Saturday, 16 February 2019

Natural Orthodoxy - Northern Bleakness.

Natural Orthodoxy – Trust Exercises – Total Black - Cassette – 2019 – Total Black 112


Nauseating Spectacle.
Visited Upon the Son.
Trust Exercises.


Amateur Dentistry.
Lost Time.
Cognitive Alteration.

Natural Orthodoxy is a Manchester UK based project that formerly operated as UVB-76. There have been around 5 releases under the Natural Orthodoxy name on The Aleph, Vanity Pill Tapes and Phage Tapes. There have been live shows across the UK with Pharmakon, Svartit and Full of Hell. Their latest tape Trust Exercises tape on Total Black comes with a free A4 poster.
Natural Orthodoxy is part of a faction of UK Power Electronics that doesn’t seem to hark back to the conceptual themes of the 80s glory days, they seem to come from somewhere else; a personalised source of anger? I am aware of different clusters of strong projects and labels in the UK, despite the lack of frequent gigs and things being more difficult for promoters now. However, coming from the North in Manchester, this resonates bleakness before it’s even played, when played it has an air of loss despair and then resonates even more bleakness. There’s lots of low level, bits of noise passages of sound happening as things build up. The vocals that are at first are shoved in the background and very effective, it often sounds like a shit cop-out when some projects do it, but here it ties in with the work perfectly. The visual juxtapositions never ending flats and glimpses of nature say plenty and compliment the work well.
The second side is the build-up that starts off as a continuation of the earlier bleakness, but riots of sound soon seem to emerge from it. The vocal is now well at the forefront and leads into the choppy, harsh walls of Lost Time. Cognitive Repetition is relentless repetition with a vocal sample buried underneath, warbled vocals that take the forefront look back to those 80s glory days of the UK noise scene whilst the keyboards resonate forwards.

I’ve been listening to this a lot, there are a lot of nods to older Natural Orthodoxy material that then push in new directions. At first, I felt this was just a good collection of separate tracks, but on closer inspection it all ties in well to make a very strong overall recording and the experimental qualities shine across the variety of tracks presented. What this has done is made me interested enough to go and look at other recordings by the project and I look forward to whatever the future brings. I’m glad I discovered it.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Don Mandarin - Ghosts of the past and present.

Don Mandarin – Mother of all the distortions. – Cassette – Don Mandarin Tapes – date unknown.

Don Mandarin – Local Sounds Volume 2. – Cassette – Don Mandarin tapes – date unknown.

Who is Don Mandarin? All I know is there’s a Facebook profile of the same name that appeared a few years ago and started adding people who were into Noise and Experimental music. The profile was vague and didn’t tell you anything about them. All that was there was an abundance of unexplained images and Don Mandarin artworks. Videos of odd esoteric sounds with videos started to appear through his feed and on people’s walls - no comments or anything. The artist also sold tapes of their work on eBay and sometimes in box sets through other labels. I suspect the project has some African source roots, there are rumours of works being recorded under seance conditions, there may be some esoteric link to the artists past and present and the dates of when the works were recorded are sketchy. Some of the sources to the works are rumoured to be decades old - that’s all the biographical details that I know about this large body work.

All images supplied by Don Mandarin .
The ‘Mother of all the distortions’ cassette looks very much like a Don Mandarin work or Dona Mangerine as they are known on this recording – a photocopied cover with an image of a young woman and text, little else. The sounds on the first side come across as a warped ritual, where the speed is constantly tweaked to confuse the listener as to what the real source is. It is slightly rhythmic through its warped qualities and the vocal sounds are indecipherable. The sounds are pulled about, stretched and distorted beyond any recognisable coherence. I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to what this is.  It’s alluring in its’ obscurity and mystery. Simple, subtle methods make it something other that can’t be recognised.  

