Review: Zebra Mu – Tape Horn Sick (self-released, Aug 10)

With his Zebra Mu project, UK artist Michael Ridge has mastered the bite-sized harsh noise release. His comprehensive Bandcamp page additionally lists releases under his own name and Dial-Up Summer Breeze, as well as one of most stacked personal recommendation sections I’ve seen so far—AMK, Zherbin, and Duncan Harrison!—but Zebra Mu consistently remains my favorite of his work, with superbly crafted short bursts like Psychic Ditch and Repeating Metal Repeated / Flexi Tray Twitch drowning out many a quite spare moment. Tape Horn Sick is the latest offering, an extremely limited run of tapes packaged in medical-grade “sick bags” that house just under five minutes of blasting, droning, just-on-the-edge-of-tonal harsh noise chunks tempered by high-pitched circuit squall and heavily distorted yells that emerge like a horde of gibbering, mud-covered creatures climbing out of a sewer to claim our clean, above-ground world. Over the course of the short duration of “Make Me,” the limited yet muscular sonic palette rises to nigh-unbearable tension levels before cutting out quite unceremoniously, the brutal inertia sending us sailing headfirst into the burbling surreal gunk of “Sck.” Tape Horn Sick is endlessly replayable, and not just because of its digestible size—it’s like a full course meal condensed into a tiny pill capsule—but also because it’s a prime example, of how to make two-halved releases thoroughly engaging.