Felicia Atkinson: Les Boise Rouges
Unread Records (2011)
Felicia is a French musician and artist whom I stumbled across over at the Free Music Archive where you can download a copy of this out of print cassette. I’ve not explored the archive much before but after finding this diamond in the rough I’m keen to dig around a bit deeper on there.
Felicia makes ethereal drones using a guitar and effects pedals. Breathtaking clouds of nothingness that don’t appear to have any particular destination in mind but never slip into self indulgence. The compositions range from sparse and acoustic, like This Impermanent Gold which makes me think of Jackie O Motherfucker, and montages that combine blissful guitars with miscellaneous noise. It’s the latter pieces where Felicia excels, managing to build up a vortex of sound that threatens to unhinge itself from reality. If you’re a fan of the mighty Yellow Swans you’ll be familiar with this trick. It’s a great act she’s got going here, and Les Boise Rouges is highly recommended as an antidote for those late nights at home when the world feels like it’s getting the better of you.
Necro Deathmort: Music of Bleak Origin
Distraction Records (2011)
The internet might tell you that Necro Deathmort are some sort of Hip-Hop Black Metal hybrid, but don’t believe the hype, as Public Enemy would say. Music of Bleak Origin might open with a head-nodding riddim but the listener is quickly thrown into doomier and more industrial territory. This is a Post Rock soundtrack with some neat little tricks thrown in to keep things interesting.
Temple of Juno flirts with grime infused beats before it unleashes droning guitars and whirring electronics, and then closes out like an Acid techno meltdown. In Binary mixes dark Jazz in the vein of Bohren and der Club of Gore with stunning doomscapes indebted to Nadja.
Necro Deathmort are at their best when the electronics take a back seat, the beat slows to a crawl and the guitars are allowed to drone away in thick slabs of blackened muck, as they do on The Heat Death of Everything which ends in a gorgeous cacophony of guitars detuning themselves into oblivion. But the album is let down on the middle run of tracks where gothic Industrial takes over, creating a nightclub scene for people in eyeliner and platform boots.
It’s obvious this duo likes the balance between Industrial cheese and shoegazy doom. Necro Deathmort’s previous record is called This Beat is Necrotronic, if that tells you anything about where their head is at. Thankfully, the majority of Music of Bleak Origin falls into the doom category, albeit an electro-fied take on doom, and as long as they stay focused on that element I’m willing to keep listening.
Altar of Flies: Permanent Cavity
iDEAL recordings (2010)
When walking under powerlines there’s that low-range hum and gentle crackling which emanates from the wires. It comes with an intangible sense that dangerous currents are wiggling into your pores, altering your genetics. And then the fear that a bolt of electricity could erupt from overhead at any moment, a freak twist of fate collapsing the powerlines. Angry snakes of electrified wire swing down to strangle you in a whiplash of white-hot noise. This is an anxiety brought to life on the opening track of Permanent Cavity.
Altar of Flies is the moniker of Swedish drone and noise artist Mattias Gustafsson. This is his debut full-length, a collection entrenched in drone but pushing the genre to its limits in terms of dynamic and composition. Gustaffson is never complacent enough to sit on a single tone or frequency for a punishing length of time. He manipulates a baseline of gentle analogue drones and punctures them with shards of crusty feedback and debris. Tracks never finish where they started and Gustaffson is in complete control of every single journey. He uses quiet to build tension, and when only he’s ready does he unleash the screaming beast you knew was lurking in the dark all along.
At his harshest, the sound reminds me of Lasse Marhaug, while the gentler moments remind me of Wolf Eyes at their most creepy. There are moments of sea sick synthesisers that raise a toast to the more ambient moments of Sweden’s Black Metal history without falling into theatrics and cheese.
The phrase Post-Industrial comes up a lot in reviews of Altar of Flies, and while that sounds to me like some of the wank I had to deal with at art school back in the day, I think the reference to the Industrial scene of the late seventies and early eighties is important here. Because although parts of Permanent Cavity are heavily processed, there’s not much that sounds digitally cold. It’s organic and warm (and also fucking terrifying at times) and at the core of its racket lies lies a collection of human junk and hand made sound machines, all hungry and vying to eat each others souls. There’s a beautiful sense of decay about this record, a permanent cavity indeed.
