Svaixt – Lo (C40, Terror)

ambient, found sound, Noise, Review

svaixt lo

Svaixt offers up three tracks (or parts, as they are referred to by track titles) of found sound gleaned from travelings to the Tibetan land of Upper Mustang, a difficult place to reach that is very enlightening to the individual. This cassette comes packaged in an orange silk-screened bag, along with a pamphlet of photographs and liner notes explaining the origin of the sounds on each track along with the overall experience of being in Upper Mustang.

With Lo, the package is more important as a whole than simply listening to the tape; the liner notes give context to the noises on the tape, and thanks to the last page of the pamphlet, we’re told exactly what makes up each part of the tracks. There are bell dings, low murmers of voices, windy flappings, rushing water, and the drone and hum of prayer. Each track has moments of interest, but overall Svaixt collects various found sounds without curating them into cohesion.

Thus, Lo is sometimes a frustrating listen. The flapping of a flag gives interesting texture, as do drones of prayer. But Svaixt also forces us to sit through tape hiss and relative silence; this might be hypnotic or symbolic in person, but as a listener it just feels like silence. That’s where the liner notes come in to add some depth to what the tracks offer.

However, it often feels like we as a listener are simply listening to the travels of someone else. The aura of the experience is missing from the audio recording; it might have been enlightening to experience, but listening to it secondhand loses some of the luster.

White Gimp Mask/Volksmorg – Cum is Nothing When You Enter Through the Back Opening (C40, Terror)

harsh noise, Noise, Review

white gimp mask volksmorg

The two sides of Cum is Nothing When You Enter Through the Back Opening are quite different. If you’ve heard White Gimp Mask before, you know what to expect from his 20-minute side: tons of electronics destruction, often rigorously changing throughout the piece. But Volksmorg I’m really not familiar with, so their quiet bass-driven texturing took me by surprise on the second side. Unlike WGM, Volksmorg is more subdued, with few changes throughout. The artwork on this tape is by no means quiet, however; fairly graphic pictures of homemade porn – generally done by people who probably weren’t in a good state of mind – are included in the foldout, along with the cover picture.

The White Gimp Mask side is consistent with what he’s released before. It’s a violent and chaotic assault on the senses with a heavy bass tone, innumerable shifts, and electronic caterwauling. I like that the set rarely deviates from the initial idea from where it began, thoug; throughout WGM’s track, the constant swirls of sound all stay within the same range. There are slashes of static and a single feedback tone that carries through, and these pieces are what make up the patterning shifts. Towards the end of the track an insistent bass takes precedence up front, but for the most part, WGM sticks to a specific area of sound.

The Volksmorg side also finds a solid tone and sticks to it. The track begins with a deep, sonorous tone with some slowed vocal samples. The drone continues throughout the track, with Volksmorg adding occasional noises: whirrings, deep bass, some sharp scratches. They aren’t enough to bring this track above a dull roar though; the muted tone that remains throughout the cut is rather bland, lacking a dynamic that would make this a more interesting piece. The use of quick noises helps to differentiate somewhat, but they’re often so separated from each other that the track feels longer than it is.

Cum is Nothing When You Enter Through the Back Opening is somewhat of a frustrating release. The White Gimp Mask side is good but fairly unoriginal; Volksmorg’s offering could be better if the tone wasn’t so stoic and underdeveloped. I could see both artists on a better split if Volksmorg just tightened up the sound a little bit. As it stands, the tape’s a listenable but underwhelming experience.

VxRx/HSSK – Vilnius (C30, Terror)

Drone, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

vilniu

VxRx is the shortened name for Vidinė Ramybė – probably a good thing for me because of all the accents, and I’ll keep it that way throughout this review. Likewise, HSSK is Hassockk, another moniker from the man who brings you the power electronics project Body Cargo. On the split Vilnius, VxRx cranks out the heavy PE stuff over multiple tracks while HSSK brings one 15 minute side of droning harsh noise and samples.

The first couple of tracks from VxRx are pretty standard power electronics; opener “Karoliniškės: Naminių Gyvūnėlių Kapinės” churns away with some vibrating drones and a couple of static swashes while the artist yells his vocals overtop. Thankfully, this release from Terror includes a pull out lyrics sheet; unfortunately, I don’t read Lithuanian. Either way, it seems VxRx has a lot to say, and the powerful nature of his vocals adds an extra depth to even the more generic PE tracks. But the last two tracks from VxRx are slightly different from the rest – “Markučiai: Myžalai Bendrabučio Lifte” has a slowed tempo to it, warped and whirred so that everything feels ill-paced, while “Krasnūcha: Sunaikinti Pietų Vilnių” does a similar effect with one strand of sound that is perpetually pitch-shifted.

