Beyond Sensory Experience "Modern Day Diabolists" CD/DVD (46th Cycle) by Cyclic Law
No, neither this blog nor Stereo Ate My Last Tape is dead or retired. Due to a number of reasons, both personal and otherwise (including increasing/decreasing activity of my netlabel Argali Records), these blogs have remained dormant since roughly July of last year.
However, with the upcoming compilation on the Argali netlabel hopefully arriving in July, I am also hoping to devote more time to music reviews. Starting with the new Beyond Sensory Experience album "Modern Day Diabolists".
Expect all these things and more...soon...
Saturday, June 02, 2012
Monday, October 24, 2011
I have started a new 'companion blog' to this blog called "Stereo Ate My Last Tape". Basically, it will serve as mini-reviews, opinions, possible future MFTROU reviews, etc. I have no set update frequency set for this blog yet, but I am aiming for at least once or twice a week (I would like to do once a day, but am not sure if that is possible/feasible yet). Also, depending on time, some of these entries might be expanded up at a later date and/or turned into full reviews.
Again, thank you all for your patience and support.
Check it out here: http://stereoatemylasttape.blogspot.com/
Again, thank you all for your patience and support.
Check it out here: http://stereoatemylasttape.blogspot.com/
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Maurice De Jong is a busy man. In addition to his main project Gnaw Their Tongues, he also has many side-projects (most notably De Magia Veterum and Aderlating), his own label Devotional Hymns and Mastering Graphics design group, in addition to recently created bands Cloak Of Altering (which is itself apparently an evolution of an older project called Ophiuchus) and Seirom. While one might reasonably come to the assumption that, with so many concerns going on at once and/or over a short period of time, that eventually the overall quality of the releases would suffer, it would appear that, if anything, the opposite is actually happening. "Seiromistkreig" finds Mories stepping further outside of his comfort zone, while still maintaining what is now known as his 'signature' aesthetic and sound. Easily comparable to a number of other luminaries in their respective genres, this album also manages to blend these influences into something completely refreshing and unique (at least when compared to other releases in his discography).
The description provided by Mories, that the project/album is "Blissed out melodic guitardronesblackmetaldrums stuff" is quite accurate, if somewhat simplistic in terms of the sound and feel presented. Beginning with an insistent guitar drone, indistinct rumbling, and spoken narration (buried deep within the mix), these elements build up in true post-rock fashion until a fuzzed out lead soars over rumbling bass rhythms and persistent blast beats. The second track, "Istauchkrieg", is basically a dark ambient interlude, similar to the material of the other, as-yet-unreleased Seirom album "Eremitic" (although it is important to note that Eremitic focuses more on dark ambience and noise). Finally, "Istnichtkrieg" follows in a similar vein of the first track, with a quicker build-up, feedback, and cello provided by one Aaron Martin. If nothing else, check out the last three minutes of this song. Mories is not only proficient at creating a sense of 'epic' in his work, but has fully mastered it at this point.
Hopefully this direction is not simply a one-off EP. Blending influences and methodology similar to that of the late Birchville Cat Motel, Nadja, and even perhaps Godspeed You! Black Emperor, this album projects rays of shrouded light, hope, and maybe even optimism, qualities that are, by design, lacking in most of his other projects. While his music is perhaps best known for suffocating dread, irreverence, and an almost overwhelming sense of apocalyptic fury, it would be a shame if these uncharted waters were not further explored and developed.
Download the album for free from the Gnaw Their Tongues Bandcamp
Thursday, June 09, 2011
Once upon a time, many years ago, I created a music review blog. In the beginning, it was created as an assignment for a college class, but over time it expanded into something of a full-time hobby. While I have (arguably) written quite a few good reviews regarding many good albums, there were a few albums I reviewed of albums which were (arguably) not really good, and there were also a few bad reviews and/or opinions. Some (but not all, for better or worse) of these bad reviews were either edited later and/or revised completely. A few remain in need of trimming or deletion. However, one review, which I had not thought about for many years, until just recently, soon bothered me enough to do an extensive re-write. This is the story of the Music For The Rest Of Us review of Nod's debut (and to my knowledge only) full-length "The Story Of The Three Little Pigs And The Big Bad Wolf".
To be honest, looking over the original review was somewhat painful. After having discovered Nod's Reverbnation site, and listening to the majority of his work whilst reading the lyrics for the songs, I had discovered in a flash that I had greatly underestimated and marginalized this band. Clearly, I had not given this album or project a fair hearing, which made itself worse when one considers that, due to the somewhat obscure nature of Nod, the review itself was one of the top hits when doing a Google search. So, while this project may or may not still be active, hopefully this review will somehow rectify my past mistakes and convince others to check out this album and this band.
