En Nihil/Filth – Black Earth (C40, Out-Of-Body Records)

harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

black earth

En Nihil and Filth are two fantastic power electronics artists. The former has released quite a few albums under the En Nihil moniker, three of them a trilogy series; Filth is Rob Buttrum’s project, the owner of Out-Of-Body Records. Black Earth finds them working together on a split tape of 8 heavy tracks, with En Nihil’s side leaning more towards the rhythmic electronics and Filth’s heading into heavy, vocal-filled territory.

First up is En Nihil on Side A, and the first track “Tribes of the Black Ash” is a pounding texture of percussion and swooping electronics, building up to various sizzles, feedback, and the quiet use of vocals more as an instrument than an abrasive lyrical assault. It sets the tone very well, an ambient introduction to En Nihil’s sound that adds quite a bit of sonic variety despite the stoic percussion. “An Infinite Void” sets in directly after, with huge bass and a similar pounding bit of bass drum overlayed with static. Feedback becomes the focal point, not exactly harsh but with a structured tendency. “One Hundred Thousand Years” has that familiar power electronics vibe, an electronics buzz rhythmically repeating along with a power saw whirr; there’s the dips and percussive wallops one would expect from PE, although En Nihil is unwilling to give the expected vocal performance.The side ends with an ambient drone, a buzzing of bassy electronics that envelops the listener, soothing after the burning PE before it.

Filth’s first track is “A Horizon,” where pounding percussion intermixes with a crescendo of swirling loops and intense howled vocals, eventually adding what sounds like squeaky tape manipulations. “Beneath the Vertisol” has more of those heavy bass repetitions along with a glitchy electronic loop, which adds in an alarum ring a bit later on in the track and a dreamy ambient interlude. Filth uses vocals in this to create a very creepy tone. It loses that rhythm to a jumble of sounds, including stuttering percussive blasts and various electronic manipulations.”The Hollow Earth” adds an almost dance aesthetic to the sound, at the same time ostracizing casual listeners with a feedback squall and manipulated, degraded vocals. Here Filth builds up from this into a power electronics surge of vocals and repetitive percussion, layering on multiple textures in the process. Finally, “A Silent Scream” ends Black Earth with inhuman howls, a heavy dose of crumbling bass walls, and warped echoes of audio.

Both En Nihil and Filth bring heavy textures to this split, and Black Earth is a bleak listening experience besides En Nihil’s finale. These projects are some of the best in the power electronics sphere right now, and bringing them together on a split cassette like this means you’re getting an amazing showcase from both artists. En Nihil brings a more traditional PE experience, while Filth tends to add industrial beats; but you can’t go wrong with either side on the torched Black Earth.

En Nihil – Throes (C50, Enemata Productions)

harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

throesEn Nihil does not let up on this final installment of his loose trilogy started with Pyres. Throes consistently hammers the listener with sound over the course of 50 minutes, with seven tracks of destructive chaos providing a great ending to this series.

While En Nihil has done the power electronics angle well, on Throes the project mostly wreaks havoc with ever-changing noise patterns. There are baselines to the tracks, but side A in particular is a perpetual wave of sonic pummeling directed at the listener on every track. The breaks in between aren’t distinguished; instead of thinking of the first side of Throes as a set of pieces, it’s best to listen to it as though it were a long-running cacophony of churning sound. Otherwise, the listener will spend so much time expecting clear breaks between the noise that the crashing assault will be lost within too much thought.

The second side is broken up into three tracks, longer and slower than the side A. These have clear definition, and certainly the focal point isn’t necessarily to overwhelm with harshness. Instead, each take on cleaner drones, allowing En Nihil to punctuate background sound with layers of feedback or pangs. It’s a nice reprieve from the smattering of the first side, and it ends the cassette on a fine note that gives the listener a chance to reflect on the entirety of the tape.

Throes ends this trilogy well, but don’t think you need to hear both Pyres and Crimes before listening to this tape. It sits on its own, and it’s proof that En Nihil is capable of a wide range of material.

En Nihil – Pyres (C40, Maniacal Hatred)

harsh noise, Industrial, power electronics, Review

Pyres indicate a burning, a cleansing or a ritual to rid the evil. Whether that evil manifest itself in the mind of the victim on the pyre, or perhaps of those who chose to burn that victim, is something that varies from scenario to scenario, and it’s not clear where En Nihil might fall on this spectrum. There is darkness in Pyres; but there’s no telling if En Nihil celebrates the ritual of sacrifice, or if he revels in the cleansing of the spirit. If all of this sounds like philosophical drivel based off of a thematic idea, you’re definitely right: welcome to noise.

