Hair Police – Mercurial Rights

Hair Police - Mercurial Rites

In 2001, noise trio, Hair Police, made quite a racket within the experimental music scene and continued to do so for a number of years before going on an unannounced hiatus in which members pursued endeavors in their respective separate projects. It wasn’t until earlier this year that the group returned to the noise scene with their most complete effort in years and arguably their most intimidating release out of their entire catalogue. Featuring members of noise legends Wolf Eyes and Burning Star Core, Hair Police brings together aspects from these backgrounds, the frothing primal aggression of the former and mesh it with the sonically attentive subtleties of the latter. With ‘Mercurial Rites’ the group looks to strip the semi-polished sheen of noise music’s marriage with digitally processed sounds and the recent influence of dub music, instead, taking the genre back to the electronic medieval that seems to have been absent in recent years.

While in recent times the musicians most notable for their contributions to the early modern developments of the now thriving noise scene, the likes of Dominick Fernow of Prurient and  Vatican Shadow, Pete Swanson (ex-Yellow Swans), and Black Dice have been moving more toward exclusively structural variants of electronic music, implementing their once completely atonal noise compositions into the structural format of modern electronic music, namely the likes of dub and minimal techno, Hair Police have something entirely different in mind, devoid of any of the aforementioned electronic themes, thus harkening back to the primitive roots of electronic music. Hair Police revisits the confrontational aspects of noise that the genre was known for during its early developments recalling the hellish vocals evocative of the ear-aching noise pioneered by controversial power-electronics group, Whitehouse in the 80s and early 90s.

Hair Police’s sound actually reminds me a lot of the more abrasive works from Wolf Eyes, albeit, this form of corrosiveness is not of an immediate kind but  rather, long form, slow-burning, and reminiscent of the Wolf Eyes collaborative series of works with psychedelic noise collective, Black Dice. ‘Mercurial Rites’ is a record that knows when to be punishingly noisy and when to bring in a moodier atmosphere. It is this live aspect that adds layers of depth and uniqueness to an otherwise colorless, bleak vision. The vocals add yet another nightmarish quality to these dissonant tormented soundscapes. With this release the band has proven itself worthy of crafting a nicely balanced record, intermittently transitioning from the tortured analogue hell of ‘We Prepare’ to the  nightmarish dungeon-esque ambience of ‘Scythed Wide’. While Hair Police’s style has always included a strong atmospheric presence the band still manages to touch on a dark aspect of music that feels natural rather than intentional, even in the midst of a less noisy approach. In a genre of extremes  the group has created a sound that isn’t completely over-cooked, finding a middle ground between the unlistenable and the accessible, making this release a good jumping on point for those who are unfamiliar with the band to listen.

Although I’ve had a fondness for noise, drone, experimental, avant-garde; vanguard music as a whole, for some reason I never got around to listening to Hair Police up until this point but even with that said I can say without question that ‘Mercurial Rites’ is easily the bands most complete effort since 2008’s ‘Certainty of Swarms’ and one of the better harsh noise records I’ve heard this year thus far. It is a record that shows that the band hasn’t at all let up on the caustic sound in which they made a name for themselves with, even in the midst of noise music’s current transition toward something conclusively musical; a sound this record seems to be inherently opposed to. It is here that disturbing soundscapes fill the void between blasts of distortion-ridden noise and if that doesn’t sound unsettling enough the shrill disembodied vocals that haunt this record will likely give you nightmares, although these are nightmares that I wouldn’t mind revisiting often.

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Overall Rating: 8.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘We Prepare’

Recommended: Wolf Eyes, Burning Star Core, Black Dice

Released: January 2013

Links:

Stream the LP on Type Records

Buy the record on Boomkat

-Tyler Thompson

TAIWAN – BELLADONNA

TAIWAN is an experimental recording artist from Edmonton who creates a breed of ethereal jazz infused ambient music that harkens back to the sound of forgotten direct to VHS romance and horror movie soundtracks. While the music is already creepy enough there is an added eeriness from the tape crackle and hiss to the spot on replication of such an obscure sound; BELLADONNA is a 30 minute 18 track foray into the sounds of something lost and forgotten in time, something strangely romantic, familiar and alien, and nostalgic yet new all at the same time.

While the idea of replicating old film scores and bringing a modern twist to them is nothing new (see Zombi, Bohren & der Club of Gore), the type of music that TAIWAN replicates and how similar his interpretations are is where this album shines. TAIWAN’s lo-fi aesthetic and attention to detail in recreating such an obscure sound is surely an art form within itself.

