Music Reviews

Artist: The Truth About Frank (@)
Title: Murder Sleep
Format: CD EP
Label: LYF
Distributor: Norman
After their previous sonic issues (sometimes close to lo-fi techno and electronic razor-shaped industrial'¦you could imagine something amidst Negativland, Psychic TV and acid techno era strips), the mysterious duo hailing from east boroughs of Leeds ' one of the English city's baking some interesting experimental projects -, known as The Truth About Frank, reaches his 4th 4-tracks Ep just before announcing (finally!!!) their first full-length, acting as a confirmation of their skills in forging strange sonic creatures, which could be perceived as playful and disquieting, elegant and aggressive at the same time throughout rapid passages (or I'd better call them interpenetration of )from hollow even if agonizing dreams to sinister scary nightmares. These brainy guys don't use sounds to excess, but they wisely treat them in that hallucinogenic way able to pierce listener's search of strong audible emotions, stimulating thoughts without any recurrence to Gothicism or industrialism injections. Artworks ' there's one for each track, partially reminding those provocative collages of some cyber-punk graphic designer, rich in fluorescent outlines and psychedelic mosaics- seem to play almost as a caption for tracks and the above-mentioned contrast between peaceful and disquieting elements resurface mostly in the last one, Welcome, in which The Truth About Frank loops a low-pitched voice morbidly repeating 'Welcome to My World' on a flat slow-changing half-melody. You could easily grab the implicit irony and the keenness behind a track like that! Maybe this Ep will not murder your sleep, but it surely could unsettle it! I'm curious to listen TTAF forthcoming album after listening to this taste of their enjoyable quibbles!

Anatoly Pereslegin: Xenophobia

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
 Edit (5813)
Jun 13 2010
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.

Artist: Tonal Y Nagual
Title: La Sierra Mecanica
Format: CD
Label: Confusibombus/UMB (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
Departing from the unseen desert ' the title of their very first debut in 2007 - with the bare necessities and a musical rescue kit lovely prepared inside UMF (acronym of United Manipulation Broadcasting, the industrial label managed by Daniel Hoffmann aka Dan Courtman) as well as from the shamanic teachings by Carlos Castaneda as Sandro Salaris aka Giueseppe Tonal and Timm Rambuscheck aka Tikki Nagual mediated their aliases from the vision by Don Juan, partially reflecting the anatomic detachment of human brain between rational and irrational emisphere, these interesting creative minds slightly alter their musical course: from the primordial neo-folk experiments of their previous releases Tonal Y Nagual ' I warmly recommend to listen The Hidden Oasis, licendes by Thonar Records two years ago -, luckily inspired by wicked spirits met in the above-mentioned desert as well as by some intelligent pop acts and industrial rock legends , moved towards a style which is not so easy to describe, as ingredients borrowed from dirtiest blues, hypnotic rhythms, medieval, shamanic hymns as well as from the repertoires by different bands and projects such as Cabaret Voltaire and Interpol have been overcooked in the same cauldron! The final result, even if somewhat paradoxical for the intertwining of a certain lo-fi feel and a modernist appeal and technical tricks which comply with contemporary music lovers' wishes, is really enjoyable.

Maybe in order to suggest the idea of continuity between their past releases and this new work, TyN wittingly introduce their journey throughout La Sierra Mecanica with an ideal outro for their last album and The Hidden Oasis potentially summarize the style of the same-titled record, including the conceptual starting point for their further explorations, impressed on listener's mind through the 'racist' fake statement according to which 'Whiteman got no riddim', title of the second track in which these guys begin contaminating their sound with electro-pop poisons and a pulsating blues vein. The following Another, the most relevant crossbread between their usual bizarre folk and Interpol, is worthy of praise as it definitively debunk any possibility to say La Sierra Mecanica could act as the typical album to throw away the past. Their bastardized sense of humor resurfaces in Honey, an eccentric debris of lyrics standing as the silliest and strategic declaration in order to survive in the mechanical Sierra, cranky dance beating and a disorientating melancholic touch, and the following Mister Cranky Tree, whose harsh computerized beats, violent scratchy sound, wispy guitars and cheeky cut melody perfectly fits to the portrait of 'the monster in the universe' the lyrics refer to.

