There’s something quite compelling and rich in the sounds presented here. They tower above our heads like spectral skyscrapers rusting in place, stone monoliths clothed in frost, rivers of ice excavating trench graves. Deathprod, the project of Helge Sten, has been piquing the interest of KFJC DJs for some years now, as evidenced in reviews by Cinderaura, Muad’Dib, and Louis Caliente. At times the sounds are punctuated by pauses, or rise and fall in waves, or maintain a near-steady state of presence. Landscapes of cold, bare earth, toxins carried on currents. Nothing on the previous three sides really prepares you for the massive, overdriven “Black Transit of Jupiter’s Third Satellite”. It arrives fully formed, a behemoth. Thunders, temblors, acrid scourings, wave after wave in slow evolution, shaping the new normal. Or rather, those three sides of electronic exploration have perfectly prepared you for the arrival of “Jupiter”. Intercepted messages sent from the future.
Fairly aggressive electronic noise with pissed off vocals and some slightly down tempo near-drone tracks to temper the fury. This debut album comes to us from Leeds, U.K. that is “… influenced primarily by noise artists and hardcore punk as well drawing inspiration from the tedium of office work, social isolation and familial issues.” Abrasive, ugly, and harsh, you may need a few dry tissues after dropping the needle on Soft Issues… not for your tears but to soak up the blood draining from your ears. However, not all tracks are discordant and anxiety inducing. The B-side of this L.P. dips into some shallow pools of almost mellow drones. Though somber and unsettling, they provide a brief respite from the cacophonous onslaught of distorted pulses, whitenoise, and aural fibrillation. Even , at times, employing a pounding rhythm above the squeals of modulated feedback and guttural screams like a corruption of hard techno or industrial while evoking a kind of (anti-)ethos culled from hardcore-punk as stated on their bandcamp page. Not recomended for volunteers suffering from migraines or for family gatherings which is why I wanted to get this into the library before the Holidays. Seasons Grievings my whingelings.
When the Finnish death/doom metal quartet Unholy (est. 1990) originally released 1993’s ‘From The Shadows’ on Austria’s Lethal Records, it was either their first or second album, depending on whether you consider the previous year’s ‘Trip to Depressive Autumn’ a demo. Peaceville’s great-sounding 2017 reissue on double 12″ was the first vinyl pressing of this trendsetting record.
Unholy must have been easy to lump in as part of the the funeral doom movement emerging from their fatherland in the early 90s, but really they were always doing their own fucked-up thing. The vibe is kind of stoner on this record, with lots of slow, sludgy, atonal riffs. Psychedelic keyboard work on some tracks takes the concept of organ doom in a far more psychotic direction than other Finn-doomers like Skepticism. Passionate and disgusting death grunts are dominant but there are some moments of surprising variation in the singing, including 1980s-style belting on a few tracks (e.g. A2). Occasionally the sombre doom tempo explodes into amazing death metal parts. A love of traditional metal harmonics is also in evidence, making the death and doom flavours equally strong. Autopsy, Goatlord, early Cathedral, and Candlemass all seem equally important as influences. The somewhat disparate components of Unholy’s sound balance into a pretty perfect whole, one in which any doom metal afficionado will be happily buried.
Over a decade later, another influential Finnish doom project paid tribute to Unholy’s impact when Reverend Bizarre, in the lyrics to their cult classic track ‘Goddess of Doom,’ included this band among a famous lyrical catalog of their influences— definitely check out every band mentioned in that song btw, it offers a great index of other groups to explore if this record appeals to you…
…But enough talk; time to pay your tithe to the Suomi metal godz!
