Been listening to a lot of wall stuff lately so I thought I’d put my recent standbys together into a mix. For many of these I’d recommend checking out the full tapes/albums, hard to get the full effect otherwise. Hope you enjoy!
00:00. Lucy Jane Garcia – “Call Me Lucy Pt. I” from Call Me Lucy (self-released, 2016)
Like a lot of other hardcore fans, I was under the impression that I wouldn’t ever hear any more new material from Water Torture. The New York trio disbanded almost three years ago, just months after releasing their only full-length, 2014’s brutal and brilliant Pillbox. But fortunately there wasn’t much to complain about; members Thomas Leyh and Ian Woodrick moved on to form Stimulant, a powerhouse of sludge-filled grindviolence whose self titled LP last year blew any of Water Torture’s releases out of the, erm, water. But fortunately, both bands appear on this surprising split release from Nerve Altar, and there is no mercy to be had throughout these 35 pummeling minutes. Stimulant’s side continues everything I loved about their previous record, fusing metallic noise bursts and harrowing sample interjections with furious blasts and blown out vocals. In my opinion, the duo is at their best on their short songs, and there are plenty of those here; but the three minute “Strangled Thought” that closes their half is equally vicious. Water Torture, by contrast, seems to take things slower. Their brand of body wracking, noisy sludge feels as fresh as ever, but by the end I felt myself wanting them to let loose more. The vocals are the most unhinged part but even they seem held back by the middling tempos and riffs that aren’t nearly as heavy as they should be. A bittersweet release, because as far as I know this is Water Torture’s swan song; but personally I am much more excited for where Stimulant goes next anyway.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a morning person. But one of the greatest things in life is waking up at a decent time, feeling well-rested and energized, while golden sunlight streams in your bedroom window and makes all the dust look like sparkles in the air. And if that unfortunately less-than-common occurrence was audible, it would probably sound a lot like Droomharmonium. It’s the newest album from Silvester Anfang member Glen Steenkiste under the Hellvete alias, a double CD full of warm, flowing drones largely produced by the titular instrument. To call these four long form pieces “beautiful” would be an understatement; they are something far beyond that. Droomharmonium rewards both active and passive listening, lush enough to sustain attention despite its simplicity and unintrusive enough to not be distracting. But I would recommend paying attention. Steenkiste has created music here that is truly heavenly, seraphic, celestial, other synonyms. I hope I’m not being too hyperbolic; Droomharmonium defies any less grandiose descriptions, and easily deserves all of the praise I have heaped upon it.
Territoryis “a soundtrack for an artwork containing nine images of street walls in Tokyo.” Fittingly, the album is entirely composed from sounds recorded on and around those streets; a fact I probably would never have guessed, considering that it is one of the most lush and melodic electronic albums I’ve heard this year. The heavily processed recordings are tuned, rearranged, and sculpted into enticingly beautiful compositions, that ebb and flow with just as much energy as the busy roads they came from. “Evidence,” one of the record’s most immediate pieces, displays the wide spectrum of elements Nonturn (Nozom Yoneda) utilizes, its sonic palette ranging from warbling melodic tones to recognizable clips of objects crashing onto the ground. And here is where the true power of Territory becomes apparent; the more you listen, the origins of the sounds become more apparent; rumbling bass from an idling car stereo, an engine being started, the scraping of tires against pavement, and even the barely audible chirping of birds can all be picked out with an attentive ear. Yoneda finds the delicate, perfect balance between the manipulated and the unaltered, making Territory as gorgeous and impactful as it could possibly be.
As a huge fan of The Holocene’s (PJ Hamlin) previous tape on Lugubrious Audio, Dead:Unearthed, it was tremendously exciting to see that the U. K. based sample virtuoso had another release. Thankfully, Yūreihas far surpassed expectations, and cements Hamlin as a modern titan of audio collage. The tape is a love letter to traditional Japanese ghost stories, and draws its source material from horror film VHS tapes and various vinyl records from the 70’s and 80’s. The result is a lush, hypnagogic opus full of dusty percussion clips, mysterious spoken word samples, and the warm crackles of the decaying media from which it was all lifted. Yūrei certainly retains much of the horror evocations present in the original material, but the fear it elicits is comforting; more like the nervous excitement one gets from hearing scary stories around a campfire rather than sheer visceral terror. And there’s also an ambiguity in atmosphere, a phenomenon common among albums with such sample-based methodology, but here it is such a mesmerizing companion to Hamlin’s cryptic sonic mishmashes. Yūrei succeeds in embodying both the allure and the danger of the supernatural, and is somehow pretty catchy along the way. Plus it’s capped off by one of the sweetest, most sublime closing tracks I’ve heard all year.
