Posts Tagged ‘Prurient’

Hallow Ground – September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Hallow Ground is one of those niche little labels that exceeds in catering to a small but devoted audience. The quality is pretty consistent, and while you know broadly what you’re going to get from anything in their catalogue, there’s nevertheless a sense of challenge with each release. And so it is with The Expanding Domain, which is pitched as showcasing the way in which the producer’s ‘fascination with ambient becomes a blank slate upon which [he] and his collaborators serve shimmering Trance-derived melodies, murky Industrial grooves and all-consuming Harsh Noise attacks.’

If it sounds like a difficult and disparate blend, it is, making for 23 intense minutes, but it works. ‘Cold Bloom’ may be brief, but moves through a succession of quite contrasting passages, from ominous ambient rumbles and analogue tweets through expansive orchestral strikes lifted straight out of 90s clubland. As such, it condenses all aspects of the album into under two and a half mind-punishing minutes.

On the one hand, it seems like a bad idea and waste of energy to become overly concerned with genre definitions and intersections. On the other, The Expanding Domain seemingly less invites and more demands that type of scrutiny.

‘Lil Puffy Coat’ – which I’m taking as a playful reference to The Orb’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ amalgamates dislocated Krautronica with shades of abstract industrial to forge a sinister expanse of liquid concrete: grey, heavy, but tactile, its form transitional, not yet set firm, and therefore difficult to define.

The volume and aggression are ratcheted up on the heavily percussive attack that is ‘Fear in Reverse II’, the pounding barrage of metallic hammering reminiscent of Test Department providing the perfectly painful foil to the howling discord that screeches above it.

The title track is definitive: with Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient) and Death Grips drummer Zack Hill contributing additional percussion and Dirch Heather bringing the modular synths, it’s a perfect hybrid of delicate, semi-ambient electronica, gnarly, dark ambient that broods and churns, and throbbing industrial. The result is immersive and unsettling, an album somehow at ease with its incongruity which is melded into a perversely cogent form.

Dedekind Cut – The Expanding Domain

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Ventil – V004

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been impressed by the Kutin / Kindlinger / Kubisch / Godoy collaboration, Decomposition I-III, released on Austrian label Ventil Records, I was eager to get my lugs around Manuell Knapp’s latest offering, which purports to see the Vienna/Tokyo based artist depart from his ‘analogue home-turf to go exploring in the digital fields’. None of this forewarns of the fact that he pours napalm over every last inch of every field in a five-hundred-mile radius and hurls an incendiary missile straight into the middle of it just a few moments into this devastating album.

There’s something stark and straightforward about the track listing for this release: AZOTH Side A and AZOTH Side B. In a way, it gives the listener a blank frame in which to place the music, and equally, it gives nothing away.

The synthesised plucked chimes follow warped Kyoto motifs, while explosions blast all around. The contrast between tranquil folk tropes and the sound of a war raging makes for an unusual and unsettling experience. Gradually, the notes become increasingly dissonant until, before long, all semblance of musicality is obliterated in an ear-splitting wall of noise and rubble. From the wreckage emerges dark, chthonic drones, monstrous, alien sighs, which tear from a whisper to a scream. It’s fucking brutal. Brief moments of tinkling synths taunt the listener with the prospect of respite before the next merciless, neuron-melting assault. Brief moments occur where the noise and the fear chords emerge simultaneously, inviting comparisons to Prurient, but for the most part, AZOTH is the kind of atomizing noise attack that’s Merzbow’s trademark.

Knapp certainly grasps the power of frequency – and volume – and uses the two in combination to achieve optimal sonic torture. When it comes to overloading sonic noise, just when it seems impossible to push the circuitry any further, Knapp tweaks it a bit more, amping up the shrieking blast of noise to levels beyond madness, pummelling the listener from every angle with snarling bass noise competing with a shrill, jagged, high-end squall. While many noise recordings are generic or plain lacking in imagination – Harsh Noise Wall being a particularly dire example of how derivative noise-related subgenres can be, and the moribund nature of concept music centred around a weak, one-dimensional concept, Knapp is attuned to the importance of dynamics and textural variation.

Knapp also knows about art and exploitation: the vinyl version is released in an edition of just 15 copies, each with unique, hand-painted art, and comes with a price tag of €666. Amusing in an ionic way, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing, only five copies remain. This is the kind of release that won’t have broad appeal, or, indeed, much appeal at all in he scheme of things, but will always attract some truly fanatical devotees – and speculative purchasers with cash to burn. But in all seriousness, viewed from a broader perspective beyond merely sound, AZOTH is a work of art. And, ultimately, the sound is art too. It is, of course art, of a challenging, avant-garde nature, rather than of the entertaining, accessible, poster and postcard reproduction variety.

Side 2 marks a change of tone and begins with rumbling, dark ambience and hints at being something of a counterpoint to Side 1. The low, ominous drones eddy bleakly around in a tense, turbulent atmosphere. And then the screeding feedback tears through, while a growling drone worthy of Sunn O))) blasts beneath, and in an instant, everything is fucked. Total aural annihilation ensues amidst an avalanche of flanged laser bomb detonations fire in all directions: it’s bewildering, overwhelming.

The totality of the blitz is all-encompassing. AZOTH is about as uncompromising as can be.

 

AZOTH