Posts Tagged ‘Swampy’

Bizarreshampoo – 11th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The last time we heard from Ukranian purveyor of brutal noise, Vitauct, it was the scouring noise abrasion of Breaking Bad back in the spring of 2020; before that, it was the split album with Crepuscular Entity in December 2019. It turns out there’s a whole lot of activity that’s happened in between, including a fair few split releases, and this latest offering is yet another, this time with Georgia-based ცოდნის მფლობელები, an artist who, in his own words ‘uses field recordings to create tracks that try to communicate different states of mind’, and explains that within his work, ‘there is a certain tension and expectation next to a piano taken from some informal performance.

The release is available on double cassette and CD, although the way it’s laid out would also lend itself well to four sides of vinyl, with each artists contributing two fifteen-minute / side-long compositions, alternating, with Vitauct occupying sides A and C, and ცოდნის მფლობელები occupying sides B and D.

The first piece, ‘Search’ is perhaps more ‘Destroy’: a tearing wave of harsh noise that simply blasts the sense for quarter of an hour straight with barely no perceptible variation, it’s practically HNW, bar some subtle shifts and reverberations of pain echoing in the background. It howls and screams, but mostly it’s like the sound of ground zero of an atomic bomb, and it just goes on, and on, without mercy, shredding the air and blasting away at the organs from the inside.

‘თვალთვალი’, the first of the two tracks from ცოდნის მფლობელები, offers a quite different tone and atmosphere. The sound is murky, swampy, almost subaquatic in its drowned muffledness, and there’s a low, slow, rhythmic rise and fall like a tidal current that drags you along in surging increments, pulling, then releasing a little, before pulling again. It’s dense – suffocatingly so – and gurgles, dark and abstract while creating some kind of sensory deprivation that becomes more intense and unnerving the longer it persists. Everything slows. Nothing happens. It feels as if time has stalled, and you’re hanging in suspended animation, unable to speak, unable to move, incapacitated and simply floating, paralysed. You start to find interest in the most granular detail, in the same way you wonder if you need to go over parts of a wall you’ve just painted because you can’t be sure if you’ve missed a bit or it’s just drying faster than other areas. You wonder how long you will remain trapped here, if the nightmare will ever end, if, indeed, you will ever escape to the surface. It’s a long and torturously slow fifteen minutes, and when it does finally end, you’re left feeling limp, drained.

And then it’s back for round two: with ‘Uncertainty’, Vitauct brings a crackling fizz of overloading static and digital distortion that sounds like your speaker cones are torn. It’s a tonal / textural combination that’s almost guaranteed to disrupt the equilibrium because it simply sounds like everything is fucked – both your equipment and your hearing – and sets a churning in the pit of the stomach. This could perhaps be some kind of auditory trick of sorts that sets the listener off balance, like an infection or damage in the inner ear. It’s painful, but as an example of devastating mid-range harsh noise, it’s outstanding.

‘იდეოლოგიის მეტრონომი’ is the final piece, another fifteen minutes of murky, bubbling babbling. This time, it feels speeded up, and the bubbling babbling sounds like a large gathering of people, chattering excitedly underwater, while a stream of analogue synth streams and stammers in a sustained state of agitation. It’s an unheimlich, otherly experience that’s unsettling and uncomfortable – which is a fair summary of this release as a whole.

If its hour duration seems daunting, in some respects I suspect that’s part of the intention: this is not a release for noise casuals, but that hardcore who have real staying power and probably something of a masochistic streak. For such a niche genre, the amount of material it has yielded – and continues to yield – is astronomical, and it’s not always easy to differentiate the quality form the lethargic, but as we’ve come to expect from Vitauct and his pairings, this is strong stuff.

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Cherry Red Records – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Forty-two years on from their inception and David Thomas’ Pere Ubu are still cranking them out. Significantly, they’ve continued to push parameters and stubbornly refused to bow to commercial concerns, pursuing the production of art over commerce. On this outing, Thomas has assembled quite an impressive ensemble, for ‘a three-guitar revision [which] sees Keith Moliné, Gary Siperko and Kristof Hahn (Swans) expand the established orchestra of analog and digital synths (Wheeler, Gagarin), clarinet (Boon), drums (Mehlman) and Thomas’ unique vocals.

For the most part, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo is a set of swampy, snaking blues-based workouts, although it certainly explores the full expanse of the core aspects – and explore is the operative word here. Experimentalism has always been a defining feature of Pere Ubu’s output, and 20 Years is no exception. But there’s nothing indulgent about it: in fact, it packs more than its share of driving garage rock, and half he songs clock in at under two and a half-minutes.

If the slow and meandering ‘Cold Sweat’, which borders on romantic post-rock, seems like an odd choice of opener, its simply testament to Thomas’ perverse will and fans should know what to expect by now. So, the melody is off and the quavering croon is vaguely uncomfortable, but the payoff hits immediately afterwards with the locked-in blues jam of ‘Funk 49’, which finds Pere Ubu come on like The John Giorno band, with a real swagger. It’s entirely out of step with anything contemporary, but then, even echoing 80s beat poetry, it doesn’t actually sit comfortably anywhere.

‘Howl’ isn’t a reference to Allen Ginsberg’s celebrated poem, however, but does find Thomas swing between Jim Morrison and Howlin’ Wolf as he lurches through some murky psychedelic blues. From the stealthy, woozy atmospherics of ‘I Can Still See’, to the uptempo rock ‘n’ roll attack of ‘Monkey Bizness’, with its warped lyrics and off-kilter splurges of synth, 20 Years has a range and dynamism which contrive to shape a rounded and exciting album. The slurred blur of ‘Walking Again’ closes the album with a drawling, dark derangement.

The brevity of the tracks doesn’t feel like they’re sketchy or incomplete, but imbued the album with a punchy directness. Similarly, even the more freeform compositions aren’t indulgently long, with none of the pieces stretching beyond five minutes, meaning that the experimentalism is very much kept in check and the focus on songs retained. And ultimately, songs are important. There’s no waste on 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo, and there’s no chaff, either: for all its experimentalism, it’s a tight, taut and lean album overall. It’s also really rather good, and an album that shows that even after more than four decades, Pere Ubu can produce music that’s more thrilling than the majority of contemporary acts.

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