Mudsuckers – Mudsuckers
Important Records (2006)
I definitely feel excited about this record, especially when one half of the Mudsuckers’ quartet is made up of the Yellow Swans guys. I’m yet to hear a bad Yellow Swans release and their brutal psychedelia is stamped all over this. But it’s unfair to trivialise Mudsuckers that way. I’m not hugely familiar with Tom Carter and Robert Horton, who form the other half of this project, but their presence adds gentle drones, brass instruments and hollowed out tribal rhythms to the mix. Feedback, digital smear and general ambience also prevail.
Combined, these elements are allowed plenty of room to breathe. Individual sounds often go un-manipulated; the boys each pick a path and run with it, making subtle adjustments and delighting in the picture that emerges. On Here Come the Mudsuckers stale feedback and awry radio signals weave around a gentle drone and a distant rhythm; there’s little variation during its nine minutes and yet any subtle shifts that do take place feel seismic within the whole, and when feedback takes over in the track’s dying moment another dimension opens.
Mudsuckers has a very organic feel about it; nothing sounds obviously digital. It represents four guys in a room wrenching whatever sound they can from their chosen ‘instruments’. It has a live feel, almost like a band, albeit a fucked up one. This vibe comes to light in the closing number Sweet which kicks off with a thick atonal hum made up of feedback and reed instruments, and ends 16 minutes later with a crackling 12 bar boogie-woogie piano and a droning harmonica. The spirit of the blues and its improvisatory nature is present throughout Mudsuckers – this is a band making noise rather than a bunch of ‘artists’ making noise. There’s something very refreshing in that.
TenHornedBeast – My Horns are a Flame to Draw Down the Truth
Cold Spring Records (2009)
When the awesome Aquarius Records put a whole bunch of Doom, Drone and Metal up for sale, I splurged on a batch of goodies. The standout of this stash was My Horns are a Flame to Draw Down the Truth.
You know how the word ‘glacial’ gets thrown around when talking about droney, doomy records? As in monolithic, cold and crawling along at millimetres per minute? TenHornedBeast goes way beyond that; everything on this album unfurls at a pace that’s almost painful, sweetly painful. This record isnt worried about revealing its charms quickly. You’ll need patience, and quiet time.
Talk of flames, horns and beasts is deceiving because the vibe here is haunting but not blackened. It’s not crushing like Black Boned Angel, it almost has more in common with Stars of the Lid but with so many layers of gentle drones that the whole thing becomes way bigger than the sum of its parts. A dense haze you can’t see through, thick enough that you can feel it pressing in on you, gently.
There are moments when distorted rumbles threaten to take over, of course, but these might be related to this record’s companion piece The Sacred Truth from which a couple of tracks were ‘remixed’ for My Horns are a Flame to Draw Down the Truth. It’s said that The Sacred Truth is a heavier record than this, does anyone know if that’s true? I plan to find out for myself. You should too.
Philip Jeck: An Ark for the Listener
Touch Records (2010)
Who the hell is Philip Jeck? He’s an English multimedia artist, composer and choreographer who works with turntables. He’s released around fourteen records in the last fifteen odd years but I’d never heard of him until An Ark for the Listener popped up on numerous blogs and websites in the latter part of 2010.
Jeck might work with turntables but this is no pastiche of beats a la DJ Spooky or DJ Shadow, nor is it some sort of ambient techno trip. Jeck creates haunting, ethereal and rythmless sound scapes that combine droning acoustics, orchestral flourishes and snippets of noise. These compositions crackle into life slowly and bloom into delicious whirlwinds of ecstasy and decay. Apparently he has performed using up to a dozen turntables but it’s hard to believe that he isn’t collaging samples somewhere along the way. His ouvre is too organic in nature to be based purely on juggling records, but then an expert in turntablism I am not, so who knows how he’s creating his world. It’s definitely intriguing to ponder how he’s doing this because he’s playing records in a way that’s completely removed from the concept of ‘disc jockey’.
Jeck’s background in choreography is apparent while listening to An Ark for the Listener, with motifs that repeat throughout the record it’s easy to visualise this as the basis for some sort of stage or theater performance but it’s much more cohesive than an actual soundtrack. It sounds a lot like Yellow Swans writing for a ballet, an interesting prospect in itself. This is a beautiful record to kick back and drift away to, a magic carpet ride high above the city. I’m thoroughly intrigued and will be delving further into his discography.