Music Reviews

Grunt: Someone Is Watching

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Nov 15 2012
Artist: Grunt (@)
Title: Someone Is Watching
Format: CD
Label: Force Majeure (@)
Distributor: Nuit Et Brouillard
Rated: *****
On 'Someone Is Watching,' a re-release of a cassette originally released in 1998, Mikko Aspa utilizes the traditional pallette of Power Noise - rumbling static, vomitous vocals, haunted drones and tape loops - to construct a mental movie of paranoia and dread. Predicting the panopticon that has become the future, where every move and every motive is monitored by closed-system surveillance camera, and endlessly cataloged in neverending data-streams, Grunt's music sounds like the old avant garde's rage against the coming simulacrum. The barrages of white noise and hellacious howling has the carnal heft of circuitry and overblown speakers behind it, meat tearing at the blank screens of modernity, trying to pierce through the vile veil of data and figures to something primal and real. The id tearing through the machine.

At this stage, Grunt's music was composed mainly of loops made from live recordings, with scraping metal, howling feedback, and vocals added on top. Its got the ragged, live feel of a archetypal power noise performance - imagine thyself in a dank concrete bunker, with young men with closely cropped hair writhing like maggots in the pale light - to complete the picture. Mikko Aspa never had any intention of escaping the underground, this is noise music for noise fanatics, but it is not merely a bland genre study, either. Tracks like 'Information' has a digital sheen to it that predicts the MAX/MSP hackers soon to follow, and the synthetic chorus on album opener 'Watch Your Back' recalls Lustmord's earliest material. Grunt is bringing in outside influences, prying the lid off the hermetically sealed Power Noise genre. In short, he doesn't give a fuck. You can listen, or not.

This is not the most revelatory PN release out there, and may not be the best starting point if yr ears have not already become accustomed to listening to malfunctioning electronics and paranoid ranting, but the sonic pallette of the harsh noise world does lend itself well to the feel of industrial ruin and dystopian unease. Its like spirit of '77 punk rock taken to its logical, unfriendly conclusion.

Its cool to see underground, scene-only releases getting re-issued and re-evaluated. For most of its blighted life, Noise records were esoteric secrets, sold out of pulp paper magazines, at shows, out of basements and the boots of cars. Commercial pressures were irrelevant - no one was going to hear it, and no one was going to care. Its pure art, pure catharsis, pure release. Mikka Apsa, with his Freak Animal imprint, has released boatloads of gnarly crunchy noise, over the span of almost 20 years, and 'Someone Is Watching' is a chance to hear what the freaks were up to, before the simulacrum took over.

