Highlights: "Fall," "Awake But Numb," "Round Our Bodies"
Justin Broadrick takes a break from the pounding nihilism of his main band Godflesh long enough to provide us with... an ambient album? Yikes! Good news, though-- it's a phenomenal work, very different from what he's generally known for but still equally rewarding. Marked by creative sampling, unusual sounds, and looped sequences capable of inducing hypnosis, this is easily capable of holding its own in comparison to anything Brian Eno or Aphex Twin have ever released.
There's an element of harshness to some of the songs (not terribly surprising, given Broadrick's influences and other work), but unlike Godflesh, where punishment is the sole principle, here the jagged sounds are pushed into the background and made to serve as just one element among many in the music. The exception is the album's last track, "1983-1987 (Edits)," where the beautiful and the ugly collide in a swirling miasma of scrapes, groans, and rumbles that sounds like the soundtrack to a really scary industrial horror flick.
Other songs like "Fall" and "Awake But Numb" are actually soothing, kind of beautiful even. An aching drone ebbs and flows in "Despotic," while the sound of a warped trumpet (or it a kazoo? hard to tell) cycles over and over as a deep and resonant bassline shudders in the background during "Round Our Bodies." The stern, militaristic procession of "Hold Me" nods in the direction of Godflesh's experiments on COLD WORLD, and many of the sounds scattered across the album are the full fruition of areas hinted at earlier in the PURE bonus track "Pure II." Promising... hopefully Final will turn out to be more than a one-off project.
(Also in this issue-Aphex Twin-Selected Ambient Works: Part II)
At long last... the return of Final. The interesting thing about Final, if my history is correct, that it started out basically as a white-noise tribute to Whitehouse on tapes Justin Broadrick made before hooking up with Napalm Death and eventually moving on to Godflesh and the billion other splinter bands he's been involved with since. Odd, then, that by the time he got around to actually releasing any Final material, that it ended up being fairly AMBIENT, don't you think? But whatever the case, this single holds promise for the much-anticipated TWO that's supposedly coming out, ah, "any day now" from Manifold. This is choice material... two tracks of ominous sound that ebbs and flows on the first track (hence the title, see how smart i am?), with bursts of muted shrapnel every so often just to keep you awake, you know. "Openings" is powered by cycling bass hum on one end and sustained cycling treble, kind of like Godflesh after hitting the delay and hold and forgetting to let go again, with other sounds washing over this basic core like the tide on a dead night. Good halloween music, i'm sure... i'll have to remember this one when October rolls around.... (Also in this issue-An ODD review of Ice's Under the Skin)
The flood has begun... first the single, now this (and a new single currently available through Self-Abuse and other like-minded folks), and still the Sentrax release of TWO and the Manifold release yet to come. Woo! In the meantime, this ep is pretty cool. Three longish tracks, all anchored by ambient backgrounds and hypnotic, mantra-like repeated bass/guitar phrases in the foreground. "arise" features lots of really mutant, spooky guitars chattering in the background as the mantra burrows deep into your subconscious. "light" is mostly a titanic, circling drone that builds into thick layers of hum, drone, and bass throb; play it loud enough and it'll mess with yer inner ear and make it hand to stand up, heh.... The final track, "solaris," is watery and light (sounds like i'm not the only guitarist diggin' that shit on the Main albums, hah), then deep and low (they do the brood thing well).
As good as the first Final album was, this is light-years beyond that. Their take on the ambient/drone sweepstakes has improved immensely, which means that the subsequent goodies to come are definitely something to look forward to...
This is the long-awaited remix album of cuts off GOD's previous album. It features remixes by Lumberjacks, Bill Laswell, Justin Broadrick, Kevin Sheilds, and Kevin Martin. Without going into a blow-by-blow description, nearly all of the tracks as remixed are fairly stripped down from their previous guitar furor and then replaced with heavily laiden strains of the tripped out, hemp-influenced, bass-dub thing that is all the craze these days. While none of the tracks individually stand out as superior or more inventive interpretations of their originals, they are fun to listen to and as a whole, make up an enjoyable ride. Suitable for all borb system travellers, 'natch. [yol]
HIGHLIGHTS: "Juggernaut Kiss (Deaf, Dumb, Blind)"
Um... if i weren't such a charitable soul and really, really jazzed on Ice's main album UNDER THE SKIN (from which two of the three remixes here were pulled), i might... mind you, MIGHT... think i got ripped off here. Because what we have here, children, are three remixes -- two from the aforementioned album and one of "The Dredger" from the ISOLATIONISM compilation that are merely okay. "Juggernaut Kiss (Deaf, Dumb, Blind)" does remain interesting by attacking the song from a different angle, making a lot of really splintered noises previously hidden suddenly more prominent; whether it outclasses the original track is another question entirely. (It doesn't, in case you were wondering.) "The Dredger (Titanic)" has an interesting middle section dominated by fuzzy bass and drawn-out flanger madness, and it's different from the original, but not necessarily better. Ditto for "Implosion (Flying Machine)," which was never my fave track on UNDER THE SKIN anyway. It's inexpensive price makes it a cool "starter" of sorts, tho... assuming you keep in mind the caveat that the actual album makes this look positively puny by comparison....
