Pages

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Haare - Brain.


Haare – Brain – CD – Aussaat – Aussaat 11 – 2020.



Destroy fascism, love forever.

Since forming in 2009, Haare has released many recordings on a variety of labels including Matching Head, Freak Animal and Heavy Meditation. It is the project of IIkka Vekka. I saw Haare live at the last United Forces ofIndustrial festival in London a few years ago, the performance was confrontational and intense; I liked it a lot. Described as going ‘headfirst into the primordial psyche, the mind below the mind’, Brain is released on Aussaat this week.

This album is very different to what I heard when I saw Haare live years ago. I know Vekka utilises a guitar a lot in his live performances, in contrast this feels a lot wider than that in sound. Perhaps it is all sourced from guitar, it is hard to tell as the sonic language is wide. I feel it is very layered and shifting in its sound as it moves along, yet all the works tie in together well. Things can go quiet, were there are small interactions of sounds that build space into the work. Pulsating, psychedelic landscapes are slowly formed within this space. The use of psychedelic sounds encourages you to go into the music or let it go deep within your psyche. As the sound is woven of different noises, it intensifies and builds and huge resonating soundscapes are formed. Brain is very effective and well delivered.

I’ve played this album a few times since receiving it today, I really rate it and encourage you to buy a copy from either of the links above. Brain has served as an excellent intro to the recorded work of Haare. One of 2020’s best releases so far.

Nevis Kretini 2020.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Hostage Pageant: The Cherry Point: Kazuma Kubota


Hostage Pageant: The Cherry Point: Kazuma Kubota: CD: Cipher Productions: 2019: (sic 115)



Hostage Pageant is Shane Church, releasing since 2010. The Cherry Point is Phil Blankenship, releasing since 2002. Kazuma Kubota is Kazuma Kubota and has been releasing since 2008. This split CD contains 3 Hostage Pageant tracks, 1 Cherry Point track and 1 Kazuma Kubota track. Artwork is by the Deathpile dude Jonathan Canady – Jonathan’s amazing art can be seen on his art page - here.

The Hostage Pageant work is like being immediately thrown into a big vortex of Harsh Noise. His work is Harsh and direct, the sound shifts and distorts massively. Depletion is brutal in its’ delivery. Falling Out of Place takes time, it crackles, splutters and keeps trying to explode, it tries and tries until it kick starts a massive wall of distortion. What sounds like a dog panting seems to act as an interlude as things creak and echo around until the sound explodes again, this time there appear to be shouted vocals in the mix. The sound here is more violent than that of Depletion, Church kicks off and fragments big-time here. Enabler is the last blast of Hostage Pageant, this starts with suspenseful tones until the wall of noise breaks through, sharp fragmented noises are forced through the wall. The contrast between wall and sharp noise keeps attention focussed until it breaks down again. This does the break down, build up again routine a few times and indulges that more than the previous track, building to a massive finale.

I confess to only hearing what Cherry Point did on the 10LP California compilation back in 2006 (wow, so long ago). The spaced distortion of Just Before Dawn is impressive from the off, it is as if Blankenship comes at noise from an entirely different perspective, where? I don’t know, but it’s something else completely. The whole track feels distanced and seems to come from a totally different mindset. I am very impressed by this, there is something else going on and I can’t pinpoint it - distanced, distorted and epic. From a personal point of view this project is the one that really grabbed me as it ties in with the current UK PE sensibility.

Kazuma Kubota takes epic journey to new proportions with Zattou Ni Tokete, this has quiet beginnings that shift to loud build ups of vortexed distortion right back down to quiet shifting. There is subtle rattling and creaking before some blast of noise takes over.  This like Cherry Point shows a different mindset, but it happily plays noise in the quiet areas allowing subtle sounds to play off each other, interact and build. This has more in common with Hostage Pageant yet is more shifting in the range of areas that it occupies for periods of time. Kubota delivers a gorgeous, long journey of sound.

Three artists who all play outside the box, all the works are different, yet share some vague similarities, the main being that they are all trying to push their work elsewhere. This is a good split of three artists pushing at the boundaries of their own work. A strained beauty of an album that I like a lot.

Nevis Kretini 2020.

SK.MV -Slow Death.


SK.MV Slow Death. CD. Cipher Productions. Sic107. 2018. 100 copies.



SK.MV is a collaboration between Stephen Petrus of Murderous Vision and Wyatt Howland of Skin Graft. This is their only album; Slow Death and it is a story of Personal and Social decay that is spread across 5 tracks. I like the effective artwork and presentation of the album spread nicely over 2 panels in a unique soft plastic, non-jewel case.

