Merzbow & Vanity Productions: Coastal Erosion (LP, iDEAL, July 2019)

Ah, noise. Lovely, cleansing noise. Once in a while, I find this stuff does me the world of good. Merzbow (Japanese veteran Masima Akita) is on splendid form here, assuming you think that ear-shredding howls of electronics and squeals of tortured static are amenable to the appellation of “splendid”. Vanity Productions (Christian Stadsgaard, a Dane whose work is new to me) provides an effect counterpoint with washes of soothing ambient synth — a combination that works remarkably well, the two elements subtly enhancing each other. On the 18-minute A-side, called Erosion Japan, Merzbow is the dominant force, with Vanity Productions some way back in the mix but somehow insistently holding his own. On the 16-minute B-side, called — have you guessed it yet? — Erosion Denmark, the roles are somewhat reversed. Both are powerful works which, despite the theme implied by the title and the cover art, I find strangely calming. Even if my ears are still ringing a little bit.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Brood Ma: Daze (LP, Tri Angle, February 2016)

I have to admit, this record frustrates me at times, as it doesn’t seem to be making the most of the producer’s obvious talents. But there are enough good bits here to make this a keeper. Presented as 13 tracks but effectively a 27 minute continuous mix, it manages to pull in grime, techno, industrial, noise, electronica, and sound effects — plus a bunch more things, probably, and that’s just in the first couple of minutes. The downside of the scattergun approach is that, for the first third or so of its running time, it mostly sounds unfocused, like a kid excited to show you all their toys and not really letting you see anything properly before jumping onto the next thing. It’s about track 7, Molten Brownian Motion, before things start making sense for me: at 2m58s it’s the second longest track here, and manages to finally lock into a groove — and one of an impressively pummelling intensity. For me, the wait is worth it: the next seven or eight minutes are a real visceral thrill. Things do start to drift again near the end, but then the final track, the 5-minute (!) long Nrg Jynx (Daze End Version) is a big snarling monster of bassy synths, machine-gun beats, and a stonking industrial howling and clattering, and all is forgiven.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Various Artists: An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music, Vol. 7 (3xCD, Sub Rosa, June 2013)

This is the final (sob!) entry in this fantastic series by the fantastic Sub Rosa label, which has been enriching my life regularly since 2001. As always, the range of music is phenomenal, and while not everything will be to anyone’s taste, there’s always loads to keep me interested. One standout track here for me is quietly brilliant electronic collage of Novi_sad’s The Insolence Of A Poppy from 2011. But the most striking has to be Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s recording of Au Clair De La Lune. This was made in 1860 using a machine called the phonautograph which predated Edison’s phonograph by two decades. It mimicked an ear, using a membrane, an arrangement of levers, and a stylus to scratch a record of the music onto a glass cylinder coated in lamp black. The tragic flaw was that there was no way to replay it (this may be why Edison is a household name and Scott de Martinville is not). So this, the first known recording of a human voice, went unheard until 2008, when clever scientists at Berkeley digitally recreated the sound from a high-resolution scan of the cylinder. It’s easy to get over-sentimental about the poignancy of all this, but it’s hard not to be a little bit moved by this crackly ten seconds. (More about this on wikipedia.)

I bought this from Juno. They call it Industrial / Drone / Noise.

Mika Vainio: Fe3O4 — Magnetite (CD, Touch, August 2012)

Mika Vainio treats us to another fine selection of sudden clunks, gut-wobbling buzzes, and long ominous silences. An obvious reference point would be his last album with Ilpo Väisänen as Pan Sonic. The comparison is interesting: this trades a little of Gravitoni‘s raw power for a little subtlety. You could almost say that this is the chamber music to Pan Sonic’s symphony. Certainly, the tracks here feel like self-contained experiments, or possibly even like variations of a theme (a sense heightened by the track titles: Magentotactic, Magnetosphere, Magnetosense, etc.). Of course, all things are relative, and this is still a fairly monstrous thing. Good work, noisy Finnish dude!

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

Pan Sonic: Gravitoni (CD, Blast First Petite, May 2010)

Hold onto your hats, this is going to be a big one. Actually, forget your hats: hold onto your heads. This is Pan Sonic’s swansong, and they’re going out in style.

The first half of Ilpo Väisänen and Mika Vainio’s final (apparently) record offers brutal beats, immense buzzing and rumbling bass, and a selection of unearthly howls. I normally steer clear of such over-the-top pronouncements, but at times I can really believe that this music has erupted out of some dark abyss intent on eating my soul. It makes Come To Daddy sound like a novelty pop tune (which, of course, it is… if you had to compare this to Aphex Twin, the B-sides of the vinyl version of the Smojphace EP might be more closer, but they don’t have the intensity and they certainly don’t have the scale). Let’s start with those beats: there’s something blunted about them which makes them seem more violent, as each one lands with a sickening thud. There are bass sounds which seem to do things to my Mordant-Shorts which I’m sure the makers never intended. This is at once aggressive and sinister, and totally (and, yes, literally) awesome.

It would be wrong to say that there is no let-up in this. Track 7, Väinämöisen Uni / Väinämöinen Dreams, has no beats and no bass, just a noise like a blade being dragged across the rim of a glass accompanied by distant echoing drips and clanks. This really ramps up the sinister side of things, leaving the aggression all implied. The next couple of tracks are similarly largely free of beats, although the buzzing is back at times. Track 10, Kaksoisvinokas / Twinaskew, is mostly about a glitchy click track, supplemented by broken snatches of opera and the like (all faded and distant, and wobbling so much that the strings almost sound like fairground carousel music). On the last track, Pan Finale, a more conventional beat is slowly overtaken first by a buzzing sounds and then finally by a strangely meaningful sounding modulated sine wave.

I have left describing my favourite track until last. Track 6, Trepanointi / Trepanation, bridges between the raw violence of the first half and the implied thread of the second. It starts out with a barrage of crackling and one of the Finns’ trademark throbbing bass hums. There is a muffled beat, somewhere in the background, for the first couple of minutes, but it drops away in favour of an all-out bass assault. And what a bass. Each chord hangs in the air for several seconds, leaving you to revel in the sheer gobsmacking power of this wonderful noise.

I bought this from Juno. They call it Leftfield, whatever that means.