Dodsmaskin – Fullstendig Brent (CD, Malignant Records)

harsh noise, power electronics, Uncategorized

Fullstendig Brent translates to «completely burnt»; «holocaust» in Norwegian according to the album’s interior insert, and the writing goes on to explain the ideas behind this full-length recording from Dodsmaskin. It’s meant as an interpretation of the Norwegian witch trials in the 17th century, and the five tracks offered on this album certainly do represent an aural history of that time.

The album is littered with burning sounds, from the first crackles of the opener
“Båldom” to the other tracks’ usage of static and more conventional power electronics synth rhythms to emphasize the thematic imagery of the witch trials. Dodsmaskin uses more ambient layers at first, allowing “Båldom” room to set the mournful atmosphere before “Heksetimen” breaks into a heavy power electronics lurch, the sounds of screaming women a cacophony in the background.

“Christoffer Orning” and “De Ti: 1621” sit comfortably in the middle, offering ambient sound effects like chanting throughout the opening minutes of the tracks and then breaking into a mountainous din; Dodsmaskin is comfortable crafting bleak and minimal tones, but his synth drones and physical effects, like shattering glass, add a theme of insurmountable odds to Fullstendig Brent.

Like its opening track, the album ends on a somber and mournful piano ballad with
“Dømt På Sitt Liv Til Ild Og Bål,” and thus ends a narrative told in audio from Dodsmaskin. Fullstendig Brent is a strong album even at its short running time, and anyone interested in the witch trials will definitely want to hear this soundscape of torture and terror from the 17th century.

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.

Big Hole – Gertie (3″ CD-R, Not On Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Big Hole has released some excellent harsh noise walls over the years, and Gertie, a 21-minute slab of crunch and static, is no exception. The project doesn’t interpret walls as stoic, unchanging monoliths that force the listener to sit through forty minutes of the same texture looping over and over; while there are projects that do this kind of wall well, that kind of wall noise is often lost in the overwhelming sameness of the genre. Here, the sole track “Gertie” features some textures that never change but also those that intermittently add variation to the tone, a truly enjoyable offering.

The track starts with a real sound clip, an interview with Ricky Hobbs; the release itself is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens, a brutal story of torture and abuse perpetrated by Gertrude Baniszewski and Hobbs that ended with a life imprisonment sentence for Gertie. Horrific murder and abuse plays heavily into this track as Big Hole sets up a damaging static crackle that continues throughout the work while chaotic, arhythmic crackles – in this listener’s opinion, the metaphorical stand-in for torment – continually alters the wall. This is an exceptionally intriguing wall, with the crackling textures becoming a kind of hypnotism and imprisonment for the listener.

Ultimately Gertie‘s running time feels the perfect length, with the wall never ceasing to lose its energy. Big Hole manages to evoke the same tonality as the murder case that he references on this release, and it showcases how harsh noise wall can generate a feeling even when noise itself is emotionless.

Unsustainable Social Condition – Unsustainable Social Condition (C10, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noisecore, noisegrind

Unsustainable Social Condition is the harsh noise/noisecore project of Matt Purse, also owner and operator of the Oxen label. This project has amassed a number of new releases in 2016, almost all of them released on Oxen. Notably, it seems as though Unsustainable Social Condition moves through a number of different noise genres, since one of the project’s latest releases, Dispersant, features a series of four tracks with lengthier runtimes than what’s offered on this self-titled cassette. Over ten minutes, Unsustainable Social Condition gives us crumbling harsh noise and blast beats akin to some of Sissy Spacek’s noisecore speed offerings, with 23 tracks across both sides in very minute bursts.

It’s too difficult to tell where one cut ends and another begins on this release, so referring to individual tracks is an unhelpful reference. Instead, Unsustainable Social Condition’s tracks tend to blend into each other, with crumbling noise-wall textures and crunchy swirls of noise pairing well with contributor Josh Taylor’s drum blasts. While Unsustainable Social Condition‘s A-side tends to approach the harsh noise side of things with Purse’s electronics doing much of the grunt work, Taylor’s drumming adds a significant amount to the B-side’s tracks, bringing brute force to the electronic crackles, static swirls, and occasional contact mic-style tinnitus.

