Peerless is an epithet lazily ascribed to legions of artists who are patently nothing of the kind, but in the case of arch dreamweaver Sam Shackleton, it’s the only appropriate term. From the arabesque dubstep extrapolations of his Skull Disco years to masterpieces of polyrhythmic psychedelia like ‘Music For The Quiet Hour’ and ‘Departing Like Rivers’, his trailblazing exploits in the sphere of contemporary electronic music have resulted in a discography that, in terms of sheer eye-popping originality, is all but unparalleled. His first release on Honest Jon’s in five years, ‘The Majestic Yes’ is Shack in microcosm; a gravity-defying exposition of rhythm as rapture that showcases his trademark rococo sound design in arguably its most otherworldly iteration since 2018’s lavishly abstracted ‘Furnace Of Guts’. Comprising three long-form tracks structured around the shamanic rattle of Senegalese percussion maestro Beaugar Seck’s sabar drums, this is expansive, sense-heightening music of the first order; swirls of opalescent synth, harmonium-filtered glossolalia and crepuscular sub-bass that permeate every quadrant of the soundfield like a cloud of opiated pollen from some alien species of orchid. It’s a scintillating, if concise, tour de force, but it doesn’t end there. To the majority of producers, remixing an artist as singular as Shackleton would be a poisoned chalice and then some, but his idol Mark Ernestus steps valiantly into the breech, splitting the difference between Basic Channel and Ndagga Rhythm Force with an arachnoid, dub-frosted (in)version of ‘The Overwhelming Yes’ that closes the EP on a deliciously sinister note. Majestic? Yes.
Archival release from Pain Jerk, featuring both tracks that would make up their abortive first 7″ release, and the track ‘Rocketry’ from the ‘ペイン・ジャーク’ cassette release of the same year, an early 90’s work of out-and-out Harsh Noise. These tracks are some of the few that feature Pain Jerk as a two piece operation. A fascinating fulminated electronic howl, catastrophic conveyorbelt channel-switch mayhems of early-ish so-called Japanoise, featuring abstruse cut up technique and volume immersion/endurance testing, battering extreme temperature maligned signal electronics to sear and confuse, dotted liberally with mangled, half audible bludgeoned sampling. Extremely hazardous and ego-killing. Archaic, difficult and perfect. Even as early as ’93 Pain Jerk was already setting new standards in the Noise of coldly implacable cut up electronics, removing new perceptions of objectivity and furthering the genre into furtive plateaus of electronics enmity and extremity. Pain Jerk’s Bandcamp page is a Noise fan’s nirvana, be sure to check through the various other releases hosted within.
Exceptionally stoned offering from Jah Excretion, a meditative solo mission into mesmeric Ambient Dub Techno territory, very Rhythm&Sound/Basic Channel influenced. Shimmering aqueous field recordings manipulated over blip radar Dub percussion motions and subsonic Earth’s crust Bass frequencies, with detail only truly revealed though the smoked-out haze at pealing volumes, using the voluminous excesses of his Harsh Noise influence to carve a sonic form of minimalist sound at maximal volume – This is as far from Harsh Noise as Iwasaki San has ventured, with sumptuous, smothering results. I found myself wanting longer songs here, as the entrancing sounds would possibly benefit from more play time room to breathe (smoke) – however, this is still an exceptional little recording, Dub heads & Techno listeners would do well to explore this one. Play it unbearably loud.
