Review: Sterile Garden – Events Without Reference (Powder Recordings, Apr 25)

Events Without Reference is restless and impatient in a very similar manner to many spastic harsh noise records, but the sounds that Jacob Deraadt, who releases music as Sterile Garden, makes use of are not nearly as brash or abrasive. Up until the final two, the tracks feel like disjointed sketches of decaying textures, the disconcerting sonorities of crumbling caves and abandoned factories carefully scraped off the walls and glued onto woozy tape loops and synth piddles. This scattered structure is not a weakness for Events Without Reference; the skittering vignettes construct a palpable atmosphere without staying in the same place for too long or avoiding new sounds in order to expand upon a certain combination. As a result, the tape has a presence far beyond its muffled, fuzzy, diminutive sounds, tracing the ghostly outline of a sound-world that’s fragile but formidable. And when “Crisis of Belief,” the longest track at seven minutes, hits, its much more lethargic progression is a welcome detour, slowly scraping and skulking along a concrete floor and dragging any debris it collects along with it. Deraadt’s delicate, dusty sonic palette is often one of frailty and weakness, full of sounds that feel like they could fall apart at any moment, but as exemplified by “Cynics Prayer,” those often result in some really beautiful moments.