Category Archives: Experimental

Zeroh – Tinnitus

(Hit+Run, 2016)

The global live-screen-printing and musical collective Hit+Run has been putting out interesting stuff for many years, including names like Crimekillz, Kate Mo$$, Kutmah, Skrapez and Zackey Force Funk. The name has been to me synonymous with originality, creativity and DIY-mentality, and this album by the Los Angeles native Zeroh is certainly no different.

The music on this album ranges from Madlib-like beat-crafting to full on cacophony. Half of the songs don’t even have a beat, and dance somewhere between rhythmic Ambient and Noise (and Industrial Music if you will), and some have very traditional but minimalistic Hip Hop vibes to them. Always gritty, noisy, full of effects and experimental (playful) as hell, the production of this album often brings to my mind a mixture of Ka’s “Honor Killed The Samurai” and Gonjasufi’s “Callus”. Still, this stuff stands originally on its own, and shows the awesome skills of Zeroh as a producer.

The rapping gets the same treatment as the music, when it comes to heavy effects and experimental production. Besides that, Zeroh is one of those MCs who uses his voice like an instrument for jamming, and his verses are thoughtful and cool as fuck. He likes to play with his voice, changing style even many times in a sentence, wacky as shit, but still sounding totally in control. At times he sounds dark and serious, and at times he sounds cartoonish and comical. Which fits his style of writing lyrics perfectly. The symbiosis of the two put you in a concentrated yet psychedelic and sometimes even spiritual zone. The previous comparison with Gonjasufi often applies to the vocals as well, but there is so much more going on here. Zeroh is in a league of his own. The only two guests on this album, The Koreatown Oddity and Low Leaf, blend splendidly with the rest of the material.

This album is a treasure-chest of lyrical and vocal imaginativeness and hazy musical experimentality. Given the apparent skills of Zeroh as a producer of music (besides being an awesome rapper), I would have liked to hear a bit more variety on the beats (such as more drum-beats), but then again the stuff on this album works great as a whole, and does justice to the awesome cover-picture (or vice versa). If you are into experimental Hip Hop and interesting textures of sound, check this totally impressive album out. And while you’re at it, check out the collaboration-album between Zeroh and Jeremiah Jae, “Holy Smoke”, as well. Pure bliss.

Zeroh

Hit+Run

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Gonjasufi – Callus

(Warp Records, 2016)

Gonjasufi came to my attention in 2010 with his Warp debut “A Sufi And A Killer”, and after 2012’s “MU.ZZ.LE” I’ve been very eager to hear more of the Sufi’s deeply personal and original, melancholic experimental psychedelia. It took about four years but now the next chapter of Gonjasufi is out, taking his music even into more darkly psychedelic and intimate directions.

The music of Gonjasufi has always been rooted in Hip Hop culture, the Sand Diego scene to be exact, and he has done collaborations with awesome artists such as Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer and The Bug. The minimalist and low-fi atmospheres of his sampling and instrumentations, which are usually a blend of urban and almost shamanistic vibes, have been as individual as his voice, which is hard to compare to anyone else, and once familiar with it you will definitely recognise it.

When it comes to musical atmospheres and of course his voice, this album can be immediately identified as Gonjasufi, but there are a few new things he is trying out here. I’m getting almost Lynchian feelings of grey scenes of nightly California, intoxicating and hot under the silhouettes of waving palm trees, with flashing neon lights here and there telling of the liveliness of these grainy and strongly contrasted inner soundscapes. The term “noir” comes to my mind constantly. The heavy and slow very organic drumbeats mixed with distorted and reverberated guitars and basses often give an almost Doom-like feeling. On other times the classic Punk influences are very clear and function perfectly with the rest of the musical styles encapsulated on the album.

There are actually not many purely Electronic-sounding moments in these songs, and when they do appear, they are glitchy or vintage-sounding and delightfully noisy, which fits the overall atmosphere of the album nicely. Parts and samples of Ethnic music add to the psychedelic agenda of the album and the persona of the artist himself. The at the same time sensitive and strong vocals are again put through filters of strong reverbs and distortions, making them sound almost like samples of some weird movies, as the music is also highly cinematic in nature.

