Manuel Knapp – AZOTH

Posted: 11 October 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

Ventil – V004

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been impressed by the Kutin / Kindlinger / Kubisch / Godoy collaboration, Decomposition I-III, released on Austrian label Ventil Records, I was eager to get my lugs around Manuell Knapp’s latest offering, which purports to see the Vienna/Tokyo based artist depart from his ‘analogue home-turf to go exploring in the digital fields’. None of this forewarns of the fact that he pours napalm over every last inch of every field in a five-hundred-mile radius and hurls an incendiary missile straight into the middle of it just a few moments into this devastating album.

There’s something stark and straightforward about the track listing for this release: AZOTH Side A and AZOTH Side B. In a way, it gives the listener a blank frame in which to place the music, and equally, it gives nothing away.

The synthesised plucked chimes follow warped Kyoto motifs, while explosions blast all around. The contrast between tranquil folk tropes and the sound of a war raging makes for an unusual and unsettling experience. Gradually, the notes become increasingly dissonant until, before long, all semblance of musicality is obliterated in an ear-splitting wall of noise and rubble. From the wreckage emerges dark, chthonic drones, monstrous, alien sighs, which tear from a whisper to a scream. It’s fucking brutal. Brief moments of tinkling synths taunt the listener with the prospect of respite before the next merciless, neuron-melting assault. Brief moments occur where the noise and the fear chords emerge simultaneously, inviting comparisons to Prurient, but for the most part, AZOTH is the kind of atomizing noise attack that’s Merzbow’s trademark.

Knapp certainly grasps the power of frequency – and volume – and uses the two in combination to achieve optimal sonic torture. When it comes to overloading sonic noise, just when it seems impossible to push the circuitry any further, Knapp tweaks it a bit more, amping up the shrieking blast of noise to levels beyond madness, pummelling the listener from every angle with snarling bass noise competing with a shrill, jagged, high-end squall. While many noise recordings are generic or plain lacking in imagination – Harsh Noise Wall being a particularly dire example of how derivative noise-related subgenres can be, and the moribund nature of concept music centred around a weak, one-dimensional concept, Knapp is attuned to the importance of dynamics and textural variation.

Knapp also knows about art and exploitation: the vinyl version is released in an edition of just 15 copies, each with unique, hand-painted art, and comes with a price tag of €666. Amusing in an ionic way, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing, only five copies remain. This is the kind of release that won’t have broad appeal, or, indeed, much appeal at all in he scheme of things, but will always attract some truly fanatical devotees – and speculative purchasers with cash to burn. But in all seriousness, viewed from a broader perspective beyond merely sound, AZOTH is a work of art. And, ultimately, the sound is art too. It is, of course art, of a challenging, avant-garde nature, rather than of the entertaining, accessible, poster and postcard reproduction variety.

Side 2 marks a change of tone and begins with rumbling, dark ambience and hints at being something of a counterpoint to Side 1. The low, ominous drones eddy bleakly around in a tense, turbulent atmosphere. And then the screeding feedback tears through, while a growling drone worthy of Sunn O))) blasts beneath, and in an instant, everything is fucked. Total aural annihilation ensues amidst an avalanche of flanged laser bomb detonations fire in all directions: it’s bewildering, overwhelming.

The totality of the blitz is all-encompassing. AZOTH is about as uncompromising as can be.

 

AZOTH

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