Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo – Doropea (C30, Old Bicycle Records)

ambient, Drone, Noise, Review

Doropea is an homage to Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo’s hometown of Torino, in reference to that town’s fountains and in part the rivers that make up its geography. In true thematic fashion Doropea is split into two parts, just like the duality of the two rivers. Both span one side and about 15 minutes, and they document two different styles for this artist.

The first side is a hypnotic series of sustained feedback drone tones with occasional found sounds, like the clacking of a typewriter. The whole thing is held together by occasional piano plinking and organ work, creating an ambient soundscape that works very well to pull the listener in. It feels organic and thoughtful, almost bucolic, and it’s an enjoyable fifteen minutes.

The second part also incorporates found sounds, although this one tends focus more on droning electronic elements. A faint repetitive tone seems to be sourced from the track’s early snoring recording, and Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo allows the track to expand outward from its initial drones, even giving the track some humming every now and then. It even quiets down for a slow climax outro, a twinkling echoing synth line that ends the album.

Doropea is an interesting release and one that certainly captures the intricate essence of “home” for an outsider; the ideas here help tell the story of what Palumbo memorializes from Torino, and it’s a deeply pleasant motif.

Fossils/Cathal Rodgers – Demons in the Architecture (C60, Sonic Drift)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

Fossils pairs with Cathal Rodgers for another one of Sonic Drift’s Demons in the Architecture cassette releases, and this one offers up an hour of weirdness from both artists. Fossils is in an improv noise unit that has amassed a huge number of releases for over ten years, while Cathal Rodgers varies his style and sound depending on the artists with whom he’s sharing cassette tape. This Demons in the Architecture release is surprisingly different from the previously reviewed split with RST, and that’s a solid compliment.

Fossils’ offering is a side-long track called “Histories of Time to Come,” and it’s a noisy compilation of sounds that slowly unfurls throughout its running time. The group starts off with a minimal series of scratches, crashes, and other junk banging, then builds to droning crescendoes, bubbling noises, and electronic haranguing that tends to conjure up hallucinatory visions. It’s a thirty-minute soundscape that will appeal to those with more minimalist taste, since Fossils rarely opens up the track and instead pushes forward with experimental hums and wonky bursts. It does run a tad long with some areas failing to capture attention perhaps due to its improvisational nature, but “Histories of Time to Come” is a unique listen with some intriguing sounds.

Cathal Rodgers’ side is subtitled “Rapture and Revelation,” and he gives up five tracks of droning harsh noise, almost bordering on power electronics at times. “Rapture,” a track that along with “Revelation” bookends the side, features reverberating drone lines and crumbling textures interspersed with sizzling attacks of sound that boil up rhythmically, a stand-out on this release. “Seven Heads and Ten Horns” features droning reverb and heavy guitar distortion mixing for great results, resulting in a feedback-driven wall to close out the track. “Revelation” is a crackling, almost wall-like track that finishes things strong: static shudders combine with an echoing background wail, slowly building up force throughout the eight-minute running time. It’s a heavy track, and another excellent cut in his Demons in the Architecure lineup.

This split release is a bit on the eclectic side with Fossils’ pairing, and the two sides seem a bit at odds with each other at times. Still, it’s an intriguing listen from both projects, and yet another quality release from Sonic Drift.

RST/Cathal Rodgers – Demons in the Architecture (C68, Sonic Drift)

Drone, harsh noise, Review

Demons in the Architecture is part of a series on Sonic Drift led by Cathal Rodgers, a four-release sequence featuring Rodgers and another noise artist. He’s done splits with Fossils, Culver, and Andreas Brandal, and on this Demons in the Architecture release, Cathal Rodgers shares a C68 tape with drone artist RST. RST is Andrew Moon, who has released quite a few albums since around 1995; Cathal Rodgers is an Irish noise artist who runs Sonic Drift, also known as Spermicidal and Wereju to name a few.

This split is full brooding drones for almost the entirety of its 70 minute running time. RST offers three lengthy tracks, including the somewhat psychidelic “Falcon Leg,” an opener that includes buzzing drones and a crafty guitar line that weaves in and out of the melancholy sustained notes. “Orange Rust and Scarlet” meanders with wind-swept, uplifting harmonies, its sustained notes ringing out as guitar strums draw the listener’s focus. “Vermilion” sounds like an extension of “Falcon Leg,” with improvisational guitar notes adding a nice variance to the unwavering drones.

Cathal Rodgers breaks his tracks down into five with the three-part “Wide Awake and Dreaming” interspersed between them. His drones are heavy and dark, often layering noisy pieces and reverb on top of the other. The longer “Curse the Morning Light,” over ten minutes, drapes itself in darkness before rhythmic pieces begin to appear out of the ether. These are easy pieces to zone out to, but listening to their composition reveals a lot in their structure.

Demons in the Architecture is a good drone cassette, and I’m interested to hear what the other three installments focus on in this series. Cathal Rodgers and RST pair well together, sharing over an hour of creative drones. This is perfect for those looking to zone out or admire the artistry behind the tones.

