K2 – Rainy Tritium 1 (CD, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

rainy tritium 1Rainy Tritium 1 is the first part in a series of releases from the insanely prolific K2. I’m a little behind on his discography, but since Rainy Tritium 1‘s release in 2017 he’s gone on to release 32 new albums, some of them releases of old works; that kind of output is hard to keep up with. However, Oxen’s release of Rainy Tritium 1 does seem like an appropriate place to pick up on K2’s new output; this three track album finds the harsh noise artist migrating away from his cut-up sound to a much more droning and almost rhythmic approach to noise, incorporating whole synth melodies into his soundscapes.

Each track runs on average 20 minutes, give or take a couple. The ideas at play on Rainy Tritium 1 range from synth-based warbles and siren sounds to a recurring rhythmic motif that, while the same in composition, differs in the actual pitch and timbre each time it makes its way to the forefront of K2’s triple threat.

But those worried K2 has lost some intensity in his transition to less in-your-face chaos should rest assured that Rainy Tritium 1 is still a dizzying listen, just in a different way; instead of lambasting listeners with constant texture switches, K2 allows those ideas to linger, and this is some of his best work that I’ve heard. It’s still loud and abrasive, but with a rhythmic, ambient side that showcases K2’s dexterity.

EXCELLENT |||||

 

K2 / Constrain / Fenian – K2 / Constrain / Fenian (CD, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

K2 gives up one 15 minute track of searing harsh noise, crushing right from the start and certainly reminiscent of his own style. As always, it’s difficult to say something specific about “Sarrogate for Mass Murder” because of its eclecticism, running the gamut from junk electronics crunch to super-hot white noise, and then also slipping into a rhythmic loop here and there. One thing’s for sure: K2 never ends up in the same place he starts, and “Sarrogate for Mass Murder” is a wholly rewarding listen to hear the artist churn out constant changes in the sound. It’s also an intensely brutal track that doesn’t let up throughout the full 15 minutes.

Constrain follows with “Recognizable Mask,” shorter at nearly 8 minutes. This is a cut that focuses on a more mid-range level of noise – lots of static crunch, and a lot of twisty alternation within what could be considered a wall of sound. This is similar to what one might find in HNW, the textures fitting within that unchanging dynamic while, over the top, Constrain shifts things slightly with glitchy repetitions and subtle feedback spikes.

Fenian also gets a solo track, “Phenomenology,” that comes in just over the 7 minute mark. Harsh feedback whirrs and stutters of white noise present in the foreground while Fenian¬†provides a backdrop of gritty static alterations, constantly writhing away to provide depth of field. Again, this is a lot less caustic than what K2 presents; it has some sharp moments, but it has less variation within the volume and tone. There are higher-pitched electronics and sizzles – and at the midpoint, an excellent mix of chirps and glassware as “Phenomenology” moves along, though, and I really enjoyed the baseline sound that carries the track forward.

Finally, K2, Constrain, and Fenian come together on a collaboration piece called “Spreading Particles Go Smoky.” This one’s got a great mix of sounds, some that feel as crunchy as what Constrain gives up in “Recognizable Mask” and a little of Fenian’s screechy electronics. Mostly, though, it feels like a K2 track that he’s remixed, which is because that’s exactly what happened. Using some of Fenian’s and Constrain’s noise, he’s included a lot of his own noise ideas – the constant cuts and edits – as well. It results in another really harsh track, an amalgamation of each of these harsh noise artists’ specific sounds.

If you’re looking for some great authentic harsh noise, you can’t overlook the masterful works of K2. And paired with Constrain and Fenian, this split/collaboration album on Oxen is really wonderful listen. Get yr mitts on it.

recommended

K2 – IsoDoping (C48, Robert & Leopold)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

IsoDoping is a tribute to all of those lost during the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown, a raging blend of harsh noise that exhibits the anger and frustration of how that tragedy could have been prevented. It doesn’t expressly say it on K2’s release, but the J-card features grainy pictures of atomic bomb clouds and a woman, battered and bloody, carrying her injured child. The titles, too, are full of blame – “Pollution Game in Secret”, “Invisible Terrors in Fukushima” – with a connotation that there was no protection available to the citizens when the nuclear plant began to leak out its toxic radiation.

