At the Heart of it All is a significant departure from where Dave Phillips began in Fear of God. That was a grindcore band back in the late ’80s, as raucous as one would expect. But his solo work on At the Heart of It All comes down from all of the aggression of the hardcore scene for a collage of found sounds out of the Amazon. The two 35 minute tracks on this release were collected by Phillips during his time near Chuallacocha, where he let his microphones record whatever sounds of the wildlife surrounded him. Simply organized and layered, At the Heart of It All features no manipulation of the various calls, and instead allows them to blend together for a cacophony of natural harmony. The disc comes with a short essay from Phillips on the transformative nature of this experience as well, explaining the reasoning behind the title.
The two tracks are split in two; “Dawn Until Dusk” gathers the sounds of the Amazon during the day, and “Dusk Until Dawn” collects them during the night. Both have familiar concepts – there’s an overwhelming amount of insect chirruping throughout both, and squawks from birds are fairly normal as well. In a way, these tend to form a wall of shrill cries throughout both tracks, allowing Phillips to layer calls of monkeys and frogs in the background to add variation.
At the Heart of It All switches off and on; the listener sometimes feels like they’re simply listening to a chorus of cries in the wild, and then all of the sudden Phillips collage will morph into an interesting loop of animal calls that form a rhythmic base. These moments are staggered throughout the album, and most likely not intentional; it is the audience who pulls the meaning out of insect sounds, and these are great experiences.
It’s certainly not a CD you’ll want to listen to all of the time; the found sound format, along with the relatively sparse editing, means that At the Heart of It All is best used as a relaxation soundtrack. Even so, I’d recommend “Dusk Until Dawn” over “Dawn Until Dusk” because the intensity of the insects becomes harsh over time. Still, if nature sounds are your thing, or if found sound interests you in any way, At the Heart of It All‘s composition is more than just heading to the zoo to listen to the animal buzz.
Isolator is a blackened noise project featuring The Nothing and The Sculptor; however, if those code names don’t give you any indication of their association with other noise projects, the duo features members of Set, Father Befouled, and Encoffination. From the gloomy packaging to the lyrics featured in the fold-out digipak, it’s pretty clear that Isolator are going to bring dirges of black drone to the listener, and that’s exactly what they deliver.
However, it’s not as cut-and-dry as it may seem. Though the liner notes indicate there will be a lot of vocals, there really aren’t as many as expected. Or at least, they’re not delivered in the expected manner – whispers and growls are the common denominator here. Over the course of five tracks, Isolator craft heavy drones out of their instruments; at times it sounds like guitar, but there is bass and samples on here as well. Opener “Cast Into Blood” brings the momentous clamor of the duo right away with surging pulses that climax relatively quickly, while the longer tracks “Your Heaven Will Writhe In the Chaos of My Hell” and closer “Into the Blood of Our Kingdom” are reluctant to open up.
Isolator packs a lot of sound into these tracks, but it’s important to have the volume all the way up to really notice the detail. Their drones have a tendency to blend, where the subtle shifts are difficult to hear. However, in later tracks the progression is more evident, and the finale of “Into the Blood of Our Kingdom” hammers home the main idea of Culture & Principal of Anti-Human Exaltation; the whirring feedback tone in the forefront drops out midway through to open up for percussive cymbal smashes and an electric shock of rhythmic fuzz. It’s what the album has been building to, and it feels powerful.
Isolator have the black drone sound down very well, and their tracks tend to stick to the formula frequently. They’re not copycats of Sunn O)))’s devilish guitars or the intense vocal-tinged blackened noise, but something in between the two, exploring the darkest crags of drone with aplomb.
Ilsa Koch is the noise project of the owner of Winter Solace; he has a few releases under his belt, mostly all on Winter Solace, and this single-sided cassette is no different. Ilsa Frost was originally released without a label as a demo, but then found re-release on Winter Solace as a sort of recycled tape. The cassette I received had a handwritten J-card with artwork from another Winter Solstice release that was whited out.
Only one track on this C30, filling out only the A-side with a fifteen minute jam that uses a black metal song as source material as well as guitar, sped-up vocal loops, and electric hissing. It begins with a simple guitar medley, some marching and German orders, and some ballroom music before transforming into a noisy hum of squeaks along with the strummed, melancholy guitar. Eventually this all disappears rather abruptly to make room for percussive loops of sound.
Ilsa Frost is a short listen, but its one track makes use of Ilsa Koch’s atmospheric sound. The loop used is rhythmic but aggressive, and the repeated effects that pair up with it work well to create a hypnotic, manic work.
If you missed this tape the first time, go see if you can pick it up from Winter Solace Productions now.
Negative Climax’s Kālá is an amalgam of drones, ritual sounds, and odd rhythmic music. The duo from Japan use vocals to great advantage, combining ghostly female chants with tribal tones and electronics. Much of it is looped, the vocals simply hanging in the drones; at other times, Negative Climax allows the haunting Sanskrit lullabies space to breathe without any electronics.
