Wilt – Nocturnal Requiem (CD-R, No Part of It)

dark ambient, Noise, Review

Wilt is the project of Dan Hall and James Keeler, also members of Astronomy and Hedorah. This noise duo focuses on the dark ambient and drone side of the genre, and Nocturnal Requiem is six tracks of somnambulant tones that cater more towards the sinister side of drone and dark ambient.

The first track is “Wandering Echo,” and much like its title suggests, this is a very meandering track full of sustained drones and repeating patterns. However, those intersecting elements also create what I would consider a boiler room cacophony – there’s the clanging of pipes to add a percussive element to the ideas, and that keeps the listener intrigued.

That’s the key to good dark ambient, too – that the tracks ensure the listener gets caught up in the soundscape rather than tuning out of it because of its repetition. Wilt captures that on Nocturnal Requiem. “Even the Most Ancient Things Lie in the Weeds of Present Time” is relatively short, but its bass clicks and churns suck the listener into the frolicking patterns.

“Moon Diver,” the album’s middle track, adds a heavy maelstrom in the background as synth notes call out from the depths. However, this one tends to go on a bit too long – it has some alterations as it reaches the double-digit length, but for the most part it remains stagnant in its call-and-response drones, although it would be the perfect fit for a horror film’s stalking moments.

“Over Waters Hidden Below” brings it back, though, with a churning drone in the background and a subtle hiss in the foreground. Synth notes break in here and there to add emphasis to the sound as listeners get pulled into the tones. “The Autobiography of Dreams” brings it back to the clanging of “Wandering Echo” while adding a swirling windstorm and oscillating synth notes; this one’s my favorite of the six because of its execution and complexity.

“The Starless Vault of Heaven” ends Nocturnal Requiem on almost an upbeat note, with more ethereal synth tones and a house electronica beat. It’s an experiment, and quite different from the brooding offerings before, but Wilt captures the feeling of coming out of the dark into a celestial sea, and it’s a great way to conclude the album.

Nocturnal Requiem is my first Wilt experience, but based on the dark ambient material offered here, I would love to check out more. This duo is able to conjure up eerie tones, but the album shows their range with a couple of dynamic tracks that sees Wilt stepping out of its comfort zone.

 

Illusion of Safety – Surrender (C60, No Part of It)

ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

surrenderIllusion of Safety has been releasing records for over thirty years now, and this cassette (or CD) from No Part of It feels like a cumulative soundtrack of all that he’s done. On Surrender, Daniel Burke works with guitars, synths, and various noise-making devices to craft some intensely spiritual droning tracks, at the same time challenging the listener with the vast assortment of layering that is taking place below the surface. It’s a tough listen not because of its harshness but because of the overwhelming supply of sounds that Illusion of Safety conjures.

The tape edition of Surrender is what I received from No Part of It, and in general all of the tracks tend to meld into each other. On the CD edition, it would be easier to pick out the changes because of track numbering, but with the cassette I’m unable to tell the transitions. In this regard, I can’t really comment on tracks individually, but can speak of Surrender in terms of the whole release.

The way these tracks fold into each other is mesmerizing, moving from one to the other smoothly and maintaining the sense of overall tone. Like the clown cover artwork, this is a veritable carnival of sounds; there are the standard drones of guitar and synth here, but as the tape moves forward, there’s a clever use of silence to space the sounds out. Illusion of Safety uses the silence to form cohesion, slowly shifting between organ chords before diving into beeps and boops of spacey technology. Whistles and warbles combine with a slow rhythmic churn. It’s all somewhat disorienting because of the array of sounds Burke provides, and the use of dynamism really works to keep the listener off-guard.

Side B still has the vignettes of silence with subtle instrumentation in the background, but it also switches off to some heavier, beat-driven performances as well. There are cut-up samples, and there’s a metal-esque rhythm that cuts in almost meant as a rave dance. Illusion of Safety’s tendency to move all over the gamut on Surrender is not a flaw but an example of how wide-spread noise’s subgenres can be, and Burke knows how to incorporate them all into a cohesive tape.