While information about the band is somewhat vague and cryptic, with conflicting information (their now-defunct 'official site' states that "Nod has existed since early 1996", while a more recent page states 1994), it is known for sure that it is mostly the work of Daniel Wihlstrand, with vocal assistance on many tracks by Elisabet Sundström. It is difficult to say whether or not the group really had consisted of "artists, painters and novelists as well as musicians" in the past, or whether this group is still active. Nevertheless, the text claims that "Nod is today a one-man-project and the musical goal is to crush all kind of music into pieces and then rebuild it into something extraordinary". In this regard, he is absolutely correct.
When looking over the lyrics, it instantly becomes clear that when they claim that "Nod was created and organized as a religious sect, worshipping (sic) art as our God", they weren't joking. Most of the songs are hallucinatory tales of metaphorically-rich symbolism regarding fairy tales, religion, mortality, and futility. While the music in "The Story Of..." follows this blueprint, it is perhaps a bit more focused than his earlier work, in that it uses the fable of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf as a conceptual framework. However, while a literal reading of this story is used to introduce the album, it quickly expands outward. In the world of Nod, humanity is the swine, and God is the grinning wolf. Yet who is the victim, and who is the aggressor? Who is the benefactor, and who is the enemy? The album's stark minimalist imagery, featuring stylized imagery of a deceased pig and wolf, seems to emphasize the fact that, while we may, for a time, escape morality and/or immorality, no one can escape mortality.
Musically, the album most comfortably fits under the 'industrial' description (actual industrial, as opposed to music one would dance to), although there are elements of noise and dark ambient as well. Mostly, the album roughly alternates between abrasive passages of distorted industrial synth melodies, and brooding dark ambient meditations (with one or two songs being a mixture of both). While I would argue that this album does not lend itself to easy comparisons to other bands, besides perhaps comparing it to several other CMI bands active around that same time period, it does have a slight resemblance to later-era Prurient (in other words, focused more on the synth aspect of noise). Also, while the level of sampling is slightly less prevalent on this album than the previous recordings, it still shows up from time to time.
Although the album is relatively brief at 44 minutes, it manages to pack a sizable amount of dread in the bite-sized songs (ironically, there is no fat on these compositions), culminating in intensity in "And The Big Bad Wolf" and "A Black Madonna From Russia With Aw Aah". While the latter provides the album with a suitably apocalyptic (and purely instrumental) conclusion, "And The Big Bad Wolf" is noteworthy in the absolutely unhinged nature of the music and lyrics. Perhaps the most 'power electronic' track of the collection, Wihlstrand's anguished shouting evoking William Bennett, but with ideologically obscure manifestos more in common with IRM than the average violence/misogyny common in the genre. Meanwhile, a highly distorted analog loop angrily rumbles in the background alongside an insistent horn sample and wailing drones. Perhaps it is just me, but in these (supposedly) end-times, there is something genuinely unsettling when one hears lyrics such as "Alone with myself I searched for comprehension / Why do you ask me to worship my will / Just to kill it in cold blood / You came down to be amused for a while / Never ever have you thought about what a plague you are / I am the most perfect victim..."
In conclusion, if you enjoy Institut, IRM, or even power-electronics/noise/dark ambient in general, then you will probably enjoy this album. While it is not an entirely perfect album 'in general' (my main concern that a few of the songs could have been just a little bit longer), it does embody that 'groundbreaking sound and presentation' that, save for IRM, seems to have slowly vanished from noise and power electronics. While this is a lamentable state of affairs, it is albums like "The Story..." which hopefully serve as a guiding light for the future rather than an epitaph of the past...
In addition to having most of his work available for free through his Reverbnation site, the album is also available on iTunes. It might take slightly more work to find a physical copy. While I am not sure if CMI has any copies through their mail order, you can order one through Discogs.
Official Nod Website (Through Archive.org Wayback Machine)
Nod album description on CMI
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
[I might alter this slightly, since I wrote it in one session, but it is basically the semi-complete version].