The first chapter of Slow Death is an immediately atmospheric and rich recording. Electronics and clattering lead the noise at the forefront, whilst cold, echoing backing shifts position between front and background to set us on the journey that is Slow Death. The first track has an immediate aggressive assault with threatening distortion and loud clanging, this is a focussed use of noise that leans into Dark Ambient atmospherics.

The second track pulls back into deep dark ambient territory whilst the distortion remains and becomes a lead component in the sound. It functions like an interrupted dream state that is manipulated continually. Aggressive drones and rising electronic sounds turn dreams into nightmares as the pace of the track accelerates. III continues the nightmarish passages of sound and pulsates itself into a faster pace. The sounds multiply on top of each other to form a heightened state of noise with lots going on so different elements of sound take prominence at different times. It winds itself down by removing different sounds from the mass that has built up, as the sound rebuilds itself it becomes more noise aggressive and violent, using sharp feedback, hiss and pulsating drones. Four is immediately chaotic and psychedelic, percussion seems to be present as noise chaos ensues. The psychedelic chaos is more prominent in comparison to the aggression that built up over previous tracks. Vocal chanting enters the chaos towards the end of the track and takes over as lead sound.  
The finale strips back allowing a few noises to make the sound feel sparse and cold; the communication between the different elements of sound has more impact. Less is more, even as it strips back elements are concise and the slightest build up is felt. The nightmare plays itself out.

SK.MV appears to be a one-off project, the product of that being Slow Death which is a strong album that is beautifully presented and played out well. All tracks tie in together and continue from one to the next perfectly. Good work.

Nevis Kretini 2020.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Sádon & Treha Sektori - Symphony of Dying


Album: Symphony of Dying
Artist: Sádon & Treha Sektori
Label: Cyclic Law
Catalogue no: 146th Cycle

Tracklist:
     1.      Sádon – Shadow
     2.      Sádon & Treha Sektori – Elimination
     3.      Sádon & Treha Sektori – Wolf’s Day
     4.      Sádon & Treha Sektori – Spear Over our Heads
     5.      Sádon – Aegeus


There are times when I feel that the word ‘gothic’ is bandied around too much, especially when it comes to describing something dark or melancholic, whether it be a painting, a book, or music, as in this case. Even though gothic originated as an architectural term to describe a style of cathedral built during medieval times, gothic only really achieved its apotheosis during the Victorian era, with its overwrought architectural flourishes and attitude to death and dying. And, listening now to this stark beauty of a release, it is very much reminiscent of the Victorian gothic revival, deeply melancholic and possessing a sense of sweeping grandiose tragedy. Imagine, then, a Victorian-style painting, picturing a lone widow standing by a freshly dug grave clutching her shawl about her throat, her young child clinging desperately and sadly to her skirts, the sky above an oppressive blanket of heavy black clouds, while a chill, uncaring wind whips her clothing around her body. This is exactly the atmosphere this five-tracker elicits, drawing a powerful picture of both sadness and melancholy as well as poesy and beauty.

The cortege begins its slow progress in ‘Shadow’, a wind-borne lamentation for the dead, a voice wailing into the lowering clouds above. Those clouds are pregnant with rain, and every second they threaten to give birth to a downpour. When the rain does come, will they be tears for the departed soul, or for the mourners? ‘Elimination’ continues the mood, plangent guitar notes overlying a string-like drone, the same voice from before again crying to the air, its timbres and tones flying to the heavens, perhaps like a dove ascending to seek the sun. Notes of anguish intrude as the track progresses, another song of mourning for what has been lost and will never return. Do we weep for the dead, or for ourselves?

‘Wolf’s Day’ opens with majestic string strains, accompanied by voices far in the distance, an ancestral calling inviting us to enter the wildwood, to return to the ways our forebears once held dear, a way of bringing us back into the fold. One can easily imagine being wilfully lost in a vast forest, a temple of trees, their trunks the columns holding up the roof of the sky, and rarely glimpsed wolves acting as the guardians protecting it from the profane. We are always aware of the sanctity of this place and its sacred nature, and that we must not defile it. ‘Spear over our Heads’ is a mournful but simultaneously reassuring elegy, a pointer perhaps to the guardian deities protecting our bodies and souls. Lilting strings wrap us in warmth and love, while sustained drones glide around us and coalesce into a kind of protective spiritual armour. It may appear to be something of a melancholic piece, which it is, but it is also a signal that the strength of our ancestors is still there for us to rely on, and that the glory of nature is both our shelter and inspiration. Having embraced it once again, it is ours forever, and more than that, our connection to it has been firmly re-established.