Surrender is a great return to the genre for Illusion of Safety, a release that finds Burke switching expertly between forms of noise for a variety of great tracks. The first side is generally quieter, while Side B opens up for catchy beats, sampling, and a more pronounced sound. Both are good listens, and fans of Illusion of Safety’s work will find Burke has crafted another exceptional record.

recommended

Arvo Zylo – 333 (CD-R, No Part of It)

dark ambient, Drone, Music, Noise, Noisecore, Review

333 is made up of simply a Yamaha RX1 sequencer and some requisite sounds along with it, but 333 doesn’t feel as limited as it really is. Arvo Zylo takes the listener through so many different areas of noise that, even during one track, it’s hard to express just where the track has been, and it’s also impossible to really gauge where it could go. That’s a great feeling, and 333 is full of it – the three tracks on here, ranging from a half an hour to 15 minutes or so, are totally different in structure and feeling, although they all have that signature sound of the RX1.

First track “Quicksand Eggs of a Beaten Pathos” is the longest, and it’s easily the best way to understand what Arvo Zylo is doing on this release. There are moments of digital-like trip-hop, rhythms that shudder and melt. There’s lots of synthesizer shuffling, but that’s really limiting how many different types of sounds Arvo Zylo gets out of the track; at times, the rhythms shift from music to noise, with little strands of static and percussive elements keeping a hold of the ideas, or at other times, bass-heavy beats and stuttery staccatos create a march of sound. It’s easily the best showcase of 333 because of its length, but it’s also a good song altogether, and 333 could have stood on its own with just this track.

It doesn’t though. “Deadbeat Deluxe” is similar to the first, but it’s more like a crazy carnival ride gone wrong with all of its strange synth twists and turns and odd beat structures. There are more additions to the sounds, and a good groove to boot. “Plasthma” is mostly minimal beatwork with less emphasis on bass, but towards the end it adds a really awesome, moody synth line to it that reminds me of old Tales from the Darkside themes. Very nice work indeed.

It’s another solid showing from Arvo Zylo, and very different at that. It might not appeal to those who don’t like more rhythmic noise, but the amount of sound generated from the limited instrumental use is quite amazing, and it also works well with the harmonies that 333 displays.

Arvo Zylo – Saint Street (CD-R, No Part of It)

Drone, harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Saint Street‘s an album from Arvo Zylo, although you wouldn’t know it simply by investigating the cover. Only inside, listed underneath a brilliantly colorful picture of a dead bird, does it list artist moniker. Instead, the cover art reminds of Merzbow at his birdiest, similar to artwork on his 13 Japanese Birds series. But Arvo Zylo’s noise on Saint Street sounds quite far from the ‘bow’s harsh noise; instead, Zylo provides the listener with a fairly long disc of ten noise tracks, often wall-like in texture while mixing in a few tracks of noisy rhythms.

The noisier walls that pepper this disc are an interesting mix of shifting static textures combined with new takes on the genre. Opener “Upheaval (Version 3)” is an impressive wall of blasting noise with a fairly consistent undertone of sound, but it often shifts between more musical droning from the opening into hypnotic churnings of fuzz and distant violence. Similar scenarios often occur on this disc, although tunes like “Undula” and “Freudian Scrape” tend to emphasize the ability of noise to completely obliterate otherwise dance-able soundscapes. It might seem at first odd that Arvo Zylo pairs the sonic blasts of harsh noise wall static with rhythmic noise akin to Black Dice, but it also feels right, a fresh stance on walls that considers changing the simplicity of the sprawling length and unchanging tone of those stoic anthems. There’s also the wallish cut crafted out of layering rewound sounds together on “DPRV”, a magnificently hypnotic piece that aims to throw the listener’s sense of direction off course.

Saint Street falters just a bit, especially in its latter half – “Arachnid Orchid” is one piece that feels contextually out of place with its digital laser beam beats, and “Freudian Scrape” feels outlandishly long considering the total runtime of the disc. The biggest problem with Saint Street is its tendency to sprawl for too long, stretching pieces on until they’re ready to fall apart. Condensing these tracks down would have allowed the listener more time to allow them to soak in; instead, Saint Street packs so much good noise into one disc that it’s difficult to absorb as a whole.

But that’s easily fixable – simply listen again and again, and come back to Arvo Zylo’s ideas fresh. Saint Street is a beauty of a noise album, and the mix of percussive instrumentation with blistering textures is refreshing as well as inspirational.