Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

Cae Gwyn Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s dark. It’s winter. We’re in lockdown – again / still. Whatever cheer Christmas and the prospect of new year brought – and let’s face it more than cheer, it was a flicker of false hope, or worse still, a diminutive moment of delusional hope – has faded with the return to work (from home) and (home) schooling and the prospect of socialising, pubs, and gigs but a snuffed candle for the foreseeable, meaning that the jaunty Christmas tunes that assailed us last month can well and truly delete themselves while we get back to reality.

‘Doppelgänger’, the debut single from IsoPHeX, aka 19-year-old Cian Owen from Anglesey, it pitched as ‘brooding electronica of the highest order’, and it fits the bill and no mistake.

If you’re expecting – or wanting – more dark ambient, you’ll likely be disappointed, although ‘Doppelgänger’ brings atmosphere in spades, and one that’s cold and dark.

It may only be three minutes an eighteen seconds in duration, but ‘Doppelgänger’ melds an array of styles, incorporating hip-hop and sparse electro to create something that’s simultaneously bleak and dynamic, as chilly synths wrapped like mist around a hectic beat: uptempo hip-hop or downtempo drum ‘n’ bass? Who cares? Despite the urgent pace of the stammering rhythm, ‘Doppelgänger’ is sparse, minimal, and edgy, a twitchy trip through dark alleyways at night, tense and paranoid. Is there something there? Or is it all in your head? Keep one eye over your shoulder. Keep moving. Trust no-one. Apart from me, of course, when I tell you this is a killer tune.

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2LP Editions Mego – Digital release date: 4th December 2020 / Physical release date: early February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Initially – and indeed, oftentimes – On Feather and Wire sounds very like so many slightly noodly minimal electro albums, incorporating elements of pop and krautrock to forge some neat synthy moments, fairly light and accessible and propelled by soft but insistent beats and bubbling bass grooves, and it’s pleasant enough, with the darker overtones providing depth and detail. Rivet’s reverence and enthusiasm for the technology is apparent, as is his appreciation for the likes of both Chris and Cosey and Kraftwerk. The invited comparisons to COH are warranted, and if the synthy explorations of the 70s and into the early 80s with the emerging industrial scene is your bag, then the appeal here is clear: there’s plenty to like, but then again, not a lot to distinguish Rivet from myriad other artists of the era or his myriad peers operating in the same field, which seems to be increasingly populous.

‘Glietende Liebe’ has hints of DAF, but then equally of Cabaret Voltaire, and even Depeche Mode with its buoyant repetitive motif. Vocals are limited just the occasional phrase, more shouted the sung, and it seems Rivet – that’s Mika Hallbäck Vuorenpää – is more than happy for the listener to wrestle – or not – with the questions of intention and meaning, as, according to the liner notes, ‘interpretation is flung open as the audience are invited to gauge what on earth is going on here… Are these songs? Are these lyrics? Words melt as beat perpetually takes us deeper into flight. Throughout this trip sharp snares punctuate ghost melodies as vocals rise and vaporise. Shadows hover the walls leaving holographic traces of the duality between fun and fear, the unexpected drifts diagonally across the audio plane teasing and taunting the listener’.

‘Keloid’ is an out-and-out minimal dance tune, and ‘Mag Mich’ is pretty much straight-up EBM, and all of this is fine and neatly executed by largely unremarkable. ‘Sodden Healer’, on the other hand is stark, clinical, dangerous in its detachment. Fragmented vocals cut across one another against a backdrop of grating analogue bass oscillations.

