Posts Tagged ‘Throbbing Gristle’

Bearsuit Records – 31st August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I may have mentioned it before, but I always get a buzz when I see a jiffy marked with an Edinburgh post stamp land on my doormat mat and I realise it’s the latest offering from Bearsuit records. Because while whatever music it contains is assured to be leftfield and at least a six on the weirdness spectrum, I never really know what to expect. That lack of predictability is genuinely exciting. Labels – especially micro labels which cater to a super-niche audience tend to very much know their market, and while that’s clearly true of Bearsuit, they’re willing to test their base’s boundaries in ways many others don’t dare.

Andrei Rikichi’s Caged Birds Think Flying is a Sickness is most definitely an album that belongs on Bearsuit. It doesn’t know what it is, because it’s everything all at once: glitchy beats, bubbling electronica, frothy screeds of analogue extranea, mangled samples and twisted loops and all kinds of noise. As the majority of the pieces – all instrumental – are less than a couple of minutes long, none of them has time to settle or present any sense of a structure: these are fragmentary experimental pieces that conjure fleeting images and flashbacks, real or imagined.

‘They Don’t See the Maelstrom’ is a blast of orchestral bombast and fucked-up fractured noise that calls to mind JG Thirlwell’s more cinematic works, and the same is true of the bombastic ‘This is Where it Started’, a riot of rumbling thunder and eye-poppingly audacious orchestral strikes. Its counterpart and companion piece, ‘This is Where it Ends’ which closes the album is expensive and cinematic, and also strange in its operatic leanings – whether or not it’s a human voice is simply a manipulation is immaterial at a time when AI—generated art is quite simply all over, and you begin to wonder just how possible is it to distinguish reality from that which has been generated, created artificially.

Meanwhile ‘At Home I Hammer Ceramic Golfing Dogs’ is overtly strange, a kind of proto-industrial collage piece. ‘What Happened to Whitey Wallace’ is a brief blast of churning cement-mixer noise that churns at both the gut and the cerebellum. Listening, you feel dazed, and disorientated, unsettled in the stomach and bewildered in the brain. There is simply so much going on, keeping up to speed with it all is difficult. That’s no criticism: the audience should never dictate the art, and it’s not for the artist to dumb things down to the listeners’ pace, but for the listener to catch up, absorb, and assimilate.

‘Player Name: The Syracuse Apostle’ slings together some ominous atmospherics, a swampy dance beat and some off-kilter eastern vibes for maximum bewilderment, and you wonder what this record will throw at you next.

In many respects, it feels like a contemporary take on the audio cut-up experiments conducted by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 50s and early 60s, and the titles only seem to further correspond with this apparent assimilation of thee random. I suppose in an extension of that embracing of extranea, the album also continues the work of those early adopters of sampling and tape looping from that incredibly fertile and exciting period from the late 70s to the mid-80s as exemplified by the work of Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Test Dept, Foetus. These artists broke boundaries with the realisation that all sound is material, and that music is in the ear of the beholder. This strain of postmodernism / avant-gardism also follows the thread of Surrealism, where we’re tasked with facing the strange and reconciling the outer strange with the far stranger within. Caged Birds Think Flying is a Sickness is an album of ideas, a pulsating riot of different concepts and, by design in its inspiration of different groups and ideas, it becomes something for the listener to unravel, to interpret, to project meaning upon.

Caged Birds Think Flying is a Sickness leaves you feeling addled and in a spin. It’s uncanny because it’s familiar, but it isn’t, as the different elements and layers intersect. It’s the sonic representation of the way in which life and perception differ as they collide.

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On leaving the seminal is supremely underground Third Door From The Left in 1981, which emerged from the early Industrial scene as represented by Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, Canadian Kevin Thorne began recording as We Be Echo, before halting abruptly in the mid-80s. After some time out, and some time spent working as LivingWithanAngel, Thorne resurrected We Be Echo, since when there’s been no looking back.

The pandemic proved to be a fertile time for Thorne, knocking out three albums and an EP in 2021. 2022 got off to a strong start with E-volution. With another album in the pipeline, John Wisniewski was fortunate to get some time to pitch some questions to Kevin Thorne about his remarkable recent output and reflect on his extensive catalogue and 40+ year career.