‘Aegeus’ closes out proceedings, swirling in with more strings, droning darkly in the lower register. Aegeus is a mythological figure appearing in the founding myth of Athens, a goat-man who, along with his brothers, retook Athens from the usurping Metionids. He was the father of Theseus (of Minotaur fame), who also was one of the founder-heroes of the foremost Greek cities. The grandiose sweeping nature of this track befits the epic stature of the man known as Aegeus, portraying him as a steadfast, strong, and implacable hero. The music itself feels as if its roots belong not to the now, but to the ancient past, a past that is only now reaching out to us via Sàdon.

One cannot help but make a comparison here with the style and sound of the output of 4AD Records, of Dead Can Dance in particular. This is not meant as an insult – rather it is a compliment, the grandiosity and sweep of the music absolutely pitched perfectly and without any pomposity or grandstanding. Even though it’s a short album, there’s so much going on here, so much emotion compacted into each piece, that its effectiveness is a marvel to behold and a joy to listen to. One can easily imagine listening to this on a winter’s evening, looking through a window on which rain spatters, and each droplet of water trickling down the pane under its own weight.  We watch with fascination as individual drops head inexorably downward, a notion which inevitably makes us wonder about our own track through this thing called life.

That is the beauty of this album – its ability to seep into our very fibre, to spark musings and ponderings about ourselves and our place in the scheme of things. Admittedly, normally I am not one to lean toward gothic melancholia, but this wormed its way into my cells, and made me listen and think. It made me think of my own mortality and, in a strangely morbid moment, about how real worms will one day burrow into my skin and return me to the earth. Bizarrely perhaps, I found some comfort in that – that I am part of a cycle of life.

Highly recommended.

Available from Cyclic Law’s Bandcamp page, in a limited edition CD of 500 in 6-panel Matte Laminated Digisleeve, a limited edition of 300 black vinyl LP in Matte cover with printed inner sleeve, and a digital download:

It can also be purchased from Cyclic Law’s official website:

Psymon Marshall 2020. 

Hypnagogue - Vacuum Wool.


Album: Vacuum Wool
Artist: Hypnagogue
Label: Nature Noise Wall
Catalogue no: NNW225

Tracklist:
     1.      Hint
     2.      Dust
     3.      Seasong



I can’t say with any certainty what I was expecting to hear, but it wasn’t what’s contained on this three-track release from Italy’s Nature Noise Wall label. For those of you who, like me, were beguiled into thinking that the ‘noise wall’ part of the label name signified abrasive and pummelling barrages of harsh noise, then be advised that it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, what we’re treated to are lush, densely-layered, disembodied and displaced soundscapes, culled from field recordings, voices, and electronics, sonic paintings that caress the ear and create vistas of non-Euclidean panoramas, a dimension where perhaps all pluralities cease to exist as separate states and are instead merged into one. Yet, in spite of that seeming unfamiliarity it weaves together strands and elements of the utterly recognisable with the strange, in the process removing them from any sense of something encountered in real life. And that’s why these missives from that(those) other reality(ies) is(are) so mesmerising.

‘Hint’ begins with a ringing sustained chime, one that’s stretched beyond the material limits of natural time, suggestive of an alternate time-stream, anchored to this world on occasion through the use of voices, a closing door, and static blips that cascade like sparks from a fire. That incessant ringing, rather than being annoying, transforms this into the Other, placing it beyond the merely human and pushing it into an optical spectrum far outside that which we can normally perceive. Colours and textures unfold, hypnotic in their variety and awe-inspiring in their natural profligacy, shifting our senses and perspectives to reveal nuances that we never knew could possibly exist, and yet exist they do, even in our mundane world. Yet, those familiar interjections only serve to highlight our connections to the possibilities of parallel worlds existing just an inch away to our side in time.

The next serving is ‘Dust’, and this one is piled high with deliciously subtle layers of distant sound overlain with soft grainy static. Bell-like notes drift up like specks of dust caught in a ray of sunlight, taking flight toward the untouchable blue above, carried on a barely perceptible carpet of resonant drone. I am inclined to feel that its origins lie not within the sphere of the mundane, but perhaps from somewhere between the supranormal and the multidimensional. Indistinct voices only add to the occult aspects and the otherworldly atmosphere flowing from this. I genuinely had shivers whilst listening to this.

Finally, ‘Seasong’ invites us to stand on a lonely beach somewhere, buffeted by winds barrelling off the vast expanse of water in front of us, its gentle waves alternately kissing our toes and then shyly running away again. Weaving around and through those winds, again as if heard from a fog-obscured distance, is a faint melody, a siren song perhaps attempting to lure us into the frigid embrace of the sea. The song is never-ending, rolling steadily onwards like the waves washing up on the shoreline. As I was listening, I felt that the sea is perhaps not merely luring us away from the land but also inviting us to return to its embrace, to the place where all life started. It’s a clarion call to perhaps start again, to renew our contract with Mother Earth, and to experience the wholeness of nature.

