Review: Giant Monsters – All Out Destruction (Glossolalia, Jun 5)

Giant Monsters is a newly formed project consisting of accomplished noise artists Roger H. Smith (Chefkirk) and Paul Dever/DVR (Griz+zlor), a dual-manned machine of unrelenting noise generation that worships both high volume and kaiju, the massive sci-fi heavyweights of classic Japanese cinema. On All Out Destruction, Giant Monsters’ debut release, the dense battlegrounds of abrasive sonic waste that the duo carves out largely reside on the more digital side of things, thick layers of sharp static and caustic distortion rather than meaty pedal manipulation and screeching microphone feedback, but none of the visceral aggression that comes so naturally with the latter technique is sacrificed; after a very brief introduction of disjointed electronic wreckage and various bite-sized crunch/bleep episodes, the punishing initial punch of “II” is there to scorch the Earth. These tracks are great because they seem to progress with even less dynamism than standard longform “wallish” harsh noise, electing instead to make use of a more contemporary approach to compositional stagnancy, with persistent textural currents offering consistent presences in each of the three longer pieces. Another great thing that happens on All Out Destruction is that over the course of the tracks, especially on “III,” the threshold of extremity often seems to move instantaneously like a function approaching its asymptote: near the eight-minute mark, what were once just high-pitched frequencies amidst the mass of chaos become hypnotic rhythmic slices, pinched like the noise a CRT makes when you turn it off. Gradualness is the game in the case of “IV,” however; the track starts off unassumingly enough and becomes a screeching, flailing beast of noise by the end. A superb and sufficiently brainy release for the new age.

Review: Konakon – .dots (Retrac Recordings, Jun 5)

When complex musical works are produced with befuddlingly simple and explicitly stated approaches, it makes my job more difficult because then I’m not off the hook for not describing what’s actually going on; I can’t turn to listing novel techniques or speculating about the mysterious host of materials used to avoid doing the heavy lifting when, as in the case of .dots, the release’s humble sources are laid so bare: “a tuneless piano and a random signal generator.” Turning to truly face the actual content of this cotton-candy packaged delight from Matteo Berghenti’s project Konakon, rather than just letting its sharp, saccharine fidgets wash over you, is an intimidating task, because despite Berghenti’s tendency to turn toward more conventional electronic idioms in crafting this music, .dots is pretty damn odd. The piano that’s used is, as the doctor ordered, quite tuneless; any harmonically pure chords that are played are soon transformed into dissonance by a disconcertingly offset extension, while in some tracks like “.06” one can barely discern the presence of a piano at all. The album seems to hover in and around a gossamer partition between tactile and artificial sound synthesis, thought it certainly drifts more toward the latter as it progresses, culminating in the lethargic digital haze of “.07” and spidery chaos of “.08.” Would .dots still be such a fascinating release even if its origins weren’t so pleasingly minimal? Probably. Does it help? Definitely.

Review: Other Plastics – Overtime Liquor (Creative Sources Recordings, Jun 1)

“Overtime Liquor will make you sloppy. It will make you unruly and no doubt will take you out of your head. Drinks on us.”

Other Plastics, the duo of NYC artists Hunter Brown and Dominic Coles, embody a continuation of irreverent, DIY-focused actors in the 21st-century improvised music scene like Joe Foster & Bonnie Jones (English), GOD, or Cremaster into the new decade with their debut release Overtime Liquor. Like these artists, Brown and Cole refract spontaneous actions through an arsenal of repurposed electronics, which may include anything from laptops and complex synthesizer routings to messes of frayed cords and broken-open devices. Opener “Dommy Speaks,” in a short and raucous flurry, displays the distinct palette of artificial emission and erroneous electrical chaos with which they will be working over the eight successive tracks; the austere blasts of caustic digital noise and budget sine tones are certainly in a similar vein as the work of other more “academic” electroacoustic improvisers, but there’s always a unique freedom to Overtime Liquor, a barely audible but persistent whisper of anything goes beneath the plastic folds. I find it difficult to accurately express what I so intensely enjoy about this album without sounding insulting (although I’m sure these adventurous musicians will understand). There’s this… not cheapness, to the music, but a sense that the artists don’t discriminate between the sounds they generate, an implicit marriage of indeterminacy and improvisation that can only come from the use of such haphazard materials. It’s like Voice Crack; I often feel like I’m more listening to a humble experiment than a considered interaction. And that’s what makes this album so uniquely infectious.

