Four Flies is a longer-running harsh noise wall project from Richard Ramirez and collaborators; on L’Intrigo, it happens to be Robert Newsome. Generally speaking, this cassette is rather unchanging, offering two tracks of thick walls that serve up meaty helpings of fuzz and bass, though neither are very challenging to the ears. The cassette culls its name from an Italian mystery from 1964 also known as Dark Purpose.
The first side is “Profumo”, a twenty-minute jaunt through fairly rigid static tones that meld quite cleanly with the bass in the background. A steady, fast bass tone judders throughout, but there’s just a faint tinge of clacking and sizzle behind it all, and there are moments where the track takes on a wavering, warbled consistency which I think has to do with the steady fizzing of static. All told it’s a successful moment where Four Flies play with a standard wall and add textures that enhance and build on the sound.
The second track, “L’Intrigo,” is another heavy wall with thick slabs of bass, a more pronounced static overtone with lots of fuzz, and more wavering warbles within the wall. It feels similar to the previous side except things are thicker and the warbled tones seem to continue constantly throughout the track at a faster pace. The middle of the wall seems to progressively take over with overwhelming bass, although the warbling and slight static textures do continue on later in the track. It all happens nonchalantly, and it’s hard to tell if the track really is cutting out these moments or if it’s the listener who has been sidetracked within the sound.
A rewarding listen with both tracks, Four Flies’ L’Intrigo offers some raging HNW with characteristically minimal moments. A careful listen will grant secret shifts within the walls, or it might just be the imagination. Either way, the warbling textures work quite well here.
RU-486 is the harsh noise project of Thomas Mortigan, and even on this short 5-minute biz CD-R he brings aural pain to the listener. There’s one track on this release, the eponymous “Isolation Kennel,” a relatively busy sonic assault for such a short time span.
The track starts out with a digital noodling sample underneath the track, a “bleep-bloop” noise that continues underneath for much of it to give the track some form while a bass crumble guides the noise forward. Towards the middle portion of “Isolation Kennel,” RU-486 begins to go crazy with blown out feedback alternating between formless but nearly tonal riffs. From here to the end, though, there’s a steady feast of random blasts of noise interplayed with a bass static background. Sometimes these bursts of sound tend to have a blown-out and unconnected feeling, like some of the looping patterns, but for the most part RU-486 holds things together rather well.
Isolation Kennel is a solid experiment from Mortigan’s project, a demanding listen that engages for the short running time. It won’t take up much of your time, and for fans of charging harsh noise, this will be a pleasurably tortuous listen.
Discipline Jar is a harsh noise project from the mid-west. The digital album Moth is one of the only full-length albums that I can find by the artist, released by Galactic Intolerance Records. According to Discipline Jar, the tracks were inspired by a collection of poems titled Company of Moths; although I’ve never read any of these poems, I’d say it’s a safe bet that no actual references come through on this release, because this is a 45-minute album of thick and non-stop noise.
The album is broken into eight tracks; some are relatively short, like the simple “Stairs,” while others can stretch into the seven minute mark. Many of these tracks are heavy onslaughts; “Road” and “Book” come to mind as two that wear on and on with massive amounts of fuzz, stuttered sounds, and shifting electronics. The latter track even features opening and closing moments of looping drum and guitar rhythm, a quiet moment before the sound opens up.
Moth features a lot of different sounds, but if there is one complaint to be had it is that the tracks all sound pretty uniform. There’s little added texture or layering; there are different noises and bursts at different times, but in terms of sonic layers the release feels a bit thin. It does sound as though Discipline Jar may be working with a limited set-up, and knowing from experience, it’s often difficult to find a wide range of sounds at the same time. The finale, “The Moth,” suffers from this – it starts with a nice static cadence, then devolves into a repetitive slog of fuzzy beats for a few minutes. Added texture and density would have helped.
Ultimately Moth is a good release for those who like to assault their ears. Discipline Jar brings the raging noise, and the fuzz and crunch often leave the ears ringing. But in terms of technicality and texturing, Moth is somewhat lacking. Still, it’s a good album for an old-fashioned beat-down.
Dull Knife is the drone project of Garek Druss and Adam Svenson. On this record, they offer up two 15-minute sides (around that time, at least) that combine the mesmerizing abilities of an unbroken droning with electronics that intensifies those sounds. Dull Knife, their self-titled LP, is not harsh but it is also not a record that is meant for a quiet evening of contemplation. It falls somewhere in the middle, a study in how melancholy tones can morph into grim ones.
