Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Soundtracking The Void – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Before the Magic is the debut from The Incidental Crack, a new collaborative work from Front & Follow and Gated Canal Community’s Justin Watson and Rob Spencer, alongside Simon Proffitt, who also performs as Cahn Ingold Prelog and The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor.

Under the seemingly eternal lockdown and difficulties arising from distancing, which continue to loom large over all things creative and musical where collectivism and collaboration are concerned (live performances are another essay altogether, and their absence will continue to leave an immeasurable void for so many and on so many levels), The Incidental Crack is a project that could only exist thanks to the Internet, which saw, ‘a six month period of remotely sharing atmospheric field recordings, samples and random noise, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation.’

The album’s four tracks are significantly differing in length, ranging from a ‘mere’ six-minute snippet to an eighteen-minute exploration of the deepest, darkest tunnels

Why are children’s voices always so unsettling? Especially samples of chirpy, innocent calls and singing, when juxtaposed with murky, dark ambient drones? I suppose it’s not least on account of that unheimlich sensation instilled by those quite specific contrasts of carefree naivete and gut-clenching fear. Individually, these sensations can be processed and compartmentalised, but together, they sit uneasily, tapping into a biological parental instinct that tells us that children should be kept safe from harm, and a doomy sonic fog, with connotations of imminent danger, creeping around the ankles is something of a hard-wired trigger. ‘If I Can Do It’, then, is a thoroughly unsettling collage. The voices fade out, but deep rumbles of thunder persist, a different kind of threat as a storm breaks and it reminds us that there is nothing harsher, more devastating, than nature.

‘Skin’ provides some much-needed levity, overlapping myriad snippets of adverts for skin products by way of an intro before drifting off into soft bubble of drifting mellowness. There’s a spoken-word piece, from what initially appears to be lecture on skin but wanders more into the territory of a reflection on skin more generally.

With murky, clunking percussion and inaudible sampled dialogue running throughout its twelve-minute running time, the dark and impenetrable ‘Set free all the birds from your wife’s aviary’ is another level of unsettling, and it’s difficult to settle or adjust to despite the relentless booming plod that hangs in the background.

The sparse, clanging pulsing noises of the final track are hollow, empty, and even when joined by a slow-swelling tide if amorphous, extraneous noise, feels quite bleak and desolate, and the title, ‘We All Feel Happy Now’ feels grimy ironic. Gasping breaths, the sounds of panic, along with slivers of spoken-word narrative (which in passing includes the album’s title is dense and dolorous, and there is no joy to be found here.

And yet the album as a whole feels positive, if only in terms of its fulfilment of purpose as an experimental album with unsettling connotations, and sometimes, you just need a dark, desolate atmosphere to match the mood.

AA

The Incidental Crack - Before The Magic

Cruel Nature – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Meyer Huthwelker is Helge Meyer and René Huthwelker: these are new names to me, but they seemingly have pedigree as emerging from ‘the hydra-headed experimental noise and ambient scene of Hamburg’. Meyer is also part of the band Ex-Kopf together with Scheich In China, and Huthwelker lately released a great solo tape on Phil Struck’s Stoffe imprint.

As Meyer Huthwelker, the liner notes inform us that ‘they play slow moving electronic music, using various modular and semi-modular synthesizers as weapons of choice.’ These words are chosen as carefully as their weapons, and reflect the way the duo’s sound has a strong attacking element to it, which is showcased perfectly here.

Purdue Generator contains two tracks, corresponding with the two sides of an audiotape, and Cruel Nature are releasing this one in a limited edition of 65 copies – which is an indication of the duo’s appeal given that their tape runs are often considerably smaller. It’s nice, it’s cult, but it’s without doubt respectable.

