Circuit Wound – Symbiotic Cannibalism (C20, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

Circuit Wound has had a number of releases dating back to at least 2003, and this C20 from Oxen is a live two-part recording from a set played at The Blue Lodge. Despite its relatively uniform 20 minutes, the full track is split across both sides of the tape.

The untitled offering finds Circuit Wound working through traditional harsh noise output, a smattering of crunchy static interspersed with lots of varying oscillating tones. Overall, it’s not overwhelmingly abrasive but it does run through a variety of tones with a high degree of variability throughout the 20 minutes, and as a (presumably) improvisational live work, it shows Circuit Wound as a master manipulator in his trade.

The one downside to this recording is that I would have rather seen the full track released as a sidelong piece, presented as either a one-sided tape or duplicated for both sides to preserve continuity. Other than that, this is particularly effective piece of harsh noise from Mr. Howard.

Excellent |||||

Mason – Concrete Mirror (C20, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

Mason is another moniker for harsh noise cutup artist Thirteen Fingers, and we’ve reviewed a couple releases from that project previously. This cassette released on Oxen’s label finds Mason practicing some more cutup-style noise altercations across two 10 minute sides.

The first side’s two tracks, “Reflection of the Eye” and “Blood in the Wiring,” are the longer of those on this release, and are also not as frenetic. Mason gives the sporadic twiddling a rest in favor of allowing some of the sound elements to resonate in interesting drones. The ending of the first track fades out rather than smashing into cacophony, a nice respite from the usual cutup onslaught that ensues on the second half.

As one would expect, there’s a lot of churning, juddering, stuttering, and other adjectives often used to describe this style of harsh noise, and it’s all of good quality. Concrete Mirror is never too uniform in its sound, nor does any one track sound disconnected from the rest. And its focus on layering cutup with ambient interludes makes for a well-spent 20 minutes.

GOOD ||||

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.



Black Sand Desert & Unsustainable Social Condition – Black Sand Desert & Unsustainable Social Condition (C20, OXEN)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

bsd uscBlack Sand Desert is the moniker of Greh Holger, probably more well-known for his work as Hive Mind and as the owner of the Chondritic Sound label. Matt Purse is sole member of Unsustainable Social Condition, one of his harsh noise projects – he also goes by Fenian, and he runs the OXEN label on which this tape was released. The two projects collaborate on this C20 cassette, with side A being a studio recording and side B a cut from a live performance at the Handbag Factory in August 2016.

The first track is a perfect encapsulation of both Black Sand Desert and Unsustainable Social Condition working as a team; there’s really no area to pinpoint where one artist ends and another begins, and the track offers up a heavy churning maelstrom of sounds – often enunciating the rhythmic stop-start elements of cut-up harsh noise (which Purse does so well) while also allowing for droning elements within the mix. This untitled offering finds solid ground with consistent slices of feedback and sharp edges puncturing the crumbled bass textures, and it’s an excellent experience.

Side B is a bit less dynamic due to the live recording, but what comes forth are bass-heavy elements of rumbling textures combined with squealing electronic feedback and, at times, some ambient atmospheric tones. The quality of the recording is probably what limits this track the most, since some of the more definable characteristics don’t shine through the overwhelming rumble; however, it’s still a good listen and documents the presumed raucous live performance the duo give.

Some collaborations tend to feel forced (Full of Hell x Merzbow?) but this short and sweet cassette from Black Sand Desert and Unsustainable Social Condition is a perfect blend of two talents. Any fans of either project will find this to be a rewarding experience across 20 minutes of analog.

Unsustainable Social Condition – Unsustainable Social Condition (C10, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noisecore, noisegrind

Unsustainable Social Condition is the harsh noise/noisecore project of Matt Purse, also owner and operator of the Oxen label. This project has amassed a number of new releases in 2016, almost all of them released on Oxen. Notably, it seems as though Unsustainable Social Condition moves through a number of different noise genres, since one of the project’s latest releases, Dispersant, features a series of four tracks with lengthier runtimes than what’s offered on this self-titled cassette. Over ten minutes, Unsustainable Social Condition gives us crumbling harsh noise and blast beats akin to some of Sissy Spacek’s noisecore speed offerings, with 23 tracks across both sides in very minute bursts.

It’s too difficult to tell where one cut ends and another begins on this release, so referring to individual tracks is an unhelpful reference. Instead, Unsustainable Social Condition’s tracks tend to blend into each other, with crumbling noise-wall textures and crunchy swirls of noise pairing well with contributor Josh Taylor’s drum blasts. While Unsustainable Social Condition‘s A-side tends to approach the harsh noise side of things with Purse’s electronics doing much of the grunt work, Taylor’s drumming adds a significant amount to the B-side’s tracks, bringing brute force to the electronic crackles, static swirls, and occasional contact mic-style tinnitus.

These tracks will fly by, making it hard to decipher exactly the methods Purse is employing on this release. Like cut-up harsh noise, this release runs through a gamut of sounds, an excellent introduction to the madness inherent on any one Unsustainable Social Condition release. At only ten minutes, this cassette warrants repetitive plays, and it’s a perfectly chaotic release that should please fans of harsh noise and noise-laden grindcore.

Sissy Spacek – Brath (CD, Oxen)

harsh noise, Noise, noisegrind

Sissy Spacek is pretty much legendary in the noise genre, but even if you haven’t heard the band specifically, its member John Wiese should definitely ring familiar. The band has gone through a series of members in its lengthy run, but Brath finds Wiese working with drummer Charlie Mumma alone to create noisegrind out of squalls of electronics and percussive elements. The album comes as a nice professional release from Oxen.

This incarnation of Sissy Spacek finds the band shredding over two tracks of raucous, ragged grind. Brath is split into two parts, but ultimately there’s nothing to really distinguish one track over the other. Mumma delivers insane blast beats under squalls of electronics that are so blown-out that the actual rhythm and structure is lost in a whirlwind – occasionally, those beats come out, and often you can hear Mumma wailing away at cymbals or a ride, but a lot of the definition is lost in searing noise.

The growled vocals are a regular throughout the two pieces, hyperbolic deliveries that add to the absolute chaos and disintegration of traditional grindcore. Brath is similar to what one might hear if they stuck their head up to a jet engine – an overwhelming soundwave, along with the ticking and clicking of machinery working at maximum capacity.

And that’s why Brath is so enjoyable, an assault on the senses that forces the listener to get lost in the wall of sound created by the instrumentation. Attempt to follow Mumma’s drumming and find the logical pattern; struggle to figure out the repetitions in the pieces. It’s nearly impossible in these blasts of sound, and that keeps me coming back to Brath, listening to things I missed the first time around and blowing my ears out in the process. At only 25 minutes, Brath encourages the listener to put this thing on repeat.


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.