Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Alrealon Musique – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the past I’ve struggled a bit with Pas Musique. It’s not that I don’t think it’s music, despite the project’s moniker – far from it. It’s simply a matter of taste: their music has often felt a bit easy, a bit contrived, in its gloopy synthiness, to my ears. It’s easy to judge, of course, but then that is the function of the music critic. We trade in opinions, and if everything was entirely objective there would be none. And there would be no art. Because art exists to tap into the emotions, into the psyche, to stir a response – and a negative response is a greater feat than eliciting a sense of complete indifference. Art serves to reflect and articulate life experience and those innermost thoughts. If art doesn’t connect in some way to the human condition, then it is worthless. So what does Psychedelic Talismans have to say? How does it connect?

I’m not sure. But then, in casting that seed of uncertainty, it succeeds in provoking some kind of engagement. So far, so good, I suppose.

According to the liner notes, rather than being a collective effort, Psychedelic Talismans is actually a solo effort from project founder Robert L. Pepper, which was recorded during Covid-19 lockdown in Brooklyn, New York, and the music and drawings draw their inspiration from the Turkish archaeological site, Göbekli Tepe, which is said to be as old as 10,000 B.C. As such, there are deep currents running beneath the fabric of the album’s six compositions.

Opening the set, ‘Splash of Red Touch’ is gloopy, but also led by sparse, brittle, alien synth sound that sounds like it’s echoing down a long pipe, and as the layers build, there’s a low, almost subliminal thud of a beat and a guitar that sounds like twisted metal scraps. Then there’s twittering birdsong and disconnected voices and there’s a lot going on, and not all of the elements seem entirely complimentary or pinned to the tame time signature, creating a swimming, dizzying sensation, and it plunges onwards with ‘Collected Fictions Brightly’, by which time the style is becoming clearly set: insistent, urgent beats, thumping, monotonous, primitive in the Suicide sense, overlayed with wispy, experimentally-orientated Krautrock synth wibbles and drones.

The vibe is very much vintage here, and often the instrumental pieces, which by and large hover around the five-minute mark, are quite meandering, and despite the low-end density that dredges the depths at points, despite the tense guitar notes that emerge twisted and strangled on ‘In Likeness of Me’, and the impatient palpating beats, and an emerging sense of unease that surfaces in places, for the most part there’s a certain mellowness that permeates the album. Great sonic expenses unfurl in long-echoing reverberations, crackling snippets of sampled dialogue, and long, slow-turning drones.

‘Las Bas’ brings the curtain down in a haze of drones and drifts and with a dash of Eastern mysticism, trilling pipe notes which bounce off one another and turn and fade, and if the piece, and he album as a whole, seems to lack direction, then its points of interest all lie in the diversions, the distractions, the divergences. And when so little else is happening, those detours are most welcome. And finally, I feel I click with Pas Musique.

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Buzzhowl Records – 12th February 2021

It had to be a limited run of 23 vinyl copies, didn’t it? The latest outing for the ever-intertextual, eternally reference-making anything-and-everything-goes melting pot of a project, Territorial Gobbing, is the first vinyl release in a jaw-droppingly prolific career.

For anyone familiar with Territorial Gobbing, Automatic For Nobody sounds exactly like Territorial Gobbing, only with a greater leaning toward some softer, more contemplative moments. Meanwhile, for anyone not familiar with Territorial Gobbing, it’s a good place to start, because it is wholly representative, but also – arguably – a shade more accessible. That is to say, it sounds exactly like the three different covers. Because yes, sometimes, you can judge an album by its cover.

And because T’Gobbing is a musical magpie of a thing, because Terry T Gerbs is the ultimate in postmodernism, indiscriminately drawing on everything and everything more or less at random, we arrive at REM brought to you by the power of 23, that mystical, magical number oft-referenced by fans and students of William S. Burroughs – myself included. The fascinating thing about the so-called ‘23 Enigma’ is that once you become aware of it, it becomes wholly inescapable. So it its ubiquity real, or a case of positive determinism? It’s hard to say, of course, but probability versus frequency makes it a fascinating thing to observe.

And, whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, the Burroughs connection is strong with Territorial Gobbing: the collaging / splicing / tape fuckery approach to audio which defines the entire catalogue can be traced to the cut-up technique devised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 1950s and extended to tape experiments in the 1960s, which in turn prefaced sampling and also begat the methods deployed by Throbbing Gristle and their peers in the late 70s and early 80s. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, either: the nature of influence is so often indirect – but like a virus, once a concept is out, it becomes airborne and has the capacity to spread invisible, subliminally.