Justin K Broadrick has upped the tempo of his release schedule lately and barely four months on from the power techno slugfest that was ‘New Religions Old Rules’, he unpacks the nunchucks for another six belts of spleen-rupturing Sturm und Drang. ‘Veneer Of Tolerance’ though is a very different kettle of sabre-toothed piranhas to its predecessor. Hobnailed kicks still stomp through brackish mires of bass yet there’s something far more insidious at work than mere brawn and belligerence, an undercurrent of subliminal dread that levers open the mind’s eye and injects it with a pupil-dilating serum. After a brief Godflesh-flavoured aperitif, the walls close in with frightening rapidity, and with them the reality of just how ruthless a purge of dance music’s hedonistic trappings Broadrick has effected, though it’s less their mechanics than the images these tracks evoke – troupes of zombie gymnasts bouncing dead-eyed on a trampoline made of human skin; the heads of guillotined heretics thudding wetly onto concrete – that serve as the EP’s primary instruments of antagonism. Were an incautious DJ to drop one of these psychoactive bombs into a peak time set, a Mixmag editorial headlined ‘BERGHAIN ABLAZE AFTER CANNIBALISM OUTBREAK’ might be the least of their worries. Boom.
Methlab Explosion’s most recent offering ploughs a furrow into Synthesizer soundscape dynamics, Industrial wall of glass and swirling vortex electronics Noise, eschewing the blast beats and Grindcore elements of their sound and diving headfirst in this Power Electronics/Industrial direction with bloodyminded aplomb – appropriately ruinous walls of synthesized ephemera, pulsing rhythms of Industrialised din, well placed samples and serrated synth drones, piercing harsh high spikes shearing eardrums to bleeding shit, extremely damaging, moments of clean(er) Synth tones drenched in bleach, movie dialogue sample loops used to hate-accentuating result. Cataclysmic and dramatic, lo-fi scary shit, bedroom of the gunman vibes. Midwestern horrors. Images of outsider compounds and weapon caches, busy at the work of war – Will’s projects are fucking awesome. Buy a copy from Tin Standard. “NOT ART IN THE LEAST”.
Fearsome split cassette release from two of the most vital artists in the old guard of the international Harsh Noise scene. Like Weeds piledrives vibrating synthetic coils into your fear response centre to conjure the lizard hate for the ‘other’ – Brute Industrial action informed by the bleeding edge of Harsh Noise, with some reference to Powernoise and mutilated Hip Hop. Isolating, alienating, frightening. Protracted blasts of disrhythmic Noise erupt amid a fetid ambience, reverberations inside a factory of unknowable and reprehensible post-brexit productions, bristling edges of Bass pulses leaving contaminated grit and soot in fresh, deep wounds. Sanderson’s oeuvre always bears the indelible marks of urbanity and disillusion, and his contributions here are no exception. The Bastard Noise then inflicts a mortal wound on the psyche of Mancruel, from behind the master control panel of the Trogotronic battle computer they loose a staggered rhythmical audial barrage, a kosmische thermonuclear salvo to strike the surface of HIS world with Alien weaponry in sonic swordplay, sabres rattle/death rattle as the last of Bastard is repaid it’s fucking debt in kind!! 20 minutes + of richly designed Insect Electronics retaliation from TROG, meticulous Skullscapes to envelope in ambience and constrict in merciless signal abusing Harsh Noise, paced with baited breath, slowly unfurling the muted sonic troposphere and freak-out pulsing force of synthesizer mutation meltdown audia amid airlock atmospherics, peppered with outraged primitive vocal outcry. Essential tape.
In the domain of left-field electronic music, few artists cut such an elusively idiosyncratic figure as Eric Douglas Porter aka Afrikan Sciences. His recondite, Afrofuturist slant on house and its adjacent forms positions him in the exalted company of individualists like Jlin, Zamilska and Sam Shackleton whose work bears such a unique stamp of provenance, it practically births its own subgenre. Following hot on the heels of February’s astonishing ‘2220022 (Tiger Dynamics)’ (which, in typically capricious fashion, Porter deleted from his catalogue three days after it was released), ‘Genome Bentley’s Heritage Drum Corp’ is another fabulously out-there portfolio of possibility that reconfigures house to the point where it’s easier to describe in architectural rather than musical terms. Of course, this being Afrikan Sciences, the geometry of these precarious constructions is strictly non-Euclidean, each track a jazz-gilded labyrinth of illusion and improbability, like an M. C. Escher lithograph brought to angular sonic life. Booby-trapped with rapid-cycling time signatures (nothing so trite as a four-on-the-floor DJ tool here) and sampledelic whorls of every conceivable abstraction, this is music that, even at its most minimal (‘3 Things’, for example, is little more than an acidulated rumble of bass and percussion that spools out for almost 11 minutes), remains as resistant to decryption as the Voynich manuscript. It’s also an absolute fucking blast. If you’re an Afrikan Sciences virgin, pop your cherry with this then work back until you hit 2014’s twin masterpieces ‘Theta Wave Brain Sync’ and ‘Circuitous’. Trip isn’t the word.