The second side of Mother of all the distortions instead of being more field recordings is ambient sounds that are based on resonating drone patterns.  Side 2 has a semi-religious feel that ties it into the first side. Had the rituals of the first side continued onto the next side, there is a strong chance it could have kicked its own ass. Changing everything shifts things well, keeps it interesting and makes for two very strong, subtle pieces of work.

‘Local Sounds Volume 2’; also listed as Dona Mangerine, is a more ambient sounding release, I am unsure if it is all sourced field recordings of local sounds and made into pieces of work or made using instrumentation, samples or all. Like parts of the other material it uses huge arching drones, rumbling and different drone frequencies. It also has holy chanting tones to it as if ascending to a spiritual realm. Like Mother of all the Distortions, it uses simple juxtapositions to a strong effect, making for an impressive work.

The other side of Local Sounds is a lot darker and murkier. This seems to be the dark in comparison to the first side’s light, occupying a more - Dark Ambient territory. It dies off and returns darker than before with more aggressive sounds as if playfully engaging in a more Death Industrial soundscape; Infected synths anchor the work in the genre as it moves around that.  

These two tapes effectively deliver four separate pieces of work. Each piece is; strong, individual and well delivered. My personal favourite is the first side of Mother… but I am sure individual opinions will vary. But I feel I am no wiser about Don Mandarin than I was before, the chameleon like nature of the tapes throws me out even further. But I’m not complaining, all I know is that I want more.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Merzbow + Opening Performance Orchestra

Merzbow + Opening Performance Orchestra ‎– Merzopo - Sub Rosa
Sub Rosa – 2 x cd – 2018 – SR472CD.

1-1       –Merzbow       Futaomote Part 1       
1-2       –Merzbow       Futaomote Part 2       
1-3       –Merzbow       Yasugibushi Part 1    
1-4       –Merzbow       Yasugibushi Part 2    
2-1       –Opening Performance Orchestra     Fraction Elements      
2-2       –Opening Performance Orchestra     Fraction Music XII

Having been active since 1979 with a massive history of hundreds of releases makes Merzbow one of the most important historical figures in the history of modern Noise. Opening Performance Orchestra are a Czech noise group dating back to 2006; this is their 16th album. Merzopo is the recent split album featuring both artists. The artwork is a kind of huge abstract painted penis by Jaroslav Buzek which spreads across two panels of the digipack.

The Merzbow CD begins steadily with low noise and increases to a massive overall sound, this very quickly becomes intense and overpowering. There are extreme contrasts of wall like distortion and sharp high-pitched sound. Sounds do override beyond breaking point; other noises frequently enter the composition. The sound is a big, over powering mass; this frequently breaks down to allow some respite for newer structures of noise to be built. The Futaomote tracks are Harsh, it’s difficult to comment if this is Merzbow’s best work, my criticism of the first two pieces is that they get too busy to a point where the drops in overall noise are essential to make it work again. I think the pieces are huge but could have been way more effective if stripped back continuously, allowing more clarity of individual or combinations of elements as there is often too much in the equation.

In the later ‘Yasugibushi’ tracks the sound does strip back more and this is a lot more interesting as quirkier, playful elements to the sound begin to show themselves. The wider, ambitious sound then glows through a lot more effectively. I feel the Yasugibushi tracks are the stronger Merzbow tracks of the album. The long die-off of Yasugibushi Part 2 is impressive as the work becomes increasingly minimal and dramatic whilst reaching its’ end.

Fraction Elements sees Opening Performance Orchestra Begin with ambient, ominous gloom that rumbles and scrapes itself to life. As things begin to increasingly crash and rumble, feedback and electronic noise begin to really rise. The growth from slight sounds to massive noise is long and impressive. Their work builds to assaultive, distorted walls, spikes of sharp sounds and much sonic overdrive. In photos there appear to be four members but Discogs lists seven; I don’t know if it’s due the number of group members, but the control over such a loud mass of sound is excellent. The number of individual noise components is quite small, but it builds to a massive cacophony of noise that’s controlled in every aspect. Fraction Elements gradually builds to a wall like assault. I later learned both their tracks were played and recorded live, impressive.

