The recent wave of synth-fetishism grown out of the noise/drone underground has thus far predominantly focused on the arpeggiated melodicism of 1970s Germany, with most acts drawing from a similar pool of influence involving figures such as Conrad Schnitzler, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze, all too often producing results with scant amounts of aesthetic progression from where their forefathers ingeniously tested the waters decades ago. Certain acts, mainly tireless sound-crafters like Emeralds and Raglani who have years of experience and research working in their favor, have taken these singular influences and used them to create a distinctively personal and progressive sound, but a glut of recent followers dabbling in trite new age-isms calls into question just how “experimental” one can classify their music when it’s reached such stagnancy.
Thus, in this context, iconoclasts like Hive Mind personage Greh Holger turn the current trends of synthesizer-based experimental music on its head. Over the course of numerous releases, Holger has utilized his synthesizers in manners that explore the dirtiest nether-regions of the Midwest noise underground; his powerfully morose take on his instrument of choice may not obviously tie him to the current wave of interest in the synth, but in this context, his particularly radical dispatches render him positively unorthodox. Where even more abstract synth-based projects like Demons (Nate Young, Steve Kenney, Alivia Zvilch) tip their hat to Cluster and Schnitzler’s earlier, more abstract excursions, Holger has removed any source of obvious predecessors from that particular field. As the press release to his latest long-player Elemental Disgrace exclaims, “No blisscapes to be found here. No soaring latched arpeggios, no cosmic vistas. Not a single melody.” And indeed, this is all factual, ringing without one sector of hyperbole. This is an unapologetic immersion into his churning abyss of unsettling noise.
As with his last solo vinyl LP, Cast Through Shallow Earth on No Fun Productions, Elemental Disgrace is a further refinement of the peaks that his Hive Mind project has traversed in recent years. Where earlier missives such as Death Tone and Sand Beasts meticulously built single, grandiose statements out of starkly minimal passages morphing deceptively into something distinctly removed from its beginnings, Disgrace devotes its focus to the ebb and flow of harsh ambiance over shorter spaces, ones that explicitly bring their ever-changing fortes center stage, forgoing the often demanding patience required of the listener with this earlier work’s hyper-sparseness.
The first side begins with bubbling textures permeating over a reverb-heavy void of near emptiness. Further amelodic textures seep into the mix, moving forth with sickly pulsation and boiling rumbling. The piercing tones of early harsh noise and power-electronics, notably Whitehouse’s forays into oppressively spartan synth abuse, are evident here, but there’s a greater depth of sonic possibility and movement. The A-side continually calls to mind Holger’s kinship with fellow noise-travelers from California (where he now resides) like frequent collaborator Damion Romero and Sixes: the low bass frequencies, the crisp crunch, and the wealth of varying pitches of non-melody. As with the best of Romero and Sixes’ work, the textures on Disgrace are composed into a steadily fluctuating and distinctly compositional tone.
Side B uses the familiar piercing high-end as a means of carrying the subtly realized passages of burning drone moving underneath. Falling sonars descend while the sub-bass masses slowly take residence upfront, with all of the varying channels of sound slowly beginning to drift in and out of the mix. A sense of disorientation arises, having us wonder which motifs are nearing obvious crescendos and which are preparing to leave the landscape permanently. The drones drop into something starker around the midway point, where here on out, the jarringly moribund textures take careful reign of the lumbering abstraction.
Although the one-sheet for Elemental Disgrace appears to place Holger in both direct alignment and direct contrast to the recent wave of synth revivalism (which perhaps makes sense, given Spectrum Spools steadfast focus on this particular field), his work as Hive Mind is more obviously rooted in the many fascinating figures of harsh and junk noise that continue to make a compelling racket in various subterranean quarters. Here, Holger perfects the homemade craft of peers such as Wolf Eyes and Sick Llama into one of his most maturely realized albums, crafting pieces that build and manifest with great precision and an ear for all modalities of anti-musical sounds. Elemental Disgrace is as essential as any longtime follower of Hive Mind would have predicted.