“Element Configuration III i. Of Three Elements”
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.
“The ghost of Mrs. Payne (field recording), 1975”
Welcome to Scarfolk. Have a seat. Listen, please. Please, listen. Please. Have a seat, please. Here is your rabies vaccine. Here, listen to this message. Please, listen. Please.
The mayor has decided that it’s time to hear more from Scarfolk’s audio archive.
Forensic examination of the stone revealed that it had originated more than 300 miles away and historians could not ascertain how prehistoric man had transported it to Scarfolk, much less how Mrs. Payne had found her way inside a 300 million year old rock. The police reported it as chance accident.
When the stone was broken into chunks and sold as ‘Payne’s Pain’ souvenirs in Scarfolk gift shop purchasers began hearing ghostly music in their homes. Additionally, the music was heard at the stone circle where Mrs. Payne’s body was found, as well as at the geological site of the stone’s origin.
The souvenirs were recalled and buried at the centre of the stone circle in Scarfolk fields, now the only location where the music can still be heard, and only then on the anniversary of the death of Payne’s husband who found himself unexpectedly dismembered during a pagan ritual competition for the under 10s.
This is a field recording made from the stone circle.
• Scarfolk Council: https://soundcloud.com/scarfolk-council
The Glass Trunk
Richard Dawson severs his discordant fingerpickings from the rest and gives us the beheaded remains; the larynx, the pharynx, the lips, and
tongue of his perfect (yes, perfect) Northumberland bellow; in two parts.
We sit in the front room of a friend’s Aunt’s cottage. I’ve just filled the bird feeder and can still feel the soggy bread and seeds on my soap-sticky palms. I’m reading Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Pops aloud to my friends and we’re discussingkicking a Clydesdale horse to death. The answers very quickly shift from morality to practicality.
We are utterly unprepared for adulthood and yet realize that any recognition of this fact is one of the surest signs of adulthood’s approach. Such thoughts circulate pretentiously for some time.
The sense of place in Richard Dawson’s work is almost overwhelming. It’s not just in the clear love for stories, song, and community. It’s not the folk of enclosure or conservation, but of lived, shared, enjoyed experience. It can be messy, funny, and rambling, and it is all the better for it. Live, it can border on a gloriously comedic kind of communitas; on record, it takes on the kind of intensity and situated precision that eludes even the best tour guides or maps. But this shouldn’t be folk’s purpose — bird’s eye views and static places — and The Glass Trunk knows this.
We’re passing through Berwick-Upon-Tweed towards Edinburgh and a group of elderly American tourists lean over and ask, “So, how new is Newcastle castle?”
I’m not even sure.
Hospital Productions is growing more perversely diverse, best exemplified by Silent Servant’s Negative Fascination, the ever burgeoning output of Vatican Shadow, and now Tara and Mike Connelly’s new band, Clay Rendering. From Mike’s history with Wolf Eyes, Hair Police, and Failing Lights, you would expect some noise from this new project. And from Tara’s history with The Haunting and The Pool at Metz, you would expect even more noise, as well as a heaping helping of textural subtlety. However, gentle reader, this is pure 80s industrial/rock nostalgia. This is black leather jacket, aviators on at 9 PM, impossibly cool industrial grunge with a dash of “tying this camera to a balloon is probably a bad idea, but the shot will look super cool” excess. Below is the video for their song “Nature’s Confusion” (via FACT), which cannily demonstrates that getting in on the ground floor here is an excellent plan.
The two-track Vengeance Candle EP is available now digitally (although Boomkat has it listed as “Nature S Confusion” for some reason), and the physical 12-inch will be out “this summer,” which in Hospital Productions lingo is “sometime.”
Various Artists: XXL 2013's Freshmen Class
The Mixtape (hosted by DJ Drama)
Each year, XXL taps rap’s biggest up-and-comers for their Freshmen class — essentially, the genre’s version of first-round draft picks. The first class graduated in 2008, with Lupe Fiasco the undisputed valedictorian in a roster that included the likes of Papoose, Lil Boosie, and Young Dro. Since then, XXL has successfully projected many rappers’ ascent to fame: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and even ~Based God~ were Freshmen one year or another.
The Freshman class of 2013 is the most diverse yet, geographically and stylistically. This year, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q finally join the ranks of their fellow Black Hippy members and XXL alumnae, Jay Rock (Class of 2010) Kendrick Lamar (Class of 2011). Their classmates include the expected rising stars (Joey Bada$$, Trinidad James), the much-buzzed-about (Angel Haze, Chief Keef), the culinarily-blessed (Action Bronson), and more.
XXL released the official Freshman mixtape recently, and it features a collection of tracks from this year’s honorees. Collaboration is common: here, Action Bronson and Joey Bada$$ team up for “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” a jazzy, Chuck Stranger-produced cruiser cut; there, Travi$ Scott struts around with T.I. and 2 Chainz on the bombastic “Upper Echelon.” The solo tracks fare well, too. Angel Haze dishes up some veritable Tumblr-core with a freestyle over Purity Ring’s “Lofticries,” an out-there choice that contrasts with bangers like Trinidad James and Gucci Mane’s “No Hook” and Schoolboy Q’s “Yay Yay.”
All in all, a pretty decent set of tracks, especially if you’re not thrilled by the prospect of sifting through the imposing 55-tack Funkmaster Flex tape that dropped recently.
• XXL Magazine: http://www.xxlmag.com/
Ekin Fil is Istanbul-based multi-instrumentalist Ekin Üzeltüzenci. After the 2011 release of her arresting debut album Language — a stew of synth claustrophobia, claw-hammered guitar figures, and hushed vocal mantras — Üzeltüzenci stated in an interview with Foxy Digitalis, “I don’t think I will make another album all about electronics or I will totally abandon them.” Her self-titled album, released by San Diego-based label Students of Decay, delivers on her assertion, offering us a brightened series of compositions that fuse folk with organic ambience.
The influence of Grouper looms large here: the enveloping wall of delay, the angelic voice ‘verbed into ambiguity, the atmosphere of unease spawned by a spiraling chord structure that never seems to find a resolution. Indeed, an opening slot for Liz Harris on a bill in Istanbul in 2009 connected Üzeltüzenci with the Root Strata label and the concurrently developing ambient-folk scene on America’s west coast. But Üzeltüzenci’s cavernous stereophonic mix contains a tad more detail and tonal fidelity than many of Harris’s willfully desaturated compositions.
“Anything Anywhere” finds synth lines and electric guitar chords intermingling behind a curtain of gentle feedback drift. Üzeltüzenci layers vocal harmonies over breathy melodic phrases as layers of static build around the edges of the mix. By the end, only the vocals remain, lulling us into a heavenly stupor.
Ekin Fil is up for preorder. It ships May 14.