Mark Van Fleet – Alien Versions (C122, Little Miracles)

ambient, Drone, Music, Noise, Review, soundtrack

alien versions

Mark Van Fleet’s Alien Versions is an ode to Ridley Scott’s film Alien, a film-length alternate soundtrack to the film meant to be played at the same time with the volume of the movie turned down. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it with the film, and instead listened to it alone, but it doesn’t seem to matter much: even without the film’s visuals, the atmosphere of Van Fleet’s release is more than enough to evoke the stimulation and tension of Alien.

Alien Versions contains a lot of ambient noise that sits very well within the film; bleeps and bloops of space computers pair with quiet backdrops of electronic dread. Van Fleet often allows his soundtrack to thud along patiently, quietly droning with an ambient pounding or a subtle buzz. Side A’s 60 minutes often pair the ambiance with the alien growls and clicks, immediately visualizing Scott’s intense drama.

Side B’s opening pounds along with a soft feedback squeal behind it, the kind of muffled sound expected from a space shuttle. Without seeing the alien at all, the threat is there; and with this kind of alternate soundtrack, I think it’s just as important to listen to it without any visual aid as it is to listen to the two paired together. The effectiveness certainly comes from both combined, but Van Fleet is just as impressive at crafting intensity from sounds alone. In general, the cassette builds and builds without end, only multiple recesses before the next terrifying encounter.

The dark, somewhat muffled aspect of the approach is important to the soundtrack, too. The listener feels completely alone in its confining structure, subject to whatever horrors await. It’s a testament to what Van Fleet can do, and I certainly look forward to other re-imagined soundtracks because of this. Alien Versions is tense but also very much in line with Alien‘s atmosphere and mood, a difficult thing to re-enact but something Van Fleet is very good at.

Whether you’ve seen Alien or not (you need to rectify that though, really), Alien Versions is an important listen. Van Fleet effectively transitions between quieter moments and swelling, climactic encounters, forcing the listener to engage just as the characters in the film do. It’s a tight soundtrack full of dread, and one that shouldn’t be missed.

recommended

Bryan Lewis Saunders & Arvo Zylo – The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise (C40[?], No Part of It)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, spoken word

pleasure tunnel

Bryan Lewis Saunders has been documenting his dreams for some time now, and The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise is a combination of those dream recordings, a lucid write-up of two events occurring back-to-back with similar lengths and sounds. It happened to be when Saunders had a lung infection, so there’s a breathless, nearly wheezing quality to his recordings that tend to make the listener feel a little claustrophobic. Arvo Zylo, runner of No Part of It and noise magician, decided to lay down a couple of tracks along with Saunders’ breathing, crafting a tense surreality out of Saunders’ dreaming.

Side A of the release starts with quite a long passage of Saunders’ breathing, somewhat spacious in its approach because of the way the channels have been mixed. It’s difficult to listen to; it sounds like someone struggling to breath, wheezing in gasps. It isn’t until a few minutes in that the noise begins to build, a slow droning cacophony that picks up depth as it grows. The whistles and wheezes of Saunders are still there, but the noise is enveloping, a bassy drive that closes in on the listener. It eventually comes back down again, like the end of a dream when it starts to fade away just before waking.

Side B starts a bit more abrasively and then settles into some whirring, echoing drones – dreamy, then collossal bass. There’s a disconnectedness to the sounds on this track, often cutting in and out between heavy and soft, jolting and mesmerizing. They’re punctuated by spaces of silence, the embodiment of a dream that continually fluctuates in setting, tone, and mood until it has completely shifted itself. Eventually the sound morphs into a repetitive spring creak, as though a door is continually opening, leading to the spoken word moments of the transcript. The static crash at the end is another moment of dream-like surrealism, the lull before the fall from a great height.

