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.

Filth – The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia (C40, Maniacal Hatred)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

filth witches

Filth is the power electronics/harsh noise project of Rob Buttrum, and if you’re going to release a PE project, it might as well be on Grant Richardson’s label Maniacal Hatred. The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia is a little different from past Filth releases, and it’s not as transparently PE as one might expect; instead, the three tracks on this cassette delve into soundscapes rather than heavy density, and some of the tracks resemble Buttrum’s recent work on his Nite Shadez collaboration.

All of the tracks on The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia were recorded live to tape, which often requires a flexibility and precision that’s hard to produce. But though the pieces meander slightly, they never leave the areas they start off in, and Filth really reigns it in in terms of variability. The first track, “Mandragora”, is the longest on this release, and it begins with bubbling bass and hearty feedback swirls before giving way into noisy territory. Filth gives this piece a deep, foreboding aura; the quick percussive bursts seem to echo in the background with pulsing ferocity, and sometimes heavily modulated vocals pierce through the raucous beats. Sometimes Filth falls into the familiar ebb and flow of power electronics rhythms, only to sidestep the most common aspects of the genre.

The next side starts “Black Henbane”, a steadily escalating series of pitch increases, leading up to a rhythmic trouncing of regular power electronics rhythms and drum beats. Besides the pulsating drum hits, though, is a sustained amount of sonic destruction, often higher pitched but more laser-like. Filth’s vocals are used only slightly for effect, although it seems some tape loops also come into effect about midway through the track. This is one of the track’s I found similar to Nite Shadez’s output, especially because of the drum effects.

“Deadly Nightshade” is tacked on to the end of the side, by far the shortest of the tape at only three minutes. It carries the same torch as “Black Henbane”, but without the drum tracking, this sides much more sinister and dense. Though the shortest, it’s one of my favorites on The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia because of its consistency and subtle layering of sludge.

Filth brings a different approach to The Witches’ Pharmacopoeia, but I’m always amazed at the kind of sound that Rob Buttrum gets from his electronics. Everything was tracked live to tape, and I think that’s pretty grand in itself, but when the noise is also this good, you can do no wrong by picking this cassette up.

Filth – Winter Mind (C55, Out-of-Body Records)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, power electronics, Review

Filth is a pulverizing power electronics artist, and as the first release on Out-of-Body Records, he has the honor of ushering in a new noise label. With Winter Mind, Filth offers up four tracks of rather unrelenting harsh electronics; the sound is coldly calculated, blurring some of the more generic tendencies of the PE genre with harsh noise interludes for a lengthy cassette.

Up first is “White Decay” and “Winter Mind”, and these two tracks tend to sprawl into each other without clear separation. For the purposes of the review, I’ll treat them as one, as there is no way for me to tell exactly where one begins and the other fades. Side A starts out with a maelstrom of PE sounds, the regular churns of feedback hits and throaty vocals that carry the track through the abrasions of noise. As the side moves on, Filth tends to chunk his noise, offering nodes of silence in between peals of feedback, tape manipulation, and most notably a couple of sections featuring drum machine rhythms saturated with static. The latter sections of “Winter Mind” tend to wane, as Filth lessens his hold on the harshness of earlier tones, but it’s quite an enjoyable side of tape.

On Side B are “Automatic Flesh” and “Saturated Blood”; the latter follows through with more feedback along with a thudding bassline to keep a rhythm going. Overtop is a layer of feedback, tape manipulations and squeaks, and of course the Filth vocals punctuating the dirty features of this noise. There’s a repetition of tone here, with that back bass keeping a fair amount of buzzing throughout while Filth experiments with the other elements of the soundscape. But I will say that this track is fairly par for power electronics, rather similar in its essence to Gnawed during its rhythmic reveries. When Filth cuts the noise out for delayed vocals, he leaves little gaps of unsettling tweaks that work better than the repetitive deliveries of the earlier parts of the track.

Again, the respite between “Automatic Flesh” and “Saturated Blood” is minimal, and so I will refer to them in the course of what makes sense to me as their separation. Filth combines some of the same techniques throughout, and here we are treated to held synth bass lines, tape manipulation that sounds very much like what Wolf Eyes do best, and the slow whirs of modulated tapes. We get the rhythmics of the drum machine which I enjoyed so much from the beginning. There’s a sense that “Saturated Blood” is a combination of the things we’ve been hearing from Filth, especially with the rise of a large wall of static combined with a searing mid-pitched tone carrying vocals.

There’s something about Winter Mind that makes it drag on too long, though. It’s the fact that Filth seems to stretch out his tracks with lots of, shall we say, filler; they’re repetitive drags that aren’t hypnotic enough to capture the attention, and yet still long enough to warrant a questioning from the listener. But those areas are between strong moments of cathartic power, filled with a nuanced variety of dominating noise sounds. It’s certainly worth a listen, but it’s not an exercise in brevity – those with short attention spans might be thrown off by the lingering of repetitive structures.