Reading a paragraph-long review of this posted on Bandcamp, the writer averred that this release felt dark, enclosing, and perhaps claustrophobic. Although I can feel where he’s coming from, my experience of this was completely the opposite. These pieces of music, although dense and crowded, talk of vast open spaces, of contact with nature beyond and above what we would normally encounter – as if saying that our experiences of the world are limited, and that there’s a lot more to engage with if only we open ourselves to the signs and the signals. In some small way, Vacuum Wool reminded me of the work of The Caretaker – perhaps mostly on a superficial level, especially in its stylistic construction, but there’s also a lot about persistence of ancestral memories buried deep within each of these pieces, and also perhaps about our loss of connections with the real world. If I am being honest, this music moved me in a way I hadn’t expected and certainly hadn’t anticipated – in which case, I would venture that there’s a deeper message to be heard here, about re-establishing and reclaiming our place within the environment surrounding us.

Available as a digital album + streaming from here:

Psymon Marshall 2020. 

Wotanist Affair - Jinthra


Album: Wotanist Affair
Artist: Jinthra
Label: Sombre Soniks
Catalogue no: SomSon146

Tracklist:
     1.      Garma
     2.      Notschrei
     3.      Odinvokation
     4.      Ragnarok


Jinthra is Jindřich Spilka, a ritual artist from Czechoslovakia, who is also the main protagonist behind Druhá Smrt, and for this particular solo project Spilka created a transformative and transgressive ritual designed to open up the pathways to the unconscious, enabling him to explore his own mythopoetical constructs and world-view. Wotan is merely the old Germanic form of Odin from Norse culture, and from an anthropological perspective the two cultures share much in common. It is eminently apparent from this recording that the old ways and their connections to notions of homeland and landscape, and the consequent supernatural forces at work through the deeply subterranean networks joining all creatures and things, are still very much in evidence and still exert a tremendous force. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that the resurgence of an adherence to and belief in these old cultural and religious ways is an antidote to the Christian directive to look up to some vague otherwhere that is apparently the abode of some all-powerful and singular deity, whereas paganism and its ilk connect directly to the life-forces of nature and power.

 

Given the above, where does Wotanist Affair fit into it? Track one, ‘Garma’, calls to the very powers that inform and animate the fabric of our earthly reality, with seismic drones that reverberate from deep below our feet. Those vibrations resonate deeply with our inner cores, both physically and metaphysically, initiating a very real connection that is as powerful and as alive as any spiritual force invoked through the spiritual offices of mankind. During the course of the track the tone subtly changes from one of subterrestrial darkness to one of uninhibited and invigorating power, the shifting tones dancing into the sky and bestowing their beneficences on all. Those blessings also infuse every fibre and cell of our own being, forcefully reminding us that we are not divorced from the world around us but are in fact an essential ingredient in its constitution, and that we should take our role very seriously.

 

‘Notschrei’ is next, a word which apparently means cry. The general tone displayed here suggests perhaps a cry of joy rather than of anguish, joy at receiving and fully participating in the panoply of nature and the forces governing them. I detected reverence and a certain strain of devotion here, a joyous welcoming with open arms to all the largesse that Mother Earth and Nature can give us. ‘Odinvokation’ is, perhaps, the ultimate result of welcoming and worshipping the natural forces that remain largely hidden from our purview – their effects are not bestowed carelessly but have to be earned, and establishing the conduits enabling the free exchange of power inevitably leads to a ‘conversation’ with Odin himself, the Allfather, and by doing so we have been welcomed into the family, so to speak. Swelling chords and drones pile one upon the other, building and accumulating energy and vitality, initiating change within oneself and bestowing awareness of what really goes on behind the veil.

 

‘Ragnarok’ carries with it visions of total apocalypse, annihilation, and utter destruction, but this isn’t necessarily so – it could mean an end to the old and the beginning of a new dispensation. In this context one could say this is the renewal of the self as a direct result of the encounter between oneself and the manifestation of the archetype that Odin/Oðinn/Wotan represents. Such an event is unlikely to leave one unaltered, at the very least affirming the existence of powers and entities beyond one’s conscious understanding, even if they’re the manifestations of subconscious realities. Again, these ideas are expressed in terms of swathes of high-flying chords, emerging from some deep chasm of the mind or earth, each one opening up to reveal something new, some new layer of knowledge of both self and universe, and entirely emblematic of necessary transformation.

