Review: Filter Body – Filter Body 2 (218, Sep 13)

What is a podcast? It doesn’t seem like too elusive of a classification, but even if hard pressed I’m not sure what definition I would give; for me, at least, it seems easier to simply determine what is or isn’t a podcast. And, despite it being tagged as such on Bandcamp—even offering the playback-speed change option exclusive to “non-musical” content—I imagine most podcast listeners would deny Filter Body’s claim. Though the spoken elements (conveyed close to the microphone with breathy, mouth sound–filled intimacy) are certainly among its most conspicuous ingredients, the majority of “Cactus Hotel,” the sole track that comprises the duo of Patrick Totally and Agate Flow’s sophomore release, is entirely without words and speech. There are warbling synthesizers, snatches of quotidian field recordings, agile glitch contortions, endorsements, broken beats, and many other abstractions framing the central narrative of the speaker’s specific memory, so much so to the point that they surpass being a “frame” and instead have clawed their way onto equal footing with actual intelligible language: and so, sure, “podcast” it is. Another salient feature is the squeaking dog toy that occupies much of the piece’s duration, ironically one of the most stable currents threaded throughout, as many of the others are constantly marred by jarring cuts and comminglings. Narratively, it makes little sense as a whole, but if you know me at all you can probably guess that’s what I love about it, because that “little” bit is impossibly fulfilling and addictive.

Review: Chuy – Chuy (PresserNoise, Sep 13)

From the San Gabriel Valley in California flows this sludgy, sprawling mess of slipshod tabletop noise that, for all of its sluggish loop orchestras and mucked-up exhumed melodies and sleazy static, makes me feel alive. Though Jesus Gomez is far from the first Jesus to go by the more concise nickname Chuy, this seems to be the first release from him under the moniker; since the material included on this self-titled cassette was recorded back in May 2020, the pandemic may have been a hindrance to getting the project off the ground. Regardless of where or how the artist is now, this is an exhilarating an ambitious inaugural statement, and throughout its nearly 80 minutes I consistently feel the familiar regret of not being able to witness it being tracked live. Each of the half-slabs are in turn roughly hewn into two parts of 17-19 minutes each, but the divisions feel pretty arbitrary—and I like that they do, because it feeds even more into the entertaining sense of deliberation and fluidity with which Gomez performed this set. Despite the length, his (presumably) spontaneous compositions don’t fall into episodic territory—i.e., the artist simply working through all of their soundmaking tools in a dull, linear way, which I’ve unfortunately witnessed more than a few times—but instead organically swell and swarm from stew to stew, each one a dense, steaming jumble of a little bit of everything amplified to the max. A spectacularly swampy adventure well worth your precious time.

Review: Unk – Attempts to Bend and Capture Frequencies from the Old Otherworlds (Liquid Library, Sep 10)

Any kind of “paranormal investigation” through auditory art will always interest me, as will self-described “attempts” at pretty much anything—I have a soft spot for humility, failure, and preferably both at once in a musical context. Based on the haunting forces immortalized by Attempts to Bend and Capture Frequencies from the Old Otherworlds, however, it seems like the reclusive Unk (a.k.a. Hans Lo of More Surgery) may actually have succeeded in their ostensibly impossible task. Traveling to “specific sites [known] for their potential sonic anomalies and spiritual histories” throughout Cornwall, England—“college ruins in Penryn, Kennall Vale in Ponsanooth, and Halliggye Fogou in Helston”—Lo recorded the playback of simple electronic drone devices in harmony with the murk and mutter of the surrounding area: wheezes of wind, spectral rustlings, thumps and bumps in the night. In the opening triptych of “College Conjuring” pieces, tense, strained feedback strands seep and hiss from cleaved cobblestone like buzzing locust phantoms, while “Helston Hallows – Layby Dry Cows 004” begins so quietly it can barely be heard at baseline volume before ravaged, shrieking spirit-echoes pierce the corporeal. I was excited to see that the “Ghillie Wrapped Halliggye” tracks feature a “droning contraption” that adds a pleasant incessance like the familiar but never quite normal sound of a malfunctioning home appliance, but my clear favorite ended up being the closing “Summon Me Hither – Twilight Still 001,” a darkly gorgeous and meditative final statement. Especially in this last track, there are important messages for you from those who have already passed on… listen closely.

Review: djdillydrops – Digital Ghouls (Grink Collective, Sep 8)

I review a lot of bizarre shit on this website, but some releases, even in the context of this already obscure subset of music, seem to bellow “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair” with feeling. Digital Ghouls is certainly one of those, complete with a cover collage of a Little Caesars ad, Windows XP dropdown menus, and low-res images of Michelangelo the turtle, a dildo, and a flip phone; an overpriced and extremely limited physical cassette edition called the Special “Michael” Bootleg; typo-ridden track titles; and some of the most brutal, irreverent digital harsh noise one could ever hear. djdillydrops disregards the cut-up, unpredictable volatility that often comes packaged with computer- or code-based approaches and instead opts for an all-out assault of endlessly layered stems of raw data, most likely sourced from images and other incompatible filetypes run through a DAW. Fittingly, the introductory “Bitch” is perhaps the short release’s most intense track, finding little footing in any sort of bass register yet to optimize the causticity of the slicing, stabbing static plumed to perfection throughout the expanse of the high-end. “Swallow the LaCroix” offers somewhat of a relative respite in the form of chunkier, less shrill glitch-murk, approaching the kinetic pseudo-physicality of some of Gintas K’s work. All in all it’s incredible, and probably the most inappropriate thing I could be listening to while surrounded by trees, greenery, and wildlife… all hail the Grink.

