Music Reviews

Michal Turowski: Wormwood and Flame

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Jun 24 2019
Artist: Michal Turowski (@)
Title: Wormwood and Flame
Format: CD + Download
Label: Mozdok/Positive Regression (@)
Rated: *****
A noise/drone review wasn't my first choice on this sunny Sunday, but since there's not much else (physical product) in the hopper, and the raison d'être is somewhat compelling, we'll go with it. Electronic/industrial/dark ambient artist Michal Turowski, from Warsaw, Poland, has had a number of releases over the past several years, perhaps most notably with the electronic/industrial project Gazawat, and the similar Mazut with Pawel Starzec. Likely a big name on the Polish underground scene, but not so much in the U.S., this is my first encounter with Turowski's music. 'Wormwood and Flame' is a concept album about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster, likely the worst ever, that fucked up a lot land and a lot of people for a really, really long time. While one could interpret track titles to aspects and phases of the disaster (26 April 1986, Pripyat, Black Wind, Sarcophagus, Red Forest, etc.) it will not give you the sense of what this work really sounds like. Industrial/noise/drone may be an okay overall description, but lacks detail in nuance. While I'm not inclined to provide a track-by-track description, I can say that the album starts out with heavy metallic drone, something akin to what you might hear visiting certain types of factories where metal is cut and processed in large hangar-like environments. (Not only should you have your safety goggles and hardhat on, but a respirator and ear muffs as well.) The next step in this 11-track trip refines the processing a bit honing in on a more specific type of metallic drone. (Better keep those ear muffs on though as the sound can be piercing.) A repetitive looped, crushing, noise machine is the next thing up with plenty of crunchy distortion. The next few segments provide cold, bleak, isolationist quasi-industrial environments that are quite different from each other but vary little in and of themselves over time. Track 7 ("Azure Swimming Pool") sounds like an endless dump of metallic scrap down a metal chute. More repetitive looped metal processing follows and get tedious after a while. A repeating series of pitched, descending, noise sweeps could have been interesting had it developed into something (besides continuing on for nearly four minutes) and that points up the problem inherent in this album; once each piece is set in motion, there is very little development over time, rendering them somewhat static. For a noise release though, this is rather placid if you don't play it at high volume. No question though that this is a cold and alienated work, perhaps reflecting the aftermath of Chernobyl in its desolation. Limited to 100 physical copies.

Terrible at Small Talk: The Abandoned Express Doubts

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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May 23 2019
Artist: Terrible at Small Talk (@)
Title: The Abandoned Express Doubts
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I thought I recognized the "fertanish" in the artist's email address; turns out I reviewed one of his releases when he went by the Fertanish moniker back in 2012. Terrible at Small Talk/Fertanish is Bill Murphy from Washington, D.C., and TAST is the most recent moniker evolved from Fertanish. The new name reflects an evolution to free experimental music, absent of vocals and blessed with a disintegration of common musical structure. Terrible At Small Talk’s first release, The Abandoned Express Doubts, is initially a composition of chaos that accepts peaceful interludes. As it continues, contentment becomes the focus while chaos is welcomed as a supportive friend to maintain balance.

The main album consists of four lengthy tracks - Superhuman (Part 1); Stauros (Part 2); Solitary (Part 3); Sepulchre (Part 4). The accompanying EP contains one long track clocking in at 25:38. That one is a composition for WTW8800YW0, a recording of sounds made while replacing a bearing on a washing machine. Actually, it is a remarkably rhythmic odyssey that should certainly enrich your life and perspective in the mellower side of the experimental noise genre. (There's actually a section in it towards the end that sounds a bit like a gamelan orchestra.) As to the main work, this was composed mixing cello, piano, guitar, guzheng, analog synths and found sounds to create a composition based on the idea that peace and chaos can exist in harmony. "Superhuman" (17:06) sounds like a jangling drone, with numerous overdubbed elements and repeated occurrences that does manage to change to a degree over time in its cacophonous symphony of odds and sods. This is the kind of piece you might expect to have heard from La Monte Young with John Cale and Lou Reed in the 1970s if only they had collaborated on such an album.