But ‘Coral Spate’ comes as if from nowhere, a standout and standalone, the absolute distillation of every feature of the album culminating in five minutes of claustrophobically gripping intensity, It’s the sound of anxiety, of agoraphobic panic, in ways that are difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to express. Whereas the dislocated retrofuturism of ‘Ordine Kadmia’ sounds like so much cyberpunk and so many 80s sci-fi movie soundtracks, and is the kind of composition that’s affecting because there’s a certain sense of the unheimlich about its stark robotic repetitions and whipcrack snare sound, it’s precisely the extreme familiarity of ‘Coral Spate’ that’s so uncomfortable – suffocatingly so. And yet the experience of discovering that physical spasm articulated, given a soundtrack, is perversely comforting. It’s a rare and dichotomous sensation that’s difficult to reconcile – but then, art is at its best when it challenges us. The more it makes us feel, however much it hurts, it’s fulfilling that function of taking us beyond the limited boundaries of whatever comfort zones we may have and challenging us to confront those innermost fears by mirroring them back at us.

For this alone, this track alone, I wholeheartedly recommend this album, but maybe should forewarn those of a weaker disposition that it isn’t all breezy grooves.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Digital release date: 18th December 2020

Physical release date: March 2021

Released as part of a series of collaborative releases between INA GRM and Editions MEGO, this is something of an unusual package, in that it’s presented as a split LP, but is also sort of two separate LPs. – digitally, they’re being released separately, but the vinyl version is split. Given the length of each contribution – in the 20-25-minute zone that neatly corresponds with one side of a 33rpm vinyl album – it makes sense, and certainly more sense than splitting a continuous piece in two over a 45rpm 12”, or the economics of a pair of one-sided albums.

Hecker – Florian, not Tim – contributes a work of ‘computer-generated sound with resynthesized situated texture recordings’. It’s a rumbling tempest of a composition, the crashing of digital waves against a hard shore of tightly-packed circuitry that rolls and thuds. A sonar pulse is rent by tinnitus-inducing drill-like whirr, and over the course of its twenty-five-minute exploration of toes and textures, Statistique Synthétique becomes quite a challenge – one that you may find yourself drifting from and struggling to maintain focus on at times, while at other wishing you could zone out a bit more instead of having an incessant buzzing and crackling piercing your brain.

I often find that with experimental instrumental works that do place such a strong emphasis on texture and that whole ‘cerebral sonic experience’ for want of a better phrase, that my mind does tend to drift while listening. It’s a challenge as a reviewer to critique something that’s so intentionally removed from the domain of overt musicality, or using a combination of music and words (or even not) to express or article something. Because precisely how does one engage with it – or, to consider another perspective, how is one supposed to engage with it? What does the artist want to convey to the audience, what kind of dialogue are they striving to create? Works like this certainly aren’t preoccupied with emotional responses or striking that kind of resonance that’s so integral to music with even the most vaguely ‘popular’ leaning. It’s not a matter of technical competence, at least in the sense of musicianship: there’s no breathtaking virtuosity on display in the world of electronics – and when I say ‘electronics’, I mean laptop and circuitry, not electropop or whatever. And so this is almost purely cerebral, and I’m forced to reflect on the way certain sounds, pitches, frequencies, and textures make me feel, what they do to me – how much treble and fizz makes me tense, how much s just quite exciting. Here, Hecker pushes all the buttons, literally and metaphorically, and I find myself twisting and turning in varying degrees of discomfort.

The objective, apparently, is to stove got ‘a properly hallucinatory state, that is to say to a meeting point where the object and perception dissolve into each other, in a sort of transcendental field.’ I might not quite be reaching that peak, but it certainly has some kind of effect.

Okkyung Lee gives us howls and yowls and overloading circuitry that bleeps and barrels, and of the two pieces, it’s the sharper, and more abrasive, and is also perhaps less nuanced. That’s no criticism: there’s a dense roar that tears from the speakers and there’s a tangible sense of volume. Everything creaks and groans and stammers, as if the equipment is about to buckle and blow under the weight of so much noise all at once.

This fits in context: Teum is intended as ‘a truly telluric moment’, the expression of ‘where tectonic movements and shear stresses become music’. ‘If the earthquakes were, as we thought in the 18th century, due to underground thunderstorms,’ observe the liner notes, ‘there is no doubt that this piece of music, both celestial and continental, could have been their audible manifestation’.