After his well regarded noise masterpiece "Sheer Hellish Miasma" was released in 2002, Kevin Drumm would, after a number of limited editions and collaborations, would release perhaps one of the best musical statements of his career: the sublime Imperial Distortion. Often compared to Aphex Twin's landmark "Selected Ambient Works Volume II", due to the length of the individual tracks (with none being under thirteen minutes long, and the longest reaching just shy of twenty minutes) and the manner in which both albums create solemn and beautiful soundscapes which reward both casual relaxation and concentrated listening experiences. His latest album, "Imperial Horizon" is a logical extention of the ideas first explored in "Imperial Distortion", only now taken to their logical extreme: a single sixty-four minute landscape of sparse synths. In short: a triumph.
The previous album had dealt with themes of paralysis ("Guillian-Barre"), mortality ("We All Get It In The End"), and the tragic story of Christine Chubbuck ("More Blood And Guts"). Given that "Just Lay Down And Forget It" sounds much like an expanded version of segments towards the end of "More Blood And Guts", it is worth explaining the meaning behind the phrase and the person behind it (Christine Chubbuck is mentioned specifically in the CD design of "Imperial Distortion" with the phrase: "Bringing You The Latest In Blood And Guts - Christine Chubbuck").
Christine Chubbuck was a Floridian news reporter whom in 1974 shot herself during a live television broadcast (which arguably influenced the opening premise of the 1976 movie Network). It was discovered later that she had, throughout her life, suffered from several bouts of depression, focused mainly around her chronic inability to find and/or maintain a relationship with anyone. Furthermore, her self-deprecating manner often deflected any sort of compliment or consideration shown to her.
Several days before her suicide, the news director had cut one of her stories short in order to cover a shoot-out. The owner of the station, Robert Nelson, argued that the staff should focus on "blood and guts". On July 15, 1974, she began her segment by covering several national news stories for a few minutes. After technical problems prevented a segment on a local shooting from running, Chubbuck simply stated, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide." As predicted by the script of the program she had included, she was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital and was pronounced dead fourteen hours later.
As for the music itself, it is (without resorting to cliche) immensely difficult to adequately put into words. I know I have used that phrase and conceptual convention before, but when nearly every other review and critique says something to the same effect, one knows they are probably on to something. A series of delicate, sustained synth tones solemnly proceed to evolve along the course of an hour, alongside bass hums that appear seemingly only when the mood or development of the present moment requires them to, at times disappearing completely. While there is a central theme that is cyclical throughout the work, the song is far from stagnant or boring, and headphone listening reveals a staggering amount of subtle variation and permutation with the seemingly limited auditory resources presented. Although I seriously doubt that there can be a consensus to words or phrases one can use to describe the tone of this album, I have seen the word "glassy" used several times various places, and it seems to fit well. Yet, while this may be a delicate work, I would hesitate to describe it as fragile, as there is a definite strength and confidence lurking behind the unpretentious veneer of the composition.
Ultimately, as with any good minimalist ambience, this experience is one of near- mystical qualities (even if you do not prescribe to any specific belief system) and perhaps even evoking emotional qualities. The best effects, however, are attained through listening to the album in it's entirety, uninterrupted. Therein lies the only possible fault of the album: the sheer magnitude and scope of it's very existence. Once you begin to listen to it, within ten minutes, if you stop for any reason, you may notice a physical difference upon ceasing, so pervasive are the tones and rhythms that one experiences. As I write this, I am finding halfway through the song, every few minutes it becomes difficult to continue typing. Not only due to the predisposition of my brain to concentrate on the song and the relative late hour in which I type this, but also due to the emotional memories and resonances that arise during listening to this work.
You perhaps might not experience this album in a manner as I have, but at the very least, if you have even the slightest interest in minimalism, ambient music, or even electronic music in general, I highly urge you to consider picking this album up. Now. It truly is the successor to Aphex Twin's ambient work, a timeless statement of mortality, inevitability, and melancholic sadness. Highest recommendation.
The album can be ordered through most major and independent retailers.
Kevin Drumm (Wikipedia)
Kevin Drumm (Myspace Fan Page)
Guillain–Barré syndrome info (Wikipedia)
Christine Chubbuck (Wikipedia)
Friday, May 15, 2009
"This album is actually really good in a lot of ways. Too much reverb here and there, but not as intrusive as other Swans releases...I can still listen to most of this sometimes, so that counts for something". -- Michael Gira/Young God Records 2008
Despite being reasonably skilled at various forms of textual description, I continue to find it difficult to express concisely how this album has made an incredible impact on me since I first discovered it. Failing in these attempts, I decided to observe and seek out other individual's reactions to the album. Several phrases, in various permutations, are typical among fans of the album (although I do not know of many detractors). "The energy this album has is incredible" and "This album is currently turning me into someone more like myself" were among the most poignant phrases I encountered, not only because I attach personal significance to them, but also because I strongly believe that others will as well, once they listen to this album.
