156 – Frontyard/Backyard (C40, Acid Casualty Productions)

ambient, Drone, found sound, Noise, Review

frontyard backyard

156’s Adel Souto switches up his output all the time, and on Frontyard/Backyard he opts for a found sound approach to noise. There’s continually an influence of tribal ritualism, of percussive rhythms, that flow throughout his work, and on this C40 tape, 156 utilizes the urban noise of New York City and surrounding areas as a sound source for collaged tracks.

Both tracks, “Frontyard” and “Backyard,” are sourced from outside sounds, although many of them sound intentionally played as instruments. Wind chimes are struck in a lyrical method; the sounds of subway sounds or jets in the sky become the bass rumble of the city’s drone.

“Backyard” features a few repetitive loops like a trash can lid banging over the sizzle of a sprinkler system. There’s a cat meowing in the finale of “Frontyard”; while none of the sounds 156 assembles are all that noticeable on their own, when paired in this montage of city sonics it works as a cultural assembly of everyday rituals, however bleak it comes off.

Frontyard/Backyard is worth the listen, especially given all of the time spent assembling the field recordings. For those who live in a city, it will be easy to recognize the sounds; for those who don’t, a new soundscape awaits.

156 – A Life Lived As If In Hell (C30, Out-Of-Body Records)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

156 a life

A Life Lived As If In Hell sounds exactly like the title of the tape suggests; I reviewed one of Adel Souto’s releases as 156 before and it certainly did not have the dark connotations that this one does. The release is steeped in darkness and grief, not so much stemming from a violent side of things but from the simple use of textures and sound sources to evoke a harrowing experience throughout.

Both sides are simply titled “Sad A” and “Sad B.” On the first 15 minute track, 156 subjects us to all sorts of terrible sound sources mixed in with looping musique concrete; babies crying, women sobbing uncontrollably, the coughing music of a tuberculosis clinic are combined with 156’s manipulated electronics and sounds. The track tends to switch back and forth between the two – sometimes there’s recorded samples, other times there’s the sound of a metal ball rolling around in a can or what sounds like the release of exhaust fumes. These tones don’t make up a coherent track, but instead document the sound of suffering in a grim collage of horrific samples.

“Sad B” features more found sounds, including the quiet conversations of what sounds like a subway. Again they are paired with 156’s crafted noise, with bottle clanks and softened guitar or synth tones. The track morphs into combining the sound of a match lighting with the sharpening of a knife – it’s a strange pairing because I’m not sure exactly what context would bring the two together, but in a way 156’s idea works as a collage of horror sounds meant to be used for a Halloween eve.

“Sad B” isn’t as effective as the first side, and while both can be grueling listens they do tend to feel a bit disconnected. Yet A Life Lived As If In Hell is a terrifying experience if listened to in the right setting – it’s best to turn out the lights, relax in bed, and attempt to close your eyes without feeling watched.

156 – Eight Steps in the Dance (C30, Goat Eater Arts)

Drone, Noise, Review

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156 is the project of Adel Souto, and it has seen quite a number of releases in the past couple of years. Eight Steps in the Dance is from 2013 and appears to be a continuation of sounds 156 started in previous releases. There’s nothing very harsh about the project’s noise, but there are many drone textures with tribal and percussive elements that lend an interesting premise to the sound.

The first couple of tracks, titled “Mahakala Awakes” and “This is for Lorrie,” surprised me with the abundance of vocal samples. They’re not gleaned from movies and they’re not there as reference points for the track, but instead are pretty much what comprises the sound. The former features a deep voice chanting and sustaining the drone note, with multiple tracks within that one sound creating texture, like a ritual ceremony. All the while bell tones toll. “This is for Lorrie” works in a similar fashion, with more bell tones randomly dispersed and a looping vocal element with a whispered moan.

What works even better than the excellent vocal loops, though, is 156’s reprisals of sounds on Side B. “A Fire Inside” begins much the same way “Mahakala Awakes” does, but then it morphs into a maturer sound with the addition of what sounds like very staticy synth. “Sense of Entitlement” adds spoken word to the bell tones. “Organ and Drum” is exactly what it says, and evokes an ethereal ritualism.

There are a couple of tracks that don’t jive as well together, with “Strikes to the Body” being the most notably lacking – it’s a track that basically sounds like the flight path of a ping pong ball. But ultimately Eight Steps to the Dance forms a mesmerizing waltz of ritual drones that are driven by vocals instead of electronics.