 

When all is said and done, however, ritual is a completely personal pursuit – the human animal is as individual as the grains of sand on a beach, or the population of galaxies in the universe. Although rituals have always formed an essential part of mankind’s cerebral technology to enable him to make contact with essences and existences outside of normality, the most effective are those which are tailored to the individual. This series of four pieces shows exactly that – a self-realised enactment that was tuned into the celebrant’s own vision. But even on a superficial level, we are privy as listeners and observers to the workings of the imagination-rich inner world of Spilka and how it has shaped his worldview. Indeed, one could say that the release of this suite of music is an invitation, using this music as a basis, to join him in similar inner explorations.

 

Available as a download from here:

 

https://sombresoniks.bandcamp.com/album/wotanist-affair


Psymon Marshall 2020. 

Monday, 3 February 2020

V:XII - Rom, Rune, and Ruin – The Odium Disciplina


Artist: V:XII
Catalogue no: ADCD 068

Tracklist:
     1.      The New Black
     2.      Maðr  
     3.      Twining Rope
     4.      Djävulsögon – Deconstructing the Bloodwolf
     5.      Ururz
     6.      Yawning Void
     7.      B.A.H.F.
     8.      Vànagandr


The name may be new, but the artist behind this project isn’t – Daniel Jansson, better known as Deadwood, and also as a member of Blodulv, Culted, Aum Arrhythmia, and Kepler’s Odd. As Deadwood he released a couple of albums on Cold Spring Records, albums which were full of death noise and black industrial aesthetics, and now he returns to the noise fold with this new iteration, a project which has definitely risen phoenix-like from Deadwood. And let’s not beat around the proverbial bush here – this is as blackened, twisted, rusted, and magnificent as any of Deadwood’s output.

‘The New Black’ sweeps in on a low strafing run, washes of rumbling shadows accompanied by roiling thunderous oscillations and demonic winds. As an opening statement of intent, it sets the tone and substance of what’s to follow: missives from the Darklands, despatches from a defiled and defiling dimension, bringing ruin and devastation in cascades of debris and choking dust. This album appears to want to leave no one standing, no survivors, and no witnesses. ‘Maðr’ (Man), the following track, practically dispenses with any kind of preamble and lets rip with industrialised machine grind, all whirling blades and crushing grindstones, crunching on flesh and bone, only to spit out a pulverised bloody processed pulp at the end. This is the endpoint of mankind’s loss of soul, the point at which we have metamorphosed into ‘things’, and become nothing more than commodities.

‘Twining Rope’ is the next bullet-point in this manifesto of despair and destruction. It begins deceptively, rumblings and grindings going off in the distance before exploding into a slow pulsing beat that mirrors the inexorable march of ‘progress’ towards a dark event horizon, leading to a place of dreary uniformity inhabited by a lacklustre humanity and characterised by colourlessness. Black clouds lower above the heads of an oppressed population, trudging their way to the industrialised abattoirs in order to fulfil their so-called obligations to ‘society’.

Next up is ‘Djävulsögon – Deconstructing the Bloodwolf’ featuring lyrics by Magnus Långberg (Blodulv, Kepler’s Odd, Crest), whichhits between the eyes with a deeply reverberant drumbeat set against a backdrop of cold winds and jagged rips, emanating from a freezing location somewhere in the depths of Hades. Djävulsögon means Devil Eyes in Swedish, an appropriate title as what we’re hearing hints at something deeply subterranean and inimical to those who live above ground in the light of day. Massive raspy and grainy noise provides a suitable platform upon which Jansson growls out vituperation and bile. Whatever has emerged hates what daylight and the human race represents, standing as these things do for everything that this hellish creatures isn’t or perhaps would wish to be. Deeply seismic and crushing, perhaps this piece equates to death and destruction, a motivation to destroy that which one hates or doesn’t understand.

A sustained grainy bass note is our introduction to ‘Ururz’, which quickly develops into a powerful percussion-driven blast, a perfect vehicle for more growls and guttural lyrics. For some reason this particular piece reminds me of a John Martin painting, an eighteenth century artist whose gigantic canvasses depicted scenes of biblical apocalypse, full of fire and devastation. ‘Yawning Void’ could easily be about the aftermath of the previous apocalyptic upheaval, sparse instrumentation floating above a groaning rumble, while whispered vocals emerge from the depths of the earth, a baleful voice that warns of future trials and tribulations. Before it the very ground trembles. ‘B.A.H.F’ (which could mean Brimstone And Hell Fire for all I know) ups the ante, a blast of voice and crushing, crashing noise from the moment it starts. The key here is again vituperation and castigation, even in the quieter moments with their sweeping oscillations. Gradually weight reasserts itself, and comes crashing down upon all our heads.

