Posts Tagged ‘Power Electronics’

24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

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Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

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Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

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TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

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Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

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Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

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Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

Noisequanoise – 29th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

What is this? A reimagined soundtrack to the popular TV series? Having not watched it (I know, it’s a crime against contemporary popular culture) I’ve no idea if the track titles are references.

What I do know is that we’re in ultra-niche ultra-noise territory here: Breaking Bad was recorded on a CD-R data discs and released on an initial run of CDs limited to 8. Yes, 8. There’s a wilful obscurantism that’s part and parcel of the scene that this clearly taps into, and it was ever thus going back to the dawn of Come Organisaton. There’s a whole essay, or even a book, in the culture surrounding the scene, and that isn’t for now, but despite what all this may seem to imply about elitism and snobbery in the noise scene, my personal experience has to date presented many accommodating, pleasant, self-effacing and self-aware, not to mention shy and reasonable people. It;s often the case that extreme art is not a reflection of the individual, but simply an outlet.

The opening bars of the album’s first piece, ‘Hidden Threat’, are serene, almost ambient, and pleasant. Then in a turn it explodes and what sounds at first like a metal bucket full of stones and a broken contact mic being kicked down the stairs in a tower block swiftly becomes a relentless swirl of churning metallic distortion, a churning blast of noise that’s excruciating. There are some vocals in there, too: pained shouting, submerged by a blistering wall of distortion. It’s so intense as to make five and a half minutes feel like fifteen.

Shifting into lower frequencies and breaking the wall with the occasional stutter, ‘Stream of Thoughts’ conjures the anguish I feel around 10am on most mornings in the office – and while the actual office experience is rapidly receding into the distance as a memory, the recollection of the trauma of operating in such surroundings will likely never fade.

And so it is that ‘My Future Plans’ is a shrieking mess of treble that jolts and jars, and with so much turbulent top-end, ‘More Pain!’ is appropriately titled as a trudging, sawing sound grinds back and forth against a squall of shrieking ballistic white noise. And it just keeps on going. There is absolutely no fucking respite. The spaces between the tracks are negligible, and while the tracks are all different, when presented with so much relentless blasting noise, the effect is ultimately flattening. That doesn’t mean it’s numbing or desensitising: six or seven tracks in, it’s still as eye-wateringly assaultive as in the opening minutes – but you’re just too battered and beaten to really differentiate one shade of overloading distortion from another, in much the same way as standing in a DIY store comparing paints. Only this is like comparing paint while having an electric drill penetrating each ear.

That said, the final track ‘The Way No Nowhere’ does seem to increase the intensity, with more rapid circulations of the internal rhythms that manifest within the whorl of noise.

It’s draining, and hard work: but then, it’s not intended as easy listening and one of the primary purposes of harsh noise and power electronics is a sonic catharsis, and one which often involves an element of self-flagellation. And in terms of delivering against objective, Breaking Bad brings it.

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Noisequanoise – 1st January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Avery Vickers, aka Death Circuit, isn’t exactly big on info, biographical or otherwise. But, specialising in Harsh Noise, Harsh Noise Wall, and Power Electronics, what more do you really need? Personality and politics are less than nothing in the face of instrumental annihilation.

An Easy Passage To The Mind is noted as having been ‘recorded on 90 minutes of cassette tape’. The medium naturally brings a roughing, analogue feel to the two tracks, which are both exactly 15:03 in duration (90 minutes would surely be unbearable even for the biggest fan of this).

What’s impressive is just how much sound is packed into those thin, magnetic-coated strips. It’s not just harsh, noisy, and a wall – that’s pretty much a given. But the density is more than a towering slab of basalt. And of course, there are no smooth edges here: this is pure abrasion.

On ‘1’, there’s an emphasis on the lower mid-ranges, meaning the experience isn’t cranium-splittingly abrasive. The sound is very much like a cross between a helicopter at close range, and a washing machine on a spin cycle, the air torn and shredded, and rent damaged by the obliterative volume. After the initial shock of the sheer sonic force, it becomes immersive. Not pleasant, but not unpleasant.