JW: What is it like recording your latest We Be Echo 2022 release, No Truth, No Lie? You have been recording for about 40 years now. What has kept you going?

KT: I sold off all my gear in England (in the early 90’s I believe, as my last release was ‘I Dance In Circles’ on LiveEvil’s A Conclusion Of Unrestrained Philosophy compilation CD in 1989), and stopped doing anything musically. It was a dark time for me. In 1998 I moved to Canada, and once settled I started experimenting with music again, this time digitally. It wasn’t until the pandemic started and I bought a bass guitar that I did so in earnest. Music flowed out of me almost faster than I could get it recorded. I released Darkness Is Home, The Misanthrope and Isolation in 2021, followed by E-volution in 2022. I’m over halfway through my second album this year, No Truth, No Lie, which has a somewhat different feel to it than the previous releases, and I’m immensely proud of the tracks on it so far. I have several other tracks recorded and finished that I feel are good but just don’t make the cut for this album.

I record because I enjoy it. Especially this past two years, when it’s been my therapy. Since Gen dropped her body, it’s also been my way to keep communication open. When a track comes together particularly well I feel Gen’s presence. I still get a thrill producing a song that I love, and I will continue recording until that stops.

After I release a new album I tend to go through a mini depression. Because I love the album so much, and out so much into it, when I release it into the world and it gets virtually no response, it is upsetting. But after a couple of weeks, I get the urge to record again.

Any trends that you have seen come and go?

I’m not a trend watcher.

Where do you find inspiration to compose?

I think that the way I create music is quite unusual in that I don’t know where the song will take me, I have almost no control in the matter. It evolves from a bass and drum beginning (occasionally guitar and drum), then goes where it wants to, it feels like it has almost nothing to do with me. If I try to create something in a particular way, it generally moves itself the way it wants to. I still work full time, so I mostly record on weekends. I get up around 8am, go grab breakfast then relax for a bit and if I feel like it I go into the studio and record. Often nothing happens, occasionally a track comes together really fast. Sometimes it takes a few listens before I can appreciate what it could become. I usually record drums/bass (often several tracks of bass), then listen to that and wait for the lyrics to arrive… sometimes that’s easy and sometimes not. Then I flesh it out with more guitar or bass. I record the vocals in the basement when I’m alone (I’m still stupidly shy about singing), Listening to the track on an old iPhone with headphones while using my iPhone to record. On two of the songs on the upcoming album I started with lyric thoughts and recorded using them – the lyrics and vocals were recorded in one take with no editing, giving it a more “live” feel.

Any favorite electronic and industrial music artists?

Major Influences are TG, PTV, Cabs, but I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Not much electronic or industrial these days though.

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You worked with Raye Coluori in your early days. What was that like?

Raye was great to create with, and we still chat and record on occasion. I was sick with Covid when he was in Toronto recently so missed out on a physical catch-up which was upsetting.

Recording with TDFTL was fun, our music was created in a similar way to we be echo, we started with drum and bass (me), and Raye (guitar or keyboard) and often some pre-recorded speech, then built it up from there. We recorded everything in case something worked. I think Raye still has the rehearsal tapes. I have one somewhere. His confidence really helped me boost mine. We played two binaurally recorded gigs, that we released on tape. For one track on our “Face The Firing Squad” cassette, we used a drum track sent to me by Mal (Cabs), and made good use of the Roland Chorus Space Echo I bought from TG’s Chris Carter. I still feel this album stands up, even after 40 years!

We have recorded and released one track together since I moved to Canada, and hope to do more, always seems I’m busy when he’s not and vice versa.

Later you recorded Ceva Evi. What was that experience like?

Recording on my own meant I could record what I wanted when I wanted which was very freeing. I loved the idea of using Gen’s Tibetan Thighbone trumpet on a track but couldn’t get it organized for the regular edition release, however Dave Farmer (iham) sorted it out for the special edition and he and Gen both play on the track ‘Inside Life’s Wire’.

Any future plans and projects?

I recorded a track with Iham that he will be releasing as a 12” single, and we are working on a new track now. The music we record leans more toward industrial than mine does.