Finally, the whole picture is completed with ‘Vànagandr’, a frigid blast of cold hurricane winds from the land of the Ice Giants accompanied by a drumbeat, signalling Ragnarok and the end of all things. A quiet voice, buried deep in the mix, whispers indistinct words, words which seem to be snatched away by the winds before they’ve even had a chance to reach our ears. Even if we could hear them, would we heed them? Perhaps it all means we will greet our end with the ignorance we as a species seem to possess, still believing that this will blow over and we’ll survive somehow, blissfully unaware that extinction is our only choice.

Without a doubt, this is a monster of an album, an unstoppable juggernaut intent on steamrollering its way over us with barely a hint of remorse or compassion. This, inevitably, is the way of all things, and humanity in its hubris always forgets this. We are not a permanent fixture, and when we go extinct the universe will not weep. Perhaps, in some future time, when the sun becomes a bloated parody of its younger self and is about to engulf Mother Earth, the last earthling will be listening to an old recording of this album, deeming it a fitting accompaniment to ultimate destruction. This is a welcome return for Daniel Jansson and an essential doom electronics album.

Available from February 14th 2020 from either of these sites:

Psymon Marshall 2020.

Machinefabriek - Stillness Soundtracks II


Label: Glacial Movements Records
Catalogue no: GM040

Tracklist:
     1.      Stillness #6 (Lemaire Channel, Antarctica)
     2.      Stillness #7 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica)
     3.      Stillness #8 (Laubeuf Fjord, Antarctica)
     4.      Stillness #9 (Hanusse Bay, Antarctica)
     5.      Stillness #10 (Antarctic Sound, Antarctica)


It feels rather bizarre jumping into a second part of a series without having reviewed the first volume, but such is the fast-moving world of underground music that this is inevitable. Needless to say I will be assessing this on its own merits, although I am very familiar with the aesthetic of this Italian label and somewhat familiar with the music of Machinefabriek. Let’s jump without further preamble straight into the icy waters of Glacial Movements’ latest release, then.

(Also, for reference, I’ll simply be calling each track by its ‘Stillness #’ for brevity’s sake)

Our visit to the vast snowbound southern continent known as Antarctica begins when we sail into ‘Stillness #6’ and, as soon as you step on board the deck of your ship of the imagination, you’re greeted with chillingly cold winds that threaten to freeze you to the spot. Ice crackles create the sounds the movement our virtual vessels makes through the channel, and sonorous drones and a mournful howling paint a vivid picture of the steep cliffs that line each bank of the Lemaire Channel. It is truly an inhuman landscape here, beautiful yet ultimately inhospitable, a place where the human animal is unfit to be a part of and unwelcome. It isn’t any wonder that HP Lovecraft set his seminal tale ‘At the Mountains of Madness’ on Antarctica – only the truly alien could fit in and call it home, plus the cyclopean nature of the natural features instantly separates the two scales of human and inhuman definitively. It is a place to admire from a safe vantage point, but not one to get too intimate with.

‘Stillness #7’ opens out widely, just like the Antarctic Sound itself, a hovering upper register drone floating almost serenely and hauntingly in the frigid air, a platform perhaps for the reverberations and echoes that appear to reach out from a cocoon of quietude, the sounds and emanations remnants of a distant past frozen into the very atmosphere. Unlike the previous track, we feel unbounded and unfettered, an endlessly slow progression of miniscule movements and events that eventually accumulate and shape the very continent itself. Simultaneously it feels fragile, ephemeral, and ghostly, as if possessing qualities that we humans continually fail to grasp both physically and metaphorically. But stillness here is an illusion, as the sounds of running water remind us – in spite of apparent stasis, this vast place is always moving, on both the micro and macro scales.

Venturing further, we find ourselves in Laubeuf Fjord, the subject of ‘Stillness #8’. This is another one of those open spaces like that referred to in the previous ‘Stillness’, but judging from photographs it appears to be a feature that could be classed as being one that is very open yet still bounded, sitting in between the Lemaire Channel and Antarctic Sound in topography and size. A keening, whistling high-borne wind swirls around us, a spectral sound that seeps into our bones and mind. It appears not to have one specific source; instead it exists everywhere within this particular space, a presiding spirit if you like firmly and irrevocably tied to this location. In some respects this serves as a species of prelude to ‘Stillness #9’, This track, I think, is the most traditional-sounding ambient piece so far, with sweeping uplifting chords and drones combining to lift one up on subtle currents of air, propelling us into the rarefied regions of the atmosphere where the dancing sprites of the aurora dwell. Indeed, it feels more descriptive of the sky than the earth – one can very easily imagine an uninterrupted and unclouded arch of heaven above, sprinkled with the glittering sequins of the cosmos providing tiny spotlights for the colourful veils of light wafting across it. This feels cold, bright, and distant, but simultaneously warm and inviting. We are graciously being allowed to share in the dance and the bounty. 

