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2013 double-cassette from two men who are serious about making a ruckus: Chicago’s Jason Soliday and Cleveland’s Wyatt Howland (aka Skin Graft). In addition to their solo endeavors, both are members of far too many experimental groups to list here. This is extreme electronic harsh noise; pain for many, pleasure for some. It’s pretty darn brutal. We get one ten-minute track from each (tape one) and then the titular piece, a collaboration comprising two 20-minute parts (tape two). Howland’s track (t.1) is a purring thrum that builds into a chaotic wall of sound. Soliday’s (t.2) is more frenzied, and glitchier, but no less satisfying. Their lovechild (t.s 3+4) seems to bear Howland’s mark in its tendency to drone (sadistically), and Soliday’s in the varied clusters of cacophonous weather through which it passes. Far from static, this music takes you on a journey; it’s an upsetting, kind of hopeless journey– but at least it’ll get you out of the house, you know? T.4 gets a little percussive at its start, and I think there are some distorted vocals on that one too. All four pieces are great, really masterful. My poor ears.
2013 debut LP of Detroit trio serves up Goth with psychedelic tendencies. A mixture of real drums and slick drum machines, jangly guitars, low-mixed synths, a few JAMC noise bursts. There are times when this sounds a lot like early Sisters of Mercy (there are quite a few such times) but there’s nothing wrong with having good taste… It’s not all complete 80s-worship either, it’s got a modern crispness, and some of the best tracks are the ones that get a little weird– e.g. the garbled voice samples scattered throughout a1 (my favorite track), or the blown out electronic cymbals on b3. Other experiments are less conclusive: Joy Division jam with Hawkwind on A2; A3 brings a death-country vibe that reminded me of Nick Cave or (barf) King Dude; B1 is (functionally) an instrumental but gets the best bassline; and B2 is a somewhat specious ‘lost love’ song that redeems itself by doing some interesting things with feedback in its second half. As you may suspect, things can get campy, as in “oh dear, it is the year/the year when tides of fear/swallow the shores of love.” Indeed much of the ‘pain’ is a little hard to believe, but Ritual Howls could have very hard lives for all I know. Either way the singer does spite a lot better than he does bereavement, sometimes taking on an operatic Patrick Leagas (a4, b4) and even (almost) pulling off Peter Murphy on b5. A lot of these newer goth-influenced bands have it a little mixed up; they imitate too well and so there’s no development on their influences. I liked a few of these songs a lot, however, especially the first and last. This band shows promise and hopefully they’ll come into their own as they continue to take drugs.
Formed in 1988 in Ioannina, Greece, Varathron (named for an old Greek word meaning something like ‘chasm’) released what they claim was the first Greek Black Metal demo one year later, when Rotting Christ (a band with which they shared members) were still playing grindcore. In assembling their own Hellenic Black Metal style, Varathron drew on a diverse selection of 80s Black/Death that included Master’s Hammer, Immolation, Beherit, Bathory, Hellhammer, Nihilist and Impiety, but were by no means afraid to let their Judas Priest, Pentagram and Mercyful Fate hang out too. The resulting sound was a fusion of Death, Doom, Black, Thrash and Classic Heavy Metal not quite like anything else I’ve heard: the band called it ‘Ultra Black Occult Demonic Death Metal.’ Extreme Death-Thrash dirt and frenzy rub up against old-school Doom grooves, progressive guitar harmonies, versatile tempo changes and the occasional wash of relatively tasteful synth (on A3, B1, C2, C3, D3). The vocals? Inhuman growls from the tongueless dead. The lyrics? H.P. Lovecraft. The riffs? Ingenious. Do I love Varathron more than I do my closest friends? You bet. This 2012 2LP compilation (Dedicated to ‘Dead’ of Mayhem, who prior to his suicide was pen-pals with Varathron’s vocalist) collects the early releases: 1989′s seminal first demo ‘Procreation of the Unaltered Evil’ (A1-A2): the second demo, 1990′s ‘Genesis of Apocryphal Desire’ (A3-B3); the debut 7″, ‘One Step Beyond Dreams,’ from 1991 (B4-B5); the Varathron side of 1992′s celebrated split with compatriots Necromantia (C1-C4); and bonus studio tracks from 1989 (D1), 1993 (D2) and 1995 (D3). B3, C1 and C4 are electronic intro/outros. The rest is so very evil. Check out the booklet, too, for hysterically incoherent zine interviews c. 1990.