2020 release from outrovert slime dealer Wolfie Warship (moniker of agent Anthony Vincent – formerly/AKA Xrin Arms) – Trippin’ face Beats and Bass, loose and mangled sampling interwoven to resemble something like darkside Aesop Rock/Blockhead combo meal production style, esoteric and obstinate vocal slurrs and stumbles forth from the mouthpiece, heavy with leaden threats and noxious jests, totally blunted out and shadowy in intent – Industrial Hip Hop contaminated with pitch dropped samples, hideously formed of mercurial heavily processed Beats and Bass bombast, sidewinder sample melodies cut in half, contorting over the Bass concussion and crispy old skool beats smothered in a duffle bag, processed by force to topographic maps of pique and drop. Capsized and submerged weirdo outsider Hip Hop excellence.
Most high split between Jah Excretion and Seal Team 666, a meeting of Dub-minded pothead Harsh Noise advocates made in Mecca. This dime was released by Dread Rocks Records in Japan on pro CD, although it is now sold out at the source, and digitally on Grindcore Karaoke. Jah Excretion sparks and blasts two tracks of hyper minimal Harsh Noise reverb-beration, for smoke up sesh of only the most zooted, head-crushingly heavy and ionic positive charge, Hashishian Harsh Noise for heads. This material hews closer to Iwasaki San’s older releases as Jah Excretion, leaning less into the voluminous ambience he would later explore on his Meditation EPs and doubling down on the ear bleeding piercing treble frequencies. Seal Team 666 pulses up a confounding slow-rolling smokestorm hotbox of Harsh pulsing Noise laden with samples, and dub siren distortion jam on OG Augustus Pablo and Jah Shaka Dub versions, super Harsh red-eyed stoned as shit Noise Dub pulsation to provide a psychedelic lungfull – Positive bliss reception, tripped delay tokes and oscillation inhalation contours within the smokestorm of low end frequency. Perfectly packed between each artist’s contribution is a highly impassioned reading of Shel Silverstein’s “Smoke Off” by A. Kenyon. Stoned ascension. SMOKE VOLCANIC DOPE.
The duo of Stephen Gethings (Magnetize) and Barry Murphy (The Last Sound) have been wreaking various shades of aural havoc for more than fifteen years, but ‘Blown Vestige’ is Whirling Hall Of Knives as we’ve rarely heard them before. All but absent is the redlining kick-drum carnage that made albums such as ‘Decate’ and ‘Voix’ such ear-savaging delights (think Regis after six pints of ayahuasca) but don’t go equating beatlessness with toothlessness. WHOK still have a full compliment of fangs, but this time, it’s your heart, not your throat they want to sink them into. Predictably though, for an outfit whose usual œuvre is the techno equivalent of cluster munitions, their take on ambient is about as far from cachou-scented New Age wallpaper-hanging as it’s possible to get. This is visceral, attention-demanding music that, despite its relative lack of gratuitous bloodletting, still lays siege to your consciousness with the same steely intent as their more rhythm-centric experiments. Amorphous billows of exfoliative distortion scud across the stereo field like storm clouds; chrysalids of crimson noise rupture and drip acid syrup into your ears, but it’s WHOK’s uncanny ability to conjure the organic from the inorganic that sets ‘Blown Vestige’ far apart from the pack. ‘Deconthroat’, for example, is so redolent of a slow-burning cello arabesque it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Clarice Jensen album, whilst the subaquatic swoon of closing track ‘Saw-tail’ is a sublime reimagining of A.R. Kane’s nebulous guitar shimmer blissfully untethered from the prosaism of wood and wire. Over the years, I’ve used many adjectives to describe the mighty WHOK’s irascible sonics, but ‘beautiful’ has never been one of them. There’s a first time for everything.
