Review: Damien De Coene – The Present Is a Hostile Place (Geräuschmanufaktur, Oct 7)

The HNW series of Jan Warnke’s Geräuschmanufaktur label has been regularly churning out tapes filled with some of the most innovative work in the genre. Most releases have a unique approach or style that it explores (e.g. Constructionis, which I reviewed here a few months ago, and 2017’s Clavilis Muri, which pairs dark static with piano). But none have hit me in the way that Damien De Coene’s tape The Present Is a Hostile Place did. Loneliness, whether meditative solitude or aching desolation, is a feeling frequently elicited by wall artists, but “Homesick Orphan” makes me feel completely isolated, like I am in a dark hole by myself and can barely make out the things passing overhead. This profound stifling is accomplished through the masterful use of stereo space; amidst the crackles — which on the left crumble into a deep, earthy rumble and on the right stay in a higher range — is a gaping hole, a complete absence of sound that calls as much attention to itself as the noise beside it, a physically oppressive darkness. “The Benefits of Destructive Behavior,” beginning with an odd synth sample, adopts largely the same structure, but with enough variation that it is distinct yet just as hypnotic, along with some muffled glitches that subtly disrupt and distort the wall. The Present Is a Hostile Place will put you into a trance; the 60 minutes feel so much shorter, and at the end it’s like stepping out of a pitch black cave into the sunlight.

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