Hunting Lodge – Will (Dais, May 2015)

Will by Hunting Lodge is many things: an invitation to explore the edgier shores of the American underground and a pitch-black, pull-me-apart-and-feed-me-to-the-dogs listen that contains the first seed of what went on to become the label, concept and hub known as S/M Operations. Most of all this reissue through Dais is the first chance we’ve been given to hear the record as it was meant to be. The original Will is awash with white noise and skew-whiff levels of mixing as Hunting Lodge’s young Lon C. Diehl and Richard Skott naively, but uncompromisingly, took to the mastering process themselves in 1983.

But refusals to compromise always pay back, sooner or later. Hunting Lodge’s third opus is a threatening, ice-cold masterpiece of radical industrial music which still has a few lessons to teach and a lot of pleasure to give. A tidal wave of impossibly jagged rhythms, metallic throaty drones, bangs and clangs in abandoned factories and distorted voices from afar, Will is a perfect synthesis of the various veins that run through Diehl and Skott’s brief but industrious musical career. Some three decades on, Will sounds like an accomplished monument to the brutal yet melancholy side of American industrial. The album is noisy in a haunting way, rabid and unrelentlessly bleak, but it is also thoughtful. Listening to this loud and not in the company of others has been one of the best evenings May has granted us.

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M.B. (Maurizio Bianchi) – Symphony for a Genocide (EEs’T Records, August 2015)

Maurizio Bianchi self-reissues 10 of his 1980s works on CD (again), which you can buy either singularly or as a Mectpyo (read Mestruo) ‘Box’. Not knowing where to start, I’ve chosen the cream: Symphony for a Genocide is a monument, and if you haven’t gone to pray – or cry – at that altar then maybe now is the time. Bianchi’s famed LP initially put out by Nocturnal Emissions’s Sterile Records in 1981 is a brutal, desolate, awful meander through tracks named after Nazi extermination camps. Plunging the listener in an excruciating sadness, Bianchi masterfully joins the dots between the organic and the synthesised without having to demonstrate anything other than what he can honestly bring as an artist – and in retrospect, he brought a lot.

The record moves between rough, buzzing lo-fi textures and steely electronic coughs, with a slowness, a sternness, which is horrifying and extremely moving – moments of white fuzz alternate with moments of excruciating industrial bleeps twisted, deformed and deforming. Sometimes, through the valleys of pulsating noise something like a melody emerges, always in the form of a downwards whimper. Other times, the metallic swarm is interrupted by rattling power electronics, which seem to unravel, like some sort of breaking machine coming apart behind the trembling drones. Voices are muffled, mnemonic disembodied voices through the iron-hard hiss. It’s distressing and powerful, but it’s also a few other things: Symphony for a Genocide is a record without cruelty, carried only a disarming and desolate pain. You could even call it a ‘quiet’ noise record: it gathers its harshness not through violence but through a frozen sadness, and its effect is that of an anaesthetic.

 

Whitehouse – Halogen (Dirter, September 2015)

There are records which need to get reissued every now and again to check how they go down in the world, how things change. Whitehouse’s Halogen is seen by lovers of the genre as a milestone of extreme and ‘horrible’ British electronics, for its form and for its content, and it should of course be enjoyed unbearably loud. The album came out fifteen years into the band’s career in 1994, and I believe now is a good time to hear it again because it actually sounds a lot more careful, a lot more precisely crafted than it might have in the past. It also sounds – dare I say – rather mellow, or in fact rather melancholy, devoted to fuzzy, awful (in the best of senses), brutal affairs which nevermind how extreme and terrible they are, are also clearly expressions of a thoughtful rage.

This record now sounds committed to a cause; there’s something of a proto-political raison d’être (yes, even behind “Lighting Struck My Dick”), a willingness to hurt, shock, harm, set on fire which sounds rather calculated, rather pregnant, and above all very serious. Halogen now sounds uncompromising for a reason; not for some kind of boyish fun, but the fuzz, the screams, the highest of high frequencies, the swearing, the horror, the lot. If you can get over the ring in your ear, Halogen in 2015 provides you with an insightful kick from the past. It reminds you of the punk ideology that hurts, that matters, that will exhaust you and make you think about the present. Then you’ll either smash something up or cry. And that’ll teach you a lesson.

Colin Potter – Albums and Rarities Boxset (ICR, October 2015)

Colin Potter is one of the best examples of British tape culture we have: unrelenting, ever-searching and richly transforming over the years. He has that gorgeous tape-in-the-mail sound which is forlorn, lonely, which so delicately oscillates between tender industrial and oblique home-made experimental synth. Some of his early tapes, which he released in a box-set last year – such as mythological blog-circulated The Ghost Office and A Gain – have been the subject of legend. Now, another six-tape series chronicles his late-‘80s and early-‘90s adventures, which are different, more adult, more technically sophisticated but no less alluring.