Purdue Generator contains a lot of heavy drone. Heavy drone. And a lot. Purdue Generator is one of those albums where you find there really isn’t much to say. It’s ambiguous, vague, somewhat formless. It drones on and on… and on. It oscillates and undulates. Slowly, gradually, like so much burrowing and tunnelling and meandering from hither to thither… but nothing happens. Wait, here’s the good bit… Actually, that is the good bit: the lack of change or specific ‘bits’ is entirely the point – it’s an elongated, continuous piece, unpunctuated, defined by protracted sameness that has a cumulative effect. The dronier, the less eventful, the more resonant, the deeper the impact, a little like exposure to radiation, I suppose: the more frequent and prolonged, the more effect on the system.

And so, with the first side, ‘Oxy’, where the elongated pulsations last for aeons, eternities, trickling into the second, ‘Hundo’, there’s a continuity and constant buildup. This being 2020, that buildup is one of tension and resembles less a buildup of excitement than a buildup of plaque. It’s something more to pick at than to actually learn major lessons from.

The low, slow, oscillations hum and thrum at a pace and frequency that settles around the lower thorax, and the reaction is as much physical as mental: Purdue Generator blossoms and blooms with questions over answers as it inspires the listener to step back from the tumult of everything external to meditate in one’s own internal rhythms. The higher, trilling notes that sometimes enter the mix bring levels of discomfort, as do the shifts into lower, grinding throbs. Fading out over a long, deliberate gradation, it doesn’t leave us with very much other than an empty space and room for contemplation.

AA

a3041477711_10

Editions Mego – EMEGO289 – Digital: July 24/31 – LP: end August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Who knew that there was a burgeoning experimental music scene in Nairobi? I’ll confess, not me. It transpires that KMRU, known to friends and others as Joseph Kamaru was listed by Resident Advisor as one of “15 East African Artists You Need To Hear” in 2018, and is a regular performer at the Nyegenyege Festival, having also presented live performances at CTM festival and Gamma Festival.

As a low, slow-oscillating, cloud-shifting, minimalist ambient work, Peel is well-executed and seems like a reasonable entry point into KMRU’s work. The field recordings that are integral to its material form are so subtly integrated as to be practically indiscernible, absorbed in the soft swell of sound. This is testament to KMRU’s attention to detail, and in a time that’s an overwhelming blast of soundbites and headlines and music that’s compressed and geared towards MP3 / radio / streaming, Peel explores the full dynamic range.

While the album features six pieces in total, four run past the ten-minute mark, with opener ‘Why Are You Here’ drifting elongatedly past the fifteen minute mark, and the title track rounding off with a monumental twenty-two-minutes or minimalism.

‘Why Are You Here’ begins quietly, a lurching bass slowly rising against clattering metallics, and it’s a hushed, stealthy and vaguely challenging introduction, a combination of melody and disharmony. ‘Solace’ offers none, despite its soft misty formlessness and ‘Well’ is simply fair enough.

‘Klang’ picks up, pulsating subtly, its rhythm reduced to an electronic throb like a sore finger. It pulses and thrums like a rising tide against a sandy shore. It has a tangible density, a physical resonance, which contrasts with the vagueness of the appropriately-titled ‘Insubstantial’ and the 22-minute closer in the form of the title track. It’s not about form but feel, and Peel feels soft, reaching out across territories and emotional landscapes with no agenda and no set motive. This freedom is refreshing, not to mention rare.

AA

KMRU – Peel

Cruel Nature Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be a flippant cliché to describe this offering by the insanely prolific Whirling Hall of Knives (this is their fourth release of 2020 and their thirteen full-length album) as an album of two halves, split as it is across two sides of the cassette release – but it would also be a valid assessment of its musical contents, also. For while it is consistently atmospheric and droney throughout, the six tracks, which bleed into one another to create the sensation of two longform tracks (the digital version is even mastered as such) consisting of a number of passages, they each bear a distinct character, if not necessarily form.

With such a daunting back catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to begin both on terms of exploration and comparison, but it’s probably fair to say that being neither as harsh as some efforts, or as ominously oppressive as others, Sabre is representative while siting at the more accessible end of their output spectrum.

These compositions are loose, transitional, and while they do lead the listener on a sonic journey of sorts, it’s meandering and non-linear in its trajectory.