These tracks will fly by, making it hard to decipher exactly the methods Purse is employing on this release. Like cut-up harsh noise, this release runs through a gamut of sounds, an excellent introduction to the madness inherent on any one Unsustainable Social Condition release. At only ten minutes, this cassette warrants repetitive plays, and it’s a perfectly chaotic release that should please fans of harsh noise and noise-laden grindcore.

Big Hole – Overwhelming & Collective Murder (3″ CD-R, Not on Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Uncategorized

Big Hole’s Overwhelming & Collective Murder is a 20-minute disc featuring one wall, and it starts out with a sound bite from Burden of Dreams, a documentary on the making of Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo. I’ll confess to knowing very little about either of those two things, but one thing I do know is that this sound clip is perfectly in tune to Big Hole’s oppressive ripping wall spanning the course of this album.

“Overwhelming & Collective Murder” begins with a subtler crackling static before the full wall takes effect, and it’s a nice way to showcase the focal tone before moving into the wall’s more atmospheric layering. When the full wall starts, it’s part of that crunchy crackle – which is nicely raucous and rather fast-paced, wriggling endlessly throughout the 20 minutes – along with a somewhat denser static tone that combines quite nicely, plus a higher-pitched texture that makes up all three areas of the wall.

It’s very easy to get lost in this wall despite its harshness, and I’ll confess to getting absorbed in it despite my attempts to keep attentive to its shiftings – after a while, all three of the textures blend so well together that I forgot where they began, and it’s a hypnotic and, as the title states, overwhelming listen that leaves the ears ringing. Big Hole’s release says to listen loudly, and that’s a dangerous request: it’s rewarding and also quite damaging, and that’s probably the point.


Facialmess – You Trip Me Up (C20, No Rent Records)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

Facialmess is the harsh noise project of Kenny Sanderson, who uses a lot of cut-up sounds and techniques in his works to create an intricate, detailed document of noise which is often incredibly harsh in its output. On his most recent release for No Rent Records, You Trip Me Up, Facialmess changes his output a little bit, opting for a more refined palette of sounds that don’t necessarily range a wide gamut but instead utilize many ambient passages to create tension and explosive effects.

This C20 is split into two ten-minute sides. The first track is titled “Habit of Thinking,” and it begins with an ambient swirl of sound along with clicks and taps from perhaps a contact mic before launching into a tour de force of cut-up harsh noise. Feedback spurts and glitchy rhythms form the soundtrack, with Facialmess dropping the noise to allow that ambient texture room to break up the onslaught. If you’ve heard cut-up noise before, you know that it can ultimately become redundant – the listener can only go so long hearing multiple tracks of unrefined noise before it all begins to blend together. But Facialmess’ use of space and sparing the listener from a smorgasbord of the same noises makes both of “Habit of Thinking” and the second track, “Pessimism Without Compromise,” into a surprisingly agile release that is often chilling and suspenseful.

That second track uses a similar sequencing, though without the ambient texturing. Instead, harsh noise alternates with a sinister synth riff that leads to crumbling, pounding textures that move around the balance, opening up into intense percussive noise blasts and feedback. I love Facialmess’ use of stereo here, and “Pessimism Without Compromise” adds detail to what could just be a barrage of harsh noise.

You Trip Me Up is a huge success, and probably one of my favorite cut-up harsh noise releases thus far because of its nuance and dynamism. Unfortunately, though, this product is sold out from No Rent Records, so you’ll have to find it secondhand or listen on Bandcamp.


Stroker – The Bitch (C26, No Rent Records)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

Stroker is Rachel Slurr’s harsh noise project, and The Bitch is a cassette release with a limited number of 100 that has already sold out. Some may know Slurr from Heaven’s Gate, but I must confess all of these projects are new to me. However, The Bitch is an intriguing title for this tape; the J-card comes with an insert picture of a cute little dog, along with bones separating the track titles, all with an excellent pink background. The noise on this tape, then, is a nice change of pace from the rather peaceful appearance.