In contrast, Fraction Music XII is a lot faster to build, it starts with pulsating drones, it utilises sharper sounds more as well as walls of distortion and metallic scraping. Odd drones to resonate through the noise periodically. Again, this is a massive sound that exercises complete control and precision. There is aggressive use of storms of distorted noise that are well pinned down by sharp noise and drones, so they have a static hurricane like assault due to this. The pointed focus of the sharper sounds that later overlay the distortion is sheer accuracy.

The artists at a brief listen appear similar. The Merzbow work is huge, but does take time to gain real focus, once it does the magic happens. The Opening Performance Orchestra work is simply a group in total control and at the peak of their sonic powers.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Tetsuo - The sound of Neo-Paris.

Tetsuo – Eternal Respect. – cdr – self released. – 2019.

01 Access [13’07’’]
02 Levels [10’54’’]
03 Eternal Respect [13’14’’]

Tetsuo is a new project by French artist Julien Skrobek, who is responsible for Abysse amongst many other projects. These are Hardware live-sets that he tends to favour, often in front of a small audience.

Years ago, before I moved area, I used to catch the tram home at night. I would always pass by this terraced house as I walked home from my stop. It looked perfectly normal; nice nets, clean front wall space, painted window frames, curtains and ceramic ornaments in the window. Upstairs there would always be a dim blue light in the front bedroom and a slow techno beat could always be heard at night, not much else ever accompanied it. It was never at an offensive volume; the sound could be heard slightly, travelling out of the window into the warm night air. It was beautiful, I always wanted to knock on the door and ask what was playing. Were they playing minimal Techno or making it? This went on for a few years until the beat never came back; did they move on, stop, pass away, I’ll never know? It wasn’t uncommon to have people making or playing electronic sounds in their houses in this area, there was just something alluring about this one.

I mentioned Abysse earlier, because Tetsuo treads the same noise/warped techno no man’s land. I often wonder if there are any direct contemporaries to the project. It reminds me slightly of Abysse, with a bit of subtle aggression added to the mix. It also takes me back to the noises that came out of the small house’s window. But this has slight noise and delicate wall properties that make it very interesting to me. This is a subtle juxtaposition of slow beat, distorted crackle and high-pitched feedback - it’s gentle but simmers away. The middle track uses odd repetitive laser like sounds, high pitched feedback and simmering distortion to about the maximum (or perhaps beyond) acceptable levels of repetition. The last set is just a repeated single beat that resonate over a distorted under base, the beat echoes on it and becomes the central focus whilst stuff goes off in the background. By this point the boundaries of repetition were crossed ages ago, I had to stay in the zone with the work.

What I like about this work is it is typical Skrobek work of the present day in that it’s released in tiny runs, content to be solely in his own odd thing that doesn’t really sound like anyone else. The cover photo of flats looks great and appeals to me greatly. I like what I’m hearing and truly love the wilful obscurity.

Choppy Noodles 2019. 

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Putrescent Tapes.

Putrescent Tapes Overview.

Putrescent Tapes BandCamp -

Putrescent tapes have been active for around a year with their cassette releases mostly dating from 2018. They’re based in Erie Pennsylvania and exist to release the work by a guy known as JB through his Dagger and Retroactive Jealousy projects. Other projects released on the label include Burial Weavings, Sergeant Cortez, Systems, Twin Aperture, Reaper, Grain Death and splits with Marion and Conditioned. This overview will cover four JB works, which are three Dagger recordings and one is a Retroactive Jealousy tape.

Retroactive Jealousy – Long Soft Next for Temporary Exclusivity. – Cassette - (2018)
This is a powerfully themed recording; its subject matter is the 2014 suicide of 19-year-old Alyssa Funke: a college girl who appeared on a Porn Website to raise money for her college funds. She’d done this under a different name yet was subsequently trolled online by ex-high school classmates who’d managed to find out. She’d struggled with bullying throughout school and killed herself in 2014 as a result of what happened when she’d done the video. It comes with images of Funke on the cover and in the insert; the insert quotes her Twitter account.