新宿二丁目 – Feedbacks & Hurlements (CD-R, Ikebukuro Dada)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

新宿二丁目 is the joint project between Rotkappchen and Chibre, both of whom have their own solo projects. This release, Feedbacks & Hurlements, finds the two coming together for a noisy display of electric guitar, electric bass, percussion, and electronic noise. Two of the tracks are performed by both members, and the middle offering is from Chibre singly. Over the course of thirty minutes, Feedbacks & Hurlements gives listeners a hefty dose of experimental noise using actual instruments from two capable musicians.

The album begins with “Feedbacks,” a fairly accurate title for this 18-minute track full of electric guitar swirls, biting noise feedback, and Chibre’s percussive elements. Rotkappchen’s guitar sound creates a cacophony in the background while feedback blasts the front end, smacks and hammerings adding nuance to the sound. This is a drony piece, although listeners will probably find it hard to get lost in the guitar distortion since there’s not a lot of variance besides a sustained searing tone. But it’s interesting to hear “Feedbacks” drift, with Chibre’s occasional noise bursts providing some nice alteration to the sound.

“Numb Your Mind” finds Chibre doing a solo noise piece, which works fairly well despite being somewhat muffled from a recording perspective. This feeds right into the collaborative piece “Hurlements,” which again finds Rotkappchen creating some swirling guitar feedbacks while Chibre employs some noise junk work. My biggest complaint with Feedbacks & Hurlements is that it at times feels too wholly similar, with none of the three tracks standing out from each other in variety.

However, it’s a solid half hour of noise experimentation, and Rotkappchen and Chibre pair well together with flowing works that seem to compliment in their drones. 新宿二丁目 is an interesting duo, and I look forward to seeing what they can put together next – perhaps something with just a tad more variability.

Memory Smoker – Synth Eternal (C60, Not On Label)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

Memory Smoker is a noise project from Alex, Ben, Jeremy, and Luke comprised of synth sounds and horror soundtrack stings. Besides Synth Eternal, they’ve got a couple of other releases under their belt, but this one is their newest release. Based on the track titles alone, it’s pretty apparent what this 60-minute cassette will offer – synth-based worship of the sound effects and chaos of slasher films, ’70s and ’80s gialli, and a repetitive reference to goblins.

The tracks on Synth Eternal may sound like they’d fit perfectly in a film’s repertoire of sounds, but as a whole they’re more abrasive than what one might find from, say, John Carpenter’s Lost Themes. There are hints of rhythmic playing, but Memory Smoker never delve into what would be considered a traditional song; rather, the collection reminds of early Wolf Eyes, working within the spectrum of rhythm and recognizable synth elements without actually creating an easy riff to follow.

The bulk of  Synth Eternal tends to blend together into side-long affairs despite the separation of tracks listed on the tape’s J-card, but Memory Smoker work in a number of memorable instances. Their works are often droning, using synth sustains to create a sense of dread while other members add effects to the sonic onslaught: a ticking, a warbling, sometimes the yowling of a cat. At times, the group does seize control of a pulsating riff and run with it, but mostly their compositions involve skillful noisicianship that combines their elements into an effective amalgamation that can often be particularly tense.

That suspense progresses throughout the tape, too, especially on Side B’s opening traack “Goblin Whale Hunt.” An uncomfortably high series of notes accompanies a pulsating bass and multiple anguished vocals, crafting a perfect representation of audial horror. This is a high compliment, that Memory Smoker is able to create such dread-drenched noise.

Synth Eternal is a solid cassette, one of those releases that makes me nostalgic for my early days of noise listening; sonic soundscapes like these got me into the genre in the first place, and it’s good to see new groups adopting the sound – with their own additions – to make some harrowing material. Synth Eternal is just that, and it’s a great listen to give yourself the creeps during a night alone.

recommended

Republic/The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – Meditation Music Volume 1 (C70, Winter Solace Productions)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

I’m not familiar with either of these projects, and any information on Republic is hidden because of the difficulty of Googling their moniker. However, based on Discogs listings, this is the only release Republic has participated in; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion have been at work for some time on National Socialism noise, although their time has now come to an end (note: Memory Wave Transmission does not support NS ideology, and this review is based on sound alone). It seems, based on the title, that Meditation Music was meant to be a series of releases, but Volume 1 remains the only compilation at this time, at least on Winter Solace Productions.

Each artist contributes a 35-minute track of meditation, taking up one side of this cassette. The first comes from Republic, titled “Within Time,” and it features a number of sustained synth progressions and drones set to the subtle ticking of the clock. This is a very pure sound, with the drones wavering without much complexity and slowly altering sound as the track continues. At times, the ticking of the clock becomes the focal point; at others, a somewhat sinister riff takes over. All told, this is perfect for relaxation, especially during the early morning hours as the liner notes indicate – Republic recognizes the difference between meditation and the focus of listening and strikes a delicate balance.