Often the drones are at the forefront of each piece, like opener “sidhyati,” the eerie vocals mixing well for a hypnotic blend. On “Kāma (Unplugged),” the vocals are chants that imbue a foreboding sense, not even needing any loops to give it atmosphere. There is an overwhelming sense of culture in these tracks, and many of them wouldn’t even be considered noise at all if not for the more chaotic recordings of flute or synth work, the sounds blurring a little because of volume or the way in which the instrument was played.
Negative Climax is listenable for the average music lover, though, and many who enjoy tribal rhythms or Indian sitar will find much to love on Kālá. There’s not a lot of noise on offer here, but there are more than enough lulling drones to keep everyone interested in their work.
Steel Hook Prostheses is the duo J. Stillings and L. Kerr, and their sound sits primarily within the heavy power electronics/death industrial genres. The black metal vocals should give it away immediately on The Empiric Guild, but the combination of intensely atmospheric noise and the penchant for producing eerie textures of makes this a soundtrack for a very gloomy day; or, if it isn’t one, it sure will be after a listen to the screaming electronics.
The Empirics Guild is composed of twelve tracks to make up over an hour of sound. These often run the gamut from lengthy to quite-lengthy, most of them not falling under the four minute mark. Steel Hook Prostheses generally envelope the listener in sound, starting out with windy, escalating drones that are joined with harsh, often manipulated vocals. The thing about The Empirics Guild‘s tracks is that the vocals are rarely the same, often heavily modified; “Leprosaria Dross”‘ demonic incantations sound significantly different from the less-modulated screams on the other tracks, for example.
This means that no two tracks fall into the same sort of sound, which is often a problem with death industrial and power electronics. The vocals are an important technique for Steel Hook Prostheses, and they add an extra layer to the noises that populate this release. Spoken word samples on “Debrided Necrotic Tissue” add a creepy texture to the hushed drones; harsher screams give chilling results. The tracks are meant to unnerve, and they do so at all times.
Some tracks may seem familiar to others doing the same sort of styles, but Steel Hook Prostheses is consistently good. If you’re into this type of death industrial/PE, you’ll have no problem finding multiple tracks to enjoy on The Empirics Guild.
Street Sects is the duo Leo Ashline and Shaun Ringsmuth, performing loop-based noise/grindcore. It’s the sort of thing that works well when paired with the aggressive vocal delivery on this five minute 7″ record. The Morning After the Night We Raped Death is the first in a five-series set of LPs titled “Gentrification: A Serial Album,” and on this vinyl, you get the double-sided singles plus an insert with an essay.
The first track, “Bliss,” hammers away at the listener for just under two minutes. Street Sects define their motif on this track, punctuating moments with blurry, seared vocals. The loops are utilized to their full potential, at times stretched to give a 4/4 time signature while remaining significantly raucous, then switching to considerably faster speeds for a breakneck finish. It’s difficult to tell what is used for each loop; they kind of meld into one another, and some of them may be so damaged as to be indecipherable. But it’s fun to listen to “Bliss” and attempt to figure out what’s being used, whether it be a simple guitar line sped up and chopped or actual songs mangled up to form the basis of a new, noisier track.
Side B, “Fate On Her Knees,” is a little slower, a little less noisy. The first part of the track takes on an industrial march of sorts, the loops toned down to highlight the percussion over the mass of sound. There are a lot of vocal differences here, and I’m not sure if that’s due to manipulation – speeding up and slowing down pre-recorded vocals or something else entirely – but it makes a really interesting listen that, again, makes the audience wonder what’s going on behind what we can actually hear.
Street Sects is a wonderfully interesting project, and their five-part “Gentrification” series is well on its way. At this time, part two is done and up on their Bandcamp. In the meantime, you can check out both of those works here.
This release is difficult to find information about because it uses the traditional Japanese kanji, but キシコドン means Oxycodone in English, and according to Winter Solace, ヒドロコドン is Memories (although looking it up, I found that it means Hydrocodone). キシコドン is Cody and V. Mengele, and they’re a drone/noise duo that use mostly human vocals as source material.
On this release, both sides are lengthy 20-minute tracks that manipulate Cody’s output of vocals. There’s a wide range, from screams to yelps to spoken word tribal-esque passages. V. Mengele puts these in a loop, often using them to structure the tracks’ drones – “I” has a sort of cricket chirrup to it, “II” has a whistling feedback wind with a fast-paced loop of Cody’s screams and yodels – and then manipulating other vocal deliveries to add texture to the sounds.
For the most part, these are hypnotic drones. Sometimes it’s quite apparent that what you’re listening to is just a loop of a man’s voice talking; other times, the idea of human voice slips away to reveal a jumble of noise swelling up. It’s an interesting idea, and though both of ヒドロコドン‘s tracks are quite similar, it’s easy to fall into the rhythms of the loops, the manipulation of speech into something raucous and unsettling.