And while Automatic For Nobody may not be quite the sonic riot of many previous Territorial Gobbing releases, it does nevertheless manifest as a massive sonic tapestry cut from infinite and divergent sources.

Sirens and birdsong and field sounds drone and fade by way of a backdrop to the spoken word opener, ‘Spontaneous Bin Lake’. It sounds like having muttered a few observations into his phone on a windy day, Theo stops for a bite to eat and a drink, and, leaving the phone recording in his pocket, manages to record about seven different sources n top of one another, and it bleeds into the scratchy, scrapy scribblings of ‘Oxfam Tulpa’.

‘Tack Says Ski Meme Free Peas Soot’ forges an unsettling atmosphere that’s eerie in the uncanny, strange sense rather than being overtly creepy, sounding like something that was recorded under water, while the eleven-minute title track does go for the creepy vibe, coming on like the ‘original’ TG, Throbbing Gristle, at their most darkly experimental, as Gowans gasps and quivers just a handful of lines repetitively in a muttering, tremulous fashion that exudes a psychotic tension, the under-breath mutterings of someone in psychological distress. It’s dark and menacing, and utterly disturbed. The tape stutters and warps, and there are yells, yelps, and howls off in the background, with extraneous noises throughout, ranging from lilting piano of children’s tune’s to fragments of music warped and deranged. The lightness of those piano pieces only accentuate the deranged horror of the demonic whispering – the words barely audible, but the menace and threat conveyed transcends linguistic articulation.

While there may not be the explosions of noise that assail the eardrums and blast off in your face, the same sonic abrasions are present – just backed off, and toned down – which renders the material here all the more menacing – and on ‘The Ocean of Black Hair is Not Your Friend’, gurgling electronics spark and fizz by ay of a backdrop to a distorted, pitch-shifted vocal, and it’s somewhere between a ransom call and Whitehouse circa Twice is Never Enough. It’s pretty dark, but only a shadow against what’s to com with the closer ‘He’s Absorbing’, which features guest vocals from YOL and Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. This six-and-a-half-minute mess of noise ratchets the discomfort and the volume up several levels – screeding shards of noise that stop and start blast through babbling gloops and grinding earthworks, which are interspersed with inchoate shouts and yelps, and there is nothing comfortable or pleasant about this. And as everything twists, warps, crumbles and fades into a melting mess in the final couple of minutes, it feels like the very world is disintegrating. It probably is – and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the soundtrack.

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Crónica 166 – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the very opening seconds, Francisco López’s latest offering assails the ears and scorches the brain: the first track – which hits the magical running time of twenty-three minutes – is nothing short of explosive – literally. Opening with a roaring blast of brutal harsh noise, it soon separates into a series of samples and sounds, whereby propeller engines swoop low, spitting machine-gun fire and dropping detonations all around and bomb blasts tear the air. I’ve previously described certain noise works as sonic blitzkriegs, but this is actually nothing short of total war – captured in audio.

DSB is the accumulation of a decade’s work, which was, apparently, created at ‘mobile messor’ (worldwide), 2009-2019. Mixed and mastered at ‘Dune Studio’ (Loosduinen), 2020.According to the press release, López’s objective over the forty years of his career to date is to ‘Destroy boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, shifting with passion from the limits of perception to the most dreadful abyss of sonic power, proposing a blind, profound and transcendental listening, freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion’.

But with DSB, López doesn’t just destroy boundaries. It destroys everything in an obliterative sonic attack that’s sustained for some forty-five agonising minutes.

When it does pull back from the eye-popping extremes, it presents a dank, ominous atmosphere, and one minute you’re underwater, as if being drowned, the next, your head’s above water and you’re surrounded by a roaring sonic assault that lands blows from all sides. The quieter moments are tense and oppressive, and with unexpected jolts and speaker-shredding blasts.

A low rumble and clodding thuds and thunks, like slamming doors and hobnail boots create a darkly percussive aspect that dominates the start of DSB-B… but then you’re under water again and everything is muffled… you can’t hear or breathe, but all around there are bombs and you’re feeling the vibrations in your chest. It’s all too close and you’re terrified. It’s eighteen and three-quarter minutes of ominous atmospherics and tempestuous crescendos of noise, raging storms with protracted periods of unsettled turbulence in between as strong winds buffet away. The dynamics are extreme, as is the experience.