The whole experience is actually pretty 3D cartoon-like and very dreamy, with each of the 19 songs displaying a different scene strong in mental aesthetics.

If you are a fan of Experimental Hip Hop (with a strong emphasis on low-fi and DIY-mentalities), and especially of cinematic music, you should definitely check this album out. And if you are already familiar with Gonjasufi and liked his previous stuff, this album will not disappoint you. One of the best ones this year.

Warp Records

Gonjasufi

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Death Grips – Bottomless Pit

(Third World / Harvest, 2016)

In my case, with “Exmilitary” and “The Money Store”, Death Grips instantly became one of the most exciting new acts out there, blowing my mind with basically every delightfully minimalistic yet psychedelically complex and intense song on these albums. Coming from a background of extreme Punk and Metal as well as oldschool Hip Hop and various styles of Electronic music, the music this trio (consisting of Zach Hill’s percussions, Andy Morin’s electronics, and MC Ride’s vocals) was giving birth to clicked perfectly with my musical tastes. And altho many seemed to find Death Grips to be too “insane” for their membranes, I felt right at home when it came to the multifaceted twisted beats, sounds and rhymes the band was at this point known for.

While “No Love Deep Web” went more synthetic and even etherial in its approach and delivered perhaps a bit more catchy songs compared to the first two, “Government Plates” was a bit too artsy (and in this case boring) for my taste with its large yet kinda weak arsenal of electronic sounds, but then again the instrumental album “Fashion Week” hit my good spot while being mostly electronic in nature as well. In any case, the double album “The Powers That B” has been to many perhaps the pinnacle of the evolution and career of the band, gathering all their past experimentation and honest insanity in eighteen songs.

As the band is no stranger to controversial behaviour such as releasing albums for free online or cancelling tours (and even cancelling a breakup), it has often felt every new Death Grips release is a kind of a miracle to behold. Every time a new album is announced, two things usually come to mind: Is it really gonna happen and when, plus are they gonna top or overdo or reinvent themselves yet again?

With great pleasure I can say this album is not by any means a disappointment. All the deranged vocal fury, the often overwhelming yet controlled rhythmic chaos, all the right usage of weird minimalistic or massive psychedelic electronics at the right places still holds up to the standards of the band, going even further in many areas.

The album has many similarities with the previous album “Jenny Death” when it comes to repetitive lines and swirling intense soundscapes, but this album is not by any means as chaotic as the first song which became available, “Hot Head”, hinted. In fact most of the songs have a very certain personal atmosphere and quality to them, making this album perhaps for many a bit more pleasant listen music-wise when compared to some of the band’s previous releases.

Still, pleasant is not a word that first comes into most listeners minds when describing the atmospheres of this album, as it is again filled with very intense almost hallucinatory parts and scenes, reminiscent of bad psychedelic trips. Meaning the band will most likely not gain new fans with this release, but that has probably never been their main agenda anyway.

“Giving Bad People Good Ideas” takes a pretty comical spoken sample and turns it into a synth/instrument, industrializes a very Black Metallic riff and a blast-beat, throws in some weird electronics, and tops it with Ride’s furious shouting rhymes. What a great Death Gripping way to start the album. “Hot Head” switches between a section which could be the most chaotic and Breakcore-like shit ever heard on a Death Grips record, and a calmer slower more vocal-driven part, making it a very personal song as well.

“Spikes” is a very classic Death Grips sounding piece with glitchy fuzzy electronics and whipping beats. “Warping” takes likewise a very traditional approach (considering the band’s standards) consisting mainly of slow and groovy dizzy straightforward jamming, being still a total banger. “Eh” is a very airy yet energetic song with a classic IDM-mentality (in my opinion) and thin snapping beats, making me think of even Aphex Twin, while the vocals are clear and audible, full of cool little ideas of performance.

“Bubbles Buried In This Jungle” has some fuzzy noisy wobbly synths working together with a Trap-like beat and vocoder-parts, making it perhaps a very “current” (considering the trends of the music world) song. “Trash” has a fizzing and airy electronic feel to it in that “Get Got” and “Artificial Death In The West” kinda way, with the addition of massive noisy brasses. Cool.

