Ghost Miner is Nick Cabrera (also of harsh noise project Ascites), and he joins the canon of other great releases on Out-Of-Body Records with this C25 titled “Shadow Factory.” A factory is correct – of loops, that is, because the eleven tracks on this cassette are full of repetitive minimal tracks with heavy beats and drum tracks. It’s a lot different from the expected assault of Ascites, and a nice change of pace at that.
The first side is filled with seven quick cuts, the second with four longer offerings. These tracks are filled with beat-driven noise that compiles synth layers and drum machine programs, softly alternating their rhythms with minimal texturing changes. The A-side really flies through its 12 minutes without stopping, and it’s often difficult to tell the shift from one track to the next; these are good, but the B-side shines with the longer cuts, allowing Ghost Miner to add more detailed and nuance to the repetitive tracks.
These are moody synth scores in the vein of ’80s industrialized movie soundtracks, and Shadow Factory adds a number of atmospheric songs. “Evasion” is the longest at 5 minutes, operating with an echoey synth and drum duality and adding in ghostly vocals throughout; it’s the sound of a sinister toy-making facility, all off-key and atonal, and it shows how successful Ghost Miner can be with drawn-out pieces.
Shadow Factory is a great release of minimal noise-driven beats, and it’s interesting to hear Ghost Miner’s dark dancework in comparison to Ascites blasts of noise. Like everything Out-Of-Body Records has put out so far, this is material that’s definitely worth picking up.
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.
Matthew Akers explores both the digital and analog side of synths on his tape for Out-Of-Body Records, A History of Arson. The cassette features a match that comes with inside the case, in case one decides that the music makes them want to go and commit a crime; but Akers’ music swells and vamps, instrumental songs that capture a light, or a flash in the darkness.
The first side of A History of Arson is somewhat uplifting. The rhythmic vamps of synth work in “A History of Arson Prologue” wash over the listener, a soundtrack to a climactic act to come. Akers works with repetition but adds key riffing to the context late in the track, a new synth beat that works off the staccato punctuation. It’s at odds with the opening to “Bad Wolf,” a melancholy dirge, but that quickly picks up into a Zombi-esque prog-synth rock session, completely with some fantastic programmed drums with just the right fade into the mix. “Bad Wolf” would fit right at home on an Italian giallo soundtrack from the ’80s, and indeed Akers’ work seems to hit that nostalgic itch.
Side B is the darker part of A History of Arson, opening with “Voyeur”‘s minor chord swells and a slight martial beat from the drums. “A History of Arson Epilogue” continues the brooding atmosphere with Akers’ sustained synth notes, while “Midnight in October” features a dance beat and busy note alternations.
A History of Arson is one of those rare gems, the kind of thing you might happen to stumble across on accident but get hooked on immediately. Matthew Akers’ synth scores – because that’s what they are – are suited for the movies you’d watch on a late night, with the wind blowing outside your door. The compositions are refreshingly original, and I look forward to hearing more of the artist’s work.
A Life Lived As If In Hell sounds exactly like the title of the tape suggests; I reviewed one of Adel Souto’s releases as 156 before and it certainly did not have the dark connotations that this one does. The release is steeped in darkness and grief, not so much stemming from a violent side of things but from the simple use of textures and sound sources to evoke a harrowing experience throughout.
Both sides are simply titled “Sad A” and “Sad B.” On the first 15 minute track, 156 subjects us to all sorts of terrible sound sources mixed in with looping musique concrete; babies crying, women sobbing uncontrollably, the coughing music of a tuberculosis clinic are combined with 156’s manipulated electronics and sounds. The track tends to switch back and forth between the two – sometimes there’s recorded samples, other times there’s the sound of a metal ball rolling around in a can or what sounds like the release of exhaust fumes. These tones don’t make up a coherent track, but instead document the sound of suffering in a grim collage of horrific samples.
“Sad B” features more found sounds, including the quiet conversations of what sounds like a subway. Again they are paired with 156’s crafted noise, with bottle clanks and softened guitar or synth tones. The track morphs into combining the sound of a match lighting with the sharpening of a knife – it’s a strange pairing because I’m not sure exactly what context would bring the two together, but in a way 156’s idea works as a collage of horror sounds meant to be used for a Halloween eve.
“Sad B” isn’t as effective as the first side, and while both can be grueling listens they do tend to feel a bit disconnected. Yet A Life Lived As If In Hell is a terrifying experience if listened to in the right setting – it’s best to turn out the lights, relax in bed, and attempt to close your eyes without feeling watched.
OPPONENTS is primarily a group focused on darkwave synth and rhythms, looping patterns that use drum machine-style beats to produce a gothic industrial tone at times reminiscent of Swans, at others a dark, swelling mass at a rave. Their tracks utilize the momentum of loops to add layers to the tunes, giving five tracks of dense but strangely catchy noise dirges.
