Posts Tagged ‘Extreme Electronica’

Dret Skivor – 12th February 2021

While there have been a few shady folks who have dwelt in prominent places on the noise scene through the years, leading to a certain association between noise and the ugliest aspects of the far right, my own personal experience has been, fortunately, quite different, and the noise-orientated circles I’ve found myself moving in are populated by some of the most sincere left-leaning people who devote their time to speaking up for equality, workers’ rights, and railing against bigotry, discrimination, and fascism. In a way, it feels strange that I should even feel the vaguest need to preface a review by setting this out by way of a context. But there we have it: the world is full of cunts, and sadly certain genres have more than their share of prominent ones, and it only takes a couple of mouldy grapes to taint a batch of fine wine. Or to bypass the metaphor, a handful of cunts to tarnish the reputation of a large group.

There’s no question around the politics of Malmö act Noise Against Fascism, the latest additions to the Dret Skivor label, founded by the ubiquitous Dave Procter following his recent relocation from Leeds to Sweden (prompted partly by the shitshow of Brexit). The band’s bio describes the project as ‘harsh noise against all forms of oppression and injustice. A violent non-violent tool of resistance’. And it makes sense: noise, when it’s harsh, can be one of the most brutally violent things around. And The Violence lives up to its title. Released on limited cassette, it features a longform track on each side, and they’re unswervingly optimally harsh.

‘Policemachine’ is a churning blast of mid-range noise, a welter of distortion that’s remorselessly abrasive. It’s difficult to tell it it’s resonance of a rapid phase, but it pulsates at a high frequency, the metallic shuddering racket positively shaking the walls, while occasional snarls and crashes and heavy blows add more horror to the relentless assault. It is, of course, entirely fitting of the title, which is take as a reference to both police brutality – a topic which has been hot for some time now, and never more so than in the last year or so, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. But it’s a trope that reaches back far further. A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962, and forty years, how much has actually changed? The track is a real fucking horrorshow, a nuclear assault of devastating sonic proportions that speaks of every kind of violence. Lasers blast through the tempest toward the end, only accentuating the sensation that this is a war trasmited sonically. It’s an aural battering, a sonic blitzkrieg, a full-on gut-shredding mess of overloading nastiness, that’s sustained for over half an hour, with not a moment’s respite, and it’s enough to leave you feeling absolutely ruined.

And so, still staggering, battered and bruised, the listener is thrown headlong into the engulfing racket that is the title track, a further twenty-five minutes of extreme noise that beings with a sample that’s cut to a loop and separated by some dramatic stereo that feels like a sharp left-right punching before the devastating noise crashes in like a bulldozer. Obliterative is an understatement. The cut loop of ‘the violence’ continues throughout, reminding me of Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric album, with it’s mind-bending loop of ‘Papus Adrianus’ which runs for its entire duration.

It’s noise, and holy fuck is it harsh. The monotony only accentuates it, of course, but sonically, it’s a howling mess of overloading circuitry that offers not even so much as a microsecond’s breathing space. If you want to lose yourself in body-breaking, brain-shredding noise, then this album is going to deliver. With the added benefit of knowing they’re not nazi cunts.

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Thin blue line cover DIG

Dret Skivor – 11th January 2021

I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure for me, if not necessarily the audience – to perform a couple of times with Legion of Swine. They were noisy, brutal affairs: while Dave Procter’s many musical guises span most shades of noise, with a particular leaning toward all things drone, his work as the lab coat wearing porcine purveyor of aural pain.

The audio on this release is taken from Legion of Swine’s set for the Chapel FM 24-hour Musicathon, which took place on 12th-13th December 2020, which featured forty-five acts in twenty-four hours. Performing at 6:15am on Sunday 13th, the chances are few caught the performance as it aired live, but here, a year on, is an opportunity to bask in the gnarly noise at leisure and a more socially amenable hour. Not that there’s much that’s socially amenable about this: the liner notes explain how ‘It’s “almost” Harsh Noise Wall, but not quite as some random parts of reverb tails interact with others at various stages to create the slight variations.’

So how does that translate as a listening experience? Well, as the title suggests, the noise never abates during this twenty-six-minute blast of electronic abrasion. There are no breaks, no vocals, and next o no sonic variety, although there is some – and it’s heavily textured. In fact, it would be most readily summarised that it sounds like the cover looks: grey, grainy, but woven so as to be not entirely monotone and uniform in shade.

When I find myself listening to HNW – which admittedly, isn’t that often, as I generally prefer the concept to the experience, despite the fact I do very much like my noise to be immersive, not to mention somewhat testing – I find myself hearing subtle shifts in tone and frequency. I suspect it’s the result of some auditory illusion, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion as my receptors strain to find some variety, some detail on which to pin a response of some sort, in the same way a freshly-painted wall will reveal patches that are not as well covered as others the longer you look at it. The beauty – and I use the term with extreme caution here – of this performance is that those patches do exist, and are purposefully brushed into the finish.