The sounds on BELLADONNA are mostly cheesy Casio style synth arrangements. TAIWAN’s sound is very 80’s-esque inspired new wave, kitschy with what would be the sonic equivalent of some old VHS tapes, forgotten in someone’s basement, the tapes damaged by so many floods and worn out by constant fast forwarding, rewinding, and playing. All of the tracks, although different in style are tied together by their easy listening sound from gritty detective noir themed jazz to sensual piano ballads. It evokes a powerful nostalgic response bringing back memories of wooden paneling and grainy discolored photography, memories that even if one had never experienced are still able to evoke a sense of mystery and wonder that is just as visceral.

The album’s sound is contributed heavily to the phenomenon of nostalgia; instead of rejecting these old sounds it embraces the archaic, taking it back and reworking it into something partially new and listenable even if it still deliberately holds ties to the past. Part of me really enjoys this aspect of replicating, or more accurately this reworking of something old and obscure into something even more strange yet part of me wonders if it would be possible to expand on something like this. The future, a concept TAIWAN openly rejects is quickly closing in and I wonder where the project is going to go when it is confronted with the idea of just that, the future.

TAIWAN has turned drone and ambient music, two genres so focused on a futuristic sound into something old yet new at the same and while I do feel that this stylistic decision is extremely limited in a world where time is quiet literally speeding up I can’t deny the uniqueness that BELLADONNA possesses and the firm hold that these curious and eerie tunes have on that nostalgic longing for the past that everyone possesses from time to time.

Overall rating: 7.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘B04’, ‘B05’

Recommended: Meat Force

Released: 11 November 2011

Links: Listen to Belladonna on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Skymning – Moonstone Gang

Skymning is a bedroom music producer who writes and records lo-fi downtempo beats. ‘Moonstone Gang’ is the producer’s third release.

Rewind to 2010; a music genre called witch house arises and instantly creates a hysteria of rage amongst the internet music community. As lo-fi bedroom production grew more an more popular we were being introduced to the phenomenon of these tiny genres, micro-genres, often the result of an amalgamation various styles of music. The term ‘witch house’ refers to a form of electronic music that contains an unorthodox combination hip-hop music and some minor key characteristics of shoe-gaze, drone, and ambient music. Other than sharing similar musical characteristic the genre also saw a collective of shared imagery; inverted crosses, triangles, and various symbols all complete with a mysterious and elusive persona; masks, drag, veils etc. With Triangle Records rising out of the dodgy and laughable mess of faux-santanic imagery, mysterious personas, and the ability to induce a shit storm of rage whenever mentioned there has been this cloud of ethereal ambient laden music that has hovered over and influenced electronic musicians since late 2009; Balam Acab, How To Dress Well, and Holy Other being just a few out of the many.

The album is quick to rely on the mysterious presence that other musicians of this genre pioneered, complete with a combination of dark overbearing synth and hip-hop style production. The second track ‘Crystal Veins’ showcases this certain mystery beginning with a handclapped rhythm that draws a likeliness to southern hip-hop before exploding into these lush reverberated synth landscapes; a bold track that goes as far as to capture the vibe of the entire EP in one song. The EP continues to follow the consistency established on the previous two tracks. On the ridiculously incomprehensibly named forth track, ‘पापराक्षसी वत्से’, these saturated overdriven synths create an eerie and disturbing vibe as a vocal sample featuring a girl recounting the events of some negative point in her life, perhaps at some past rape or abduction scenario plays on. The track listing is nicely arranged with these short spells of calmness appropriately sandwiched between these foreboding hip-hop based instrumentals. ‘Nässjö II’ provides a smooth reassuring sense of ease that ties everything together and makes for a perfect closer.

‘Moonstone Gang’, although a short affair showcases the ethereal sounds of witch house ranging from washed out saturated synth patterns to dark and grimy hip-hop beats resulting in a dreamy piece of music that although does not attempt to be original by any means or provide anything new in terms of expanding on this short lived genre does accommodate with some great sounds that you could relax to just as easily as you could perform a satanic ritual to.

Overall rating: 6.3

Favorite Track: ‘Crystal Veins’

Recommended: Triangle Records. Salem style southern hip-hop influence production.

Released: 08 January 2012

Links: ▲▲▲

Redntoothnclaw

Orphan School – Secret Admirer

On the two track EP, ‘Secret Admirer’, Orphan school deviates from the mysterious dark ambient / noise of his previous recordings and shoots for a strange combination of simplistic folk and throat singing to create a haunting and dark encapsulating experience.

