Saturday, November 19, 2011

Animal Machine, Avrorin, Booby Mason, Brent Gutzeit, Buoyhood, Dmitriy Zubov, Frans De Waard, Merzbow, Mystery Hearsay, Troj

MERZBOW (Green Records, GR146) April 1992 (2011) Cassette

Here's a very nice tape from Michigan label, Green Records: Masami Akita, aka Merzbow's "April 1992". This has all the characteristics of Akita's work from that time period, the skittering, slashing, pounding, ear-splitting violent sounds, overloaded energy dynamics with random plosives. A crushing live session, remixed in 2010 by Akita, who also created the effective cover graphic. This is a great example of how Masami Akita has applied the ideas of Kurt Schwitters' concept of the "Merzbau", a structure that grows and changes constantly, to his own musical expressions. There is no beginning, no end, no recurring theme, just one boundless wave of noise after another, washing senseless over the senses, unfinished yet somehow complete. A must-have for noise freaks! Get it HERE.

MYSTERY HEARSAY (Mystery Hearsay, no cat. #) Flesh Tomb (2011) Cassette

Flesh Tomb was released in 2011 as a CD on Dmitry Vasilyev's label in Russia. Mike Honeycutt, the mastermind behind Mystery Hearsay, sent me this cassette version, I don't know if it's available for sale/trade or what, but one can still obtain the digital version through Monochrome Vision. Mike has been making experimental sounds since the early 80's and if this album isn't proof of his mastery of soundscaping I don't know what could possibly be! It starts out spacey and ambient, and from there traverses all manner of atmospherics, weird rhythms, cinematics, deep reverberations, electroacoustic textures, deafening crescendos, you can easily get lost in this filmscape for the ears. This is a superb and brilliant work of art, the stories told are fascinating and each composition offers it's enigmatic riddles as their own answers to penetrate the mystery in every possible combination of sounds. A real treat for lovers of dark ambient music and film soundtracks.

AVRORIN (Pekopa Records, no cat. #) Untitled Split (2010) Cassette

G. Avrorin is a noise musician from St. Petersburg, Russia, active since 1997. Other than a MySpace site, there is little else to be found on the web about Mr. Avrorin, although Discogs lists several split releases with some interesting younger artists such as Torturing Nurse, Vomir and Booby Mason (see review below). This tape begins with sheet metal noise performed during a live show with a very excited audience in attendance. Feedback-based, screeching, shredded, droning scrap-heap noise breaking for a moment into media clips, continues into choppy sounds with moments of silence, then blasting back with more synthetic thunder. Use of contact microphone and over-amplification turns every small sound into something monstrous and animalistic. Everything stops suddenly to applause and a heated conversation, in Russian, between artist and audience. Avrorin doesn't break any new ground here, but it certainly is one hell of an exhilarating listening experience! To obtain this and other recordings by Avrorin, email: kuhelgarten (at)

AVRORIN & ZUBOV / BOOBY MASON (Pekopa Records, no cat. #) Untitled Split (2010) Cassette

On side one of this split cassette, the aforementioned Avrorin collaborates with Dmitriy Zubov, better known for his dark ambient sound-project, Hypnoz. The sound here is feedback-based harsh noise with vocals, think Whitehouse, or Prurient. Sounds like some possible contact microphone use as well. Whirling noise vortexes, looped voices, high-pitched squeals, a fairly brutal, in-your-face mix. Since the point of view is largely missed on me due to my lack of knowledge of the Russian language, the sounds considered on their own would merit a heads-up for harsh noise fans, but there's certainly nothing unique here. Crashing, unrelenting noise crunch goes on for about 20 minutes or so. I like it.

Booby Mason is 24 year old Anton Gudkov, from Omsk, Russia, who began his noise project in 2009. He makes trashy collages in the vein of Hanatarash, utilizing both analog and digital noise and mixing it with recordings that have been made using a dictophone. Booby Mason has about 30 or so, recordings under different names and in different genres, from harsh-noise and lo-fi electronics to dark ambient and primitive techno styles. His side of this split tape has a more varied approach, adding what sounds like incorporation of sheet metals, the vocals are more shrill and less hidden behind walls of static than the Avrorin stuff. The ear starts to long for anything but this barrage when it shifts gears abruptly, into a standard rock trio with vocals! Of course, the vocals are still maniacal, laughing, hissing... The second track is a sound collage that contains all manner of pre-recorded ephemera: a Russian television announcer, children's songs, pop music, even a Madonna commercial(!) which then evolves into drone put through a phaser, abstracted underwater sounds, ending in an English language news report about illicit drugs. Another weird lo-fi band track with devolved vocals closes the side out, sounding nothing if not like a bootleg Suicide recording. Very strange and convoluted stuff from the Russian scene! To obtain this and other recordings by Avrorin, email: kuhelgarten (at)

