Music Reviews

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".

Sturqen: Survivalismo

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
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Mar 03 2019
Artist: Sturqen (@)
Title: Survivalismo
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Under the genuinely sonic aspect, this new album by Portuguese duo Sturqen (real names David Arantes and Cesar Rodrigues, from Oporto) for the knowingly excellent label Kvitnu, which cab be reasonably considered a milestone for lovers of power electronics, industrial techno, rhythmic noise and acid sonorities, maybe cannot be considered a fully fledged turning point, if you know the approach they followed on their previous outputs. In the first part, it's reminiscent, rather, of the acid stage of so-called elektro of the late 90ies (a branch of techno, siphoning elements of acid trance, who got packed into disorienting hyper-compressed epileptic rhythmical patterns), by following a pattern followed by many contemporary techno producers, who are massively reprising those sounds. Besides the (valuable) exercise in style (tracks like "Nervos", the stifling "Nuz" or "Novag" - the moment where these folk gets closer to some of the highest points reached in that niche by artists of labels like Rephlex, UR or Tresor -), the concept of this album could explain its structure: the first confusing and somehow unpleasant tracks, departing by the intro "Aranha" (Portuguese for 'spider') and the nervously acid glue of the already quoted "Nervos", seems to translate into sound the likewise confusing and disorienting world, where we live, whose timely traps and cages, where metal bars have been replaced by likewise unbending illusions. The following tracks seem to render a gradual awareness of such a concrete dystopia, a sort of carnival mirroring that cyclicality (as suggested by the strangling progression of "Hegel") of a history that becomes more and more smothering. The last (and the longest) track, titled "Energia", seems to cement both Sturqen's conceptual framework and the previous aural clues by a viscous electric storm, that sounds like a distorted declension of some obscure stuff by Gwenn Tremorin (Flint Glass).

Mei Zhiyong and Dave Phillips: MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips

 Posted by eskaton   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Feb 28 2019
Artist: Mei Zhiyong and Dave Phillips
Title: MeiZhiyong Dave Phillips
Format: LP
Label: Urbsounds Collective (@)
Rated: *****
This album grew out of a European tour that Dave Phillips put together for Mei Zhiyong in reciprocation for a Chinese tour that Mei Zhiyong had helped orchestrate for Dave Phillips. Despite not speaking each other’s language, they decided to work together through music. I was unfamiliar with either artist, and had only just reviewed Jamka’s minimalist techno album on the same label, so I had no idea what I was in for. Thankfully, I really enjoy harsh noise, because that is what blasted out of my speakers when I dropped the needle on this record. Looking at Dave Phillips’ discography this makes sense, as he has worked with such luminaries as Masonna and Mei Zhiyong has worked with such artists as Macronympha (but sounding like neither of those two). This is my kind of noise – everything including the kitchen sink gets sampled and then thrown into the mix. This is not a complete wall of sound though. They manage to break it up with less aggressive passages before turning around and unloading with both barrels again. The other side is a bit more cut-up noise, but still interesting. Overall, to picture this, imagine the aggressiveness of your favorite harsh noise artist combined with the attention to detail of, say, Hafler Trio. This album is limited to 300 copies, so if this sounds up your alley, you’ll want to pick this up while you can.

Institution D.O.L.: Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World

 Posted by Emanuele Ratti (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Feb 15 2019
Artist: Institution D.O.L.
Title: Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World
Format: CD
Label: TORM Ent
Rated: *****
Institution D.O.L. are back. If you love power electronics/death industrial and all that, you know what I’m talking about. Institution D.O.L. is the project of Barbie B. & Meta Dolor. The album is called “Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World” and it is definitely an album that will become very important - eventually a classic - in extreme music. Institution D.O.L. look as passionate as musicians exploring a new type of music, but they have also 20 years of experience, so the result is just perfect - experience and passion. The album has been recorded in 3 different countries over 3 years, so you may get also an understanding of the character traits of the musicians involved - patience is what can transform good music into great music.
The tracks are elegant and, from a point of view, simple. I do not mean simple as simplistic, but simple in the sense that Institution D.O.L. does not just put together as many sounds as possible just to create unbearable noise - they are no noise tourists.
A few songs are more ‘traditional’ in the sense of power electronics typical of Genocide Organ, Grey Wolves, or similar acts. I have in mind songs such as “We are the black ones”, which is a noise wall standing in the background and generated with samples but also expert use of synthesizers, complemented with a voice shifting between spoken words and screams. Another example is “You are all lost”, which plays smartly with synths parameters to create a feeling of discomfort - the excellent vocal performance completes the song (sometimes screaming, sometimes growling, sometimes talking). “In dust and death” is a little bit different - a very acid synth create a sort of martial rhythm complemented by a very angry voice - noise and sounds of a crowd in the background.
But other songs are different - “Invocation”, Abschlachtung”, and the closing song are what Institution D.O.L. define a sort of ‘deathscape’. They have elements of the other songs, but they also create a dark and dense atmosphere by adding laments, pianos, nice and elegant pads, organs. The last song is particularly cool. The beginning is a walk towards the perfection of death industrial, but suddenly, an elegant pad enters softening the tense (and dense) atmosphere. A delicate melody is complemented by an angry and distorted voice. But it’s not over, since in the middle of this very long song (12 minutes or so), there is also space for a delicate piano, playing a melody that, after you have experienced the entire album, is really an invitation to vanish and die.
The choice of the order of the songs is also smart - you do not have the power electronics first, and then the more ‘relaxed’ songs (or viceversa). You have a mix. By listening to this album, you shift between states of fear, fury, and mystery. And that is exactly what you should expect from genuine extreme music.
To sum up, the year 2019 has started in the right way for the fans of extreme industrial music.

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