“Houdini” again offers musically nothing new to the band’s repertuare, but sounds like metal wires moving and tightening and snapping in a very reverberated hall, functioning with its cool lyrics as a very cool atmospheric breather at this point in the album. “BB Poison” has rubbery, bubbling and zapping synth and drum sounds spiced with rocking organic guitar parts. Once more nothing too special but sound-wise very cool. “Three Bedrooms In A Good Neighborhood” picks up the pace being a vigorous groovy piece full of cool details in all areas.

“Ring A Bell” brings back the heavy and phasing, flangy and twangy electric guitars sampled in various cool ways, familiar from previous songs like “On GP”, making it the most organic song on the album sound-wise.

“80808” is synth-sound driven ominous and eerie song full of calm fear and heavy aggression, before the title song “Bottomless Pit” finishes the album in style. The heavy noisy accelerating synths mixed with the steady energetic beat and tireless vocals make this song sound like an IndyCar speeding on the edges of a hurricane with Punk Rock blasting from its speakers.

In general, the soundscapes and mixing of the album is again pretty much along the same lines with the previous releases, with electronics ranging from heavy fuzziness to thin airiness, with pounding or snapping drum-sounds and various effects in the vocals, from multiple layers of well-managed chaos to stripped minimalism, perhaps this time around improving from past gritty rawness into a more thoughtful and better-produced whole.

While “The Powers That B” featured songs with some really personal lyrics from vocalist MC Ride, “Bottomless Pit” is possibly the most personal album lyric-wise the band has in their catalogue. All the mental delirious ranting rhyming insanity Ride spits and shouts is still here, only this time he often opens the door to his inners (and also to the band’s inners) more than before. Or at least that’s how it seems.

Altho personal-sounding, all the songs are pretty much equally good in my opinion, making it hard to pinpoint any favourites or clear highlights on the album, making this a steady release of high quality. While taking the organic freshness of “Jenny Death”, “Bottomless Pit” combines all the best elements of “The Money Store” and “No Love Deep Web” and adds a few new brilliant ideas, making this a solid, strong, familiar, high quality Death Grips album, and I’m bound to have many intimate and delirious moments with it. Loving it, as always.

Death Grips

Unru – Als Tier Ist Der Mensch Nicht

(Sentient Ruin / Monotonstudio Records / Supreme Chaos Records, 2016)

At the latest, after the success of bands such as Deafhaven and Altar Of Plagues, it sometimes feels like every hipster wanted to create a raw Black Metal band, often with Crusty or more artistic influences (which is fine by me since art should be free for all men and women to create), but while most of these bands end up sounding pretty similar and boring (unoriginal), one can occasionally come across something unique, when it comes to “Blackened Neo-Crust”, such as this young German band.

Without any info of the previous doings of the band members, I do know this is their first full-length release after a demo, a single and two splits. What makes the music fresh and original enough (to get my attention) is the way the band incorporates the more ferocious blastbeats and classic tremolo riffs with some for example more progressive rhythms or doomy elements (as well as small hints of other styles) usually unheard of in the more popular bands of this genre, as well as some truly twisted vocals and hypnotic song-structures / arrangements, just enough to stick out of the mass in a good way. The outcome is of the sort which keeps things interesting, thoughtful and very atmospheric throughout this release.

While the faster Black Metal parts – besides the obvious more monotonous nineties-worship – often reminds me of the intensity of newer bands like Katechon (or even the classic odd-bird of the early nineties, “Blood Must Be Shed”), a few more groovy and rhythmic parts here and there bring to my mind stuff like Industrial and even Tribal music. There is also a very Doomy and Deathly part to be found in one of the songs, spicing things up nicely. I only wish there would be even more of these varied parts in the music.

The arrangement of the songs as well as the melodic yet repetitive nature of the riffs usually lifts the music to truly epic and even transcendental heights, making this a release of much atmospheric value, which is unarguably the mission of the music style in question. The melancholic apathy towards mankind and the vanity and desperation of all things human can really be sensed thru this stuff.

