Posts Tagged ‘Document’

Cruel Nature Records – 24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The lights that burn brightest tend to be the ones that burn briefest, and it’s something of a conflicting pull on the gut that surrounds reflections on this. The idea that acts who quit and artists who died leaving a small but impactful legacy are somehow unfulfilled and that we’ve been deprived of whatever they may have done is counterbalanced by the contention that perhaps curtailing a career at its peak or even still in its ascendency is the best way, and fans will be forever divided on this topic.

What if Ian Curtis had lived, and Joy Division had mutated into New Order? They would have been just another band whose longevity overshadowed that early career, another Manic Street Preachers. Simple Minds should have called it a day in about ’84, and Kasabian’s early promise was spent after just one album.

ODF never lasted long enough to really break out of the locality of Gateshead. As the liner notes to this retrospective observe, they ‘blasted onto the North East’s harshcore scene in 1998 and were gone in a flash three years later; their 2001 split album with Newcastle’s Jazzfinger the only remaining recorded output’. Everything leans toward the attainment of immortal cult status here, and the changes are infinitely more people have heard of the band, or otherwise heard them posthumously than ever did during that brief but explosive career.

This limited cassette, Harshcore 98-00, documents two live shows, both recorded in Gatehead, with the first seven tracks recorded June 2000 at the Floating Cup, Gateshead, and tracks 8-14 recorded June 1998 at the Soundroom, Route 26 Centre, Gateshead.

It’s pretty fucking brutal. Most of the songs in both sets are around the two-minute mark, and it’s as abrasive as hell. The vocals! Rob Woodcock (Marzuraan; Tide Of Iron; Fret!; Platemaker et al) sounds like a zombie from The Walking Dead on amphetamines, snarling and rasping with the most ravaged-sounding voicebox. There’s a lot going on here: ‘Calisthenics’ brings all kinds of jazz and math elements alongside the full-on, balls-out wild thrasher, and the fifty-five second ‘Aggressive Lowbrow’ brings everything all at once in a racket that suits the title.

Despite the close proximity of the sets, there’s a clear evolution here, so it’s a little frustrating that they’re presented in reverse chronology on the release. The ’98 set is less evolved, less detailed, less jazz, less multi-faceted, and more of its time – brimming with samples and songs that are little short of whirling explosions of whiplash-inducing racket, with ‘O.D.F. Will Kick Your Lame Ass Motherfucker!’ being exemplary, but also marking the band’s first forays into different terrains, with hints of swagger emerging amongst the frenzied racket. It’s gnarly, it’s intense, and it’s fucking punishing. And it really makes you wish you had been there.

AA

a1380330890_16

Out of context, it could be any extreme noise / power electronics / experimental / industrial crossover. Whistling high-end feedback, tortured, wailing drones, nagging, drilling analogue synth buzzes, pulsations, distortion and distant low-end rumbling provide the tonal span over which sounds of detonating shells, gunfire, panicked voices, and snippets of newscasts and other media are assembled. The piping sounds of Oriental flutes from India and Morocco are interwoven with stuttering electronica and wandering synths which cast dark, ominous shadows of unease.

In context – and ultimately, it’s all about the context – Gaza takes on a truly horrific dimension, a painful and harrowing documentary work. Gaza is in many respects a soundtrack: recorded during operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, it is the soundtrack to violent and brutal war.

To read the statistics – the estimates of the numbers killed and wounded, the number of homes destroyed and the estimated costs of rebuilding in the wake of this intense period of battle is bewildering, numbing. Over 2,000 Gazans were killed and well over 10,000 wounded during the seven-week spell. More context: the Gaza Strip is 25 miles long, and between 3.7 to 7.5 miles wide, with a total area of 141 square miles. The city of Gaza is home to around 1.85 million Palestinians on some 362 square kilometres: by way of a comparison, Greater Manchester has a population of 2.7 million, in an area spanning493 square miles. The point is, really, that it becomes hard to compute, and ultimately impossible to imagine the reality of the situation, and what it must be like to live with such decimation. The Sky News images of ruins and rubble amidst clouds of dust and drifting sand may be horrific, but just as pictures of houses bombed in the blitz cannot convey the experience, so this type of footage feels distant, unreal, like a film set.

Pharoah Chromium (aka German-Palestinian musician and performer Ghazi Barakat, who took the name from a song of the band Chrome), I read, draws inspiration from diverse sources spanning free jazz, rituals from ancient past and near future, the dream syndicate, science fiction novels and neo-brutalistic architecture. But most importantly, this is an intensely personal work for Barakat, who writes that ‘having close family ties to the region, I felt it was necessary to politicize my work in order to avoid total disillusionment and estrangement from circumstances that, I feel, are a dead end for humanity. My focus on this one subject is not meant to diminish other conflicts and human-made catastrophes in the world. Although this one just happens to take place in the birthplace of monotheistic Judéo-Christianity, the cultural background of all western societies.’

As such, as intensely personal as it is, Gaza is also intensely political. But perhaps even more importantly, it’s an intensely human work. As Barakat explains, ‘Gaza is built around voices and field recordings that are used to express my subjective, emotional and personal involvement with this subject. The found source material is used to construct a chronology of the events… The sounds of the Korg MS 20 noise filter helped intensify the feeling of hysteria ensuing from violent confrontation during a state of war. An electric wind instrument provides the melodic components and the low frequencies that underline the narration on the second part of the piece.’

And this brings into sharp relief the reality of the experience. Listening to the album, you will jump and cower as gunfire and shells rain down. The sheer volume of the explosions and the shots is astounding, a hail of bullets becoming a blanket of eardrum-shattering noise. You find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, nerves jangling, wondering if your house will still be standing in a moments’ time. There’s no way you can settle or so anything else: this isn’t background or entertainment. There’s no way in the world you could nod off or otherwise sleep through this. And then you realise, this is the reality of life in a war-zone. The idea of actually living in this environment, to an outsider, is beyond comprehension. It’s a sobering thought, to say the least.

Barakat’s commentary is again informative, and chilling: ‘The two sides of this record are about a place like no other on this planet, a city and its surrounding environs living under extraordinary conditions, hermetically sealed from all sides, only accessible through complex procedures and permits, making it is almost as difficult to get in as it is to get out. Like a cross between the Warsaw ghetto and Manhattan as a giant maximum security prison in John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Every couple of years the Gaza Strip gets its share of bombardments, and since the summer of 2014, its infrastructure has been pulverized almost to the point of no return. The disproportionate use of force and the asymmetric use of military technology on those already living under siege has created a field laboratory for the military industrial complex with the civilian population as its guinea pig. […]’

The locked groove at the end of each side is the engine noise of an Israeli drone in operation, intended to give listeners the experience of the sound of day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.

It’s a phenomenally powerful work, which brings home the devastating realities of war in a way that’s truly unique. And while I’ve referred to this as a document, effectively a work of sonic reportage, it is, of course, a work of art. On a technical level, its execution is superb. To all intents and purposes, it’s a cut-up, a collage, and the pieces as assembled seamlessly, and achieve maximum impact. And what impact. Gaza is perhaps the most harrowing album I’ve ever heard. This is art on the front lines and behind the lines. All of the doom and crushing metal releases pale to nothing beside this: Gaza really is the sound of hell on earth.

Gaza

 

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=72821540/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Pharoah Chromium – Gaza on Bandcamp