Duchesses -- ESTUPET [Apop Records]
Four young women simultaneously channeling the spirit of the early World Serpent releases and no-wave kick up a hypnotic racket on this disc, burning through twelve tracks in approximately 31 minutes. Dominated by endlessly circling drums, churning guitars with a sound like poison gas, mutant basslines, and vocalist Amber Alert! yowling like a cheerleader on a bad mix of speed and acid, the first half of the album sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a well -- it's all chaos and madness soaked in diseased reverb, bathed in noise and swaddled in sick frequencies. This is seriously one of the strangest-sounding albums I've ever heard, with EQ-diddling and mutant efx dialed to such extremes as to create the sound of a band performance being transmitted from a different universe. (Bobb Bruno of Goliath Bird Eater mastered the album and Weasel Walter mastered it, which probably explains a lot about the deliberately fucked-up sound.) Arab on Radar would have been pleased to make an album that sounded this sick. The second half of the album consists of several remixes by Weasel Walter, Sunshine Militant Childrens Hour, Ops Spirits, Qulfus, and Blanketship, and those remixes just take the whacked-out songs to another level of adulterated sonic blasphemy. Black metal's answer to the Scissor Girls? Well, something like that, anyway. It'll definitely fuck with your inner ear, that's for sure.
Hatewave -- FREE RINGTONES! (aka SEXUAL HEALING 2) [Apop Records]
Ahhhhh, Hatewave... appreciated by so few, misunderstood by so many, and eagerly fanning the flames of outrage at every opportunity during their brief existence. The band that was banned from The Empty Bottle in Chicago after performing a show with the legendary Japanese torture-porn video GUINEA PIG: FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD playing behind them. The band whose self-titled LP on Up Jumps the Devil Records (later reissued on cd with bonus tracks by tUMULt ) was rejected for distribution by Southern Records UK for being "digusting" and "misogynist." The band noticed (if not necessarily appreciated) by many simply for the inclusion of drummer Weasel Walter (The Flying Luttenbachers, more other bands than you have fingers and toes to count). They broke up in 1999, but thanks to the swell folks at Apop, you can now hear the earliest (as in pre-Walter) incarnation of the band, featuring Nondor, Wigpaw, and Sasha Tai. (If you're dying to hear the 1996 demo featuring Angst and Weasel Walter, you can download it here.) Blink and you'll miss it, though; they grind their way through ten tracks in twelve minutes. So how does it sound? Well, loud, fast, and totally primitive, pretty much -- the liner notes state that it was "recorded by HATEWAVE on bad equipment in threadbare conditions on drugs," and that's a fairly accurate assessment. It's still a highly entertaining listening experience, with a lo-fi grindcore aesthetic welded to ridiculously technical guitar thrashing and supersonic drums, plus plenty of "vocals" that waffle between hideous retching and high-pitched caterwauling. It probably helps to have a sense of humor to get behind this. And since this is Hatewave, the cover art is quite rude. Not every hipster's cup of tea, to be sure, but Hatewave fans and porno-grind enthusiasts (who are all used to lo-fi recordings anyway) will want to check this out.
Hum of the Druid -- RAISING THE NEW WING / BRAIDED INDUSTRY lp [SNSE]
I like Hum of the Druid so much that I'm going to ignore the fact that the label doesn't list the album's playback speed, something a lot of labels seem to forget these days, and a habit that really annoys the hell out of me. (For the record, the album sounds pretty swell at 45 or 33-1/3. I'm pretty sure it was meant to be played at 45 RPM, though.) The A-side opens with distant, reverb-heavy machine noise that eventually grows much louder and grittier; the volume and dynamics ebb and flow as the sound varies from tortured machine noises, squelched vocal shrieks, and crunchy chunks of sandpaper noise.Unlike a lot of noise artists, HOTD's soundscapes are more about the flow of sound and juxtaposition of textures than pure white noise (although there's plenty of that from time to time). This is bad-trip soundtrack music, the sound of machines being tortured in the name of art, and it's pretty ominous-sounding without being strident or artificially aggressive. The piece on the B-side shares much of the same aesthetic, but is considerably louder and crunchier, and incorporates more feedback. It's a much denser piece than the first one, with cascading and omnipresent waves of rumbling noise that forms an ocean of sound through which static, feedback, and high-pitched wailing sounds rise and fall, coming and going, with vaguely rhythmic noises occasionally pulsing deep down in the sonic soup. The packaging is just as swell as the music, with stippled drawings by HOTD purveyor Eric Stonefelt on the cover and the inner insert, and the vinyl is nice and heavy. This is a good one.