The same cannot be said of ‘2’, which may or may not be the same track cranked up to a level of overloading distortion and does actually hurt and fuck with your head even more than your speakers. It simply sounds broken. And after a quarter of an hour of it, I certainly am. It’s torture by frequency, and it’ torture by volume, and it’s torture by dissonant vibration. I feel jaw clenching involuntarily as every muscle in my body get gradually more tense. It’s horrible. And exactly as intended. Harsh.

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8th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest release from Yorkshire electronic noisemaker Foldhead comes with no information whatsoever. It features just one track, and laser synth sounds throb space-age pulsations into a void of distant dissonance and static air. Voices crackle somewhere almost subliminally as if tapping into the mutter line. Change the frequency. Same distorted, indecipherable message. Feedback. Hiss. Hum. Extraneous noise. Sounds like something… something indefinable. Something out of range. Something unsettling. Not painful, but uncomfortable.

At the four-minute mark: silence. Is that a low rumble or simply the heating and my laptop’s hard-drive?

The ponderance is disrupted by crawling, squalling extranea, a mess of feedback and treble, scrapes and hovers, a mid-range, mid-air act of defiance against comfort. The volume takes unexpected incrementals steps upward, while the stuttering rotary stammerings continue to churn and thrum. Faint trills of treble and low-level grinds emerge and fade. The swell of sound is increasingly unsettling as the volume and density increases… ad then, an abrupt end. Silence. This is how it ends. This is how everything ends.

Now, I like noise, but am often relieved in some sense when it ends. Foldhead’s latest isn’t as oppressive as that, but there is a certain sense or the pressure lifting after the end. It may only be ten minutes in duration, but Radio Dust MAG 4.wav has a certain sonic intensity from which there is no escape until that silence descends.

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Foldhead - Dust

Basement Corner Emissions – 28th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

For those outside Ukraine, and those who aren’t completely immersed in the most underground of underground scenes, few are probably aware of the fact there’s some seriously good noise shit emerging from Ukraine right now. And Portland, Oregon, US, too, on the strength of this release.

This split release between Vitauct and Crepuscular Entity is a monster, and one which demonstrates that there’s contrast and variety within the field.

The first piece is a seven-minute wall of noise courtesy of Crepuscular Entity. There may or may not be distorted vocals screaming low in the mix of a blistering white-noise assault. Noise doesn’t get much harsher than this, and everything is total overload. But there is texture, if you listen closely enough – if you can bear to. It’s not quite Harsh Noise wall, but it is a wall of harsh noise.

Vitauct’s ‘The Abominable Mechanism’ combines squelchy electronics with a thumping mechanical rhythm, the sound of a machine grinding and pumping away. Distortion and decay enter the equation at some point, upping the intensity. In context, however, Vitauct’s contributions are light relief against the relentlessly abrasive shards of pain served up by Crepuscular Entity: ‘Electrical Storm in an Electrical Storm’ is full-treble pain, an amorphous mass of blistering hiss with no discernible form, while Vitauct offers up something more overtly rhythmic. There is nothing accessible, or easy, or comfortable about any of this. It hurts, and it punishes and it fucks with your head. This is exactly what it should do and in the field of power electronics, it’s more sonically articulate than most.

The final track, ‘Madhouse’ is something else altogether: distorted vocals and maniacal laugher against a backdrop of fizzing electrodes and scraping noise. It’s deranged, and it hurts, but this is everything that’s good about it.

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Viatuct

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a show I’d been looking forward to for weeks, even months. Arranged as a benefit gig for Mind and Shelter, Aural Aggro and personal faves Modern Technology have pulled together a truly killer lineup for their official hometown EP launch show.

So I arrived at The Victoria a full two hours before loading in and soundcheck was due to begin. Ordinarily I’d be positively crapping myself, a mess of perspiration and palpitations, but unusually, the only reason I’m sweating is because it’s bloody hot. But kicking back with my book in the beer garden outside The Victoria, I’m decidedly chilled.