For our last port of call we find ourselves back in Antarctic Sound for ‘Stillness #10’ – this time, however, we are treated to an even more spacious portrait of this place. Warm celestial drones wash over us gently, reminding us perhaps that all places, no matter how familiar they may appear, have different moods in the same way we do. It feels as if this is the last lonely place on our planet, a place of staggering beauty that’s ever-evolving and moving, and that it will continue to do so well after we’ve disappeared from the face of the earth, until the time the sun turns against its own children and engulfs them in flame and destruction. The continent’s very isolation hopefully ensures that our depredations will be non-existent, and that we will see the light and leave it alone. A useless hope perhaps, but this still emphasises that as vast as this tract of ice-bound land at the southern end of the world may be it is still fragile and worthy of our protection.

This is a beautiful album, gracing us with a gamut of atmospheres ranging from the frigid and unwelcoming to the warm and embracing. Furthermore, it also speaks of the continent’s contradictory solidity and fragility, as well as its movements and evolution on both the micro- and macroscopic scale. It encompasses all of its facets, bringing with it reminders that not only is it an awe-inspiring place but also dangerous, often for the very same reasons. It’s a continent that very few of us will ever get the chance to physically visit but, if you’re like me, albums like this do more than enough to take me there in spirit, where I can observe in safety and warmth. Given the climatic state of our planet at present, this is about as close as I wish to go. As far as I’m concerned this is another winner from Glacial Movements.

Available as a limited CD in an edition of 300 and as a digital download from here:

Psymon Marshall 2020.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Akoustik Timbre Frekuency - Evolution [New Year Rite]


Album: Evolution [New Year Rite]
Artist: Akoustik Timbre Frekuency
Catalogue no: ATF03

Tracklist:
     1.      Evolution [New Year Rite]
     2.      Evolution [Isolated New Year Rite]


As a species, humans like to mark significant events or to memorialise changes whether they be something as small as a birthday, the supposed birth/martyrdom of a religious figure, or when the seasons morph into the one following. In tune with this innate drive many societies over the millennia have formulated rituals and ceremonies designed to celebrate these events, both as a means of marking them and of bringing together people as an act of societal cohesion. Even these outpourings of devotion have evolved, certainly in the private sphere anyway, as these days it appears that individuals are wont to craft specific rites to reflect personal connections and beliefs. This recent release from Akoustik Timbre Frekuency is one such, although strictly speaking this is a reissue that was released as a CDr many years ago by Quartier23 as part of their ‘Ritual Musick Series’. Evolution [New Year Rite] was originally recorded on New Year’s Eve seventeen years ago as a ritual performance and is now re-released as a two-tracker – the original release and the isolated audio recordings of the performance.

From the very note of track one, mournful howls and whistles portray the last throes of the old year, the slowly fading ghost of the presiding spirit of the journey around the sun just gone, as well as a cacophonous sending off as if to drive away an unwanted lingering guest. It’s extremely visceral, shamanic, and in the moment, a necessarily chaotic and unstructured approach in response to the celebrant’s immediate surroundings and the prevailing atmosphere, as much of a description and narrative of the inward forces moving the participants as it is of the event/performance itself. It’s also almost as if the ritual has manifested every denizen of the hidden dimensions into material form, and then given them licence to create merry havoc for the brief tenure of their corporeality. It’s simultaneously joyful yet dangerous, uplifting yet hair-raising. There are moments, especially towards the end of the track, where shivers ran up and down my spine, with a tingling frisson always present throughout the entire running time.

In direct contrast to the dense layering of the preceding track, the following isolated instantiation is stripped back completely and is, in some respects, much more primeval and subterranean, relying even more heavily on atmospherics plus an uncluttered, therefore more direct, approach to primal connections. Just like the treated track, there are entities here but they’re much more obscure and preternatural, scratching and skittering, harking back perhaps to a dreamtime before the world became as it is now. Those reverberations echo down through time from that deep past to the now, carrying with them the same primitive appeal and the same pregnant meanings, of the possibilities and potentialities of the new. If the previous was the seeing out of the old year, then this surely is the welcoming of the new one, an exhortation to embrace those proffered possibilities and potentialities with open arms. One can almost feel the weight of aeons in every guttural utterance and unidentifiable scratch and click on here, a crushing weight that says nothing more than humans are perhaps neither the first ones here nor the prime intelligence governing the globe. There are others ever-present, obscured behind veils only the sensitive and enlightened are able to see and comprehend. They are watching us, and perhaps judging us.

