Custodian – The Weight of Tension (C20, Phage Tapes)

Generally the job requirement of a custodian is to clean up the trash and debris left behind by others, and of course the moniker of Jon Engman’s harsh noise project would seem to be a misnomer to most listeners who view noise as aural annoyance. But it seems to me that Custodian is an apt title for an artist who collects the viscera of electronics and music and “cleans up” by putting the sounds into a cohesive whole.

The Weight of Tension features two untitled tracks on a C20, ten-minute bursts of heavy and chaotic noise full of intensity and raucous volume. Packaged in an arigato pack that has become a staple of the Phage Tapes label, the cassette looks great, with a cardboard-colored box and an abstractly-printed design of an object hanging by a string. I’m not exactly sure what it is – the first thing that popped into my head was a heart on a string – but it’s obvious that this was the intended effect and it certainly adheres to the theme of the tape’s title.

Side A opens with a loop of fuzzy, crackling harsh noise that shrieks and roars to life, intensity building throughout; there are times where its impossible to pick out the sole sounds in the mix as all electronic sounds are so cohesively melded together in a jumble of interlocking pulses. There’s rarely a let-up at all on this track, as Custodian continues to throw in crunchy static along with high ear-splitting feedback. Occasionally, Side A feels like it’s divided into movements, as the tape will cut out for a second only to bring new tones into the mix. The track melds and shifts, but it rarely loses the pummeling scratchy rumbles and feedback love, making this one hell of a tinnitus-inducing piece. Loops fall into place, only to be destroyed by even more intensely-centered electronics manipulations. The noise is all over the place, with robotic-esque tones accompanied with echoed distortion shifting to feedback and explosive static, all in the course of a few minutes, but the common theme supplied is loud, abrasive, and violent.

Side B continues the fascination of higher-pitched feedback, starting with a singular slice of feedback until delving into a layer of deep bass rumbles reminiscent of sound found on harsh noise walls. Again, these crumbling pieces of detritus tilt and morph, at times chugging along with freight train intensity and at others dropping out into nothing but a deep, black abyss. I’d say that this is less harsh than the other, although it’s really tough to categorize considering Custodian cuts no corners for the listener, instead offering a visceral experience that is broken only by the tape cuts. Considering the multitude of sounds featured on this tape, the loops The Weight of Tension falls into are welcome breaks from the more meandering tones of the majority of the track.

Succinct, enveloping, and very close to what one might call “angry” noise, The Weight of Tension drags you down with its massive hammer of harsh sound. And, it’s quite possibly what any masochistic son-of-a-bitch has been looking for. Treat your ears to this wasteland of noise.

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