A founding member of grindcore progenitors Napalm Death, Nicholas (or Nik) Bullen established the group’s militant ethos and iconoclastic sound as early as 1981. His guttural vocalizations and bass shredding on the A-side of undisputed classic Scum remain the only (official) recorded document of his time in the group before he and Justin K. Broadrick departed in 1986. If Broadrick has since evolved into a highly-visible avatar of extreme music in all forms, Bullen has kept a relatively low profile over the years. He’s earned degrees in philosophy and computer science, worked as an experimental filmmaker, and entered the academic and fine arts institutions as a sound designer, writer, and lecturer. His musical projects — Final (with Broadrick), Scorn (with ND drummer Mick Harris), and more recently Black Galaxy — have all dealt in aural assault and abstraction, but fall more along the electro-acoustic improvisation/power electronics spectrum. On his debut solo album Component Fixations, landing May 15 on Type, Bullen demonstrates the radical concepts and sonic manipulation strategies that he’s accumulated over 30-plus years of active experimentation.
The album features two side-long slabs of computer-based electronic disfiguration. The preview excerpt of “Element Configuration III” offers us a session of mutating, suspense-laden musique concrète, speckled with noise outbursts and sudden dips into robotic murmuring that render any traces of Bullen’s field-recorded sound sources indistinguishable. The dynamic pacing and protracted high-end abuse recall Florian Hecker’s laptop experiments, and like Hecker, Bullen isn’t afraid to wade into the territory of the demonic squelching circuit. Some sounds here challenge description, possessing a glitched-out stutter that hints at hours/weeks/years of tonal fine-tuning. Chunks of static and low-end drone collide in a mix dry enough to clarify even the tiniest detail. Bullen continues to prove that his teenage years as an extreme metal pioneer were just the tip of a totally badass iceberg — here’s a chance to sink in and check out how massive and terrifying it’s become beneath the water.