Xiphoid Dementia is the noise/power electronic project of Egan Budd from Boston who has been at this since 1999, and 'Secular Hymns' is approximately his tenth or so release. Apparently Malignant Records found it interesting enough to release on their label. Never heard any of his stuff before, so once again, another 'blind' review. 'Secular Hymns' begins with the 14 minute 40 second 'Abortion Rites' which seems to have little to do with abortions. It is more akin to being strapped to the outside of a rocket and launched into space. It starts with a tiny laser pinpoint of noise that grows and swells from multi-timbral noise drone, goes through some power electronics changes where you encounter a bawling electronic monster (courtesy of lots of distorted vocal processing) hell-bent on the destruction of, well'¦everything in the audio spectrum. Played loud this is sure to shred your speakers, or under headphones, your eardrums.
'My Time Will Never Come' begins with a clicking-ticking and electronic drone, ratcheting, then some dumpster drums and maybe sawing through same dumpster. A chiming clock emerges briefly, ceases, then returns later. Very industrial. Midway the loops stop and there is some metalish banging around, then the rhythm of a single church bell begins. Playing off this slow rhythm a buzzy synth bass plays a dirgy melody. Other higher frequency synths melodically embellish this funerary march taking it out to the end. Kind of crude, but quite unexpected in the context of industrial noise/power electronics. 'What You Believe' begins kind of low key with industrial machinery in a factory environment with various types of industrial noise and drones, and eventually electronics. It takes a while to build up steam and get into the big noise and electronic squalls, but rest assured, they do come. A buzzy electronic sample and hold loop becomes the backdrop for crushing explosive sounds, and eventually higher frequency electronic sounds enter the mix. A sampled voice rant (only barley intelligible) enters the mix (something about a mental patient complaining to his doctor about whippings and medication) and this goes on for a while. The track culminates in a barrage of noise until the end.
'Breathe' may be the spookiest track on the album, with the sound of breathing and ominous low-key punctuations of bass electronics, eventually giving way to a rising tone-drone that keenly slices through the gloomy ambience. Further down the line a slow and steady percussive pounding and snippets of echoed electronics and noises inject infernal aural madness into the mix becoming more prevalent and less incidental until it all dies away in a single tone.
No doubt 'Secular Hymns' is a multi-faceted noise/power electronics album with a good amount of diversity and quite a lot put into it. It may not sit well with noise purists, but who cares? I found it interesting enough, though not all quite to my liking as power noise isn't really my thing. There are sections I would have like to have heard expanded (the beginning of 'What You Believe' for one) and other sections I could have done without (the sampled complaining mental patient) but you can't always get what you want. I should make mention of the bizarre artwork on this 6-panel digipak which I won't even try to describe; it's just really, really weird. If you're tired of the same-old same-old in the harsh noise genre, give Xiphoid Dementia a shot.