The first side features three tracks. “Psychosexual Spiritual” opens the cassette with the pattern that I explained above, with lots of percussive elements and a heady bass beat driving the track, with the occasional inclusion of vocals. The second track expands on this idea – “Strip Off Your Skin” is a compelling, echoing track with stuttering drum beats and various synth additions throughout; the title phrase is repeated and refrained, but additional vocals meet with the monotonous, bored tones of A. Feinstein’s voice to add surprising depth to the lyrics. Finally, “The Centipede Elixir” ends the side with a rather simple drum line, but with the warblings of celestial synth and a vocal delivery akin to early Wolf Eyes.
The second side features only two tracks. A looping repetitive synth line leads “D4,” a track that pulsates and writhes with bass punctuation. Most hypnotic is the humming and pitched vocals that blend into the track’s layers; it’s my favorite out of this release because it utilizes all of its parts to greatest effect, and the loop is mesmerizing enough to carry on indefinitely. This is not so with the longest track on the tape, “Death to All.” At over ten minutes, this lofty cut overstays its welcome as it drones on. It’s a catchy tune but the single notes that keep the track on keel don’t have enough pull to warrant such a lengthy tune.
OPPONENTS have released a tape full of sweet synth sounds, and if you’re into the sort of gothic industrial vibe they have going on, Psychosexual Spiritual is a strong tape with layered sounds and a great vocal delivery. But some of the tracks stretch on for too long, making this C38 longer than it needs to be.
Nite Shadez is the duo of Rob Buttrum and Andrew Michael; on Black Holes for the Face and a Graveyard, the two experiment with creating noise in the vein of horror movie soundtracks, with deep bass and synth tones along with the distinctive percussions of a drum machine. Vocals and tape manipulations abound; more surprising is that the tape was recorded live between the two, with both side-long tracks (about 20 minutes in length) effortlessly improvised as the two shred the common sheltering of harsh noise for something much more creepy and less conventional.
Both tracks, “Black Holes for the Face” and then the B-side “And a Graveyard” (makes sense per title), find Buttrum and Michael playing off of the creepy intonations of synth work. There are moments of clarity with the percussion of the drum tracking – this could be some demented work of Goblin if not for the freak-out that generally occurs later on. Things get thick and heavy with bass, and electronics spiral into a whirlwind that loses the synth drones of the soundtrack. But the two find harmony again; the tape is all about the give and take between the two, and there’s a cohesion to where they find themselves that works very well. It makes it sound like this improv is easy, even though it’s clear that finding such soundscapes and building off of them isn’t.
The synth work often sounds straight from ’80s slashers, and Nite Shadez find tons of room for odd sounds in the mix. There are often moments of more rhythmic noise before the duo teeter off into bits of filler between outbursts. “Black Holes for the Face” is mostly spot on, though its ending does lose control (or so it seems) when the drums flip between settings sporadically.
“And a Graveyard” focuses on a more cemented pattern throughout. Lots of eerie synth lines, a driving drum rhythm that actually gets quite complex, and some heavy vocals, both screamed and sampled, keep things moving in a focused direction here. For those who enjoy more cohesive noise, this track will be the stand-out – it doesn’t lose its destination like the A-side does.
But both tracks here are excellent, a hodge-podge of different noise experiments under the subheading of weird and creepy electronica. Certainly recommend ed for those who are into some of the brooding works of Dead Machines.
Compactor is an industrial glitchy project from Derek Rush. There’s not really any other way to describe it. The artist’s moniker makes sense; just as a garbage compactor has its own sense of rhythm during the motions of its machinery, so too does Desensitization Reprocessing. It’s a tape full of heavy beats that are noises and static repackaged into useful, surprising textures.
There are six tracks on this 30-minute cassette, split up into Side Attack and Side Recoil. The first two tracks are surprisingly upbeat; they utilize heavy bass and really pumping rhythms, alternately adding some sounds like the small amounts of feedback chatter on “Battered” or beeps. For the most part, these tracks are looped without much change to the overall sound – the same beats will likely be heard throughout the track, though the counterparts within will shift or even drop out. It’s a pattern that works well for Compactor, and “Multiple Fractures” on side Attack shows that Compactor can also slow his rhythms down without losing any of the power.
And that starts to signal a move into the more restrained territory for side Recoil. “Victims” has a thudding bass line but is mostly driven by a shuddering, chirruping background along with the drone of a distant freeway. And “Suppression” chugs along at such a slow clip that it feels on a completely different plain from the chaos of Side Attack’s “Lacerations”. The final track “Bleeding Out” features a repetitive loop of dripping water along with a squeaky bass beat – that’s how I’d describe it, anyway – and the creepy intercutting of static that sounds like a harsh whisper.