One major thing that makes the sound of the band a bit more original are the beforementioned vocals, which are not your typical Black Metal screaming nor the average Crusty shouting, but fall somewhere in between the two, often turning into even quite clear vocals, resulting as something truly twisted, desperate and hateful, fitting the music perfectly.

The overall handling of the instruments is good (props for the basslines which are often played quite high, giving these parts also a bit more personal touch as well), and the production of the album is fine when it comes to the style in question, with maybe a bit too much reverb here and there, which on the other hand increases the deep atmospheres of the music.

This album offers about 35 mins of good quality, raw and organic, thoughtful, epic and artistic Crusty Black Metal with enough unique touches to make the band worthwhile a deeper look. Released by the extremely cool label Sentient Ruin, as well as Monotonstudio Records and Supreme Chaos, I definitely urge you to check out this (in all its apparent simplicity) genuinely fresh and original band!

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Sentient Ruin
Monotonstudio Records
Supreme Chaos Records

Natvre’s – Wrath

(Self-Released / Clean Head Productions, 2015)

Natvre’s from Thessaloniki (Greece) are a three-piece made of members not “publicly” familiar from earlier projects (at least according to Metal Archives), formed in 2014, this full-length being their first release. And what a strong first release it is.

As is the case with many of the more interesting newcomers, Natvre’s has decided to perform a style of Black Metal which takes a lot from the old-school vibes of the nineties, and fuse it with other (often a bit more interesting?) elements, such as good old Punk Rock and other more Avantgardish and Abstract styles of music. And the fusion works extremely well.

The album gets straight into business with the opening track “Lazarines”, introducing eerie tremolo and picking riffs reminding me of classic Thorns and Mayhem, mixed with more straightforward Rocking Punk riffs and vibes (and partly Darkthronish and Burzumish or even Aura Noirish attitudes if you will, besides the more Avantgarde atmospheres, as the album progresses). To the end of the song we get some blast-beats as well, reminding us of the Black backgrounds of the music in general. The vocals (with their heavy distortion) bring to my mind a more groovier version of Aldrahn in “Satanic Art”, with the same amount of passion and madness. The whole thing is put through filters of extreme weight (being heavy and hard-hitting as fuck) and razor-sharp Blackened violence.

The next seven songs offer the same stuff (with an exemption of a more obscure long instrumental guitar-driven song in the middle of the album), with more variation in the drum-beats and some vocal-parts, while the riffs stay pretty much the same. What makes this album so cool, is the right amount of new more “artistic” and just plain imaginative tricks up the sleeves of whoever has composed and arranged these songs, of new styles and ways to present this Art, while keeping the overall feeling of the album similar throughout the whole shredding journey.

Altho the basses and guitars, the drums, and the vocals are all recorded at three different studios, the main mixing has brought all the elements in prefect (dis)harmony. The bass-drums pound like fists, while the balance of warmth and heaviness, coldness and sharpness created by the basses and guitars merge splendidly with the insane yet Rocking Blackened vocals.

This release offers basically nothing new under any suns, but still manages to give about 45 mins of something genuinely fresh and cool to the intelligent and open-minded fan of different musical styles, with main emphasis of course in Black fucking Metal. This highly recommended album is released as a digipack by the band (with the help of Clean Head Productions).

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[ówt krì] – Pilgrimage

 (Erototox Decodings, 2015)

Kenneth K. is a very productive musician (this is not the first release of his appearing on these pages), dealing mostly in soundscapes of various kind (his other projects besides [ówt krì] include for example Static Continuum and Aluminum Foil), and knowing the man personally, I have a strong impression regarding most of his projects, he would rather let the music speak for itself rather than analyse his work. So that is what we shall do, since Ambient is an extremely potent style of music for creating different inner visual sceneries in different individuals anyhow.

Kenneth has not been a stranger to experimentation with electric guitars through various pedals and effects in his Ambient music in the past (something that comes naturally from his Metal and Prog background in music), and this work is no exception. The theme of the album is of course a spiritual journey of some sort, letting the listener decide the outcome. Is the journey more important than the destination, and is the destination something negative or positive?

