Music Reviews



Kryptogen Rundfunk: Liquid Circuits

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jan 15 2017
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Artist: Kryptogen Rundfunk (@)
Title: Liquid Circuits
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Active since 2004, Russian ambient/soundscape artist Kryptogen Rundfunk (M.M., aka Artyom Ostapchuk) is also the head of the Zhelezobeton label, a label that's had some very cool new music on it in my estimation. I'm very glad they keep sending me stuff. Kryptogen Rundfunk is a great name by the way, sounding like a character from a cyberpunk novel. This is KR's second solo album in 12 years, the first being '22.SZ' in 2004. In the interim, KR has been active doing splits and collaborations with artists such as Lunar Abyss Deus Organum, Sister Loolomie, Bardoseneticcube, Neznamo, Hladna, Forgttn, Umpio, and others. My most recent encounter with Kryptogen Rundfunk was on the 'Now It's Dark:David Lynch Tribute' with one of the better tracks on that comp. Here, KR employs analogue synths, effects processors, found sounds, samples and multiple kinds of radio noise. This is a very active kind of ambient over the seven tracks on 'Liquid Circuits,' and may fall more into the experimental-industrial than strictly ambient. Although the opener, "Subaudition Coils" is kind of a calm Blade Runner type of ambient, the followup, "Iridescence" eases you into a busier electronic environment. With repetition in loops, the firing of alien sci-fi oscillators and various types of noise (used to good effect I might add), you absolutely get the impression of some type of futuristic industry. In comparison, "Pyramidoid" seems minimal with its pervasive buzzing drone. M.M. really seems to have mastered the creative use of LFos as they are an integral part of his soundscapes. As you go deeper and deeper into 'Liquid Circuits' the atmospheres become more dense and intense, and also somewhat noisy. Twisting oscillators snaking through some of the most noise-tastic environments I've heard with garbled radio transmissions sounding completely extraterrestrial. Yet there is a terrestrial grounding in this; an undeniable familiarity. At times chaotic, but even the chaos is ordered. By the time you get to the seething conclusion on "We Forget," the firmament has boiled over and coalesced into something completely different. And thus, you should feel somewhat changed by the experience. If they ever decided to remake Godard's "Alphaville" or "Forbidden Planet," I'd recommend Kryptogen Rundfunk for the soundtrack. Masterfully mastered by Kshatriy, and limited to 333 copies.

Marc Kate: 00

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Dec 29 2016
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Artist: Marc Kate (@)
Title: 00
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Unless you are from the San Francisco Bay Area you have probably never heard of Marc Kate. In his career as an artist/musician he has actually done quite a bit though. Originally trained as a filmmaker/visual artist, Kate applies cinematic and conceptual approaches to music and audio production. Among his accomplishments he is the leader of the post-punk band Never Knows and has released solo material on the labels Computer Tapes, Jacktone, Looq, HNYTRX, Trip Show and Treehouse Muzique, and his own imprints - Untitled & After, and Failing Forms. He has collaborated with dark cabaret artist Visantos and pop singer Tim Carr, composed soundtracks for choreographers Monique Jenkinson and Keith Hennessy (Circo Zero), and contributed to the soundtrack of cult horror film 'All About Evil.' He's launched a couple of podcasts (Why We Listen, and Scary Thoughts: Horror Philosophy and Culture), and even more than that. But let's get to the present release '00', an excursion into the world of dark ambient and power ambient.