It delivers very Harsh Power electronics, that partially use HNWall distortion to mask the vocals, which appear to be part commentary and what I believe is sound recording of the Funke online video? There is aggressive use of sharp noise to push the PE methods through the wall, it makes for an intense, violent recoding that seems to combine the sex video and references towards the suicide.

The theme raises immediate questions, were the people who trolled her users of porn themselves or bigots? Does the recording see her in a critical light or as a person? Research told me a lot more about her as a person, the recording kind of forced that. This is an impressive, ambiguous, powerful and intense recording. One to watch.

Dagger - A Blade in the Dark. – Cassette - (2018)

Dagger is the main HNW project that the label is centred around. It is the work of JB again, the releases often come in Clear sealed bags with sleeves, insert and tape. The classic black and white design is simple and effective.

Sonically, it’s very upfront and blasts away continuously. Things do go off in the background frequently but are unidentifiable due to the intensity of the wall noise that’s made. The distortion does pulsate but delivers a consistent wall until it starts to use Harsh Noise scraping starts to parallel the wall and shift the continuity a lot and shift the listeners attention. I feel the wall liquifies slightly after the main passages of scraping go. The scaping returns to further disrupt the wall’s continuity. Cut up vocal samples and piano noise bring it all into random noise; allowing things to crash and die.

Dagger Cosa avete fatto a Solange? – Cassette - (2018) – Limited to 20 copies.

Cosa avete fatto a Solange? Is themed around the 1972 Massimo Dallamano film of the same name. The titles – Man with a Knife and Last Member of the Sex Club are linked to the. It begins with sampled dialogue from the film which is then flooded by a distorted, crackling wall of static. I like this wall more than the one in A Blade in the Dark, it’s dropping and failing keeps my attention. As vocal roars rise and backing sounds become prominent, this makes for an impressive shift in sound. Both tracks are good walls of noise.

Dagger/Conditioned – Split. - Cassette (2018)

The Dagger contribution ‘Buried Alive’ uses a more chopped up noise, a hum of feedback goes off in the back ground while the wall fails to tune in. The Dagger side of this split continually splutters itself to death with static blasts and hiss. Buried Alive changes speed and doesn’t stays in one place too long. This is a strong display of assaultive, anonymous harsh noise. This is very different to the usual walls the project creates.

The Conditioned tracks use a more traditional HNW approach. Sampled dialogue begins Budd/Intro as a booming wall of distortion rises. It appears to be cut into shorter tracks. Weight is more splattering in contrast to the eruption of the opener. Strangers contrasts more feedback and drone orientated noise with wall splatters trying to make an entrance, shifting the dynamic considerably. Strangers becomes more expansive as it progresses, resonating massively. Systems slowly comes to life with a fractured wall that keeps dying off. - - - - - is way more assaultive with wall and hissing industrial noise leading to an outro that simmers in murky, muddy territory before exploding into a massive wall, creating a dramatic climax. The Conditioned side is wide and varied.

This is a good start in the labels first year. Putrescent boasts some strong recordings. The Dagger wall material is good, the Retroactive Jealousy release is great. The visual aesthetic is good. I’m interested to see if Putrescent will still exist in four years, will it have been a passing phase like a lot of labels can be or will it have expanded on these strong beginnings?

Choppy Noodles 2019

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Institution D.O.L.

Institution D.O.L. – Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World – 2019. Torm ENT CD/LP

For a long period of time Institution D.O.L. was the solo project of Barbie B, however he is now joined by Meta Dolor. Our Love Can Destroy this Whole Fucking World is the 8th Institution D.O.L. album. It was recorded in Italy, Germany and Austria, Institution D.O.L. has been actively releasing albums since 1999 and is based in Austria.