The clattering rhythm that marches in the opening bars of the first track, ‘Laid to Rust’, immediately reminds me of the intro to ‘Breathe’ by Ministry, although perhaps a shade dubbier. But the percussion soon fades out and leaves, not grating metal guitars, but tapering whistles of feedback and drones like damaged woodwind. But this is very much a percussive album, at times verging on experimental dance music… and so in fades ‘Those Tracers’, the lead single, accompanied by a video we’re immensely proud to premiere here at AA. This is very much a work of abstract freeform dance music that bumps along in a vortex bubble.

Side A closes off with the altogether more attacking ‘Gutterpressed’, a gritty industrial grating through which bleak winds howl desolately.

Side B’s three cuts are lower, slower, dronier. Before sliding into a sepulchural reverence, ‘Olde Slice (Edit) is ominous and sparse. When the beats do emerge on ‘Ring Dialog’, they’re swampy and backed off, some indistinguishable robotix vocals echoing into a murky mass. The final track, ‘Barkd’ drift and hovers for so long, but suddenly, from amidst distant chords that reverberate hints of the sparsest, most minimal desert rock , percussion rises and drives away at a heavy beat and pulsating industrial bass throb to conjure an intense and oppressive atmosphere as the album inches toward its finale.

Sabre isn’t easy to categorise, and at times, it’s not that easy to listen to, either. But that’s what makes it.

Preorder Sabre here.

AA

art_whok_sabre_tape_outer copy

Sige 071 – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nordra is the vehicle by which Monika Khot, of Zen Mother, and a touring member of Daughters delivers ‘apocalyptic dirges combining modern classical explorations of electronic ambience with hardware-fueled industrial barrages’.

The press release explains the transition and difference between Pylon III and its predecessor, Pylon II: ‘Nordra’s second outing, the commissioned score for PYLON II, was a hard-edged martial exercise—fitting for the dystopian nature of the series’ second installment. But for PYLON III, Pester was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and requested that Khot instill her work with hope and calm in order to serve the utopian aims of the performance’.

Hope and calm aren’t the initial senses I draw from listening to the ten compositions that comprise Pylon III. In fact, I find myself adrift, and also buffeted from one emotional moodspace to another. Lugubrious, haunting, and often eerie, unsettling, Pylon III is no relaxation tape by which to practise meditational breathing.

Stuttering beats, murky and muffled and rapid like machinegun fire bather hard against dense, slow-turning, ethereal drones, juxtaposing tension and tranquillity. The seven-minute ‘Monologue on the Beach’ is very much representative of the album as whole: piano notes ring out, sparse and lonely against eddying, undulating notes, particularly as it’s followed immediately by the booming drones of ‘Un-Hopeful’, the sonorous parp of a cruise liner’s horn sounding into a thick fog.

‘Reconciliation’ marches hard, a short, stabbing loop thumping insistently while dark serrated drones loom unexpectedly and seemingly at random, like sharks emerging from the depths. ‘Transcendence 1’ hints at something approximating conventional dance tropes, with its regular, pulsating beat that booms into a ocean of reverb as the bass builds. ‘Transcendence 2’ could well be off another album altogether as Nordra goes ‘rock’ – a chugging guitar plugs away at a couple of chords while drum twitches away nervously, and strong seep in with additional tension. It has hints of Swans about it in its density and its mesmeric insistence, and it makes for a compelling and hypnotic conclusion to an intriguing album.

AA

a0053420620_10

Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

AA

a0908613782_10

5th June 2020

James Wells

So The Moms is not a bunch of women who meet for coffee or a WhatsApp group about homework, but actually three dudes from Copenhagen who trade in textural noise/free improv, manipulating conventional instruments in self-invented unorthodox ways. On this, their self-released debut which contains a single track of 39 minutes and 34 seconds in duration, they promise ‘no soothing melodies or calming new-age harmonies, yet it can be a meditative experience if you accept the push and let your mind slip through the void.’

It sort of sounds like jazz in its origins, as some kind of brass struggles for breath, honking and parping in a strangled tone. Low-end grumbles and high-end fizzing duel for dominance as the jostle around mid-range drones. The ratio of droniness and rasping horniness and warped jazz dissonance vary as the elements interweave, shifting and mutating.

