On Corrosion | Various Artists
The Helen Scarsdale Agency (10xCS/Box)
Enclosed in this sweet handcrafted wooden jewel-like box are ten separate tapes by as many artists as follows: Kleistwahr, Neutral, Pinkcourtesyphone, Alice Kemp, She Spread Sorrow, G*Park, Relay For Death, Francisco Meirino, Fossil Aerosol Mining Project, and Himukalt. This limited edition marks 50th release for the venerable Helen Scarsdale Agency, mastered by James Plotkin with liner notes by: Drew Daniel, Emily Pothast, Jim Haynes, and Donna Stonecipher. We have covered several of the included artists and are being introduced to three, so let’s have a listen.
First is 9 Dreams In Erotic Mourning by Alice Kemp. Nine tracks (33 min. running time) that are enriched with haunted dreams in tonal variations and transparencies that change in density. Her use of reverb, voice, and noise disturbances makes for a shadowplay of sorts. We includes Kemp’s The Headless Saint on a recent podcast (Episode 2), a track of breath-filled resilience, struggle, anticipation. Her tape captures the spirit of high performance art, and as an audio-only work the listener can only imagine the storyline and tense movements that the performer would engage in. The effects are peculiarly familiar, like a light switch being flickered with, and radio static, slowed to capture individual particles. There are melodies in the madness, and much cerebral cinema.
Francisco Meirino‘s A Collection Of Damaged Reel Tape Loops is that and mountains more. Having covered a recent work of his, my ears are sensitive to the way he actually shapes this found contorted ferrous oxide. In fact, this comes off like whispering winds through a haunted tunnel rather than a typical cut/paste job – Meirino lovingly spools and shapes this twisted tale of invention. There are murmurs, there are small cracked and paused tweaks, but the howling continues. I hear rain, and fire, animalistic chants, phasing in and out of the background. When the cassette is flipped there’s more attention to the higher tonal end, like an alarm, a buzz and flux thereof. I’m reminded of some type of old-timey minstrel show, something you have to crank to make it ‘go’. Through the flicker of static, his brutalist technique rises through the thinness of the material at hand, and into the subconscious.
Next up is Fossil Aerosol Mining Project‘s Hydration Disequilibrium which starts off as if you are listening to Miles Davis’ 1972 opus, On The Corner in reverse. The funky, bloated reverb wears thin after a minute or so, but grabs your attention immediately. And then you are hearing voices, like spirits, detached, and floating in thin air. Is there a tap dancer, is this open mic night, are we by the swelling rough seas atop a lighthouse? This has all the feels of delusion, and the tension of a deep dreamstate. One can definitely feel the significance of the sense of ‘corrosion’ here on Beneath The Rails, you can almost touch it, but there seems a disconnect in time and space. The deteriorating scapes are resounding in layers upon layers of history, like discovering an industrial wasteland.
The two tracks (which include sub-tracks) on duo Neutral‘s Lågliv (or lowlife) are instantly mesmerizing, between the organ grinder-like mirage and half-spoken utterances. It plays like a memory with a propeller, all to the warp of a Velvet Underground-adjacent tune and its sense of gloom. An undead metal looms and flairs from the center on Enhet/Röda Sten/Sömngång/Punkt. Just past the midpoint the vibe is far more hallucinatory, slipping slowly from reality into a world of the unexplained, finally back into a corrosive and edgy mix of pent-up origin. On the b-side the listener will experience a self-propelled industrial grind. As springs become detached, this proves itself to be a wild to mild and back again thrill ride.
In my first introduction to the work of Relay For Death, the two longform mostly ambient pieces on Mutual Consuming seem to invite and caution in the same breath. The drone on Intone The Morph Orb is that calm before the storm, but it builds some, then dissipates in a loop style. Instead of over-saturation this provides a quasi warm eeriness that lingers like wafting smoke. On Terminal Ice Wind its as though you have slipped into oblivion. The way the drone is shaped could impede ones movements, and render most listeners into slumber. The cathartic reverb embedded into the ethereal drone is not without a sense of brokenness, of loss and longing. As mysterious and draining as it may seem, there are actions, like electronic transmissions, that re-tool the direction of the piece about three-quarters in. And as this dips into quietude, so does it rise into a careening cluster of metallic hum and vibration through to the end.
