Filth is the power electronics/harsh noise project of Rob Buttrum, and if you’re going to release a PE project, it might as well be on Grant Richardson’s label Maniacal Hatred. The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia is a little different from past Filth releases, and it’s not as transparently PE as one might expect; instead, the three tracks on this cassette delve into soundscapes rather than heavy density, and some of the tracks resemble Buttrum’s recent work on his Nite Shadez collaboration.
All of the tracks on The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia were recorded live to tape, which often requires a flexibility and precision that’s hard to produce. But though the pieces meander slightly, they never leave the areas they start off in, and Filth really reigns it in in terms of variability. The first track, “Mandragora”, is the longest on this release, and it begins with bubbling bass and hearty feedback swirls before giving way into noisy territory. Filth gives this piece a deep, foreboding aura; the quick percussive bursts seem to echo in the background with pulsing ferocity, and sometimes heavily modulated vocals pierce through the raucous beats. Sometimes Filth falls into the familiar ebb and flow of power electronics rhythms, only to sidestep the most common aspects of the genre.
The next side starts “Black Henbane”, a steadily escalating series of pitch increases, leading up to a rhythmic trouncing of regular power electronics rhythms and drum beats. Besides the pulsating drum hits, though, is a sustained amount of sonic destruction, often higher pitched but more laser-like. Filth’s vocals are used only slightly for effect, although it seems some tape loops also come into effect about midway through the track. This is one of the track’s I found similar to Nite Shadez’s output, especially because of the drum effects.
“Deadly Nightshade” is tacked on to the end of the side, by far the shortest of the tape at only three minutes. It carries the same torch as “Black Henbane”, but without the drum tracking, this sides much more sinister and dense. Though the shortest, it’s one of my favorites on The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia because of its consistency and subtle layering of sludge.
Filth brings a different approach to The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia, but I’m always amazed at the kind of sound that Rob Buttrum gets from his electronics. Everything was tracked live to tape, and I think that’s pretty grand in itself, but when the noise is also this good, you can do no wrong by picking this cassette up.