Review: Accoutrements – Palm (self-released, Sep 8)

Depending on who you ask, Palm might be the closest one can possibly get to “ambient done right”; among other things, it’s quite upfront about the fact that “[n]o synthesizers were used in any of the productions,” something that’s revealed before the play button is even pressed. I’m here to write about an album, though, not petulantly dunk on the lowest-hanging fruits of the electronic music world, so no more A-word, I promise. But regardless of what specific genre you ascribe to it, this homemade debut tape from Portland project Accoutrements deals heavy in ambience, sometimes as hazy and diaphanous as a cloudy, breezy day and other times veering toward heavier territory with industrial crumble or sluggish noise. The vow of a synth-free affair is faithfully kept, but that doesn’t mean notes and harmonies and the like are just discarded; instead, they emerge from the cracks and creases between the atonal slabs of mechanical shuffling and aquatic analog-delay ripples, bubbling up and out like sweet steaming sap from a tapped trunk. The sublime mixture is perhaps at its best in the third part, when creaking, clattering rustles that may or may not have originated in the groaning sways of the titular trees loosely frame the earnest swell of an alternating ghost-note loop. The concluding section and its delicate timbral juxtapositions give even that a run for its money, though, and I’m helplessly obsessed with the almost alarm-like tonal drones that thread through its murky mass. True to the continuity that ties the four separate tracks together, each side of the physical C90 edition plays the album in full (and by the way, if anyone reading this has ever made a one-sided tape that doesn’t repeat the program on both sides, you SUCK). Only four copies left—don’t miss out!

Mix: Teeth on Tinfoil

Last one too tame for you? Have no fear. This bite-sized dose of the absolute harshest that harsh noise of all kinds has to offer will set you straight.

00:00. Goottama – “Every Difficulty Slurred Over Will Be a Ghost to Disturb Your Repose Later on” from Cut Off (self-released, 2021)

00:46. nkondi – tenth untitled track from Popfailure (dollfullofrivets, 2005)

02:31. Beautyon – 12th untitled track from No02 (Irdial Discs, 1997)

02:50. dehors – seventh untitled track from The Black Metal Mixtape (Seminal, 2016)

05:12. Lettera 22 – third untitled track from Lack of Attention (Ljud & Bild Produktion, 2011)

05:33. Total Mom – “Uncomfortable” from We Fed the Pig My Music (No Rent, 2018)

07:43. LHD – first untitled track from Curtains (Troniks, 2004)

08:50. Yataghan – “Trash I” from Funeral (Shrouded Recordings, 2021)

10:22. Halflings – “Taint” from Halflings (self-released, 2006)

11:44. T.E.F. – ninth untitled track from Symptomatic Harbinger (Harshnoise, 2003)

12:13. Kiley Minoise – “SpreeVSteal” from Spank-Magic Lodge (Kovorox Sound, 2006)

13:59. Daniel Iván Bruno – “Chiozza” from Brazo (TVL, 2021)

15:19. Polly Velvet – “Scaling” from Stomatology (self-released, 2020)

16:15. Greathumour – “if (window != top.location.href = location.href; if(window.screen){ self.moveTo(0,0); self.resizeTo(screen.width ,screen.height); self.focus(); }” from Choose the Obsolete (Tribe Tapes, 2020)

17:06. Rose Sobchak – ninth untitled track from Untitled (Heart-Shaped Box, 2019)

17:24. Venta Protesix – second untitled track from Existential Dread Simulator (urbsounds, 2020)

Review: Death Glaze – Despair in the Gutter I (self-released, Sep 3)

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see yet another wall noise album at the top of this page. At this point 2021 seems fully incapable of disappointing me in this regard; a small sliver of the pie, no doubt, but I’ll take whatever size piece I can get. Despair in the Gutter I, a new release from prolific Ontario project Death Glaze—which I know next to nothing about—is somewhat of a midpoint between the last two I wrote about (Being the Contents of an Unsigned Letter and 136), seething in a spiny mass of squealing, crunching transmission sputter and fuzz-poisoned punctures. “Creature of Evil” could be an unruly symphony of missed or faulty audio-cable connections; each of its multifarious parts, carefully spread across the full range of the stereo field, is its own source point of disorderly rake and rattle, one of many in a haphazard, anti-Cartesian grid of barbed wire and rusted spikes. “Sex Worker Prey,” like many B-side walls, very much feels like a continuation or reimagining of a similar idea: the distortion is fuller, more shrouding, but it fills the spaces between the aforementioned micro-sites rather than draping itself over them completely, retaining the detailed, piecemeal structure of agitation of the preceding track while offering something new and contrastive. Ever wanted to know how your bottle of detergent feels as it rattles around on the sharp metal top of your washer/dryer unit before falling off and spilling its viscous liquid contents everywhere? Now you can.