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I get a message from Owen, Modern Tech’s drummer, asking if I want a pint since he’s arrived and getting a round in. Of course I do: I’m sweating them out faster than I can sink them, and I finally meet him and Chris in person after months of to-and-fro and co-producing a tabloid zine for tonight’s event, which I’ll soon see has tuned out brilliantly.

I walk in during Bruxa Maria’s soundcheck. The snare alone is punishing, and the full band’s run-through is devastating. This isn’t a venue that’s afraid to turn it up. It’s also a really nice space, too, something Owen and Chris comment on as we riff bout work, mental health, merch, and whatever else. The rest of us soundcheck. We’re all buzzing with anticipation. The sound is fucking incredible. And I realise I’m in a room with some of the nicest, most decent people you could find. No bullshit, no posing, just mutual respect and support.

Tim, aka Cementimental, and I take the floor – literally. We’re playing in front of the stage at 8:20. The plan really is as simple as ‘you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. I’ve got maybe 15-18 minutes of material including gaps, and I’ll drop the mic and walk off when I’m done.’ And we stick to the plan. It works better than I could have ever dreamed.

Nosnibor v Cementimental

Nosnibor vs Cementimental – photo by Phil Mackie

I’d been genuinely concerned about my ability to perform, wrestling with a cold that had affected my ability to speak for a full week. Friends had advised me not to perform, but I don’t ‘do’ defeat. I don’t know how long we played for, but I managed all six of the pieces I’d planned – ‘Thoughts for the Day’ / ‘News’ / ‘Ambition’ / ‘Punk’ / ‘Cheer Up… It Might Never Happen’ / ‘Alright’. Tim’s racket was punishing, and spanned broad sonic range, tapering down and going full nuclear with remarkable intuition. It was brutal, and it broke me. And we went down a storm: I was inundated with people – perfect strangers – enthusing about the set, how well it worked. They were all incredulous when I croaked, squeaked, or barked at them that we’d not even met properly, let alone rehearsed even once beforehand.

Lump Hammer – whose front man James I’ve has been sending me stuff from his label for review for a while, but who I’d also not met in person previously – are a different kind of punishing. With pounding drums, and guitar – churning, overloading with distortion – providing the music from the stage, James is in front of the stage with some kind of sacking over this head and eyes. He’s a tall guy with big presence and a lot of hair, and he howls impenetrable anguish into the churning aural abyss of dirgy downtuned grinds, some of which last an eternity. And yet for all the agony, the unremitting catharsis, there’s something immensely enjoyable in this kind of torture.

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Lump Hammer

Exploiting the limitations of a drum ‘n’ bass (no, not that kind) duo arrangement, Modern Technology focus heavily on the rhythmic and the low-end. It’s the perfect backdrop to Chris’ dramatic vocal style: there’s an arch-gothic hint to it, and it lends a sense of detachment and alienation to the heavyweight blasts of disaffection and desolation. Tonight’s show is the first of three of a mini-tour to officially launch their debut EP, and while on record they’re intense, live, they take it to another level. There’s nothing fancy, or even pretty about their performance. There’s no great showmanship, no empty chat between songs, just hard riffs played at hard volume.

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Modern Technology

Things are starting to catch up with be a bit during Bruxa Maria’s set: I get to witness it from the front row, next to the right-hand speaker stack, which is both an optimal spot and handy as my voice is so fucked I can barely speak. And Christ, they’re noisy and intense. The guitars are dirty and distorted, and they play fast and furious, a relentless frenzy of punk and no-wave that tears your ribs open and punches your intestines, laughing at the blood. Gill Dread may be diminutive but she’s one hell of a presence – just on the other side of deranged, her raw-throated scream goes right through you. If I was close to being finished before, I’m utterly spent by the time they bring their set to a roaring close.

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Bruxa Maria

People hang around afterwards to chat, and the merch stall does steady trade. I’m struck by the levels of enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the performers, and not only has the evening drawn a respectable turnout, but a bunch of really great people, the likes of whom collectively demonstrate that however bad sit gets, not everyone is bad shit.