Emptyset: Ununhexium/ Collapse

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Nov 02 2012
Artist: Emptyset (@)
Title: Ununhexium/ Collapse
Format: 12"
Label: Raster-Noton (@)
Distributor: Experimedia Ltd
Rated: *****
Amidst the multitude of moving forces and stylistic undertones within the excellent German label, founded by Carsten Nicolai, Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, Emptyset, Bristol-based project by Multiverse studios director James Ginzburg and electronic artist Paul Purgas, who signs the sixth release of Unun series - named after the Greek atomic numbers of the chemical elements 111-119 in the periodic table - belongs to the most aggressive ones. Their sound seems to depart from some sonic impulse of the concrete reality or some analogue sound which gets gradually warped, notched and grinded so that their tracks sound like the internal friction between the original sonic trigger and their possible multiple sonic detonations: for instance, the initial "Armature" seems to proceed from the difficult ignition of a flooded monster truck's engine whereas the nervous bleeps could be associated to fuel drops which tries to start the spark plug in vain, while the plinth of the second track "Core" seems to be an heavy typewriting machine whose typebars got pressed on fragile stuff just like they have hammers on their ends. Similarly on B-side, "Collapse"'s departure point is a sort of unnatural snoring, whose noisy curls and bumps lie on corrosive sonic stretches and muffled metallic clashes, while "Wire" could remind a difficult sliding of an heavy steam train on icy rails. Beyond all prompted linking the listening experience built by Emptyset could suggest, it's going to be really amazing. Just try!
Artist: Luciano Maggiore & Francesco Brasini (@)
Title: How to Increase Light in the Ear
Format: CD
Label: Boring Machines (@)
Rated: *****
Both the title these Italian sonic surfers chose for their second release on Boring Machines and the tuning sounds of the very first minutes of the two very long untitled tracks they assembled to increase light in the ear could remind those "therapies" with electricity some psychiatrists experimented in order to heal some mental diseases, particularly in the first decades of last century, an association which could come to mind by means of the buzzing, which is quite similar to the one neon lamps emit in hospital's wards. Afterwards, you will notice that these guys manage to "fray" this kind of electric whiz by stretching frequencies, occasional sharpening noises and inserting tones in order to shape the initial sonic stream; while the first track sounds focused on the insertion of mechanical cracks in the foggy, but somewhat bating flow, the second track looks like an eruptive process, based on the camouflage of an obsessive click/clock with three different covers of microtonal frequencies before the underlying loud bass tone, which sounded like a distant rumble, boisterously floods in the headphones. Even if this collaboration by electronic pioneer Luciano Maggiore - member of Phonorama, an improvisation ensemble with a turn out of some of the most talented Italian electronic musicians, one of the founders of the secret venue "Sant'Andrea degli amplificatori", whose sonic research's mainly oriented to the use of magnetic tapes, electrical devices, saturation levels through speakers and sound-data - and Francesco Brasini - hyperactive guitarist and sound researcher, who is hooked on self-building of prototypes of guitars, basses, analog effects and valve-amplifiers - has been introduced as a duo, it is clear that the amalgamation of their flows by Mattia Dallara on the mixing board is so essential that he could be considered the third element. Such a release could sound not properly an easy listening one for all those people who are not accustomed to the so-called post-serial avantgarde style, but I'm pretty sure the experience this duo/trio is offering might bring them many delightful moments and neuronal pleasure as well.
Artist: Vatican Shadow
Title: Jordanian Descent
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Hospital Productions (@)
Distributor: Midheaven
Rated: *****
It seems like Dominick Fernow, aka Vatican Shadow, also known as Prurient, may be intent on becoming the next Muslimgauze. Since its inception in 2010, Vatican Shadow have spewed out 4 Albums, 2 EPs, and 11 assorted cassettes, downloads, and ephemera. The subject matter has been grindy, mesmerizing post-industrial techno, slathered in Gulf War propaganda and middle-eastern mysticism. Like muslimgauze, the material is largely rhythmic, trancey and repetitious in nature, luring you into a theta-state lull of grimey opium dreams. On 'Jordanian Descent,' one of 3 EPs offered up as digital downloads by Hospital Productions, seemingly to whet appetites for the forthcoming 'Ornamental Walls' LP coming out on Modern Love, later this month.

The question with Vatican Shadow is "do you like repetitious grinding, lulling techno?' If the answer is yes to this question, then you will undoubtedly love 'Jordanian Descents' 20-minute mantras. Both tracks kick and boom with a hypnotic low-end, characteristically warm and sanguine with Fernow's loving cassette-tape treatment. Vatican Shadow tend to play with a set-up of multiple tape decks, and assorted sound machines, synths and drum machines presumably. Songs tend to go on as long as the tape lasts, and Fernow gives the masses a sneak peak into the noise underground where he grew sharp and dangerous. With Prurient, he vomitted out twelve years of harsh-noise catharsis, but grew bored with the stale, predictable moves. He became more tuneful still playing synth with coldwave misanthropes Cold Cave, and developed an endless techno habit during constant touring.