And there is no question that this is a musical work with a strong sense of physicality. The sound veritably heaves and shudders, a gut-lurching low-end heft you feel as much as you hear.

There’s a lot going on here, and there are – so it seems – some wild brass explosions rioting in the distance at some point amidst the churning sprawl. Again, this isn’t about emotional resonance, but how it touches and effects the listener on other levels.

These two works are distinct and different, both sonically and intent and purpose – and consequently, their effects are different too. But equally, the difference can be attributed to the different forms, and textures, with Hecker’s composition being sharper, more abrasive and, I suppose, more overtly ‘computerised’ than the denser, earthier piece by Lee. But for this, the contrasts are complimentary, and the two sit side by side and back to back nicely, and make for a perfectly-pitched double dose of discomfort.

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Misanthropic Agenda – MAR056 – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a few years since I last engaged with Simon Whetham’s work, which at least up to a certain point had a certain preoccupation with geography, or least location. In a sense – albeit somewhat tenuous, that relationship to place remains as a backdrop of sorts to Forced to Repeat Myself, which documents a tour (remember those?) in 2018.

Perhaps the absence of touring has driven many artists to review their archival recordings, and on Forced to Repeat Myself, Whetham contemplates the way in which touring drives a tendency toward homogeneity in terms of the way each night’s performance is assembled. For rock bands and acts performing compositions of a fixed nature, this is part and parcel; the repetition of set lists and even, over time, between-piece patter and introductions. But for artists whose work is based on improvisation, repetition is undesirable – after all, at what point does repetition become something rehearsed and preplanned?

As the accompanying text observes, ‘One characteristic aspect of the touring experience that is not discussed often enough is the dilemma of repetition. Not repetition as a mechanism of the work itself, but as a tedious consequence of being obligated to perform night after night in quick succession. Generating a completely unique performance for each stop, even with the assistance of improvisation, is a laborious undertaking that consumes too much time and sanity, while adhering to a rigid set of rules leaves one open to both burnout and diminishing returns. Is there a way to split the difference so that both performer and audience are always engaged to the highest standard?’

And so this is the context for Forced to Repeat Myself. As a document, it’s a curious one, and it may or may not be ironic that the cover art for Whetham’s ‘live’ album is a photograph of a venue with rows of empty seats. If it was indeed shot at one of the shows where Whetham performed on said tour or any other (and the presence of a flipchart suggests otherwise), it was surely during soundcheck. But then, history can be subject to so many manipulations, and the time and space begins to flake over the passage of the latter… the relevance of the track titles is unclear: they’re not dates, and this is not some kind of aural tour diary. Nor are the tracks really the same. Yes, Whetham does revert to certain tones and textures as one would expect from the same equipment operated within a more or less predetermined set length.

Random is only so random, and external factors invariably influence and direct the shape of things. That said, the same performance is never the same performance: different venues of different shapes and sizes, the kit run through a different PA, different audience responses… Life in lockdown may feel like perpetual groundhog day, but the reality is that we never live the same moment twice. No-one is more acutely aware of this than Whetham himself when he comments, “In each situation objects and materials unique to the space were incorporated into the performance setup and structure, generating sounds or resonating with them. And yet I could hear similar scenes, movements, even spaces. This repetition determined the dynamic of the composition, working with it and against it.”

And so we return to geography, location, in the most immediate of contexts. And over the course of the album’s eight pieces, the identifiable repetitions are few, as the same sounds are reworked, remixed, reimagined, and with each manipulation, however subtle, they’re a step or phase away from their previous version.

But over the course of the album we’re reminded just how strong Whetham’s ear is for texture and tone, and there is a spectacular abundance of crackling overdoing distortion, groaning drones humming clicking, bangs and scrapes and minimal electronic sounds colliding and vibrating against one another – hard and violently. The absence of audience sound and the up-close fixing of circuits mean that this doesn’t feel or sound like a live album, but it is, every inch, a hard sonic challenge.

