Posts Tagged ‘Xiu Xiu’

30th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The last thing you’ll get from Whalesong is any ambient relaxation sound piece or ‘blue planet’ chillout. Formed a decade ago in Poland by Michal ‘Neithan’ Kielbasa and drawing on elements of industrial, no wave and drone, the ever-shifting collective have established a reputation for extreme weight and extreme volume.

Their third album, following on from Disorder (2017) and Disorder Deconstructed, features a stellar host of musicians Thor Harris (Swans, Wrekmeiste Harmonies, Xiu Xiu), Waclaw Vogg Kieltyka (Decapitated), Aleksander Papierz (Sigihl) and award-winning vibraphonist Tomasz Herisz. But ahead of the release of the double-disc Radiance of a Thousand Suns, they’re treating us to the Gateway EP, the title of which suggests it offers the listener an avenue, an opening, through which to pass to the album proper.

The twelve-minute title track begins with a slow, torturous industrial beat, a plodding trudge that sounds like sheet metal being hit with a sledgehammer. Extraneous noise hovers around, while the vocals, detached, inhuman, echo into the bleakness. And then the drone hits. It’s a dense, distorted, agonizing drone with the volume of a jet engine. Everything screams pain and anguish. And still that constant metallic thud crashes with metronomic regularity, and hammers into your brain. And it goes on forever. The effect is purgatorial, the relentlessness punishing. Sitting obediently on a bed of nails and brandishing a club alongside Swans circa 82-86, ‘Gateway’ is music for masochists at its very best.

Promising to display difference facets of the band on this release, ‘I Am Not Here’ (which may or may not be on some vinyl pressings) is lighter, a bright conglomeration of dulcimers, hanging bells and chiming percussion ring out in unison. Flickers of rhythm emerge from the rippling jangles, although there is no distinct form to be found here. Nothing really happens: it simply jingles along pleasantly, although with endless repetition eventually comes a sense of disquiet.

They’re not kidding when they say the vinyl release is limited: the hand-numbered 10" lathe cut vinyl, which comes in folded black art paper with ‘100% hand-made screen-printed silver metallic artwork’ featuring a picture by Michal Biel, and with packaging design and layout by Mentalporn’ comes in. transparent vinyl limited to 10 copies, some of which will have hidden bonus track on side B, while black vinyl is limited to just 1 copy.

Needless to say, these were sold out before I came to review the release, but at least there’s still the digital option….

AA

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ROOM40 – EDRM426 – 4th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one for the David Lynch fans, but also fans of experimental industrial noise, and those who appreciate works which exist in the realms between media.

Factory Photographs was one of a number of commissions made by the curator of the exhibition David Lynch: Between Two Worlds, a retrospective exhibition held at Brisbane’s Galley of Modern Art in 2015. The exhibition featured Lynch’s works in painting, sculpture, installation and photography, and included a large section of his Factory Photographs: shots of factories in various states of disuse, taken over several decades.

Raised in the country, surrounded by woods and farms, Lynch developed a fascination with the architecture, the machines and ‘the smoke and fear’ of factories from his visits to his mother’s native Brooklyn. HEXA is Laurence English and Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), and Factory Photographs is their sonic response to Lynch’s images.

While Lawrence English’s work is often typified by a delicate approach to sound and the use of delicate field recordings, it’s clear that the inspiration and the collaborative input of Stewart have pulled him toward something altogether more visceral: Factory Photographs is an intense and brutal work.

‘Sledge’ rumbles and crashes in with some heavy noise, an amorphous roar barrels and funnels a dense sonic cloud, from amidst which shuddering throbs grind and thrum. Each piece is a blast of earthmoving noise, more evocative of a super-scaled atomic destruction than heavy industry or its demise and dilapidation. Yet as noise without clear definition or shape, it’s still highly evocative, and does correspond with Lynch’s conception of ‘the ideal factory location’, with ‘no real nature…’ This is sound which is brutal, harsh, unrelenting and unnatural, wholly man-man made yet wholly inhuman. The barrage of noise is built from a conglomeration of hums drones and thunderous sounds on sounds, roiling, churning. The rhythms are not percussive, but born from cyclical undulations, the churn of industry at its heaviest, in its earthiest form: the mine, the quarry, the drilling rig, the smelting of ore and the forging of metals. But of course these are only echoes of an industrial past: the factories lie empty now, derelict or inching toward dereliction, and the workers have gone, transferred, replaced, relocated, on the same scrapheap as the rusted machinery or otherwise forced into alternative careers.

As crushingly depressing as the factory may have been, its absence leaves only a lack and the question of progress, but as what cost? But equally, the earth-gouging sounds of Factory Photographs reminds of the finite nature of the earth’s resources, in particular fossil fuels. What is left apart from irreparable scars on the landscape once every last scrap has been excavated? Where is the future?

Dark, sonorous notes hang heavy on ‘A Breath’, and Factory Photographs is rich in gloomy atmosphere. Sheet metal thunder resonates through vast empty spaces, and clusters of clangs reverberate in the grimy darkness to create a bleak and oppressive sensation. The turbulent roar of ‘Vertical Horizons’ is harrowing and unforgiving, building to a shrieking howl of feedback while the regular rhythm of heavy machinery rotating is replicated on ‘Over Horizontal Plains’, while thuds and distant rumbles continue endlessly beneath. Digging, dredging…

It’s unsettling but exciting, and the prospect of an audiovisual work, featuring, with Lynch’s approval, the original visual montage of his photographs in 2017 is a thrilling one. Meanwhile, the album more than works in its own right as a dark, stark and uncomfortable collection of pieces which shake the listener’s sensibilities and leaves a hollow, uneasy sensation in its wake.

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