2012 split between Long Beach’s Black Scorpio Underground and Werewolf Jerusalem (a pseudonym of Houston noise vet Richard Ramirez) comprising two sidelong pieces:
This Austin project (cuh-TIN-ear-pock) is named for a national park in far-Northern Canada, and this 2013 release is their first since 2009. The aesthetic is pretty uniform: insistent beats (808 or real drums) surrounded by noise (synth and probably guitar). A4 provides a minute or so of relative calm, and B2 is also comparatively muted, but otherwise this is a love letter to feedback and gain. Rhythms tend toward the industrial but a more ‘rock’ structure is present in the drums and bass of A5 (a ‘cover’ of George Brigman’s ‘DMT’) and B1. Doom metal chords appear near the middle of B3. These are all basically instrumentals, but there are distorted voices at various points on A1, A3, A6, B1 and B2. I’m not really sure what the aim of all this is, but if you enjoy hearing people torture musical instruments you’ll probably find something to like.
This is the very first album from Rome’s ‘Nihilist Suicide Pop’ darlings, released in 1999 and possibly rare enough that KFJC is lucky to have it. The dashing Simone Salvatori (A.K.A. ‘Hellvis’) and a few friends construct dour ballads of perversion, scorned romance and personal dissolution, hanging dark ambient theatrics and dissonant electronics from skeletal acoustic guitar melodies. Embittered broken-English lyrics (Italian on t.5) are not so much sung as muttered in the hypothetical manner of Paolo Conte on a heavy drug nod. Touches of Scott Walker and Serge Gainsbourg are present too, though not to the extent of more recent releases. The important influences here are perhaps Death in June, Sol Invictus, Ordo Rosarius etc., but if Spiritual Front are ‘neofolk’ they certainly take the genre to a desolate place all their own– check out the crashing susurrations in the background of t.3 (which blasphemously opens with an Ella Fitzgerald sample) or the flapper death march of t.6, where melodica, feedback and Salvatori’s languid utterances compete with Annette Hanshaw’s ‘We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye’ for diminishing space. Hidden t.7 starts 3:30 in– pulsing guitar noise with another bad-time story from Salvatori buried underneath it, returning to silence at 6:50 before a backwards message runs from 8:20-end. Something about this album feels innately Italian, bawdy and doomed all at once. Its maudlin atmosphere is carried by a debased resignation that feels sincere, as if to say: “room for one more.” I’m very partial to it.
Drawn from recordings made in 2010, but released this year, this third full-length from Northern California’s mysterious one-man project is yet another working of verdant misanthropy and herbaceous hypnotism. The music’s core continues to be The Botanist’s (that’s his name, the band is merely ‘Botanist’) wonderfully naturalistic black metal drumming, but there could be electric guitars in the mix this time– or is that just his now-infamous hammered dulcimer on a detour through various distortion effects? Perhaps both; you can definitely hear the latter in its untreated form on t.s 6+7. In any case, the added reverberations bloom into melodies that are surprisingly dreamy; arboreal cathedrals where Cocteau Twins and Pale Saints are worshiped alongside Les Legions Noires and Deathspell Omega. (Night)shades too appear of the similarly escapist Nuit Noire and similarly plant-fixated Turdus Merula. Despite The Botanist’s unconventional instrumentation and 4AD pseudo-pop sensibilities I don’t think of his work as post-black-metal: in fact it is more black metal than most black metal, conveying an ongoing narrative of vegetative malevolence, human extinction and the return of true balance to nature with an eery sincerity born of beliefs he describes as ‘eco-fascist.’ Metal as fuck too is his absolute refusal to conform to any expectations but those of the gnarled murmurs in his own head, ascribed by his mythology to the artifice of the demon ‘Azalea.’ This particular installment in the Saga of The Botanist sees him induced to alchemically raise an army of Mandrakes to wage war on humanity. Many black metal bands invoke the solitude of the forest, but Botanist wants to be the forest. If plants had thoughts, surely they would not sound like human thoughts. Likewise if plants made metal, surely it would not sound like human metal. This is glorious; play any and every track. The Budding Dawn approaches.