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Editions Mego EMEGO292 – 6th November 2020

Nineteen years on from the release of his first audio document, Russell Haswell’s latest effort is a typically wild collection of vintage synth sounds whipped into crazy cacophonous cocktail.

The objective titles of the release echo the statement on artistic commodity made by Public Image Limited on their 1986 release, which went by the titles Album, Cassette and CD (although technically, all three formats contain the album, making the vinyl edition something of a misnomer). In the digital age, and notably in the year which has seen UK vinyl sales hit a thirty-year peak, the format is an integral part of the experience.

As the press release notes, ‘12" channels the original role of the medium with 2 tracks of beats that present themselves in unpredictable ways. 12" also features the head shattering bonus cut, Always Check Their Instagram. LP cut at 33rpm allows explorations into broader territories with deep ambience running into twisted acid and splattered shapes bouncing amongst rapid fire rhythms’. The 12” single in the 80s and 90s did very much acquire a unique position, accommodating extended mixes and longer songs, and often an additional B-side.

That the tracks on 12" are exclusive to the format and not available on the digital release may deprive many listeners of the pleasure of three Haswell classics may seem rough, but on the other, is fair play, because context counts and the medium really is the message. Moreover, while I’ve amassed a hard-drive groaning with digital audio files over the last decade for review purposes, if I’m going to buy music, I’ll still always favour a physical format, despite increasing problems when it comes to storage, and, with vinyl, my medium of choice, actually getting to play it on account of the stereo and record collection being in the living room where the TV is, which is occupied by the family pretty much every waking moment.

So, for review I have just seven tracks, namely the set which comprises LP and Digital. In digital format, naturally: I tend not to get much vinyl in the mail for review these days, funnily enough.

The dark, dank rumblings of ‘Ambient Takedown’ register low in the gut, with heavy tones like a distant jet, and the sound hovers for a time that feels significantly longer than its two-minute duration. It does nothing to prepare the listener for the polyrhythmic drum-machine frenzy that of ‘r-809’, a ten-minute riot of tinny synthesised percussion which bounces along and around in hyperspeed. There’s a thrumming bass and insistent, repetitive squelching sound and there are moments when everything goes off all at once, and it’s as if someone dropped a match in a firework factory. It’s the first of two extended workouts, the second being the album’s closer, ‘End of Eternity’. It’s a sprawling mass of squalls and tweets, a foaming froth of sine waves and howling analogue torture that wows and flutters and goes on, and on, stopping, starting, fizzing and scraping churning and stammering wildly as it scrawls and scratches its way through the terrain of Power Electronics and headlong into an aural apocalypse.

In between, the remining tracks ae fairly concise, with only ‘The Bottom Line of Safety’ running past the five-minute mark. ‘Pulsar 2’ is an overloading crackle of noise, a wibbling modulation rendred unrecognisable by being cranked up beyond distortion: it’s the kind of gnarly mess one tends to associate with Haswell, and precisely what you’d expect from an artist who’s been a member of Consumer Electronics, both live and on record in recent years. If these pieces feel fragmentary, and vaguely frustrating in their lack of a firm form or obvious trajectory, then it’s fair to say it’s entirely intentional.

Some of it may sound like so much dicking about, but Haswell’s grasp on tonal contrasts – and beats – is firm: this is very much about exploration rather than entertainment.