God Is War’s 12″ ‘World Music Volume 1’, released on Phage Tapes in 2020, is a spiteful statement of ongoing hostile intentions towards the electronic music scene at large. Mack Chami’s war will go on forever – Harsh Industrial Eurorack modular Synth Death, pulsing waves of Harsh Noise beats crush your mind while a sample feed of prayer call, decries and misery will pluck out your heart. Body splitting mega beats, hyper aggressive evolving arrangements, and belligerent frequencies scraping and shredding your third eye down to a bleeding nerve stem, slow revelation of patterns emerge from modular synthesis minimalism. Themes hew closely to classic P.E. via Muslimgauze, perhaps a sly nod/wink/bird flip to the many comparisons Chami has received to Muslimgauze over the years in interviews and reviews with reference to his older projects, based on the racist pre-supposition of his incorrectly supposed Islamic beliefs – imperious, arrogant and castigating war electronics to nuke the game.
There are matches made in heaven and there matches made somewhere altogether hotter, and given the fearsome track records of its two protagonists, it scarcely takes a genius to figure out where this meeting of minds and murderousness was conceived. An alias of sound sadist Kenny Sanderson, Like Weeds destroys techno with the zeal of a latter-day Savonarola, torching its vanities on a bonfire and fashioning something ugly and misshapen from the smouldering, blackened embers. The four tracks he offers here are baleful in the extreme, looming escarpments of greyscale noise that split the difference between power electronics and the heaviest industrial dub. Beats thud with contusive force, every micron of space between them choked with a boiling tar of static that corrodes the lungs like phosgene. By the time the death march of ‘Unauthorised’ fades into silence, the chest-crushing pressure is overwhelming, but don’t look to Andrew Nolan for succour; he’s too busy torturing trip-hop to mop your fevered brow. Ogreish and blood-spattered, it lurches from his dungeon, a Hallowe’en parade of grotesque miscreations primed to rip off your eyelids and drag you face first into a conscious nightmare of obliterating dub. As deadly as the blooms they’re named after, these shambling horrors may be short-lived but the bass bin-blowing havoc they wreak is prodigious. Gird your loins. It’s clobberin’ time.
Cassette release from Dayton Ohio’s Developer. An extremely Harsh, mimetic Musique Concrete explosion and confounding cut up approach Harsh Noise with sampling and loops interspersed, layered and collaged rhythmic accidents, sources appearing here and there amidst the maelstrom as less distorted and appealable to reason, then plummeting down the fucking spiral staircase of looping and distortion, piercing skewering frequencies, signals switch on a dime, disorienting and baffling, laughter…pockets of neutral audial spaces emerge… a total astringent brainwash collage. Artful and ascetic, but not too austere or serious in theme or approach. This is dynamic Harsh Noise for exploration of the inner space. US rust belt Harsh Noise mastery and mischief. “CAUTION: repeated listens or listening while inebriated may cause insanity…. It did for me on both accounts”
Bead brings the fucking basement dungeon funk straight out of the sex cult nihilist’s compound with this one, the paranoia is palpable and the feds are outside with weapons drawn but we’re nodding the fukk out anyways – brain smoothing Bass, greasy as oil-slicked hair Techno tracks with a slather of wicked funk hats and slow working venom trippin’ sequencer lines, outsider and paranoiac with a hint of come-up euphoria atmosphere and menacing vocal samples drifting in the ether of wizz, minimal low tek and lo-fi as fuck. This project never ceases to intoxicate and alienate, setting a paradigm for no wave experimental Techno that only a select few nutters and weirdos are operating within. Still available on cassette from Nice Music, mine came with a cool sticker too. Properly fucking sweaty.