This Indiana solo project (‘Ryan’), by no means making his KFJC debut here, describes his music as black (and doom) metal-influenced. To me, though, it seems this influence is slight, like Sujo are to black metal what Nadja are to doom, using a few of metal’s structural elements to beef up what’s basically shoegaze, or post-rock, or whatever we’re calling it now here in the looney bin. I like this 2013 album (actually an expanded EP) so much because of how it diverges from the ‘metalgaze’ of the year’s other release, ‘Repent,’ in favor of a dreamy, atmospheric indifference. Some of its occasional drumming provides its only reminders of metal (on t.1, 4+5), and even then it was Xasthur I thought of. The rhythms of t.3 sound more industrial than anything else, and the rest (t.2,6) leans more toward dark ambient. Even the tracks containing conventional structures (metallic or otherwise) spend at least half their time overwhelmed by massive hums and buzzes. I’m not 100% sure if all this noise started at a guitar, just as I don’t know if the distortion and delay used to create it is digital, analog or some combination. I do know, however, that I thoroughly enjoyed spacing out to it. As with previous releases, there are no vocals, except a sort of low-volume panting buried in t.6. This is sedate enough that I don’t get to make a ‘Down, Sujo!’ joke, but Sujo does the narcotic abyss well enough that I don’t care, perhaps about anything.
2013 split between two Black Metal bands from North America. Akitsa are from Montreal and Ash Pool, fronted by the prolific Dominick Fernow (see Prurient, Vatican Shadow, Taylor Bow, Cold Cave, others), are from New York. Both sides of the split have the same (grammatically awkward) title, but Akitsa’s renders it in French and Ash Pool’s in English. Akitsa’s side is fuzzy, punky, dipsomaniacal forest mysticism with veins of Burzum and Ulver and a suggested kindship with newer bands like Urfaust or Bone Awl. Burzumic loyalties are especially apparent in the instrumentals (A2,A4), which are classic low-fi war-march death-jangle walls of gain. It keeps a nice mid-tempo and all three of its main tracks (A1, A3, A5) end in psych-rock solos that are so out of place they fit perfectly, while also feeding a comparison to Enslaved that gets reinforced again by A3′s folky clean singing. A5 is sort of like a six-minute Motorhead song where Lemmy is possessed by a demon– which is awesome. All tracks on Akitsa’s side run together. I read just enough French to tell you that the lyrics make aesthetically appealing use of the lexicon of militarism, but not enough to really say what they’re ‘about.’ Ash Pool, meanwhile, were a band I had dismissed (without hearing!) as a vanity-project of Fernow’s, but no– these guys can really fucking play! Unlike Akitsa’s, their side picks up the more aggro (but no less icy) Northern-Euro threads of a Darkthrone, a Mutiilation or a Katharsis, conjuring a surprisingly apt facsimile of the Nordic school’s melodic gloom, upon which they throw a slightly progressive spin (and a higher production value) before dashing out to meet Pale Chalice for drinks. Their side has very intellectual, kind of tasteless lyrics that seem to explore theology and the notion of sexual violence as a religious and philosophic abstraction, emerging incomprehensibly as ever from Fernow in shrieks befitting the best of Bergen’s bedroom-suicides. Big-ups to Kris Lapke, too, for knowing how to play blast-beats real good. Despite a certain ‘studied’ quality, things were looking up for Ash Pool until B4′s second half, when melodic vocals drop into the mix that can only be described as ‘nu-metal-indebted.’ Congratulations, Akitsa!
