Review: Systems. – Forced Growth (Powder Recordings, May 2)

It’s not often that I review two releases from the same label this close together. But in the case of Forced Growth, the new tape from Systems. (also known as Harrison Phillis), and Sterile Garden’s Events Without Reference, not only are both albums fantastic but I also found myself drawing connections between the observations I made about each. The latter, though fragmented and schizophrenic in structure, sticks to a more reserved sonic palette and volume level, Forced Growth tears through cut-up tape collages and distorted nature recordings with blasts of chunky harsh noise. Overwhelming and disorienting in its restlessness, the album refuses to maintain any particular sound for an extended period of time, even seeming to forcefully hack them apart and wrench the mangled pieces away. “Substantial Rule” is a great example of how Phillis gives his pieces identity and atmosphere without much restraint or audible patience; the recurring appearance of the distorted voice samples establishes continuity while the more abrasive assaults roar, contort, and disintegrate atop it all. Forced Growth is an ideal combination of merciless mordancy with a palpable sense of composition and purpose.