Trou – Mallevs Maleficorvm (C80(?), Not on Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Review, Uncategorized

trou mallevsHere we have a lengthy tape from French experimental waller Trou titled Mallevs Maleficorvm. The two tracks on both sides of this tape are really just parts of the same whole, which basically makes up the entirety of a 70 minute slab of static walls and heavily modulated vocal effects.

The first half of the tape employs a pretty crunchy static pattern and those aforementioned deep, warbled vocals to maximum effect, relatively droning without a whole lot of change or variation in the mix until later into the track. That leaves side B to do a bit more alternation; you’ll hear the static patterns churn differently, more often interrupting the vocal background effects. Trou also changes the sound texture of those vocal effects too, something that sounds akin to a highly malfunctioning television set.

Mallevs Maleficorvm is an interesting use of harsh noise styles paired with more wall-like textures. The vocal warbling tends to sound somewhat similar to the fast alterations of sound utilized by cut-up artists, while the static remains pretty stoic throughout for wall elements. The result is a hypnotic, constantly shifting 70 minutes for the listener.

GOOD ||||

Bone Pillar – Bone Pillar (C60?, Not on Label)

ambient noise wall, drone noise wall, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review, Uncategorized

bone pillar tapeI can’t find too much information about Bone Pillar. I know it’s a project from France, and I know as of right now this self-titled tape is about the only thing that has been released. This one comes from back in 2013; it’s a single-sided series of harsh noise walls, lasting about 25 minutes despite the much longer tape length. Three tracks make up the tape in total: “First Tower,” “Marble Gallery,” and “Of Bone and Pillar.”

The three tracks are bass-heavy rumbles. “First Tower” features a nice crunchy dynamic to it, a juddering static sound overtop of voluminous lower tones. It’s a nice short wall with minimal changes, but lots to focus on within.

“Marble Gallery” has a very similar setup – the same types of bass-driven tones – but this time it sounds as though this wall has been slowed down. We get a very reverb-laden element almost like the sound a helicopter’s rotors make chopping through wind. It’s quite hypnotic, but it doesn’t last long enough.

Lastly “Of Bone and Pillar” continues the bass onslaught, this time at a lurching rumble with a more continuous crackling effect that almost feels martial in its rhythms. This one tends to shift a bit as various elements come and go – sometimes leaving just the dark ambience of the bass tones.

Three solid harsh noise/ambient noise wall tracks for your enjoyment with a Castlevania slant.

GOOD ||||

 

Tetsuo – Eternal Respect (CD-R, Not on Label)

ambient noise wall, harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review, Uncategorized

tetsuo eternal respect

Tetsuo is yet another project from prolific noise artist Julien Skrobek, in addition to many of his other harsh noise wall monikers. On Eternal Respect, Skrobek experiments less with overwhelming wall textures than with subtle static tones accompanied by familiar electronic outputs: a white noise generator, a sine wave generator, and a drum machine.

The three cuts that make up this 37-minute release all feature an interesting dynamic – chiefly, the way that Tetsuo locks into a specific groove, using the drum beats and sine loops as focal points in the wall with the white noise mixed quite low. This forces the listener to actively engage with the track, to listen “through” the elements to get to that nugget of static.

Still, the opener “Access” remains a difficult listen for another reason – it’s got an ever-present sine feedback tone that becomes quite piercing over its runtime. “Levels” is similar but the grating tone is pared back a bit, with a different type of drum track that sounds like a 2D side-scrolling video game. I would argue that Eternal Respect‘s only misstep is that “Access” and final track “Eternal Respect” are a bit too similar, with the same type of composition and subtle changes to the tones. But Eternal Respect is a considerably compelling release circumventing the usual harsh noise wall standard. This won’t appeal to everyone, but Tetsuo certainly invites the listener to actively engage in this minimal work.

GOOD ||||

 

 

Big Hole – Gertie (3″ CD-R, Not On Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Big Hole has released some excellent harsh noise walls over the years, and Gertie, a 21-minute slab of crunch and static, is no exception. The project doesn’t interpret walls as stoic, unchanging monoliths that force the listener to sit through forty minutes of the same texture looping over and over; while there are projects that do this kind of wall well, that kind of wall noise is often lost in the overwhelming sameness of the genre. Here, the sole track “Gertie” features some textures that never change but also those that intermittently add variation to the tone, a truly enjoyable offering.