HSSK’s one long track is much more blurry than VxRx’s offering, and lower in fidelity than normal with his Body Cargo work. Static, wind-swept bursts, and buzzing accompanies the track’s repetitive synth chords. Later on, as HSSK moves the territory from synth to vocal manipulation with a couple of samples, the subtleties of the track’s underlying sound emerge. The murky nature of the recording works well to mask things at first until sounds can emerge.

Two heavy sides from these power electronics aficionados, Vilnius is worth your time because it’s not deeply rooted in generic sound. The tracks offered here aren’t what you might expect from something labeled PE, and that’s a great thing. Add to it great packaging from Terror and you’ve got yourself a tape you need to seek out.

Body Cargo/Pogrom – Resistance (CD, Terror)

harsh noise, Industrial, power electronics, Review

resistance

Resistance brings together two power electronics artists for an album full of tension, the give-and-take of repeating rhythms with the oscillations of particularly chaotic sounds. Resistance – in its political and theoretical sense – is an apt theme for this approach to noise, because there’s always that method within the genre as well as the small stylistic breaks from the norm.

Body Cargo begins the split with some laid-back PE; these tracks generally aren’t as raucous as Pogrom’s, and they tend to drone instead of terrorize with their ideas. Opener “Birth of Iron God” and the next track, “Black Smoke Obelisks”, emphasize the calamity of bass-driven electronics and the ability for dense but not necessarily harsh tracks to have an effect on the listener. They even use vocal samples mixed in low instead of the shrieks common to the form. “Gutpath” offers oscillating sounds to add more intensity; the allure of the lo-fi but atmospheric sounds is here.

It seems both appear on each other’s tracks during the midsection of this release; vocals from both appear on the respective “Resistance” tracks, and it’s interesting to see the direction the two go, within the same genre but miles apart. Body Cargo places them underneath swarms of feedback and drones, while Pogrom keeps them above the mix.

And Pogrom’s side is much different, and a little bit more cut-and-dry PE. The thick and crusty screams are present, as well as the repetitive use of heavy bass and warped electronics. “Pradeginta Unifornia” focuses on harsh feedback blasts, while “Toks melsvas vakaras…” features abrasive shock waves of tight static. These are good tracks with an intensity that makes up for Body Cargo’s more melodic side.

Resistance shows both sides of the power electronics spectrum. Body Cargo and Pogrom deliver their own brands, and while neither are superior to the other, they do showcase two different sides to the genre.

Creation Through Destruction/Black Leather Jesus – Split (CD, Terror)

harsh noise, harsh noise wall, Noise, Review

creation blj

Here’s a longish split from two harsh noise projects – one is the very well-known group Black Leather Jesus with its revolving door of players, and the other is Creation Through Destruction, a harsh noise moniker of Dr. Alex from Dead Body Collection. There are four tracks on this split, two nearly 20 minute pieces from both parties, for a huge smattering of not-quite harsh noise wall soundscapes.

First up are the two tracks from Creation Through Destruction. These are highly fluctuating pieces; both “Uncertainty Principle” and “Stellar Magnetic Field” are all over the gamut of harsh noise, from whooshes of static and huge bass-driven vignettes with lots of static, some feedback, and other searing qualities. These are fun to listen to in the moment because they are so different from the principles of harsh noise wall; the sounds could be contained within a wall, but they move throughout different places on each recording so much that they become more like efforts to contain sounds that are bursting forth. The problem, however, is that Creation Through Destruction tends to shift so much that neither track becomes a memorable experience. I wouldn’t be able to pick one from the other because, by the time the 15 minutes of each track are up, I’ve forgotten where it began and where the artist has taken us. Too much variety can do that, and it’s interesting that this plagues Dr. Alex in Creation Through Destruction because his other work in Dead Body Collection is so immobile.

The Black Leather Jesus side is what you might expect from the group. There’s a huge mass of sound on “Stall Exhibitionists” using static and bass, and while this maintains its rigidity, small tendrils of sound escape the clutches – beeps and glitches, some light feedback manipulations – that hold the whole track together as a whole. “Bearfighter” works much the same way, where the collective establishes a baseline – this time crunchy static that judders and flits around rhythmically – while the remaining electronics focus on the underlying textures to give more detail to a heavily-structured wall. This is a technique Black Leather Jesus does well, and while these tracks aren’t surprising, they are still great to listen to.

This split is a fine album, though it’s not as good as the two artists’ pedigrees might indicate. Creation Through Destruction’s side left me less than enamored while the BLJ side is classic but unevolving. The collaboration here also feels strange; the two are tackling separate and inequivalent ideas on this split, and it’s probably not the best use of either of their material.