This 1999 compilation album collects rarities from one of the most compelling beasts in the storied World Serpent stables of yore: a very angry then-couple from Austria who entertained fixations on war, Satan and Medieval Europe, paving the way for some of the ‘less fun’ acts of the so-called ‘martial industrial’ genre. The band split up when their romance split up: Alzbeth (words) is now a reclusive far-right ‘anti-immigration’ activist (not cool!) and Albin (music) is now drunk, also occasionally taking the time to release records as Der Blutharsch (creepy but kind of cool!). Yes, while you probably wouldn’t see them at a neo-Nazi rally (they preferred, bless them, to play in abandoned churches and castles) various interviews show them as a pair who at least HAVE held somewhat, ahem, ‘fringe’ views; thankfully it doesn’t really bleed into their music. As has been observed elsewhere, TMLHBAC’s genius lay in their ability to create musical textures that sounded absolutely organic by entirely ‘industrial’ means. This was accomplished with a lot of looping and sampling, a great deal of it drawn from Medieval music and instruments. Albin’s anachronistic compositions may be excellently menacing (t.s 5, 8 + 15 are awe-inspiring even as instrumentals), but Alzbeth’s vocal presence cannot be understated, and is ultimately what makes this work: at various points she’s an evil Queen gleefully sending young men to their deaths (t.1, 9, 10), a crazed nun chanting at the altar of nothingness (t.2, 12), a bloodthirsty Nico (t.3, 6), a withered witch calling up the Dark One (t.4, 7, 13, 14), and a hard-assed sergeant marshaling troops for the next assault (t.11, 16). The texts, some maybe drawn directly from Medieval sources, express a morbid fascination with (mostly Medieval) nationalism, superstition and war. Several songs deal with The Crusades, although (I hasten to add) not in an approving light: the picture painted is not of some questionably glorious European victory over Islam, but rather of wretched hordes of rabble, brainwashed by an evil Church, going pointlessly to their dooms in foreign lands. T.12′s unbearably spiteful narration of the infamously disastrous Child Crusade of 1212 is a good example of this. The only 20th-century war story we hear actually seems to be told from the point of view of British soldiers (t.11)– but if you think that somehow makes Alzbeth ‘less fascist’ you should probably brush up on your British history. Cited as an influence by everyone from Dispirit to Menace Ruine, TMLHBAC present a deliciously nihilistic vision of a world plunged into darkness that should seduce all fans of evil music, be they jackbooted or Birkenstocked.
Gerogerigegege, The – “All You Need Is an Audio Shock By Japanese Ultra Shit Band” – [Audio Shock Recordings]
This motley crew of perverts, exhibitionists and art victims are among the strangest of a strange bunch. Even coming from Japan, land of some of the most transgressive and confrontational experimental acts, this record raised my eyebrow. Many of this Tokyo industrial group’s live performances took place at fetish clubs and often involved public masturbation, presumably amid other depravities. Juntaro Yamauchi, the central and sometimes only member, was a cross-dressing homosexual sadomasochist (a lifestyle I fully endorse) and the son of a well-known classical pianist. Suffice to say he did not pursue the same artistic path at his mother. He worked in a lot of different abstract styles prior to his upsettingly mysterious disappearance (c. 2001), but this unlicensed compilation LP (spanning 1985-2001) focuses on two: beat-driven industrial (side A) and earfucking noise with touches of surrealism (side B). The A side is called ‘Senzuri Action.’ ‘Senzuri’ is Japanese for ‘masturbation’ and yes, all 5 tracks on side A do contain recordings of various people pleasuring themselves (probable gal on A3, the rest are dudes) backed by noise, samples and minimal drum-machine figures. A2 is fantastically creepy, with military bugle and air raid sirens amid a maelstrom of erotic annihilation. A3 has very funny porn-soundtrack horns and strings. A4 has an honest-to-god house beat. A5 is a live recording of someone (probably frequent member/mascot ‘Gero 30′) doing his thing whilst moaning into a microphone, egged on by the delighted shrieks of the audience. Side B is mostly closer to the ‘noise’ sound of Masonna, Incapacitants et al., but insistent rhythms creep in on b3 (which sounds almost like a Flipper instrumental) and b4. Several tracks on the B-side are less than ten seconds long, but try B12 for a good-sized chunk of Whitehouse-style abuse. Some are just weird samples, e.g. B13, a recording of a somehow unconventional sexual encounter (the participants are speaking Japanese so I it’s hard to determine how). Lots of extreme noise groups want you to think they’re scat-loving, pain-worshiping sexual terrorists: The Gerogerigegege seem to have actually BEEN scat-loving, pain-worshiping sexual terrorists. It’s touching, in its way, to see people expose their basest natures in this way, perhaps attempting an ultimate act of self-affirmation. Noise music has always had an element of masochism/fetishism to it, and while this lot may not have been the first to make the connection, they sure approach shock value with an admirable singlemindedness.
