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

Ben Bennett – Spoilage

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A live performance or a mental breakdown? In clips documenting avant-garde musician Ben Bennett’s performances viewers are exposed to a man who seems to be tragically absorbed in the absurdity of his own performance. We see and hear a man exploiting a number of strange instrumental creations, dragging objects, throwing them, and sometimes doing many of these things at once but curiously, one thing we don’t see or hear is the use of any electronic or conventional instruments. The music in these live performances is more a product of Ben’s physical presence, the improvised use of his surroundings and the music on ‘Spoilage’, the debut release from the Columbus, Ohio artist, is yet another way of documenting these live moments of physicality, sweat, raw energy, and auditory abuse while attempting to contain them in one collective medium. Although contained, what is heard on ‘Spoilage’ is anything but tame. With his Experimedia debut, Bennett utilizes an arsenal of modified instruments, found objects, and whatever he can get his hands on to create a electroacoustic cluster-fuck of cacophonous noise, a masterful piece of work that is more human than music.

With an album comprised of tracks featuring titles such as ‘If you want to hear some definite pitches, I’m sure you could make some yourself pretty easily,’ among a slew of other wordy and caustic suggestions, as one listens it becomes apparent that these titles themselves sum up, in a mouthful of words, the intent behind the entire record. These names lend themselves to the sonic qualities found on a record that contains an intimidatingly long grocery list of unorthodox instrumental creations, some of which are as familiar to music as a drum set, and others that are otherworldly MacGyverist creations, which all collide to create a sound that is all its own, one that is as physical as it is audible, a language of sorts that while primitive  in practise is careful not to sacrifice it’s potential to be innovative.

In a way, Bennett has created an aural vocabulary for himself; a bank of sounds that make appearances throughout the entirety of the album, sounds that are as diverse as they are consistent, all tied together through the musician’s spur-of-the-moment use of his own creations and whatever objects he is surrounded with. The style of percussion the musician explores on his debut is unlike any kind of drumming you would expect to hear; explosive, bombastic bursts of noise, a primitive account of musicianship. While his style of playing may at first come off as a soup of metallic battery, it becomes clear that, above all of the noise, patterns emerge along with tinges of free form jazz pushing it’s way through the cracks between these concrete sounds.

What makes this collection of noises so listenable is the contrast in-between all of the chaos. At times Bennett thrusts himself into the throes of aggression, battering his instruments into submission, while on other tracks his focus tends to be reserved. On ‘Everything / Everything / Everything’ these two contrasting qualities coalesce, confronting us with howls and distant raw screams that climb their way above the pummeling, discordant drumming that is sandwiched between brief interludes of tense silence before erupting and submerging the listener back into the former. The track is pure catharsis and offers those listeners sticking around for more extreme noise music a place to immerse themselves within this varied, yet consistent, collection of offerings.

The music on ‘Spoilage’ undoubtably warrants itself as a work of a physical nature, the extremities of which are skillfully documented courtesy of producer, James Plotkin (of drone group KTL) who has mastered numerous releases from a variety of extreme and unconventional acts. These improvised pieces  that make up ‘Spoilage’ create an illusion of actual depth within these recordings, a clear sign that music is not a product of a studio environment, it instead surrounds us, created and even found in every facet of our lives much like the objects in which Bennett creates employs in his work.

Inventing and Reinventing. Constructing and deconstructing. Creating and destroying. These all seem to be prominent themes on this album and they are all techniques Bennett uses in order to perform these aforementioned atrocities of sound. ‘Spoilage’ is a very confrontational record; full of energy and at times even aggression, Bennet using whatever means necessary to create as much of a racket as possible at one time, even sacrificing the limitations of his own body. Every sound heard is the result of something that is one part instrument and one part human, at times the two becoming one in the same.

Although it is apparent that this album is a collection of documented live performances, it still offers so much more, separating itself from a typical “live album” establishing a sense of meaning, even if that meaning is not completely clear or blatantly stated. Ben Bennett may be new in a sea of noise acts but he places himself up with and perhaps even above some of the contemporary like-minded noise makers of his kind. ‘Spoilage’ is a piece of work that is clearly unconventional, even in terms of the avant-garde. It is a piece of music that rejects all conventional aspects in which we come to expect from music while surprising us with Bennet’s expansive repertoire of noise making abilities, all of which range from a discordant racket to something sublimely musical.

Overall Rating: 9.0

Favorite Tracks: ‘Have you ever considered taking a break from listening to music for a while?’, ‘Everything / Everything / Everything’, ‘I’ll call you when I get creamed by a motorist’

Recommended: Sounds like Colin Stetson and Zach Hill join a grindcore band.

