Music Reviews



Compactor: Infrastructure

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: Compactor (@)
Title: Infrastructure
Format: Tape
Label: Oxidation
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Compactor’s “Technology Worship” and found it to be absolutely inspiring, so when Marc of Oxidation dropped me a line to let me know that he was sending me the new tape from Compactor to review I wondered how it would measure up. Seriously – it was the best noise album I had heard in quite some time. Well, System Administrator Derek Rush has managed to do it again by changing the approach a bit. If Technology Worship was a manifesto of sorts on technology, this one can be seen as a statement on our crumbling infrastructure. First off, let’s talk about the packaging. I was recently lamenting to my wife that with the advent of digital downloading, we have gotten away from the ridiculous packaging that made each release more than simply an audio recording, but also an object of art. Benner has been in this scene for a long time and clearly was feeling the same thing because this packaging is fantastic. The tape is packaged between two weathered metal plates and wrapped in painted wire mesh, then held together by two bolts. The packaging also serves as a fitting enclosure for this album; I like to think that the fact that it is only held together by two bolts rather than the four it should have had to truly secure the tape is intentional, representing our impulse to cut corners when possible. The liner artwork echoes this sentiment, with scenes of urban decay overlaid with assessments from the American Society of Civil Engineers grading infrastructure at an overall level of D+. Now on to the music itself. This tape consists of two tracks. “Advancing Decline” kicks it off with an industrial track, and I mean this in the sense of Test Department pounding on iron girders in an underpass to make music. Pounding machinery merges with rumbling, distorted analog bass tones. This is music meant to evoke machinery. Metal clanks and rattles throughout as the bass plods away in its slow rhythm until it all dissolves into a grinding wall of distortion, static, and feedback. Turn it over and we have “Total Failure.” The machinery is gone and noise is all that remains. The sound evokes an engine that just can’t seem to turn over, the screech of gears out of place, a belt that is slipping. Overall, this is another solid release from Compactor. It’s limited to 40 copies, so if you’re like me you’ll want to get the physical release before it’s gone, but unlike some of the weird packaged releases from back in the day, this music stands on its own quite well. This tape weighs in at around 20 minutes.

Formaldehydra: Hag Harbor

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: Formaldehydra (@)
Title: Hag Harbor
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I could not find a whole lot on Formadehydra, except that the bandcamp page states that the hail from Lakeland Florida. I finally found an Instagram page that links to Dylan Houser, so it seems that this is another project from the same person. I had previously reviewed Houser’s “Thunk,” which I described as “a chaotic mess, which is everything that noise should be,” so I figured that I would be in for some noise. This disc departs from Thunk’s clanking, rumbling feedback-laden composition in favor of a wall of rumbling noise. This is pleasant listening for the noise aficionado, but as I have stated before, I like some variety in my noise. Thankfully, this is well balanced, with bits of high end quietly emerging from the staticy bass rumble. I enjoyed it enough on its own, although I would have liked a lot more to happen in a 22-minute track. What makes this particularly interesting is listening to it and considering the exterior sounds that interrupt as part of the composition – the planes flying overhead, the dog barking outside, the people talking outside of my window. One can easily think of this as a noise version of John Cage’s 4:33 where the audience must contribute to the composition. This album weighs in at 22 minutes.

This Is What I Hear When You Talk: I Really Want Brett To Like This, But He Probably Won't

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 04 2019
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Artist: This Is What I Hear When You Talk
Title: I Really Want Brett To Like This, But He Probably Won't
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
This Is What I Hear When You Talk is the harsh noise wall project of Dan Fox, the driving force behind the Inner Demons label who also records under the names Loss, FFI Digital, Fail, and a host of ever-expanding projects. I have reviewed a few discs for Chain D.L.K. under this name, which gets us to the title. First off, let it not be said that all of the people recording in the HNW scene take themselves too seriously. I laughed heartily when I saw this disc because I am the Brett he is talking about. The title is a reference to a review I had done of one of his discs under this moniker that I wasn’t really into. That particular release was a bit too static for my tastes. I like some variety in my noise, and that release just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Now that we have that disclosure out of the way, let’s get into the disc itself and get to the burning question on your mind, considering the title of the disc: “did he like it?” The answer is yes, I did. This is comprised of four 5-minute tracks that each function as a series of exercises in repetition, but there is much more going on then 20 minutes of white noise. It was either Friedrich Nietzsche or Gloria Estefan who said “the rhythm is gonna get you,” and that plays out here, as rhythm plays an integral part in each of these compositions and functions as the thread that ties all of these tracks together. "I" starts us off with stuttering feedback and hum, that keeps things moving along. You keep waiting for the feedback to overpower the track, but it keeps being pushed down by the staccato static. "II" brings to mind an off-kilter machine trundling away in a factory. Just as you settle into the track, it shifts gears once again and we move into "III," a rhythmic track that starts to mess with your head over time. Unlike the previous tracks, this is not a percussive beat, but rather a syncopation in the sawtooth waves that gives a sense of movement. Still, as you listen you could swear that things are shifting ever so slightly, even as the rhythm reminds you that you are still swaying to the same dissonant beat. "IV" closes the disc with a nice grinding slab of crackling noise. Once again, there is a rhythm buried in the layers of static. Overall, if you have found HNW to be too boring, this disc avoids those pitfalls, while retaining the repetitiveness that many find soothing. Well worth checking out. This disc weighs in at 20 minutes.