The set contains Potter’s output from 1989 and 1990 and collections assembled or rare or unreleased material from the same era, which he’s called Are We Nearly There Yet? and, rather aptly, Hiss Story. There’s a more subdued and droney Potter to be found; longer, developing soundscapes, more field recordings, more environment. Less of that early ‘80s bleepiness and clanginess, and more of a certain tenderness and a taste for a sophisticated, composite, textured kind of ambient. Given Potter’s re-emergence with more recent material in his very rhythmic Rank Sonata, as well as his re-surfacing live presence, it’s a good moment to appreciate this home-grown maverick’s back-catalogue.

Mecánica Popular – ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo? (Dead Cert, October 2015)

The resounding drum roll from the archive this month was Dead Cert’s reissue of Mecánica Popular’s 1984 masterpiece ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo?, undoubtedly one of the pillars of Spain’s and everybody else’s history of the mechanical 1980s. Eternally brimming with good ideas and good taste, the record is the result of years of late sessions by Eugenio Muñoz and Luis Delgado, two studio engineers whose young and very skilful minds had the whole ‘paradise’ of the RCA Madrid Studios to play with. ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo? finds them sampling, looping and processing their way through the night.

Expertly poised on the line between experimentalism, dance-friendly industrial and a synthy dark sickness, the record sounds today like it could have been conceived by American minimalists, Radiophonic Workshop types, or by a particularly fun-loving Groupe de Recherches Musicales. In fact though, this album belongs in the heart of the Spanish underground (it was originally issued on Aviador Dro’s DRO and later on Diseño Corbusier’s Auxilio de Cientos and on Discos Esplendor Geométrico), and it’s one of those important instances of learned experimentation taking place in a clandestine fashion, in something like a punk culture. ¿Qué Sucede Con El Tiempo? (indeed, what does happen to time? It’s been 30 years) has enjoyed plenty of subterranean fame and it’s about time it inspired a new generation. “Plenilunio”, “Máquinas y Procedimientos” and the four movements of the “Impresionistas” suite are tracks you return to, you don’t forget. Crisp, rhythmic, strange and perfectly staged electronic experimentation.

Muslimgauze – Kabul (Vinyl on Demand, January 2016)

Let’s keep threads running from one year to the next shall we? Just to make sure we never forget about Muslimgauze, this month Vinyl on Demand tried to get us to spend all our Christmas money on separate copies of the Bryn Jones archive rather than the box version we might have hoped to find under the tree back in 2014. One stands out for all in this roll of January’s reissues, and it’s the first, made in 1983: Kabul. This album only very slightly shows what was to come in terms of subsequent output, which remains sonically significant, poised perfectly on the line between bleak minimalism and droney industrial pressure.

Reasons to listen to Kabul if you haven’t already? It’s a strangely ‘light’ foray into old-school dark ambient, a rather classic product of British DIY appetites of the early 1980s and a full, atmospheric album. Yet it never over-encompasses or overburdens; you can do whatever you want with Kabul. Its glacial rhythmic patterns from an imaginary Muslim world that fall over sparse, distorted synths and blurry echoed politician speeches are strong enough to score late night philosophical turns or salutations to the sun; experiments in new dance or political discussions. And whatever exactly Bryn Jones’s solitary aesthetic-political remit was, a conversation about it is probably more significant now than ever. Until the next 500 hours of posthumous archives come out.

The Tapes – Selected Works 1982-1992 (Ecstatic, February 2016)

After last year’s Ciullini-shaped surprise that swept those who intended to reduce ‘80s Italian archives from pumping synths into a half-lit morgue of Marxist industrial, Alessio Natalizia is at it again with this reissue of an even more forgotten duo, The Tapes, aka Roberto and Giancarlo Drago. The brotherly pair silently and personally made their tapes in Genoa throughout the decade of darkness and the gift this time is a record that will mature and grow with us. Wide-eyed and deeply melancholic, it’s a fabric of impressions and cues followed up and then forgotten; tapes frozen in time that explode with genius. The Drago brothers are rather unlike Ciullini: cerebral and delicate, they made meditative, dark music that compliles stillnesses, repetitions, modulations and variations on reocurring themes.

Accessible and unpretentious, their electronic experimentations managed to marry a home-made flavour and an instinctively knowing knack for melody that moved with nonchalant elegance between organic clunks, buzzes and strikes of plasticky cheap synthlines. The rich and intricate sample of their work provided by this double LP allows us to appreciate their refusal to slot into a single genre and to hear them across moods and definitions. Thin, airy progressions of sonic smoke (“Falso Movimento B2”, “Il Manifesto”) sit alongside excellent minimal synth dance pieces (“Berlin”, “Low Gear”, “Nervous Breakdown”) and philosophical electronic pieces (“Otto” and “Nove”) fall into the abyss of a ruthless, black-fuzz industrial (“Totem 1351”, “Il Tempio”). Unmissable, crisp and all in all, favoloso.