We have more beer, and Owen finds a late-night wrap joint where I join him and the Lump Hammer guys for what I realise is my first proper meal of the day. It’s 3am when I finally hit the hay. Rock and fucking roll. Yeah!

16th June 2019

Of course I was always going to be sold on an album with a title like Southern Phlegm. I mean, what’s not to like? Kadaitcha’s third release straddles ambient, drone, industrial, and power electronics to deliver four tracks driven by throbbing pulsating grooves welded to repetitive, cyclical guitar lines, and rent with the gnarliest, nastiest treble-shredded distorted vocals.

The first, ‘Phagocide’ pumps away for over nine minutes. The guitar and synths form a messy sonic fusion, a thick mass of distortion while wibbling space-rock blasts of analogue send blurred neon arcs through the heavily-grained backdrop like shooting stars. ‘Sewerbound’ is appropriately titled as it plunges deeper into impenetrable murk. It’s dominated by clattering percussion, the edges distorted and decayed, while screeding noise howls a vortex of sonic agony. Frequencies collide to create an endless flux of aural incompatibility. Everything is distorted, dirty, there’s malice in every note. The lyrics are impossible to decipher from amidst the sonic blitzkrieg, but there’s nothing about the delivery that suggests there’s any comfort or kindness on offer here.

Slow, brooding ambience builds an unsettling atmosphere during the opening minutes of ‘Datura’, before the overloading guitar crashes in. It’s got the low-end distortion of Sunn O))), but grinds away at a repetitive motif with the bludgeoning brutality of Swans. It’s a full-on kick to the diaphragm.

Closing off, ‘Vulpine Sacrifice’ arrives almost by stealth, a snaking bassline strolls in slow and slow, a stop/start stammer gives it an almost hesitant feel. Circuits fizz, crackle and hiss all over the place, before the final two or three minutes find the conglomeration of elongated hums coalesce to create something approximating ‘music’, akin to a swelling organ drone. But you couldn’t exactly call this brief moment of musicality that draws out to the fade the light at the end of the tunnel: it’s low, slow, and ominous and seems, if anything, to point toward another darkened door which opens onto stairs leading to an eternal abyss.

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Kadaitcha – Southern Phlegm

MC/CD/DL – Nakama Records –NKM012 – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not entirely sure what a no-input mixer is, and I’m not sure I have the energy or motivation to find out. But it’s one of the ‘instruments’ Utku Tavil ‘plays’ on this album, in addition to snare drum and sampler.

What I do know is that Juxtaposition is a studio work of four Oslo based improvisers (and not the indie mongs who went by the same name who came round to my flat in Glasgow in 2000 to be photographed by my achingly hip flatmate) recorded in the spring of 2016. Various timbres of opposite extreme, as a result of each musicians’ different approach and background, coexist without hierarchical restrictions. Having that in mind during playing, the mixing process played a crucial role to deliver a concrete body of equalitarian sonic output. Without compromise, moments of joy and pain, screams, feedback and bird sounds are layered on top of each other.

This is not music that’s easy to listen to, let alone love. Scraping, distorted clanks and clatters echo atop growling, prowling, near subsonic bass intrusions and an elongated howl of sustain. And that’s just the first thirty seconds. An overloading mass of shuddering, screeding extranea rapidly builds to skull-crushing intensity, as shrieks of treble erupt like solar flares from amidst the tempestuous racket.

‘Pakistansk Mango’ is a fiendish mash of vocals – Natali Abrahamsen Garner does not sound of this world, and it’s hard to compute that the sounds emanating from her being are untreated, unprocessed – shudder and judder to a babble of stuttering repetition, against a backdrop of bubbling synths, ear-shredding bursts of pink and white noise, and nail-scraping feedback reminiscent of Total Sex era Whitehouse. Pleasant it is not. In fact, as distorted metallic bangs and hammers batter through a sonic riot of indeterminate origin, I’m feeling pretty fucking tense.

A yammering percussion that sounds like a cross between a locomotive and a nailgun provides the spine behind a whirling aural assault for ‘Revolver’.