Lux Cypher and Grave are maybe the most touching episodes of the whole record, being the first based on guessed lyrics playing on the contrast between the apparent lightness of a feather and its catching request to release its burden (whimsical!!!) and travelling on a musical locomotive, snorting mechanical rhythms close to electro-house experiments by Joakim ' concentrate on details, including the stifled mocking laughter in the beginning of the track - , and the second a sort of self-portait by Genevieve Pasquier, whose gothic groaning has been wonderfully translated into a velvety music language, totally muddled by the disdainful Get Out OF Our Way, by Tonal Y Nagual! The Loneliest Place commutes the folk song into a structure which reminds to me that kid of circular rhythms superbly explored by Allerseelen, while the disembodied glam rock of Dirty Maiden could evoke the most irreverent side of Nina Hagen. Machines go angrier and angrier on Tribes Of The Night, a violent jolt of industrial punk ' I personally like the way TyN modulates the voice when shouting 'It's oveeeeeer!'-, and after the scornful and messy parenthesis of Der Bergkonig ' how terrificly mechanical that flying bumble bee appears here! -, the process of assimilation to biomechanical forms seems completed on the stomping Cog In The Machine, a morbid technoid/EBMish mutant close to the most furious and provocative language by Thrussell's Black Lung and Front Line Assembly as well. The album closes with the intriguing and illuminating reading of The Real Outro about the crisis human being's experiencing nowadayas, even if it closes with two nice winks to frenziest dancers, the wild 'telektronicpronky' remix of Proud To Be by Die Perlen ' old codgers will rejuvenate after listening! ' and the grazed version of Cog In The Machine by Zero Degree, wisely re-entitled Kaputt Maschine!!! Will TyN a new way of composing or a sort of alien language in the industrial scene? In my modest opinion, they presented all credentials by delivering this album!!! Have a listen!
May 29 2010
Artist: Deuterror (@)
Title: Le Gueuele De Guerre
Format: CD
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Distributor: Steelwork Maschine
Rated: *****
'Le Gueuele De Guerre' is Deuterror's third release and the very first available on cd. On this disc Nicolas Crombez, Deuterror's sole member, stays true to form to his previous offerings; mixing dark, ambient imagery with more beautiful, contrasting moments. 'Le Gueuele De Guerre' however, is most certainly the darkest, most epic and high quality release to date. It contains nine tracks, each untitled and the disc itself is enhanced with a very classy flash player from which you can choose to view all of the images contained within the physical digipack and its booklet, as well as several others, all with HD resolution versions available on the disc. Also available on the player is an info page and a short computer animated movie of a medieval hillside which expels a massive ball of fire into the heavens, an image which hints to the music therein.

The album is an incredible marriage of darkness with a hint of light, of madness with just a breath of sanity. It starts off with the buzzing of flies, over the sounds of nature just before the harsh drone of distorted synth overtakes all. It is a mass of ambience and dark, hopeless noise throughout the track, until just as the last few seconds drain from the counter, a hint of melody is introduced before it vanishes into thin air. Probably about the first half of the disc follows a very similar basic structure of ambience and sparse synths followed by the bulk of the song (usually harsh noise or synth with moments of serenity interspersed), ending with the introduction of melody just at the very ends of the songs. The latter half tends to break free of this and become a bit more experimental and unpredictable and amazing. The blend of ambience and soundscapes with distortion and synths, desperate percussion, samples and moments of baroque, neo-classical resolve work just perfectly together. Throughout the cd Nicolas finds ways to meld harsh walls of noise with pseudo-musical ideas to create something very unique and terrifying which builds up against the ambience and actual musical pieces contained in a majority of the tracks in a way that defies description. This is one you should certainly give a try, in the dark, late at night, when you're all alone, waiting for the end of the world.
Artist: Westwind (@)
Title: Ravage
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Distributor: Steelwork Maschine
Rated: *****
Westwind's 7th effort, the double disc set of 'Ravage' released earlier this year on Steelwork Maschine, is a monumentally epic narrative of the apocalypse that will leave you wanting more of its devastation when it's over. At which point you may want to look into its limited edition companion EP entitled 'Eliminate! Exterminate! Eradicate!' (and this reviewer plans on doing exactly that).

'Ravage' is immersed in meanings much too deep to justly delve into here; but as the title of disc 1 suggests, 'Doomsday Songs' provides the soundtrack for a not only decaying, but dying earth. Evolving from sinister, pulsating synth drones layered in samples to viral carnivallian dirges to pseudo-theremin laden marches to droning feedback and noise to almost channeling 'Fragile' era NIN laced with Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, this disc doesn't flow perfectly smooth, but then again, when Yawm Al-Qiyamah comes, I doubt that it will come smoothly, or with such a great soundtrack.

Disc 2, 'Requiems for Collapsing Cities' is rich with funeral marches, dirges and the aforementioned requiems. Pounding, martial law inspired percussion, drones and the ever throbbing basslines lay the groundwork for scattered guitars, synths, religious sampling and a variety of ethnic instrumentation which come together to pay homage to the remains of a once thriving earth. The overall tone of this disc is much more dark, brooding and hopeless than the first, and comes together with a bit more of a seamless flow. The tension gradually and continuously builds throughout the disc, making the listener almost feel the impending doom slowly overcome.

'Ravage' seems to very loosely follow a storyline, but more so pulls together many obscure references to apocalypse from a plethora of different religions and viewpoints as inspiration for this epic. These two discs, the first being a bit more experimental, the second being a bit more structured and dark, combine so many bits and pieces of different genres and styles that it nearly defies categorization, but I think it a safe bet to say that all of its elements congregate under the umbrella of martial industrial, with its tales of death, destruction, plague, etc and the musical groundwork to make you feel that the end of days may truly be upon us.

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