Illusion of Safety – Surrender (C60, No Part of It)

surrenderIllusion of Safety has been releasing records for over thirty years now, and this cassette (or CD) from No Part of It feels like a cumulative soundtrack of all that he’s done. On Surrender, Daniel Burke works with guitars, synths, and various noise-making devices to craft some intensely spiritual droning tracks, at the same time challenging the listener with the vast assortment of layering that is taking place below the surface. It’s a tough listen not because of its harshness but because of the overwhelming supply of sounds that Illusion of Safety conjures.

The tape edition of Surrender is what I received from No Part of It, and in general all of the tracks tend to meld into each other. On the CD edition, it would be easier to pick out the changes because of track numbering, but with the cassette I’m unable to tell the transitions. In this regard, I can’t really comment on tracks individually, but can speak of Surrender in terms of the whole release.

The way these tracks fold into each other is mesmerizing, moving from one to the other smoothly and maintaining the sense of overall tone. Like the clown cover artwork, this is a veritable carnival of sounds; there are the standard drones of guitar and synth here, but as the tape moves forward, there’s a clever use of silence to space the sounds out. Illusion of Safety uses the silence to form cohesion, slowly shifting between organ chords before diving into beeps and boops of spacey technology. Whistles and warbles combine with a slow rhythmic churn. It’s all somewhat disorienting because of the array of sounds Burke provides, and the use of dynamism really works to keep the listener off-guard.

Side B still has the vignettes of silence with subtle instrumentation in the background, but it also switches off to some heavier, beat-driven performances as well. There are cut-up samples, and there’s a metal-esque rhythm that cuts in almost meant as a rave dance. Illusion of Safety’s tendency to move all over the gamut on Surrender is not a flaw but an example of how wide-spread noise’s subgenres can be, and Burke knows how to incorporate them all into a cohesive tape.

Surrender is a great return to the genre for Illusion of Safety, a release that finds Burke switching expertly between forms of noise for a variety of great tracks. The first side is generally quieter, while Side B opens up for catchy beats, sampling, and a more pronounced sound. Both are good listens, and fans of Illusion of Safety’s work will find Burke has crafted another exceptional record.

recommended

Shiver/Sterile Garden – Candle Burning Magic (C40, Diazepam)

candle burning magicShiver is the project of Mauro Sciaccaluga, who also runs Diazepam, and Sterile Garden is Jakob, Eric, and Joseph on amplified metal and electronics. On Candle Burning Magic, both projects bring a dark droning sound to this retro-looking cassette, offering harsh noise that would be great for a seance or ritualistic sacrifice.

First up is Shiver with his side-length “Either Forward or Reverse.” This is heavy with guitar and drones, a melancholy rhythm sprawled out across the side while behind it, percussive and staccato beats play out in a punctuated attack. Shiver adds various tape and field recording manipulations, often allowing them to barge into the mix; there’s a lot of banging and crackling like a chair being rolled over uneven floorboards, and the other layers even drop out for a little while to allow for these bangs to centralize. When more sound returns, it’s a cacophony of squealing and out-of-tune electronics with a semblance of the riff that used to be.

Eventually, a sound clip from the film Palindromes works its way in as well, cementing a theme for this work, and then Shiver really lets lose with a huge wall of static and accompanying background drones – there’s very little room within the swirls of chaos, but one can pick out some differing textures and electronic twists. There’s a lot of ambiance and darkness in the way it all builds to a sinister climax, and Shiver’s work here is quite affecting.

Sterile Garden’s side features on track, although it often incorporates moments of silence that tend to indicate a change in the make-up of the sound. It starts out with a blasting, modulated drone before a vibrating shimmery tone takes over. Sterile Garden use amplified metal and tape manipulations as their source, and one can definitely hear the contact mic-esque sounds generated from the metal – there are the standard electronics sounds like bass and percussive elements, but the whirring and drawn-out tones they generate seem to come from those metal materials. It has a unique feel to it that I found refreshing, a somewhat grating drone that doesn’t rely on straight feedback.

Candle Burning Magic is a good place to start for both artists, as this is a strong performance from both Shiver and Sterile Garden. Both artists get about 20 minutes per side, and they make the most of the time afforded. It’s a harsh and noisy cassette, and you can listen here.