The Pleasure Tunnel/The Temple of Paradise is an intriguing listen from start to finish, and there’s a lot of things worth returning to in this package. Both artists have notes about the making of this tape, as well as a full transcript of both channels of Saunders’ dreams. It means spending time reading each transcript, allowing the noise to envelop in the process – perhaps then, one can very nearly enter the dreams of another.

recommended

I.G.M – Virgin Skins (CD-R, Pidgin Records)

Drone, free jazz, Music, Noise, Review

virgin skins

Ian McColm’s project I.G.M is his solo work, but on Virgin Skins it sounds like there is at least a duo working to produce the noise/music on these ten tracks. Virgin Skins is a mixture of percussion and free jazz elements, noisy but also significantly rhythmic in its use of drum elements. It makes for a pounding, relentless release, the frenetic percussion melding with quieter repetitive moments for a wonderfully unique concept.

Virgin Skins is bookended by “Punctuation Alpha” and “Punctuation Omega,” two drum sequences that highligh I.G.M’s style of jazzy, sophisticated, and complex rhythms. The fills are fast and furious, and the chops are fantastic; this is playing at a high skill level, and the album never descends into boring drum solo territory because of the alternations in each song. “Plus/Minus” is a good example, a track of drumming that speeds up and subsequently slows down a tough beat.

Likewise, “The Wind That Blows the Birds” and “Blood Memory” take a different approach, using bells and chimes to create an ambient aura. “Blood Memory” is probably one of the most hypnotic tracks on offer on Virgin Skins: it’s the soundtrack to a horror film, combining a couple different instruments into a chilling song.

Virgin Skins is quite lengthy too, but it never feels that way. The album swiftly moves through tracks, often blending them together to the point where it’s easy to get lost in the repetition as though it’s a just a long song. That’s not to say that Virgin Skins doesn’t have distinguishable tracks; they just work well back-to-back together, alternating between poly-rhythms and droning elements.

It’s an intriguing listen, and one that works on all sorts of levels. I.G.M brings in noises along with his percussion, but there are also moments of great jazzy drumming too; this isn’t the kind of album that would be reserved for noise fanatics only, and those dabbling in free jazz or the avant garde would certainly find elements that strike. There’s one thought the listener is left with after Virgin Skins, though: McColm isn’t just a good drummer, but a great performer in general.

recommended

Mulo Muto/B E T A – Tape Crash #11: The Examination (C60, Old Bicycle Records)

ambient, Drone, Noise, Review

mulo muto beta

Mulo Muto is the duo of Joel Gilardini and Attila Folklor, a project of synths, guitars, and drones; B E T A is from Michele Basso and Marcello Bellina, and they mostly utilize guitars for a hypnotic, psych-y trance dance. Old Bicycle Records’ Tape Crash is a series of cassettes seemingly matching up artists for a split, and really The Examination could not have worked out better for two alike projects.

First up is Mulo Muto with their side-long droning piece “When the Sounds of Nature Collide With Our Inner Selves and Resurface As a Stream of Noises.” It’s about a half an hour long and sees Mulo Muto combining dark synth tones with a wall of buzzing rumbles. Beginning with insect chirrups, the track picks up into a droning crescendo, offering up the collision of the title for chants and radio transmission buzzes. Eventually we come down again after a glorious high, coming back to more nature sounds and some wind chimes.

B E T A offer up five songs on the second side, often of thick reverbed guitar and noise effects. “Pluto is a Planet to My Heart” gives a quick summation of what’s to come, a short track of soft guitar plucking, climaxing up until a “Shhhh…” quietens everything. “The New Order Song” starts with a guitar track and some junky electronic crackles before becoming a spacey jam of dueling guitar riffs. “Kill Collins!” shimmers, then rumbles, with a ton of reverberation leaving the ears tickled, until the Death in June cover “Behind the Rose” calms things; the original song is preserved, but under a heavy dose of echo that more resembles Boris at their noisiest. “Karma, please” is a sinister guitar riff, one taking the lead while the other strums out backing notes; “A (Ha Ha)” rounds it out with a crunchy, modulated riff and some moaned, ghostly vocals.