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Outsider Art / Nim-Brut – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I should probably apologise in advance for this one: my mind has a habit of sprouting off on tangents of word association at the best of times, and with the turmoil that is 2020, a year that’s been – and continues to be – an endless conveyor belt of shit on shit, none of which makes any fucking sense, there are many days and evenings when I am absolutely all over the place. Not literally, of course, since I can’t really go anywhere or see anyone. The weirdy collage sprawl of ‘Carving Another Flute’, the first of three compositions on this split / collaborative effort by BlackCloudSummonerand the hypermanic, uber-prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbings is the perfectly bewildering soundtrack to these brain-foggingly bewildering times. So ‘Carving Another Flute’ just makes me think, inexplicably, of the slang term skinflute. That’s probably the only instrument not in the mix in this chaotic cacophony of an album, that’s got everything else going on, probably including the kitchen sink.

‘Peaches and Crayons’ sounds soft and playful, but is in fact droney and dark, and there’s no easy access point here. But they save their harshest noise for last: ‘Playing All My Black Dice Records At The Same Time’ is a 15-minute assault that is pretty much what the title says, meaning it’s a squalling blitzkrieg of screaming feedback and mid-and low-end that growls and bangs around erratically midst metallic crashes and a fizzing circuitry. It’s utterly excruciating, and probably one of the most intense and sustained blasts of noise I’ve heard in a while, being nothing short of an explosive sonic firework display – but, unchoreographed and untamed, it’s more like a blaze in a firework factory, with everything going off all at once, and it’s incendiary and blinding and overwhelming. Crash-landing somewhere between Merzbow and Whitehouse around the time of Never Forget Death, it’s a fucking nasty mess of abrasive noise – which of course means I love it.

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one: if you do noise, you will love this. If you don’t, it’s your worst nightmare.

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Constellation Records -5th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

If the title sounds pretentious – and let’s face it, it does – if any act can carry it off without looking daft, it’s probably Montréal’s premier avant-rock band Fly Pan Am, who are well-suited to a release in this series via Constellation.

The ‘Corona Borealis Longplay Singles Series’ is a set of sixteen single releases, each of extensive duration and with an audiovisual element. ‘Mirror Cracks Seeking Interiority’ is eleven minutes of squirming, scraping, laser-blitzing ambience pinned to a subtle but insistent mid-tempo bass beat. It’s difficult to pigeonhole, but then, pigeonholing is just lazy journalism, and what matter is that ‘Mirror Cracks Seeking Interiority’ leads the listener on a remarkable journey, a succession of transitions, some unexpected others which naturally flow into one another.

The liner notes outline the track’s evolution, recounting how ‘during lockdown the band has been trading files at a distance, including experiments with remixes of their Frontera live soundtrack recordings. ‘Mirror Cracks Seeking Interiority’ is the first fruit of these efforts and a first for Fly Pan AM in terms of process: each chronological section of the track is a solo work by each individual member, remixed in isolation, then stitched together in mostly linear fashion.’

The track’s success lies as much in its seamless assembly as its slow-spinning atmosphere: as much as there are distinct passages, ‘Mirror Cracks Seeking Interiority’ in no way feel cobbled together or patchworked. And, on the basis of the band’s comments, it seems that there’s more in the pipeline, and on the evidence here, it’s going to be good.

The accompanying experimental film by Charline Dally is quite a trip, too.

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generate and test – gt49 – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t even know what day it is most days. I’m vaguely keeping track of the months and weeks, but a mostly existing day-to-day. Turn on the laptop, check my calendar, dial into the meetings I’m booked into. It’s just mechanical, I’m not really living. I know it’s 2020, by virtue of the fact I don’t know much else: confusion reigns. Time’s meaning has evaporated over the last seven or eight months.

I was drawn by the title, as the two component parts both feel relevant. That may be a personal thing, it may be a more general thing. We’re living every moment of every dystopia ever written, ever filmed, ever imagined, and I’m deeply nostalgic for all things right now, ranging from human interaction to simply feeling as if I have a life. I know I’m not alone in being alone.