‘Secret Admirer’s’ sound relies on it’s simplicity; these stripped down folk songs utilizing ukulele, strange background noises and deep resonant throat singing that puts emphasis on creating a dense and vivid body of music. Secrete Admirer’s lack of instrumentation results in a skeletal sound that forces the listener to pay attention in ways not possible otherwise. Where this EP really shines is the range this guy gets with his voice, from a cavernously deep drone to something of a midrange nasally hum that results in some of the most expressive throat singing I have come across. I think that even for those familiar with this style of singing the vocals will be an immediate deterrent but for the more adventurous type, for those who won’t have a problem embracing Orphan School’s distinctive sound this will be something of a gem.

In terms of folk music most will argue that having a beautiful voice or even displaying the ability to sing “properly” is almost always absent. Instead the musicians abilities are focused on enhancing other aspects of their craft such as songwriting, lyrics, and story telling – not to say that the style of singing employed on this album isn’t beautiful but that the lyrics are also a standout part of the music that adds to ‘Secret Admirer’s’ creepy world and alien imagery. On the second track, ‘Next Year’ Orphan School Sings ‘ if you take a look outside there is always something beautiful to find’ which makes for an odd but extremely stimulating juxtaposition with the unusual vocals. The two tracks on this EP do well in projecting a strange feeling, a sense of anxiety and awkwardness through the vivid lyrics utilizing this lovesick character to project them. Orphan School is telling a story and I can’t help but become enthralled in it.

This will undoubtably be challenging piece of music to digest for some but if you can get past the initial shock of what you are hearing the experience is a disturbing, strange, surreal, and sometimes beautiful venture into new sonic territory. Check it out for yourself, take from it what you will, and enjoy.

Overall rating: 8.1

Favorite Track: Enjoyed both tracks

Recommended: Be prepared for anything and embrace it.

Released: 14 February 2012

Links: Peep Orphan School on Bandcamp

Redntoothnclaw

Vasko – Enough Enough

Vasko is the solo recording project of Brian Sopher, a Columbus, OH musician who has busily recorded, produced, and released music as Glasslung, Folted and has performed as a duo in drone / noise project Hintergrund. ‘Enough Enough’ is Brian’s first dubstep release as well as the first EP under the name Vasko.

I missed my chance / procrastinated in reviewing this when it was released late last year but nonetheless, I feel like this should be talked about and deserves a review regardless of whether it is still relevant.

On this EP Vasko’s style of dubstep is a dark and disjointed journey thats plays off of it’s minimalistic influences. The song structure is skeletal, basic, built on deep sub bass that tectonically shifts beneath an aura of ambience resulting in something sleek and futuristic while having the same mystery and curious appeal as some dusty lost tape recording. There are large spacial synth swells that produce this overarching feel of something expansive or maybe even cosmic but at the same time everything still remains restrained being careful not to overwhelm. The overall mood is calm even though there is this surrounding unease, a sense that not all is right and that beneath the soft airy synths is something deeply sinister. Everything is neatly organized but still has the organic feel of a piece of drone music where it forces one to pay attention and pick out parts of the music taking away something ambiguous and new to each listen.

The album begins strong, ‘Touching Till’ is a sensual pursuit of bass heavy rhythms that features a sample that repeats throughout the track. It may be just me but I get this slight R&B influence as well, not only on this track but on the EP in it’s entirety. The beats are thin sounding, and at times seem to fall out of time with each other. Its a primitive approach, stripped down to a wiry sound, one that is as dark and mysterious as it is comforting. I could honestly listen to it over and over again. One of my favorites, ‘Women’ is a beautiful feast of synth sounds that contains little in the way of beats or dubstep and for what it is, it is just fine. There is a tasteful palette of delicately layered synths that does enough to make up for the sparse beats.

The album closes with ‘Traumzeug’, a stark interpretation of post-dubstep that at times outshines the classification itself. There is this distant metallic clanging that keeps the beat throughout ‘Traumzeug’ bringing out this feeling of anxiety, building tension that never sees release and ultimately leaves you waiting for something that never comes. Relying heavily on a minimalistic approach I can’t help but feel like there were moments where the music became repetitive and felt stagnant which I can imagine is always a  concern when creating something like this. Fortunately the songs are a good length, never going past the five minute mark ensuring that if things do become boring they aren’t boring for long.

