Rvines/Prairie-Litiere – Rvines/Prairie-Litiere (CD-R, Autistic Campaign/Emergence Records)

rvines prairie litiere

Rvines play hardcore in the vein of Converge, a very heavy blast of sound with a lot of noisy guitars and bass along with howled vocals set far back in the mix. At first I thought their name stood for ravines, but later I realized that they were utilizing the “v” in the Latin sense, making them Ruines. Fun fact. Prairie-Litiere we’ve seen before on this blog, mostly with his own work, except this time on this split there is equal parts collaboration as there is solo stuff.

First up is collab track “Black Tar,” which definitely feels like its title. Rvines start things off with a relatively noiseless jam, serving up a heavy slab of hardcore until Prairie-Litiere begins to add subtle layers of noise/ First it’s feedback, then a bridge of more intensive electronics, until the whole thing ends in a cacophony where both Rvines and Prairie-Litiere pile on crumbling noise and feedback wails.

When Rvines plays alone, like on “Void Reich” and “The Mark On Your Arm,” there’s certainly a resemblance to the contemporary hardcore scene – as noted before, the sound of the guitars and the vocals remind quite a bit of Converge, although I’d say that I wish the vocals were a little clearer here; the guitar tends to overpower them, and they get washed out in the mix when the band isn’t using them as part of the noisier sound, like on their lengthy collaboration with Prairie-Litiere titled “Glory Be to Nothing.”

Prairie-Litiere gets one solo track, which equals about the same time as Rvines because it’s longer. Titled “Padded Disease,” this is a harsh track that combines quite a few squealing, roiling noises together. A lot of feedback and churning electronics in the background along with moments where he really layers on a number of difficult squalls, sounding like he perhaps used contact mic for the sources since there’s a lot of banging in there too.

Mostly, though, the moments when Prairie-Litiere and Rvines are working together are the best parts of this split. Unlike Merzbow’s recent collaboration with Full of Hell, this CD-R doesn’t come off as one artist’s project inviting another to join in now and again. I wasn’t too impressed with that aforementioned album because Merzbow sounded like an afterthought, rarely incorporated in the mix. Here, Rvines are able to smash out a quick blast of hardcore before allowing Prairie-Litiere to destroy the sound with noise.

It all comes together on the album’s longest song, the previously mentioned “Glory Be to Nothing”, and closer “Total War.” They morph into each other anyway, giving both tracks enough time to operate with both Rvines and Prairie-Litiere in the limelight. “Glory Be to Nothing” swells with both ethereal sustained notes and drums pounding away in the background, the use of the vocals here solely for atmosphere as the orchestral climax builds. “Total War” allows Rvines to do a crusty instrumental track at first, Prairie-Litiere’s softly buzzing noise boiling in the background.

Rvines and Prairie-Litiere come together to make some great tunes, both of them given free reign to do their own thing and also pairing up for some noise-infused hardcore. This is great for the fan of both styles of music, but those who don’t really enjoy crust or hardcore should probably keep away from this one; while Prairie-Litiere does get room to perform solo noise output, this is more of a hardcore release than harsh noise.

Torturing Nurse & Filthy Turd – Mechanical Organ (C20, Autistic Campaign)

torturing nurse filthy turd

Mechanical Organ is a collaborative set between Torturing Nurse from China and Filthy Turd, from Darren Wyngarde (also of Urdwyg the Goldrr, various other projects). Both have an immense amount of releases under their belt, and Mechanical Organ finds them getting together to create an odd, vocally driven cassette of loops, lo-fi noises, and weirdness.

The first side is simply titled “FT + TN,” and begins with a vocal snarling of “Hey little dog.” This will be the basis for the rest of the track, looping over and over again, often reinflected with different sounds or processed into the mix. The track continues with more background spoken word, very muffled almost into obscurity, although the listener can occasionally pick out some words in the mix. Torturing Nurse & Filthy Turd add samples in at times, like the scream of a victim from a slasher movie or the quick swell of music; then it’s (I’d guess) Filthy Turd with quite a few more nonsensical rasps of spoken word, looping them into a crunchy squall (with a bit of electronics) while spoken word continues to flood the background.

Side B, “TN + FT,” starts with an even more lo-fi sound, squeaking car brake sounds or tape loop squeals pairing with a low searing sound of static and more vocal intonations. It sounds like a radio is slightly being tuned while behind it someone is bothering a bunch of chickens, probably the best way I can put it (and most likely a compliment to both Torturing Nurse and Filthy Organ). I find this side somewhat uninteresting, however; the way the sound is sort of pushed back and quiet doesn’t work as well as the first side, and the vocalizations are less effective the second time around. The slight static manipulations are nice, though.

Mechanical Organ is an odd release all around, and it will appeal to only those with the interest to listen to vocal stylings and seemingly random noise. It’s not for everyone, is what I’m trying to say, and though it’s not overly harsh it can be a difficult listen. However, it’s worth a look if you’re fans of either of these two projects.