Review: The Lethal Temple – Being the Contents of an Unsigned Letter (Petite Soles, Sep 3)

Being the Contents of an Unsigned Letter is one of those rare wall releases that is both so loud and intense that it drowns out not just external sound but brain activity as well, and so seductively hypnotizing that it just seems to fade into the background at times. These paradoxical effects often occur simultaneously, somehow; I find myself so mesmerized by the detailed auditory craftsmanship by the trio of Scott Kindberg (A Woman’s Glove and others), Sean E. Ramirez-Matzus (Pallid Mask and others), and Thomas Puopolo (Forests of Brittany and others) that I lose track of time and eventually even the fact that I’m listening to it, despite the fact that my ears are being mercilessly ravaged all the while. All three artists are associated with the Pittsburgh-based Black Leather Jesus collective, but here the S&M imagery is traded for something more enigmatic and poetic in the invocation of the “unsigned letter” idea: thoughts and communication externalized, physicalized, but without an explicit source. The exact aspects of meaning lost as a result of this omission certainly vary from case to case, but a clear universal casualty is the remote channel of intimacy that letters open between correspondents. To reclaim any semblance of that would require either deducing the true author or attributing the message to someone else entirely, both options being processes that often involve examining elements of the letter beyond its contents: the ink and stationery used, handwriting, the return address (or lack thereof), etc. This compact digital release is plainly attributed to The Lethal Temple, so it in itself cannot be the titular letter, nor can the tracks themselves since they are also identified as “contents.” Is the rest—the analog to the aforementioned superficial characteristics—just the things that happen in our heads as we listen? Do the blazing stampedes of crunching distortion fuse with the bizarre brain patterns they incite to form some sort of intangible, Derridean communicative construction, which must be unsigned because each person who hears the music is themselves both author and recipient? Probably not. This is some fantastic noise though.

Review: The Troubled Belief Program – Standing Forever at the Front Door (self-released, Sep 1)

Edited and mixed earlier this year by Jim Lemanowicz (an artist, improviser, and curator from Massapequa, NY, whose sparing musical presence on the internet seems to spread like a thin spiderweb out from the Troubled Belief Program Quartet page), the recordings that would eventually comprise Standing Forever at the Front Door were begun more than a decade ago in 2008, then revisited in 2017 and 2018. Though the digital liner notes do not hide the fact that the original chamber abstractions were spliced together in Ableton rather than simply presented as-is, the resulting music ends up mining something from both sides of its ambiguous form and character, retaining plenty of the instantaneous, interactive energy that can only flow between musicians performing simultaneously yet gaining new flexibility from the meta-alterations executed later. Other than Lemanowicz, the three remaining string players are Ralph Dar, Emily Fulton, and Joachim Kovač, none of whom appear to have participated in any other releases despite the clear virtuosity of their collective technique implying seasoned careers; I have no idea who “GF” is or what tragedy would prompt a loved one to state that they “didn’t have to die”; nor do I much of any inkling of the reason for this material finally being released now. But little to none of that matters, because even words themselves lose their footing during moments like the drift of the rhythmic legato dirge that surfaces behind the thorny tangle of Bradfield-scrabble and atonal arco squawks in “Not Ready to Be Unwrapped.” Listen!

Review: Wilbury Scum – 136 (self-released, Sep 2)

As someone who was deeply affected by being assaulted by the boys in blue during my own mental health crisis, Letchworth Garden City project Wilbury Scum, described by the artist behind it as “a way of trying to get to grips with [the] experience” of being “sectioned by the police and taken to A&E,” truly resonates with me. In the aftermath, they heavily manipulated sounds and spaces captured in the immediate area of the incident via DAW to produce the recordings that comprise 136, an engrossing tour-de-force of brittle, fractured wall(ish) noise whose microscopic, insectoid texture worlds rival that of actual insect recordings (see Jana Winderen’s The Noisiest Guys on the Planet, Dave Phillips’ Insect, Tom Lawrence’s Water Beetles of Pollardstown Fen). To experience such brutal, callous treatment and violence while in such a vulnerable state is a profound violation, a perceptional and emotional fracturing that leaves an already compromised mind even more damaged; Wilbury Scum’s lengthy chain-link quilts of seething statics and caustic, surgical processing are a mesmeric but no less harrowing embodiment of that painful state, in a way immortalizing it in a safely external vessel. As it crunches and crackles like cold blue flames over dry wood, 136 can be whatever you want it to be—though I do adore the music, I don’t wish it being what it is for me, or for the artist, on anyone else.