Like all of K2’s work, IsoDoping is full of harsh electronics, often mixed with Korg feedback and his signature Nintendo DS-programmed Korg. If you’ve heard K2’s work before, you’ll likely know what to expect here, although there are times where his noises surprise you – the aforementioned short track “Pollution Game in Secret” tends to stick to a set thematic structure throughout, a method that K2 rarely utilizes. The lengthy “Level 7” often sounds like there’s an alarm ringing off in the back of the noise, a sustained droning sound that categorizes and contextualizes the shards of noise that often judder off into space, never to return. In all, these tracks are often high-pitched, full of sharp feedback and abrupt cuts, and they’re certainly noise that recalls the destruction of the giant earthquake that hit Japan.¬†One will even find some manipulated but “normal” sounds coming from some of the synth K2 uses; the irony created in decomposing this normalcy with harsh bursts of noise, decimating each with the randomness that K2 seems to work with in his art, is haunting.

“Invisible Terrors in Fukushima” continues the sort of tendencies found on the first side, and it’s about the same length as “Level 7”. We get a lot of juddering higher-pitched tones withsome of the synth’s natural sound coming through the electronics damage, plus another background drone that somewhat carries the track with a structure. Otherwise, however, this is another brutal track of K2 doing what he does best – extreme shifts in tone, constant jarring cuts, and an ethos to never return to a common motif.

As I said before, IsoDoping is common K2, and the idea behind this artist never really changes. Surely the combinations of sounds do, and if there’s anything that IsoDoping does very well here, it is completely assaulting the listener with numerous harsh sounds. It’s a fitting tribute to a period of time in Japan that was very confusing, chaotic, and painful for all involved; the emotions I can never truly understand because I did not experience it, but the noise does a good job of emulating it.

MAAAA/K2 – Split (CD, Triangle)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

 

Who knew that artists whose monikers consisted of only letters and numbers could create such harsh noise? Neither MAAAA nor K2 are new artists to the genre; actually, K2 is one of the prominent figures in harsh noise and cutup junk electronics, and MAAAA follows in those footsteps on this split with an electronics setup very similar to K2’s. It’s interesting to listen for the major differences in sound and composition that the two take on this split, which is to say that while MAAAA’s five tracks have a characteristically different sound from K2’s, the noise is still unrelentingly harsh.

MAAAA starts the disc off with five relatively short tracks of junk electronics and scrap metal sounds. Beginning with “Entomophobia”, MAAAA churns out ferocious and deep tracks full of Korg whirrings, static and bass pummeling, and overall just a jumble of incredibly harsh sounds that dominate the disc. There is a sense of destruction to all of these tracks, especially “Entomophobia”, which does not let up its wicked decimation until its final second. There is a lot going on in each track, but the difference between K2 and MAAAA seems to be the fact that K2 emphasizes the idea behind stop-starts (though not as pronounced on this disc), whereas MAAAA continue to amplify their noise without break or pause. MAAAA also switches up the sound, alternating between the harsh attacks with rhythmic slabs of noise (“Crude Petroleum”) akin to Merzbow on Timehunter or Merzbeat. In fact, there’s a lot that can be contributed to Merzbowian sound, especially on “Drunken Skinhead”, which retains some of the similar junk metal/percussive sounds Merzbow used in the ’80s.

On the K2 side, we have Kimihide Kusafuka doing what he does best: programming his Korg MS-20 to shred sound to bits, using his Nintendo DS as an instrument of havoc, subjecting the listener to sharp shards of feedback. The first track, “Izanagi-Mix”, was recorded in studio, while the two others were recorded live at ORANGE-MURA. “Izanagi-Mix” is somewhat less sprawling than the others, a set that contains some trademark K2 sounds and staples while also remaining fresh enough as a very harsh track. K2 is not using the slight pauses in some of his other work here; while there are some, his sound is more focused on “Izanagi-Mix” than it tends to be on his other, longer works. The same is true of the two live tracks; “Boosted Megatamania” is ridiculously harsh, with a head-exploding pitch that only amplifies as the track continues on with such nihilistic feedback. “The Hole of Ootakimaru” is similar in theme, with more feedback and pitch shifts along with the glitchy, jumpy sound K2 is known for.