There are six tracks on this release, three per side for a nice even distribution of sound. The release comes with a black J-card with a print of some foggy picture in greyscale with… “things” poking out of the mist. Not sure what they are – to me they either look like dinosaur necks or long ballet dancer legs.  Anyway, the cassette looks great, another good showing from Maniacal Hatred.

As for the sound, En Nihil’s noise is somewhat different from the martial rhythms of his recent CD The Absolute. Opener “I” begins with some fuzzy static, a very deep bass line that shakes the core, and a feedback loop that stretches across the static in repeated strands. Pyres is less musical, more noticeably industrial in its use of electronic sounds as rhythm makers.

With that said, sometimes Pyres packs less of an aggressive punch in its power electronics; the mid-paced beats from static and juddering bass are toned down and less harsh, more condensed in their layering. Perhaps I shouldn’t hold En Nihil to produce the same sound again, but these soundscapes become more hypnotic in their softly sprawling sparks than the moniker would suggest they should. “II”, however, manages to slice right through the listener with feedback accompanied by muffled vocal samples in the background, cluttering the entire track with a junk aesthetic that is more akin to the nasty nature of PE. It also clearly hits its stride again toward the end of “III”, an unrelenting spray of screaming static blasting at the listener with a fury that I love from the artist.

“IV” establishes a good drone with a solid line of feedback running atop gnashing wheels repeatedly spinning underneath. It’s crunchy and dark, but the constant shifts in sound lose the intensity of the beginning build. There’s a tendency on Pyres to continually explore new sound terrain on the same track, a method that tosses away the finer qualities of En Nihil’s tribal rhythms for the eclecticism of harsh noise.

It doesn’t work as well to establish that sense of power in “power electronics”; the fleeting repetition allows for little climax. Instead, Pyres is a more extensive sound with a less enveloping reaction, a chaotic blend of harsh noises that never quite come together into the intensity that En Nihil can reach. What’s left burning on the pyre are those anthemic rhythms of clashing noise, sounds that ring out the darkest nature of self-sacrifice.

En Nihil – The Absolute (CD-R, Love Earth Music)

Noise, power electronics, Review

Everything about The Absolute is cold and skeletal. From the very dark cover artwork – where somewhere beneath the black resides a skeleton – to the track titles made up of combinations of nihilistic words fit together to give the proper feeling of hatred, En Nihil’s packaging proclaims the attitude of the artist moniker to the utmost degree. And then, on the disc itself, are spinning skulls, which on every playthrough begin to resemble us in their endless cyclical pattern of decay.

Most of the tracks on The Absolute play out in similar stylings, adhering to the power electronics genre’s use of loops and death marches to send the listener on their way through a soundscape that becomes terrifyingly futile to escape. Opener “The Absolute” sets a mid-to-fast-paced march right away with pounding bass and screeching metal scalloping the listener at every turn. The loops keep churning with “Cold March”, a slower-paced plod with stuttery static, bated breathing sounds, and huge pounding bass. En Nihil makes good use of volume control on The Absolute, and the mixing of each noise on the songs makes every piece distinct, noticeable, powerful.

And the name of the game here is the pulsing loop, which makes its way all around the entirety of the release. But for power electronics, the loop isn’t so much important as the intensity which is felt as the track continues to repeat and condense. En Nihil interlaces these tracks with a lot of complexity, pairing high feedback with lower rumbles and static, all at the same time continuing that steady marching effect. On The Absolute, no growled vocals are necessary to relay the power of the sound – instead, it’s the complex pairing of two distinct sounds together with syncopated rhythms that imbues the track with emotion. “Crown of Nothing” stands out in particular with its rhythmic, almost symphonically-structured sounds, electronics that sound like instruments performing a dark opera. There’s a drama going on behind the crash of sound that metaphorically stands for the stomp of the attacking army.

With the end of the lengthy “Everything Ends (In Decay)”, it’s apparent En Nihil has achieved the sense of oblivion sought after – a dusky, murky mix of somnolent tones and whispering sounds that end in an excellent organ song perfect for a murder victim’s wake. The Absolute is dark, disturbing, and noisy, but it’s also got great hooks. March to death.

I believe this is still available. Pick it up here.