Music Reviews

Artist: Sewer Goddess (@)
Title: Painlust
Format: CD
Label: Black Plague Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Sewer Goddess is Kristen Rose (vocals, machines) from Boston, Massachusetts, and on this recording aided by Jason Beckwith (guitars), Mike Beckwith (drums), Carl Haas (bass) and John Gelso (guitar on "Get the Rope"). Sewer Goddess has been around since 2005 working primarily in the noise/power electronics genre, one of the few women to do so in the mostly male-dominated field. While prior releases by Sewer Goddess have conformed to that extreme genre, 'Painlust' is different, crossing over unabashedly into black metal territory. I admit I have come late to the party as 'Painlust' was released in February of this year.

Consisting of six tracks, and most of them under 5 minutes (the whole album is under 30 minutes long), Sewer Goddess takes you on a subterranean trip into the most wretched areas of existence. Let me digress with a little anecdote I don't recall having told anyone in a long time. When I was a child, I was fascinated by funhouses, spook houses and dark rides. I was simultaneously attracted to them and scared shitless of them. One such attraction was a certain dark ride at a popular seaside resort town where the ride descended on a chain track though two sets of doors that would be smacked open and quickly closed, to keep the light out, and presumably, the screams in. Before you got to the second set of door, there was a switch-track that let off from the main track through a different set of doors. I realized later that this was most likely a maintenance bay where cars were stored for repair, but my older, more imaginative friend told me a different tale about that track and those doors. He said that most cars would use the main track to take the riders through the standard dark ride, but every so often, a car would be routed through those other a place so hellish it nearly defied description, but describe it he did. It was a combination of the right portion of Hieronymus Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' triptych and Dante's 'Inferno'. Of course I didn't know about either of those at the time, but devil torture, fire-whipping demons, screams of lost souls, rivers of blood and fire, eviscerations, and malevolent monsters figured prominently in his description of what evil awaited those poor unfortunates whose car took the alternate path. 'Painlust' would be the perfect soundtrack to a film version of this childhood nightmare.

Things start off subtly (for this kind of music) on "Plague Axis" with a ringing tone, and a morose industrial atmosphere punctuated by noise-laden percussion and hoarse-harsh drawn out vocals in a deep chamber. The black metal begins with "My Grave", a crawling, doleful piece with Kristen gloomily speak-singing the lyrics over a thick wall of guitar distortion and leaden drums. "Flog" continues in this vein with only the sparest concession to conventional music in the chord changes. If Scorn worked in black metal it might sound something like this. A little past the middle the music stops and Kristen moans, hisses and electronically contorts her voice in abject despair for awhile before the music picks up again. "Black Meat and Bones" begins with one of the only discernible dialogue samples before launching into an intense tribal percussion-driven track reminiscent of Deutsch Nepal and Memorandum with painful shout-screamed vocals. The dead-slow pace of "Get the Rope" doesn't sound like anyone's in a hurry to carry out the task. Distorted vocals, guitar grind and feedback wail, tortured electronics and pulverizing drums like the footfalls of a colossus blend together to create the most dismal metal ambience on record. The black metal heats up to molten on "Melena's Mask" with squalling guitar, screams, and noise-assisted percussion. Never mind that I can't discern the words in Kristen's vocals; I would assume that bleak would be an understatement. This is the perfect ending to the abysmal outing that is 'Painlust', certainly living up to its name.