(Also in this issue-Scorn-White Irises Blind)
(note: this review calls it a self titled God album. It is actually the Loco live album)
Ever sit back and wonder what seemingly disparate bands would sound like if they got together to record an album. If early Black Sabbath joined forces with the Rova Saxophone Quartet, then their devilish prodigy may have been God. Slow heavy rythyms interwoven with frenetic sax lines and the rare gutteral vocal. Never would have guessed by the recording and performance quality that it was recorded live. From what I can tell, none of these songs (except for Fucked) are available elsewhere. The album is produced by Justin Broadrick of Godflesh. (Patholigical Records Limited, 44 0713721769)
HIGHLIGHTS: "The Mighty Atom Smasher," "Narco Agent vs. The Medicine Man," "Demodex Invasion," "Evil Spirits/Angel Dust," "Needle Park"
I've run out of time and space to review this properly, alas, so i'll keep it basic: You need this album. (Actually, it's a 2-CD set, but whatever.) You know that vague ache that's been paining you for a while now? That's NOT unfocused horniness (well, maybe in some cases it is); that's your bone marrow screaming "BUY RE-ENTRY NOW, YOU FOOL!" This is the SHIT. This is the new frontier, buddy... Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) and Kevin Martin (God) team up with an army of samplers and subterranean basses and everything including the kitchen sink to create two discs of deeply disturbed, subatomic trance dub. For those of who who've heard their earlier disc GHOSTS, erase that from your memory -- this is practically a completely new band. The real revelation behind what makes T-A so powerful is their use of the studio as an instrument into itself -- lots of other bands have gotten behind this idea, to be sure (particularly My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails), but few have gone THIS FAR. Nearly EVERYTHING on this 140-minute set has been sampled, although the sampled have been processed, mutated, abused, and devolved so thoroughly that it's impossible to tell where the original sounds came from or what they were. Instead, what you're left with are ghosts of the musicial subconscious, all anchored down by a shifting slow-pulse techno beat and bass from the hollow earth. This is HEAVY, mon.
The other big thing here is that, unlike conventional songs that move from verse to verse in readily discernable movements, the parts in these long (most tracks clock in at ten minutes) songs don't so much change progressions as they SHIFT... and slowly... so that it takes you a while to realize that things have changed, and RADICALLY, without you even realizing it. The background steadily becomes the foreground as the foreground is slowly eaten by elements that were wavering at the side, and the process continues like a hurricane just beginning to form... nothing is static... total godhead... mere words cannot describe... one of the most amazing things i've ever heard, anywhere, anytime, period. Complete brilliance. Blah blah blah, go hear it for yourself and discover why i'm practically soiling my jeans over it....
As far as I'm concerned, Techno Animal are gods. The aggregate of Kevin Martin (God, Ice, Sidewinder, Bug, Isolationism and Macro Dub Comps) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Final, God, Ice, Solaris, Sidewinder, formally of Napalm Death, Fall of Because, and Head of David...sorry about all that, I just had to see if I could remember them all). TA came along with Ghosts, a full length of Drum Machine, Synth, and Sample rackets (sorry, it didn't do a whole lot for me). Re-Entry is a peak in the musical timeline of the world. The 2 discs of unbelievable dub and ambient pieces caused me to re-adjust my musical rating system. The Babylon Seeker single was a pretty good slab of dub influenced techno. The subsequent Unmanned 12" and Cyborg Dread comp track had the boys taking a more trash techno/dub sound, that I didn't find as mind blowing as their earlier work, so I was curious about Phobic, and I am thrilled with it. Side AA is three deconstructions of "The Myth/Illogical". The "Version" version is probably the most intriguing. It is the radiation damaged mutant offspring of gangsta rap (like Wu-Tang and Sidewinder hooking up). Loud, distorted, crashing hip-hop beats, and, get a load of this, Kevin Martin singing. No, I don't mean vocals like Ice and God, but actual, comprehendible, intelligible singing! The "Dub" version is exactly has it's titled. The beats are more distorted, and the vocals are cut up in traditional dub remix style. "Beatbox" is also self explanatory, the original track is stripped down to its barest beats. "Fistfunk (Molecular)" and "Toxicity" are relatively similar, loud distorted beats, mellow, underlying synths and samples, etc. "Toxicity" is also notable for its similarity to a pissed off, distorted, angry remake of Babylon Seeker's "Nerve Agent versus the Back Breaker." The last track, "Needle", is definitely the most abstract of all. The sounds of vinyl records being raped and pillaged by diabolical dj's. Cuts from records that range from big band to country to gangsta rap (where the hell is that "I want it all" sample from?). Overall, still a little lower on my personal favorite list than the mammoth Re-Entry, but I'd say it's their most interesting piece since. Plus, if you ever need to play some dub stuff to get your freak on to, I'd say "The Myth/Illogical (Version)" would complement Scorn's Evanescence well.