Something has clearly shifted here: López’s work a decade ago was predominantly experimental, wibbly, electronic ambient in its leanings, predominantly layerings of drones, hums, and scrapes. Interesting enough, exploratory, but not harsh. Yet DSB is so, so harsh, it’s positively brutal. But these are harsh times, and when everything is a grey monotony, same news on a roll on every outlet, the instinct is to slump into an empty rut.

DSB will kick you out of that and kick you around unapologetically, landing boots in the ribs, and then more. It will leave you dizzy and drained. But it will make you feel. And that’s essential.

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Houndstooth Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Transmogrifications’ features a brace of compositions by Guy Andrews reworked, reimagined, decomposed – spin it whichever way – by seminal experimental musician Kevin Drumm, with one from Permanence (which was released in September) and another from his latest, [MT][NT][ET]. Back in the day, this would have been a 12” single, or a CD single / EP. Now, it’s simply a release. Part of me feels that the devolvement – and dissolvement – of the physical format is sad not because of plain nostalgia, but because of the way it’s altered our relationship with music. The release of new music, when it required actually going into town to purchase it, arriving home with a sense of excitement and anticipation to hear something that had required not only the effort of the journey, but the outlay of actual cash, meant that there was an element of deliberation involved in each purchase: you’ve got a tenner (and there was a time not SO long ago when that would likely get you three new 12” singles at £2.99 – £3.50 apiece), and dropping the needle on each was an actual event. The loss of that sense of occasion, that event, is significant, and one that struck me unexpectedly on hearing this. As excited as I was to hear it, the joy was tempered by a certain pang of loss.

Drumm explains the remit he was given, which directed his approach to the project, recounting that “Guy essentially said that he’d rather not hear his own music played back to him…So with that in mind, it freed me up to drastically transform his material…it was a good experience taking something that is quite different than what I usually get up to and turn it into something different than what it is in its original form.” And the title says it all, really: ‘transmogrification’ is defined as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another.

Each track is an entire album, compressed, condensed, and generally reworked and altered beyond recognition.

And so it is that ‘[MT][NT][ET]’ is seven-and-three-quarter minutes of deep, swirling ambience, a deep mass of sound that eddies and drifts with a drilling metallic edge giving it a slightly uncomfortable sharpness. While it’s a more or less even drone, there are occasional – subtle – dips and twists that add to the understated but quite definite tension. And yet for all that, there is an overall sense of calm, a smoothness, until near the end, when its rich, space-like tranquillity is devasted by a rising blast of extraneous noise.

‘Permanence’ offers a different kind of experience, it’s more deeply textured, and a slower, lower simmering fermentation of sound. It also boils the thirty-two minute album down to eight minutes of overlapping sonic layers. Glistering shards of feedback are worn smooth in a soft wash of pink noise and an undulating amorphous cloud of noise, beneath which a grating sonic wreckage churns at such distance as to be almost subliminal.

And then it stops. Just like that. The abrupt nature of the ending is of note, accentuating the silence that follows immediately, and giving a tangible pause for thought on a release that has a lot more depth than the surface first suggests.

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We love a bit of kröter here at Aural Aggro.

We even love a lot of kröter, like three whole CDs worth at once.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that we love this: the music is a recording of a session on the 12.09.2019 by kröter, and it’s accompanied by a film collage by Chr Chr, using material from a forest zoo close to Berlin, taifun nr.19 coming onto Yokohama and selfies made by the musicians.

Check it here (click the image to link to the player):

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Gizeh Records – GZH101 – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Gizeh label founder Richard Knox already has a quite remarkable resume of musical projects, often running simultaneously or overlapping. With Shield Patterns currently quiet and A-Sun Amissa standing as his primary collective vehicle, Knox’s contributions to collaborative works over recent years have been numerous, but to fill a gap – or more likely scratch another itch – he’s stepped into the (half) light with a new solo project, Of Thread & Mist. A fair summary is that the project sounds exactly as the name suggests, and one might say representative of the Gizeh ‘house’ style’ – evocative, haunting, juxtapositional, but also evasive, intangible, ephemeral.

Static Hymns contains two longform tracks: the first, ‘Grace and Truth Perish’ has a running time of eighteen and a half minutes, while ‘A Face Full of Drunken Ticks’ is a colossally sprawling thirty-two-minute epic.

