Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death (Programme A) (CD, Malignant Records)

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

the totality of death a

Trepaneringsritualen is Thomas Ekelund, a death industrial/power electronics project that has been around since about 2010. The project itself has amassed quite a number of smaller, hard to find releases on tapes across the noise spectrum (and even a 10″ on Release the Bats, kind of surprising), so in a partnership between Malignant Records and Silken Tofu, Trepaneringsritualen released a two-CD compilation set comprising many (but not all) of his tracks. Thus, one label released Programme A, the other released Programme B.

The tracks aren’t ordered by date of release, so they’re split fairly evenly between the two discs. You’ll get some of Trepaneringsritualen’s old and new stuff on both CDs, so there’s no worry that one disc consists of less quality than the other. It’s interesting how the tracks are structured on Programme A, because some of them seem quite different from his other works.

Opener “Death Reveler” finds a looped, scorched guitar rhythm and some bell-like textures with harsh vocals overtop, while the second track, “Edifice of Nine Sauvastikas,” meanders with an echoing industrial yaw for ten minutes. These moments tend to juxtapose the changes in Trepaneringsritualen’s sound as it evolved, and that’s really what a compilation such as this should be about.

Programme A‘s tracks tend toward the simpler side of things in terms of sonic output; Ekelund is often happy to offer up one pattern of textures throughout an entire track, working with the blackened samples he includes without feeling the need to change the loop. While this often works to his advantage (see “All Hail the Black Flame”), some of the tracks like “The Birth of Babalon” can grow stale. Likewise, the moments where Trepaneringsritualen buries his vocals in the sound, as on “För Svears Väl,” feel like missed opportunities – the atmosphere is there, but the vocals do give the project and tracks an added weight.

The last two tracks on Programme A are considerably lesser in quality, which is fine, because these offerings are quite different from the rest of the output. Drums, guitar, and other instruments combine with his vocals for an amalgam that is hinted at on other tracks but never explored. Trepaneringsritualen even covers Death in June’s “C’est Un Reve.”

Like many compilations, the tracks on The Totality of Death (Programme A) can be hit or miss, but for the most part, Trepaneringsritualen’s output is consistently punishing and worth the lengthy hour listen, especially because the project has been quite varied over the years. The discs from Malignant Records and Silken Tofu come in a six-panel fold-out digipak, too, so the whole package is worth it.

Bitchneck – Step 4 (C30, Not On Label)

harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

bitchneck

Bitchneck is a harsh noise/power electronics project from Boston, and on this C30, the tracks tend to highlight drug addiction and recovery. In the twelve-step program, step 4 is truth, and it certainly feels as though Bitchneck is emphasizing that the past be scorched away, the only thing remaining being the truth about the addiction.

This is a two-sided cassette with the same tracks on both sides, so it’s possible to flip it over and start in again – the tracks are good enough to warrant this. “Misalign” is a squeaky rush of electronics that leads right into “Swallow,” one of the best tracks on this cassette. It utilizes a simple form – blurred harsh vocals and a continual high-pitched feedback squeal, combined with the fuzz of occasional static – but its lack of texture seems to indicate that sense of truth in step 4. There’s not much to mask the sound, just the hesitation of actually talking.

“Commitment” uses a spoken word sample about addiction as its backdrop, continuing throughout the track as scratchy walls pile upon it. Again, the sense of giving voice to addiction is present here, with the walls signifying how easy it is to attempt to cover up the truth. Finally, “Misremember” returns us to the echoing sounds of “Misalign” with metallic scrapes enunciated by distortion.

Step 4 is a short release but it has a lot of substance to it, and it sticks to the theme of drug dependency well. There are simpler, controlled bursts of harsh noise, and there are also layered textures to fuzz the brain. Both are done extremely well.

Grunt – Someone Is Watching (CD, Force Majeure)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

someone is watching

Grunt’s active style of noise is fully present on this reissue CD of Someone Is Watching, originally a C60 back in 1998. The CD emphasizes the paranoia on display in the lyrics and titles of Grunt’s work; an insert features a nine-panel picture of people being viewed through a security camera, as well as a write-up of video surveillance systems.

If Grunt’s recordings aren’t intensely focused on the politics of surveillance then I don’t know what is. His power electronics delivery is one of the most recognizable and violent of all of the acts I’ve heard, and the opening moments of “Watch Your Back” are so devastating thanks to Grunt’s iconic vocals that it’s easy to see what’s in store throughout. He works with loops, crushing static, and heavy synth rhythms for a sound that matches the dissent in politics and world affairs.

