Music Reviews

Zinc Room: Window of Erich Zann

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 21 2016
Artist: Zinc Room (@)
Title: Window of Erich Zann
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Zinc Room is a collaboration between Alexander "I" (Prognostic Zero, and label-head of Evil Dead Productions) from Ekaterinburg, Russia, and Kein (Sol Mortuus, Church of Howling Dog, ex-Thy Repentence, etc.), and this album, 'Window of Erich Zann' symbolically marks the past 10-year anniversary of the project's activity, containing containing several re-worked compositions from Zinc Room's 2004 debut, 'Cold Corridors of Fear'. My only acquaintance with Zinc Room comes from the review I did not too long ago of Sol Mortuus's 'Extinction,' a whole different animal than this work. While Sol Mortuus is along the lines of electro-acoustic ambient, Zinc Room is harsh noise dark ambient with black metal leanings. Quite a difference, eh? So if you're not up for that, you'd better move on, because no mercy will be shown for the casual listener.

Before we get into the music, we should consider the title - 'Window of Erich Zann,' which is based on a 1922 short story written by H. P. Lovecraft titled "The Music of Erich Zann". In it, a poor university student seeks lodging in a creepy old apartment building with few tenants. One of them is a mute German violinist named Erich Zann. Over time the student gains Zann's trust and discovers the old violinist has discovered melodies and rhythms of sound of an almost otherworldly nature. Zann plays these sounds to keep back unknown and unseen creatures from Zann's window, which is said to look out into a black abyss. One night, Zann's music reaches a crescendo, and the student, staring out the window in hopes of seeing the normal world outside, instead stares into an infinite abyss. The window shatters, and an unnatural wind sweeps through the room, carrying away all of Zann's music notes into the darkness, despite the students attempts at catching them. Fleeing the house after he finds Zann seemingly dead despite his body still playing the violin, the student escapes not just the house but the neighborhood entirely.

Now you may have a better idea of what you might encounter on this album, but you're still going to need a guide, and that's where I come in. Beginning with the title track, "Window of Erich Zann," a foreboding and low drone heralds some manic cello by Kein, along with a cacophony of of metallic noises set to stun on a variety of frequencies. Noise enthusiasts are going to love this novel opening. "Cold Corridors of Fear" (presumably one of the re-worked tracks from Zinc Room's debut) has heavy cello drone with repeatedly struck cymballish noise which eventually fades while thick drones emerge, both low amnd mid-range. More repeated, echoed noise strikes begin again, and after some rumbling, it fades out on a ring-modulated spacey synthetic drone. "Dust of J. Curwen" uses distorted noisy percussive bashing and roaring bass guitar for its rhythm over which unintelligible and nasty back metal vocals shout something ineffable while feedback squeals emerge now and then. "In the Night Beyond the Wall of Sleep" is a phantasmagoria of noise, drone and misery that will test your sanity. "V-29. The Temple" is a tumultuous storm of rumbling noises with some repeating bird-like higher pitched sounds interspersed. It eventually fades into low drone and creepy organ towards the end. "The Rats in the Walls" (title taken from another Lovecraft short story) is more black metal, driven by cello drone here. The heavy, bombastic distorted cello is not to be missed!

The titles of the last two regular tracks, "The Dreams in the Witch House" and "Landscape. At the Mountains of Madness" are also taken from Lovecraft stories. For the former, I really need to quote Lovecraft -

"His ears were growing sensitive to a preternatural and intolerable degree, and he had long ago stopped the cheap mantel clock whose ticking had come to seem like a thunder of artillery. At night the subtle stirring of the black city outside, the sinister scurrying of rats in the wormy partitions, and the creaking of hidden timbers in the centuried house, were enough to give him a sense of strident pandemonium. The darkness always teemed with unexplained sound—and yet he sometimes shook with fear lest the noises he heard should subside and allow him to hear certain other, fainter, noises which he suspected were lurking behind them."

The music is sort of like that, but maybe amplified a hundred times. As for "At the Mountains of Madness," a Lovecraft tale that has always chilled me to the bone, the repetitive rhythmic clanging, the wall of drone and feedback, and other dire elements all seem calculated to drive the listener insane.

There are two bonus tracks: "Grave Abyss," a sonorous dirgy bombastic track flecked with metallic noise, and "The Evil Clergyman," with distorted intense metallic rhythm over sinister black metal dark melody. It is relentless and unforgiving. Definitely not for the meek. Yes, this is an album for harsh noise aficionados and fringe black metal enthusiasts. All others beware. Lovecraft wrote a short story titled, "The Colour Out of Space"; perhaps Zinc Room, if they want to continue along these lines might do an album titled "The Colour Out of Noise", and yes, noise does come in different colors.