Stroker cuts this release into two sides with two tracks apiece. Her output tends to have the low-end rumble of harsh noise wall and caustic crackling static; however, her work is much more chaotic than HNW often allows, and though Stroker does create dense textures, they’re significantly dynamic. There are lot of juddering effects to these tracks, with tons of cut-up-esque shifts along the way. In fact, a track like “Milk Bone” has so many quick cuts and transitions that it’s easy to get lost in Stroker’s continually evolving ideas.

There’s quite a bit of experimentation in here, too, which gives The Bitch some stand-out qualities. “Tube Top” makes use of harsh textures that almost sound like heavily distorted screams toward the end of the track; “Tube Top” takes a break toward the end of the onslaught to filter in some conventional songs, albeit partially deconstructed and shifted. “Leash Law” features some found sound at the beginning of the piece, seemingly taken from a roaring lion or something similar – then structures the harsh noise around it, using the roars to compliment the static crumbles excellently.

Chances are, if you like harsh noise, there’s something to like on The Bitch. Stroker changes things up so much from track to track that it’s difficult not to become enchanted by the whole spastic thing. And even then, final track “The Bitch” locks into a looping rhythm of churning static crackles that’s aided by some alterations (though perhaps a bit too many variations on the same theme). Still, this is a strong, short series of harsh noise tracks with quite a lot to hook even the most seasoned listener.

Zebra Mu – Spear/Streak (CD-R, Quagga Curious Sounds)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

spear streakZebra Mu is a harsh noise project from Michael Ridge, owner of the Quagga Curious Sounds record label. Over the years he’s released more than 100 albums in one form or another, from splits to full-lengths, and I’ve known of the project for a long time without actually covering its releases on Memory Wave Transmission. Now, all that is about to change with Spear/Streak, a 25-minute CD-R comprised of five untitled tracks of uncompromising harsh noise. The CD-R comes in a nice package, with a yellow insert in a half-size DVD case; on the back side of the insert is typewritten text that looks like real musings on Biblical passages; there’s also a full page of typewritten text that comes from a Sunday School sermon. Finally, there’s a small insert, a photo of wedding presents (mine’s marked 7/72). It’s quite an interesting display, although I can’t put all of these things together into a coherent theme.

The tracks on this album aren’t long-form, and Zebra Mu works within shorter lengths – as short as two and a half minutes – to mid-length cuts, the longest tracks coming in at six minutes. The first, simply titled “I,” is a harsh noise blast of crunchy static and subtle alterations within the background of the track, with feedback squeals and laser-like electronics manipulations making their way into the mix about a third of the way through. Lots of noise squalls cut into the sound throughout the back half, adding some harsh punchy textures. “II” segues right in, featuring a more minimal texturing of cut-up and decaying stuttering static, a very interesting buzzing tone in the background, and lots of moaning and groaning.

“III” begins even more sparse, with what sounds like a lot of crackling contact miccing that reverberates and echoes on different surfaces, with some feedback slowly building into the mix before heavy harsh noise dominates the listener. The transition here is fantastic, and the high-pitched feedback is used sparingly so that it doesn’t become too disruptive.; plus, there’s a background rhythm that makes good use of the different pitched squalls. “IV” is the most experimental of these tracks, full of squeaks and squeals like the sound of a radio station just barely coming in; and Zebra Mu makes use of scratchy samples full of static along with manipulated dialogue from a film. Despite its less commandeering approach to harsh noise, it’s probably one of the more difficult listens on Spear/Streak, in a good way. “V” ends things on a quick, harsh note with heavy punctuated scratches of noise, syncopated and shallow. It opens up towards the end of the quick 2.5 minute track, ending with a nearly white-washed series of feedback squalls.

Anyone looking for some quality harsh noise that doesn’t adhere to strict formulaic methods will enjoy Zebra Mu’s work on Spear/Streak. It’s a release that doesn’t need to rely on heavy walls of sound; rather, Zebra Mu often allows single chains of noise room to shriek and scream, capturing interesting tones as the tracks shift naturally. Spear/Streak has a very cool package, but the harsh noise on the disc is the real attraction.