I’ve long had an acute sense of nostalgia, but loathe the way nostalgia has become an industry, capitalising in the way the ageing process rose-tints the past. Anniversary edition albums and movie reissues don’t only cash in on that sense of past times, but lock people into a cycle of nostalgia, provoking reminiscences of ‘the good old days.’ Admittedly, the future has never looked so barren and the past more appealing, but generally speaking… we always yearn for the past because things were simpler when we were younger and less burdened with responsibility and emotional baggage.

It looks like this release has been languishing in the vaults for a long time, if my reading of the liner notes is right, they state that this was ‘written, produced, performed, and recorded by Matthew Thomas 1997… mastered by Matthew Thomas 2020’ Apparently, ‘2020 demanded we revisit a 1990s vision of a dystopic future’ – and yes, maybe it did. Or maybe it didn’t. Do we need to be heaped with more dystopian anguish given the pain of living in the every day?

nostalgia:dystopia promises ‘four tracks of dystobeats, placing the human voice within a context of fractured systems’, and delivers something that may be something close, I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure what dystobeats are, but I feel that we’re all living in a nexus of systems all of which are fractured and fragmenting, much to the psychological detriment of many. If lockdown was hard, the fact we’re still living in such uncertain times and under such restrictions and at distance from our fellow human beings is taking its toll. And this… it’s electronic, it’s overloading. Layers of sound collide against one another to forge challenging sound and forms.

There’s a sense of excessive volume and colliding sonic intents on the first track, ‘Pranayama’, where yawning drones like mechanical digeridoos hum and hover amid static blasts and feedback that ruptures from the simmering sonic surface like solar flares. Pulsing rhythms merge from the layers of sound.

In contrast, ‘Within in Orange Sodium Glow’ is thick, deep, and mellow for the most, with squelchy electro vibes coming to the fore: but there’s an eerie undercurrent that’s hard to ignore as lumpy beats lurch and thump amid undulating analogue oscillations, while ‘Sheering Force’ is stark, mechanoid, depersonalised, bleak and ‘Insect’ is a scratchy, buzzing mess of distorted beats and murky gyrations that emanates detachment and dislocation.

Having languished some twenty-three years in the vaults, it does seem as if Thomas had a certain sense of gloomy premonition about the future that’s now here. But then, every year of present feels bleaker than those which preceded, and since the turn of the millennium, it’s felt as though while global warming has been melting the ice caps at an exponential rate, life has been inching closer to a perpetual winter of the soul. With nostalgia:dystopia, Matthew Thomas has created a suitably claustrophobic soundtrack.

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23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from break_fold, the electro-semiambient project of former i concur front man Tim Hann. But life has a habit of getting on the way of creative endeavours, so it’s not entirely surprising. This is the third eponymous break_fold release, and it marks a clear continuation from its precedents, including the song titling, with the majority of tracks denoted as a date which this indicates when work started on the song. The two exceptions are ‘Gaps_in_the_Mesh_(Remix)’, a reworking of a track by ambient artist and collaborator, Ten, and ‘JP’, which is dedicated to a friend of Tim’s who unfortunately passed away in 2019.

That the first two tracks date back to 2018 give an indication of the length and laboriousness of the assembly of this third excursion. The previous release, 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 was a comparatively speedy work.

The first piece, ‘22_12_18_Pt1’ is soft, supple, floating mellifluous ambience that evolves from an elongated, ominous drone, into a cascading piano motif, while its counterpart brings the beats – soft, yet strong, clear, and propellent, it’s a cinematic electro groover, which radiates an uplifting vibe.

From this point, the album begins to develop a definite sense of having a forward trajectory. A dark, serrated hum blossoms into a multi-hued shimmer of radiance, pushed along by a solid danceable rhythm on ‘15_11_18’. There are some quite noodly synth details behind the broader sweeps. There are hints of Jan Hammer about some of this, and there are moments that stray into drivetime dance that’s kinda smooth, kinda accessible: the buoyant basslines are easy on the ear and there’s an undeniable bounce in the background. It feels rather escapist, and it’s rather nice: we all need somewhere to escape to at times, especially now, so immersion is good. And breathe…

‘29_04_18’ feels fully formed as ripple waves of gentle sound pulse across a flickering, understated dance beat – more one to nod along to than to get down t, but nevertheless, it’s unexpectedly uptempo, and while it does still evoke chin-stroking ponderousness, it equally creates a rich atmosphere in which to wander and ponder.