The track starts with a real sound clip, an interview with Ricky Hobbs; the release itself is based on the murder of Sylvia Likens, a brutal story of torture and abuse perpetrated by Gertrude Baniszewski and Hobbs that ended with a life imprisonment sentence for Gertie. Horrific murder and abuse plays heavily into this track as Big Hole sets up a damaging static crackle that continues throughout the work while chaotic, arhythmic crackles – in this listener’s opinion, the metaphorical stand-in for torment – continually alters the wall. This is an exceptionally intriguing wall, with the crackling textures becoming a kind of hypnotism and imprisonment for the listener.

Ultimately Gertie‘s running time feels the perfect length, with the wall never ceasing to lose its energy. Big Hole manages to evoke the same tonality as the murder case that he references on this release, and it showcases how harsh noise wall can generate a feeling even when noise itself is emotionless.

Big Hole – Overwhelming & Collective Murder (3″ CD-R, Not on Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Uncategorized

Big Hole’s Overwhelming & Collective Murder is a 20-minute disc featuring one wall, and it starts out with a sound bite from Burden of Dreams, a documentary on the making of Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo. I’ll confess to knowing very little about either of those two things, but one thing I do know is that this sound clip is perfectly in tune to Big Hole’s oppressive ripping wall spanning the course of this album.

“Overwhelming & Collective Murder” begins with a subtler crackling static before the full wall takes effect, and it’s a nice way to showcase the focal tone before moving into the wall’s more atmospheric layering. When the full wall starts, it’s part of that crunchy crackle – which is nicely raucous and rather fast-paced, wriggling endlessly throughout the 20 minutes – along with a somewhat denser static tone that combines quite nicely, plus a higher-pitched texture that makes up all three areas of the wall.

It’s very easy to get lost in this wall despite its harshness, and I’ll confess to getting absorbed in it despite my attempts to keep attentive to its shiftings – after a while, all three of the textures blend so well together that I forgot where they began, and it’s a hypnotic and, as the title states, overwhelming listen that leaves the ears ringing. Big Hole’s release says to listen loudly, and that’s a dangerous request: it’s rewarding and also quite damaging, and that’s probably the point.

recommended

Big Hole – The Pearl of My Renaissance (CD-R, Not on Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

Big Hole has become another artist in the vast field of harsh noise wall known for his great works; The Pearl of My Renaissance, an album recorded back in February 2015, is a self-released CD-R consisting of one massive lengthy wall, clocking in at 72 minutes. The opening sound bite is clearly from Daniel von Bargen (RIP), his voice strikingly noticeable, and at first it seems like – based on the subject matter of other Big Hole works – the dialogue is taken from a film like the notorious Lord of Illusions. However, further inspection reveals that The Pearl of My Renaissance actually comes from a Malcolm in the Middle episode, a pleasantly surprising reference for those willing to do the research.

“The Pearl of My Renaissance” is specifically harsh noise wall, and it’s a cut that’s often particularly overwhelming. There’s very little bass presence in this wall, with a heavy reliance on the omnipresent static in the forefront of the track. This leaves a less dense listening experience, with just a subtle hint of deeper tones toward the background – occasional rumblings that make it through the thicket of crackling sound. The static textures on top are centered and, over time, become difficult to parse because of the insistence of their sound. Big Hole leaves little space in the crackle, and “The Pearl of My Renaissance” becomes akin to torrential rains continually pounding on a thin tin roof.

There are occasional very subtle changes throughout – slight adjustments to the static, I think – but honestly Big Hole remains quite stoic throughout The Pearl of My Renaissance. It’s a difficult listen that’s tough on the ears, and the ending leaves a vacuous silence. This is an uncompromisingly harsh release, and those that last the 72 minutes will feel depleted of energy. That is the point, and Big Hole’s work delivers.

Memory Smoker – Synth Eternal (C60, Not On Label)

Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

Memory Smoker is a noise project from Alex, Ben, Jeremy, and Luke comprised of synth sounds and horror soundtrack stings. Besides Synth Eternal, they’ve got a couple of other releases under their belt, but this one is their newest release. Based on the track titles alone, it’s pretty apparent what this 60-minute cassette will offer – synth-based worship of the sound effects and chaos of slasher films, ’70s and ’80s gialli, and a repetitive reference to goblins.