Don’t doubt me when I say this split is fucking ace. MAAAA is exactly on par with K2, and there’s an obvious discrepancy between how each artist creates noise. Pairing them together on one disc means that the listener gets two doses of extreme noise, brash abrasions that last for the entirety of the 50 minute disc. Combine that with the fact that this cardboard sleeve comes with a booklet of abstract art made by Sergei of MAAAA and Jura Belkin, and you’ve got yourself a must have release from Triangle.

K2 – Abdominal Electricity (CD, Phage Tapes)

harsh noise, Noise

It’s always fairly difficult to review this sort of cut-up, electic noise. For one thing, it’s difficult to document like I normally like to do – I can’t just flit about attempting to name every sound I hear, or I’d have one hundred pages for one track. Nor can I speak for the sounds’ technicality – I’m just not that good at deciphering the medium for noise. What I can do is give a subjective view of the track, with an opinion on what sounds work and what don’t in the seemingly random onslaught of churning noise we get from K2. I’ll do my best, but I really feel that Abdominal Electricity defies review in this regard. Instead, it really needs an objective listen from each person, and requires the listener to decide what they like and what they don’t.

“Epilogue No. 2” leads us in with a comparatively short track, full of churning buzz and some higher pitched feedback. Lots of pitch and sound adjustments can be found to fulfill a wide range of noise, but much of what’s on display is a focus of higher static and feedback sounds. We also get a sustained throb of electronics to end the track, but this is just a short and sweet dousing of what K2 is all about on this disc.

“Bomb in My Stomach” is really the full-throttle track on this release. Clocking in at almost half an hour, this cut runs the gamut from low drones, high feedback, wavery judderings, sonic loops, and even more crazy cut-up sounds. Like the race car sound that K2 creates at the beginning of this track, the noise keeps piling on and really doesn’t let up at all for the entirety of piece. It’s most likely here where the listener will decide if they enjoy this sort of ADD schizophrenia; it’s almost an all-or-nothing listen, and there’s only more of the same to be had after it. Imagine, if you will, a slew of men trying to domineer the television remote; their attempts to reconcile each other’s preferences are moot, and soon they begin to coast through channels without end. This sufficiently characterizes “Bomb in My Stomach,” a cut that doesn’t let up on its harsh cuts but also rarely seems to have an identifiable movement to it besides randomness.

Check out “Secret Cold Storage” for an intense outburst of feedback uncharacteristic for the rest of this release. Amidst the laser shootings and electronic rumblings is a monster of squealing pitches churning for release. The track also crafts a very good surge of crumbles that picks up, slows down, and ultimately punches the listener in the gut. There’s a raging amount of change in this track that seems to show up more than on “Bomb in My Stomach”, perhaps because of the shorter length of this cut.

Occasionally, K2’s tracks will fall into a nice drone that keeps shifting between different sounds but reconvening back with the same original noise. These are naturally where I’m drawn to – the ability to jump between sounds is certainly inspiring at times because of the sheer enormity of the collage, but the skill of manipulating sounds and then coming back to them is a nice counterpoint. K2 certainly achieves this; how long he wants to stick with it is obviously varied and, much of the time, short-lived.

Abdominal Electricity features no junk metal, only junk electronics, as the liner notes state. It’s obviously apparent that the sounds are electronically manipulated, though some do still have the churns and creaks of metal unabashedly being destroyed. You can certainly hear the KORG in some more pronounced places. If you’re a fan of K2’s anarchical sound, Abdominal Electricity is certainly more of his powerful cut-up approach. Those who aren’t sure of the style should take a dip in “Bomb in My Stomach” or “Aerophobia”; those tracks are the real meat of the album, and will surely cement a strong feeling in the listener one way or the other.

Even more incentive besides the actual noise is the packaging, which comes with pro-duplicated CDs, mechanical-anatomical artwork from Alonso Urbanos, and pull-out artwork with info on the interior pages.

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