise pollution. 27 minutes is definitely an endurance test. The last piece, 'Heteroemergency,' doesn't seem radically different than the other at first. However, there is more variation in sonic events'¦still subtle to a degree. At about the eight minute mark the sonic barrage calms down to a dull roar for a bit as steamy white noise washes over the wall of sound. Then, it just stops for a couple of seconds. (What's up with that?) It seems as though a new piece begins mid-track shifting tonality with interplay of random sub-sounds that may or may not be orchestral elements. Eventually it homogenizes with a series of modulated drone tones in the mid-to-upper frequencies and becomes a bit choppy. This piece is an extremely challenging listen, not just because of the harsh nature of the music, but because of all the elements going on. It's like a noise symphony. The one thing that disturbed me about all three pieces is that they just end, not fade away. It seemed odd.

I hesitate to make a comparison with Anatoly Pereslegin's 'Xenophobia' and any other artist or release in the noise genre; it would be selling it short, and perhaps put it in an unfair perspective. Sure, I could site Merzbow, Conure, Karkowsky, or even Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' for its uncomfortability factor, but the fact is, Xenophobia' is quite different than all of them. It will test you listening stamina in more ways than one. For me, this is not a pleasurable experience, but I can appreciate the artist's intent and effort. So this is a difficult CD to rate. If you're really into noise music, give it an extra star and a half. If you're not, take away three stars, you just won't like it. One thing is certain; Electroshock Records seems to be on the cutting edge of unusual electronic releases and now that they've ramped up their catalogue, you're sure to be hearing more about them and their artists in the near future.




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