Altar of Flies - Dead Air, Broken Wings / Gitwars - Live at Ideal Noise Fest / Worms - Melted (Hästen & Korset CSs)
Sweden's Mattias Gustafsson (not to be confused with that other Mats Gustafsson or that other other Mats Gustafsson) sent me these tapes from his relatively nouveau Hästen & Korset label, and they are sexy. Obviously for monetary reasons, young labels can't usually afford to go all-out on their early releases, but Mattias apparently doesn't subscribe to that rhetoric - pro-printed glossy colour sleeves (you should see the Gitwars one folded out, it's a real experience) and matching colour cassettes. All pretty limited to under a hundred copies per though, so you'll have to move if you want in on the action. My only gripe is a tiny one, and that's to say that there's hardly any information on the acts involved once you get to the inside. A little insert would've been handy to avoid any extraneous Googling, but maybe I'm just lazy, or that was the whole intent.
I did know from day one, however, that Altar of Flies is Mattias himself. Not that I'd ever heard his music, until now at least. As one might suspect from the title, there's a piece per side. I have to say that "Dead Air" isn't particularly memorable - a pretty faceless set of electronic scrawl and industrial throb that kinda knuckledrags its way on by in the 10 or so minutes it takes to get from point A to point B. So, you know, all right. But "Broken Wings", by contrast, borders on the revelatory. Mattias sets a low, intimidating drone over which occasional effects explode out of nowhere like fireworks into the night sky or detonations of a far more severe nature. The all-too-brief conclusion is the real money though, a downtrodden chord progression resonating like church bells sound and then trail off, leaving nothing but a lasting vibration inside your skull for at least the first few minutes from when it goes silent. This tape went from being a wash to being brilliant in a scant few minutes, which means I just have to investigate the rest of the Altar of Flies discography to find out which is the more accurate representation. With all the hullabaloo about the name lately, I have a hunch it's the latter.
Info would've come in handy right about here when I was trying to figure out what the deal was with this Gitwars band, and their "Live at Ideal Noise Fest" tape. Turns out it's a guitar duo featuring a couple of guys from Stockholm and whose members have performed in bands like the Skull Defekts and Trapdoor Fucking Exit, but that's all I got. No names. Anyway their tape is a trip - I had a hard time believing it was actually played live until I heard the burst of applause at the end...and even now I'm sure these cats can conjure up all sorts of clapping and hooting from their crazy hi-tech boxes so I'm gonna have to track someone from the audience down and do a one-on-one so I can confirm what really went down. In the meantime I'll tell you what's on the one and only playable side of this one - it opens with a buncha prickly guitar noodling that sounds like it was gonna erupt in a monster Big Black noise/riff fest with huge stomping drums, but it never happens - they just beat out this weird, carpal tunnel riff and wrangle it until it somehow dissolves into a super minimal chunk of crackling electronic noise...I'll go ahead and assume there's more than guitars at work here because this was a mega buzzing drone that would've tired me out of it lasted any longer than it does. But lo and behold right from there it gets downright melodic, dare I say elegiac. Later on the duo baffle with jutting, electronic-infused prog rock stabs (think the early notes to King Crimson's "Red") and a lengthy section where the same, noodling guitar sound from the opening attempts to reinterpret nursery rhymes as you might expect someone like Orthrelm's Mick Barr or Melt-Banana's Agata to...I told you it was a trip.
I had to do some digging for info on the Worms tape - turns out it's Mattias Gustafsson again. We're back at square one! I'm not sure exactly how he differentiates an Altar of Flies set from a Worms one though. Maybe he's using different gear in Worms or something, and it does sound even more minimalist than "Dead Air, Broken Wings". There's actually not a whole lot to say, but that shouldn't be taken as a bad thing. "Melted" is another one-sider - a virtually unchanging carved-out looping scythe, clearly electronically birthed, plodding on for the better part of 10 minutes until it's furrowed itself into the absolute dead center of your brain, before being accompanied by a distant, siren-like noise...très apocalypto and desolate. There's a couple of other pieces on the side and they're quite a bit harsher but still, I think, subscribing to a minimal philosophy - bubbly magma feedback and noise bile crashing together in a delicious stew of brightly burning embers and grinding gears. I still preferred "Broken Wings" but it's all going down smooth nevertheless.
Just checking up on recent label activity, it looks like Hästen & Korset have a split out between Altar of Flies and Canada's Fossils in addition to a few more AoF releases, a Herrarnas (found sound) tape and an Afric Simone bootleg that sounds pretty tantalizing. I also happen to know that Altar of Flies have a tape out on the inimitable Pasalymany Tapes which is surely essential given their penchant for quality, so plenty of starting points for Captain You.