The tracks on Synth Eternal may sound like they’d fit perfectly in a film’s repertoire of sounds, but as a whole they’re more abrasive than what one might find from, say, John Carpenter’s Lost Themes. There are hints of rhythmic playing, but Memory Smoker never delve into what would be considered a traditional song; rather, the collection reminds of early Wolf Eyes, working within the spectrum of rhythm and recognizable synth elements without actually creating an easy riff to follow.

The bulk of  Synth Eternal tends to blend together into side-long affairs despite the separation of tracks listed on the tape’s J-card, but Memory Smoker work in a number of memorable instances. Their works are often droning, using synth sustains to create a sense of dread while other members add effects to the sonic onslaught: a ticking, a warbling, sometimes the yowling of a cat. At times, the group does seize control of a pulsating riff and run with it, but mostly their compositions involve skillful noisicianship that combines their elements into an effective amalgamation that can often be particularly tense.

That suspense progresses throughout the tape, too, especially on Side B’s opening traack “Goblin Whale Hunt.” An uncomfortably high series of notes accompanies a pulsating bass and multiple anguished vocals, crafting a perfect representation of audial horror. This is a high compliment, that Memory Smoker is able to create such dread-drenched noise.

Synth Eternal is a solid cassette, one of those releases that makes me nostalgic for my early days of noise listening; sonic soundscapes like these got me into the genre in the first place, and it’s good to see new groups adopting the sound – with their own additions – to make some harrowing material. Synth Eternal is just that, and it’s a great listen to give yourself the creeps during a night alone.

recommended

Big Hole – I Can’t Breathe (3″ CD-R, Not On Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

i cant breatheI Can’t Breathe is Big Hole’s reaction to the death of Eric Garner back in December 2014. By now, that video of Garner struggling for breath in the wake of a brutal police attack has circulated the Internet and media more than ever, but when I Can’t Breathe was released at the end of December, it was a scandal that helped push police brutality and racism into the public eye yet again. Regardless of one’s stance in politics – and I think it’s pretty clear where Big Hole leans – that video clip is haunting, so of course “I Can’t Breathe” begins with Garner saying just that before he dies.

Then the album launches into its one long wall, clocking in at just under the 20 minute mark. The idea behind walls in general is introspection, mesmerization, a choking sensation of a sound that just won’t back down. It surrounds and pummels, much like the police in that situation with Eric Garner, and here Big Hole provides a wavering higher-pitched static line that snakes and snarls.

All told, this is a pretty unchanging wall, the only thing really giving the listener any movement being the backwash of static as it ripples – and even that, it seems, is less changing than simply oscillating naturally. In the background is a slight bass rumble, and that’s where I would have liked to see I Can’t Breathe expand a bit more. This texture is listenable, it’s chaotic, but adding a heavy bass tone underneath it all – even just minimally – could have really created a suffocating listen to match the theme of this release.

While I Can’t Breathe is a solid wall, it feels a little too thin. I kept wanting more density to the textures; that’s partially my fault, anticipating something the artist had no interest in, but it also feels like a missed opportunity to match the horrible death of Eric Garner to make a stronger statement, especially in a form of noise that often lacks the ability to emote besides the titles the artist provides.

Big Hole – You Will Always Be Shit (CD-R, Not On Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

you will always be shitBig Hole is a harsh noise/wall project from Christopher Charles Robinson, which has amassed quite a few releases in the past year or so. Many of the project’s first albums were self-released in small editions, and You Will Always Be Shit has gotten a second edition of 20. Two tracks totaling about 55 minutes are on offer from the project.

The first, “You Will Always Be Shit,” begins with the titular sound clip from the film Happiness before morphing into a raging wall of static blasts. The sound source of this album – shortwave radios, EQ manipulation – is quite present in the mix, and the first few moments of heavy crackle pair nicely. As the track progresses, Big Hole moves into more of a white-washed territory, the static engulfing much of the rest of the textures leaving a searing sound with little openings. It’s definitely a harsh listen, but the overpowering texture of sizzling static tends to take away from the other textures, leaving a shortwave buzz. To this listener, the heavy static tone takes on too much of an unmanipulated radio crackle, certainly a tough listen but lacking rewarding texture.