I’m not sure that I would call The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’s track, “Untitled,” meditative exactly. It’s harsher and more difficult to listen to than I would have expected, a trilling sound that continues throughout the entirety of the 35 minutes. While meditation doesn’t necessarily require a softer sound, “Untitled” borders on annoying, and that often took me out of whatever meditation I could muster. However, the movement within this piece – subtle changes to the chiming sound – helps to create a trance-like experience. Enjoyment probably depends on the listener.

While I didn’t enjoy The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’s track as much, Republic definitely offers a nicely hypnotic track to aid in whatever meditative art one practices. Meditation Music Volume 1 is an interesting experiment, and I’d be curious to see what other artists could do on recurring volumes.

Arvo Zylo – Falling Tower, Terrible Fountain (C30, Side of the Sun Recordings)

Drone, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, Review

falling tower, terrible fountainArvo Zylo brings us another excellent tape filled with noise from Side of the Sun Recordings. Falling Tower, Terrible Fountain is, from the artist himself, a personal recording experience based somewhat on the Falling Tower tarot card, and indeed the cassette brings a smattering of different sounds, sometimes minimal and sometimes noisily full, that draws the listener into this experience.

Side A’s full-sided “Falling Tower” is a mass of pulsating textures and rhythms, with Arvo Zylo crafting a heavy droning harsh noise track out of various pieces. Industrial loops of machinery and feedback sporadically whir in the background, while swirls of feedback repeat in the forefront along with a melancholy riff. “Falling Tower” approaches cacophony at times, but Arvo Zylo refrains from letting it reach an overblown climax – instead, he allows that industrial clamor to become a drifting texture that hypnotizes as it blends into the track. The amount of noise happening in the focal point – a bit of bass here, the softly exaggerated whine of circuitry there – forces the listener to observe each alternation in the sound.

Side B is actually two tracks, the titular “Terrible Fountain” and “House of God.” “Terrible Fountain” starts as slab of static in a continual loop that makes it sound segmented. That’s only for a few moments, though, and then Arvo Zylo allows it to linger a bit more, along with an open, airy drone in the background. It’s wall-like in nature but it never quite gets there; while mesmerizing, it doesn’t have the textural hold.

“House of God” is more minimal, a track that adds various electronic manipulations and synth tones. Arvo Zylo explores oscillating movement, and the end finds a synth sustaining a note overtop of the other repeating notes. It’s a short piece, but it works well as a follow-up to “Terrible Fountain.”

Falling Tower, Terrible Fountain is a solid release, and Arvo Zylo has proven time and again that his noise is something much deeper than the simple twist and turn of knobs. This tape is like a void, easily sucking the listener into the whir of noise aberrations, and one should attempt to find this tape by contacting punkferret138 AT yahoo.com (since Side of the Sun doesn’t really have a web presence).

Church Slut/Naked Pyramid – Split (C45, Earthmover Records)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

church slut naked pyramidChurch Slut and Naked Pyramid each share a side of this C45 split from Earthmover Records, a tape that, by artist names alone, might sound like something pornographic. No, there aren’t any moans and groans of sexual pleasure on this cassette but two heavy noise artists churning away on their electronic instruments. Church Slut is Brian Harvey, also known for his sludge/doom output in Griefhound, but this moniker finds him doing mostly noise destruction. Naked Pyramid features John Guttschall and Bob Troller from Atlantic City, New Jersey, a project I’m not too familiar with.

Church Slut is on Side A with six tracks that mostly run together without a break in the chaos. It begins with a lengthy drone of synth that the artist allows to drift somewhat aimlessly that doesn’t do much to introduce us to what Church Slut has to offer; rather, it’s sort of an unnecessary padding before the rumbles of the artist’s power electronics work begin. Church Slut’s offerings are better when they’re steeped in the harsh noise churnings that overtake the later tracks; there’s even some ripping vocals along with bass crunch. At times, unfortunate knob twiddling takes over in place of interesting noise progression, but after that first track there’s quite a bit of layering within these pieces that includes a lot of cut-up sounds, squalls, and bursts of static.

Next on Side B is Naked Pyramid with two tracks, both nearly around the ten minute mark. The first, “Indian Cabin Ruin”, begins with a droning track of guitar that soon incorporates electronics and oscillations, eventually some drum ‘n bass rhythms as well. There’s a lot of warbling in this collection of tracks, and second cut “Helter Shelter” features a warping loop of electronics and pounding that sounds like it could have been sourced from cymbals; this becomes a baseline for the duo to begin to layer feedback and other pieces of sounds overtop, but it does become a bit tiresome before the nearly nine minutes are up because of that repeating stutter.

Church Slut’s split with Naked Pyramid is a fairly good offering from both parties. It has a lot to offer including cut-up squalls from Harvey and Naked Pyramid’s brand of droning harsh noise, albeit with a few missteps on both sides. Still, it’s worth a listen from these two relatively new projects.

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

ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

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)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

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.