Review: Axis of Light – Axis of Light (Pristine Blight, Jun 1)

After nearly four years of silence since 2016’s Northern Ascendancy 7″ (which, similar to a previously mentioned Maquahuitl album, is thankfully not a lead-in to hideous white nationalism), DIY black metal duo Axis of Light returns with their first full-length release. The self-titled cassette (physical copies are forthcoming from Pristine Blight) is a cathartic and invigorating dose of raw melodic magic. Much of the low- to mid- end has been either scooped out or disregarded entirely, leaving the razor-sharp remnants to reach for the heavens, crunchy major key tremolo and barely audible blasting creating a luminescent current of exultation. While all of the instrumentals are provided by one half of the duo, T.L., the other, A.B., handles all vocal duties, channeling every ounce of their energy into achingly affecting shrieks that tug and tear at the confines of their low-fidelity capture. The immediately affecting emotion and reverent dedication to the craft present on Axis of Light reminds me of other raw, high-energy triumphs like Graveflowers’ The Hyacinth Garden or even Nattens Madrigal, and I would say only with slight hesitance that it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with both.

Review: Tom Soloveitzik – Air 2011 (Hedim, Jun 1)

Tom Soloveitzik’s Air 2011 is an ode to human insignificance, a love letter to the cosmic confusions that rock us every day, a deconstructive distortion of time and space. The recordings were precipitated after a strange experience Soloveitzik had upon returning home to London, in which he “was thrown back to the memories of moments and sounds from [his] first stay, as if [his] personal timeline had shrunk and time had folded into itself.” Shrinking and folding are just two ways to describe the forcefully structural actions Soloveitzik performs on his sound materials, which largely consist of an arsenal of saxophones and portable recorders. Brief opener “Two Jets Over Tahrir square” works with a Seth Cooke-like polarity of external exhalation and interior electronics, while “B-Park Blues (for Toshiya Tsunoda)” echoes works by the title-honored artist such as Snared 60 Cuts or Ridge of Undulation as a closely recorded noteless saxophone breath mimics claustrophobic urban wind currents atop the spacious sonic environment of an outdoor park. The disparate and opposite are forcibly affixed to each other, creating stubborn paradoxes while our minds attempt to reconcile yawning gaps in the physicality of the recording: the dark, bottomless, uncrossable chasms between our selves and the universe.

Review: Kommodus – Kommodus (self-released, May 29)

I recently read something in one of Bandcamp Daily’s This Week’s Essential Releases columns that really struck me as inaccurate: the claim (in the context of I and I by A Pregnant Light) that “the vast field of one-person black metal bands isn’t exactly known for experimentation.” In my experience, some of the most subversive and unusual material I’ve encountered in this genre has been generated by solo projects, from the solitary woodland blackgaze of Petrychor or innovative folk-music substitution of Kaatayra to the abrasive nocturnal misery of La Torture Des Ténèbres or power-noise mayhem of Gnaw Their Tongues. One-person acts display a unique trend of reverence to the black metal tradition while allowing for diversity and adventurousness, something exemplified by the recent self-titled release from Lepidus Plague’s Kommodus. With a rich tape recording by “Count Hoggeth Palmeri” and contributions from the “Kommodus horde” (which apparently includes Burier, a Noise Not Music favorite), Kommodus is the first full-length studio album from the project, stuffing its ample 63-minute duration full of incendiary riffs desperate howls, and punishing brutality. Things start off innocuously enough with the short “Black Evangelion” introduction, but Plague soon displays the viciousness in store for listeners on the following “Where Iron and Blood Converge,” a lengthy and punishing track whose heavy-hitting rhythms draw from both hardcore and thrash. The group vocals really add an important angle too, evoking the howling winds that swirl around desolate mountaintops or the echoes of agony from distant hells on “Heir to the Line of Wolves.” An excellent release; nothing shockingly revolutionary, but certainly still more than “turn[ing] the treble way up, turn[ing] the bass way down, press[ing] record and sound[ing] demonic.”

Review: Annina Boogen – Operation Beton (self-released, May 25)

A note from Jack: After four straight days of protesting I am exhausted, badly sunburnt, and still aching for the injustices experienced by my Black neighbors and those who stand in solidarity with them. I am resting today for my own health and I feel a need to return to some semblance of my routine, so for now I’ll be back to publishing reviews. Know that my head, heart, and soul are always with my fellow Americans.

With a world in nigh-unprecedented turmoil, creative works that deal in immersive escapism are more valuable than ever. Water sounds aren’t everyone’s bag when it comes to phonography, but I’m not sure even those listeners will be bothered by the 26-minute recording that comprises a significant portion of Annina Boogen’s “synthesis report” for her Operation Beton project, which “deals with the relation of energy infrastructure and its surroundings, the alpine landscape.” Boogen used a variety of collection approaches to acquiring information and understanding of this relationship, from the use of hydrophones and standard mics to gathering relevant “image and text material.” The latter are presented in a booklet that is not available on the Bandcamp page, but the LP recording offers up more than enough opportunity for thoughtful consideration as it gently moves from trickling water currents to clattering flagpoles and distant conversations. The progression throughout the A side seems to perfectly encapsulate the purpose of the project as the detailed, mechanical interiority of the dam recordings give way to the openness of the countryside.