Konstruktivists – A Disassembly (Dark Entries, March 2016)

While Dark Entries boss Josh Cheon has already announced his now traditional late Spring Italo “package” (and it’s outstanding this year), the label is clearly not giving into the sunny season quite yet. Enter stage left the Konstruktivists, ‘perverting our ears since 1980’, as they themselves proudly declare. In truth this is British industrial aristocracy, and ear-perversion of a very thoughtful, intricate kind. The man behind the project is the harshly handsome Glenn Michael Wallis aka, amongst other things, N.K.D.V., who has a curriculum that includes Heute, Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse as well as some nice solo work (when someone puts his Industrial Surrealist compilation on vinyl it’ll be too late).

The Konstruktivits album (for this is the right spelling on this particular occasion)A Disassembly, originally published by Dobson and Hope’s legendary Flowmotion magazine in 1983, is a dark humid cavern of a record. Hellishly ill, yet contained, very stern but rather contemplative too. An elegant seriousness carries the show: the lovely “Kalm” is quite the droney gem, more Colin Potter than Throbbing Gristle, “Beirut” has a fuzzy electric guitar perform a clangy Middle-Eastern impression reminiscent of a more masculine Muslimgauze, whilst “Karnal” treads the glorious but difficult line between an organic palette of sounds and a hazy luminosity from outer space. A Disassembly is a typical but particularly adult, expert and experimental British industrial record. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, maybe March 2016 is the time when it can become it.

Caroline K – Now Wait for Last Year (Blackest Ever Black, May 2016)

Blackest Ever Black have been cradling us in the sombre contemporary drones of Secret Boyfriend, Dalhous and more throughout the winter, and if there is anything better than this, it’s when the label turns its attentions to reissues. Now Wait for Last Year is a reissue that feels intrinsic of the label’s DNA, executing a strange temporal vortex that flattens the present into the past; 30 years of uninterrupted malaise and forlorn electronica. Nestled within those three decades are also the undying efforts of Austrian label Klanggallerie, who put this album out on CD in 2010, shortly after Caroline K’s untimely death – and it’s nice to see BEB and the Klang come together.

Lunar in its capacity to stay romantic yet while keeping stark, Now Wait for Last Year was the first, last and only solo work from Nocturnal Emissions and Sterile Records founding member Caroline Kaye Walter. Released in 1987, the album is a temporal vortex in itself, above and beyond that Philip K. Dick title and will feel important for anyone whose sensibility floats between industrial, ambient, dark ambient, dark techno and goth. The BEB edition keeps the original form of the record intact; a droney side A is completely taken up by a murky, ultra-reverberating 20-minute journey entitled “The Happening World”. On the B-side, Walter proceeds by accumulation, as if layering elements from the softest to the sharpest, from hazy echoed rings on “Animal Lattice” to merciless, blade-like drum machines on “Tracking with Close Ups”, up until the ominously wise, filmic “Leaving”. And then she leaves. Caroline K, we salute you, wherever you are.

Robert Turman & Aaron Dilloway – Blizzard (Fabrica, June 2016)

A very recent reissue, but this is a glory of the recent past. It was only in 2009 that these two furious gentlemen – Aaron Dilloway of Wolf Eyes fame and Robert Turman, godfather to us all at least since the early days of NON – got together for an evening during an extreme snowstorm in Ohio over at Turman’s. To be more precise, the story goes that Dilloway was about to move house and state, so his place was cold and empty; he made his way to Turman’s for some sort of spiritual if not meteorological shelter. That fateful white tempest blew into the lungs of the deepest darkest and most sophisticated record.

Originally released by Hanson but on CD only, Blizzard is the anti-summer. Four tracks, between 7 and 15 minutes, each one a stretched out, neverendingly opaque unravelling of a single pace, a single drone, a set of sparse sonic elements. Only three or four sounds per track provide the base for a number of ever-so-slight delays, micro-variations in thickness and volume, changes in texture. Repetitive, bleak, almost animal in its slowness, everything on this album conspires towards a concentrated and immobile tension, impossibly droney but very present, almost melodic. Sounds shoot through, at times, like darts – a gathering of wind, a tornado, intergalactic noise, the echo of some creature, the cut-through of a shard of white laser, a suspicion, a threat, a fear, a strobe in the dust, under an unforgivingly heavy sky. This is a record that creates an absolute stillness in the listener. Truly extraordinary.