OPPONENTS – Psychosexual Spiritual (C38, Out-Of-Body Records)

darkwave, Industrial, Music, Noise, Review

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OPPONENTS is primarily a group focused on darkwave synth and rhythms, looping patterns that use drum machine-style beats to produce a gothic industrial tone at times reminiscent of Swans, at others a dark, swelling mass at a rave. Their tracks utilize the momentum of loops to add layers to the tunes, giving five tracks of dense but strangely catchy noise dirges.

The first side features three tracks. “Psychosexual Spiritual” opens the cassette with the pattern that I explained above, with lots of percussive elements and a heady bass beat driving the track, with the occasional inclusion of vocals. The second track expands on this idea – “Strip Off Your Skin” is a compelling, echoing track with stuttering drum beats and various synth additions throughout; the title phrase is repeated and refrained, but additional vocals meet with the monotonous, bored tones of A. Feinstein’s voice to add surprising depth to the lyrics. Finally, “The Centipede Elixir” ends the side with a rather simple drum line, but with the warblings of celestial synth and a vocal delivery akin to early Wolf Eyes.

The second side features only two tracks. A looping repetitive synth line leads “D4,” a track that pulsates and writhes with bass punctuation. Most hypnotic is the humming and pitched vocals that blend into the track’s layers; it’s my favorite out of this release because it utilizes all of its parts to greatest effect, and the loop is mesmerizing enough to carry on indefinitely. This is not so with the longest track on the tape, “Death to All.” At over ten minutes, this lofty cut overstays its welcome as it drones on. It’s a catchy tune but the single notes that keep the track on keel don’t have enough pull to warrant such a lengthy tune.

OPPONENTS have released a tape full of sweet synth sounds, and if you’re into the sort of gothic industrial vibe they have going on, Psychosexual Spiritual is a strong tape with layered sounds and a great vocal delivery. But some of the tracks stretch on for too long, making this C38 longer than it needs to be.

Droughter – Skin Gentleman’s Club (CD-R, Obfuscated Records)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, Review

skin gentleman

Droughter is Kevin McEleney, who also works under the name Drag Age (which has been reviewed on this blog). On Skin Gentleman’s Club, Droughter douses everything in gasoline and sets fire to it; any rhythms created by looping he destroys, any exhibiting signs of musicianship are eventually waylaid. Droughter leaves a desolate landscape in his wake, and the album is so completely off-putting that it’s just fantastic.

There’s a raw edge to all of the tracks on this album; they don’t feel polished or professionally mastered, leaving all of the roughness of the analog sound intact. Droughter hits hard with opener “Threshold,” its title a testament to the areas it reaches. There’s lots of sharp spikes of feedback, but they’re not overdone.

Crackling textures and shifting tones are also big on Skin Gentleman’s Club. The middle portion of “Threshold” features some great crunchy textures that come and go, and both parts of “Skin Gentleman’s Club” have huge bass-driven static. “Folio 1 (Reprise)” has a looping sample that Droughter quickly drops into oblivion. And “Taunt and Dismiss” is sure to leave the listener with a hellish landscape.

Droughter’s noise is harsh, loud, and raw, and the sounds on Skin Gentleman’s Club are intense. This is pure noise, full of dips and static and even some vocals. Put some time into this release, you won’t regret it.

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World of Metal and Rust – Songs for Prisoners (CD-R, Not On Label)

dark ambient, Drone, Industrial, Noise, Review

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World of Metal and Rust makes beat-driven drone and noise; sort of like dusty, dirty jams and down-tempo percussion. Songs for Prisoners is a self-released collection of tracks meant for different, unnamed prisoners; each of them gets their own song, all of them melted into a dark abyss of beats and repetitive rhythms.

World of Metal and Rust isn’t focused on completely obliterating the idea of a “song”; instead the project combines an industrial, echoing vibe with slow percussive rhythms, and most of the songs on Songs for Prisoners morph into a hybrid of what a hip-hop song might sound like if it was slowed down extensively and then fed through a guitar pedal. These songs don’t always include drums, but they’re all very slow and plodding.

They’re also very repetitious, and that can be a good or a bad thing depending on the track. Sometimes the tracks go on for too long, like “Prisoner G”‘s unending factory tones or the pulsating beat of “Into the Night.” The best cuts on the album are the shortest, the ones that use the rhythms repetitively, then slowly change the sound towards the end. Frankly, some of these tracks feel too similar to each other, using the same format with different noise and a slight mix of beats.