Release Date: 01 October 2013

Links:

Check out some background information regarding ‘Spoilage’, stream the album, and watch videos of Ben Bennett performing live at: http://label.experimedia.net/025/

All proceeds from digital sales of the album will go to Living Energy Farm, a project to build a farm, community, and education center without the use of fossil fuels or, in the theme of the album, electronic media. For more information visit: livingenergyfarm.org

-Tyler Thompson

Jahktute – A Record of Things Gone

Jahktute is a recording artist whose sound ranges from the extreme shrill noise heard on previous albums such as ‘Epwell‘ to quieter collage-like recordings that are sparse in sound.

I’ve always had a soft spot for noise; the intensity and abrasives of it can, at times, bring us back to a reality of life that we often seek to get away from or it can make us feel alienated bringing us into a new world of creative and vast soundscapes. Perhaps the most captivating part of noise is not the audible aspect but what it means to us conceptually; the idea of making these common parts of our life seem alien, to evoke emotion or tell a story through the juxtaposition of raw sound as it may be heard in everyday life, unfiltered or restrained by the use of traditional instrumentation but instead inspiring experimentation and often times an unconventional means of execution to produce a piece of music that is as original as it is unreproducible. When we hear noise in it’s commonplace, where it belongs, it does not bother us but when stripped of all of our other senses but sound, when noise becomes the focus of a situation, in this case looked at as a piece of music it suddenly becomes capable of evoking many different emotions and whether the feelings we pull from it were intentional or not the fact remains in both cases, noise is inescapable and Jahktute makes use of this reality via use of sometimes harsh electronic feedback and collages of sound combined with recordings of people talking, cars passing, birds chirping, and a variety of noises that lie hidden outside of our subconscious with this 11 track collection of varied minimalist noise.

The first two tracks are much quieter, relying on a minimalist approach with small movements of sound; what at times appears to be recordings of old machinery attempting to finish what may be it’s last dying task, sheets of metal clashing together, bottles clanking together, people chatting with each other, low-end rumblings that ominously flow beneath the foreground amongst a slew of other unsettling noises. The sounds are often sparse yet spontaneous; at times noises will meander about before erupting into a cataclysm of abrasiveness. ‘Road Lines’ features more of these sonically intense factors as shrill high pitched metallic noises and what sounds like pieces of metal and glass being scrapped against each other make their way across highly compressed low end rumblings which continue into ‘Symphony pt. 2’. Although the focus of the sound is mostly combinations of grating noise and field recordings other forms of noise are introduced into the mix, an example being ‘I Found it Underground’ which although brief, makes use of rich and dark piano chords that are allowed to linger moments after they are played where the track ‘Of meanings’ provides the listener with a deep melancholic drone which makes for a very different feeling of unease that the noise on the rest of the album just can’t accomplish as well. These two tracks made me want to hear more of what Jahktute can create using a more atmospheric approach to noise and although I enjoyed their inclusion they just felt out of place regardless of the additional variety they add. As the album continues the inclusion of field recording becomes continuously more involved playing a major role in telling something of an audible story encouraging a disconnect between the origin of the sound and what is being heard. The listener is left to interpret these naked sounds without the visual imagery of what is creating them, the same kind that allow us to feel comfortable with them naturally.

Jahktute’s ability to pull a blindfold over the eyes of the listener is uncanny, his music forces the listener to remain attentive leaving one visual impaired yet sonically more alert to the events that are transpiring within his recordings but at the same time even with all of the variety that is offered here I did feel that there were moments on this release that just could not hold my interest. Seeing as the approach on ‘A Record of Things Gone’ is more moderated than that of previous releases in that there tends to be more control in terms of the placement of noises on this recording I found that it either wasn’t minimal enough for me to feel completely involved, to feel completely engrossed in what has been constructed and when more sounds were introduced it was not spontaneous or chaotic enough.

I feel like where ‘A Record of Things Gone’ lacks is not so much the execution of the material, the individual tracks but that the release acts more as a compilation of interesting sounds, either found or created to make something of an emotive collage rather than something more concise. While some tracks do work well with others some, although enjoyable just feel out of place. While I was not necessarily compelled by what I heard I do feel like what is here can provoke one to ask questions, think, or feel emotion and in that it succeeds because even if it were negative is that not what this kind of noise seeks to achieve, that being a response as simple as questioning the music itself?

Overall rating: 6.0

Favorite Tack: ‘I Found it Underground’, ‘Of Meanings’

Recommended: Choose to hear it.

Released: 20 February 2012

Links: Stream ‘A Record of Things Gone’

Redntoothnclaw