If Tape Crash is meant to be a way of seeing how two artists sound mashed up onto one cassette, then Old Bicycle Records have done a fantastic job on The Examination. Either way, this is a solid cassette all around from two very capable artists; Mulo Muto starts things with a lengthy, ambient drone, and B E T A provide a soundtrack of guitar manipulations. If you can’t find this tape, then just listen to the thing on Bandcamp.

recommended

Vinland Special Services – The Articles of Confederation (C80?, Red Light Sound)

ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

vinland special services the articles of confederation

Vinland Special Services is a from the same artist who does Ilsa Koch and runs the label Winter Solace Productions. On this release, Red Light Sound collects various recordings from Vinland SS, either compiled from small-quantity demos or other tapes the project has put out in the past. Because of this, the title The Articles of Confederation is fitting; these are old, somewhat outdated tracks for the project, yet still important to its history.

The first side starts off with the three tracks from the demo tape Vinland Protection Squadron. They’re mostly very quiet, confined cuts, beginning with the marching procession of “ZB Delirium.” The soft patter of footsteps continues to the tune of whistling feedback, which begins to open up into louder and more insistent noises later in the track. At over 20 minutes long, this track is the longest on the cassette but also has the most depth, often pushing the boundary of what the listener imagines the sequence will do. It’s followed by “The Patriots March on Washington,” with sizzling electricity and an constant whirring/churning texture that grows throughout its ten minutes. Ending side A is “Imposters in Glory Suits,” a very quiet echo of voices with soft feedback.

Side B features some of the B-sides of Vinald Special Services’ output, including “People’s Radio,” which did not make the cut on Vinland Protection Squadron. This is another lengthy track of repeated whirring, eventually morphing into what sounds like a distorted scream intentionally becoming static crackles. Eventually the track returns to its whistling alarms, and starts the process over again. Towards the end, it starts to become too repetitive, alternating between textures too quickly.

“Untitled” is the unique track on this release, tremendously different from the rest with its free-form ambient drones because it was not originally a Vinland SS track. “U-Boat Resistance Campaign” rounds out the noisier aspect of The Articles of Confederation with quiet feedback whistles and what sounds like a buzzing of strummed guitar in the background. Lastly is “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye,” Vinlad SS’ take on the traditional Irish song. It’s a creepy crackle of electronics and soft whistling drones, set to Vinland SS’ own vocals.

This is a nice release from Red Light Sound that compiles some of Vinland Special Services’ older tracks into a generally cohesive album; these tracks are often quieter yet still quite difficult, and certainly worth a listen.

Klontaveum/Protocols – Glory & Hope/Fa (C90, Winter Solace Productions)

ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Review

klontaveum protocols

The reason I took a guess on the length of this tape is because it doesn’t say anywhere exactly how long it is. The tracks themselves are about 35 minutes a side, putting this at a 70 minute length, but the tape runs along for a while after the tracks are finished. I’m guessing C80, but it could be closer to C90. Edit: Confirmed C90.

Anyway, Glory & Hope/Fa is a split tape from Klontaveum and Protocols (also known by the much longer title The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Klontaveum is a fairly new project I’d guess; I can’t find any information on the project, and Glory & Hope/Fa is the only release listed on its Discogs profile. Protocols have been around for some time releasing noisy ambient stuff, like their massive 6xCD-R set on Mein Kampf that runs about 7 hours long.

Glory & Hope/Fa is said to revolve around fire samples. First up is Klontaveum with four tracks, a quick intro with “When It Began” and then three longer entries. Klontaveum’s tracks are very cloudy, potentially the product of poor recording equipment or an echo-y studio. Whatever the case, it’s difficult to hear much dynamism in these tracks, because the audio is so muddy that the noise tends to blend into itself. Most affected is “Lies of a Lie Forged,” one of the longest tracks from Klontaveum and one that tends to have the least effect on the listener. Its noises often sound sludgy and undefined, only sometimes breaking free of the low bass shudders. “You Know” and “Glory & Hope” are slightly better, with more depth to the sound and somewhat changing tones of sound, where the breadth and pitch is more spread out.