K.K. Null X Dao De Noize: Mizuchi Creation

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jul 31 2016
Artist: K.K. Null X Dao De Noize (@)
Title: Mizuchi Creation
Format: CD
Label: 4iB Records (@)
Rated: *****
K.K. Null needs little introduction to readers of Chain D.L.K. I was less familiar with Ukrainian artist Dao De Noize. The title references a Japanese water deity that resembles a serpent. To that end, the label describes this album thus: “Just like the impending ferocity of the serpent gliding through expanse of calm water, the album effectively maintains its sonic equilibrium of noise and soundscape through the complex balance of structured pulses, rhythmic noise, drones and hisses with the serene ambiance of nature, mythology and life.” We know that this is going to be a noisy ride, so let’s get into it. This is one long track, but it is supposed to be broken up into two tracks. The first 20 minute section is noisy and hypnotic, with plenty of static to tie it all together. It’s pleasant and relaxing for those of us who enjoy noise. Then the track shifts with piercing, high pitched tones and, oddly enough, bird songs. After several minutes, we have waves of drone, warbling tones, and static. Just after the 40 minute mark, we have more high pitched tones and bird songs. This never really becomes wall of noise, but it is intense and well crafted. I am not much of a fan of high pitched noise, so some of it was not really my cup of tea, but your mileage may vary. This album weighs in at around 47 minutes and is limited to 200 copies.
Jul 27 2016
Artist: Simon Balestrazzi
Title: Asymmetric Warfare
Format: CD
Label: Azoth
Rated: *****
Some months ago, the inventive Italian producer Simon Balestrazzi (most of our readers should know he was the mind behind the electronic curtains of T.A.C. and more recently in the likewise exciting projects Candor Chasma and Dream Weapon Ritual) decided to pour his visionary and genuinely cinematic approach to electronic composition into a personal label, Azoth, and the first ring of this hopefully long chain of releases was this astonishing release that displays his strong focus on cultural, political and social themes. This output is a sonic rendering of the somehow thoughts and worries of the whole worldwide community, which are gradually turning into a sort of perpetual state of mind for many people and are deeply marking this somehow unencryptable phase of human history. The title is also the conceptual framework of Simon's release: "Asymmetric Warfare" - defined in the inlay as that "warfare in which opposing groups or nations have unequal military resources, and the weaker opponent uses unconventional weapons and tactics, as terrorism, to exploit the vulnerabilities of the enemy" - is an interesting interbreeding, where what gradually became a sort of existential dimension, fed by media and the obscure threatening shadow of Daesh/Isis, whose origin are so obscure that attentive people and analysts have more than one doubt regarding the typically rendered iconography of the people behind it, intersected the unconventional sonic weapons in Simon's lab. The intersection of a series of audio recordings related to Middle East conflicts he grabbed from the web and the sounds and sometimes disturbing noises he created an impressive set of effects, mics, synths and objects (including EHX ring modulator, crystal earpieces, a Doepfer analog synthesizer, piezo pickups, contact mics, tapes, a vintage magnetophone microphone, mallets, bows, small electric motors and so on) built a set of abstract and concrete at the same time narrations, where disturbed broadcasting, noisy rogue agents, cryptic noises and subtly disquieting sonic collages. All these significant elements that seem to have been squeezed by the above-sketched elements of our age seem to flow into a dark pool of drones and magmatic fluid that could be considered as the indelible ink by which an obscure essayist is writing contemporary humanity's history.

B.YHZZ: Contra EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jul 14 2016
Artist: B.YHZZ
Title: Contra EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Infinite Machine (@)
With its car-locking beeps and door slam hits, I think there's a sense of fun lurking underneath the surface of lead track "HOL". Not that this isn't music that takes itself seriously, it's definitely earnest in its ambition to blend the deep recesses of dark gothic punk attitude and the pounding jackhammer beats of straight-up techno into one attention-grabbing, conversation-shattering attack. It's bold, in a way very simple, and pretty effective. Structurally, it's ideal for just one thing- playing on headphones after you've had a really crap day. I can't see how it would creep out to a public audience, but as a private catharsis, it's got strength.

The other tracks "AGES" and "REDU" are mild by comparison- experimental noise workouts that you might have heard from French avantgarde musique concrete pioneers if they'd been born as millennials and brought up on a rich techno diet. It's artful, and it's danceable in an awkward, "f*** you" way.