"Stauros" (18:36) is minimal compared to the maximality of "Superhuman" working with individual feedbackish tones turned drones picking up richer noise variants along the way. Somewhere near the middle some improvised plucked notes hint at an abstract oriental melody and this is sewn throughout the rest of the piece. It ends on a much more rhythmic skein than it began, but ultimately in drone again. "Solitary" (13:09) begins with hazy, shoegazey guitar that morphs into sustained drone tones with a slowly pulsating yet shimmery effect. There are deeply chambered background incidents (of who knows what) along the way adding some uneasiness to the otherwise restive ambience. By the time piece is nearly over though, the uneasiness has grown and looms large over what otherwise would have been a tranquil excursion. "Sepulchre" (13:18) is the darkest of the four tracks, employing more "found sounds" and sonic elements not previously realized in the other tracks. While the main element is a modulated low drone, there are loops of tinkling bells, obscured voices, bowed cello tones, hollowish noise, and other sonic effluvia. It sounds as if it were recorded in a tunnel; simultaneously spacious yet claustrophobic. I suppose it does live up to its title. Noise-drone for those who prefer their noise toned down, and drones tuned up.

cameraoscura: Quod Est Inferius

 Posted by Alex Cavani (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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May 15 2019
Artist: cameraoscura (@)
Title: Quod Est Inferius
Format: CD + Download
Label: Toten Schwan Records (@)
Rated: *****

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"Quod Est Inferius", or "what is most in depth": a kaleidoscope of minimal obscurity by Marco Valenti(owner of Toten Schwan Records) and Eugenio Mazza (Pavor Nocturnus, Sognomeccanico), who for this occasion united their minds under the name of "cameroscura".
Seven performances that represent a real alchemical process, through a continuous pulsation of liquid and evanescent sounds, which slowly pour into the depths of the listener.
The basis on which the compositions of the two artists rest is rooted in the darkest and most obscure environment, well represented by the first two tracks ATANOR and ADMIXIO, capable of creeping threateningly into the psyche to release their poisons in just over ten minutes.
The atmosphere begins to undergo the first changes starting from the piano that opens V.I.T.R.I.O.L., followed by the first industrial pulsations of the disc, which mark a martial and inexorable gait.
The ambient opening of INERITUS then betrays on the final, the love that Marco and Eugenio have for electro, creating the most "danceable" song in the album.
The greatest ability of cameraoscura is to create songs with different facets, but that know how to balance ambient minimalism (SOLVE) and industrial-noise explosions (ATTERA) with mastery.
The heart of the entire album then finds its most exciting beat in ULTIMA NECAT, which closes the album in the most raw and intimate manner, bringing the listener back towards the end of the transmutation path represented by the previous tracks.
"Quod est inferius" distorts reality and disorientates those who listen to it, making any cataloging unnecessary, but leaving only to its own perceptions the task of interpreting the album, which is configured more than ever as a sensory rather than a strictly musical work, capable of to bring the listener out from this world for half an hour to catapult him directly into the meanders of a timeless hell in the middle of the unknown.
A black and nihilistic sound manifesto, full of a last drop of human hope.

Testphasen Negative: The Social Apocalypse

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Apr 05 2019
Artist: Testphasen Negative (@)
Title: The Social Apocalypse
Format: CD + Download
Label: ContraMusikProduktion (@)
Rated: *****

'The Social Apocalypse' is my first acquaintance with German industrial-noise band Testphasen Negative, and maybe I'm not the best choice for reviewing this album in light of my waning appreciation and tolerance for noise projects. Be that as it may, I still know what appeals to noize aficionados, and while a good chunk of this album should please them, I do have some reservations.

Testphasen Negativ has been around since at least 2008 (maybe even earlier) putting out five albums prior to this one, three of them on the ContraMusikProduktion label, and of course I haven't heard any of them. At least I'm approaching this with a clean slate. The album is comprised of nine tracks of semi-structured pieces which I would hesitate to call songs. Elements include recitations (mostly in German...some in English), LOTS of circuit-bending noise, minimal beats, minimal piano, occasional bass, and other electronics. First track, "Call Me God" has (Verse?) lyrics in German except for the "call me god, yeah you can call me god" chorus, with a minimal kick beat, crunchy, distorted electronics and circuits bent to hell. Sounds pretty nihilistic. I was almost impressed, but then track 2, "Ritual" began with some lame, repetitious, minimal piano chords and a sweeping noise beat and annoying ringing tone. Nicht sehr gut. Granted, a little later it did pick up the pace with a heavier double-time but the solitary piano chords stuck out like a sore thumb. "Klotz am Bein" has a sampled, repeating short vocal snippet running through it which is amusing, but the rest of the track is quite dark. The German recitation is creepily foreboding, and the noize-musik builds in intensity to conclusion. Actually not too bad; even those who tend to be noise-adverse might find the track interesting. "Lies" has one over-arching theme to present here - "don't believe the lies of your government" amidst a plethora of noise and minimal music. Seriously? Is there anyone who would listen to this who actually TRUSTS their government? I think not. Kind of preaching to the choir on this one.