Linekraft is the solo project of Masahiko Okubo, “junk-metal noise master” (his percussion work can also be found on recent releases from GRIM) and head of the Japanese noise label Three Plugs. On Subhuman Principle, Linekraft confronts the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, the communist regime that murdered millions of Cambodians during its rule in the late 1970s, and arrives at a final conclusion: “Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group.” Thus, he creates a “soundtrack for subhumans,” a devastating record that follows the regression from man to beast. Air raid horns, wailing sirens, military marches and gunshots dominate the first half of the tracks, but as the album plays on these traces of society disappear, leaving only chaos. The return to the primitive is reflected in the effects that are reminiscent of early electronic/noise music, like warbling echoes and overdriven distortion, and crashing metal sounds. The full bestial transformation is realized on the horrifying “Non Human Animal” (T5). Exceptional.
Infinite sounds from finite fingers. Eight tracks of solo acoustic guitar, put out by Three Lobed Recordings for Record Store Day 2012.
Some highlights: (A1) Alvarius B.’s toe-tapping American Primitive with a Cairo flair. (A2) The Lush, intricate picking from William Tyler. (A4) A sonic bath from Six Organs of Admittance, layering warm tones over distant vocals that slowly come in to focus. (B1) Steve Gunn’s raga trance that builds on repetition into a full-fledged jam. (B4) Closing out the album is Sir Richard Bishop, as expressive and energetic as always.
Byrd, John & Taylor, Walter – "Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order 1929-1931" – [RST Records]
John Byrd & Walter Taylor (1929-1931), Complete Recordings in chronological order
18 Rare country blues. Split LP, Byrd on side A; Walter Taylor (“Washboard Walter”) on the flip. Acquired taste, low-fi stuff for completists, Mickey Slim, & Pete Dixon. From Joe Bussard’s basement collection.
A1 & A2 recall spirituals, set up with John Byrd playing guitar & sermonizing, accompanied by a singer and a few congregants. Byrd is a cool guitar player. B side is kind of pedestrian.
Things have really gotten pretty great when a librarian gets to review a soundtrack composed to accompany a graphic novel, in this case one written by Ezra Claytan Daniels. Kudos to composer Gideon who with these tracks brings to aural life the vision of the graphic novelist. I have not read this novel yet, but I have “heard” it, and now I want to, I must, read it. The vein is sometimes murky (as in “Death”), sometimes jaunty (as in “Conception II”), sometimes playfully bluesy (as in “Progress”) and always mellow and atmospheric. The guitar and electronics draw you in just as I’m sure the illustrations for the graphic novel do. Kudos to Gideon!
Three Word Review: Real neck breaker.
Driving guitar, drums, synthsizer(s), sparse effected and incomprehensible vocals that flirt with absurd repetition. Both primal and futuristic, offering a nod to its forebearers while peering toward future horizons and progressing relentlessly in to the past. It is alien and strange but uses an attractive, familiar, and hypnotizing language to elucidate space, grandeur, and perhaps intellect. Of feeling puerile and insignificant in the shadow of an indifferent juggernaut. Mastermind and composer, San Francisco’s Steve Peacock (Ulthar, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Mastery) has rallied the troops around his solo-project Apprentice Destroyer to lay waste to the poseurs, posturers, and hapless bystanders alike. Adding three other (lead) guitarists including, Shelby Lermo (Vastum, Uthar), Leila Rauf (Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune), Nick Stanley, and Bob Renz, synthing from Max Bonick, the drumming of Brandon Thomas (Pale Chalice), might give an allusion to the sounds found on this album while being mastered for vinyl by James Plotkin may provide yet another clue. And though I hear many other projects in this record, Boris, Big Black, Pelican, (none of which are mentioned to by the band, instead referencing Swans, Glenn Branca, Neu and Tangerine Dream on their bandcamp page), you still might not guess as to its greatest quality. It is unique. A singular entity. One of power and of promise. An epic album with an appropriate title. Permanent Climbing Monolith.
Cold, grim, and crvshing.
Switzerland’s co-label (Kunsthall Produktionen) owners Wintherr and Nimosh of Paysage D’Hiver and Nordlicht respectively lay down a side-long track each of pvre depressive black metal devastation with a few short dark ambient interludes.Taking inspiration from the winter landscape (Paysage D’Hiver is French for Landscape of Winter) and natural themes (schnee means snow and Nordlicht is Northern lights in German), indeed, the Kusthall website has stated: “All of the band’s releases are connected, in that they tell different pieces of a story describing a realm known as “Paysage d’Hiver”.
