Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Solar Anus: The Haters, Screwtape, Undecisive God

Andrew McIntosh's amazing style of noise came my way via three cassettes on his Solar Anus label. Andrew is an Australian noise artist and has, evidently, been creating sounds since (at least) the mid-90's, although I was only aware of his activities since the late 2000's. His most notable project is called Screwtape and I'm already a big fan judging by these unique releases!

I'll start with the one that immediately grabbed my attention by it's title:

SCREWTAPE (Solar Anus #SA13) I Ate Your Shit, Now I'll Eat Your Soul (C49)

"I Ate Your Shit, Now I'll Eat Your Soul" is a retrospective album, all tracks recorded between 1996 and 1999, long before anything was officially released by Screwtape. The A side begins with "Machinescrew", an unrelenting drum loop which, after a short while, stops abruptly, then starts right back up only now surrounded by a dense set of noises slashing through the mix, stereophonically filtering through the crackling hum. Listened to with volume, through the layers, reveals what seems to be a well-sequenced track, drums, instruments, vocals even, that is saturated beyond recognition with static, distortive elements. It's companion piece, the final track on side one, "Machinescrew II" (arguably the more effective of the two) again sets up a minimalist structure, à la Martin Rev, of unreleased martial tension that doesn't let up until it's own abrupt ending.

It is on the tracks in between these two where the greatest things on this tape happen, these longer soundscape tracks, and the fascinating thing about listening to them is the feeling that their origin is obscured, that they seem not graspable as having a standard set of musical rules, but then what am I hearing underneath this surface of buzzing and distortion? A sequenced synth/drum machine track? Maybe so! Maybe not. In the end it doesn't matter what the sound sources were derived from, the entire set is absorbing. The sounds are harsh but varied, oppressive but listenable, and though I wouldn't classify any of this tape as psychedelic, it's too claustrophobic, it still open up fantastic worlds... and just as quickly clamps down on them.

The opening track on side two, "I Break For Entropy", is another monster rhythmic track that keeps you constantly wondering what will happen next. The sounds start out as one thing and evolve into something else, shifting so subtly in some places that one doesn't notice them at first, then you at once realize that the patterns, or backdrop, have changed into something else entirely.

The finale, "I'm Going To get You...", is a harbinger of terrible things to come, beginning with a primal drum that gets slowly swallowed by noise-drone quicksand, the noise washes rise and fall in the mix, now another rhythmic addition, all this evolves into a wall of throb, then the tribal call-to-arms returns briefly only to end abruptly.

All in all, a fascinating noise tape and, considering the date, very illuminating pathways being blazed by a young Andrew McIntosh.

UNDECISIVE GOD/SCREWTAPE (Solar Anus #SA15) RPM's/Shitless (C40)

Undecisive God's "RPM's" begins with sort of random(ish) turntable pops and cracklings that begin looping into a congested rhythm. Small elements are added one at a time until this becomes a chattering drone composed of all the little repetitive sounds. Always morphing from rhythm to rhythm, until at some point late in the piece sped-up orchestral snippets begin jumping around, giving an almost demented circus sound effect to it. As tape-loop compositions go, perhaps this is not the most profound thing I've ever heard, but it held it's interest for me as I have a fascination, at any rate, with skipping cd's and turntables.

I've got to admit that I was really looking forward to hearing the Screwtape side of this release, having just finished listening to the 1990's tracks showcased on "...I'll Eat Your Soul", I was very interested to hear how Andrew's work had evolved since that time. Certainly it is possible to hear correlations to the earlier material, but his compositions now are more multi-dimensional. The single long track here rolls to a boil with blistering electric fluxations, phased-out drones and then quiets down to a simmer just as an odd pitch-shifted vocal enters low in the mix... The voice states: "life itself is only a vision, a dream, nothing exists save empty space and you... you are but a thought", and despite the obvious heavy connotations it is better, for me, to hear that voice as a quirk, an eccentricity. Andrew obviously felt the need to point out, graphically, an important idea relative to this composition, but the impressive sound of this track already ideally embodies his conception, so in my opinion, no need for words. These sounds distill powerful ideas into pointed artistic statements.

THE HATERS/SCREWTAPE (Solar Anus #SA17) Dirwyn 2010/We Must Destroy Them (C20)

Led off by the indomitable Haters, the sounds on this tape smash the walls of my house in with fists of stern noise. As often is the case with The Haters, there is a single-minded (not simple-minded) quality to it, as if an isolated thought were slowed down from an instant to a half hour and all the sides of that thought, all the correlations to that thought, were revealed cubistically, every facet on display simultaneous to all the others. Ultimately, and through it's overtly unchanging 20 minutes, it is a monument.

Side two consists of a single long and very harsh noise track by Screwtape titled "We Must Destroy Them". Bursting out of the speakers a staggering miasma of electron particles with terrible aggression, something akin to blind anger emulated. As usual with Andrew's work, listened to closely is a fascination for how possibly these structures were created. This one is, by far, the most massive and distorted I have heard by him, but again perfectly embodies his concept and also perfectly complements the noise of The Haters.

All three of these tapes are exceptional, well worth owning. They are limited edition, well-recorded (none of the tape dropout typical of some cassette releases) and I have to say I also very much like the cover graphics which are very strange. You can find the Solar Anus label HERE, and more on Screwtape HERE.

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