Kate's description of the music on '00' takes the form of a sociopolitical statement. "I had hoped to create something that would simultaneously hammer against neoliberalism and cut an escape from the despair of its suffocating web. Seven short soundtracks for resistance. Seven songs lost in the confusion of what that resistance looks like." I can appreciate that, especially in music of this genre(s), where so much of it seems amorphous, and just of a general, dystopian, pessimistic nature, or yet another version of a Lovecraftian nightmare. '00' is the follow-up to 'Despairer,' an album in the same genre(s) released by Kate earlier this year. I have listened to some tracks from 'Despairer,' and in comparison '00' is a much angrier and oppressive listen. Where there was a certain amount of subtlety on 'Despairer' (not that there weren't sections that had walls of noise built on distortion and feedback) it has taken a back seat to a more aggressive and hostile environment. Most evident is that 'Despairer' is devoid of any percussion and drums. '00' opens on 'THEY" with the slow, methodical thudding of heavy drums. The music is colder and more sinister. The beast has woken and will not go gently into that good night. Even when passages are sonically minimal there is a pervasive aura of dread and foreboding. One of my favorite track on the album - "Coalition against Death" is pure tribal black metal. It could have gone on twice as long and built to an earsplitting climax and I would have been even happier. Final track on the album "We Weren't Designed to Live Like This" sums up the sentiments in the heaviest march of doom I've heard in a long time.

This is not the kind of ambient you can put on as background music. This is more than just the abyss staring back at you; this is the abyss enfolding and consuming you. And for that...you'll have to take notice.

Himukalt: Conditions of Acrimony

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Dec 27 2016
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Artist: Himukalt
Title: Conditions of Acrimony
Format: Tape
Label: Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
Himukalt is the work of Nevada-based artist Ester KÄrkkÄinen, who also does interesting visual work with Xerox machines. With a title like “Conditions of Acrimony,” it sounds like we’re in for a whole lot of love songs. Or not. The label describes this as “exhaustive, claustrophobic, and cryptic, these lacerated (de)compositions address collapsed psychological states that dislocate the body, the self, and the spirit into horror, fear, doubt, hostility. Such have marked the acme for the most virulent strains of power electronics and industrial decay (e.g. Puce Mary, Anenzephalia, Maurizio Bianchi, Maria Zerfall, etc.).” Let’s see if it lives up to the hype. We open up with pulsating noise and extremely distorted voice. Indeed, you could put this in the same ballpark as Genocide Organ, with its heavy static and overdriven bass. Next up, we have staccato voice snippets with pounding percussion and grinding noise. Himukalt definitely comes from the slow-moving school of power electronics and there is a good mix of high pitched whine and low bass rumble. “Without Laughter” closes out the side with a much more subdued track. This is like listening to a noise concert from outside the venue with short moments of louder sound. The overall feel is that of standing outside a power plant, with a menacing hum alerting you to the dangers inside as a helicopter circles around and over you repeatedly, closer and closer each time. This builds in intensity until you think that it is going to completely turn loose. But as quickly as it arrives, it is gone, with only the sounds of distant voices as evidence that it was even there. If I had to describe this track in one word, I would be “tension.” Seriously, not a lot of artists know how to pull this off, and this track alone is worth the price of admission. Flipping the tape over, we get pulsing drone with what sounds like a processed impact wrench sample. This gives way to ominous drone with digital tones and line hum just beneath the surface. All of this is punctuated by very short noise bursts until it becomes noisier over time. This is a nice balance of atmosphere and noise. Next up, we have rumbling bass with a man repeatedly saying “who cares? And other less intelligible things over a boiling analogue stew. The tape closes with the plea, “Please don’t call for an ambulance.” If you like noise and power electronics, this is definitely one to pick up. Bonus props for not taking the easy way out. With a title like Conditions of Acrimony, one might expect the standard violent imagery that has become almost cliché in power electronics circles, but this tape manages to portray a sense of ominousness that is more Amanita Phalloides mushroom and less serial killer. Well done. This tape is limited to 100 copies.