At times sparse, minimal, subdued and strained toots expectedly from within extended sections of restrained low-level noise, punctuated by thuds and thumps: strains of feedback and scraping are recurring sonic elements as the ever-shifting piece drips from swirling murk to squealing torture, with distortion and discord dominating.

The final minutes build to a climax of shrill, shrieking cacophonous noise before slowly dissipating to draw the curtain on an album that’s restless and difficult, an album that doesn’t allow the listener to settle into a single frame of mind for more than a couple of minutes, as it twists and turns, honks and churns.

It’s by no means commercial, but nor does it have any will to be, and in its field of jazz-orientated experimentalism, Kalipedia is a solid debut.

AA

a4074945653_10

Cruel Nature – CN132 – 25th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Mike Vest happens to be in several noisy bands I really, really rate, notably Ozo, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias and Drunk in Hell. And now, while I’m wondering if the guy has somehow mastered cloning and not told anyone, you can add to that staggering list Lush Worker, his solo project.

Cruel Nature, one of two Newcastle-based cassette labels who represent the city’s tight-knit but remarkably prolific and outstandingly strong underground scene, which is a melting pot for all shades or nasty noise and dark metal-orientated music, here serves up a whopping portion of Lush Worker, with three albums bundled onto a limited-edition double cassette spanning nearly two hours of what they describe as ‘heavy shockwave drone and dream guitar noise overload, perfect to bliss out to’.

The first of half a dozen Lush Worker releases from 2019, Cruise was first released digitally last February, and essentially comprises the twenty-eight-minute title track, a long, swirling guitar drone that straddles shoegaze and ambience, with a brace of shorter (sub-two-minute) ‘sample’ tracks, omitted here presumably for space, continuity and purpose. Because while this may be three albums, it may s well be one monster album, and is perhaps best approached as such.

Admittedly, no-one is likely (alright, I’m making a substantial assumption here) to listen to this either an album at a time, or as a whole in a single sitting. Not because it doesn’t flow perfectly as a single-sitting piece, but because even in lockdown, does anyone have that kind of time?

So ‘Cruise’ cruises on, slowly, a spiralling cathedral of guitar that simultaneously drones and soars in a mess of wailing feedback and misshapen chords. There’s some distant beat in the mix, but its submerged beneath an undulating tide of treble.

The five cuts of ‘slow burn guitar’ from the appropriately-titled Uplift, released in October 2019, with the exception of ‘Flatliner’ are all around the nine-minute mark, and are more rhythmic, if not necessarily overtly structured: ‘Sub-Ether’ is a heavily psychedelic shoegaze swirl, centred around a repetitive, cyclical motif overlaid with layer upon layer of FX-soaked overdrive, with the album tapering to an elongated buzzing drone on ‘Frozen Egypt’, where it’s the slow-melting bass trip that makes it.

Somewhere in the haze of dubby desert rock, there’s a soaring experimental psychedelic drone on ‘Slow Zone Design’, and howling lead guitars duel against one another, occasionally colliding in a smash of metallic sparks.

Although presented here out of sequence (and the cassette sequence is different again from the digital release), with Hb1c MkII having been released in May, it makes sense for its two half-hour behemoth efforts to round off this release, mirroring its opening counterpart. However, ‘Hb1c MkII’ is a much mellower piece, a near-ambient drift of echo and delay, the chiming notes floating and fading into a rippling haze, before ‘Sobek 110’ delineates things further, a twenty-eight minute single-note drone at heart, it’s a meditative, medicated, soporific experience.

Collectively, these three albums demonstrate different but connected and complimentary facets of Vests Lush Worker output. Dim the lights and explore.

AA

cover

Cruel Nature – CN133

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often demo tapes get a ‘proper’ release. Then again, it’s not often you actually get demo tapes these days: cassettes may be making something of a comeback on the underground, but you’re more likely to get a demo recorded on mobiles with the tracks assembled using some smart software than on a four track. I remember my old Fostex X-18 seeming incredibly compact back in ’92. Less true of the X55, but with its double-speed spooling and advanced mixing capability, it was more like having a proper studio on your desk. How times have changed.