"Schwindelgefuehl," (dizzyness/vertigo) may not evoke the full effect of its title, but the controlled electronic chaos, smattering of distortion, banging piano chords, whispered malevolence, and bass tension might come close. "No Compromises" is full of guitar noiz as well as other electronic squalls and some beatz, but it just sounds like fucking around to me, although it does get kind of swirly-psychedelic near the end. This bleeds into "Fassade" via a feedback tone where that nihilistic Deutsche-vox is back again with a deep bass beat with air raid siren style electronics. "Destroyed (they will rip you apart)" pulls out all the stops in the noiz department even overriding the vocal. Then the screaming begins. Ok, I've had enough. I surrender, just please make it stop.

Up to this point I was thinking, "eh, this album is kind of just so-so." Then the 11:33 masterpiece "Abgrund" began. Now the elements employed on this piece aren't much different than what went before, but the composition is incredible! This one track is worth the album. Just take my word for it; it has more noise-musicality than all the other tracks combined, and plenty of dramatic tension too. And just when you think it's over, it send you down another path to an unexpected conclusion. Marvelous. This is certainly not an album for everyone, but for the connoisseur of industrial noize and nihilism, it has its merits.

Cluster Lizard: Prophecy

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Mar 17 2019
Artist: Cluster Lizard (@)
Title: Prophecy
Format: CD
Label: Prostir
Rated: *****
The focus on the fact that Cluster Lizard, the bicephalous project by Kvitnu boss and skilled sound forger Dmytro Fedorenko and the brilliant audio and visual artist Kateryna Zavoloka (the mind between the cover artworks of Kvitnu releases and author of the simple, but elegant one for this output in the guise of Cluster Lizard), haven't released anything under Kvitnu, as their debut came under the mark of French label Le Cabanon Records and this second album is the release number one for a newly founded imprint, they called Prostir, isn't a really relevant aspect of this ... I think that the fact it has the same name of the national electronic payment system, developed by Central Bank in Ukraine in 2016, their native land, is not a casual choice. Similarly, the choice of the title for their album, "Prophecy", is not casual at all. Would it refer to a prophecy for their country or something that could be spread to all our planet? Maybe the answer is in the middle, due to the choice of the quoted lines in the title of each track, grouping different examples of visionary and somehow prophetic writers, poets (including Lesya Ukrainka, one of the key figure of modern Ukrainian history - besides her fascinating poems, she became known for getting arrested by zarists due to its strong activism in the Marxist movement... hers is the first Ukrainian translation of Communist Manifesto) and even sci-fi movie makers (the title for the third track is nothing but an English transcription of the Brunnen-G fight chant, taken from Lexx, a Canadian-German sci-fi series, also known as Tales from a Parallel Universe). The conceptual framework is surely interesting, but it wouldn't eclipse the skills of these guys in translating into sounds and masterfully grasped noises of the ideas and images they arise with their prophetic visions, as it's clear since the very first track. Quoting a line by Blake, that the visionary English poet himself used for the frontispiece of a print on the origins of man, the ambivalence within a line like "The Sun's Light When He Unfolds It Depends On The Organ That he Beholds It" gets fully mirrored by the sounds of Cluster Lizard, where the same sound evokes different images on the basis of the organ sound by which they wrap it! The other tracks follow similar strategies and paths, along which this consolidated duo fills those lines by electro-industrial gizmos, awesome sonic engraving and wise usage of filters, that reaches really high peaks (not so far from the art of masters like Autechre) on "Come From Forever, And You Will Go Everywhere" (quoting Rimbaud) and the last "This Happened Before and It Will Happen Again".

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