Protocols’ side of the split has only two tracks, “Fa” and “Sandraudiga.” The first has some pretty defined fire samples along with dark synth dirges and a repetitive format that lasts for its twenty minutes. The ambiance of this track is aided by the fire crackles, and Protocols do a good job of keeping things fresh despite the fairly obvious use of repeating textures. The same goes for “Sandraudiga,” with another subtle fire crackle, more dreamy synth drones, and a loose warble that makes the tune feel like its weaving in and out. The Protocols side is absolutely recommended.

It’s a 50/50 release from Winter Solace, with Klontaveum’s side not very striking or profound; Protocols, however, sincerely deliver a nice droning ambient 35 minutes that is definitely worth the while.

Justic Marc Lloyd – Your (CD, Love Earth Music)

Drone, Glitch, harsh noise, Noise, psychedelic

your

“[Your is a] conceptual effort intended as a highlight of JML’s output,” the album notes state for Justic Marc Lloyd’s solo release, and this is as good a summary as any that I can think of. Over the course of multiple monikers in the noise hemisphere, including Pregnant Spore, Dementia and Hope Trails, and his wall output as False Flag, Lloyd has spanned the gamut of the genre: HNW, harsh noise, drone, tape loops, electronics, glitch. Not every release incorporates all of these elements, but Lloyd has been right there on all of them, successfully delivering excellent releases at every turn. On Your, he combines all of these sub-genres for an eleven-track album that sums up his diverse discography perfectly.

Your is not a collection of eclectic songs that have relatively little in common with each other. Despite the variability of sound, Lloyd has crafted an album that swings effortlessly between genres, often in the same track. “Feeling Submissive? Signal Two: A Thumbing” strikes a balance between the wonky tape loops and the rhythmic, as does “The Number Five Tasted Wrong, Part 2.” The opening moments are full of Lloyd’s penchant for grabbing interesting sound clips and pairing them off together.

The album continues into the other elements Lloyd has worked with in the past. “Most of the World” is a guitar-driven psychedelic swirl complete with whispered vocals and a clicking computer error chirrup; similar things occur in “Most of Our World,” but with a more electronic bent. Lloyd follows many of his tracks with a sequel part, using many of the same elements in unique ways; it keeps Your feeling fresh and focused, continually reusing and recycling similar sounds.

“Seemingly Under-Lion Self-Talk in the Form of Adam’s Sharp and Heavy Apple” hits on the harsh noise wall crunch with a high-pitched but lo-fi feedback rumble before opening up into an airy drone. Your ends with a couple of rhythmic, warped numbers, one of which spans for nearly ten minutes, to finish strongly.

Lloyd has really crafted a fantastic disc, and any of those who have followed his other work will find themselves right at home with nearly an hour of material. Your is meant to be a comment on motivational works and especially those of Wayne Dyer, and it’s hard not to come away from the album with a more positive light despite the discordance: accept the chaos and malfunction, because “you feel how you think.”

recommended

Dave Phillips – At the Heart of It All (CD-R, Ruido Horrible/Ruido Latino)

ambient, Drone, found sound

at the heart of it all

At the Heart of it All is a significant departure from where Dave Phillips began in Fear of God. That was a grindcore band back in the late ’80s, as raucous as one would expect. But his solo work on At the Heart of It All comes down from all of the aggression of the hardcore scene for a collage of found sounds out of the Amazon. The two 35 minute tracks on this release were collected by Phillips during his time near Chuallacocha, where he let his microphones record whatever sounds of the wildlife surrounded him. Simply organized and layered, At the Heart of It All features no manipulation of the various calls, and instead allows them to blend together for a cacophony of natural harmony. The disc comes with a short essay from Phillips on the transformative nature of this experience as well, explaining the reasoning behind the title.

The two tracks are split in two; “Dawn Until Dusk” gathers the sounds of the Amazon during the day, and “Dusk Until Dawn” collects them during the night. Both have familiar concepts – there’s an overwhelming amount of insect chirruping throughout both, and squawks from birds are fairly normal as well. In a way, these tend to form a wall of shrill cries throughout both tracks, allowing Phillips to layer calls of monkeys and frogs in the background to add variation.