But when it comes to black metal, low-grade production is integral to the aesthetic. It’s supposed to be impenetrably murky, the songs emerging from a booming condenser mic recording overloaded with volume, crackle, and hiss.

I was fortunate to catch Petrine Cross virtually live at a Heinous Whining streaming event the other week, and it was devastating: I was blown away by the dark intensity of the performance, and this release confirm this was no one-off or a case of me being carried away with too many cans in my atempt to recreate the gig experience at home.

A solo project for Esmé Louise Newman of emotionally-charged black metal duo Penance Stare (and her resumé is pretty impressive too), Petrine Cross is pitched as ‘Thought-provoking raw ambient black metal, inspired through solitude and literature, that hits hard in all its oppressive glory.’

‘Charred Skirts and Deathmask’ could be read one of a number of was, but it begins with a soft-edged undulating drone, which continues throughout its eight-plus-minute duration beneath a crushing deluge of punishing guitar noise. There are no discernible chords, no clear structure, just a full-on deluge of sludge. There are some vocals in there somewhere, too, I think. I don’t need the details, and that’s perhaps as well, as they’re obfuscated by a dense wall of undifferentiated sound that’s all in the mid and lower ranges.

I’m listening by candlelight and screen glare, and it seems appropriate as the snarling blast of ‘I Beneath a Rougher Sea’ tears from the speakers, a muffled, murky blast of a cyclical chord sequence, overloading with distortion. It takes some time for any form to emerge from the searing sonic wall, and when it does, it’s vague, melting in its blisteringly intense grind.

The recordings may be primitive, but I’m not sure they would necessarily benefit from a more luxurious, layered studio treatment. The context is key: this is black metal – albeit in a stripped-back, ambient form – and doesn’t require polish. These recordings are cavernously dark and dredge the depths of the soul. Search deep.

AA

cover

Room40 RM401 – 1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

One aspect of postmodernism that can be both intriguing and frustrating is its tendency to contradiction. Moreover, the way in which postmodern criticism centres in on the contradictions of postmodern art, culture, and society, and extrapolates how postmodern art revels in the contradictions inherent in postmodern culture without in any way seeking to resolve them. Postmodernity seems to suggest that questions are enough, without need for answers. But are they?

Living in England, I’ve witnessed post-postmodernity taken to the most meta of levels in recent days having witnessed Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempting to detail the new guidelines for managing the COVID-19 pandemic on our small island, and am, along with the rest of the nation reeling at the advice that if I can’t work from home I should go to work, but I shouldn’t go to work if possible, and if I do have to go to work, to avoid public transport, and if I am working from home, it’s ok to go out as much as I like for exercise but only if essential, and I can meet people from other households, but only one person and it must be outdoors, and while maintain a 2-metre distance, which is the same as the distance as from people in public anyway.

Where am I going with this? Apart from more questions, more rhetoric?

Less is more. But sometimes, it’s also less. Lawrence English’s latest offering consists of two longform tracks, of around twenty minutes a piece, corresponding with a side of vinyl or cassette, although at present, Lassitude is only being released as a download. And not a lot happens.

‘Saccade (For Elaine Radigue)’begins with a trilling, rapid-oscillating drone that hangs in he mid-range. It doesn’t do anything, and doesn’t go anywhere, but gradually blurs. No, the sound remains static: the perception of it blurs. At least for a time, after which the notes slow and melt together.

There’s less texture and less shift to ‘Lassitude’, which sustains an even hum for the majority of its twenty-minute duration. It has no direction, and no substantial content, but that isn’t the purpose. There are tonal shifts, gradual gradients down, but they’re slowly incremental, almost subliminal. And ultimately, to what end?

Perhaps there is no end: perhaps this is the end. Perhaps the end has been coming, slowly, all this time, and our lives to now have been a waiting for the end. Perhaps not. What do we know?

AA

St. Petersburg