Richard Ramirez & Julien Skrobek – Doriana Bridge (C30, Hallucination Tapes)

harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Here’s an interesting collaboration between two harsh noise wall masters. Julien Skrobek, owner of Hallucination Tapes, teams up with Richard Ramirez (now Richard Ramirez-Matzus, congratulations) for a 22-minute wall that, on this tape, is split into two parts but otherwise seems to exist as a whole track on the Bandcamp page.

For this review I’ll break the release down into the two tracks because that’s how the tape is structured. The opening of “Part 1” fiddles a bit with its wall textures, starting with a dense bass rumble and static crackle before opening up into an airier, somewhat squealing squall. This doesn’t last long unfortunately (as I quite like this wall setup) before feedback signals a change to a heavy bass rumble with slight static crackle in the foreground. The static texture becomes this listener’s main focus, with the loose tendrils weaving some interesting layering.

Perhaps my previous listen to Skrobek’s Sumbru release Sublunary Visions with similar rumbling walls has something to do with it, but “Part 1″‘s bassy texture doesn’t interest me as much as “Part 2” does. The tape flip continues with “Part 1″‘s rumbles for a minute or two before another feedback swell signals a change to the wall. This one features more of the background rumble but includes a heavier static tone that sizzles, a texture that’s easy to get caught up in. It’s my favorite part of this release, with a loud and harsh collaboration that’s a tight wall we’ve come to expect from these two artists.

Doriana Bridge is a great release, although it’s a shame we don’t get anything longer from Ramirez & Skrobek! While I believe the tape itself is sold out, you can listen to the full track on the Hallucination Tapes Bandcamp page.

Sumbru – Sublunary Visions (CD-R, Hallucination Tapes)

harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Sumbru is a new project from Julien Skrobek, who also runs Hallucination Tapes and has been a prolific artist in the harsh noise wall genre under various monikers. Sumbru adds a new release to his belt with Sublunary Visions, a two-track forty minute excursion into wall noise based on lunar imagery and astrology. Both tracks clock in around twenty minutes, featuring a similar style of wall.

The first track is “Closed Eyes of the Frozen Moon,” a wall that features a heavy bass wollop that remains pretty mid-paced throughout this cut. Muffled rumbles pair with a crumbly static texture deep in the wall, allowing the bass line to take hold and shape the sound more so than the static. There’s not much change throughout this texture, a heavy twenty minutes that increasingly seems to create a droning tone in the middle of the wall, intentional or just a by-product of the tones.

Track two, “Emerging From the Astral Salt,” maintains a very similar structure, except now both the bass and static tones seem a bit less muffled in the mix. The bass texture features a fast churning rumble, while the static crackle sits within the middle of the track to create a nice even tone throughout. Again, the rumbling bass will be the focal point, but the static texture’s shuddering draws the listener into this hypnotic sound.

It’s nice to see Sumbru working within a textual theme here, because both tracks on Sublunary Visions sound closely reminiscent despite some differences in the texturing. Better, though, is the seamless transition between the two tracks, with no silence between the two. This ensures that the listener’s trance will be unbroken between the two walls. It’s another great release from Skrobek, this time under the name Sumbru, and any listener who has experienced his walls before will know what to expect from this album.

Black Matter Phantasm – Spiritual Retreat to the Holy Mountain (C80, Hallucination Tapes)

ambient noise wall, harsh noise wall, Review

Black Matter Phantasm is a harsh noise wall project from Joseph Szymkowiak from France, and though I haven’t reviewed many of his releases on this site, he is a notable artist in the noise subgenre. He’s amassed a number of releases over the years, both with Black Matter Phantasm and with his other aliases, and now he’s returned with a lengthy tape on Hallucination Tapes, a new label from Julien Skrobek. Spiritual Retreat to the Holy Mountain is an 80-minute release broken into two forty minute sides, and this is a heavy dose of more ambient-based noise walls.

