Review: Coma Winds – Fuoco (Abhorrent A.D., Jan 13)

The jagged, caustic hills and valleys of noise that comprise Fuoco are sourced entirely from “raw amateur home footage of severe weather,” the recordings deformed into textural chunks of distortion via analog effects. I’d imagine almost every aspiring “noise musician” tries a similar thing at some point, simply layering a few digital plugins or physical pedal chains over an innocuous stem, but it doesn’t usually result in something very compelling—any actual noise generated by the process is often weak and lifeless, for example, and what are enjoyable dynamics for an unprocessed sound piece or event may not translate. Coma Winds, the new solo project from Abhorrent A.D. operator Branden Diven, both does and doesn’t acknowledge such a “lazy” approach. There’s clearly more considered compositional work that’s gone into this, but at the same time many aspects still feel messy, imperfect, even unintentional. This is a good thing, for the unique character of Diven’s base sonic materials is somewhat retained; while some stretches have been sculpted into loud, churning crackle chaos indistinguishable from any recognizable “severe weather” phenomenon, we also hear rain falling with changing force, trees cracking and falling, and even verbal reactions from the individuals filming. This last element is one of the most interesting things about Fuoco: the startling and humorous exclamations that parse the muck on the A side function in a very similar way to the vocals in power electronics music, albeit more novel and self-aware (and somehow less ridiculous).

Review: Plants – Tapes 2014-2015 (Hemlock Garden, Jan 11)

The nearly two hours of music collected on Tapes 2014-2015, like the digital release’s black-and-white cover scan of a time-weathered medievalesque tapestry, is deeply artifactual. Like finding old, unfamiliar words carved on the underside of a massive boulder that haven’t seen the sky for centuries or stumbling over mossy old gravestones with long-obscured engravings strewn throughout the drooping, darkly verdant forest, each track—each soft, seraphic stream of faintly ritualistic cavern-drone steeped in sunlight—is a discovery. The dusty and delicate “From the Sky” is a sublime ode to the forgotten, both intimate and widely historical, its languid, interweaving currents of meditative vocalization, ephemeral rustle, and subterranean serenity evoking the sound of spirit song heard from just beyond the veil. Some of the pieces are moodier and more nocturnal, while others (particularly several segments of the aptly-titled “Sun”) are as pure and golden as the original “leak in the floorboards of heaven,” Folke Rabe’s eternal “What??”; but all are enrapturingly beautiful in their own ways, which is probably a good thing considering the compilation is so long (despite not really feeling like it). Music to slowly sink into.

Review: Gemengung – E.O.T.F. (Black Artifact, Jan 8)

Anyone with even a little knowledge of my taste probably knows that I have thing for music that sounds lifeless; i.e. lazy, superfluous, vestigial, just-sort-of-there, etc., but artfully so. This can obviously adopt many forms, and while I mainly value the harsh noise genre for its visceral immediacy and assaulting abrasion, there’s a particular atmosphere that’s evoked by artists like Blod, Manure Movers of of America, and others (see my Psychedelic Slabs mix) who conjure swamps of feedback and distortion that are better metaphorized as sooty smoke or distant, murky junkyard bustle rather than the sharp, violent images brought to mind by more traditionally vicious music. Gemengung’s E.O.T.F., one of three tapes in the inaugural batch from new Texas label Black Artifact, is savage and searing on paper, and the noise itself is certainly quite caustic, but the overall presence of the sound is more reminiscent of a homogeneous dead-air FM transmission, giving it an essence of subtle but ignorable passivity. This is in large part due to the central concept of the release: each track is the result of a crudely granular dissection and then successive reassemblage of each of the nine songs on Suffocation’s landmark LP Effigy of the Forgotten. Once one is aware of this it’s not difficult to hear the battered remnants of the originals—mostly fragments of the unmistakable sounds of pig squeal vocals. Much like Dave Phillips’s work of haphazard sonic surgery Hermeneutics of Fear of God, the dismantling and disembodying of the source material both malforms and depletes its extremity; E.O.T.F. is an especially compelling case because of how comprehensively malformed that extremity is.