There is a lot off space to be explored on break_fold, a lot of texture and tone, and while it may largely favour the light and melodic and easy on the ear, it’s got range and ventures into shadowier realms in places. There are parts that evoke 80s film soundtracks, and others still more chillwave in their orientation.

The album ends with ‘JP’, and one can’t help but feel the abrupt ending is significant, a work truncated, unfinished and unresolved. But for all that, it feels like the work for this album is done, as though this particular creative cycle is complete. Where to go from here remains to be seen, but in the now this resonates majestically.

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Panurus Productions – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill, harsh, shrieking feedback noise and ear-cleansing scrapes of crunching metal collide and it’s not pretty, it’s not easy on the ear, it’s not rhythmic, melodic, or anything even approaching aesthetic. This is the sound of ‘Cardboard Schimitar’, the eleven-minute opening track on Always Check Your Mirrors, a collaboration between Mariam, Plastiglomerate, SW1n-HUNTER & Yol. It’s something of a departure for Newcastle-based tape label Panurus Productions, for whom dark, odd, and unsettling are standard, because Always Check Your Mirrors hurtles headlong into the domain of warped and outright nasty.

It’s head-shredding, and a sonic experience akin to poking a wet finger in a live socket, but the best of it is that that’s as gentle as it gets. It’s the sound of four similarly attenuated but nevertheless disparate artists pulling in all directions at once to chaotic effect.

To be fair, the liner notes do very much prepare us for the worst: ‘from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks.’ As the notes also explain, this album was ‘pulled from a session recorded live’, and consequently, ‘these tracks vary in intensity across the tape; from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks’.

And the end result is a serious fucking din. Unintelligible, maniacal shouting against screeds of impenetrable, undifferentiated noise is the order of the day for ‘Illegible Back Tattoo with Typo’: it’s a primitive stab at power electronics, and it’s this primitivism that gives it such a brutal edge. Twanging, scraping, clanking, clattering, this is truly everything thrown in including the kitchen sink, with bags of spanners, rusty nails, leaky pipes, and a hefty dose of psychosis: this is the sound, and this is the mood: wild-eyed raving and a boiling fermentation of electronic froth come together to create an uncomfortable atmosphere, like being hemmed in a small meeting room with a manager who’s losing their shit every which way, while troubling tinnitus rings in your ears. The tension hurts, and your pulse quickens with discomfort.

The vocals are stuttering, tight-chested, snarled, shouted, choking on fury to the point that thy more or less resemble a breakdown captured by microphone, stammering incohesion amidst a crackling overload of distortion. Always Check Your Mirrors straddles electronic noise and experimental weirdness: ‘Awesome Pop Off the Radio’ is a cut-up explosion with Tourette’s, a spasm smash of warped tape whiplash. Needless to say, it’s the antithesis of pop, and yet it’s probably one of the more accessible cuts by far. ‘Hoiked from Pure Air’ evokes Japanese oddity, and following the bleep, fuzz, and whirr of ‘Test Skeleton’ with its farting circuit melts, while the thirteen-minute closer, ‘Accolades as the Car Stalls Again’ dissolves in a wave of static as bleeps and crackles fly in all directions.

It’s far from soothing – by which I mean it’s borderline psychotic – and an album containing this level of fevered spleneticism should probably carry a trigger warning for the more delicately disposed in these tense times, but the catharsis imbued within each brutal blast that combined noise and words to the most powerful effect is perhaps one of the most succinct articulations of all of this fucked-up shit I’ve hears all year.

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