I just finished a collab as Dream Duchess with Marcy Angeles that’s available on her bandcamp. I also sent out bass and drum stems of a track to a few people to see what they would do with it and have had some pretty amazing responses, but not enough to make it a release yet.

I’m also working, when time permits, on another album of old music (“Forgotten Beats”) that hasn’t seen a release yet, or was released in a very obscure manner originally.

Is there anyone that you would really like to collaborate with?

I’m open to collabs. There are many people it would be an honour to work with.

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Many artists are referred to as legendary, but only few deservingly so. As a member of the wreckers of civilisation, Throbbing Gristle, Chris Carter’s status is not only legendary, but notorious and seminal – everything you could wish for from a groundbreaking artist. Throbbing Gristle boke so much new ground it’s almost impossible to quantify their influence – and Carter broke yet more ground with his first post-TG output as Chris and Cosey, with Cosey Fanni Tutti: the pair practically invested trance music (as their 1981 LP, Trance evidences).

Carter’s never been content to bask in his previous achievements, and has sustained a career in the pursuit of continual evolution, with a steady stream of releases, not least of all the trilogy of albums with Carter Tutti Void, a collaboration between him and Cosey with industrial revivalists Factory Floor.

With a new range of modular and other musical gear recently launched and a reissue programme in full swing, John Wisniewski caught up with Chris to talk about projects past, present, and future.

JW: What are you currently working at,  Chris?

CC: Right now I’ve had to break off from a couple of ongoing projects to refit and rewire our studio. Last year we decided to rationalise our recording setup, sell off some equipment and scale back on gear we no longer or rarely used any more. So I’m busy boxing up things to send off to new owners, in-between crawling around under desks plugging cables into sockets and whatnot.

Can we talk about Throbbing Gristle. How Did you meet the other members of the group?

We met through our mutual friend the artist John Lacey, at one of my solo performances back in the mid 1970s. John’s father Bruce Lacey (who was a well known performance artist) was also the caretaker at the building where Cosey and Genesis had an art workspace in East London, and one thing led to another.

What was it like being in Throbbing gristle?

Well really you should read Cosey’s autobiography Art Sex Music for the full story on what it was like in TG. It was exhilarating, fun and exciting while also being at times truly awful, emotionally draining and a lot of bloody hard work. But it was where I met Cosey and we fell in love so I wouldn’t change any of that for the world.

What was the audience reaction to the music?

The audience reaction usually began with confusion which then often quickly turned to hostility. But it was an unusual time back then, in that we were almost impossible to categorise. We weren’t electronic or prog, or rock and punks hated us and our sound, which is ironic because the press continually referred to us as a punk band. Actually that was part of the problem because punks would turn up expecting to see a typical four piece band with a drummer and what they got was nothing like that, visually or aurally. Cue bottles being thrown and fights with the audience.

How did you meet Cosey to form Chris And Cosey?

As I said, we met when we formed TG. When TG imploded in 1981 we decided to go our own way with a completely new sound, as Chris & Cosey. Actually we could see the writing on the wall way before TG actually split-up and we’d begun writing and recording Chris & Cosey songs months before TG parted ways. In fact we got a C&C record deal with Rough Trade within weeks of the TG split and had our first album Heartbeat released before the year ended.

Any favorite music groups? Who do you like in electronic music?

Wow that’s one of those impossible questions. I’ve been listening to all kinds of music for 60 years and I’ve come to realise that my music tastes subtly changes from decade to decade. Partly because I’m hearing new things all the time, which take me off in different directions of discovery. Last year I was listening to a lot of Electrofolk but at the moment I’m revisiting and appreciating the finer points of Afrofuturism.

Any future plans and projects, Chris?

Yes, lots of future plans, a few are top secret but some I can mention. I’m slowly putting together a followup to my Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 LP,  the new album has the unusual title of Chemistry Lessons Volume 2… it’s sounding good. I’m compiling parts for a few TG albums and reissues for Mute and we are remastering some of the early Chris & Cosey back catalogue for rerelease next year.

Electronic Ambient Remixes 1 & 3 are out on vinyl on 31 July 2021.