There’s always room for one more vision of European death. Perhaps Belgium’s Silvester Anfang (named, I assume, for the electronic intro contributed by Tangerine Dream’s Conrad Schnitzler to Mayhem’s first EP) see themselves as deconstructionist troubadours of the apocalypse… it’s sure fun to imagine they do. This is sort of droned-out ‘folk,’ or ‘funeral folk’ as the band seem to like calling it. It’s not really folk at all, of course, but rambling instrumental ‘jams’ (I use the term loosely)– lots of acoustic plinking, organ drones, gongs, bells, cymbals, harmonica, tapes. Maybe also some electronics? Harmonium? Prepared piano? Poorly played flute? The improvised nature of these pieces is often quite obvious. How successful this may or may not be as music takes back seat to the creation of atmosphere, though, which is accomplished well. As the band’s macabre visual aesthetic suggests, the atmosphere they sketch out is morbid: paranoia, decay and decadence are the biggest impressions I get. Make no mistake, this is obnoxious as fuck, and sometimes it sounds like a bunch of particularly drunk, particularly artsy college kids making unpremeditated noise in a basement… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was reminded of Urfaust in one of their ambient moods, or very early Nurse With Wound. It’s pretty homogeneous but the most satisfying drone is t.6 (B1 on the tape). T.s 1 and 2 will also give a pretty good idea of the appeal, and t.7 is probably closest to a ‘song.’ This recording makes me feel dirty and sick, like lunching with plague doctors in baroque gardens of torture amid the buzzing of a great many flies. As someone once said, constant vigilance is the price of freedom.
2012 may have seen these Italian metal misanthropes go ‘on hold,’ but at least it brought us this devastating record too (whether to tide us over or see us off remains to be seen). These guys carved out a truly over-the-top niche in their decade together, playing a pretty seamless fusion of death, black and thrash with a shock-troop stage aesthetic borrowed from Conqueror and lyrics about cool shit like quantum physics, nuclear war and demons. To a certain extent one wants to throw around terms like ‘bestial’ and ‘war’ and set them beside other Sarcofago worshippers like Teitanblood, Impiety or Embrace of Thorns, but there are also some blackthrash textures here that owe something to the slightly more melodic work of Kreatorphiles like Bestial Mockery and Aura Noir (see B1′s guest vocal from Angelcorpse’s Pete Helmkamp). Regardless of who their strongest influences are, their frenetic, head-imploding sound is typical of NWN!’s blackdeath monomania, to the extent that they are sometimes discussed as one of the label’s ‘flagship’ bands. They deserve this distinction, too, because they absolutely dominate, and this record is no exception– it will beat the shit out of you. Things slow down a little on A4 and B4, but not by much; the rest is pretty direct blastbeat aggression. Drummer ‘Necrovomiterror’ is an amazing death machine, and his merciless precision keeps these songs hurtling toward whatever frenzied, omnicidal place they’re headed. The original album begins (A1) and ends (B4) with a minute of growled incantations and (atomic?) wind drone. This edition has two bonus tracks tacked on: a rerecorded version of song from the split with Bestial Raids (B5) and a cover of 80s Brazilian thrashers Mutilator (B6). You don’t need to think about this, you just have to let it possess you. Ave Nuclear Hell!
L.A. group I’m gonna call industrial black metal. This one-sided 7″ single (yes, a black metal single!) from 2008 is intended for Abacus Finch’s 2013 Mayhem special on Aagoo Records. Galloping drum machine, screaming and slightly mathy riffs. Sonic influences may include Vrolok, Black Funeral, Mutiilation or Krieg, as well as the noisegrind of other L.A. acts like Sissy Spacek. Sutekh Hexen might be fans of these guys. I have no idea what the lyrics are about. The second half’s a bit doomy. If I were a total black metal purist I’d hate this, but I’m not and I don’t.
Current 93′s David Tibet (significantly credited under his birth name David Michael) in collaboration with neoclassical guitarist James Blackshaw. The group’s name refers to an entity (invoked on C93′s ‘The Inmost Light’ 16 years earlier) claimed by British ‘mediumistic’ artist Madge Gill as the force inducing her to draw hundreds of abstract portraits of a mysterious young woman. Some speculate that they depicted the spirit of Gill’s deceased daughter, and others note the phonetic similarity to ‘my inner rest.’ The association here with obsessive grief is probably no accident: This 2012 release, the project’s first, is a heartbreaking (no, it really is, be careful) tribute to Coil’s Jhonn Balance, Michael’s friend of many decades, who died in 2004 from a drunken fall. Its obtuse narrative documents the personal damage inflicted by Balance’s alcoholism and untimely death. Four mixes exist; this one (Blackshaw’s, or ‘The Spheres One’) is the sparest and best. Blackshaw plays his own compositions beautifully on 12-string acoustic, and some harmonium (on B1, B3 + B6), while Michael laments as only he can, giving one of his most animated performances in years. His lyrics seem to get more elaborately surreal with each record: this one’s “A Hallucinatory Cartoon,” profound babble that lies somewhere between Mother Goose and John of Patmos. Sometimes it’s impossible to understand what he means, but occasionally it’s all too clear, and these moments are the most painful. I tried getting another DJ to review this who, after noting similarities to Jandek and Syd Barrett, said: “That record depresses me. I don’t enjoy it. It reminds me of regretful sex or watching someone beautiful decay.” That’s a pretty apt description: this is very dark music with a voyeuristic quality that made me strangely uncomfortable as well. At the same time, though, there’s a numinous comfort at the center of its fire and brimstone, accomplished without recourse to religious cheap shots or easy answers. Its sadness followed me around like the ghost of an old friend. You might not like this, but you may love it. At any rate, I hope that when I die somebody cares enough to provide an epitaph as fine as “He stared too long into the/Abyss and saw bliss/Painful to see but not/Without his own humour.” As we say in the States: ‘bummer.’