BRENT GUTZEIT (Neon Blossom Records, NBR23) Rocks And Blows (2010) Cassette

This cassette, released on Neon Blossom in 2010, limited edition of 50 copies, is now sold out but deserves more exposure. (i.e. hopefully there is a re-release on the horizon) My friend and collaborator, Brent Gutzeit, a stalwart of the Chicago improvised music scene, is one of the founding members of TV Pow, has collabed and performed live with numerous experimental musicians and has many solo releases to his credit. This tape, "Rocks And Blows", an extremely diverse collection of improvised compositions, cannot be encapsulated as belonging to one certain style, or genre. There are elements of drone, space rock, world music here and all are knit into a quilt of invention that captures the mystifying essence of his sound world. The first side is more diverse, almost eclectic, beginning with stringed instrument sounds, otherworldly exotica, gaining cohesion as it develops into a spacey, pitched drone that hovers and continues to add to the structure in very subtle and beautiful ways. Side two creates a drone out of fractured organ textures reverberating and echoing around, still has that hovering feel, with ingeniously crafted twists entering at different moments, sounding something like Terry Riley, or La Monte Young. An abstract painting that transcends it's minimalist structure in a mosaic of complex hues.

BUOYHOOD (NNN Coalition, NNN#24) The Seance Of Nonchalance (2011) Cassette

Buoyhood is the experimental sound project of Zach Katonik, a young artist from the Pittsburgh area. Little is known about Zach, his work is not listed at Discogs, this is likely one of his first releases and a good one at that. Beginning with a lo-fi, sparse rhythm and spacey synthetics, the beat persists as the mix becomes aquatic. Some very snaky synths and patterns move in and out, only to reappear in severely altered form. The structure is constantly evolving, after a while seeming like a megamix of rhythmic evolutions. The drum patterns are skewed, but also organic sounding, possessing a similarity to some of Eno's, or Jon Hassell's work. This is some sort of post-modern exotica, with side one ending in a cartoon orchestra hit. Side two starts out with more orchestral samples building up into a classical motif, rhythms hover and struggle to emerge through the mix until, finally, an urgent machine beat comes to the fore against the nearly melancholic textures. A variety of exotic sounds and voice snippets combine, so lo-fi and compressed that they merge together creating a sonic fabric that somehow becomes progressively spacier and more atmospheric as it (d)evolves. This tape reminds me of classic 80's-era cassette network stuff like Nomuzic or If, Bwana. The definition of homemade experimental music.Get it HERE.

FRANS DE WAARD (Banned Productions, BP151) Arrel/Juur (2010) Cassette

Here's a quite unique cassette release by Frans De Waard, whose long career in noise and experimental music includes such crucial projects as Kapotte Muziek (begun in 1984!), Beequeen, (more recently) Freiband, and many others. This tape is part of AMK's "Banned Cassette Series" on the Banned Productions label. Using synthesized sounds, radio waves and, perhaps, field recordings, this is probably the quietest tape I have ever encountered. Normally I would say such a work requires the pristine digital format for it's best representation, but in the case of "Arrel/Juur", De Waard has cunningly used the cassette format as one more sound source, incorporating tape hiss into the compositions. The mix on both sides are extremely low volume, raising the level reveals the inaudible sound sources but also raises the tape hiss, which I found very interesting. Small squiggles of sound, especially evident on side two, enter a little at a time, as well as many indefinable frequencies. A fine work of art release that requires active listening and ends the way it started: quietly. Get it HERE.

TROJ / ANIMAL MACHINE (Kifrecording, Kifrec-91) Structural Failure (2011) Cassette

This is a one-sided split tape between Troj and Animal Machine, limited edition of ten, so you'll likely never obtain a copy of it, but it's a fantastic release with two distinctly different approaches to a single idea. The first track is by Troj, also known as Man Troj, a newcomer on the international scene hailing from Singapore. I love everything I've heard by this artist, his work traverses between industrial, noise, dark ambient and breakcore. This track, titled "Santet", begins with pitch-shifted vocals and ambient drone slowly rising and falling while digital fluctuations and rapid-fire repetitions loop over and over in momentary exclamations against a spacey backdrop. This creates a beautiful effect where the soundscape never lapses into meaningless atmospherics, since there are plenty of variants entering the mix at all times. These sonics are best for late night listening. Metaphorically, in relation to the album title, this "structural failure" results in a craft floating through space in a vacuum, time running out for the crew, who are left dreaming as death approaches. Abstract vocal samples appear from afar mixing with gamelan orchestra type sounds, manipulated to become alien and, as the spacey sonics fade out, we find ourselves in the midst of some ancient/future ritual... very beautiful, very satisfying.

The second track here is by Animal Machine, an extremely prolific Polish noise artist. This is the title track and also the exact opposite, in sound, of Troj's composition. As the metaphor for "Structural Failure" reveals another possibility, this time of a spacecraft slamming into some planetary atmosphere, the sound of the satellite burning on re-entry. Heavy, heavy noise! Slamming, slashing, descent into maelstrom that ends abruptly after 13 minutes. Equally as beautiful, in it's own way, as the Troj track but infinitely more destructive.

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