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More at Chris Carter’s website.

Cold Spring – 23rd October 2020

The reverence for Coil amongst their fanbase – which if anything has expanded in recent years, and particularly following the death of Peter Christopherson – is quite remarkable. Emerging in 1982 following the demise of Throbbing Gristle, Coil became the primary vehicle for Christopherson and partner John Balance after contributing to the early Psychic TV releases. And perhaps one of the reasons Coil are held in higher esteem than PTV is that their output, while still substantial, was less in volume but subject to a higher quality control, as well as pursuing esoteric experimentalism while largely managing to avoid cringe-inducing indulgence. That, and the fact they pushed so many musical boundaries without being massive tossers in a musical field crowded with individuals whose creative genius was tempered by tendencies toward major-league assholism: P-Orridge should require no real qualification now, and similarly, the shady characters of the industrial and neofolk scenes, not least of all Boyd Rice and Douglas Pearce have long been exposed. And the fact that both members suffered premature deaths only compounds the way their work resonates with fans, who can only contemplate what cuold have been

Everything around the rights to the Coil catalogue is spectacularly complex, and the origins of this compilation aren’t even entirely straightforward, having originally released by Russian label FEELEE, featuring tracks from all their major albums (barring The Ape of Naples which was released after Balance’s untimely death). They were hand-picked by Coil to represent their best work and originally released to mark their first performance in Moscow in 2001.

Subsequently out of print on CD for almost two decades, this edition courtesy of Cold Spring spans Coil’s entire living career, with A Guide For Beginners – The Voice Of Silver and A Guide For Finishers – A Hair Of Gold being made available together in one deluxe set.

As Nick Soulsby observed of Balance and Christopherson, writing for thevinylfactory.com, ‘As Coil they had embarked on a wild ride from industrial origins originating in the post-Throbbing Gristle outfit Psychic TV, through a spell as dancefloor-channelling experimentalists, onward to their destination as the respected priesthood of pagan rite electronica’. And with a career spanning three decades and eighteen studio albums, it can be daunting to know quite how best to make inroads, so a ‘Best of’ makes sense.

Disc one (A Guide for Beginners) spans their later career, while disc two (A Guide for Finishers) delves deeper towards their origins, and together, in a slightly mixed-up reverse chronology, we’re able to trade their development, and what’s most interesting and apparent is their range and their willingness to explore.

Singling out tracks from a collection that spans twenty tracks and a monster running time, but emerging from the swathe of brooding dark ambience and esotericism, ‘Ostia (The Death of Pasolini)’ stalks brooding neofolk territory, dark, stark, and portentous, but without any of the nationalistic bullshit that often typifies the genre, while ‘Where Are You’ is the soundtrack to psychosis, an eerily minimal backing creeping uncomfortably behind a monotone monologue that’s unsettling and uncomfortable.

Brooding piano and shrieking woodwind and horns forge haunting soundscapes while elsewhere, minimal two-note organ and trilling electronic extranea provide the backdrop to mesmerising spoken-word narratives. Cut-up samples and fragments drift in and out (no surprise for a band photographed with William Burroughs, who had an album released on Industrial Records in 1981) and the thing that really comes across most powerfully from this compilation is that while so any ‘experimental’ and ‘industrial’ acts were – and are – pretty dull, Coil were consistently engaging, focuses on tone and resonance, and ever-evolving.

It would be hard to improve on a selection picked by the artists in terms of what can be considered the best representation of their output, and bias aside, this is hard to fault by way of an introduction.

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COIL A Guide For Beginners - A Guide For Finishers - Lo res album cover for web

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, the full depths of dark ambient works only reveal themselves at a certain volume and this is very much true of brb>voicecoil’s Alms of Guilt. Played at a low or even regular volume, it sounds very much distant, rolling rumbling, and rather low-impact. Turn it up, and it’s a different album and a completely different experience.

The first composition, ‘Cost of Redemption’ is disturbing. Clanking, clattering extraneous noises thud like the boots of troops searching a ruined building against a backdrop of a hovering hum of a nuclear wind. There’s no specific dialogue, and of course, that’s part of the appeal and purpose: it’s very much about the listeners projections, about reception, and from my seat, I feel a growing paranoia. Nothing specific, nothing I can pinpoint, just a sense of awkwardness. What do you do with that?

