Music Reviews



Ken Ganfield x Kurt Liedwart x Petr Vrba: Something Wrong There

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Nov 17 2019
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Artist: Ken Ganfield x Kurt Liedwart x Petr Vrba
Title: Something Wrong There
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton (@)
Rated: *****
What can you expect by an album title "Something Wrong There", consisting of two tracks titled "Unbearable" and "Nauseating", lasting more than 20 minutes each? One of the most logical answer could compile a list of side effects, related to intoxication or nervous breakdown. Well, some granola-heads could argue that it's better to avoid it, but besides a certain humour and a clear self awareness, the aesthetical choices by Kan Ganfield (synthesizers, electronics), Kurt Liedwart (synthesizers, cracked homemade and everyday electronics) and Petr Vrba (synthesizers and electronics) seems to assemble slices of electronics, fragmented crumbs of synthetic sounds and noises from dead radio transmissions into pulps of electric turmoils, that sound like feeding themselves. The ghost of ambient and cosmic music get violently pushed to the borders of something that could vaguely resemble an improvisational set, but where there's a willful sonic strategy, that could vanish the sometimes disliked label of 'improv'. Recorded in the August 2017 in Punctum, a cultural centre in the vibrant district of Zizkov in Prague, this turgid declension of electronics is often piercing and ferocious (in spite of occasional spray of flat pads and reassuring entities - vaguely resembling deformed pop melodies - in the middle of maelstrom) that you can surmise that the real purpose of this trio was to create a stress test for nerves and stomach for true, but I'm pretty sure both the testers/makers and the tested eardrums/audience enjoyed such a session.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: On Corrosion
Format: Tape
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
“On Corrosion” is an ambitious art project. It’s the Helen Scarsdale Agency’s 50th release and the theme is based on founder Jim Haynes’ work curating an art collection under the name “On Corrision”. Ten different established sound artists have contributed their own full-length albums inspired by, or in response to, that theme. Over the course of nearly seven hours, these works head off in a variety of different directions, with diverse and varying appeal (some more than others). It’s appropriate that each album has its own artwork and subtitle as well, since largely they would stand up as sound works in their own right even if disassociated from the overriding theme- yet as I work through each release, I find myself spotting commonalities between each, leading to over-use of the word “also” in introducing each in the context of the last.

Fossil Aerosol Mining Project’s “Hydration Equilibrium” is a series of disquieting found sounds constructed into occasional patterns and rhythms on a drone base. ‘Disintegrated media’ is a successful subtheme, drawing and dismantling recordings from old tapes into an extensive entropy of modern broadcast noise, and meaty final track “Only The Green, Blue and Black” is a highlight.

The corrosion in G Park’s “Nosode” is largely digital, heavy bit-crunching, phasing and thick shifting equalisation taking fairly ordinary sounds like dripping taps and breaking them down into evil-sounding and edgy sonic abstracts across two fairly flat but intriguing 17 minute textures.

Himukalt’s “Torn Asunder- The Half Girl” is an exercise in unrelenting fury. Passionate angry feedback and noise walls punch your ears repeatedly, heavily distorted spoken-word monologues are barely discernible, raw sexual noises are thrown in for added affrontery. It jumps between structureless assembly and infrequent more industrial pattern-based sections such as when a kick drum pops in and out of “Cruel By Most Estimations”. “Absent” is the most successful track but the whole thing feels like reading somebody else’s private diary about a relationship that’s broken down in violent fashion.

Alice Kemp’s “9 Dreams In Erotic Mourning” also feels like relationship breakdown channeled into sound, but very differently. The stereotypical British bottling up of emotion seems at play here, as lethargic synth-piano melodies take precedent and suppressed feelings creep in at the edges, in the form of electric hums, masturbatory and pained vocalisations, identifiable rustling, and the like. These feelings break through periodically, most notably in the screams of “Alles Ist Wie Es Ist”, but it remains an odd balancing act of repression and expression.