Merzbow / Raven / Dao De Noize: Animal Liberation

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Dec 27 2016
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Artist: Merzbow / Raven / Dao De Noize (@)
Title: Animal Liberation
Format: CD
Label: 4iB Records (@)
Rated: *****
I was quite familiar with Merzbow’s work, but Raven and Dao De Noize were new to me. The press sheet describes the first two tracks of harsh noise (if the inclusion of Merzbow hadn’t clued you in yet) as “complex with a high level of hypnotic and sonic energy. The message of what these artists stand for are uniquely expressed by heavy layers of organic sounds, high frequency screeches and low level drones that almost sound like animal screams and grunts in the abattoir.” Hmmmm…. if I had not read the press sheet and just heard these tracks absent the album title, I would never have known. Even the track titles do not really give us a clue. After all, “Unjustified Murder” could just as easily be a Slogun song (or any other power electronics artist, for that matter). And yeah, before you ask, I get noise. I’m a noise musician too and have been listening to this stuff for 20 years. So let’s get into it. Merzbow opens up with “Granulation 221,” a track that features a drum machine run amok and a cacophony of other noises. This is the harsh noise wall that Merzbow is known for, but I have to admit that it gets a bit dull in the middle. At around 14 minutes in it gets a pounding beat that breaks it up for a bit and from this point on becomes more engaging with shifting waves of sound. Next up, we have Raven, the work of Serbian artist Djordje Miladinovic. “Unjustified Murder” is a 10 minute slab of noise that is much more engaging than the previous track, but no less ear cleansing. Nicely done, with a good balance of high pitched white noise and low frequency rumbles. Finally, we have Ukrainian artist Artem Pismenetskii, who records under the name Dao De Noize. This is a departure from the harsh noise wall of the previous two tracks; the press sheet describes it thus: “The tranquil hums overlapped by murmuring soundscapes with the background beating of hearts and animal bellows, bleats and cackles complement and complete the album.” For once, the press sheet is pretty accurate. The composition actually evokes the title of “Slaughterhouse Diary,” with the coldness of machinery drowning out the high pitched wails. The ending heartbeat-like thuds at the end was a nice touch. Of the three tracks, this is the standout of the album. This disc is limited to 200 copies and weighs in at around 50 minutes.

Uncodified / Wertham: Vindicta II

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Oct 16 2016
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Artist: Uncodified / Wertham (@)
Title: Vindicta II
Format: CD
Label: Old Europa Cafe (@)
Rated: *****
Four years ago, the brilliant noise sculptor Corrado Altieri (Uncodified, Chandor Chasma) and Marco Deplano (Wertham, Caligula031, Foresta di Ferro) started "Vindicta", an announced trilogy focusing on the somehow exciting and extremely ferocious history (and codes) of Sardinian criminality (the so-called Anonima Sarda, even if it was not a properly organised band of criminals) by means of an impressive hybridization of corrosive power electronics and industrial into audio files from archives, which documented this obscure side of the sunny Tyrrhenian isle, which keeps on being pretty unknown to the masses. Codes...according to unwritten ones (consisting of 23 main rules according to an essayist, who studied its history), "Vindicta" (meaning "vengeance") is a sort of right that a family or a clan could use a series of "offensive" behaviour (ranging from a banal insult to libel, defamation, homicide or more commonly rustling). The second chapter of this collaborative process seems to focus on a particular aspect of this phenomenon, the imprisonment or the confinement of bandits and their legendary escapes (one of the most famous bandits, Matteo Boe, the so-called "icy-eyed bandit", managed to be the first one to escape from the top-security prison in the island of Asinara), but translates other aspects into sound or I'd rather say by means of really acute and ear-drilling noise (an emulation of the typical way that bandits used to intimidate the family of the people they kidnapped to ask huge ransoms, the cutting of ear parts that were mailed to parents?). The concept of justice, openly opposed the one of the bourgeois one, got translated into abrasive noise in the track "Justitia (Justice)" and its extremely brutal declension got transplanted in the harsh tunes of "Veridade (Truth)" or the wild idea of life and social codes inspires the ferocious pulsations of "Comente sirbonisi, comente margianisi (Like boars, like foxes)". Besides the use of samples, all tracks got extensively explained and described in the attached booklet of the release. Corrado/Uncodified and Marco/Wertham wisely intersected superb noise-shaping and social and historical themes, where human instincts and wildest (and sometimes hidden) side of human nature got somehow mirrored by likewise sharp frequencies.


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