Overall - 5+
HIGHLIGHTS: "Guitar One," "Guitar Two," "River Blindness," "Nine Tails"
A tag-team match from guitar-mutilation hell, indeed: Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Ice, Techno-Animal, etc., etc.) takes control of half the disc while Andy Hawkins (Blind Idiot God), under the rubric Azonic, spends the other half reducing his guitar to hot steaming sludge. Call it a momentary diversion from their respective full-time projects or merely a one-off aberration, either way it's pretty bizarre and intense....
Broadrick clocks in with four solo guitar tracks, each largely based on heavily repetitive guitar figures. "Guitar One" anchors itself with a low, droning guitar figure that cycles over and over as additional guitar riffs come in and begin to repeat, sort of like a low-tech Techno-Animal; the effect is either intensely hypnotizing or incredibly irritating, depending on where you stand in the minimalism/repetition sweepstakes. (Hint: Turning it up REALLY LOUD helps a lot.) About halfway through, the piercing high-end riffing starts to eat away at your hearing while the low end mulches away, like Godflesh on indefinite hold and scan. Eek! "Guitar Two" takes a different tack, turning down the volume so the sound is almost acoustic, while maintaining the repetitive aspect and adding periodic waves of noise and static. "Guitar Three" combines weird effects, chugging sounds, static, feedback, and all sorts of mayhem in controlled and repetitive bursts, like a mad black box gone haywire and spitting out hot gears, while "Guitar Four/Infinite" pulses and rumbles like chords floating through black water running through a subterranean cave. Yow. Extremely different from his previous work and yet still true to his established sound. Good stuff.
Then it's Andy Hawkins' turn, with production help from Bill Laswell, who unleashes some truly scary guitar skronk on "River Blindness," almost like Total with meaner guitars and better production values. Talk about apocalyptic, this is it. "Nine Tails" manages to go that one even better by being a long, jagged burst of screech wailing colliding with jagged guitar explosions. Ow! I need Tylenol now! Ow! Ow! Owwwwwwww....
HIGHLIGHTS: "Lost (Held Under)" [Null/Plotkin], "The Dredger" [Ice], "Strangers" [Raoul Bjorkenheim], "Self Strangulation" [Techno-Animal], "Silver Rain Fell (Deep Water Mix)" [Scorn], "Aphex Airlines" [Aphex Twin], "Lief" [Seefeel], "Stereophonic" [E.A.R.], "Desert Flower" [Sufi], "Burial Rites (Phosphorescent Mix)" [David Toop/Max Eastley], "Crater Scar (Adrenochrome)" [Main]
Incredibly cool 2-CD compilation of ambient tracks by lots of noise/ambient/industrial/etc. types like Null/Plotkin, Scorn, Ice, Total, Aphex Twin, Seefeel, O'Rang, Techno-Animal, etc., etc. There are 23 artists here with one track apiece, and the entire set clocks in at about 150 minutes, and there's very little filler... assuming, of course, that you're really hip to ambient in the first place. If you're already onto ambient, you have a pretty good idea of what the two discs sound like already; if you're not familiar with the ambient genre, then all i can say by way of description is that this is largely music about texture more than "songs," with no distracting lyrics, and sounds made largely of unrecognizable samples. I will say this: if you like even a tiny handful of the bands listed here, you should devote massive amounts of energy to tracking this down and making it YOURS, for all of these tracks are strong ones and otherwise unreleased (some are merely remixes of previously released stuff, though). It's also an excellent introduction to ambient in general, for those who haven't checked out the genre before. The only bad thing is that finding it may be difficult; it's imported from Holland and kind of obscure (of course; I like it, so it MUST be obscure, right?), not to mention hard to find. But it will be well worth the effort for those who do decide to seek it out.
Other artists on the compilation are Jim O'Rourke (Illusion of Safety), Paul Schutze, Zoviet France, Labradford, Disco Inferno, Nijiumu (Fushitsusa), Total (Skullflower spinoff), AMM, O'Rang, Final, Lull, and Thomas Koren. Many of these are splinter groups (for instance, Ice is an offshoot of God with Justin Broadrick on board, Techno-Animal is another variant of the same lineup, Final is Broadrick's solo ambient project, Lull is an offshoot of Scorn, which in turn is an offshoot of Napalm Death, Main is led by ex-Loop/Godflesh guitarist Robert Hampton, and so on) that might well be of interest to those who follow the original groups in question... just another reason to check it out and be entranced by those hypnotic, seductive background sounds. Of course, you need a scorecard and many, many pencils to keep TRACK of all these guys and which project they're doing what with at any given moment, but hey, who said life was supposed to be simple?