Natali Abrahamsen Garner and Agnes Hvizdalek’s voices exist outside the realm of the human, and serve to add a disturbing, unheimlich aspect to the already hellish, grating sonic torture. Screams, shrieks howls and growls are all integral to the traumatic experience. ‘1000 Poeng’ features a host of primal screams over growling synth bass and brutal, waspish feedback. On ‘Enkle I’, a deranged bleating entwines with a surging skitter of overloading electronics and a swirling vortex of nastiness, and a mess of brown noise buzz blasts in around five minutes into the final track, ‘Trost’.

Juxtaposition is a cruel and punishing work, which exploits the full sonic spectrum and every texture, from grainy abrasion to the razor-sharp to inflict maximum pain.

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Sacred Bones – 20th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Nasty’ is a word you’re likely to hear or read in relation to dark, gnarly, mangled black metal or crust punk, or perhaps some particularly unpopulist industrial effort, or some particularly savage techno. But on Wake In Fright Uniform offer something that’s a different kind of nasty. And yes, it really is nasty, brutal, savage, uncompromising and unfriendly. And while there are elements of metal, thrash, industrial and power electronics, Wake in Fright – described as ‘a harrowing exploration of self-medication, painted in the colors of war’ – throws down the challenge of a noise all of its own.

Preview cut ‘Tabloid’ doesn’t so much open the album as tear the lid off the thing in a squalling, brutal frenzy. The drums are pitched to a frenetic pace but largely buried under the snarling, churning mess of guitars, feedback and distortion. Michael Berdan sneers and hollers venomously like he’s in the throes of mania, and to describe it as raw would be an understatement. It’s still on the bone and walking around. A gnarly mash of early Head of David, Foetus, Godflesh and the most obscure hardcore punk demo tape you’ve ever heard, it’s anything but easy on the ear. It is, however, a real blast of adrenaline, not so much a smack around the mouth as a succession of steel-toed boot jabs to the ribs.

The earthmoving bass grind of ‘Habit’ is coupled with the dirtiest, dingiest guitar noise you’ll hear all year. ‘The Lost’ combines the harsh edge of late 80s Ministry with an old-school punk feel, New Order trampled under the boots of a thousand-strong army of brutalists. It’s a stroll in the park compared to the thousand-mile-an-hour rage explosion that follows in the shape of ‘The Light At the End (Cause)’, which is nothing short of brutal, a black metal assault. There’s nowhere to take refuge with this album: cover your face, the blows land in the ribs, the back, the legs. Uniform are fucked off, and are going to vent their unremitting ire on anything, everything, and everyone.

The most striking thing about this album – short as it is, with just eight tracks and a total running time of thirty-eight and a bit minutes, (aside from its eye-popping intensity, that is) is its diversity. ‘The Killing of America’ is a full-tilt industrial metal slogger which evokes the spirit of Psalm 69, and packs a truly wild guitar breaks. The tempo is off the scale, to, and th third most striking thing about Wake in Fright is its sustained attack. There’s no let up. Not even for a second. Just when you think there might be a moment’s respite, the buggers up the tempo and the volume and the fierceness by at least another ten per cent. By ‘Bootlicker’ (track six), it’s all reached an almost unbearable level of noise, as the drums pound like machine gun fire through a gut-churning barrage of guitars. Seriously, with Wake in Fright, Uniform make Strapping Young Lad sound like Mike Flowers Pops.

Curtain closer ‘The Light At the End (Effect)’ may slow the pace at last, but the murky Swans-like dirge, with its scratched spoken narrative, remains anything but an easy exit or an uplifting finale. It’s six minutes of postindustrial grind, and a fitting close to an album that comes out, fists flailing, whirling chains and spitting venom.

Don’t come to Uniform looking for a hug. Wake in Fright is utterly terrifying, a horrorshow of a record with not a moment of calmness or humanity. It’s horrifying, squalid, beyond harsh: a sonic kick to the gut. You bet it’s already one of my albums of the year.

 

Uniform - Wake in Fright