A melange of cinematic horror/suspense from the eighties beautifully repackaged by Waxwork. Classical orchestral compositions replete with scare inducing strings, terrifying timpani, heart pounding pipe organ, phobic oboe, fear inciting flute, and a full retinue of traditional instrumentation to evoke foreboding and fright with just a bit of hair-raising synthesizer, modified human vocalization, a few compulsory wolf howls to book-end the score, and a mini library of synth sounds are applied to the end like a hoary post-script. This edition also includes a mouthful of isolated synth sounds staked to the beginning and end for the werewolf completists/aficionados among us. However, not all the tracks are designed to build tension, B21- a kind of retro-rock jam suggesting thoughtful resolution and B29- a nostalgic theme to a television newscast. This killer soundtrack to the 1981 thriller showcased some cutting-edge practical special effects and was released the same year as the markedly superior, An American Werewolf In London. Sadly it would have been nearly impossible to appreciate the extraordinarily refined film score emanating from the single speaker hung from your steamy window at the drive-in.
From 2005 this is the first of a series of 9 volumes featuring various DJs. Coldcut are Matt Black and Jonathan More (from the UK) the founders of the Ninja Tune label and trip hop pioneers. They produce electronic dance music which often includes cut up hip hop samples, breaks, soul, funk, jazz, spoken word (and other types of music and multimedia). This record is Coldcut working with other well-knowns like Steinski, Yazz and DJ Q-Bert, as well as remixing Red Snapper, Asian Dub Foundation, James Brown cut ups. Tracks 1-5 are fabulous. They’re funny, you’ll enjoy identifying the snippets of the tracks they’ve sampled, the first track has a cosmic outer space vibe. Enjoy! AArbor
Bleak midwinter carols, arriving just in time to make the season grim.
Jun Konagaya is the artist behind GRIM, the magnificent Japanese death industrial project active since the mid 1980s, just after the disbanding of Jun’s first group, the power electronics duo White Hospital. In the early 2010s, Jun began releasing work under his own name, bringing out more of the melodic and folk elements found in his earlier, noisier work. Memento Mori is his third release in this vein, with beautiful organ and piano melodies, mournful choruses, tribal rhythms, and peals from bell towers. Within the solemn beauty are unexpected touches: the unusual, nearly hip-hop beats and rhythmic warrior’s cries of “Run Deer” (T3), the blips and bobs of electronic chaos on “Time of Ruin” (T2), and the ecstatic trance of “White Nacht” (T7). It all comes together to make a completely original sound, and leaves no doubt in my mind that 30 years on, Jun is making some of the most compelling work of his career.
A fixture of the Bay Area experimental scene, Sutekh Hexen has purveyed solid ‘black noise’ fare for close to a decade, typically compressing ragged metal riffs and murky ambience into challenging walls-of-sound. 2019 saw the release of their self-titled 4th full-length, brought to you by the German-based label that has recently functioned as the de facto foster home for Cold Meat Industry artists orphaned by that Swedish label’s sudden dissolution six years ago. I’m not sure that S.H. is the first American band to release on Cyclic Law, but nonetheless, this double LP constitutes a significant moment in the transatlantic partnership that has long defined the industrial noise scene. S.H. had displayed an affinity for the Euro milieu even before their collaboration with Sweden’s Trepaneringsritualen, which was performed live deep in the woodlands of the Pacific Northwest at 2013’s Stella Natura festival. The group’s fusion of black metal guitar stylings and nonlinear experimental soundscapes is very compatible with the aesthetic sensibilities of our friends on the old continent (MZ.412 and Paysage D’Hiver come to mind).