The formulation of the album centres around music ‘composed by Knox then deconstructed and manipulated via hand-made tape loops, beaten-up 4-Tracks and modified cassette players’. There’s very much a sense of artistry around the manipulation of the material, an almost avant-garde collaging, repurposing, reconfiguration, destroying – or at least disfiguring – in order to build anew.

There is something old, faded, slightly damaged about the warped, wavering tape drones that seep tentatively from the speakers to begin with, creating a sense of unease, a certain degree of disorientation, a feeling that something isn’t quite right about the way the different layers of sound rub against one another without quite connecting. It’s a slow, trickling turn as gradients of sweeping waves of sound, broad in spectra and subtly textured like pale watercolours spreading into one another, and the edges blur into indistinction.

This type of cinematic, atmospheric ambient drone is very much Knox’s signature, and he’s long demonstrated a knack for slowly shifting from light to shade and back through almost granular gradation, but where Static Hymns stands out is its almost collage-like approach in places. The different elements overlap, and not always comfortably – and this is very much in their favour in the way in which they challenge the recipient: this is no simple drone-over-and-out, but an album that proffers a sensory challenge, and as such, demands more attention than so many exercises in background drift that occupy the ambient sphere.

Toward the end, the sound again begins to waver, waxing and waning, tapering and yawning, stretching and fading in and out unpredictably, as if slowly degenerating, degrading. There are a number of abrupt false endings as the sound fragments into evermore brief flickers. It stutters, it yawns, and finally, it is done – gone, ended.

But when the sound ends, the reflection begins. Static Hymns is an album that invites reflection in the silence which follows the final notes.

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Ojud Records – 1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be January 1st, but 2021 already feels very much – as expected – like a continuation of 2020. As a friend pointed out to me only this morning, in summarising the fact that the pandemic position remained unchanged and now we had the added shit bonus of having fully left the EU, ‘shit never sleeps’. Seeing so many post on social media about being glad to see the back of 2020 was somewhat depressing: I get the sentiment, and very much am on board with the significance and psychology of book-ending a period of time with the striking of midnight marking the start of a new calendar, but really, what changes? This year or ever?

One positive of this continuity is that Dave Procter is kicking off the new year where he left off the old one, namely by making and releasing more noise, and its timing is noteworthy, as a common theme within Procter’s work is some form of commemoration or ritual, with events like midsummer drone walks

This time, it’s with an alliteratively-titled work with occasional collaborator Claus Poulsen, with whom he plays one concert and makes one release every year. Parallel Perspectives is very much from the dronier end of his working spectrum, and follows Solaris (2019) and Minimum / Maximum (2018) in a continuum stretching back to 2015 and the release of his first work with Poulsen, PP. The release of Parallel Perspectives being a day late for 2020, despite having been recorded almost a year ago on 20th January 2020 also seems somehow, if accidentally appropriate, and something that won’t be lost on the artists, not least of all with Procter having relocated to Sweden ahead of the finalisation of Brexit. And works like Parallel Perspectives illustrate why: when creativity is so reliant on collaboration, free movement is essential, and this is a perfect advertisement for everything the un-UK has just thrown away in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

Not that there is anything remotely political about the album itself: this is purely a coming together of musical minds, and a celebration of their commonalities and differences – and it’s that mutual understanding, paired with an awareness of the power of contrast that make this.

As the liner notes detail, Parallel Perspectives was recorded in Copenhagen. The single track on the album is an extension of Procter’s Fibonacci Drone Organ minimalistic project, but with Poulsen adding overdubs. With his different perspective, he quickly forgets the minimalistic nature of the piece and details it with waves of half speed vinyl and samples.

An elongated organ drone hums, hovering and wavering gently in semi-stasis. Ruptures and incidentals abound, from seemingly random discordant cascades of sound and piano interjections to slow-whispering thermal winds and desolately chill nuclear gusts, and I’s remarkable just how much those details prove to dramatically colour the mood. Perhaps it’s the – for a better term – blankness of the flat organ drone that is as much key here, in that as of and in itself, it has no particular ‘mood’; it’s a neutral sound, imbued with precisely nothing. It’s only when rubbing against or along with another sound that it slides upwards or downwards, into light or darkness. There is no shortage of either over the course of the album’s fifty-three minutes, but there are many protracted passages which explore the realms of the ominous and eerie, the uncomfortable and the suspenseful, as fear chords creep like drifting mist in a dark city alley.

