Russel Haswell FACTUAL

[Editions Mego; 2012]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: episodic memory recall, noise, techno
Others: Hecker, Cut Hands, Mark Fell, Kassel Jaeger

The aural fragments on display here are distilled, condensed, and solidified — scorched by blistering sunlight and torn apart in biting wind. Each track faces strategic scrutiny under genre reassignment and episodic recollection processes pitting Japanese live noise against charred techno dissolved in Massieu function suites and evening cocktails with Madruk. It began in Coventry, years back, something about junkyards and automobiles in the wastelands of the most bombed-out city in England. Rusting combustion engines and acid flare cut ’n’ shut scrap heaps with nothing to salvage but sanity, slung across the back end of nowhere, an industrial canvas painted by Carcass and cassette tapes of those church burners. A crusting fusion, synthesis on tinny headphones, metal over metal that struck creative chords ablaze, which burn and spit and spin as far as the eye can see.

There is a beautiful moment at the end of FACTUAL closer “SHEFFIELD,” when the crowd claps and cheers in a dazed, tribal fury, a sense of distorted appreciation. Mumbling transpires as the volume of the recording dips, a need to keep silence at bay in what one imagines to be confused relief entwined with uncontrollable bursts of excitement: “What happened just now — that needs to be discussed.” Laughter. “Don’t leave me alone with these thoughts, please.” The piece was recorded live by Peter Rehberg and is named after the city it was captured in, a single cut, a testament to both the ear-splitting havoc Haswell is capable of and the familiarity he has with his machines; every bolt of gushing feedback, grinding hacksaw gash, and whirring analogue screech sounds meticulously designed and composed.

Such perverse delirium is by no means a new tack in the Haswell canon, so where might the crux lie in justifying that rampant applause? In Chapter 9 of Paradise Lost, Milton contrasts the innocence of pastures with the depravity of urban dwelling in an attempt to explain Satan’s befuddlement in attempting to corrupt Eve, who is portrayed in the metaphor as a fresh-faced milk maid. The devil is struck dumb and charmed by the grace of chastity, which is perceived to be the opposite of what he might otherwise consider alluring. That charming discomfort is mirrored on FACTUAL as urban abominations are gazed upon from outside — one is able to peer in and observe putrid untangling and beastly pitch shifts that exist in a wholly ravaging environment, which would otherwise remain foreign. Tantalizing affects in this instance are not only brought about by the nature of compositional frameworks, but also by their accessibility.

Haswell has perfected a technique here for inducing desired effects through crafting a breed of subtlety that may invoke contradiction within the genres he is operating. “BLACK METAL INSTRUMENTAL INTRO DEMO” is a soft and relentless caress of distant fireworks that sporadically burst over the horizon; taunting snare drums pull in a gruesome dirge that beckons twisted gear-shifts in severity. The scene is set perfectly for comprehending the angle at hand — a sustained revisiting of past Black Metal concerts. Episodic memories are compressed and pulled across eight tumbling minutes that are filled with suspense and composure through outstanding delivery in a wonderfully imaginative opening track. Meanwhile, “RAVE NIHILATION” embodies a structured, shattering techno aesthetic that bubbles over sawn-off bass lines — a sonic illustration of Milton’s urban depravity.

These worn and disintegrating contortions adhere to a massive sense of embrace, which is thoroughly nuanced and completely unapologetic. For there lies an appreciation in submitting to the sounds of broken equipment, a gratitude in knowing that the technology responsible is apparently incapable of creating grand and pristine symphonies. This conforms to a characteristic demonstrated in early Lost nights across London; run down, dilapidated venues at the far ends of town where red brick, cement, and damp-soaked walls created a new high in lo-fi acoustics. But beauty is most prevalent among the devastating fuzz of a busted ring modulator for the very reason that machines break down — everything mechanical has shelf life, and most of what’s for sale here has seemingly been pumped through old gear démodé with an expiry long since passed, and the music sounds exceptional as a consequence.

That’s not to say these themes run throughout the entirety of Haswell’s work — his colorful process paintings are a distinctive example in deviation — but more often than not, a fascination for noise, urban encroachment, and aggressive art forms is devastatingly apparent, either as an underlying current or as an extreme closeup. FACTUAL embodies the latter in its purest form, a turbulent and unpredictable exemplification of arresting pandemonium that adheres to craftsmanship and artistry as opposed to demonstrating a mere psychotic bent for volume over talent.

Links: Russel Haswell - Editions Mego

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