I can't tell if being sent all these CDs means Troniks' Phil Blankenship likes me or hates me, but I'm grateful whatever the case may be. And I figured it was going to be as good a time as any to plow through them with my computer dead recently and nothing better to do (overheating was the problem, I've got it fixed thank you...at least for now). I gotta tell you, by about the fifth or sixth CD I was feeling like Alex DeLarge watching concentration camp footage in A Clockwork Orange, but I think it was in the good way. Anyway it's not like I heard them all back-to-back-to-back-to-etc., so it wasn't as rough as I'm making it seem. Although it was no picnic neither!
I missed 16-Bitch Pile Up at No Fun last year, but lived vicariously through seeing them on the Fun From None DVD, and those were just about the only notes I've ever heard them pluck in my existence so I didn't really know what to expect from "Bury Me Deep", although I was immediately wooed by the terrific teen horror novel mock-up album art, down to the faux mailorder card that comes inside (you can explore the art in greater detail here). Sonically, it was all quite a bit more subdued than I would've expected. In fact, it's quite a ways mature, I dare say. The first few tracks feature low-rolling, watery drone rumbles and spaced out, sinister wanderings, all occasionally punctuated with buried (no pun intended) chops of church bells ringing, dogs barking, people talking, and the like. It all floats along quite swimmingly/ominously with varying degrees of interest, until it suddenly explodes out of nowhere into a maelstorm of processed screaming and howling and white-knuckled ear-blistering electronics that could easily send a lesser human into shock and death. That one, harsh track fades into a sped-up recording of Barry Manilow's "This One's For You" (no shit) and ends with a bit of coffin-lid juddering ambience. After contemplating this curious turn of events for a bit, I came up with the theory that most of the album is the slow build-up of an imaginary film (as it often does sound like a B-grade horror movie soundtrack), the screaming represents the climatic murder scene, then the credits roll while "This One's For You" plays, and the final stomach-gnawing track is Carrie's hand shooting out of her grave. Am I close? Don't care, it's pretty great regardless of its back story.
New transmissions from Yasutoshi Yoshida's Government Alpha are always welcome, for at least the first twenty minutes of hearing them. Then I realize that they sound a good deal like the last Government Alpha I heard, and I wonder if I really need another one. I do like a lot of what Yoshida does, but I also have a finite amount of patience, too. That said, "Venomous Cumulus Cloud" is more of the good stuff you've come to expect from the project - monstrous, deafening blasterpieces swathed with Yoshida's colourful knob-twisting and wrenching. On these six pieces, he uses guitats, effects, synths, and anything else you can fathom to generate harsh psychedelic hyperprisms, towering over just about anything else in the genre...obvious reference points include Maso Yamazaki's dormant Masonna and Hiroshi Hasegawa's C.C.C.C., or perhaps a combination of the two. Personally, it's enjoyable for a while, but after a certain period stuff just starts feeling recycled. Or maybe I just don't have the right mindset to enjoy it. Or whatever. You could probably get away with buying one Government Alpha release every few years (or more) and not miss much, but on that same note at least I can't fault Yoshida for his rigid consistency. If you're a superfan, you'll find more of the same to sink your chompers into here. And if you're looking for a place to start with Alpha, "Venomous" is as good a place as any. But just don't hold out for any monumental shocks, all right? Hey, at least the picture on the front is mega-engrossing...
And while we're on the subject of rigid consistency, dig this CD from Total Slitting of Throats, a (one-off?) unit featuring the talents of the Cherry Point (aka Troniks' Phil Blankenship), Mania, the Rita, Sewer Election, and Treriksroset. This self-titled CD boasts one 66-minute long track which may or may not be titled "An HNW Audible Manifesto", and was originally released as a limited CD-R on the Rita's Militant Walls label in 2005. It says "assembled by Sam McKinlay for Miltant Walls" so I dunno if that means it was he who mixed all the sounds of these artists together, but whoever did the job did good on creating a unified scope for the record. Basically the goal here was to create the "definitive WALL document for the dedicated purist". If you're not familiar with the walling process in noise, it's the technique whereby the listener is attacked by a constant, uninterrupted wall (get it?) of noise, as bleak and as colourless as inhumanly possible. The Rita, in particular, seems to be on a life-long quest to create the perfect wall, and I think he and his cohorts have succeeded here. At least, I can't imagine anything that could possible top this. Think roaring, infernal electronics sawed down into a blissful/terrifying stretch that seems to last for a lifetime and never gives you so much as the chance to gulp for air. The CD itself has "powerful minimalist deconstruction of the harsh noise object" printed upon it and it's certainly a minimal approach, though maybe not in the most conventional sense of the term. Call it minimalism for maximalists, then. If you're already a big walling game hunter, Total Slitting of Throats really have created the definitive document and it's worth owning for that reason alone. And if this is indeed your bag, you'll be in heavenly death for an hour's time. Anybody else might wonder why they're torturing themselves for the same length of time, but fuck them, right? I'll admit, I was somewhere in the middle, and had to split the album into two in order to digest it all (the breaking of a wall-listening commandment, I'm sure), but that's more a compliment to its obliviating power than anything else. Possibly the best indication of what you can find on TSoT's album is from this screenshot I took of GoldWave's visual representation of the track when I imported it to chop out an MP3 excerpt. Need I say more?