The sense of occasion built by the intro gives me the sense this is going to be something special. I’m reminded of the opening ceremony in the film Eyes Wide Shut before things get down and dirty. As the noisier tracks kick in and expansive sense of space is created, the vocals continually shift from the distant background to being more foregrounded. This space and depth are maintained throughout and the work does play on the stage that this creates. It’s very effective as you’re forced to follow the sound wherever it goes, you can’t passively listen.

There are a lot of muddy, hellish tracks on the album that stand as good exploration of more threatening, brooding sounds. This leads to one of the main strengths of the album, which is the instrumentation and harmony that seems to shine through the blistering rage - it appears in the form of keyboard drones and piano melodies. Another strength is the tension between noise and melody that is formed which balances precariously, intensifying the works’ drama as that balance sways. When the melody does come through this, it’s impressive.

The vocals rage away, at times they are very tortured and becomes pleading and desperate, pushing further intensity into the album. Tracks generally flows well, In Dust and Depth disrupts this, as it works too differently to the other tracks and breaks the continuity. In contrast, the longer final title track really plays to all the projects strengths, adding an epic finale to the album.  The album does mix Industrial, Dark ambient, Death Industrial/Power Electronics methods to good effect, breaking down into something else way beyond its descriptions, continually pushing beyond its own limits - thus making for good work.

Choppy Noodles 2019.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Cheap Food Records and Research Laboratories.

Brighton based Cheap Food Records and their parent label Research Laboratories have been releasing experimental noise cassettes and records since 2011. Thomas Laroche is the main man behind both labels: he has worked with Vagina Dentata Organ and Kommissar Hjuler und Frau and actively recording and releasing his own work since 2012. Other artists released on the label include Sexton Ming, The New Blockaders, Evil Moisture and Active Denial. This review includes a batch of recent cassette tapes from 2018-19.

Rotting Shrine – Do You Believe in God? – Cheap Food Records – Cassette -

Rotting Shrine is a Thomas Laroche Project, there have been two Rotting Shrine releases on Cheap Food, a self titled tape and this one ‘Do You Believe in God?’ Themed on the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre. It seems to focus on one of the two killers - Dylan Bennet Klebold, the cover image is also of Klebold. This is a short release with a recording of a woman talking about her relationship with religion and joining a Nun convent. As the dialogue unfolds, static noise that is made to sound like possibly gun fire combats the dialogue. Both compete for dominance over the recording. Background reading about the subject matter intensifies this massively. Do You Believe in God is short, sharp and not very sweet?  An effective, impressive tape.

Thomas Laroche – Bacteria Community – Research Laboratories – Cassette limited edition of 25 -

The album tunes itself into blasts of noise and seems to use the noise tuning method, as if shifting rapidly from frequency to frequency. The noise is sharp and harsh, music occurs in the background, music of an older age. I am unsure of the conceptual intention, is it tackling rest homes; old age or building a time warp of sorts through the noise? Either way it makes for a haunted noise recording. Like the Rotting Shrine release the noise seems to interrupt and disrupt. A strong recording.

Concrete Emptiness – Le Temps Detruit Tout – Cheap Food Records – Cassette -

Concrete Emptiness is a Harsh Noise Wall project on Cheap Food; this is their first release. This displays a warm crackle with deep backing resonance.  It gives a good tunnel blast of noise, that falters out towards the end. Le Temps Detruit Tout (time destroys everything) is based on the works of Gaspar No√© pointing towards his 2002 film Irr√©versible and the cover depicts the rape scene in the said film that caused a lot of controversy. This is the bleakest recording of the three.

Many of the recordings are enhanced by background reading while listening to them. In contrast Bacteria Community stands alone as an impressive recording. Both labels have delivered raw, conceptually engaging and consistently strong works. Go forth and knock yourselves out.

Choppy Noodles 2019.