Songs for Prisoners definitely has some potential, but the length of this disc – nearly an hour! – and the repetitive nature of each track make it difficult to sit through. There’s a lot of content on here that could probably either be discarded or conjoined to make fewer but more interesting songs. 

Various Artists – Austin Noise 2013 (2xCD, Instincto Records)

dark ambient, Drone, Glitch, harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Industrial, Noise, Noisecore, power electronics, Review, Shitcore, spoken word

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Austin Noise 2013 is a compilation from Instincto Records collecting tracks from harsh noise/drone/experimental acts located in the Austin, Texas region. Over the course of two discs and two hours, the compilation features 46 artists, most of them rather obscure projects that many might not have heard. The collection is available in a set of 200, though I’m not sure how many of those went to the artists themselves.

The two discs of Austin Noise 2013 span a variety of different noise configurations. There’s the more experimental workings of Odor Baby’s “THE LIVE MISTRESS CAPITOL OF THE WORLD!!! AWESOME!!!”, which features a spoken word poem about sexual deviance delivered by an erotic mistress; drone offerings from Jacob Green and Pat Epley; then there’s the more harsh noise-oriented stuff from Mucophagia’s devastating “Fold Mold”, Aunt’s Analog’s harsh noise wall, Skullcaster’s “Blaggard”, and Sex Bruises’ “Good Lawyer.” There’s also the weird, thanks to Crashbarron’s channel-flipping track “Exciting Biceps” and Breakdancing Ronald Reagan, a project that always manages to crank out something off-beat and disturbed.

As you can see from the above amalgam of just some of the artists, there are those that are more well-known and those that haven’t really been experienced before. But what’s great about Austin Noise 2013 is that it gives the listener the chance to experience all of these acts at least once. Like any compilation, there are some really outstanding tracks on here coupled with those that might not tickle my fancy; yet that’s what a compilation is meant to do. Will you end up checking out all of the artists on here? Probably not. But you’ll definitely find some to whet your appetite, to force you to go out and find their discography. That’s what you want in a comp, and Austin Noise 2013 delivers.

There’s far too much on here to go into detail, but definitely check out this double-CD set if you can get your hands on it. You won’t regret hearing what Austin, TX has to offer.

Corpuscle – Victoria Snuffbox (C40, Maniacal Hatred)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

corpuscle

Corpuscle is a harsh noise/power electronics project, and on Victoria Snuffbox, the sound goes both ways. The first side is split up into five tracks over 20 minutes, while the second gives one track a full side to destroy sound. Corpuscle’s work is heavy, and Victoria Snuffbox fits in well on the Maniacal Hatred label.

The first side runs together pretty smoothly; opener “Shadow of Golden Memory” incorporates a low spoken-word vocal tone which is difficult to really make out while the background sounds ebb and flow – there’s a repetitive but powerful synth and the staccato crash of static to keep things moving. These tracks blend fairly well; Victoria Snuffbox feels less like a collection of tracks than it does a tape meant for a single listening experience. “Golden Shower Sabaoth School Medley” and “Dreams Crushed + Snorted (Pure Trance)” meld together, the former a feedback-laced experiment in minimal harsh noise and the latter a continuum of that sentiment with a larger, blurrier sound and industrial pulses. Side A ends with a remix by Gnawed, “White Nose Miracle,” with all of the rage you’ve come to expect from that project as well as a consistency to stick with Corpuscle’s sound, and finally we’re out with the white noise stirrings of “Red Blood Reduction.”

The second side is one long focused track of harsh noise, titled “Ever Mother Nail Biting Son III (Father Rot)”. Destructive static pairs with a metallic rhythm in the background, while the brunt of the chaos comes from thin tendrils of high feedback and a devastating vocal delivery. A pulse keeps things in motion at all times, and the feedback never really stops – it just keeps its whistle-like piercing tone throughout, offset by vocals.

There are very significant differences between between both sides of this tape, but Corpuscle does both the long-form and short-form harsh noise track well. Victoria Snuffbox is a brutal tape, and it’s a perfect assault on your ears – 40 minutes, zero let-up.