Review: Bacchus – Bacchus (Solar Asceticists Productions, Jan 10)

You may remember my brief treatise a month or so ago on the subset of black metal I call “void worship.” But there’s a different kind of despair that can be conveyed via blast beats, distortion, and howls: that of the Earth. The primordial mysteries of the occult, unspeakable sacrifices in the name of even more unspeakable deities, the unknown that still lurks beyond the frontier of civilization, etc. It’s one thing to make “ritual music,” but it’s quite another to make music that actually feels ritualistic—i.e., as if something well outside the realm of both your perception and your understanding is occurring, and as the passive participant one is forced to embrace whatever obscure divine catharsis can be gleaned. Bacchus, the self-titled debut from this new French band, doesn’t have the darkly meditative tribal rhythms of Ruins of Beverast, the organic uncanniness of Murmuüre, or the collective spiritual grit of Zeal & Ardor, but what it does have is the beautifully wispy form of multi-colored smoke rising from flaming herbs, a cloud of sublime soot rising toward the sky with soaring moans and epic arrangements. I’m not usually one for the shouted vocal style in this genre, but the low growls, desperate recitations, and fast-fading bellows of Sébastien B. feel right at home amidst the reasonably clean production, which allows the ambitious dynamics and climaxes to really shine. One of those debut records that sounds more like a more refined second or even third effort.

Review: Loxe – Prosa Poética (self-released, Jan 10)

When I left the Lightning Bolt show I attended at Cleveland’s Grog Shop (opened by Aaron Dilloway) in 2018, I was holding half of a splintered drumstick and had more than a few drops of blood that didn’t belong to me on my shirt—just a few clues as to the kind of hell the Brians raise. No, it wasn’t my blood, but it definitely could have been, because for several songs near the beginning of the set I was right up against the stage, just inches from the razor sharp edge of Chippendale’s battered cymbal (several of his had chunks taken out, can’t remember how jagged this one was) which several times came close to giving me at best a nasty case of tetanus and at worst a facial rearrangement. But memories like this remind us that violence—the controlled, consented-to kind that is—is a crucial element of the catharsis that live performances of extreme music provide, not just in the actions of the crowd but in the playing of the music itself. What a powerful thing it would be to successfully recreate that dangerous physicality in a studio recording, right? Some records have, but the unhinged, unpredictable volatility of being a physical witness is often obscured. Loxe, a new band from Tokyo, lays waste to this challenge with the brutally abrasive approach they took to recording their debut album Prosa Poética, which allows the guitars to not just chug, but pound; the already filthy-sounding harsh vocals to resemble someone coughing up blood and bits of metal; the cymbals to assail the ears with junkyard blade sharpness. There’s little to do other than close your eyes and enjoy the sensation of being crushed; like fellow Japanese shredders Friendship, the music has the same punishing, overwhelming force whether it’s blasting at full speed like a turret-mounted machine gun or beating the floor with merciless sludge breakdowns. Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that Loxe appears to have formed during a time when crowded pits aren’t exactly a possibility, especially in their country; I don’t think I even want to know what they can stir up.

Mix: Next Generation Leeders

My attempt to survey the variegated Leeds noise rock “scene” from the other side of the Atlantic (and as such no one, I repeat, no one, is more qualified to do so). Everything from barely rhythmic shit-fi free skronk to tight, claustrophobic, angular constructions. With the wide range of genres and influences also comes significant variance in production styles; I did my best to get all the tracks to be the same volume, but shit’s difficult.

Cattle

00:00. Belk – “Cows” from Belk (self-released, 2020)

02:42. Thank – “Fragile Ego” from Sexghost Hellscape (Cruel Nature, 2017)

06:09. Klöße – “Sent Home with a Puzzle” from Klöße (self-released, 2020)

11:27. Guttersnipe – “Pipa Pipa Portalspawn” from My Mother the Vent (Upset the Rhythm, 2018)

14:16. Cattle – “Tanking the Piss” from Nature’s Champion (self-released, 2016)

18:47. Irk – “Spectre at the Fiesta” from Recipes from the Bible (self-released, 2018)

21:36. Blacklisters – “Fantastic Man” from Fantastic Man (Buzzhowl, 2020)

25:39. Hookworms – “Away / Towards” from Pearl Mystic (Gringo, 2013)

34:11. Cool Jerks – “Eh” from England (Night Versus Day, 2020)

37:02. Polevaulter – “Ra” single (self-released, 2020)

Review: ცოდნის მფლობელები – ყოველდღიური რჩევები (Gates of Hypnos, Jan 4)

