Posts Tagged ‘Prurient’

Christopher Nosnibor

Something is wrong. Seriously wrong. That there is something wrong with the enigmatic Paul T, who is Foldhead, almost goes without saying: purveyor of strange and dark noise via means of a multitude of collaborative projects as well as solo channels, creator of avant-garde visual art, William Burroughs nut, and passionate left-winger, Paul is the epitome of the fringe polyartist who confuses and confounds all things mainstream and normal. These are all the reasons I like the guy and so enjoy collaborating with him whenever we manage to get our shit together. He gets it: he lives and breathes cult and outsiderdom, and has both the means and the theoretical comprehension. Which in the eyes of the many, makes him wrong. He doesn’t fit and neither does his work, and his output as Foldhead is just so much noise to most ears.

The (at least on the surface) inexplicably-titled liveBufferingErrorTimeout (I must clean the black milk with brine) is typical, and wrong on every level. This is electronica that splinters the peripheral senses. It focuses on frequencies that register almost subliminally and that hurt the most, with shards of brain-piercing treble attacking from all sides while whipping whorls of stuttering circuit crackling prod the synapses like needles. It’s a relentless crackle, pop, hiss and fizz, like a firework display exploding inside your cranium exploding over a wash of analogue froth.

Recorded on 19 October 2019, the recording features just the one piece – ‘rotting tongue: nature’s assailed’. It’s as brutal as whiplash and ten times more likely to induce tinnitus, and with a running time of only 7’34” – instead of a classically Burroughsian 23’ that’s more typical, something is very wrong indeed. The noise stops abruptly, and in the absence of information accompanying the release itself, the clue, I suspect, is in the title.

Equipment malfunction or failure is one those things that plagues the recording artist in the digital age. And so what was mapped out to be an hour of racket has emerged as a mere seven minutes; a single rather than an album. But what it lacks in duration, it makes up in pian infliction. A short, sharp shock indeed.

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Foldhead - Buffering error

Forking Paths – FP0015 – 5th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title has very personal origins for Evan Davies, the man who records under the Blank Nurse / No Light moniker. A sufferer of Pure OCD – a form of OCD which manifests with no external behaviours or rituals, with the compulsions being mental rather than physical – and depression, Davies spent his teenage years tormented by the fear of HIV infection.

HIV 1994 sees Davies confront and channel the experience creatively, using what the press release describes as ‘often-overwhelming mental health issues’ to create song which are ‘like exorcisms for emotions and memories’. The context suggests that this was never going to be an ‘easy’ album, and however deftly Davies combines his wide-ranging and, in the face of it, incongruous and incompatible influences, which span ambient and neoclassical, hardcore, black metal, noise, and house, the clashing contrasts would be awkward enough without the anguish behind the compositions themselves. And so it is that on HIV 1994, Blank Nurse / No Light hauls the listener through an intense personal hell.

‘Blood Fiction’ begins with a collage of voices and extraneous noise before lilting string glissandos and a soft bass steer toward a calmer, more structured path. It provides a recurring motif, but one frequently interrupted by passing traffic and low rumbling noises. And so gentle tranquillity and ruptures of disquiet are crunched into one another before ‘Mocking of the Ghost of Crybaby Cobain’ really ratchets up the intensity with unsettling collision of styles, with pounding industrial percussion and expansive electronica that’s almost dancey providing the backdrop to the most brutal screaming vocals. It actually sounds like an exorcism. Or Prurient with more beats.

And it only gets darker, more disturbed and more disturbing from here: the lyrics are unintelligible, guttural screams of pure pain, and the tunes mangled to fuck, glitchy, twitchy anti-rhythms hammer around behind quite mellow synth washes. ‘Flu Breather’ sounds more like a demon dying of plague in a nightclub conjured in a nightmare, or, perhaps more credibly, the outpouring of indescribable, soul-shredding anguish that cannot be articulated in any coherent fashion.

There are some straight-ahead, accessible moments amidst the cacophonous chaos: ‘Outside the Clinic is a Hungry Black Void of Nothingness’ is a brooding electro-pop piece with a real groove and a narrative of sorts, and calls to minds Xiu Xiu, while ‘No Ecstasy’ goes all Wax Trax!, coming on like late 80s Revolting Cocks . But these tracks are very much the exception, as the majority of the others twist, turn, break and collapse in on themselves. Redemption and light are crushed and swept way in a succession of disconnections and claustrophobic dead-ends. It’s deeply uncomfortable from beginning to end, and much of it sounds like opposing sonic forces at war – which probably makes this a successful work, providing a deep insight into the tortured mind of the artist.

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Blank Nurse

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

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