VxRx/HSSK – Vilnius (C30, Terror)

Drone, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

vilniu

VxRx is the shortened name for Vidinė Ramybė – probably a good thing for me because of all the accents, and I’ll keep it that way throughout this review. Likewise, HSSK is Hassockk, another moniker from the man who brings you the power electronics project Body Cargo. On the split Vilnius, VxRx cranks out the heavy PE stuff over multiple tracks while HSSK brings one 15 minute side of droning harsh noise and samples.

The first couple of tracks from VxRx are pretty standard power electronics; opener “Karoliniškės: Naminių Gyvūnėlių Kapinės” churns away with some vibrating drones and a couple of static swashes while the artist yells his vocals overtop. Thankfully, this release from Terror includes a pull out lyrics sheet; unfortunately, I don’t read Lithuanian. Either way, it seems VxRx has a lot to say, and the powerful nature of his vocals adds an extra depth to even the more generic PE tracks. But the last two tracks from VxRx are slightly different from the rest – “Markučiai: Myžalai Bendrabučio Lifte” has a slowed tempo to it, warped and whirred so that everything feels ill-paced, while “Krasnūcha: Sunaikinti Pietų Vilnių” does a similar effect with one strand of sound that is perpetually pitch-shifted.

HSSK’s one long track is much more blurry than VxRx’s offering, and lower in fidelity than normal with his Body Cargo work. Static, wind-swept bursts, and buzzing accompanies the track’s repetitive synth chords. Later on, as HSSK moves the territory from synth to vocal manipulation with a couple of samples, the subtleties of the track’s underlying sound emerge. The murky nature of the recording works well to mask things at first until sounds can emerge.

Two heavy sides from these power electronics aficionados, Vilnius is worth your time because it’s not deeply rooted in generic sound. The tracks offered here aren’t what you might expect from something labeled PE, and that’s a great thing. Add to it great packaging from Terror and you’ve got yourself a tape you need to seek out.

House of Bats – House of Bats (C40, Lighten Up Sounds)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, Review

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House of Bats is the project of Andreas Brandal and Robert Meldrum; both often do their own harsh noise projects themed around horror and eerie soundscapes, but together they offer up four tracks of moody and atmospheric harsh noise that effectively fits the gothic artwork of the self-titled tape’s artwork. Each track runs around 10 minutes for a collective 40 minutes of spooky haunted house sounds.

“For the Flies” starts out with what sounds like the aftermath of a broken tape deck, the distorted sounds of a very whirring and bent tape trying to play whatever it can from its audio. Along with it is the hum and drone of electronics, slowly paving the way for a chance encounter with a denizen of the night. The second track on the A-side, “The Forest Edge”, continues the churning textures with a somewhat bland track; it doesn’t have the creepy sounds of “For the Flies,” and the subsequent track “The House of Bats” is a significantly better cut.

That track is, for me, the focal point of this collaboration between Brandal and Meldrum. If side A is set up for moody atmosphere, “The House of Bats” swoops in for jarring effect. It’s got the distorted tape destruction, lingering tones of high-pitched loops, and a heavy bass rumble akin to the harsh noise walls that both artists delve into with their solo projects. A static crumble plays lightly over the top – there’s nothing too overly harsh about the track itself, but the feeling that it evokes is disturbing and tense. Final track “Tunneling” offers a similarly laid-back bass-driven tone, wind-swept and equally suspenseful with a sustained synth tone.

Overall, House of Bats is an excellent release full of foreboding textures, each nicely nuanced without a lot of heavy electronics or feedback. It’s a tape that most horror aficionados could even get behind without grimacing from the noisiness of it all – accessible and still gothic.

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Mole Hole – Sordid Hypnosis (C40, Lighten Up Sounds)

dark ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, Review

mole hole sordid hypnosis

Mole Hole’s Sordid Hypnosis uses a phonograph machine and 16mm film loops for its source material, and it was recorded straight to tape. That’s an interesting idea, and perhaps is one of the major draws to this cassette on Lighten Up Sounds. The other is the recycled way that it is packaged: the tape is housed between two rotting wooden boards from an old white barn and screwed together to make a sort of anti-tape that can actually be rescued from its captivation.

The tape features two 20 minute sides, apparently untitled (although Lighten Up Sounds’ Bandcamp features titles for them). The first side features a pushed-back rumbling tone of various crumbling sounds, all of them so lo-fi that it’s difficult to hear specific textures. Throughout, this tone continues in different forms, making it the base for the track while Mole Hole expands upon it with screechy feedback and, towards the end of the track, what sounds like a really scratchy phonograph loop. If you think about how a subway sounds when it’s just a little ways from entering the station, that’s about what most of the first side sounds like.

