The HNW Quartet – The HNW Quartet (C40, Hallucination Tapes)

The HNW Quartet is an interesting experiment combining four acts to form a supergroup of harsh noise wall artists. Sumbru (Julien Skrobek), Kune de Lisch (AKA Chibre),PsôM, and Black Matter Phantasm (Joseph Szymkowiak) all join forces for a collaboration of sound across two side-long walls, with both stretching the 20 minute mark. For noise, this is an intriguing combination – collaborations often involve two artists, but rarely a quartet such as this.

The first thing that surprises most about The HNW Quartet is the relative minimalism of the two compositions. With four artists working together, I confess I was expecting something a bit louder and harsher than what is delivered. I don’t mean that negatively, though; The HNW Quartet sits more comfortably in the ambient noise wall sub-genre than anything harsher, and it’s impressive that the artists are able to keep things so fluid and controlled throughout the tracks.

Side A is simply known as “Part 1”, clocking in at 20 minutes. This wall is a fairly unchanging slab of sound with some distinct layers, and it’s the most minimalistic of these two tracks. Surprisingly, all artists are working with very subtle sounds here; there’s a solid bass rumble in the background holding the wall together, a subtle crackle underneath that which is only present with careful attention, a hissing static at the forefront, and, most noticeable, a squealing judder that contains most of this track’s most hypnotic moments. There’s a lot to like and focus on in “Part 1,” from that deep bass shudder – adding just a small amount of space – to the interplay between the hissing and the squeals. The squealing is the loosest, where the semblance of variation can take shape. It’s interesting to hear how stoic each player in this quartet remains.

“Part 2” takes up the full length of side B, and it’s another relatively locked-in wall of sound. Here, the textures are a little harsher, the layers even more noticeable. In the background, there’s a nice multifaceted bass pattern that adds of lot of variation to the tone. On top of that, there’s a hissing, distant crackle that’s not quite static – it’s a very interesting texture, one that’s difficult to describe. Along with that, at about the same volume, is a fly-like buzzing sound that carries with it a different repetitive pattern that sometimes changes pitch. All told, the layers on “Part 2” are fascinating, both as a whole and when one focuses on the minutiae of the sounds.

The HNW Quartet is a great culmination of some excellent HNW artists, and so it should come as no surprise that both tracks, featuring all four players, are expertly crafted and layered. This release is enriching and complex, with enough textural hook to keep listeners engaged.

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