The first side is titled “Excavating,” and it does start out with a dig-like sound that echoes on until Dull Knife decide to branch out. Texture is key to their pieces, and the drones are not just a couple lines of synth sounds left to roam. Instead, Dull Knife operate under the assumption that multiple drones are better than one, which makes “Excavating” seem very busy even when the sound is rather simple. Buzzy synth lines blend with soaring ones; there’s a looping rhythm underneath it all that adds a percussive element. Occasional bursts of electronics whir to and fro. Without paying much attention it might just seem like Dull Knife are going through the motions, but there’s a lot to listen for in this track, especially as some of the drones overtake others. And there’s a shift about halfway through that hits that line between grim and absolutely melancholy that works very well.
The flip side of this record is called “The Fallow Field of Vision,” which actually starts out the opposite of the griminess of the first. There’s a fairly clean organ drone joined with just the hint of whistles; it’s cold and sad and a little bit like Godspeed You! Black Emperor when they’re coming down from a particularly aggressive movement. Eventually the track adds a lilting synth part to the drone, then adds the fuzzy texturing chords that give the track a sort of funky rhythm; there’s a sense that we’re not coming down from a high, but beginning the ascent.
Ultimately it’s a good way to end a great drone record, and Dull Knife are surprisingly adept at crafting illustrious, shimmery sounds without slipping into the same patterns as others doing the same thing. Dull Knife is worth a pick-up for both its sleekly dark packaging and its pleasantly aggressive tones.
156 is the project of Adel Souto, and it has seen quite a number of releases in the past couple of years. Eight Steps in the Dance is from 2013 and appears to be a continuation of sounds 156 started in previous releases. There’s nothing very harsh about the project’s noise, but there are many drone textures with tribal and percussive elements that lend an interesting premise to the sound.
The first couple of tracks, titled “Mahakala Awakes” and “This is for Lorrie,” surprised me with the abundance of vocal samples. They’re not gleaned from movies and they’re not there as reference points for the track, but instead are pretty much what comprises the sound. The former features a deep voice chanting and sustaining the drone note, with multiple tracks within that one sound creating texture, like a ritual ceremony. All the while bell tones toll. “This is for Lorrie” works in a similar fashion, with more bell tones randomly dispersed and a looping vocal element with a whispered moan.
What works even better than the excellent vocal loops, though, is 156′s reprisals of sounds on Side B. “A Fire Inside” begins much the same way “Mahakala Awakes” does, but then it morphs into a maturer sound with the addition of what sounds like very staticy synth. “Sense of Entitlement” adds spoken word to the bell tones. “Organ and Drum” is exactly what it says, and evokes an ethereal ritualism.
There are a couple of tracks that don’t jive as well together, with “Strikes to the Body” being the most notably lacking – it’s a track that basically sounds like the flight path of a ping pong ball. But ultimately Eight Steps to the Dance forms a mesmerizing waltz of ritual drones that are driven by vocals instead of electronics.
Small Hours is the experimental harsh noise wall project of James Killick, often known to have strong themes running throughout the project’s works. Rhapsody in Wall is a harsh noise wall framed by George Gershwin’s classical piece “Rhapsody in Blue,” featuring the actual score of that music that is centered around a wall that pulsates throughout.
The thirty minute wall begins with simply the classical “Rhapsody in Blue,” a piece that is in itself timeless and unchanged despite many variations of orchestra. The violins, piano, and strings continue unchanged until a couple of minutes, where a swiftly moving bass tone along with a slight crackle of static begins to mar the otherwise beautiful composition. Minutes later, as the bass begins to take center stage overtop of the other instruments, “Rhasody in Blue” fades out to become a raging cacophony of static wall, first characterized by the bass and then expanded to involve a sticky static tone.
Small Hours ensures that the wall moves quite thoroughly throughout its movement; swells of static, rhythmic bursts, all come and go without a hitch. After a chaos of wall, Small Hours turns the volume down – although for me, a bit too early – before the rest of “Rhapsody in Blue” returns to conclude the piece.
Killick’s motif is interesting but ultimately somewhat unclear. Is it that noise and music are consistently jockeying for position, that there is not one without the other? Or is it that harsh noise walls can eclipse the classical score, but only for a moment before the noise is ousted? It’s not defined. Nor is it necessary, however; Small Hours allows the listener to put meaning to this wonderfully nuanced release, making it more personal even in the wall’s distance.