Astro & Winters In Osaka – Reverberating Forest (CD, Phage Tapes/Dismantle Records)

dark ambient, Drone, harsh noise, Noise, Review

astro winters

Reverberating Forest is a collaboration between the harsh noise wunderkind Astro and the droning, noisy collection Winters In Osaka. The disc holds one forty minute track that combines both harsh noise and drone together, with Winters In Osaka and Astro trading off for center stage in various vignettes.

The single, titular track begins with a shimmering drone from Winters In Osaka; everything is perfectly balanced, from the guitar lines to the subtle entrances of sound. Even some noise gets thrown in here or there with some kettle-like whistles and crashes underneath the sustained tone. Throughout the first twenty minutes or so, Reverberating Forest feels on edge; it often goes back and forth between movements, sometimes shifting into climaxes and at other times allowing the sound to recoil from its scope.

The climaxes work well to include the harsher aspects of noise, and the shift often allows some extra effects to be added. Around twenty minutes in the work shifts to a more Astro-centric approach – the drone is given up in favor of Astro’s demolition of the soundscape. Eventually the drones of Winters In Osaka do return; however, the segmented nature of this collaboration tends to make it feel more like a split than both acts working together.

Still, Reverberating Forest is a fascinating forty minute listen, perfect for a shorter trip where the track can be encompassed in full. The drone and noise combo works well together thanks to the many climaxes, and it seems these two acts fit quite snugly into the other’s work.

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Winters in Osaka – Mutual Collapse (CD, W.K.F.E.W.R)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

The sound on Mutual Collapse is hard to pinpoint and define, largely because of the subtle differences in sound on each track. There’s a hodgepodge of different influences conjoined into one mammoth album of intensity, from the obvious elements of harsh noise to the anger of power electronics but also integrating bits and pieces from other genres like the more musical yet still heavy grindcore (and it’s no wonder – there’s no end to the grindcore guests on this release) and doom metal stylings. Winters in Osaka bring this all together over forty minutes of brooding atmosphere and cacophonous howls, and with tracks like “Toll”, it’s no wonder the group decided the word collapse would be the defining moment for the album.

As opening tracks go, “Voyeur Pt. 1” stands as a high point to begin with. A feedback-laced scramble of electronics and background growls that seem straight from a pig farm, there’s a lot going on in this cut and it introduces the listener to a varied Winters in Osaka – and unlike a lot of other groups with multiple members, it certainly does seem like there’s a complex weaving of everyone’s ideas together. The track is rather short, and we jump right to “Baby Pop” with a slamming bass rhythm behind static hiss and a dominant, foregrounded vocal performance that reminds of what Bastard Noise has been doing of late. In between the rhythm is a stilted sample of distorted singing, which gives the track a great chugging beat that I really dug, and I almost wished it lasted a bit longer.

I talked about “Toll” a bit before – it’s a track full of sound, with samples of vocals and screaming backgrounds and an oscillating tone that keeps the whole thing roiling like frothy water. There’s no end to where each sound is coming from and it’s really difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s happening in the whole thing, except that it sounds like it’s falling apart all at once and you can’t help but encourage it to collapse in on itself. “Waterweight” falls short of the other tracks, a ticking clock of sound that takes too long to build – the xylophone-like ticks mimic a clock that kept reminding me the track was still going, and compared to the short and concise exercise of the previous three tracks, “Waterweight” becomes overdrawn.

It is “Mutual Collapse” where the grindcore sensibilities tend to dictate, throat-ripping vocals amidst fast-paced drum blasts and swirling instrumental lines. The track never forms a truly structured song, but there’s certainly a feeling that somewhere beneath the layerings of electronics is a good grind/crust punk song that’s been tortured into a miasma of pulsating noise. The same is true for “Voyeur Pt. 2”, which feels more similar to the previous song than its counterpart “Voyeur Pt. 1”; Winters in Osaka use static and bass to give the track a ripshit fast feel coupled with monstrous vocals, and it’s part of the charm of Mutual Collapse that again this “song” feels ready to melt away at any given time. The last track, “Stairwell”, is another slow build, but unlike “Waterweight” it feels like it’s definitely going to climax at any given time, a doomy gloom to its plodding pace.

Mutual Collapse melds all of these signature sounds together, and though it would seem like the end result might be an unfocused mess, Winters in Osaka have structured the album into a fine weave of seamlessly integrated noise. Rhythmic, yes – but it’s also chaotic, ready to cave in at any time. That it doesn’t is no sleight to the album title, but instead it prolongs that feeling through each listen – almost breaking, but never quite.

Buy