On this magnum opus, for which recording first commenced way back in 2012, S.H. seem to have both tightened up their compositions and broadened their palette, perhaps owing to a new and expanded lineup. For whatever reason, longtime member A.C. Way (AKA Thoabath) is no longer involved; here core members Demian Johnston (Great Falls, solo as BLSPHM) and Kevin Gan Yuen (Circle of Eyes, Disgust) collected contributions from Nathaniel Ritter (Burial Hex), Bay Area art-drone luminary Jim Haynes, Jim Kaiser (AKA Petit Mal, and sadly R.I.P. as of 2017), Mackenzie Chami (Terror Cell Unit, Disgust, solo as Koufar and Crown of Cerberus), Jason ‘VENIEN’ Ventura (founder of seminal Bay Area black metal group Von), Ryan Jobes (Grave Babies), James Martinez (provenance unknown), and Vial Magazine editor Patricia Cram. There will be a quiz after this review, so try and keep up.
A Frankensteinian agglomeration of black metal, dark ambient, deep drone, harsh noise, death industrial, electroacoustic, field recordings, and ritual music, ‘Sutekh Hexen’ is a vicious beast indeed, reflecting its diverse contributors’ varied approach to soundcraft. At times brooding and at times extremely violent, it impressively realises the promise of earlier releases and brings the project to a new artistic peak, one with perhaps a wider appeal. Be ye headbanger, noise junkie, Mills College avant-gardist, or dark ambient creeper, Lord Gravestench advises that you drink deeply of this silver-hued nightmare.
Troller is the Austin, TX darkwave trio of Adam Jones, Justin Star-Goers and Amber Star-Goers; this 2016 release on HoloDeck (Jones’ label) is their second album. While not quite the pain factory that the album’s art might suggest, Graphic aches with dark, synth-laden pop made for a dungeon dancefloor – from the bleak title track (T2), to the forlorn ballad “Not Here” (T3), the grind of “Nothing” (T7), the heavier “Sundowner” (T9), and the final sinister slowjam “Torch” (T10) – all driven by Amber Star-Goers’ powerful, agonized vocals. Between the beats are shorter instrumental interludes (T1, T4, T7, T8), and the Lynchian dream pop of “Storm Maker” (T5). All tracks can easily writhe their way into a set alongside recent additions like Boy Harsher, Kaelan Mikla, Lebanon Hanover, and other dealers in beautiful misery.
Anderson, Laurie / Choegyal, Tenzin / Smith, Jesse Paris – Songs From The Bardo – [Smithsonian Folkways]
In Buddhism the “Bardo” is the period between death and rebirth. Tibetan Buddhists believe that when someone dies, their consciousness wanders through the Bardo for 7 weeks (49 days) before transitioning to a new life. The consciousness of the newly deceased becomes aware of and accepts the fact that it has recently died, and it reflects upon its past life. Here Laurie Anderson is your guide through the Bardo reading passages from The Tibetan Book of Dead (The Bardo Thodol) which is translated into Enligsh by Tenzin Choegyal. Feel the unknowable expanse of the Bardo through vibrations from various resonant instruments. Add a meditative set to your show while you reflect on your life. Perhaps new inspiration will appear… AArbor
Originally released on cassette in 1995, Anou Malane is one of the first studio recordings in the Tuareg guitar genre. Recorded in Benin with Nel Oliver, a West African producer known for his work on a number of seminal boogie and Afro-funk records, this release combines the Tuareg guitar sound with programmed drum effects and backing synthesizer, transforming Saharan political ballads into Afro-boogie anthems. The resulting album became a classic and pushed Tuareg guitar (and the rebellion) into the public consciousness. This reissue is first time the album has been distributed outside of Niger as well as the first time it has been released on vinyl or digitally. You’ll notice the “flickering” melody jumping from vocal lines to guitar lines which is typical of Tuareg guitar music. AArbor
Carlton Melton does psych—or, to quote The Quietus from a nice write-up of the album, astral psych. One observation from The Quietus that resonates with me is the idea that CM have been on a mission to distill their sound over the years, perhaps break it into its component parts. Their recent live mic in the Pit (11/2/2019) is evidence of their current working method, and the same could be said of “Mind Minerals”, their most recent LP, released last year. Each track takes a limited host of sounds and explores them inside and out, giving them time to breathe and expand. The album has its more rocking moments, but a lot of it is slow and patient jams and noodlings. So definitely more open-ended, free-form, and minimalistic than, for example, “Out to Sea” from 2015.