The second side is more crumbling and less interested with using multiple textures. Instead there’s a lingering whirring sound that clogs the background while the forefront features a lot of textured crunch that sounds recorded from a distance. The first time I heard this side, I wasn’t very interested in it and found myself losing attention. On multiple listens, however, there is something to take away from this side, but it’s difficult because of the quality of recording. The crunching tends to blend together with little variation to it – but the track makes up for that by consistent churns of sound and even the vamping of a synthesizer later on.

Sordid Hypnosis is an interesting experiment with the phonograph and tape reels; the lo-fi quality can sometimes be both a hindrance and a helper to these tracks. Side A is the better of the two because of its swirls of feedback, while Side B often falls into a constant whirring sound where the ear can barely pick out the movement of the textures because of their muddiness. But the odd packaging and uniqueness of Mole Hole’s work make it viable for recommendation anyway.

Black Leather Jesus – Gloryhole Anonymous (3″ Biz CD-R, Serious Business)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Industrial, Noise, Review

Black Leather Jesus normally toys with long-form soundscapes; they’re more interested in forming heavy slabs of noise instead of quick bursts. For a five minute disc, one would think that BLJ would make a track that encompasses the entire span of the release. In a surprising turn of events, though, the group has put together three very short tracks for this biz CD-R.

The first on the disc, “Dames Are For Pussies”, is a short grindcore-like burst of sound. It’s only 50 seconds in length, but it builds a huge wall of noise that Black Leather Jesus is known for, and when it fades out, it’s apparent that what we’ve heard is only a short blast of something much longer.

Then Gloryhole Anonymous moves on to “Ass Up”. These short pieces all seem gleaned from the same recording session – they have that encompassing mass of sound in the background – but they are also defined by the subtle changes in the forefront of the tracks. In “Ass Up”, there is a lot of feedback shifting that distinguishes it from the others. And finally, the ending “Trusting Rod and His Loving Thrusts” gives us a similar sound but with some moans or yelps in the background. The shifting feedback, the crumbling sounds of the static, and a whitewashing tide of bass, along with what sounds like the quick use of either a sample or synth track, bring Gloryhole Anonymous together for a great five minute excursion of sound. A great experiment from BLJ.

Grunt – Europe After Storm (CD, Force Majeure)

harsh noise, Industrial, power electronics, Review

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Grunt’s Europe After Storm was originally released in 1998 as a C30 on the label Spite, but many people probably missed out considering it was a limited run of only 50 copies. Force Majeure has re-released the original four tracks on CD, along with three unreleased tracks and four live versions of Grunt’s output. It’s a nice-looking release from Force Majeure, and the record is over an hour of Grunt doing what the project does best.

The first four tracks are the original release, and they’re great examples of power electronics done right. They’re similar to what Grunt has released over the years, but they’re still at the forefront of the genre in regards to power and destruction. “Project Eden”, the first cut, is driven by a heavy bass beat – fairly normal for the genre, but overtop of the noise is Grunt’s vocals. They are the focal point of most of these tracks, and the rage in those words is notable. “N-Force” is a track with more ethereal qualities, slightly different from the other output on this release; there’s a synth texture here that makes it feel more uplifting than the others.

“Europe After Storm” is a powerful mix of different tones of feedback. It feels cut-up in its approach, where everything is shifting and crunching around in an amalgamation of destructive properties; what’s interesting is that in this track, Grunt’s vocals are shifted to the background, as though the noise is simply too overblown.

The next three tracks encompass the unreleased material; they’re definitely not as good as the originals from Europe After Storm, but they certainly add value to this album. “Hitler Klinton” has a devastating feedback loop that slices through nearly everything, while “Peacekeepers” maintains a fairly generic PE sound. Besides the original tracks from Europe After Storm, the live tracks are the other reason to check out this re-release. Grunt does things a little differently live, and if you haven’t had a chance to see a show, these tracks give good insight into what you might encounter. The live version of “Ethnic Cleaning” keeps the beat with static, while the studio version features a drum track. While it’s not much of a difference, it’s interesting to note the necessary changes when performing in front of an audience.

Force Majeure’s re-release of Europe After Storm is an excellent example of how to put out old material. It adds over half an hour of extras, and anything from Grunt is well worth a listen. This was released in a collection of 489 hand-numbered CDs, so try to find one soon.

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