The nine-and-a-half minute ‘Seven Swords to the Heart’ is dark ad foggy, imbued with a certain sense of mysticism, shifting from groaning drones to clattering yet heavily-muffled percussive sounds like pieces of wood bouncing in a barrel over rapids, over and over and on and on… it’s the sound of bruising, of cracked ribs, of physical battery.

‘Welcome Back to the Days of Book Burning’ is dark, dank, and doomy, a rumbling drone of brooding lower-end dark ambience. It feels almost medieval in its dark, oppressive shadowy tones, but the fact seems to be that we’re so far off the dystopia the title suggests. And it’s here that it hits: sitting alone once again in my little office – what would for most other people be the spare bedroom – it’s dark outside and I haven’t seen anyone socially for days, but news channels and social media are bursting with updates on how police shut down an anti-mask rally in London this afternoon. Anti-intellectualism has reached a new peak in the rising tide of opposition and antagonism toward ‘experts’ and even health workers attending emergencies. This, seemingly, is what we’ve come to. And it’s a bleak prospect. I had previously come to the opinion that, in the age of the Internet, there was no excuse for ignorance, as all information was available at the click of a button. But so is misinformation and propaganda, and these seem infinitely more popular. Such a realisation is painful. He dark sludge-filled wreckage of this track provides no comfort or solace, but an ideal soundtrack to these thoughts.

‘Buried’ is gnarly, a subterranean earthwork of a composition, while the nine-minute ‘The Truth of my Demons’ returns to the basement of gloomy rumbles, muffled bangs of doors, and a swashing swampy gloop and grind hat has no real sense of trajectory.

There is so much depth, so many layers… and so much grumbling, rumbling mid-to-low frequency that bubbles, swirls, and eddies like so much discomfort in the gut. And like so much guilt, this is a noisewerk that nags away without any real sense of direction, or even idea.

Alms of Guilt is the swashing soundtrack to a ship run around, with no sense of space or direction. It may not be explicit about it, but it’s an album of our times. Tense, claustrophobic, oppressive, this is the soundtrack to the world now.

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Industrial Coast – 20th March 2020

Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends, the latest dispatch from the prodigiously prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, finds oodles of discombobulating discord and dissonance thrown together in a set of skewed sound collages. As such, it’s business as usual. TG’s wildly experimental approach to rendering and processing sound by means not just of founds found and myriad effects, but the (mis)appropriation of random objects means you never know what the hell you’re actually listening to: loud crackles and scratches are probably the sound of sweet wrappers and paper towels being scrunched up close to the mic. It’s supposedly Theo’s most ‘organised’ work to date, and maybe it is, but of course, it’s all relative and one man’s organised is another man’s chaos – as anyone who’s seen my office will probably appreciate.

Amp hum and scrambled tape loops twist and entwine into a massive twisty knot of noise, a clashing conglomeration of aural chaos, a crazed cataclysm of random elements thrown together in the most haphazard of fashions. This shit’s impossible to pin down.

Garbled groans and wheezes, bleeps and blasts of noise collide with static and radios being tuned detuned, and retuned; there are prolonged periods where not a lot happens, which are annihilated by brain-bending bursts wee everything happens all at once.

‘Pyrex Chalice’ is representative, with something that sounds like bottles and cutlery being used as an improvised xylophone while dustbins clatter in a city alleyway and someone close to the mic stifles the breaths of a crafty wank.

Metallic scrapes and clatters coagulate into messy improvised chimes, and there’s some kind of whispered, gallic-sounding sleaze that descends into sobbing and is backed by clattering pots and pans on ‘Massage the Scar, Five Minutes, Five Times’. If none of it makes any sense, then that’s entirely the point.

Playful but bleak and as twisted as fuck, Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends again suggest that Territorial Gobbing is one of the acts closest to the spirit of the other TG, and Genesis P-Orridge’s absorption of the influence of William Burroughs’ cut-ups. The Industrial Records release of a collection culled from Burroughs’ archives of tape cut-ups on Nothing Here Now But the Recordings marked a direct link: Territorial Gobbing very much continues the trajectory in creating music that discards linearity in favour of simultaneity.