Michal Turowski: Wormwood and Flame

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jun 24 2019
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Artist: Michal Turowski (@)
Title: Wormwood and Flame
Format: CD + Download
Label: Mozdok/Positive Regression (@)
Rated: *****
A noise/drone review wasn't my first choice on this sunny Sunday, but since there's not much else (physical product) in the hopper, and the raison d'être is somewhat compelling, we'll go with it. Electronic/industrial/dark ambient artist Michal Turowski, from Warsaw, Poland, has had a number of releases over the past several years, perhaps most notably with the electronic/industrial project Gazawat, and the similar Mazut with Pawel Starzec. Likely a big name on the Polish underground scene, but not so much in the U.S., this is my first encounter with Turowski's music. 'Wormwood and Flame' is a concept album about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, likely the worst ever, that fucked up a lot land and a lot of people for a really, really long time. While one could interpret track titles to aspects and phases of the disaster (26 April 1986, Pripyat, Black Wind, Sarcophagus, Red Forest, etc.) it will not give you the sense of what this work really sounds like. Industrial/noise/drone may be an okay overall description, but lacks detail in nuance. While I'm not inclined to provide a track-by-track description, I can say that the album starts out with heavy metallic drone, something akin to what you might hear visiting certain types of factories where metal is cut and processed in large hangar-like environments. (Not only should you have your safety goggles and hardhat on, but a respirator and ear muffs as well.) The next step in this 11-track trip refines the processing a bit honing in on a more specific type of metallic drone. (Better keep those ear muffs on though as the sound can be piercing.) A repetitive looped, crushing, noise machine is the next thing up with plenty of crunchy distortion. The next few segments provide cold, bleak, isolationist quasi-industrial environments that are quite different from each other but vary little in and of themselves over time. Track 7 ("Azure Swimming Pool") sounds like an endless dump of metallic scrap down a metal chute. More repetitive looped metal processing follows and get tedious after a while. A repeating series of pitched, descending, noise sweeps could have been interesting had it developed into something (besides continuing on for nearly four minutes) and that points up the problem inherent in this album; once each piece is set in motion, there is very little development over time, rendering them somewhat static. For a noise release though, this is rather placid if you don't play it at high volume. No question though that this is a cold and alienated work, perhaps reflecting the aftermath of Chernobyl in its desolation. Limited to 100 physical copies.

Terrible at Small Talk: The Abandoned Express Doubts

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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May 23 2019
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Artist: Terrible at Small Talk (@)
Title: The Abandoned Express Doubts
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I thought I recognized the "fertanish" in the artist's email address; turns out I reviewed one of his releases when he went by the Fertanish moniker back in 2012. Terrible at Small Talk/Fertanish is Bill Murphy from Washington, D.C., and TAST is the most recent moniker evolved from Fertanish. The new name reflects an evolution to free experimental music, absent of vocals and blessed with a disintegration of common musical structure. Terrible At Small Talk’s first release, The Abandoned Express Doubts, is initially a composition of chaos that accepts peaceful interludes. As it continues, contentment becomes the focus while chaos is welcomed as a supportive friend to maintain balance.

The main album consists of four lengthy tracks - Superhuman (Part 1); Stauros (Part 2); Solitary (Part 3); Sepulchre (Part 4). The accompanying EP contains one long track clocking in at 25:38. That one is a composition for WTW8800YW0, a recording of sounds made while replacing a bearing on a washing machine. Actually, it is a remarkably rhythmic odyssey that should certainly enrich your life and perspective in the mellower side of the experimental noise genre. (There's actually a section in it towards the end that sounds a bit like a gamelan orchestra.) As to the main work, this was composed mixing cello, piano, guitar, guzheng, analog synths and found sounds to create a composition based on the idea that peace and chaos can exist in harmony. "Superhuman" (17:06) sounds like a jangling drone, with numerous overdubbed elements and repeated occurrences that does manage to change to a degree over time in its cacophonous symphony of odds and sods. This is the kind of piece you might expect to have heard from La Monte Young with John Cale and Lou Reed in the 1970s if only they had collaborated on such an album.

"Stauros" (18:36) is minimal compared to the maximality of "Superhuman" working with individual feedbackish tones turned drones picking up richer noise variants along the way. Somewhere near the middle some improvised plucked notes hint at an abstract oriental melody and this is sewn throughout the rest of the piece. It ends on a much more rhythmic skein than it began, but ultimately in drone again. "Solitary" (13:09) begins with hazy, shoegazey guitar that morphs into sustained drone tones with a slowly pulsating yet shimmery effect. There are deeply chambered background incidents (of who knows what) along the way adding some uneasiness to the otherwise restive ambience. By the time piece is nearly over though, the uneasiness has grown and looms large over what otherwise would have been a tranquil excursion. "Sepulchre" (13:18) is the darkest of the four tracks, employing more "found sounds" and sonic elements not previously realized in the other tracks. While the main element is a modulated low drone, there are loops of tinkling bells, obscured voices, bowed cello tones, hollowish noise, and other sonic effluvia. It sounds as if it were recorded in a tunnel; simultaneously spacious yet claustrophobic. I suppose it does live up to its title. Noise-drone for those who prefer their noise toned down, and drones tuned up.


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