Techno. Clearly not the final frontier it was 35 years ago, but to an inveterate nightmare-weaver like Justin K Broadrick, still an axe well worth grinding. Unpacking his formidable JK Flesh alias for the first time since last year’s monstrous dub double-header with Kevin Martin’s G36 project, Broadrick returns to the granite-hard beat butchery that made blowouts like ‘Rise Above’ such a fearsome proposition, the acrid pall of industry hanging heavy in the air. A paranoia-laced treatise on humanity’s enduring obsession with indoctrination, ‘New Religion Old Rules’ wastes no time in getting to the point, opening salvo ‘Brain Wash’ churning up the soundfield like a moonshine-powered rotovator, spraying swarf and slag in all directions. The kick drums are colossal, but the breaking wheel of this particular torture chamber is the bass, an evil stentorian grind ripped straight from the attrition section of the Samurai Music playbook. Broadrick’s masterly sound design keeps the action just the right side of wanton thuggery, but the deeper you descend into this hellhole of hostility, the thicker and more claustrophobic the atmosphere becomes. ‘Herd Mentality’, is a rancorous acid-damaged deathstomp that stings with the potency of cobra venom, and by the time ‘Willing Servant’ drives the last of its nails through your forehead, you’ll be yearning for the mercy of unconsciousness. Stunning. Literally.
Invariably with drum & bass, I gravitate less towards the hip than the trustworthy; artists and, perhaps more crucially, labels (Rupture LDN, Kalm & Spindall’s none-more-shady Nurtured Beatz, the venerable but reliably intrepid Metalheadz) whose unswerving commitment to blazing new trails stands in stark contrast to the trend-chasing aimlessness of fly-by-nights and also-rans too numerous to mention. An A-list imprint for more than two decades, Leeds-based Dispatch Recordings know the fundamentals of their craft like the backs of their bionic hands. Already in 2022 they’ve released three barnstorming EPs with two more in the pipeline, but as this truculent clutch of crunchers courtesy of Camden antagonist Trex proves, quantity never takes precedence over quality. In trademark fashion, bass supremacy is at the heart of what makes ‘Mirror’ tick, and it should go without saying that if you’re the sort of liquid-lapping lightweight who prefers bijou beats that splat like globs of blancmange on a coffee shop draining board, you’d be wise to find a different tree to bark up. Bar a solitary detour into more soulful territory, this is the hard stuff, IEDs of dancefloor-focused derangement primed to detonate the moment signal reaches subwoofer. The title track and ‘Crazy’, which feature the obstreperous hectoring of London MC Medic, both punch like prizefighters, but most eye-watering of all is ‘Duck Hunt’, a steel-reinforced stepper ripped asunder by the sort of atonal bass squall you’d get by attaching a foghorn to a gas compressor. You have been warned.
Extremely unwieldy, grueling ardor of drugged one man midi Black Metal (?) from the end tymes of The End Commune. Bizarre and shamanic, enamored/obsessed with the ISIS conflicts – a dissonant, dissident and melodious uproar of devotional Avant Garde Black Metal violence rendered in awkward midi instrumentation, sure to appeal to those fans of the more esoteric and bizarre fringes of no audience raw Black Metal. A constricting, arresting, uniquely lo-fi instrumental Black Metal haram, far-sighted visions sculpted with bound and artless hands and in the throes of boundless imagination, rousing and dense, simple digital instruments with bleached raw presence working out weirdly complex and startling arrangements, very very mystic and low-rent. “i have so many riffs in me, they need to get out somehow… and i cant play the guitar.. so yeah…in honour of the martyrs and freedom fighters of the ISIS war”. This really has a feel of prison art to it. Fucking mental.