At twelve minutes, this is a succinct but rich EP that doesn't outstay its welcome. The promo blurb puts great stock in the "counter-cultural energy" that fuelled this release and while I wouldn't over-state the political credentials, it's a fine bit of extremely dark beatwork.

DMT: Ultimatum

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jun 27 2016
Artist: DMT
Title: Ultimatum
Format: CD
Label: KultFront/Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
DMT's 'Ultimatum' is the second album in "Die Zeichen" series run by kultFRONT and ZHELEZOBETON labels. The first part was released in 2013 - Sal Solaris "Die Scherben 2004-2010". The new album is a tribute to Dmitriy Tolmatskiy who unexpectedly passed away in 2009. Dmitriy was one of the few journalists who popularized the alternative culture in Russia. In late 90's he created the web portal RWCDAX and his famous "Industrial Culture Extended FAQ" which unveiled previously unknown layers of post-industrial art for many Russians. The album mainly consists of compositions never officially released before, taken from CDRs which Dmitriy gave to his friends. There are also a few tracks from the compilations he had time to participate. The album provides a glimpse into various periods of DMT's sonic experiments from 1999 to 2008. It also features fragments of a live performance together with Alexei Borisov in St. Petersburg in December 2005.

As you might expect, this is a very mixed bag of compositions, and as such, cannot be expected to have much in the way of thematic, or musical unity. The first couple of tracks- "Funeral" and "Helter Skelter[Passage 1]" are very much industrial noise pieces, the first with a somewhat slow-paced drum track, the second with monstrous industrial percussion. (The latter is a fragment from a live performance at the Thalamus III festival from 2005 in St. Peterburg.) Both are very heavy on noise chaotics, but somehow there is still a degree of control. I initially listened to these tracks before knowing anything about the CD, and feared this was going to just be a juggernaut of constant noise. Fortunately, such was not the case. "Cambodia" is a bit more ambient, with moody industrial electronic background and and gnashing metallic sounds before some thick ominous chordal pads herald in a freight train of pounding percussion which soon passes. Eventually a less obstreporous industrial rhythm is settled on with menacing electronics over the top. "Waiting for the Rest" offers a kind of industrial ambience with a somewhat martial beat. "Think About It" has some echoed electronic sounds playing over an industrial beat, and the voice sample ("think about it") is repeated often. The next four tracks - "DA 8," "The Call," "Ultimatum," and "My God" are all previously unreleased. "DA 8" has a nice strong industrial rhythm component; "The Call" begins in a kind of orderly fashion with a rhythm track akin to a certain type of pressurized lawn sprinkler, and then is overtaken by hyperactive snare shooting off into oblivion. Title track "Ultimatum" sounds old-school all the way, from the programmed drums to the synths, and even the spoken-word lyrics (in Russian of course). "My God" struck me as a bit ridiculous with an ever more frantic voice babbling away in Russian over an increasingly noisy industrial music background. Disaster? Calamity? Probably, but perhaps not the kind the artist had in mind. "Helter Skelter [Passage II]" also from the Thalamus III festival begins with a sample of the chorus from the original Beatles song, but is soon drown in a miasma of electronics, noise and vocal moaning. "Are You Ready to Die" copiously samples Timothy Leary's dialogue with Ralph Metzner from his 'Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out' album over DMT's electronic psychedelic ambience. A bit rough, but still interesting. "Happines in Pride" is one of the earliest (1999) and also one of the weirdest tracks on this compilation. Its main component is an ascending LFO pitched noise sequence over early Scorn-like percussion. It's repeated nearly over the entire track, and has the effect of being deviously hallucinatory. "Main Stream" is a cacophony of radio voices(at first) and noises, then settles down to a minor roar of industrial and electronic drones and noise. "Lynch," appropriately dedicated to David Lynch is an unsettling but low-key piece of pulsing dark ambient electronica that's relatively easy to digest. "Desert Noise" is black industrial dark ambient reminscent of Lustmord. Final track, "Escape" is the calmest piece on the album, but in its own way, perhaps the eeriest. A nice way to end it.

As I said in the beginning, 'Ultimatum' is a mixed bag, but a good chunk of it will appeal to noise enthusiasts, while industrial and experimental electronica fans should also check it out. It's a shame that Dmitriy had to shuffle off this mortal coil. Who knows what DMT might have been capable of, but at least this as a kind of memento mori. Limited to 300 copies.

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