I don't often give five stars to noise-oriented projects, partially because I'm losing my taste for them a bit, and also there comes a point where enough is enough. Sewer Goddess has earned it on this release though, and likely will climb to the top of the heap because of this album. For what it is, it's perfect in every way. I can only hope that Kristen will continue along this path and unleash new pestilent horrors upon her growing legion of fans.
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Artist: Alphaxone
Title: Absence Of Motion
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Cryo Chamber releases his third release with Alphaxone and describes it a "recommended for spacefaring audiophiles" so underlining the production quality of this project.
To be honest, the realistic sound reproduction of "Intro" introduces the listener into an immersive soundscape while "Appearance" develops the field recordings into a quiet drone. "Long Eternity" juxtaposes levels of drones resolving then into a recording of dripping water. "Space Continuum" and "Dark Geometry" are slight variation of the same formula while featuring an high level of sound details. "Celestial" returns to the exposition of small noises upon a drone acting as a canvas while "Inner Horizon" tries to develop themselves using only small noise when, al half his length, the drone returns. "X-land" is a track divided in two drones while "Close" is based on a single drone as a gravity center for the field recordings.
For all fans of this label, it's another milestone for the sound details so headphone listening is truly recommended. However this is balanced by the use of slight variation upon a single musical structure so it seems simply too long and it courts boredom at last. A nice release but only for fans.
Artist: Dennis Young (@)
Title: Reel To Real
Format: CD
Label: Staubgold (@)
Rated: *****
Have you ever experienced those kind of fits of nostalga that let you go through a hundred dusted boxes full of artifacts of your more or less glorious past? You could find something really interesting in piles of yellowed love letters, old comics or stickerbooks, playthings, postcards and funny snapshots - during one of my last explorations I found interesting and somehow mysterious relics like an old vinyl of Visage's "Fade To Grey" on a scratched 7"...I remembered I labelled them as "the witches" when I first saw them on Italian television while I got the measles at the age of 4 or 5! -. During his cleanup day, Dennis Young, former marimba player and percussionist of the legendary NYC-based 80ies band Liquid Liquid - their hit "Cavern", which was included in the first volume "Disco Not Disco" of the newborn Strut Records in the beginning of the new millenium, got famous for having been sampled by Grandmaster Melle Mel for another hit, "White Lines (Don't Do It)", a song with clear references to cocaine, whose clip reaches its idyllic peak in the moment when some dancers keep on sniffing nearby a box of Frosted Flakes... an unauthorized sampling which caused the bankruptcy of 99 and Sugar Hill labels -, found a box of tapes he recorded by means of a 2-track Teac reel-to-reel recorded between 1982 and 1983, when he was just 24 as well as a member of Liquid Liquid yet. According to Dennis own words, "in early 1984 I bought my first 4 track cassette machine which ended my live reel-to-rell recording phase. The tapes were boxed up and put into storage for the ext 30 years. About six months ago I was going thru some old boxes and happened to find the tapes again. I was curious to hear what I had on those tapes so I purchased another Teac reel-to-rel tape-recorder. To my surprise there was a lot of music to choose from these recording, so after hours of listening I came up with a set of songs that I thought was the best representation of my work from this period". Many of them are really surprising: the bizarre chord strikes on guitar-driven songs such as "Little Girl" or the funny "Tape Interface for Guitar", the acidulous sci-fi nuance of tracks like "Panic in the Air", "Contortions" "Unknown Origins" or "Forbidden Planet" - a somewhat paranoid obsession for sci-fi themes is even clearer on the song "Aliens"! - and above all, the tracks when the skills on percussions splashes - the opening "Big Boom", the catchy "Overdub Dub", "Drum Solo" or the amazing "More is Less" -. Thanks to Staubgold, those recordings won't be just memories to get endangered by dust and oblivion.
Artist: Lisa Cameron & Ernesto Diaz-Infante (@)
Title: Sol Et Terra
Format: CD
Label: Kendra Steiner Editions (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Kendra Steiner is the result of the collaboration between Ernesto Diaz-Infante, whose releases were already reviewed, and Lisa Cameron, a percussionist and multi-instrumentalist. As the liner notes suggests, they try to create a sort of 'music of the elements' and a 'rarefied sacred-space' for the listener. They change the usual setup of this kind of duo as Ernesto Diaz-Infante creates the rhythmic skeleton while Lisa Cameron escapes the rhythmic patterns creating a sort of ever-changing texture.
So, as "Rise" begins, it's suddenly clear that the musical structure is based on the rhythmic element, the interplay is between the guitar, acting as a metronome, and the percussions. "The House at Pooneil Corners" continues in this interplay but in this track Lisa Cameron has the responsibility of the noise part. The real displacement from the expected is the strumming of Diaz-Infante dictating the time, a sort of loop. "Sun Psychic" is a dreamy dialogue between the lap-steel and the guitar. The first part of 'Stars Within Stars" reveals the sense of time of the players while the second reveals their sense of resonances. "Queen of Pentacles" juxtaposes sounds and noises while "Labor and Fruits" is hypnotic with the use of small bells and cymbals. "Imagination Eye" is almost reduced to the basic element of their sounds and "The Daughter" closes this release developing the resonances of the lap-steel and the guitar.
This release is not easy to evaluate as it ebbs between underdeveloped, as too based on the guitar, sections and charming moments. The real concern is the sense of disorientation of the percussions as they aren't always able to develop something meaningful upon the guitar's texture while driving the track when they are in a dialectic form. A nice release but it requires an attentive listening.
Artist: Germanovski
Title: Promise/Confession
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Plush (@)
Rated: *****
Denver-based label Plush, which also developed a branch on the other side of the ocean in South London, a strategic position to grab and spread good tunes in the field of bass-driven music, expands his interesting catalogue by hiring Lithuanian producer Igor Komar aka Germanovski. Even if Plush has not labelled his couple of tracks as drum'n'bass, Igor packs a nice assay of minimal dnb up on "Promise", which got embellished by vaguely balearic breezing sounds, placidly rolling breaks and sparse vocals that could resemble the more chilling side of this branch of drum'n'bass. Breaks sound even more swabbed on the following "Confession", as just some sparse hi-hats as well as a gentle set of softly knocking wooden beats and tribal sounds crack the narcotic sonorities of the track. An awesome and somehow soothing strategy to repaint well-known liquid sonorities by means of some hooks to the fluttering sheets of junglist ghosts.
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