Fort Wayne, Indiana gives us A.I.D.S.: raw black metal with elements of death metal, grindcore and the best type of industrial. This 2006 LP, which is the only full-length album so far released, shares an intangibly schizophrenic quality with works by other solo USBM weirdos like Krieg, Havohej or (early) Leviathan, serving up all the misanthropy and self-indulgent experimental weirdness those comparisons imply. ‘Tophetarath’ (see also: Fog, Hordes Of The Lunar Eclipse) plays drums, guitars, and bass, also taking the time to bellow maniacally about war, disease, extermination, Christianity and other atrocities of modern life– although I admit that’s just my best guess, as there are almost no lyrics provided. Whatever sex-negative imagery is present probably shouldn’t be taken in the context of homophobia or fascism, but I suppose you never know. The vocals are supplemented by sickeningly distorted samples (e.g. “take this, all of you, and eat it” at the beginning of a4, or the lengthy discussion of what motivates serial killers at the end of B5). The metal is definitely on the ‘repetitive bludgeoning’ side of things, but there’s a bit of doom too, especially on the instrumentals (A1, A3, A6) and on B2, which surprises with a grandly ‘depressive’ plodding and even some clean funeral guitar. Debts to hardcore are most apparent on A2 and B3. There are some cool nods to essential black metal history, too: the backmasked voice (“in the name of God, let the churches burn”) that originally appeared on Darkthrone’s classic ‘As Flittermice as Satans Spys,’ is played forwards at the beginning of A5 and then again in the original backwards form at the end. Meanwhile B6 is a cover of a Sepultura song from the the Brazilian death metal band’s very first release: their only track with lyrics by their original vocalist Wagner ‘Antichrist’ Lamounier (who left to form Sarcofago, most definitely more of an influence on A.I.D.S. than Sepultura). Anyway, this thrashes while Rome burns and I think it’s good. Is this what ‘extreme’ means?
To promote my upcoming Mayhem special on Current 93, here’s an overlong review of one of their best! Originally 3 separate releases, but intended as one album, ‘The Inmost Light’ is compiled on this 2007 reissue across 3 CDs, one ‘part’ per CD. Inspired equally by nihilism and Christian mysticism (particularly Patripassianism, the heretical doctrine that God-The-Father suffers with Jesus and humanity), its religiosity is tempered with a pained ambivalence: when Christ does appear in the lyrics (some of founder David Tibet’s finest) it is not as giver of salvation, but as terrifying judge of a declined humanity. The sound is as dark as the subject matter: nowhere in C93′s later discography is the hand of Nurse With Wound’s Steven Stapleton (who has been involved in the sound design of nearly every release) more evident. Part 1 (orig. 1995) is an abstract 20 minutes built around a disturbing loop of Allesandro Moreschi (the only recorded castrato), massive electronic chords and chanted lamentations from Tibet and close friend John Balance (of Coil, and R.I.P.), who also co-wrote its lyrics. Part 2 (orig. 1996), perhaps the finest ‘folk’ endeavor ever undertaken by the group, features gorgeous instrumental work from Michael Cashmore (of Nature and Organisation), who had recently replaced the noticeably inferior Douglas P. (of Death in June) as C93′s principal guitarist and composer. Acoustic guitar, glockenspiel and strings act as counterpoint to some truly twisted sound experiments from Tibet and Stapleton–a lot of high-pitched drones and creepy tape manipulations. Children’s voices, speaking and singing, appear on many tracks. If you want to hear Tibet flip out, try t.2.4, 5 or 11 (the latter with more vocal contributions from Balance); for a more withdrawn atmosphere look to 2.6, 7, or 8. The lyrics are highly allusive, referring, for example, to outsider artist Louis Wain (2.6), Buddhist saint Avalokitesvara (2.8), philosopher Edmund Burke (2.8), and the medieval song ‘Westron Wynde’ (2.11). Also included (and thematically important) are two versions of the old slave lullaby ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’–whispered by Tibet on 2.1 and inimitably reprised on 2.12 by Nick Cave. Cave appears again on epilogue 2.13 to read a paragraph from Blaise Pascal’s ‘Pensees’ over a treated loop from 16th-century composer/murderer Carlo Gesualdo’s ‘Miserere.’ After a brief silence at this track’s end, there’s a hidden recording of underground horror author Thomas Ligotti (to whom 2.10, a dark ambient piece that stacks layers of spoken word, is also dedicated) reading a poem over the phone. Part 3 (orig. 1996, and already in the KFJC library in vinyl form) is another 20-minute abstract piece, somewhat similar to part 1 but with clearer lyrics (both compositionally and sonically), spoken and sung by Tibet and a few others. Folk singer Shirley Collins reprises ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’ again at its end. At one point, I was obsessed with this record; it’s hard to convey how pessimistic it is. “Why can’t we all just walk away?”