For that is the great strength of this album (and Swans in general): the 'inherent energy' found within their work, that almost instantly sets them apart from the ocean of disposable groups and albums which have constituted the music scene of the last few decades (and which continues to do so). While Swans initially began as a near impenetrable experimental industrial rock band (which, even then, is still an inadequate compound label) whose auditory brutality and singular aesthetic approached near-obsessive zealousness, they slowly evolved into an astonishing post-rock/industrial phenomenon. "The Great Annihilator" is a glimpse of Swans at the very pinnacle of their creative zenith which they would officially finish with their gargantuan "Soundtracks For The Blind" double album). The sheer diversity of emotions portrayed within the straightforward, yet paradoxically varied and complex compositions is staggering. To put it simply, "The Great Annihilator" is among Swan's best work, in addition to possibly being their greatest album.
The unified sound present throughout the album is largely due to the presence of Gira, Jarboe, Norman Westburg, Algis A. Kizys, and Ted Parsons (who was also in Prong and the short-lived Of Cabbages And Kings, of which Kizys was also involved). "The Burning World" was a controversial collective of Swans and Bill Laswell associates which polarized fans, some of whom loved the album and many others (including music critics) to decry the album as a 'compromised album' consisting of 'world rock' filtered through the Swans aesthetic, resulting in an end-product that weakens the latter through the emphasis of the former (a view which, after having listened to the album, I must regretfully agree with). Meanwhile, "White Light from the Mouth of Infinity" can be viewed as the natural reaction to the experience of "The Burning World" (which Gira has apparently been consistently negative while recalling it): an expansive, wildly diverse, and overwhelmingly confident experience, featuring a few of the previous collaborators of "The Burning World" (namely Nicky Skopelitis and Howie Weinberg) in addition to many new members as well.
At this point in the various phases in which I wrote this review, usually a small voice in the back of my mind would casually suggest that I should describe the album track by track. But while this review probably deserves that sort of treatment, the truth is that doing so would be probably just as emotionally draining as listening to the album multiple times in a row (which I typically do when writing reviews, in order to keep the material somewhat focused). To begin with the obvious, the album is an extended conceptual/musical exploration time, eternity, spirituality, sensuality, the human body (both in terms of physically and as a metaphorical device), addiction, states of perception, and many other themes. Although there is an overarching motif of 'timelessness'/'eternity'/'perpetuity', there is also frequent attention paid to beginnings and endings (again, usually through vivid lyrical imagery rather than specific examples). If this sounds pretentious and/or overloaded in terms of the overall presentation, it is because it is. However, it is important to note that pretentiousness is often only a poor attribute to possess when the end result of endeavors fail to live up to the pretension. It is the price often paid for visionary risk-taking and ambitiousness.
The themes of eternity and time also create an interesting effect in that, while there are certainly emotional, musical, and conceptual high points and low points within the album, it is difficult to concretely state that one song is 'more positive' or 'negative' than another song or the album as a whole. An interesting detail is the titles of the intro and outro of the album, simply titled "In" and "Out". Contained with the 'gates' of these tracks, the remaining songs create a singularity, in which thoughts, ideas, concepts, and themes spiral in among themselves in a slowly narrowing spiral, until the listener passes through 'the great annihilator' and "Out" (wherever that may be).
Musically, the album varies constantly from track to track, although there are a few constants. There is indeed a large amount of reverb throughout the album, yet it is usually utilized in a tasteful manner, and the times when it is somewhat over the top only serve to increase the impact of the song ("Telepathy" being the most obvious example of this). Also, while Gira's acoustic moments on the album are instantly noticeable, they are also rarely given the spotlight by themselves, rather they serve as another layer to the dense aural tapestry of the given song.
In short, even if you are not a huge fan of the earlier Swans output, if you are the least bit interested in post-rock or emotive soundscapes, you need to hear this album at least once before you die. As stated in "Mother/Father":
"There's a place in space where violence and love, collide inside, and solid is wide. And heat is cold and birth is death. And creation and time are made from destruction".
You are unlikely to reach this state of mind outside of this album. Highly recommended.
Young God Records
"Swans To Reform?" Article On Brainwashed
PS This is the 'semi-final' version of this review. Apologies for taking so long to complete it, and many special thanks to the various individuals who expressed encouragement towards seeing it finally completed. There is a very small chance I might go back at some point and restructure some of the last few paragraphs, but it is basically complete at this point. Also, feel free to comment, but any comments consisting only of "M. Gira [and/or] Jarboe suck" or "M. Gira [and/or] Jarboe are pretentious" will be promptly ignored.