The album starts with a collaboration-track with the individuals from his other project Static Continuum, which is apparently an improvisation with very nineties-sounding keyboards and a couple of different guitars. Although quite Progressive in feeling, the attitude of the electric guitar leads is mostly quite “rocking” in nature, reminding maybe more of artists such as Steve Vai rather than for example 70’ies Prog Rock, which most likely appeals to some people more than others. There are moments when the guitars solos are picked and shredded with such speeds and emotion, they sound almost like taken from a technical Power Metal song or similar.

The second song continues with the same atmospheres when it comes to the synth-ambience and sounds, adding different bell- and chime-like sounds through various psychedelic filters in the mix. The third song however adds some organ-sounds to the journey, making it even more ecclesiastic and holy sounding. There are parts when the melodies from the synths are not in complete harmony with the guitars (which is most likely intentional), making the whole experience reach some psychedelically twisted and otherworldly heights. The fourth song features percussions besides the again very nineties (Cold Meat Industry era  etc.) sounding synths, giving us a first song with clear rhythmical patterns rather than just pure improvisation. There is a very strong growing Prog Rock vibe coming through again halfway of the song.

The fifth song takes us into such deep spaces of the human inner cosmos, I haven’t experienced this kind of bliss in a while. Still sounding kinda like a mixture of eighties Tangerine Dream and an intro or outro of a nineties Atmospheric Black or Death Metal band, I am sitting in a planetarium of such proportions I am deeply amazed. Extremely cool vocal effects accompany the vintage keyboard-sounds in such a way you realize modern technology is never necessary in creating highly sophisticated and abyssial atmospheres. The vocal experimentation continues in the sixth song, using different layers of real and synthetic choirs and singing as instruments in the cool meaning of the word. The seventh song is a very ominous and eerie play of guitars, synth-sounds of bells, and a bit more drony ghosts and ghastly vocals, acting as a cool bridge towards the eight song and the end of the journey, which is a more melodic and beautiful piece of pianos, deep bassy sounds, jamming drums, and spoken vocals, ending the Pilgrimage in quite experimental and psychedelic feelings.

The album is mixed by none other than Dan Swanö, which may or may have affected the final outcome strongly, but nevertheless adds a very cool aspect to the general atmosphere of the release. A heartily recommended album to everyone into Ambient and Progressive soundscapes and mindsets.

[ówt krì] .org

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Ad Nauseum – S/T

(Broken Limbs Recordings, 2015)

Ad Nauseum (founded in 2012) from Florida describes their music as “Fast Doom / Slow Grind”, which is indeed true, altho their music also has strong elements from Noise and Power Electronics in equal amounts. The term Sludge also comes of course to my mind. They are certainly not the first band of this nature (mixing Noise with ferocious Crust, Grindcore or Sludge), but they are a band that definitely stands out.

This cassette release features about 20mins of extreme Electronics and violent Metal and Punk oriented music so heavy and crushing, I would dare to say it is best experienced with headphones rather than crappy speakers.

The combination of mostly high-frequency noises and extremely low and crushing guitars and basses works really well, with all the different tracks clearly audible, yet merging into a single storm of malevolence, moving slowly but steadily. As the musical material is at times Doomy slow, and at other times Grinding fast, it must be said the fusion of noises and distorted guitars works better in the slower parts, altho the fast parts spice up the atmosphere nicely.

The riffs and beats are quite simple, but played professionally, both in the slow and fast parts. The vocals are also screamed with clear expertise and experience, equally violent to the overall soundscapes of the music. The Electronics are done with the same amount of abilities as the mixing of the material, a truly professional display of skills, lifting the music to great heights.

If extreme forms of Punk and Metal (in both extremely slow and fast paces), as well as the violent harshness of Noise are your thing, you must check this band out. Hopefully they will keep the quality of the mixing and production of these songs present in the future as well, as I would love to hear this same stuff as a bit longer release. However, 20mins of this sweetness is mos def worth your attention and money, trust me.

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