At the Heart of It All switches off and on; the listener sometimes feels like they’re simply listening to a chorus of cries in the wild, and then all of the sudden Phillips collage will morph into an interesting loop of animal calls that form a rhythmic base. These moments are staggered throughout the album, and most likely not intentional; it is the audience who pulls the meaning out of insect sounds, and these are great experiences.

It’s certainly not a CD you’ll want to listen to all of the time; the found sound format, along with the relatively sparse editing, means that At the Heart of It All is best used as a relaxation soundtrack. Even so, I’d recommend “Dusk Until Dawn” over “Dawn Until Dusk” because the intensity of the insects becomes harsh over time. Still, if nature sounds are your thing, or if found sound interests you in any way, At the Heart of It All‘s composition is more than just heading to the zoo to listen to the animal buzz.

Isolator – Culture & Principal of Anti-Human Exaltation (CD, Black Plagve)

Black Noise, Drone, Noise, Review

isolator culture

Isolator is a blackened noise project featuring The Nothing and The Sculptor; however, if those code names don’t give you any indication of their association with other noise projects, the duo features members of Set, Father Befouled, and Encoffination. From the gloomy packaging to the lyrics featured in the fold-out digipak, it’s pretty clear that Isolator are going to bring dirges of black drone to the listener, and that’s exactly what they deliver.

However, it’s not as cut-and-dry as it may seem. Though the liner notes indicate there will be a lot of vocals, there really aren’t as many as expected. Or at least, they’re not delivered in the expected manner – whispers and growls are the common denominator here. Over the course of five tracks, Isolator craft heavy drones out of their instruments; at times it sounds like guitar, but there is bass and samples on here as well. Opener “Cast Into Blood” brings the momentous clamor of the duo right away with surging pulses that climax relatively quickly, while the longer tracks “Your Heaven Will Writhe In the Chaos of My Hell” and closer “Into the Blood of Our Kingdom” are reluctant to open up.

Isolator packs a lot of sound into these tracks, but it’s important to have the volume all the way up to really notice the detail. Their drones have a tendency to blend, where the subtle shifts are difficult to hear. However, in later tracks the progression is more evident, and the finale of “Into the Blood of Our Kingdom” hammers home the main idea of Culture & Principal of Anti-Human Exaltation; the whirring feedback tone in the forefront drops out midway through to open up for percussive cymbal smashes and an electric shock of rhythmic fuzz. It’s what the album has been building to, and it feels powerful.

Isolator have the black drone sound down very well, and their tracks tend to stick to the formula frequently. They’re not copycats of Sunn O)))’s devilish guitars or the intense vocal-tinged blackened noise, but something in between the two, exploring the darkest crags of drone with aplomb.

Ilsa Koch – Ilsa Frost (C30, Winter Solace Productions)

Drone, Noise, Review, Uncategorized

ilsa koch ilsa frost

Ilsa Koch is the noise project of the owner of Winter Solace; he has a few releases under his belt, mostly all on Winter Solace, and this single-sided cassette is no different. Ilsa Frost was originally released without a label as a demo, but then found re-release on Winter Solace as a sort of recycled tape. The cassette I received had a handwritten J-card with artwork from another Winter Solstice release that was whited out.

Only one track on this C30, filling out only the A-side with a fifteen minute jam that uses a black metal song as source material as well as guitar, sped-up vocal loops, and electric hissing. It begins with a simple guitar medley, some marching and German orders, and some ballroom music before transforming into a noisy hum of squeaks along with the strummed, melancholy guitar. Eventually this all disappears rather abruptly to make room for percussive loops of sound.

Ilsa Frost is a short listen, but its one track makes use of Ilsa Koch’s atmospheric sound. The loop used is rhythmic but aggressive, and the repeated effects that pair up with it work well to create a hypnotic, manic work.

If you missed this tape the first time, go see if you can pick it up from Winter Solace Productions now.