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We’ve eased into that odd zone where the year isn’t certain what it wants to be: sticky and humid or blustery and cool, torrid with activity or pre-holiday tame. Everything’s a bit conflicted, blown out, and my picks this month probably reflect that. If you’re like me, you missed the recent Lunar Eclipse (too many clouds); don’t let these noise eruptions pass you by.
PURPOSEFUL COLLAGING: Marta Zapparoli
Chaotic Alterations is one of the more furious atmospheric tapes I’ve come across this year, unafraid to fully commit to a given mood before jump-cutting to something totally different but no less engaging. On side A, “Pissed of Wasps in a Plastic Bottle,” Berlin’s Marta Zapparoli could have justifiably celebrated the actual sound of wasps in a plastic bottle — and nothing else — for fourteen minutes straight, and it would have been awesome. Instead, she shoves us headlong through multiple extremes: the increasingly peeved wasps, recorded with such clarity you might wind up smacking the cans away from your ears; jarring cassette manipulations; found sound bustle; gushing water and muddy, damning torrents of static. (The wasps do re-surface in the mix here and there.) Collaging is often a somewhat meditative or ambling sport, but “Pissed” fairly claws at the listener. “Steering Comets” feels more singular but no less urban: laughter, autos, stray street sounds, the hissing of automatic doors, unfound echoes, glass bottles on concrete, and who knows what else smelt into sonic art that is at times monstrous, mysterious, and contemplative.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet heard Codex (Zeromoon), from 2013, best get on that.
MIKE TYSON’S PUNCH OUT: Compactor
On Slowdown, NYC’s Compactor doesn’t pull any punches. And, no, that isn’t just a figure of speech: an insistent, bare-knuckle focus informs this release. Disorienting layers of effects plague “Exhausted,” but the core of the track is a beat as punishing a prizefighter laying waste to a punching bag. The pulse powering “Time Out” is sickly and metronome-like, but it slices right through the surrounding haunted house of leering voices and poltergeist miscellany; on “Deadlock,” where it really seems as though the Big Bad Wolf is on the verge of staging the mother of all push-in robberies, Compactor’s hard knocks are granted enough static-sprayed white space to really startle the fuck out of any listener with a wandering attention span. The furies on hand are intense even when they’re sieved, as with “Dispute” and the rip-roaring “Adverse Conditions.” A sharp angst reigns supreme here; if you were driving lost in the rain at night while listening to Slowdown and ran out of gas, the potency of these bangers would probably be enough to buy you a few more miles at least.
SCORPION DEATH POISON: Hive Mind
Los Angeles-based Hive Mind can be added to a long, winding list of grounded-frequency outfits that includes the likes of Aube, Birchville Cat Motel, Merzbow, Macronympha, and Ashtray Navigations: prolific, bracing noisers for whom one can never quite locate enough spare time. On the upside, maybe that’s something to look forward during retirement, like (hopefully) publishing a zine and mastering the lapidary arts; the downside is the creeping fear of missing out during our pre-hearing aid semi-youth. There’s a Death Tone CD around here somewhere for sure and I’ve dipped a toe into other pools of Grey Holger’s catalogue over the years, but new LP Under Old Earth They Made Me The Keeper Of The Vineyards But Mine Own Vineyard I Have Not Kept is striking. “They Made Me The Keeper Of The Vineyards?-A” is scratching a particular itch quite nicely. A shivering streak of tone presents itself before it’s electrocuted, accelerating into hyperspace and accompanied by a two-chord bass drone and an evil little black cloud. Holger steers the proceedings in an industrially psychedelic direction, easing an inclining effect even as he toys with the pace so that what begins as a sonic representation of fireworks evolves into a sonic representation of Godzilla stomping through a large city as news choppers swarm and aliens attack. It only gets nastier and more satanic from there. Hot damn.