The only track that really misses the mark is “You Can’t Hide,” which differentiates itself from the other songs on the disc by using loops of sound samples including, “Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere.” throughout. It doesn’t have the flair that Grunt’s own screams give to the tracks despite significantly highlighting the paranoia.

Force Majeure’s re-release seems to omit two tracks from the original: “DNA Test” and “Filmed Proof” are missing here although listed on the original cassette, so either those were tracks Grunt did not want included or Force Majeure made an executive decision to leave them off.

If you missed Someone Is Watching when it first released, it’s in your best interest to pick up this re-released edition. These are some violent and heavy tracks from the power electronics king, and you’ll want it in your discography.

Gnawed – Terminal Epoch (CD, Phage Tapes)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

terminal epoch

Terminal Epoch is a full-length Gnawed album from Grant Richardson, and he’s become quite the aficionado of the power electronics scene. All of Gnawed’s output is consistently grueling; the devastating recordings are populated with the staples of the PE genre without feeling like the same tracks over and over again. That’s a difficult thing to do with a full-length like Terminal Epoch, with twelve tracks to fill. But the CD, clocking in at over 40 minutes, never repeats the same thing.

It certainly fits into the style of power electronics that Gnawed has been putting out for years, though. Tracks like the opening “Savage Judgment” paired with “Taken As Scorn” would sit well on any cassette Gnawed as put out; they use the vocal manipulations and pounding, slow synth beats that make up traditional PE tracks. But what always amazes me about Gnawed as an artist in the forefront of the field is that his tracks always feel incredibly powerful, mixed with the clanging industrial beats as emphatic as feedback is with harsh noise artists.

Gnawed varies things considerably, however. It’s not all about the methodical rhythmic beats; “Lip Service,” “Retribution,” and “To Crawl” manage to loop industrial rhythms without needing a thudding stomp. “Deconstructed” only sticks around for a minute, while other tracks make use of unusual source sounds like a monotone scrawl of static or a quiet sampled vocals. Gnawed’s signature whorled screams are still present, but they’re muffled occasionally.

The source sounds elevate Terminal Epoch above other PE tracks. Screeching electronics is par for the course, but piecing together specific sounds, like the synth line from the title track, takes a lot more foresight. It makes it well worth the listen.

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Deeper Wells – Untitled (C20, Maniacal Hatred)

harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

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Deeper Wells is a power electronics with a few releases under its belt. Untitled, a C20 on Maniacal Hatred, has all of the seething rage of an aggressive noise track, with yelled vocals that lie underneath the noise because of their muffled nature, as though delivered through a loudspeaker covered in dust.

This tape offers up two untitled tracks, side-long. Side A features a repetitive track of surging and rhythmic high-pitched feedback, occasionally changing pitch. Behind it is an almost ambient loop that continues throughout the track, a light rushing sound that carries the track forward. The feedback is the most important piece of this track, as it is the one thing that differentiates the sound. The dark loop provides a stable structure for Deeper Wells to work with while single textures shift randomly, the vocals spiraling inside the sound.

The second side has a track full of shimmering static, which makes up the background of the track. There’s a rhythm going on in this “Untitled” output – muffled tones of noise churning transform into a feedback-laced forest full where Deeper Wells puts his vocal delivery. There’s a couple of heavy chords thrown in as well, and much like the other side, this one’s repetitive without feeling like it lacks depth.

The only thing that seems to be problematic about Untitled is that there never seems to be a climax in either of these tracks; side B does swell, but the swirling textures seem to stew rather than explode. These tracks are still good, but Side A could have advanced towards a clash of sounds rather than just straight repetition.

But overall Deeper Wells offers up two grimy tracks of power electronics that explore interesting textures. Straight feedback is emphasized over direct vocal delivery, but the textures that hold the tracks together are forceful and creative.

Boar – Dead Existence (CD, Breaching Static)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, power electronics, Review

dead existence

Boar is the project of Alex Nowacki who offers up nine brutal tracks of harsh noise and walls on Dead Existence. The number of tracks might seem a bit excessive even for a full-length release, but Boar’s agenda for this disc is to create shorter, more manageable walls that get in and get out. Long, unchanging walls aren’t really present on Dead Existence; instead, the emphasis lies on textures and patterning to create memorable walls that quickly morph into the next track.

There are a number of good walls on the disc, but Boar doesn’t stick to one device throughout. Many of the walls are fairly rigid throughout their running time – “Her Toxic” and “72nd Death” come to mind as two fairly traditional walls with rumbling and crackling static formations – but there are also those tracks that continue to swell as they move forward.