It would be fair to posit that this album fulfils the two sides of man’s nature – the bestial and the search for betterment. In essence, New Year’s Eve is supposed to delineate a moment of change, of forward movement, a reminder to look in front of us and not behind, that if we don’t make the attempt to evolve the human state to something more refined then we’re doomed to repeat the same old mistakes that we’ve always made. On a personal level (and very curiously) I felt this album deeply, in spite of trying to remain neutral as a reviewer. I suppose there are just some things that worm their way in and take up residence, whether they were given an invitation or otherwise.

Available as a digital album from here:

Psymon Marshall - 2020.

Split Frequencies Vol. II - Akoustik Timbre Frekuency/Temple Music.


Album: Split Frequencies Vol. II
Artist: Akoustik Timbre Frekuency/Temple Music
Catalogue no: SomSon 145

Tracklist:
     1.      Akoustik Timbre Frekuency – Atu XV: Thee Devil (Tiphaereth to Hod)
     2.      Temple Music – Ships/Arc


This most recent release from the prolific Sombre Soniks label is the second in the new series of splits showcasing two acts per release (I reviewed the first volume, featuring Embers Below Zero/Grist, at the end of last year). Volume II features Priapus 23’s Akoustik Timbre Frekuency backed by Alan Trench’s Temple Music. Along the same lines to the first, it contains two long-form tracks, about a half hour in length, thematically and atmospherically linked, and which also serve as a kind of an appetiser to encourage further explorations of their individual outputs. And my advice is to just sit back, wrap some headphones around your head, and let your pleasure centres and every cell in your body absorb the frequencies until you become diffuse matter.

ATF’s ‘Atu X: Thee Devil (Tiphaereth to Hod)’ gets on with it straightaway, opening with deep drones and resonant vibrations, meant to connect perhaps with the part of our brains that bypass the consensus reality we’re all subject to and instead injects us into an alternate existence where everything is possible, and where all angles converge. Atu XV: Thee Devil refers, of course, to the fifteenth card of the tarot’s major arcana, a card which strikes fear into many – however, it doesn’t necessarily mean death as it can also mean change (as in death of the old to make way for the new). The subtitle Tiphaereth to Hod is a reference to the kabbalistic Tree of Life, Tiphaereth being the sixth sephira that represents Balance, Integration, and Compassion amongst other attributes. Hod is the eighth sephira, having the attributes of Majesty Glory, and Splendour. The journey being described here is a descending one, possibly going through Netzach, the seventh sphere of Endurance and Patience, a descent from balance into the very earthly attributes of majesty and glory. It’s quite possible, then, that this track is in essence a travelogue, a diary if you like of the aspirant’s/adherent’s metaphysical travels whilst descending the Tree of Life: certainly, as the track progresses the sounds become denser and more layered, as well more resonant and noisier. Looked at from that angle, it becomes clear that we are climbing back down the rungs of the ladder that is the Tree of Life, from a higher more tenuous sphere into one of greater density and more materiality.

‘Ships/Arc’ is a different beast altogether, coming on like an early 70s psychedelic freakbeat workout with twangy bass and organ before more sonorous keyboard drones take over alongside crackles and reverberant background punctuations. Compared to ATF’s opener this begins from an earthbound viewpoint and gently takes flight to catch the thermals and soar above the banalities of material existence. It is at once majestic and plaintive, looking below and reaching up simultaneously, a feeling of both attachment and a longing to be free of unnecessary constraints or the encumbrances of gravity. A strain of melancholic whistling weaves itself above, through, and below the main drones, like a bird dancing amongst the clouds, flitting and flirting with the warm draughts and currents of air. Above is a clear sky, unmarked by any imperfection but, just like here on earth, it is forever unreachable. And, just like birds in this existence, we are drawn back to where we lifted off from, letting gravity take hold once more, and bringing us back to banality. However, unlike the material body, hope and promises aren’t subject to the same forces we are, and they continue soaring into the sky and beyond, catching and floating on currents we can never hope to ride.

Here we have perfect mirrors – one tending towards darkness and earthiness, and the other skywards. One is a reflection of the other, images and feelings that couldn’t exist without their opposites. Perhaps these two tracks are about balance then, about the need for it in a universe rife with plurality – it is in fact a cosmological imperative. Given the current imbalance of earthly life, this could be a warning perhaps, a reminder that without thiss much-needed balance then we are bound to invite our doom. Even knowing our negative propensities as a species, perhaps someone somewhere will listen to this and see the light switch on and receive epiphany. This release contains those depths and nuances aplenty, and they are open to those who will lend an ear.

Available as a digital download from the link below:

Psymon Marshall - 2020.