Hum of the Druid
Locrian / Colossus -- split cs [Heavy Nature Tapes]
Here we have Locrian, two avant-noise dudes from Chicago, and Colossus, one ambient-noise dude from New Hampshire, each taking up one side of this fifty-minute cassette. Both bands are fond of drone and noise, but deploy their sonic armaments in different ways, and both sides are excellent. The Locrian side is one long track ("Visible / Invisible") recorded live on WLUW; it opens with bell-like tones and vague noise and hum in the background, and over a period of approximately 25 minutes, feedback and drones make stealthy appearances as the track steadily grows into a thick wall of droning noise. The Colossus side consists of two tracks; the first, "An Act of Light," opens in loud fashion with a stuttering, repetitive drone figure that is augmented by other drones to create a hypnotic fluttering sound that grows deeper and richer in tone as the piece progresses. "Drink Deep" is my favorite of the three tracks on this cassette, with deep harmonic drones that buzz and reverberate with a sound that's both mellow and massive, like a series of drones converging in harmonic radiance in the cavernous space of an abandoned cathedral. Field recordings (including snatches of conversation) appear in the mix as well, adding a human element of sorts to what would otherwise be a blissed-out space drone. All three tracks are perfect in their combination of noise and drone. Hardcore droneheads shouldn't miss this. Limited to 100 copies.
Heavy Nature Tapes
Locrian / Continent -- split cs self-released]
Locrian are a noise-loving duo from Chicago and Continent are a metallic group from Arizona, and how they came to be on the same cassette is anybody's guess, but the dramatic difference in their styles makes this release all the more entertaining. Locrian's side consists of one 13-minute track, "burying the carnival," a droning slice of sheet-metal noise and squealing recorded live on WLUW earlier this year. Shrieking, bleating noises erupt over an unnerving, hellish ambient drone like missiles being fired from a glacier; the atmospheric sounds encompass feedback, proto-freejazz skronk, and distorted harmonic overtones, with results that are impressively ominous and bleak. The Continent side features four heavy tunes full of thrashing guitar angst that flow into lumbering, slo-mo death metal riffs and a vocalist who sounds like he's expressing his anger by heaving up a lung. It's nothing you haven't heard before, and the murky production obscures the message a bit (in true metal demo fashion), but they make up for these minor quibbles with serious chops and ferocious energy. That the vocalist sounds like he's having to be restrained from beating someone to death with his microphone is a big plus. Limited to 100 copies.
Lovely Little Girls -- GLAMOROUS PILES & PUFFY SADDLEBAGS [Apop Records]
What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine, but whatever it is, it's probably the product of heavy drugs (or too much time in art school, which amounts to same thing). Led by Gregory Jacobsen, the band's obsessions with scatlogical artwork and demented presentation (sort of like an extremely devolved punk-metal version of cabaret music) suggest roots in performance art, and the outfits they wear on stage don't do much to disprove that theory. It's musically complex (not to mention totally out-there) performance art, though, owing as much to Kurt Weill and Burt Bacharach as to any form of rock, and far more humorous than most acts swimming in the Chicago art-rock scene. Six extremely peculiar manifestions of art-rock as burlesque surrealism unfold in about twenty minutes, and you'll find it either oddly captivating or completely inexplicable. I suspect the sonic aspect of the band is only half the fun, but you'll either have to live in Chicago or see them on tour to find out for sure.