A1: Big, amorphous intro.
A2: Establishes a straightforward beat, pretty deliberate in not changing up the routine too much to start.
A3: Mellow, serene. Staring up at a starry night sky.
A4: Starts out with the drums running solo, and then the guitar comes in hot. Definitely the most rocking song on this side.
B1: Droney synths with a hint of percussion, minimalistic.
B2: Easy drive down a country back road. Rolling along, but not in a hurry. The fields pass by.
C1: Let’s open it up a bit and ride the cymbals, let the amps scream. Let’s not be hasty and settle into it.
C2: Droney, meandering guitars and minimal percussion. Sun-faded memories.
C3: A synth patterns starts out this very minimal slice of mood.
D1: Blissed out, spaced out patterns. Best track for considering the inner spaces.
D2: Turned-up amps blazing. One last jam before fading to noise.
This is beautiful, devastating black metal from 2004, re-released 15 years later. This is the last full-length from Armagedda before they disbanded to pursue other projects. Over the span of their three full-length releases, the band initially helped define black metal at the start of the century, and then immediately began pushing against nascent orthodoxies. “Ond Spiritism” is marked by a full sound—layers of immense, immersive guitar and bass, and excellent instrumentation. Vocals drip with evil while remaining clearly discernible (lyrics are in Swedish). There’s a fair amount of variety in the compositions—varying textures and tempos, including the occasional use of minimally distorted guitar. Tracks B2 and B4 are shorter, quieter pieces; the former features a simple, echoing guitar against a backdrop of falling rain, and the latter features a choral element with mournful, atmospheric keyboards. But the other tracks are furious and unrelenting. An early favorite is track A4, which uses a simple, driving structure that repeats to create an atmosphere of loss, mourning, and despair, while also teeming with urgency and dark energy. Tracks A1 and A2 both start with simple guitar passages before ramping up to full intensity. As soon as the record ends, I just want to start playing it again.
Civil War is the latest assault from Blood Rhythms, the noise collective fronted by Chicago-based electronic artist Arvo Zylo, here with Dave Phillips (of Schimpfluch-Gruppe), Wyatt Howland (Skin Graft) and many other collaborators. It’s a devastating – yet even beautiful – record, that might surprise non-noiseniks with its range of sounds and moods, and nearly song-like compositions. “Closure” (T1) opens with strange clarinet melodies, piercing tones, and a massive chorus of voices that finally resolves into a lone anguished scream. If the high-pitched violence of the latest Frataxin release left you begging for more, “Sick Skin” (T2) provides satisfaction, as strangled growls flail helplessly in feedback filth. With its first deep, ominous pulse, “Locked Away” (T3) descends into a forgotten underground lair, and we are overtaken by the howls of those trapped there. Side B holds the centerpiece – the colossal, confrontational “The Face” (T5) – where driving electronic rhythms collide with a cacophony of hellish horns. Yes, it’s a face-melter. The two-part finale (T6 and T7) buries heavy beats, organ bellows, metal scrap, and dying screams in a mass of noise; with one final thud, the suffocation succeeds.
From 1964 these recordings were made by the “Denis-Roosevelt Expedition” – lead by Armand Denis and Lela Roosevelt who visited the Congo and the territories of Ruanada and Urundi. This is primarily music of the peoples of the Congo: Bahutu, Watusi, Babira, Manbetus, Pygmies, Mambuti and others. The term “primitive” is a misnomer! The sounds and rhythms here are very sophisticated. The Pygmies’ liquid sound is very notable and worth playing [B1, B5]. The other groups’ polyrhythms are well worth a listen, are the Circumcision rituals [B3, B4] which are well-documented on the back of the album. AArbor
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