Kleistwahr’s “Winter” also juxtaposes long harmonious melodic pads with more impulsive and gritty injunctions, this time more guitar-like, but across these two twenty-minute pieces it’s a contrast that feels more assured, almost enjoyed. It’s a tourist’s journey through discord but it somehow feels safe and unchallenging. Even as the pitch steadily shifts up and up and up in “Rust Eats the Future”, it somehow never sounds stressful or tense- which is very curious considering the ingredients.

“A Collection Of Damaged Reel Tape Loops” by Francisco Meirino also makes awkward noise palatable. There is no melodic element here, but there are windy envelopes that stroll over the main meat of the production, which is unrecognisably distorted sonic blowout and feedback that comes round and round, in looped patterns, to create rhythm and structure seemingly by accident. What could possibly me old music hall recordings drift through into your consciousness vaguely as it progresses, a literal but powerful interpretation of the corrosion of recorded sound-history.

No-wave, anti-rock duo Neutral offer up “Lagliv” which feels faintly anachronistic in this set thanks to the dominance of heavy guitar thrashing. A cacophony of dramatic documentary sound and spoken-word elements ride atop thick noise work but it still feels like the album here which is closest to what it would sound like if performed live. Of the two eighteen-minute tracks here, it was “Ganska lagt / Ocksa” that felt more accessible to me thanks to its increased inclusion of electronic noise, since I’m an electronics kid at heart.

Pinkcourtesyphone’s reliably minimalist “Shouting At Naunce” is an entrancing but uneventful forty-nine minutes of light electronic pulses, long delays, and slowly fading and breathing hums that’s absolutely charming and eminently soporific. Second piece “Alternatory” is marginally more melodic, adding to the sense of lullaby. If anything my only criticism of this work is that, in view of the overriding theme of the collection, this work doesn’t sound corroded- if anything it sounds smoothed, like a glossy sonic pebble. It joins other Pinkcourtesyphone releases on my sleep playlists.

Relay For Death’s “Mutual Consuming” is also a pair of long ambient works with a wave approach and a soporific flavour, but quite a different tone- there’s something steadily metallic about the resonances here, never straying fully into nails-down-the-blackboard territory but sharp enough to give an underlying sense of tension. Unlike the previous album, this does build to something dramatic, with second piece “Terminal Ice Wind” stepping assuredly up in level until it earns some dramatic deep bangs and crashes, corrosion akin to hearing the rapid cracking of a huge ice sheet from the point of view of someone trapped in the ice.

Alice Kundalini, as She Spread Sorrow, offers up “Orchid Seeds”. It’s storytelling-driven, powered by a breathy spoken word narrative that’s frankly hard to follow and feels invasively and deliberately over-intimate. This works on top of a bed of dark sonic textures, primarily super-low bass rumbles on the border of reproducible sound and ordinary hearing, but also cut through by higher-pitched rapid pulses and some very high-pitched squealing sounds that add to the discomfort. Occasionally, kicks and sub-bass sounds borrowed from dubby deep trip-hop bring everything up a level, making tracks like “She Didn’t Care” more memorable. Despite being split into five pieces, it mostly plays as a single unit, with the track divisions feeling as much chapter-based as they are by sonic change. A word of warning about the distant relentless old-fashioned telephone ringing sound that sits in the background of “Queen Of Guilt”- it will make you think your phone’s ringing, even if it doesn’t sound anything like your ringtone.

It’s presented as a 10-cassette set in a wooden box, but I only have the digital files to review so I can’t comment on the physical aspects of it. The packshot photo certainly makes it look like a thing of retro beauty though.

Sonically, it’s certainly a work of art. The way in which ten different artists have tackled the overarching theme, drawing parallels between themselves but also setting off in ten tangibly different directions. Everyone will have different favourites- I’d probably single out Pinkcourtesyphone and Francisco Meirino as mine- but people with a lot of time (and presumably money- I don’t know the asking price) to invest in dark electrosonic arts will find a lot that’s worthwhile in this nearly seven-hour-long collection.

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.


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