Hunted Creatures – Mogollon Rim (C30, Dynamo Sound Collective)

mogollon rimMogollon Rim is an area in Arizona known for its natural beauty near the Colorado Plateau. It’s also known for sitings of a monster that closely resembles Bigfoot. Known as the Mogollon Monster, this beast has been the subject of folklore since the early 1900s, and members of the Apache tribe that live close to the Rim claim to have seen the monster even more recently. As Hunted Creatures’ name suggests, the idea behind this tape seems to be inspired by the Bigfoot-esque creature, and the team of Micah Pacileo, Amy Hoffmann, and Ryan Emmett deliver with a very ethereal set of six tracks.

Mogollon Rim has a hazy feature to its songs, and all of them span the course of about five minutes while weaving various guitars, electronics, and violins into the mix. “Whisper Bullets” starts things off with a quiet looping rhythm of ambient sustained chords and percussive elements, adding in the waver of electronics here and there. It builds up into reverb-heavy wallops and whispers, water-droplet blops and bubbles, that heads right into “Interlude”. A soft guitar melody pairs with the clanks and patters of “Whisper Bullets”‘ rhythm section until vibes take over. It seems important to note that the fogginess of each track carries into the next, especially on the first side – what was once important to the percussion becomes the backdrop of a new track.

The somewhat melancholy violin on Mogollon Rim is a lovely aspect of the tape, the alternating rhythms in “Hallway” becoming mournful as warped guitar wails overtop. “Dream Snake” has an alluring power electronics vibe to it, the classical violin sounds working as a backdrop to a plucked, exotic guitar repetition. “Human Dust” provides a tribalism with is percussive sounds and synchronous violin/guitar riff.

Though Mogollon Rim often feels repetitious, the idea behind crafting these hazy tracks is to highlight the subtleties of change throughout. Hunted Creatures are constantly adding additional noise and instrumentation to the tracks, and the most interesting parts of these songs are the noticeable inclusion of a new sound. It makes Mogollon Rim feel effortlessly fluid, and alludes to the hidden nature of the tape’s Mogollon Monster – perhaps it’s there, if you look (or listen) hard enough.

recommended

Static Park – Cruel Mutação (2xCD-R, Not On Label)

static park cruel mutacaoStatic Park is Julien Skrobek’s other project – he’s got a ton of them, sometimes difficult to keep track of, but always very enjoyable to listen to. He’s released a few different variations on harsh noise wall with this moniker but Cruel Mutação is fairly rigid HNW/ambient noise wall making. The release itself is a two-disc set of nearly two hours, meant to be the soundtrack to a fictional zombie film. What follows is nine walls of crunchy textures that are nearly unmoving, a lengthy but rewarding listen.

First wall is called “Um Barco Misterioso” clocking in at jut under 14 minutes. This one is more ambient than some of the other ones, starting things off with a low rumble and a clicking static crunch that has quite a bit of space within the wall. Behind it is a nice bass texture that sort of warbles in its own way; it’s a track that is focused on the minimal, and thinking of this as a film soundtrack, it’s the beginning of the rising action. The second wall is “Jovens Imprudentes,” a bit shorter at the 12 minute mark, and this one has a roiling but mostly unbroken low bass line along with static that sounds a little like rain falling on a tom-tom snare drum – it’s less a crackle than a hollow repetitive tapping, but it works rather well because of the small emptiness within the static.

“Um Trago Na Pele” is next, another 11 minute wall that offers a more traditional harsh/ambient noise drone – this is a crackling bass static texture, swiftly roiling, with pops in between what amounts to something of a condensed and unified sound. The way “Borboleta De Carne” slams in with a huge wall blast directly after the previous track is a testament to how well Static Park has put this album together – most of the walls roll right into each other, and this one’s heavy bass background textures and higher-end static crunch leaves the listener in a state of shock after such an ambient piece prior. “Encontro Com O Professor Z” rounds out this disc with a crackling fire wall, a rumbling steady bass in the background with churning chunky static writhing on top of it. I like how this one makes good use of that background bass – the static is important, but that rumbling texture is clearly meant to be another focal point.

Onto the second disc, we have “Contagio” up first, with a muffled bass line in the back that moves rapidly and a thinner line of static crackle at the forefront; that static has a syrupy texture to it that makes it feel viscous and blurred. “Estao Na Casa,” on the other hand, has virtually no bass in the mix, instead opting for a rather solitary line of static crunch with a slight buzzing in the background. This track feels the least significant of the quartet in that regard, unable to capture my attention as much as the other walls’ swelled textures.

“Ossos Para O Zumbi” kicks in with a low, fast-paced rumble and a succinct crackle – there appear to be subtle areas of space in both textures, leaving the listener continually listening for change. The bass rumbles even seem to surge every now and again, although that could just be imagination. Finally, “Volta Na Terra” concludes the album/movie with a slower ambling rumble of very low static; it’s somewhat equivalent to an idling motorcycle with a bad motor. It’s a shift away from the traditional walls on this disc but the minimalism attracts, a slow fade-out for the two hours of harsh noise walls on Cruel Mutação.

