Review: Hastings of Malawi – Visceral Underskinnings (Sub Rosa, Apr 20)

(Just to clarify, I believe this was digitally released back in March, but the LP and streaming came out today.)

Hastings of Malawi, initially a project connected to the infamous Nurse With Wound, released their first album Vibrant Stapler Obscures Characteristic Growth back in 1981. It’s as strange as the title implies, drawing from the harsh industrial sounds being experimented with at the time as well as composition elements more associated with avant-garde classical music. Nearly forty years later, the group has returned with a new LP that stands out just as much today as Vibrant Stapler did in ’81. Visceral Underskinnings is composed of two extended audio collages, establishing an impenetrable and surreal atmosphere with the use of manipulated field recordings and found sound. Actually, I don’t know if “found” really conveys the noises that are stitched together throughout the two pieces; a more fitting word might be “scavenged.” It sounds like these samples were the ones no one else wanted, dug up from the very bottom of a haphazard pile of others: a glitchy answering message, cracked organ tapes, etc. They’re damaged, dusty, and absolute gold in the hands of these skillful sound sculptors. Visceral Underskinnings is billed as a “film without sound,” a normally hyperbolic descriptor that I actually agree wholeheartedly with here. The two tracks are disjointed, confusing, and utterly terrifying, but undeniably convey a detailed abstract story that I don’t think would be half as impactful if it were told with visuals.

Buy the LP version here.