Weird times call for weird music, and Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends is the perfect brain-bending soundtrack and exactly the distraction you need.

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Base Materialism – 12th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says ‘niche’ and ‘underground’ more than a limited edition of 17 copies. Pitched as a work of ‘radical ideology for fans of Crass, Pet Shop Boys and Nitzer Ebb from the rotten half of Normal Man’, this six-tracker is a gnarly mess of electronics, popping beats and a disorientating sonic swirl.

It’s an aggressive spluttering nailgun blast of percussion that assaults the ears first on ‘Permanent Contract’. There’s a bumping bass beat beneath it, but it’s the clusterfuck of cranium-splitting treble that dominates. The vocals veer between Sprechgesang and wavering atonal singing as layers of extraneous noise build and passages of warped discordance provide the breaks, before everything slides into a buzzing whorl of flange.

‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ is more minimal, an ominous multitonal drone providing the primary backdrop to the repetition of the title for two minutes and twenty-one seconds. ‘No Big Idea’ and ‘Nu Cringe’ grind out gritty, primitive synths geared toward the lower end of the sonic spectrum over insistent bash-bash-bash electronic percussion, and ‘What You Want’ doesn’t exactly deviate too much from the same formula. ‘You’re Stupid and So Am I’ presents a more overtly punk sound – although it’s punk with the mechanoid twist of Metal Urbain or Dr Mix.

The production is ultra DIY, the audio quality is murky and clangs with swampy reverb, and Content very much channel the spirit – and the sound – of Throbbing Gristle here. Lyrically, when decipherable, they’re keen exponents of the three Rs – repetition, repetition, repetition, and the ethos and aesthetic is very much in line with that of post punk and the origins of industrial, with slogans and soundbites welded to cyclical motifs.

Combining vintage sounds with contemporary politics, it’s not necessarily ‘clever’, but it’s uncompromising and highly effective, and gets my vote.

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Hallow Ground – HG2001 – 28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Electric Sewer Age began as a collaborative project between Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil) and Danny Hyde, who continued the project together with John Deek, who subsequently passed away in 2013. It’s perhaps only natural that a sense of bleakness, of darkness, of a certain sense of grief permeates Electric Sewer Age, as a project strewn with loss.

Contemplating Nothingness is the third release by Electric Sewer Age, and the second one that Hyde finished alone, following on from Bad White Corpuscle, originally released in 2014, and re-released in 2016.

Contemplating Nothingness is pitched as ‘a lysergic tapestry culled from the deep end of the collective pop cultural unconscious’. It begins with some spaced-out trippy, doodly interweaving drones and some disorientating analogue latticeworks and shuffling electronic judderings providing the backdrop to some reverby, echoic vocals before transitioning into woozy dance territory, a stammering heartbeat bass beat fluttering beneath shifting layers of disquiet which collide with elliptical elisions to dance tropes.

‘Got some bad news this morning / which in turn made my day’, Hyde wheezes in a distorted Al Jourgensen-style vocal on ‘Whose Gonna Save my Soul’. I try not to wince too hard and the grammatical error and instead focus on the dark atmospherics the song conjured. Moreover, this single line encapsulates the contradictions which stand at the very foundations of this album, and the track itself delves into swampy dark ambience, dominated by a rhythmic wash, with Eastern motifs twisting in and out sporadically amidst a lower-end washing ebb and flow while the vocal, half-buried, is detached, distant.

Like its predecessor, Contemplating Nothingness is dark and difficult. Slow beats that land somewhere between heavy hip-hop, trip-hop and industrial drive ‘Chebo’, a delirious drag of chimes and electronic ululations. ‘Surrender to the Crags’ plunges into dark, dank, murkiness, but retains that eastern vibe that calls to mind both The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the otherness of the Tangiers scene in the 50s and 60s as depicted by William Burroughs.