This is alternately the sound of a distant swarm of hornets and swimming underwater. The recording doesn’t convey the kind of extreme volume that is an element of a lot of harsh noise, although one suspects that a large proportion of the interplay between sounds is derived from the way that reverberate, resonate, and rub together and against one another, and any comparison to Merzbow is entirely appropriate. But the lack of overt volume only accentuates the sameness – or near-sameness – of the sound, and what’s more that sound is a continuous torrential churning noise that sits in the midrange, and hammers like metal rain, a relentless digital downpour. It’s ultimately oppressive in its relentlessness, and over time seems to fade into the background, as anything with such a lack of dynamics inevitably will. But this is not about stimulating the senses so much as numbing them and challenging the listener to endure. It’s a test alright, and a tough – but good – one.

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gk rec – 18th February 2019

Gintas K’s catalogue continues to expand at a remarkable rate, and yet again, he demonstrates his deep interest in the production of theory-driven experimentation. However, the theory behind M isn’t necessarily as it may appear, as the text on his Bandcamp page for the release indicates:

Ralph Hopper: Is ‘Mimicry’ a re-imagining of the earlier ‘M’? It appears that ‘M’ is computer music and that ‘Mimicry’ is also computer music but in a live performance if I have that right and thus I’m thinking that your are ‘mimicking’ the earlier release. Maybe not?

Gintas K: well, when you said so it looks quite logical. Music inside is a bit similar. But in fact it is not. It is made using a different vst plugins. M is made from live played files, but later from them is made a collage. Mimicry is made just from real time made files, without any overdub.

In effect, M and Mimicry – released here together under the single monograph banner of M – are the product of a process played forward and then in reverse: first, the live performance collaged and generally fucked with, and second fucked-with sounds played as a live performance.

As a consequence of its modes of production, M is very much an album of two halves, a call-and response, an expostulation and reply, a working as a reworking. Comprising two album-length suites of compositions, ‘M’ and ‘Mimicry’, M was originally ‘played, composed & mastered by gintas k by computer in 2012. M (2012)’, while ‘Mimicry’ was ‘played live / real time & mastered by gintas k by computer’ some five years later in 2017.

‘M’ consists of six compositions, numbered in sequence, with the longest being the first, ‘1m’ which clocks in with just shy of 18 minutes of gurgling digital distortion, hissing static, whistles of feedback and fucked-up overloading, glitching gnarliness that sits comfortably in the bracket of extreme electronica. It’s not the frequencies which hurt: it’s the relentlessly stuttering, juddering, fracturing of sound, the jolting, the jarring the cutting out, the intermittency. By nature, the mind works to fill in gaps, and so the subconscious work required to smooth the tremolo effect of the stammering noise mess is mentally exhausting.

‘3m’ and ‘4m’ are substantial pieces, over seven minutes in duration, while the remaining three are snippety fragments of drone and hum, although they all congeal into a morass of brain-pulping pops and whizzes which crackle and creak and skitter and sizzle in erratic tides of discomfiting discord. And yet there’s something oddly compelling about this sonic sup that bubbles and froths and tugs at the nerve-endings without pity.

My synapses are fried and firing in all directions by the time I’m halfway through ‘3m’, a grinding, grating mess of clipped signals with all dials in the red which resembles ‘A Cunt Like You’ by Whitehouse, minus the ranting vocals. And then on ‘4m’… what is that? Some kind of subliminal vocal? Or is my mind just messing with me as it struggles to find orientation and points of familiarity in the stream of inhuman sound. It’s disorientating and difficult – and these are the positive attributes.

The ten ‘Mimicry’ pieces are perhaps re overtly playful – bleeps and whirs, crackles and pops, all cut back and forth so fast as to induce whiplash – not necessarily in the neck, but in the brain stem as the organ shifts into meltdown as it attempts to process the bewildering back-and-forth transmission of sonic data. Tones bounce and ripple at pace in confined spaces, and much of the sound seems to be in reverse, which adds to the dizzyingly fractured, disorientating sensation. There are dark moments, which hum and throb and drill and yammer and chew at the guts, but overall, the ‘Mimicry’ suite is less dense, less brutal, less painful.

The two sections would have worked as standalone albums, but to hear them side-by-side as contrasting and complimentary works is, ultimately, a more fulfilling experience, despite also being something of an endurance test. Its clear that as much as M challenges the listener, Gintas K is an artist intent on constantly challenging himself. And in an era when trigger warnings, entertainment and safe conformity have infiltrated and now dictate every corner of the arts, Gintas Kraptavičius’ unswerving commitment to pursuing his own interests and ends stands out more than ever.

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gintas k - M