En Nihil/Filth – Black Earth (C40, Out-Of-Body Records)

black earth

En Nihil and Filth are two fantastic power electronics artists. The former has released quite a few albums under the En Nihil moniker, three of them a trilogy series; Filth is Rob Buttrum’s project, the owner of Out-Of-Body Records. Black Earth finds them working together on a split tape of 8 heavy tracks, with En Nihil’s side leaning more towards the rhythmic electronics and Filth’s heading into heavy, vocal-filled territory.

First up is En Nihil on Side A, and the first track “Tribes of the Black Ash” is a pounding texture of percussion and swooping electronics, building up to various sizzles, feedback, and the quiet use of vocals more as an instrument than an abrasive lyrical assault. It sets the tone very well, an ambient introduction to En Nihil’s sound that adds quite a bit of sonic variety despite the stoic percussion. “An Infinite Void” sets in directly after, with huge bass and a similar pounding bit of bass drum overlayed with static. Feedback becomes the focal point, not exactly harsh but with a structured tendency. “One Hundred Thousand Years” has that familiar power electronics vibe, an electronics buzz rhythmically repeating along with a power saw whirr; there’s the dips and percussive wallops one would expect from PE, although En Nihil is unwilling to give the expected vocal performance.The side ends with an ambient drone, a buzzing of bassy electronics that envelops the listener, soothing after the burning PE before it.

Filth’s first track is “A Horizon,” where pounding percussion intermixes with a crescendo of swirling loops and intense howled vocals, eventually adding what sounds like squeaky tape manipulations. “Beneath the Vertisol” has more of those heavy bass repetitions along with a glitchy electronic loop, which adds in an alarum ring a bit later on in the track and a dreamy ambient interlude. Filth uses vocals in this to create a very creepy tone. It loses that rhythm to a jumble of sounds, including stuttering percussive blasts and various electronic manipulations.”The Hollow Earth” adds an almost dance aesthetic to the sound, at the same time ostracizing casual listeners with a feedback squall and manipulated, degraded vocals. Here Filth builds up from this into a power electronics surge of vocals and repetitive percussion, layering on multiple textures in the process. Finally, “A Silent Scream” ends Black Earth with inhuman howls, a heavy dose of crumbling bass walls, and warped echoes of audio.

Both En Nihil and Filth bring heavy textures to this split, and Black Earth is a bleak listening experience besides En Nihil’s finale. These projects are some of the best in the power electronics sphere right now, and bringing them together on a split cassette like this means you’re getting an amazing showcase from both artists. En Nihil brings a more traditional PE experience, while Filth tends to add industrial beats; but you can’t go wrong with either side on the torched Black Earth.

Mark Van Fleet – Alien Versions (C122, Little Miracles)

alien versions

Mark Van Fleet’s Alien Versions is an ode to Ridley Scott’s film Alien, a film-length alternate soundtrack to the film meant to be played at the same time with the volume of the movie turned down. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it with the film, and instead listened to it alone, but it doesn’t seem to matter much: even without the film’s visuals, the atmosphere of Van Fleet’s release is more than enough to evoke the stimulation and tension of Alien.

Alien Versions contains a lot of ambient noise that sits very well within the film; bleeps and bloops of space computers pair with quiet backdrops of electronic dread. Van Fleet often allows his soundtrack to thud along patiently, quietly droning with an ambient pounding or a subtle buzz. Side A’s 60 minutes often pair the ambiance with the alien growls and clicks, immediately visualizing Scott’s intense drama.

Side B’s opening pounds along with a soft feedback squeal behind it, the kind of muffled sound expected from a space shuttle. Without seeing the alien at all, the threat is there; and with this kind of alternate soundtrack, I think it’s just as important to listen to it without any visual aid as it is to listen to the two paired together. The effectiveness certainly comes from both combined, but Van Fleet is just as impressive at crafting intensity from sounds alone. In general, the cassette builds and builds without end, only multiple recesses before the next terrifying encounter.

The dark, somewhat muffled aspect of the approach is important to the soundtrack, too. The listener feels completely alone in its confining structure, subject to whatever horrors await. It’s a testament to what Van Fleet can do, and I certainly look forward to other re-imagined soundtracks because of this. Alien Versions is tense but also very much in line with Alien‘s atmosphere and mood, a difficult thing to re-enact but something Van Fleet is very good at.

Whether you’ve seen Alien or not (you need to rectify that though, really), Alien Versions is an important listen. Van Fleet effectively transitions between quieter moments and swelling, climactic encounters, forcing the listener to engage just as the characters in the film do. It’s a tight soundtrack full of dread, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

recommended

Bryan Lewis Saunders & Arvo Zylo – The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise (C40[?], No Part of It)

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Bryan Lewis Saunders has been documenting his dreams for some time now, and The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise is a combination of those dream recordings, a lucid write-up of two events occurring back-to-back with similar lengths and sounds. It happened to be when Saunders had a lung infection, so there’s a breathless, nearly wheezing quality to his recordings that tend to make the listener feel a little claustrophobic. Arvo Zylo, runner of No Part of It and noise magician, decided to lay down a couple of tracks along with Saunders’ breathing, crafting a tense surreality out of Saunders’ dreaming.