The focus of Enough Enough tends to favor atmosphere over beats and like much of Brian’s work prior to Vasko, it has this same strong ambient presence that runs throughout the songs on this EP which makes for a fairly even blend of relaxing ambience and minimalist dubstep in an attempt to challenge the listener with a few unconventional sounds.

Overall Rating: 7.9

Favorite tracks: ‘Touching Till’, ‘Conveyor’, ‘Women’

Recommended: Futuristic; fans of UK garage and Burial will have no problem getting into this.

Links:

Brian’s Soundcloud profile

His previous work as Glasslung

Aetx – Sea Music

Aetx makes a form of self described “psychedelic drone” whose music focuses heavily on looping and layering distorted vocal samples in combination with effected instrumentation to create a rather sinister sounding atmosphere. His debut 4 track EP, “Sea Music” documents these sounds.

The EP opens with “Hallowed Bright“. An airy and soothing track comprised of bells that clang together while soft humming drones lurk beneath – one that hit me immediately as a standout track. The tastefully effected vocal sample that loops throughout takes center stage as a particularly enjoyable highlight that makes this track a great opener. The rest of the EP departs from the “airiness” of “Hallowed Bright” with the light and wispy vocals being replaced by a darker presence. Although I would have liked to hear more of the softer sounding vocals it is a well balanced decision and makes for a nice contrast.

It is Aetx’s use of samples and his ability to bring them together as a reoccurring theme throughout the album that makes his music unique for me. His samples are often used as instruments themselves, looping again and again and forming an identifiable rhythm. On “No Mind” a man’s voice can be heard, down tuned and unintelligibly repeating itself as though to create a rhythm while the sample of another man’s voice rambles on, preaching about spiritual self, materialism, and soul. The sample seems so perfectly in place and so relevant to the music Aetx makes. It is this ability, his way of structuring these sounds mainly using the vocal samples as the foundation for his songs that makes the music so arresting. However, ironically enough it is also one of the negative attributes of his music as well. All of these chopped up samples and noises are intriguing and fun to explore at first but become tedious after hearing them repeat over and over. I especially felt this way when listening to the track “Arm Yourself“. The sample is so high in the mix that it became distracting from some of the other elements of the music leading it to become somewhat grating to listen to after hearing it repeat itself so many times. This minor problem, however, was not enough to keep me from enjoying the rest of the EP.

On the final track, “Execution” Aetx continues to show his penchant for textures and layered vocal samples. The track is comprised of industrial clanging all the while something chaotic begins to brood beneath. Intensity builds and as the track progresses people can be heard arguing, erupting in a torrent of screams and shouts. If there is any indication that Aetx knows how to evoke a response from the listener it is on this track which ends the EP on a rather chilling note.

It is these vocal samples of flawed beings endlessly repeating themselves, these humming drones and shrill noises that claustrophobically lurk beneath, and this attention to detail that cohesively brings together all of these elements that makes “Sea Music” an enjoyable experience. All in all Aetx’s first EP is a solid debut brimming with unique sounds and character.

Overall Rating: 7.9/10

Favorite Track: “Hallowed Bright

Recommended: Those who enjoy drone with pop sensibilities. Fans of artists on Triangles Records.

-Redntoothnclaw

Zalhietzli – Sainte Rita

I’m amazed by this. It’s drone ambient noise or something like it, with occasional vocal samples. Listening to this EP is really like watching a movie, having a nightmare etc., it’s an insanely immersive and dense, like a soundtrack to your subconscious’ inner workings. The sound experimentation is really interesting and, though deep, never unpleasant and, though constrained by the genre, never boring – not for me at least.

The second track is the most accessible, having vocal samples, rhythm (though irregular) and sound bits with clear emotional meaning – suspense and creepiness, mostly. The other two are more atmospheric, which makes them harder to relate to. I think the interplay of different sound streams in them is actually more interesting and aesthetically pleasing, but nothing beats emotion as a tool for musical attraction – in a broad sense of emotion, including the emotion of “wanting to dance”.

Well, I fail to see how black metal, drone and such are sad, but if you feel sadness in kvlt stuff, then this is probably depressive to you as well.

In general I can say this is really well made and deep, so If you like the genre: 1) you will like this; and 2) this Zalhietzli dude also releases other people’s music of the same general type, check it out here. He releases on tape, with cool homemade album art. If you dig that, you can buy this EP on tape on his bandcamp page.

-Carpeaux