Do you ever stay up way too late and run out of things to do before you’re tired enough to go bed so you just sort of sit in the darkness and dissociate, all the slight sounds of the dead world around you sort of blurring into one dull roar? The static noise of Georgian project ცოდნის მფლობელები is the perfect music for that situation. ყოველდღიური რჩევები, the second release from the mysterious artist whose moniker loosely translates to “knowledge holders,” is a 25-minute slab of oppressive nocturnal sludge composed of that murky, lo-fi distortion pedal rumble that makes me nostalgic for bad rips of old Taskmaster or Werewolf Jerusalem tapes and a barely perceptible layer of muffled voices that adds a subtle current of paranoia. It’s one of those walls that truly “imprisons” you, but not in any startling or alarming way; instead it slowly and patiently creeps over its victims like a giant mud-amoeba, hiding its true nature until the prey is warmly swathed in trash-goo and can be safely incapacitated (think of the orcs digging up the Uruk-Hai like horrible writhing turnips in the first LOTR movie). John Cage loved the sound of traffic; this is the sound of traffic while you’re buried below the bustling street or smeared across the side of the sewer over which countless cars and pedestrians pass every day. Immured interiority paired with a tantalizing yet ultimately inaccessible promise of externality.

Review: Luxury Mollusc – DEFENCELESS RECIPIENT OF OVERTURES (Full Logic Control Recordings, Jan 1)

DEFENCELESS RECIPIENT OF OVERTURES (by the way, you have to pronounce this by shouting it; that’s not always true for all-caps titles but it is for this one. I don’t make the rules) doesn’t lay all its cards on the table until about two-thirds of the way through its first track, part one of “CAULDRON.” Up until then all the shredded concrete crackle and washes of feedback are shrouded beneath a sickly membrane, bubbling up taut against the slimy skin of this Jello-shell but not quite breaking through. That is, until around the three-and-a-half-minute mark, when a finally successful materialization of all the false teasing crescendos that sputtered and died before rips through the mix with overwhelming volume and harrowing unhingedness. It’s difficult to tell for sure whether or not there are vocals buried beneath this hideous, rusty chain-link tapestry of noise (although there is a brief bit of what is almost certainly speech at the beginning of “ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE INCREASING COST OF FUNERALS”), but whether literal or otherwise the end of “CAULDRON PART 1” is for all intents and purposes a scream—the desperate, agonized, reality-tearing scream of someone being submerged in molten metal. Overall, this new tape in the relatively small discography of long-running Irish project Luxury Mollusc remains reticent with its all-out abrasion, electing to keep a grease-soaked boot planted firmly in the atmospheric, which gives listeners the gift of vicious harshness drenched in softness, echo, and open space—like a much dirtier backyard-shed version of Love & Noise.

Review: readymade music (for listening) – perfect music (audio) & for making (self-released, Jan 2)

Would it be possible to find a more fitting artist for my return to regular reviews than Calgary newcomers readymade music (for listening)? I mean, these guys must get right down to business—their efficiency is promised right there in the name. And in fact they sample the Bachman-Turner Overdrive song “Taking Care of Business” in “taking business man turns to take care to take care,” along with cameo appearances by several other songs you’ve heard way too many damn times: “Jump,” the infamous “Bitter Sweet Symphony” sample, a two-second micro-blast of “My Sharona,” absent-minded humming of “Ice Ice Baby,” and a half complete piracy half “creative” reimagining of “Seven Nation Army” on “seven black and white people” that made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. perfect music (audio) is the true debut work by the duo of artists known only as Andy and Shamus, a less than six-minute digital release that includes all of these cuts of irreverent dada pop-culture corruption and sloppy basement recording jams, each flitting by at lightning speed to compensate for the duo’s scattershot attention span. readymade music (for listening) has the hyperactive and deconstructive tendencies of boio™ but is both bolstered and bogged down by commodification, tedium, and triviality. Thankfully, those of us without such talent for cutting cultural critique are given a fast and easy solution: for making, a companion album that very helpfully provides two inspirational speeches and backing tracks (which are essentially just all of the pop songs borrowed for perfect music without the band’s contributions) for budding musicians looking to cut their teeth on what the real pros play. The second track even has a metronome for those struggling to keep up. Ring in 2021 with probably the most annoying shit you’ll hear all year!