Side A of the release starts with quite a long passage of Saunders’ breathing, somewhat spacious in its approach because of the way the channels have been mixed. It’s difficult to listen to; it sounds like someone struggling to breath, wheezing in gasps. It isn’t until a few minutes in that the noise begins to build, a slow droning cacophony that picks up depth as it grows. The whistles and wheezes of Saunders are still there, but the noise is enveloping, a bassy drive that closes in on the listener. It eventually comes back down again, like the end of a dream when it starts to fade away just before waking.

Side B starts a bit more abrasively and then settles into some whirring, echoing drones – dreamy, then collossal bass. There’s a disconnectedness to the sounds on this track, often cutting in and out between heavy and soft, jolting and mesmerizing. They’re punctuated by spaces of silence, the embodiment of a dream that continually fluctuates in setting, tone, and mood until it has completely shifted itself. Eventually the sound morphs into a repetitive spring creak, as though a door is continually opening, leading to the spoken word moments of the transcript. The static crash at the end is another moment of dream-like surrealism, the lull before the fall from a great height.

The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise is an intriguing listen from start to finish, and there’s a lot of things worth returning to in this package. Both artists have notes about the making of this tape, as well as a full transcript of both channels of Saunders’ dreams. It means spending time reading each transcript, allowing the noise to envelop in the process – perhaps then, one can very nearly enter the dreams of another.

recommended

I.G.M – Virgin Skins (CD-R, Pidgin Records)

virgin skins

Ian McColm’s project I.G.M is his solo work, but on Virgin Skins it sounds like there is at least a duo working to produce the noise/music on these ten tracks. Virgin Skins is a mixture of percussion and free jazz elements, noisy but also significantly rhythmic in its use of drum elements. It makes for a pounding, relentless release, the frenetic percussion melding with quieter repetitive moments for a wonderfully unique concept.

Virgin Skins is bookended by “Punctuation Alpha” and “Punctuation Omega,” two drum sequences that highligh I.G.M’s style of jazzy, sophisticated, and complex rhythms. The fills are fast and furious, and the chops are fantastic; this is playing at a high skill level, and the album never descends into boring drum solo territory because of the alternations in each song. “Plus/Minus” is a good example, a track of drumming that speeds up and subsequently slows down a tough beat.

Likewise, “The Wind That Blows the Birds” and “Blood Memory” take a different approach, using bells and chimes to create an ambient aura. “Blood Memory” is probably one of the most hypnotic tracks on offer on Virgin Skins: it’s the soundtrack to a horror film, combining a couple different instruments into a chilling song.

Virgin Skins is quite lengthy too, but it never feels that way. The album swiftly moves through tracks, often blending them together to the point where it’s easy to get lost in the repetition as though it’s a just a long song. That’s not to say that Virgin Skins doesn’t have distinguishable tracks; they just work well back-to-back together, alternating between poly-rhythms and droning elements.

It’s an intriguing listen, and one that works on all sorts of levels. I.G.M brings in noises along with his percussion, but there are also moments of great jazzy drumming too; this isn’t the kind of album that would be reserved for noise fanatics only, and those dabbling in free jazz or the avant garde would certainly find elements that strike. There’s one thought the listener is left with after Virgin Skins, though: McColm isn’t just a good drummer, but a great performer in general.

recommended

Dead Body Collection – I Praise the Scars On Your Body (C30, Noir Sur Noir)

i praise the scars on your body

By now, after a vast number of releases in the harsh noise wall genre, most people know whether they like Dead Body Collection’s version of mostly unchanging static. He’s been so prolific under this moniker that there are very few HNW labels that have not put out a DBC cassette. On I Praise the Scars On Your Body, the formula doesn’t change – just the sounds the go into the wall.

On the first side is “Your Pure Incorruptible Pain,” a searing track of fuzzy static that mixes with a bass rhythm deep in the mix. This isn’t a standard whitewash of sound, though; the static does have its own subtle nuance to it, and the bass in the back has a semblance of change throughout the nearly 15 minute running time. Dead Body Collection allows this track to feel stoic, although the close listener may be able to discern just the hint of alteration within the sound, almost like a song of its own attempting to escape a noise prison. Or that could be imagination.

“Kill Anything That Walks” is the second side, a surging track of up-front static and a roiling bass background. It’s difficult to tell what exactly is doing the shifting in this piece: it could be the static itself, but I almost believe that the bass has a wavering to it that causes a very interesting blur within the wall. I think this one is even better than “Your Pure Incorruptible Pain,” with the semblance of movement very apparent even when the wall itself doesn’t really shift at all. It does feel like the ending of this track cuts out some of the background texturing, but this could also be oversaturation to the sound.

Both tracks are really quite good on I Praise the Scars on Your Body, and if you’re looking for a quality Dead Body Collection tape and not sure where to begin in the vast collection, this is as good a place as any to begin listening. The textures are strong, and it also sticks sounds right in line with other releases.

recommended