Review: Condo Horro – Thin Red Line (Fall Into Void, Oct 13)

There are very few noise artists that provide a double-dose of eclecticism and quality across their various projects at the same intensity as Peter Keller. The Seattle stalwart has previously graced the pages of Noise Not Music with his wildly disparate Bacillus and Dirac Sea outlets (the former is focused on brash, dirty, abrasive harsh noise with themes of disease and contagion, while the latter transposes wall noise textures to a realm of infinite cosmic beauty), but until now I was unfamiliar with Condo Horro, another wall alias that seems to be almost entirely focused on examining themes of gentrification, segregation, redlining, and other forms of the grotesque racism that plagues urban planning to this day. The ambitious Thin Red Line box set has nothing to do with Terrence Malick’s 1998 war-epic and everything to do with the titular process, which is directly defined on the cover of the release as “the systematic denial of services by government agencies and commercial institutions to residents of black [sic] and other minority neighborhoods or communities.” As we’ve seen from the past decade alone, the relatively restrictive conventions of the wall noise genre have paradoxically allowed a level of diversity and creativity to flourish among artists who work with them, and this release is just another example of those curious and fascinating implications. Conceptually, Thin Red Line couldn’t be more direct—the cover features a planning map of Dayton, OH (a city not too far from me, actually, and what I think may be Keller’s home town), the aforementioned definition, and heavily expository track titles—but the same directness doesn’t seem to be present in the relationship between that concept and the music. At least, not at first. But just like the countless Dirac Sea albums I’ve heard, these walls take time to fully unfurl, time that often extends beyond their actual run times. The opening two tracks on the C10 blast with incendiary fury, while the following pair on the C30 draw back a bit, eventually revealing that they are not at all homogeneous, instead borrowing a linearity of progression from the field recordings that are subtly incorporated, occasional artifacts buried in the outskirts of the stereo field constantly expanding the breadth of the seething static. “Legacy of Racial Deeds and Covenants” is almost achingly stagnant and detached, a consuming yet understated portrayal of the ever-unutterable, while closer “Exclusionary Real Estate Development” combines punishing distortion with a profound emptiness that stubbornly refuses to be filled. Such an abstractly symbiotic relationship between concept and content is what makes Condo Horro, and Keller’s work in general, as magnetic and valuable as it is.

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