I don’t think there’s any question about Julien Skrobek and Static Park’s abilities to craft good walls. If you’ve liked his output before, this special release is a no-brainer. Of the 8 tracks, many of them have significant alterations to what one consider generic wall noise, making it a spectacular listen for those not too stuck on the definition. And the way the walls move directly into each other is fascinating. If you can, pick this two-disc set up.

recommended

Various Artists – Running Man: The Home Edition (3″ Biz CD-R, Serious Business)

running man home edition

The original Running Man film is an hour and forty minutes of Arnold Shwarzenegger badassery, but if it could be boiled down to five minutes, harsh noise is certainly the way to do it. Condensing all of that action into a short period of chaotic, manipulated electronics, Running Man: The Home Edition is an ode to that film on a biz CD-R that only allows about six minutes of actual content; the artists, then, are forced to overload their track right from the start.

Most of the artists on the compilation get about thirty seconds of material to work with. It’s not a lot of time to make a statement, but they get their point across with no problems. Opener “Deactivist” from Post Mortem seems to use alarm buzzes and the clang of industry as a soundtrack; “Captain Freedom’s Workout” from Ginger Cortes is an incredibly harsh blast of screeching noise set to a commercial by Captain Freedom, using pauses to great effect.

Italics comes in with a whirring, pulsating slab of harsh noise with “Cadre Cola,” another very intense portion that whines and squalls and then blasts itself out. “Tunnel Vision” by The Outside World is just that – a very condensed, low track of static that feels thin in comparison to the next wall by Wet Dream Asphyxiation, “Dedicated to Ben Richards”; that one is a very dense and expansive static mass. Bedawang’s “One Mean Motherfucker” uses a sample of dialogue and feeds it through electronics to create an echoing cacophony, although this is probably one of the only real missteps on the album – it doesn’t feel up to par with the rest.

Finally, Raven’s “The Curse of Arnold Schwarzenegger” is a high-pitched mix of oscillating wonks with static set as the backdrop, while Vasectomy Party rounds things out with the wall Give Them What They Want!”, a low static, almost digital drone with laser beam squealing.

There are a surprising number of tracks on this collection, and each of the artists in question brings something different to their own rendition of Running Man. Always a pleasure to see different areas of the noise sphere coming together with a defined theme, and the use of samples from the film ensures the album evokes a nostalgic memory, then smashes it with sound. It’s a wonderful compilation where the tracks are the stalkers and the listeners the runners.

Hyena Hive – Ø (C20, Noir Sur Noir)

hyena hive

Ø is a power electronics tape from Hyena Hive, a group that kind of revels in the mystery behind their artistry; besides listing the names B. Julian and M. Reinhardt on the J-card, as well as latitude/longitude coordinates of N45° 31′ W 73° 36′, there’s little information on this cassette to let the listener know about Hyena Hive. Even the track titles are decidedly encoded with symbols; add to it the black-on-black nature of Noir Sur Noir’s releasing and you’ve got yourself secretive tape that simply need to be listened to.

The first side of the tape is a quick two-track affair; the first, “Ø”, is a short introduction to the sound with a roiling blend of screaming vocals in the background, a static shiver, and the sound of multiple electronic noises moaning at each other; it’s a nice and abrasive moment that slowly fades into “○”, the buzzing textures flitting into the background but still somewhat present while a bass line writhes in the background, consistently warbling with a record player’s slow-gaited crackle. Whale-like cries erupt as well, but Hyena Hive have set up a great warbling effect that ensnares the listener until veiled yelled vocals erupt from the dreamy drone. There’s a darkness to the track that matches Noir Sur Noir’s packaging, with everything enveloped in a thick fog; it’s one of the most effective moments of the tape, building off the other track and establishing a new sound.

The second side has one longer track, “◠”, which is a churning static shudder that surges back and forth in a wavering manner. Underneath that is a slight buzz, aided by various electronic manipulations that join in every now and again; eventually, yelled vocals accompany the cacophony in true power electronics style. It’s a track that piles on the layers, harsh noise oscillations entering late in the running time to step away from the wall-like tone first presented.

Ø is an impressive tape from Hyena Hive for sure, and it’s unfortunate that there isn’t more output from this group (if Discogs’ releases are to be believed). This release is now sold out from Noir Sur Noir, but it’s worth attempting to track it down.

recommended

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.