Bart De Paepe’s newest record Pagus Wasiaeis a swampy concoction of psychedelia and bubbling electronics. The atmosphere he creates is incredibly vivid. The cover art provides a great visual representation; the music is greenish and soggy, but with enough cohesion to prevent it from falling apart. It’s the sonic equivalent of sunlight trying to break through a thick canopy of trees; the sounds are muffled and distant, tantalizingly close but trapped behind a blanket of murkiness. That is, until moments like the beginning of “Alvinclarvord,” when a scorching, fuzzy, spaced out guitar breaks through, or the tendril-like synth modulations of closing track “Moerassen Van de Gouw.” This unpredictability is one of PagusWasiae‘s greatest strengths. It’s almost as if De Paepe mixed and stewed a multitude of sounds like ingredients in a Chinese hot pot, leaving the choice of which elements would dissolve or break apart and which would retain their original structure to be decided organically. This gives the record a pleasing whimsicality, with just enough variation to keep the listener engaged but not enough to be jarring. Pagus Wasiae was an awesome surprise, and so far it’s gotten progressively better with each listen.
Last night I went to the longest, most bad ass noise show I’ve ever been to. 13 acts played over the course of seven and a half hours, and every minute was awesome. If you missed out, have no fear; I’ve compiled an hour-long mix using short clips of each set. Enjoy.
Smisao Života Je Slobodais one of the most immersive wall noise releases I have heard in a long time. The entire tape runs just under an hour and a half, and though you’ll hear the same thing if you listen to each track for five minutes or their entire duration, this is music to truly get lost in. The first time I listened, I didn’t even plan to get through the whole thing, but found that the hypnotic, stagnant noise put me into a trance-like state. These walls are masterfully crafted, somehow revealing more elements as time progresses without actually changing at all. The static collages of textures are truly astounding, balancing bassy rumblings with lively electrical crackles, almost sounding like a gigantic mountain collapsing in on itself in slow motion. I often compare wall noise in general, and especially stuff like this, to a piece of visual art like a painting or sculpture; it doesn’t change no matter how long you observe it, but more its subtle details and facets become clear the longer you look. Dosis Letalis’ music is something really special; it actively takes a hold of me and doesn’t let go until the wall is over, and then somehow makes me want to listen again. Thankfully, Smisao Života Je Sloboda is no exception.
This is a collaboration that I did not see coming. Certainly, Grubbs and Unami are both accomplished guitarists, each having amassed a considerable catalog of work since the turn of the century; but for some reason seeing their names side by side is still odd to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I associate the two with vastly different styles of music – but as it happens, the musicians’ contrasting backgrounds are part of what makes Failed Celestial Creaturesso special. I can hear both Grubbs’ fantastic melodic ability and Unami’s textural, poetic phrasings here; but each seems to have adapted the other’s style into their own, and as a result the two guitars end up being two sides of the same coin rather than opposing forces. And oh man, is it beautiful. The guitars are untouched by invasive effects or manipulation, their clean, pure notes hanging in midair like sweet-smelling smoke before dissipating. Despite the limited palette, Failed Celestial Creatures never fails to captivate, even during the long title track. I was initially disappointed to hear vocals on “The Forest Dictation,” but even those were a welcome addition, fleshing out the vivid imagery somehow supplied by only two instruments. Many times throughout the album, you can almost visualize Grubbs and Unami making eye contact and slightly raising their guitars before striking a beautiful chord in fragile unison. It’s an astounding and intimate experience.
The album is available on most streaming services. Purchase the lossless digital files here. I was unable to find a link to a physical copy.
With Anthologie Der Abkehr, German newcomers Wallfahrer present a fantastic album of classic atmospheric black metal. No, there’s nothing particularly new here, but the throwback sound is done so well and with just enough originality that there’s nothing I could possibly complain about. Each track is unique without stepping too far from the other parts of the album, and each is over the listener is left with a sense of completeness and satisfaction – but also a burning anticipation for what comes next. Wallfahrer also displays an admirable ear for subtle melody, writing riffs I’d even call catchy but never compromising the atmospheric aspect. A prime example is “Wildes Heer (Epilog Des Herbstes),” which is built upon a number of earworms that prevent it from fading into the background, but the murky soup of effects and the distant howls prevent the melodies from taking over. The musicianship is stellar, the songwriting impeccable, the length perfect… I truly think this album could be appreciated by black metal purists and newcomers alike, and accomplishes the difficult task of simultaneously sounding like a blast from the past and a breath of fresh air.