...And speaking of Sweden's Sewer Election, "Sex/Death" is a reissue of Dan Johansson's two-tape set that was originally released on his own Harsh Head Rituals label last year. I hear his name a lot these days (or, at least, the adopted moniker for his noise releases) I spose now's as good a time as any to get acquainted. There's three untitled tracks in about an hour's time here, and the two bookending cuts are tremendously powerful system shocks, heavy on the low-end flail and stirring up all different kinds of circuit-bending theatrics, feedback, and sonic fissures. There's nothing not to like about em but I don't find that there's a whole lot setting them apart from other current harsh noise product. I did, however, greatly the second track, which plays dense layers of staticky electronics compounded by a dreamy air of concrete throught-processes - at times it sounds like a crashing silver waterfall, at others it sounds like it could be a segment from one of Hermann Nitsch's aktionist bloodspills. Any way you slice it, it's a beautifully organic pulse, combining elements of drone, power electronics, musique concrete and even soundtrack music. Even though it only represents a fourth of the total running time, it's practically worth the price of admission alone. Book it!
Lasse Marhaug's latest (or, maybe not anymore, given the speed at which he works) called "The Great Silence" is also three tracks in about an hour, featuring scrambled, high-tension noise whirr that's far more aggressive than what you'd come to expect from his work in Jazzkammer with John Hegre or in collaborations with Maja Ratkje. "Back to Nature" is a balance of blindingly harsh, busted electronics frenzy and ear-hollowing longform tones. It almost sounds like Marhaug's playing is so in-the-red that the tape it was recording to is disintegrating with every passing second, adding even more damage to already-corroded sounds being splayed out. "The New Sound" ups the ante even further, essentially a half-hour take on sweaty, hellish noise and feedback that'll test your patience and endurance as much as anything else in the genre. It's pulled off with all the mastery of an experienced alchemist, with Marhaug maintaining continous control over the beefy layers of torrid sound that he's constantly generating. The title track packs spikey waves of devastation into its brief running time (well at 8 minutes, it's brief compared to the other two), as if Marhaug's making a final, desperate attempt to fully deafen/astonish whoever's listening. I, for one, was fully numb at that point and resembled something of a zombie with my head still attached via a strand of skin on my neck. "The Great Silence"? As if!
And last but not least is a collaboration between Jazzkammer and Howard Stelzer, "Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe". This was recorded on the trio's 2004 U.S. tour, and you get a track from three possible configurations: Jazzkammer, Howard Stelzer, and Jazzkammer and Howard Stelzer together. Makes sense, right? Jazzkammer's "Requiem for Officer Robby Barker" is a pretty impressive and pretty AMM-infected trawl, at least to mine ears. The duo start out slow and sparse, hanging together gentle electronic sparkle, chopped tapes, occasional guitar strum gleaning, and a toy piano that could even double for Keith Rowe's shortwave radio if you squint hard enough. Pretty soon they've formed a thick, sinewy static layer and the aural threat becomes dead serious as the track builds towards its blistering, jackhammer-esque finale. More "Metal Machine Music" than "Metal Music Machine" as it stands, and still it rules rather heavily. Stelzer's twenty minute allocation is titled "Last Night at BLD" (fitting, as the track was recorded at the BLD Warehouse in Columbus, Ohio) is an intriguing sampling of the improvised tape manipulation he's come to be known world-round for. I can only guess at Stelzer's methods, but he succeeds in pulling out stretched, deformed drones to form the basis of his piece and tops them with helpings of scratches, hiccups, fidgets, whirrs, squelchs, and whatever else is spat out by the array of cassettes used in his performances. The whole thing is rather compelling but I was most drawn to the concluding tape hiss/drone/silence that I wouldn't mind at all hearing in a non-live setting. So maybe I should get on that whole seeking and purchasing thing right about now. On the collaborative track, "Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe", Hegre and Marhaug hang back quite a bit and allow Stelzer to open up most of the track with various found sounds, field recordings, and other such riff raff from his tapes. Aside from a drum machine and a dose of feedback near the beginning of the track, it's quite difficult to pinpoint where their hands are in all this. No matter, the result works to a tee and the hot, soupy ambience breathed out is more than welcome after however many ours of bone-crushing noise. Highly recommended!
Phew, I think I need to take a week off before I can fully recover from the experience of analyzing these six CDs. I say this every time I review Troniks records, but Phil Blankenship must have an iron will, not to mention a day planner filled through 2013 to keep putting out all these albums. As for me and my Alex DeLarge-like treatment...well, I was cured all right.
16-Bitch Pile Up - Something Poked Up
Government Alpha - Informal Funeral
Total Slitting of Throats - An HNW Audible Manifesto (excerpt)
Sewer Election - Untitled (track 3) (excerpt)
Lasse Marhaug - The New Sound (excerpt)
Jazzkammer & Howard Stelzer - Tomorrow No One Will Be Safe (excerpt)