The first half is certainly the more entertaining one, because Compactor kills it with huge beats and perfect progression. The second side is more experimental, and the energy level is diminished. But it makes sense for the tape – first the Attack, then the Recoil, until the final track ends with a depletion of the high octane energy we started with.
Deign is a project from Jim Harras, and besides one release out in 2010, this is his only other foray with the moniker. Pecuniary Huckster is three tracks of absolutely destructive noise, and it’s doesn’t fall into the dilemmas of harsh noise or power electronics by reusing old ideas. Instead, it takes both of those genres and combines them into something loose and gritty, and it’s overall an excellent and original tape.
The first side houses “Snipers Gaining Media Attention By Picking Off Protestors At OWS” and “The Wealth Remains”. The first track is a slow burn of sounds; deranged electronic noodling and swirls of warped feedback drone along slowly until the track’s final moments, where everything comes together into a screeching cacophony of sound. It melds right into the intense “The Wealth Remains”, with heavy pulses of vocals and bass coming together into electronic cut-ups and jittery rumbles. A sheet of static, an industrial hum, sharp metallic scrapes, and a sprawling mix of textured sounds are the ways that Deign completely destroys the A-side.
“Consume to Cum” is entirely different because of its layered and looping drum beats – there’s a techno dance hall rhythm to it infused with an organic wall of static. The drums begin to loop so fast that everything breaks down into peals of electronic feedback, as if the very electronics themselves are exploding from overuse. What was a dark rave becomes a grindcore march full broken sounds and grating textures. At the end, even the drums drop out for crashing shudders and oscillations, a full assault towards your speakers that might leave them smoking.
It’s most likely unnecessary to add that Pecuniary Huckster is a great tape, right? It’s searing, original, and often completely abrasive. Though short and one of the only Deign releases, it leaves the listener clamoring for another tape of looped drum beats and feverish electronic burns.
This short cassette from Drag Age (Kevin McEleney of Droughter) comes to us from the great Out-Of-Body Records in a delightful package, the kind of design that the label is known for. There’s only two tracks on this release, meaning that it’s super easy to get a quick listen in and get out again. Drag Age is rhythmic death industrial bordering on power electronics; both tracks are laden with synth and beats, and often capture the darker atmosphere with tortured vocals.
The first track, “Lords of Bronze,” is a pulsing affair, starting out with a thick slab of vibrating synth chord before easing into a rhythm; there are industrial clangs in the background and an echo like a meat factory, building up to some more stabbing synth lines that shudder throughout. It’s repetitive, but the layers of sound are nice, and there’s even a steady beat behind it once the track really gets going. Plus Drag Age incorporates some vocals to give it an added disturbance.
Then the flip side, “Reveal the Guise”, gets things nice and dirty with a really dark synth riff. It’s rigid and fairly straightforward, the kind of chord progression you might find on a doom record, and it’s pretty damn great. But there’s an expectation for this track to continue forward, to develop and explode, and it never really does so. Nasty distorted vocals do add a touch of intensity to it, but I also wanted “Reveal the Guise”‘s synth part to open up a bit.
Mask of a Crushed Insect isn’t a bad release, but I do feel it a bit underdeveloped. Its short format means that the two tracks must stand alone well, and while there are spots where Drag Age finds excellent footing, some of the more repetitive aspects hinder the tape, especially when each track only hits the six-minute mark.
Gnawed is at it again with Patience Is Waste, a solid forty minutes of power electronics set to stabbing, pulsating rhythms. There’s not always a lot of excess noise on display here; often Gnawed gives his tracks some room by simply allowing oscillating textures to fill a void while vocals run over the sound.
That’s not always the case, but it’s prevalent. Opener “Sands” establishes a very repetitive beat until the vocals finally kick in minutes later; the idea of the vocals, the whorls of the screams, are stronger because of the looping. It’s a tactic Gnawed uses well; there’s that same sense of an industrialized loop in “Spoiled” where Gnawed continues to give us those deep, guttural snarls.
But there are also some very good drones, slower parts where the industrialized clanking and synths build nicely while the screams flow along with it. “Tension” is a good example of this, and it really expresses its title; “Serenity” carries a drone tone throughout while spoken vocals chant underneath it, along with some pounding sounds that only hint at a rhythm. When the drones occur, they’ve got a very dark, warehouse-like vibe to them which work well for Patience Is Waste.
All told, this is a refreshing release from Gnawed – it’s got those grinding PE loops, but different enough to warrant picking up. When other releases tend to blend together, Gnawed remains unique, and though Patience Is Waste might feel cold, it’s also somewhat comforting.