[FCC ('fucking') on 2.11]
Progressive, Atmospheric Sort-of-Black-Metal from County Cork, Ireland. A few of the harder-line kvlt types don’t like ‘em because they’re sometimes discussed in the context of ‘post-black metal’ with U.S. groups like Ash Borer and Bosse-De-Nage. Viz., Satanism and individualism are not on their agenda: they’re concerned with ecological devastation. An immense, repetitive sound informed by post-rock (definitely Godspeed You! Black Emperor at least) is a good fit for this theme. Don’t fuckin’ worry about whether or not this, their 2011 sophomore album, ‘is metal.’ Just listen to it. It’s brutal but pretty, sort of like Embers, Turdus Merula, Tomhet or Enslaved and I liked it in spite of myself. Four sidelong tracks, each of which indulges in ambient intro and/or outro, except on C, which is all ambience: haunting effected female singing (not, I think, in English) and some guitar noodling. The other three sides crawl along ominously, carried by tireless blast/prog drumming and trance-inducing repetition of morose chords and tremolo phrases, with just enough change over time to keep them interesting. It’s as slow, surging and massive as the ruined ocean it mourns. The sore-throat shrieks owe a lot to Weakling and Burzum and maybe just a little to early screamo/post-hardcore (not a scene I know much about). Side A is closest to traditional black metal, but with a psych twist. B has some clean singing and a lot of prog. D has post-rock sulk, more clean singing, Viking metal chords and is that The Cure’s influence I hear?? No problems here… these dead hearts are in the right place. R.I.P. Neptune.
In their early years, Australia’s SPK brought unrivalled industrial brutality to their live shows, always maintaining they had a different intent than British groups like Throbbing Gristle (SPK was less occult-driven and even more morbid), Whitehouse (SPK was more versatile) and Nocturnal Emissions (SPK was more nihilistic). Shortly before his suicide in 1984, founding member Neil Hill claimed that “[t]he most important purpose of [SPK's] music is torturing the body and spirit.” Their fatalistic techno-fetishism and creative staring contest with complete annihilation was instrumental in creating the genre known today as ‘death-industrial.’ This so-called ‘eyes only’ recording (originally all one track) of their performance at San Francisco’s Odd Fellows Hall on 5/16/81 is some ugly shit. It’s beautiful, too, to those of us of a certain disposition. They only had one studio LP out at this point, and ‘interpet’ four of those tracks (1-4), the biggest similarity to studio versions lying of course in the preprogrammed parts. The best pre-structured piece is t.5, a studio instrumental version of which is included (t.9), but the other tracks (6-8) do not appear anywhere in non-live form, I think. Makes me feel like SPK was essentially a live project, assaulting their audience with extreme electronic tones, hypnotic programmed beats and macabre shouted rants, all backed by a slideshow of disturbing images. Sounds trite now, but this was 1981! From curiously bouncy, krautrock-influenced t.1′s seven minutes of drum machine, delicious distortion and authoritarian declamations, to the proto-’harsh noise’ ear genocide of t.2, 3 + 7, to the anti-American sound collage on t.6, this absolutely kills with pure universalist hate unbound by any doctrine. Gone but not forgotten.
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