The second track, “Blow Your Brains Out,” takes its title from a sound clip Big Hole provides from The Last House on the Left (1972). Again, it’s an immense track of wall textures that has quite a bit of variation over the course of its half hour running time; Big Hole shifts from bass crackles with lots of EQ-manipulated static, a lot more dynamic in its portrayal of the sound and quite a good listen as well. The quick texture shifts work in the track’s favor over its length and show Big Hole is able to craft rewarding textures on the fly.

You Will Always Be Shit‘s two tracks are both heavy slices of harsh noise wall, with “Blow Your Brains Out” the more effective of the two with its alternations. Overall, it’s a solid release from this project that fans of the subgenre should find appealing, and I think you can still get a copy from the artist.

Static Park – Cruel Mutação (2xCD-R, Not On Label)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

static park cruel mutacaoStatic Park is Julien Skrobek’s other project – he’s got a ton of them, sometimes difficult to keep track of, but always very enjoyable to listen to. He’s released a few different variations on harsh noise wall with this moniker but Cruel Mutação is fairly rigid HNW/ambient noise wall making. The release itself is a two-disc set of nearly two hours, meant to be the soundtrack to a fictional zombie film. What follows is nine walls of crunchy textures that are nearly unmoving, a lengthy but rewarding listen.

First wall is called “Um Barco Misterioso” clocking in at jut under 14 minutes. This one is more ambient than some of the other ones, starting things off with a low rumble and a clicking static crunch that has quite a bit of space within the wall. Behind it is a nice bass texture that sort of warbles in its own way; it’s a track that is focused on the minimal, and thinking of this as a film soundtrack, it’s the beginning of the rising action. The second wall is “Jovens Imprudentes,” a bit shorter at the 12 minute mark, and this one has a roiling but mostly unbroken low bass line along with static that sounds a little like rain falling on a tom-tom snare drum – it’s less a crackle than a hollow repetitive tapping, but it works rather well because of the small emptiness within the static.

“Um Trago Na Pele” is next, another 11 minute wall that offers a more traditional harsh/ambient noise drone – this is a crackling bass static texture, swiftly roiling, with pops in between what amounts to something of a condensed and unified sound. The way “Borboleta De Carne” slams in with a huge wall blast directly after the previous track is a testament to how well Static Park has put this album together – most of the walls roll right into each other, and this one’s heavy bass background textures and higher-end static crunch leaves the listener in a state of shock after such an ambient piece prior. “Encontro Com O Professor Z” rounds out this disc with a crackling fire wall, a rumbling steady bass in the background with churning chunky static writhing on top of it. I like how this one makes good use of that background bass – the static is important, but that rumbling texture is clearly meant to be another focal point.

Onto the second disc, we have “Contagio” up first, with a muffled bass line in the back that moves rapidly and a thinner line of static crackle at the forefront; that static has a syrupy texture to it that makes it feel viscous and blurred. “Estao Na Casa,” on the other hand, has virtually no bass in the mix, instead opting for a rather solitary line of static crunch with a slight buzzing in the background. This track feels the least significant of the quartet in that regard, unable to capture my attention as much as the other walls’ swelled textures.

“Ossos Para O Zumbi” kicks in with a low, fast-paced rumble and a succinct crackle – there appear to be subtle areas of space in both textures, leaving the listener continually listening for change. The bass rumbles even seem to surge every now and again, although that could just be imagination. Finally, “Volta Na Terra” concludes the album/movie with a slower ambling rumble of very low static; it’s somewhat equivalent to an idling motorcycle with a bad motor. It’s a shift away from the traditional walls on this disc but the minimalism attracts, a slow fade-out for the two hours of harsh noise walls on Cruel Mutação.

I don’t think there’s any question about Julien Skrobek and Static Park’s abilities to craft good walls. If you’ve liked his output before, this special release is a no-brainer. Of the 8 tracks, many of them have significant alterations to what one consider generic wall noise, making it a spectacular listen for those not too stuck on the definition. And the way the walls move directly into each other is fascinating. If you can, pick this two-disc set up.

recommended