Lovely Little Girls
Thou -- PEASANT [Autopsy Kitchen Records]
They come from Baton Rouge, which isn't too far removed from NOLA, so if "Eyehategod" is the first thing that comes to mind, well, there's a good reason for that. This is classic, fuzzed-out sludge / doom very much in the vein of Eyehategod, fueled by nasty fuzz guitar soaked in gasoline, leviathan basslines capable of making refrigerators levitate, assloads of alienation, and lots of pained shrieking. Like a lot of Louisiana doom bands, their sound is basically the blues slowed down to 16 RPM and played through a towering stack of amplifiers set on maximum fuzz; this is music made to be felt as much as heard, and they certainly have a tremendously physical presence. The six long, lumbering tracks here are periodically leavened with keening feedback, and at times the heaviness factor resembles a black hole collapsing. Their strategy most of the time is to share their alienation by erasing the listener's face one slow, tortured riff at a time, but they throw a few curve balls from time to time; on "The Work Ethic Myth," they incorporate uneasy waves of dissonance into their brontosaurus stomp, and on "Belt of Fire to Guide Me, Cloak of Night to Hide Me," they open with a relatively clean bass line and borderline jazz drums before descending into subsonic audio hell. On "Burning Black Coals and Dark Memories," the guitar has a dark, psychedelic feel at the beginning, and the initial riffing of "The Road of Many Names" is much faster than anything else on the record (although the tempo slows to a crawl soon enough). There's nothing spectacularly new happening here -- this is standard-issue doom -- but it's very, very convincing and supremely relentless in its soul-crushing intensity.
Autopsy Kitchen Records
v/a -- COMPILATION VOL. 1 [Audial Decimation Records]
I can't find any concrete information on the label, but this is certainly an interesting compilation, with some well-known names (Grunt, Emil Beaulieau, Prurient, and the Grey Wolves) along with the lesser-known and new entities. This is raw stuff, mainly power electronics and harsh noise, with fourteen tracks by fifteen artists (the track "Awake!" is a collaboration between the Grey Wolves and Werewolf Ensemble). Standout tracks include 88MM's "Funeral March of the Cosmological Principle," Brethren's "Zionist Axiom," the aforementioned Grey Wolves / Werewolf Ensemble track, FFH's "Disposable Women," Pain Nail's "Watchtower." The most punishing tracks are the harsh noise assaults of Griz+zlor ("Statue003") and Fleshobedience ("Defectives") and Deathkey ("Monolith"). There's nothing flaccid here, either; this is a strong collection of tracks, offering plenty of variety in the ongoing sonic mayhem. It's too bad there's so little information available about the label, because they've done a really good job of assembling this noise sampler. Comes with a 16-page booklet with one page of art and (sometimes) information about each band. Noise completists will want it for the tracks by the more well-known bands, but the more obscure ones are often the best thing about the cd.
Autopsy Kitchen Records
Venison Whirled -- GOING NOW HERE FAST cs [Sister Skull Rekkids]
More piercing, throbbing drones from Lisa Cameron (ST-37, The Devil Bat). As usual, the setup is minimal but the drones are surprisingly immense. The cassette's first side is a long piece recorded at Yeast by Sweet Beast in 2007, with Lisa using a snare, lap steel, bowl, and magnet to create lengthy and hypnotic drones and peals of feedback that undergo subtle tonal variations over extended stretches of time. The unorthodox act of turning the snare and lap steel into vibrating feedback resonators results in pure-tone drones that slowly but surely mutate from one sound into another, and the slightest movement of the magnet or bowl results in startling volume jumps as well. There's no song construction happening here, just the pure power of tone and sound combined with unpredictable feedback harmonics, and the sound evolves into different harmonic and rhythmic elements over time. Later in the piece, there's some nice distorted clanging to go along with the shuddering feedback drone. The flip side of the cassette is another live action recorded at Circle in April, 2007, with one instrument missing (the magnet) and a moderately different (and more rhythmic) approach to the blown drones. This sounds closer to machine noise than freeform feedback madness; the segments are no less hypnotic and droning, but far more rhythmic and occasionally downright caustic in tone. The piece also ends really abruptly, making it a sudden shock to the system when the vibrating cathedral of noise shuts its doors without warning. You'll probably have to contact Lisa directly (see the link below) to get your hands on one of these.