The first “Untitled” track finds Black Matter Phantasm working with a few juddering textures. In the background is a fairly consistent blaring drone, and this pattern occasionally works its way to the forefront of the wall as the texture envelopes those around it. It’s one of the most consistently changing textures throughout this work, giving this track a lot of movement even when it’s not truly changing. Likewise, there’s a rumbling texture that carries “Untitled” throughout, not noticeably changing but just stoically plodding away to give bass to the wall. There’s also a very light static texture that crackles minutely, giving “Untitled” its secondary variations – the static shifts ever so slightly, ebbing and flowing as the drone overtakes it. Otherwise, though, Black Matter Phantasm remains locked in the same stylistic wall for the full 40 minutes.

The second “Untitled” track is presented on the white side of this zebra-colored black-and-white cassette, and this one is somewhat similar to the first although the texturing is not quite as heavy or overbearing. The background of this wall features a blown-out wall that’s not quite a bassy rumble; it’s more like standing a distance away from a plane’s jet engine, hearing all of the sound without the vibration. It’s quite nice to get lost in, and you can hear subtle variation in its sound by listening closely. At the forefront of the wall is a similar static texture to the first track except this one’s even more minute, a thin layer of crackle that is spaced apart in a way that emphasizes the delicacy of the texture. Again, this one sticks quite stolidly to its sound for the forty minutes, with subtle change within the wall but nothing immediately apparent.

This is a great release from Black Matter Phantasm and Hallucination Tapes that emphasizes the ambient nature of the project’s walls. I’m particularly partial to Side B’s wall, with a very intense attention to minute details. With this tape clocking in at 80 minutes, listeners will certainly get their money’s worth of wall from a master carpenter.

The HNW Quartet – The HNW Quartet (C40, Hallucination Tapes)

harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

The HNW Quartet is an interesting experiment combining four acts to form a supergroup of harsh noise wall artists. Sumbru (Julien Skrobek), Kune de Lisch (AKA Chibre),PsôM, and Black Matter Phantasm (Joseph Szymkowiak) all join forces for a collaboration of sound across two side-long walls, with both stretching the 20 minute mark. For noise, this is an intriguing combination – collaborations often involve two artists, but rarely a quartet such as this.

The first thing that surprises most about The HNW Quartet is the relative minimalism of the two compositions. With four artists working together, I confess I was expecting something a bit louder and harsher than what is delivered. I don’t mean that negatively, though; The HNW Quartet sits more comfortably in the ambient noise wall sub-genre than anything harsher, and it’s impressive that the artists are able to keep things so fluid and controlled throughout the tracks.

Side A is simply known as “Part 1”, clocking in at 20 minutes. This wall is a fairly unchanging slab of sound with some distinct layers, and it’s the most minimalistic of these two tracks. Surprisingly, all artists are working with very subtle sounds here; there’s a solid bass rumble in the background holding the wall together, a subtle crackle underneath that which is only present with careful attention, a hissing static at the forefront, and, most noticeable, a squealing judder that contains most of this track’s most hypnotic moments. There’s a lot to like and focus on in “Part 1,” from that deep bass shudder – adding just a small amount of space – to the interplay between the hissing and the squeals. The squealing is the loosest, where the semblance of variation can take shape. It’s interesting to hear how stoic each player in this quartet remains.

“Part 2” takes up the full length of side B, and it’s another relatively locked-in wall of sound. Here, the textures are a little harsher, the layers even more noticeable. In the background, there’s a nice multifaceted bass pattern that adds of lot of variation to the tone. On top of that, there’s a hissing, distant crackle that’s not quite static – it’s a very interesting texture, one that’s difficult to describe. Along with that, at about the same volume, is a fly-like buzzing sound that carries with it a different repetitive pattern that sometimes changes pitch. All told, the layers on “Part 2” are fascinating, both as a whole and when one focuses on the minutiae of the sounds.

The HNW Quartet is a great culmination of some excellent HNW artists, and so it should come as no surprise that both tracks, featuring all four players, are expertly crafted and layered. This release is enriching and complex, with enough textural hook to keep listeners engaged.