Wednesday, June 27, 2018

ProtoU & Hilyard- "Alpine Respire" (2017)

I recently made a commitment to quit behaving like a slave to the demands and deadlines in my inbox and function more like the classic download blogs this was inspired by. I'm not about to hand out free music after six years of keeping things legal, but blogs like SVN OKKLT and Salt Goat (R.I.P.) inspired me to focus on curation rather than timeliness. There is so much music I love and find captivating that simply isn't new. Sometimes new music catches my attention. Today alone, I had two things hit my inbox that I was thrilled to hear, but I can't pretend that this blog is a repository of all things current. Quality over all else, right? With that in mind, here's a dark ambient gem that I received approximately a year ago from Cryo Chamber and still find quite captivating.

ProtoU and Hilyard may be operating on entirely separate continents, but their collaborative work in Alpine Respire is so singular in its effect that it's hard to imagine it as the work of multiple parties, let alone two individuals at such a distance. The opening track plays out in a relatively straightforward fashion, offering up a massive bleak drone that belies what follows, although it sets the tone perfectly. "Blood Grass Sojourn" is where things really come into focus, with clear, evocative field recordings taking the forefront and giving way to hallucinatory ambient soundscapes that stretch on like endless grey skies. The work captures all the emptiness of rural industrial regions, stark in their balance of horror and beauty. There is a sense of peace at the center of the otherwise harrowing sound, especially during the cleansing rush of "Boreal Distillate" as it bleeds into "Final Refugium," but it never fully leaves behind the lingering darkness.

Despite the common, false notion that drone is fixed or unchanging, the movement of these songs shows just how much tension and force can be carried in such direct forms. From slow shifts to sudden turns driven by the accompanying field recordings, there is so much at play in any given moment. This is truly the definition of ambient music as sought by its originators: it can be left to the background if need be, but it will also reward full focus listening. Get lost in your head and in the hills and the haze.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Untangling the Web of "Gnaw": Your Guide to a Few Bands with Similar Gnames

I love extreme metal. If my hunch is right, you do too. That's why we're both here. It's certain that we all have an abundance of bands in our collections with "death," "dark," "black,""moon," and other fun spooky buzzwords that may not even make sense (Evilfeast, I'm looking at you). Still, there's something to be said for specificity in terms outside of the obvious go-tos. With new albums by a handful of similarly named bands, I felt it was high time I set up a primer to distinguish each of these talented and enjoyable acts for the benefit of myself and maybe one or two other people. To be fair, I find it harder these days to run at length about some fucking band that has riffs. I love a riff, but after six years of this it's hard to describe things in a new way. So here's a handful of short-run thoughts on long-form albums and artists that are worth your time. Gnaw on some of these

The most direct award goes to local New York noisemakers in Gnaw. It's easy to make esteemed vocalist Alan Dubin (you know his other bands) a focal point here, but Gnaw is a competent collective regardless of his input. His ominous voice is incredible, make no mistake, but Gnaw is not just a consolation prize for people who miss Khanate. Brooding, swaying streams of sound filter and burst through from behind dirge-like doom structures, making something that sits just outside of most boxes it could be placed within. At times, things veer into the more structural side of industrial music, but the irreverence of Gnaw makes even the most direct things appear to be heavily altered. It swells without becoming unwieldy in its scope, a teetering and tenuous experience that remains just grounded enough to stay contained and consistent.

Gnawed, while similarly noisy, is the only outright actual noise act presented here. Those of you who keep aware of modern death industrial are already sure to be familiar with this project of Minneapolis resident Grant Richardson, but for those not yet in the know, you're welcome. The monstrous and overwhelmingly vast atmosphere of Gnawed's newest work, Ruin, should be a lot to take in, but presents itself in a surprisingly digestible fashion. In the midst of songs that feel more like abandoned, ruined cities, there are still moments of somber peace in songs like "North of Lock" (near the twenty minute mark on side A in the stream above) with an eerie semblance of melody. Last year's Harm was also an absolute mandatory listen, if this entices you enough. Suffice to say, this is one of the more fascinating death industrial or dark ambient artists performing today.

Gnaw Bone is the freshest group in this collection but is equally worth your attention with their hideous, stomach-turning doom. Without forsaking form or clarity, Gnaw Bone offers up four tracks of ugliness on Scorched Earth. Bands like this often get pegged with the "misanthropic" tag, but I feel that'd be selling this short and a little bit off-center. The roaring fury here is more aligned with all-out world-ending chaos than it is an emotion. When humanity's nuclear ambition fails and the world is engulfed by whatever hell we unlock, the title track will seem more prophetic than "metal" in its scope. The hypnotic force of this should be noted by fans of all things unsettling and apocalyptic. Bonus points for keeping things gross while still maintaining crisp and clear production.

Gnaw Their Tongues is probably the most well known artist we'll explore here, which is why it's saved for last. It's almost pointless to introduce Mories/Maurice de Jong, as his body of work has given him amply massive respect and acknowledgment despite the sheer malice with which so much of it is delivered. This recent profile done by bandcamp itself gives a great point for dipping your toes into many of his projects beyond just Gnaw Their Tongues, but I'm electing to share the first album of his I came across. I'm not sure anything I'd heard before L'Arrivée de la Terne Morte Triomphante comes close to the degree of dread and majesty conveyed simultaneously on each of the album's tracks, blending funereal doom and black metal with martial industrial and chilling choirs. It's disgusting but impossible to ignore and inherently fascinating. As an album that manages to balance its grotesque nature with something truly gorgeous, it revels in its own excess. This is likely a familiar album to most readers, but still deserves your time and attention.