Excellently reductive heavy Techno split with plenty of manacling Funk to move your shackled feet to. A meeting of Napalm Death Side A alumni, here treading rather different yet no less alienated waters – scabrous ancient Techno beats and rugged Bass thuds, crushed production to turn inner-verse spaces into quantum realms, minimal melters to cleanse the bacteria. Mick Harris’ Monrella brings turbine thrust menace and grooving thud kick drive, maximalist and malformed Techno, gritted teeth and havin’ it all alone. Brutal and thuggish. Justin Broadrick’s JK Flesh churns the black aqueous liquor of his recent works into a fine elxir of Techno tar, scabby lo-fi and Industrial-heavy in inference but by way of hard-hitting old tek influence like Basic Channel. Furiously funky and fucking derelict stoned, murderous and diabolically driven. Fire this through an indecent sound system and further alienate yourself from your IRL peers and betters. This split is hard as fukk.
The newest full length from martian jesuit pineapple pyramid-schemers Anatomy Of The Heads. Spiritually insane lounge Jazz Fusion Rock Tropicana to amuse and disturb, possessive arrangements of languid phosphorescent Jazz & Soft Rock to stir vegetative states of inner exploration, deep voiced jungle cult leaders exalt a world of sweaty jazz hunter hazed psychedelia and lush Jurassic sound effluvia, constructed from all manner of musical and non-musical sources. I can barely even fathom the third mind that could imagine these songs, let alone conjure them so singularly. This is a precise Noise of exquisite design and rich in unfathomable concepts, bad vibes lounge man-lizards amidst their unknowable and dreadful tasks, dissonant and disconcerting yet tranquilizing and lulling, exceptionally exotic and quixotic. A very strange and unique project – let the Sgt. Psyops Lizard Hearts Club Band waltz you down the primrose path of your screaming reptilian subconscious. Sweltering Hell Jazz!
The product of an exceptionally fertile period for ANb Pharma, and their only Hydra Head release – the PCP Torpedo 6″ contains an insanely psychedelic, esoteric blast of hyper detailed kaleidoscopic micro Grind, multitudinously gnarly riffs and angular Voivodian Guitar moves forced squealing through a process of hyper pressure hammerstorm drum machine blast beat consolidation, grinding tar Bass overdrive, extro-noise Guitar tone brutal clamor, and lurid reactionary horrid Dadaist lyrics recited in 12 voices from both sides of the goddamn mouth, spiraling vortex of utterly unknowable narcotic intro-perspective stand up comedy made Grindcore, inferenced cataclysmic drug abuse on an industrial scale, repudiated identities brandishing future-weapons, a forced lobotomy at the behest of a begging subconscious. An absolute, dissolute fury of a record, a drugged ID lashing out at hallucinated captors like a fucking ketamine tiger. One of my all time favourites. Now, take a deep breath/toke… Disc two of the luxuriously pils-and-prescription adorned reissue, entitled ‘ANbrx’, lead me drugged and naïve toward extreme electronics, Speedcore and Randall’s then labels BlastBeat (who released the original remix 7″) and Speedboat – It was a heavy, heavy intro to a trip I’m still joyously experiencing. The combinative elements of Gabber, Speedcore, Hardcore, Industrial and Harsh Noise across these remixes was overwhelmingly intoxicating and exciting to me, the removal of scales from the idiot ears of a 15 year old Punk/Metal & Hip Hop freak, with little exposure to extreme electronics beyond Harsh Noise and Aphex Twin. Deranged remixes by James Plotkin, Justin Broadrick, Xanopticon, Merzbow and more each bring uniquely battering and bleary-eyed perspective to ANb’s ID provocation, with some like Drokz and Hellz Army presenting me a world of extremity I had yet to encounter, but would come to know and cherish. From hence, electronic music would forever be forwardly present in my audial junk consumption. An important and vastly potent inoculation against inertia.