G*Park‘s Nosode is far more abstract than most in this collection. Edited like an exquisite corpse with blurps and gurgles, stops and starts, and piss and vinegar. In a title roughly translated to “manners are overgrown, justice is homeless” corrosion becomes poetic. After a while this tape-play begins to sound like plumbing, like trying to stop-up leaks by way of small actions, with impactful resolution and amplification. The tension here is in its unresolved state, in the flow and residual aura. Then there is Alles ist im Fluss. Die pure Alchemie. As he rocks, rubs and draws upon surfaces you begin to understand that his ‘corrosion’ is one about the hand, perhaps in contradiction to all that is so virtual these days. With pregnant pauses intact the heavy weight of silence offers sudden quivers that deter in curious ways.
The Solitude In The Giant House is the latest from Italian power electronics project She Spread Sorrow (Alice Kundalini). She crosses genre lines, blurring all the way the oscillating gong-like nature of the title track. Spoken word delivered as if sleepwalking combined with a bare bones buzz-drone makes for a mood of bewilderment. Kundalini’s vocal delivery is matter-of-fact, as if reading from a journal, especially on She Didn’t Care. The apple cart is tipping, toppling, in slow motion. The textures are less about the celluloid material and more about the psychic content here, crossed between a whispering late night 411 operator and a hallucinatory 60’s ditty on Queen of Guilt. The final moments of The Fortune Of Others keeps distancing itself into limbo, and finally detaching altogether.
Richard Chartier’s Pinkcourtesyphone has been quite active in 2019, and Shouting At Nuance is more like what you may expect to be under his own name, rather than moniker. That makes for a perfect foil by way of his minimalistic signatures, cool and somewhat isolated demeanor. Problematic Interior 3 is pure ambient decomposition, flaked and peeling detritus with an undercurrent of soft hum/buzz. It purrs until its final moments when steely industrial lose ground some. On Alternatory dawn seems to be breaking, but you may want to don a hi-res headset to capture every fleeting nuance here. An absolute gorgeous work that will either get completely lost in the space of common whitenoise, or will help you to lose sense of daily tensions and the four walls that normally surround you.
Another introduction is by way of artist Himukalt‘s Torn Asunder – The Half Girl. A project of Ester Kärkkäinen based in Nevada, this is one of the more hard-edged works in the collection, opening with of all titles, Fucking Bitch. With electronic whipping thrusts and an industrial motor, the obscured voices sound like an electrocution in progress. The genuine noise unraveling here is engine-charged with a merciless approach. Harkening to the era of metal and EBM, the feminism-under-fire angst here is blatant and obscured. The whole record seems aptly committed to this plugged-in, nu-noise sculptured sound realm without compromise. Amped up on transmissions that question power paradigms, this corrosion is rough and ready, masked and muted, determined and darkly decadent and deranged.
Our final tape in the collection is by seminal player Kleistwahr (Gary Mundy) who we interviewed recently, and his contribution to the box, Winter. Starting with We Sense It Through the Even Snow / Rust Eats the Future the listener will be engaged with an organ mutation over a music box jingle. The balance between melody and drone is absolutely agitated, off-kilter. And before the mix becomes a bit muddled, the harmonies ring through only to take a dive into obscurity and into some peculiar loopdee loop noise malfunctions. As this continues to cascade along for most of the crescendo, there is a final dip into a mysteriously unexpected psych-rock pocket. As such The Solstice Will Not Save Us / Everything We Loved Is Gone goes even further into this realm, rotating into (non)rhythmic contortions that sound like the ultimate jam session, a sonic metamorphosis for a post-acid world.