‘Self Doubting Trip’ brings a dark intensity that will likely resonate for many: it’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and stands as something of a highlight in the way it attacks the psyche. You hate yourself enough already, but there’s a slight comfort in knowing your self-flagellation is not unique as you chastise yourself for simply living.

It makes the last track, ‘Dekotour’, feel like an electropop breeze by comparison, the chiming synth tones more early Depeche Mode than anything, but they bend, warp, twist and weave across one another to create a difficult knot of noise, with a thick, gloopy bass rising into the increasingly tangled textures.

There’s a certain nihilism at the heart of Contemplating Nothingness, which extends beyond merely the title and its implications of introverted emptiness, but it’s paired with a less certain and altogether less tangible levity which lifts it above dark ambience and into a space that’s given to contemplation and awakening. While ultimately minimal, there is variety and depth on display here, making for an album that deserves absorption and deliberation.

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Electric Sewer Age – Contemplating Nothingness

Christopher Nosnibor

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the done thing to review a show you’ve performed at, let alone one you’ve had a major hand in organising and promoting, but what’s not done sometimes just needs doing.

This was a lineup I’d been excited about – seeing it take shape around the initial basic concept of curating a show and giving …(something) ruined – a platform while showcasing other acts we like.

…(something) ruined coalesced into a formal unit following a one-off experimental collaboration back in May following a shout-out on Facebook from racketmonger Foldhead for recommendations for someone to provide vocals to compliment / contrast his wall-of-noise power electronics. My name was put forward by a handful of sonic sadists, and so it came to pass we brought a new level of brutality to an unsuspecting audience at CHUNK in Leeds. The idea for a showcase came before we’d decided anything else. Orlando Ferguson were top of our wants list, and promptly agreed, before we’d even decided exactly what we were doing, both for the gig and as a band. We didn’t even have a name. Truth is, we were deafened and buzzed on adrenaline and beer and before we’d even dismantled the kit, had decided it was going to be a thing.

The rest of the lineup coalesced largely through Paul (Foldhead’s) immense network of far-out acts. This was always going to be niche, an event that was about putting on a gig we wanted to see, regardless of who else’s tastes it would likely appeal to. This is where venues like The Fulford Arms are vital to the arts, and are sadly few and far between. Midweek in York, as long as the cost of paying the sound guy is covered one way or another, anything goes. Selling some pints beats no pints. As a totally underground, completely DIY operation, it’s only this kind of opening that makes catering to more outré tastes and providing a space for artists with a minority appeal.

So we went up first. I was only our second show after all. We’d failed to get the Paul’s visuals projected behind us, so they played on the screens at either side of the stage. Not ideal, not the impact we’d been hoping for, but sonically, it came together, probably.

…(something) ruined

How did we do? Alright, for sure. We’d spent five minutes planning the shape of the set and how it would build over the first few minutes, and Paul’s awareness of my delivery led to a set given to more undulations in comparison to the blazing wall of noise that was the first outing. The broad consensus was that we were brutal, but loud enough? The majority seemed to think so, but no-one fled the venue crying or with their ears bleeding, and I could even hear my own vocals in the monitors for 70% of the set, albeit only when I shouted so hard I felt like my throat would erupt – so probably not. Then again, could we ever be loud enough? Again, probably not. But I did shift a hell of a lot of books.

Primitive Knot, over from Manchester, are showcasing material from the latest release, Puritan. I use the plural because Primitive Knot is a band, although on this outing, it’s just front man Jim doing the work and creating the sound of a full band. It’s impressive to witness him playing synths and churning out grinding guitars over sequenced bass and drums, while also performing vocals.

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Primitive Knot

Said vocals are often single words, shouted, with heavy echo, reverberating into a churn of metallic overdrive, repetitive cyclical riffs, strongly reminiscent of the industrial grind of Godflesh, complete with thunderous mechanised drumming. It’s dense, oppressive, harsh, relentless. And as the only guitar of the night, PK’s set provides an essential contrast, standing out for all the right reasons.