'Jordanian Descent' seeks to hypnotize, endless crunchy beats with evolving layers of incoming soundscapes and sub-rhythms, clicking in like glass clockwork. They go on long enough, they can really pull you in and put you in a serious trance. Its like watching oily water, lightly rippling - through the layer of grit and scum, subtle ecosystems emerge. If you stare into the dark waters of 'Jordanian Descent' often enough, perhaps you might notice the care and craft with which it was preserved and brought to you? Originally released as a cassette, before becoming digitized, everything was lovingly analog and homespun. With Vatican Shadow's ubiquitous Gulf War graphic design, featuring Heroes of the Gulf War playing cards, it seems like Dominick Fernow is driving at a point, hacking out his slice of the world. After over a decade in the underground, making music and running his label/store Hospital Productions, we look to people like Dominick Fernow to see which way the ship is sailing.

The thing is, being surrounded by the BitStream, we must all pick and choose with allies we shall take on, which aesthetic we shall wear. Time is our commodity, and we don't have time for everything. With people like Dominick Fernow, they are unrelenting in their vision. They're doing their thing, and inviting you to partake. Delving into his catalog, current and past, can lead you to gloomy realms of inspired otherworldly darkness and joy, people like Regis and the Downwards Records crew or the aforementioned Muslimgauze. Beat junkies with camouflage and leather jackets - they drink from the same virulent well poisoned by William S. Burroughs and Throbbing Gristle. Smart punks with good taste, but often times unfriendly or socially awkward.

The two tracks of 'Jordanian Descent' draw you in, and keep you there. 'Jordanian Descent (Sharia Law)' is 20:06 and 'Jordanian Descent (Guantanamo Military Commission)' is 15:13. Both feature a consistent beat throughout, with other loops, rhythmic and melodic, shifting in and out, oftentimes imperceptibly. Each side is about long enough to walk to the store, or ride to work, and i highly recommend giving this a spin during yr commute. It can block out urban grit, and put you in a really sensual lull for the task that lay ahead. I can't wait to hear the other two singles, as well as the new full length. I am getting intrigued by this man and his actions. You should pay attention.

Needle Factory: Goetia

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Oct 10 2012
Artist: Needle Factory (@)
Title: Goetia
Format: CD
Label: Unrepresented Music (@)
Rated: *****
After their 6-track debut release 'Jubilee' through D-Trash Records earlier this year, Manchester-based Electro/Industrial-duo Needle Factory returns with this all new 10-track album. Established by Freddy Morgendorffer and Johna Curtis in late 2011, this duo has caused some attraction through some intense live performances, so that the British Independent label Unrepresented Music couldn't resist to offer them a deal. 'Goetia' is the result of this collaboration and it is without any exaggeration a colorful, musically diverse sounding exploration between genre boundaries. This duo integrates Post-Punk Industrial influences of the old icons of Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire to their up-to-date sound-adaptation by blending between styles like EBM, Witchhouse, and TBM/IDM. The opening track 'Blind' with its distorted, lo-fi synth-arrangement is a good example, how they are capable to unite the rawness of Noise with calm, cold-melodic synthesizer-drops. Fx-manipulation on female vocals has become a stylistically hype at latest with Erica Dunham / Unter Null and Needle Factory are swimming often on this wave, as this track proves too. 'Die For Joy' and their pre-released, freely available teaser track 'Needles, Pins & Razor Blades' are standing for solid, club-oriented food, which will surely impress the dancefloor-junkies. The musically more striking tracks are starting with 'Drug Laws', as this track offers surprisingly a typical old-school EBM-like bassline programming. Their sense for calm melodies returns with a vengeance on 'Kiss The Blade', a ballad-esque, ominous, but beautiful sounding Dark Electro pearl. If it seriously needed any proof that Johna's voice sounds more effective without multiple fx-manipulations, you've found it herewith. Also 'Innocence' sounds really 'innocent' and rather inspired by melodic Electropop styles instead to evoke the noisy ingredients. 'The Falling' deserves a mention too with its crafty and attractive bassline programming. The title track, an eerie Downtempo-influenced tune with raw, experimental-minded drum patterns concludes this refreshing album. Needle Factory for sure haven't invented an own, authentic sound-style, but their attitude and their courage to break with conventions deserves respect. It at least results in a quite good and diverse sounding Electronica-album, which deserves support and attention. Good work, keep it on!

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