At times, it chimes, and at others, it grates. Sometimes it rings, and at others it drifts. At times, it swells, at others it tapers to nearly nothing. Its pace is barely perceptible, a continuously creeping shift, not so much a slow-burn as a smoulder of smoke tricking from a peat burner, and the layers added by Poulson only serve to protract the transitions, grinding a slow-motion audio that has a cognitive effect as you feel yourself slowing in line with its interminable aural crawl. And for all the moments that sounds like there is a heavy craft looming on the horizon, for all the protracted ponderous spells, there are moments that sound very like the soundtrack to breaking dawn, the soundtrack to redemption on the horizon.

Parallel Perspectives is subtle, but the devil is very much in the detail here.

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MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.

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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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Front and Follow – F&F064 – 30th October 2020

It’s taken me a while to get around to this, the fifth and final instalment of Front and Follow’s lockdown fundraising compilation series, Isolation & Rejection, as the last couple of months in particular have found many, including myself in a weird lockdown limbo: schools are back, but I’m not back at the office for the day-job, and regular social activity remains more of less off-limits, even here in tier 2 York. So, not really an excuse, so much as an explanation f how work/ life balance hasn’t been entirely conducive to devoting the time deserved by a mammoth release like this, which certainly deserves more than a cursory glance and a few lines lauding the series’ quality to date and its having raised some £2,000 for The Brick in Wigan.

When I say ‘mammoth release’, Volume 5 contains twenty-four tracks, making a total of 115 tracks released across the whole series. And these aren’t all short efforts, and nor are they of a single genre, so taking this in isn’t like a set of two-minute three-chord punk tunes where the options are ‘yeah, no, ok’.

Yet again, the stylistic breadth, paired with the depth of quality is astounding, and given the open-door policy that was the criteria for this series – namely that submissions must have been previously rejected for inclusion elsewhere – it just goes to show how many remarkable artists there are out there. While there have been some curious and oddly-matched contributions in the mix, it’s fair to say that despite the acceptance of all submission, there hasn’t actually been a duff track in the entire series.

Volume 5 maintains that record. That all important opener this time comes courtesy of Assembled Minds, whose ‘The Eerie Machine Hums a Barley Song to the Sun’ is a lo-fi retro-vibing easy listener in the vein of Stereolab, with all the analogue and some bendy discord to give its Krauty instrumental groove an additional twist. With ‘Mute’, Accidental Tones’ bring the eerie shit, with a dolorous loop of funeral bells, before A.R.C. Soundtracks introduce 80s drum machines to a deep post-punk synth drone, and what ‘Exhibit F’ lacks in duration is packs tenfold in density. It’s a pretty dark opening by any standards, but as a compilation…Not that compilations are never bleak, but there’s a certain expectation that they showcase a certain degree of accessibility: and maybe this is why so many compilations re only so-so: they’re designed with one eye on commercial appeal and drawing a broader audience. Because Front and Follow never even cast a glance at a broader audience and the premise of this series isn’t remotely populist, they’ve remained free to do what they do best.

Cahn Ingold Prelog’s ‘Dwieddon’ is a grainy mess of pink noise and static that crackles like the heavy patter of rain, disrupted by an arrhythmic beat that clunks along awkwardly at first, before a pulsating thud booms in with an incongruously dance feel, while Heat Evolution bring some glitchy, swampy pulsations and some big explosive blasts.

Detailing the entire contents of this would be a task beyond gargantuan, but for the most part this is a set comprised of glitchy oddities and grinding sonic earthworks, with dark, heavy atmospheres – das fax mattinger’s nine-and-a-half minutes of deep, shuddering drone is as much a physical experience as it is cerebral, while contributions from Isobel Ccircle and Jonathan Sharp also explore all the corners of dark ambience. There’s throbbing techno and heavy hip-hop on offer, too, but none of it’s especially gentle or kind. And in saying how dark it is, it’s worth mentioning the gloomy synthy goth of Johnny Mugwump’s ‘the mirror cracked’ and the impenetrably dense black metal murk of Petrine Cross’ ‘Absorbed in Artificial Night’.

If Isolation & Rejection Vol 5 explores a quite focused part of the sonic spectrum, it does so in the kind of detail that reveals its breadth, with all shades of electronica and all shades of darkness and shadow covered in its immense span. It’s a strong end to a strong series, and while Front and Follow aren’t giving any indications that this is more than a one-off, there’s no shortage of back catalogue to explore while we wait for the next wave and, maybe, just maybe, the next collection.

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