Continuing to forge further contrasts, standing starkly against the regimented, heavily rhythmic attack of Primitive Knot, Territorial Gobbings’ freeform improvisational irreverence is different again, and then some. The new album, Sausage Chain, is a mess of random noises, but doesn’t really prepare the recipient for the crazed performance art that is the live show. Theo Gowans is nothing if not a showman, and one who doesn’t care about popularity or reception: tonight’s set begins with swinging mics and clanking beer bottles and concludes with cables and kit and the artist in a messy heap strewn across the stage. People watch perplexed, uncomfortable. Good. Art should challenge, be awkward and uncomfortable. And this is extremely awkward and uncomfortable – which is precisely why it’s ace.

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Territorial Gobbing

John Tuffen and Ash Sagar, of more bands than I’ve had pints on a big night, are Orlando Ferguson. They sit twiddling knobs and looking intently at their kit, and don’t actually look like they’re playing chess this time around. It’s the bigger table and side-by-side positioning.

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Orlando Ferguson

Tonight’s set is so much more than electronic drone, and the long, sweeping notes that provide the foundations create an expansive field in which they conjure an atmospheric soundscape. Sonically, they explore an array of textures and tones, and their improvisation is magnificently intuitive. It’s a pleasure to watch, and an even greater pleasure to hear, and following the raging tempests of weirdness and noise from the preceding acts, their altogether more tranquil approach provides some welcome calm and relief to round of a varied yet complimentary array of far-out music. And if you missed it – as most did- you missed out.

Opa Loka Records OL1904 – 14th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Seeking a vehicle by means of which to explore the more ambient and experimental aspects of industrial music, Fire in the Head’s Michael Page began recording as Sky Burial in 2006. Thirteen years on, The Forcing Season: Further Acts of Severance is his sixteenth album under this guise. Owing more to the gnarly noise of Throbbing Gristle than the mellow sonic swathes of Royksopp, The Forcing Season isn’t what many fans of more populist contemporary ambient would consider ambient. The subgenre classification of dark ambient, with its industrial connotations is perhaps a closer demarcation, but it’s still not entirely accurate, as there are extensive passages of levity and tranquillity within the album’s ten tracks, simply titled I through X.

Progenitor of the ambient music, Brian Eno said that ‘Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting,’ and The Forcing Season certainly meets this criteria: its strength lies very much in the exploration of contrasts. There are stretches where it is extremely easy to zone out, and the lack of clear structure accentuate the drifting, amorphous nature of the compositions. ‘VII’ and ‘VII’ are exemplary, as slow-turning crystalline drones eddy in a rarefied air form smooth, soothing sonic expanses that somewhere along the way build levels of turbulence or otherwise jolt the listener out of that fugue-like state with jarring tonal incongruities. In short, it’s also interesting, imbued with a sort of suspense over when the next unexpected turn will come, when next there will be a sudden switch from background to foreground, from comfortable to uncomfortable and challenging.

‘I’ opens the album gently with soft waves of sound, but soon takes a turn for the more attacking, with smooth, chilly synths layering down over abstract washes and muted beats consumed by juddering bass undulations and wailing mid-tone pulsations that rub against one another at differing frequencies and echo in different times to disorientating effect.

‘II’ moves into more murky atmospherics, with a low, throb providing the backdrop of incidentals that scrape and scatter like breaking glass. There are flickers of discernible melody in the conventional sense for a brief moment on ‘IV’, as tinkling keys ripple tunefully and offer a certain relief. But this isn’t about relief, at least not sustained relief: The Forcing Season is an album built on turmoil.

The final track is the definition of ‘sprawling epic’: twenty-seven minutes of dissonance, as flickers and whistles of bat-pitch feedback and twitters flutter around dank low-end drones, clunks and a mid-range hum that hovers like mist in a graveyard. Over time, a grating, grinding swell of sound grows in volume and density and immense thunderous crashes punctuate the sustained surge… before it too tapers away to be replaced by an ominous hum rent with thumps and crashes. And from hereon it gets darker, denser, more unsettling as difficult drones with serrated edges eddy around beneath dungeon door thuds and whip-crack explosions of noise. And gradually the tempest abates, simmering down gradually to spacey waves of cinematic spaciousness that ebb and flow.

Because it’s truly ever-shifting, The Forcing Season: Further Acts of Severance is difficult to place and difficult to digest – which ultimately renders it an artistic success.

AA

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