Monday, August 11, 2008
"You know what they say about funerals? There is always someone catches his death..."
Perhaps as time continues onward, the urge to experience feelings of fatalism, gloom, and/or melancholy do not seem so inappropriate or misplaced. Whether or not you agree with the alarmist proclamations of environmentalists, radical politicians, ministers, and 'culture advocates', there is no denying the inevitable fact that every living organism has a finite time of existence. This fragile existence is increasingly threatened by the outside environment, not only through the actions of other humans (malevolent or otherwise) but through environmental factors and statistical probability as well. In such troubled times, the need for a musical expression of this collective sadness is not only logical, but essential and even welcomed in some respects. Thus, in the same manner that Ulver's "Shadows Of The Sun" portrayed a somber portrait of loss and longing (while using different techniques, of course), "No Lights In Our Eyes" explores themes of death, dying, and the underlying thoughts which line our subconsciousness, and how we react to such occurances.
"Next year, they think. Next week, or tomorrow. No later. But it is later than they think. They should not make life so complicated for themselves, now that they have brought about their own destruction. They cannot avoid the complexity, for death is their only alternative..."
This release completes the second "BSE trilogy". While "Pursuit Of Pleasure" investigated themes of (naturally) sexual/personal relationships and "The Dull Routine Of Existence" explored themes of boredom, stagnation, despair, fatigue, and seemingly 'mindless' routine (the linear notes even state that the album was 'recorded under the spirit of dullness', but what this exactly means is unclear), "No Lights In Our eyes" takes this examination to its logical conclusion. Although the album tends to maintain a neutral and ambiguous stance regarding what it is attempting to convey to the listener, it can easily be argued that feelings of nostalgia, weltschmerz, mourning, loss, regret, sympathy, melancholy, and sadness are all appropriate attributes to attach to these songs.
"From one dream into the next..."
With the evolution of BSE's conceptual backgrounds comes a pleasant evolution regarding their sound and approach as well. While this is not to say that their previous albums were necessarily bad in any way, there were at times certain elements to their songs which could (arguably) detract and/or lessen the impact they would have otherwise had. Specifically, I am referring to the slightly awkward samples found on "Pursuit Of Pleasure" and the somewhat 'hit-or-miss' rhythms of "The Dull Routine Of Existence". However, it is difficult to conclusively state that these small nagging points are anything more than personal preferences, especially since they display an admirable willingness for BSE to experiment, evolve, and maintain a unique musical aesthetic. Regardless of these concerns, "No Lights In Our Eyes" is much more minimalist in construction then their previous albums, approaching 'dark ambience' at times, yet refusing to be pigeonholed into a specific genre.
"It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place..."
After listening to this album, you might agree with me that it is somewhat difficult to give a track by track description. Most of the songs feature BSE's increasingly iconic and identifiable dark ambient backdrops, often augmented by choice samples in English and (possibly) Swedish and sparsely introspective guitar and/or piano segments. My personal favorites are "Funerals" and "Standing Silent": the former being a dark minimalist masterpiece opening the album with the grim quote which opened this review and the later incorporating an awesome multi-segment choir movement in its midsection that seriously has to be heard to be believed. That is not to say that the other tracks are not worthy of mention: the featured track "Long The Nights" is almost frightening in the manner in which its strings hover around you, whereas "The Only Alternative" is darkly speculative in the extended contemplation of "The Only Alternative" (aided by subconscious drones and echoing choirs).
I read somewhere that this album is a near-religious experience in its funereal and somber themes and sounds. While I do not necessarily agree with this assessment, I will readily agree that it is certainly a meditative, contemplative, and intellectual experience, which continues the philosophy initiated and pursued by Beyond Sensory Experience since their first album. While their earlier albums were basically conceptual/theoretical in nature, their latest trilogy deals with the various facets of existence. How strange (or perhaps how fitting) that the exploration of endings should be one of their best works to date. Despite the fact that this album is concerned with death, funerals, and endings, it is (hopefully) not the end of Beyond Sensory Experience, but instead a new beginning.
The future looks very bright for this group. Highly recommended.
Beyond Sensory Experience Website
Cold Meat Industry
Beyond Sensory Experience Discogs
Beyond Sensory Experience Virb Site
Beyond Sensory Experience Myspace