“The Dried Socket” is a crunchy wall with a heavy, fast-paced bass line, but listening closely to the interior of the static rewards the listener with quick bursts of high-pitched feedback. There’s a similar thing happening within “Memory Lapse/Fuck/Gone.” Opener “Watching the Tragedy Unfold” features a wavering rhythm along with a rushing background crunch, giving the track the illusion that it’s nearly out of control.

Dead Existence isn’t always just HNW, though. The devastating track “Angel Skin Decaying” features a super high-pitched feedback buzz throughout, along with short bursts of synth notes. Every time I hear this track, my ears are left ringing for at least fifteen minutes. Following that is “The Fragrance That Brought You Back,” an industrial-tinged track that wouldn’t seem out of place with a few vocals from Nowacki thrown in, and in fact some of the wall static textures feel like heavily-distorted screams. This is one of the best of the bunch too with its cut-up style breaks in the wall.

But the shorter form of the walls does tend to make some of them less memorable. The lead-in to “Distant Collapse” from “The Dried Socket” is the only thing that really seems to differentiate those two tracks from the other; even though they’re not the same textures, they sound pretty similar.

But the experimentation is noted, and Boar offers up some intense walls that, because of their shorter length, are easier to return to if the listener wants to relive the experience. This is a release perfect for those who like crunchy, bass-driven tones but don’t want to put in the time to listen to lengthy walls – and not only that, it’s got a ton of great sounds to offer up as well.

Citizen 2-13 – A Violent Means Til the End (C12, FTAM)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, power electronics, Review

violent means

Citizen 2-13 is Matthew Michuda, and A Violent Means Til the End is the latest release in his small catalog. It was actually sent to me on the Maniacs Only forum for review; a couple of other people got copies that they requested as well, because he was looking to get some reviews up (good or bad) about the project. This short tape put out by FTAM is a mostly harsh noise, but Citizen 2-13 has no need to worry about people saying good things about his work – this cassette is quality all around, from the packaging to the noise.

The first track, as far as I know untitled, features a loop of a girl screaming a loud pounding. Citizen 2-13 begins the loop just before the sample ends, and after a while we’re surrounded by the screech of this girl and heavy bass blasts. The track begins to distort, echoing the sounds and then moving away from the source with droning feedback. For a while, it retains at least the form of that opening mantra, but towards the end of the track, Citizen 2-13 transforms it into a churning drone that wails until the finish.

The second track starts with fuzzy static, although it’s not dense – it’s an open sound, with mid-range feedback vibrating underneath it all. There’s a good use of bass and crunch that punctuates but never envelopes the track; it gives this second untitled thrasher a percussive element, sometimes near harsh noise wall status, but relatively fluid in its movement. The last minutes give us a wall with juddering bass, and then finally it cuts out for just a pattering of footstep-like clicks.

Short though it is, A Violent Means Til the End is certainly worth a listen, and it gives the sense that Citizen 2-13 could do something great with even more time allotted. This tape is still available for $6 at the FTAM website, so go snag one.

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Whore’s Skeleton – Honey (CD-R, Not On Label)

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

whores skeleton

Whore’s Skeleton is a harsh noise project from Columbus, Ohio, and on Honey, a CD-R of just under ten minutes, the project presents one live-recorded track. Whore’s Skeleton has released a couple of other albums, but apparently none of them have been easily producible in a live setting. Honey is meant to change that.

It certainly does feel recorded in a live setting, and the electronic sounds all feel authentic to the session. The track opens with a lingering, melancholic drone which acts as a frame for the rest of the track. There are a few vignettes in this sub-10 minute piece; the first one begins as what seems like a sound sample from a movie, but it has been distorted and/or looped to create screams and a pounding that mimics what one might hear in power electronics. It’s a good use of sample, and quite effective.

The track moves on like a bus, using the drone to carry the listener until we get to a second wave of noise, this one being a washed-out electronic whir with harsh vocals from Whore’s Skeleton. The noise buzz is only mediocre – it seems as though there’s too much room within the sound, and it’s probably due to a recording element rather than a lack of texture. Finally, another sample, this time from The Tracey Fragments (which could be the source for the other sample, but I’m not sure), carries the listener out with a discomfiting thought.

It’s an interesting, sometimes fairly original, piece from Whore’s Skeleton, and it creates a sense of wonder of what the project can do next. It’s not perfect, but neither is performing live, and that’s kind of the point of this release. A well thought-out effort.

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.