THE PROTAGONIST: Songs of Experience CD Raubbau
Raubbau once again have reissued The Protagonist with 2005’s ‘Songs of Experience’ that was partially recorded at The Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden.
Six years on from ‘A Rebours’, poetical assistance is once again an accomplice for the album, with the works of William Blake and Charles Baudelaire vocalised alongside Neo-Classical compositions and martial industrial rhythmical sections; theatrical plays are spoken word assistance here for dramatic string sections and an unashamedly ostentatious production.
The Protagonist will not sit well with everyone, indeed some would prefer something a little less in their face and ‘Songs of Experience’ pulls no punches as with all of this artists work with a relentless barrage of driving percussion; however in the main structural frame of this album lies an ethereal quality that does take some patience to unearth and once you have retrieved the core essence beneath its folds, there lie the rewards.
Once again this is a fitting historical reference for this act’s lengthy career; coupled with the re-release of its predecessor this is more than a perfect introduction to this project if you have never heard of it, or a perfect excuse for fans of the genre that are looking to update their collection.
THE PROTAGONIST: A Rebours CD Raubbau
Originally released in 1998 on the Cold Meat Industry label and now available again for those that missed out the first time, here are eight works of Neo-Classical majestic anthems that are as powerful now as they were upon their initial outing.
This debut from this now highly revered artist relies heavily on string sections (clearly keyboard based), with marching percussion sections and vocal recitals of poems along the way.
Inspiration varies on many a theme; Joseph Thorak is translated into musical form on ‘Kämpfende Pferde’, whilst Edgar Allen Poe is spoken over ‘Imitation’; Shelley is the impetus behind ‘Mutability’.
‘A Rebours’ is thoroughly bombastic from the off, the addition of live cello assisting the synthesised strings with an organic edge of authenticity along the way; indeed my only qualm with this genre is that one man bands (as is often the case), obtaining a proper full orchestra simply isn’t going to happen; whilst this is understandable, a lot of the artists within this scene suffer somewhat in the execution of their work and what they are trying to convey sound wise.
The Protagonist however does mask any misgivings that I grumble about; the sheer non-stop marching pace of this album keeps the listener enthralled with its momentum, only briefly pausing to take breath before picking up its sword and shield and persevering on in unabashed glory.
KRAKEN: Strop CD Raubbau
I have always had a fondness for the works of Kraken so was pretty pleased to see this drop through and as usual we have everything from extremely bleak ambient right through to soaring spacious air like filters that are as cold as anything these guys have released before.
2007’s ‘Drift’ and 2008’s ‘Nachtschade’ really stepped up to the task and for me these guys peaked producing something of sheer quality and a brutal darkness that was as visceral as the concepts behind them, and it was obvious the next release would really have a job on its hands.
So here we have ‘Strop’, an album which has all the hallmarks hidden within its structure, but I am struggling somewhat to find the message that they are trying to convey here for the first time ever
Ambient, an in particular ‘Dark Ambient’ as a genre is a dangerous game; It has been rare that I have ever found a ‘bad’ album in this field as the worst ones usually are just plain boring. Luckily Kraken haven’t trundled around in that end of the spectrum as the album definitely has saves such as ‘Vriend in Een Fles’ which has an almost European peoples quality to it.
However, as much as this new release has some key elements that are great, there is a heck of lot where my attention is lost and there seems to be just a little too much self indulgent messing around for my liking; A solid album, but one that has failed to live up to my expectations.
ATRABILIS SUNRISE: Pillgrimage CD Raubbau
Opening up with some pretty entertaining samples surrounding the death of someone who blew his brains out upon his girlfriend climaxing, this automatically set the scene for some old skool Death Industrial in my head; I wasn’t to be disappointed.
Opening full track ‘Clean, Holy, Beautiful’ grinds along like a machine with the warbled sampling flittering away in the background whilst other machine like ambience gradually builds into a monstrous wall of noise; cracking.
‘Hungry For Light’ is next, and it has purpose; moody bass throbs with the beat with monotone threat whilst the samples once again become a background filter to let the noise seep through and gradually build into a pulsating wall without losing track of structure.
There has been a lot of thought put into this release, not all of it is crushing brutality; ‘Colonia’ comes across like some dark sparse ambient gutter like dirge with a droning bass line that lets small elements of sound from far away vocals and radio elements fill out the gaps, it’s as menacing as the rest without being noisy.
For fans of everything from Power Electronics to Death Industrial to Dark and Black Ambient, this will appeal to fans of Folkstorm, Megaptera and the like and holds its own amongst its peers. For sure this is one of the best albums of this ilk I have heard in quite some time.
THE [LAW-RAH] COLLECTIVE: Solitaire CD Raubbau
Another highly anticipated release for me; I am always eager to hear anything from the collective as it feeds my penchant for all things ambient.
‘Solitaire’ seems to be based around a collection of memories from years past; thinking of the place you once lived and the emotions that swell up from those small rifts in time that heighten your senses such as fragrances and sounds that trigger all those elements that make life what it is.
As with many releases by Law-Rah, there is always the impression of being somewhere on your own, each track feeling somewhat personal; like a game of Chinese whispers however you can say one thing to someone that eventually becomes something else in time and therefore becomes an entirely different tale and therefore the memory of what you are and whom you were changes; Solitaire takes you back to the originating source of your individuality and strips it bare to the bones leaving you naked somewhat and in a sense has an underlying purity about it; much the same way as the compositions themselves.
Onto the music itself; in the past Bauke Van Der Wal (and more recently) with the addition of Matijn Pieck concentrated on drone work alone with the occasional glitch to break up the mood; here the ante has been upped another step since their last glorious opus “Inspiration’; The sound is has expanded out incorporating more orchestral additions breathing in and out of the mix of the albums entirety that raise the emotion levels up and beyond, occasionally sourcing dull singular piano strokes that are as empty as they are effective when engaging the subject matter.
So here we have it, the seventh full-length album; ‘Solitaire’ it has to be said is most probably one of their best to date, which alongside the afore-mentioned ‘Inspiration’ surely will be revered as a true ambient masterpiece for years to come.
STROPS: s/t CD Raubbau
This is a beautifully subtle release based on gristle harsh low end electronics and drifting tones that occasionally soar, occasionally obliterated by a purring of sound and electronic blips, overseen with pure Industrial sonic patterns that wouldn’t be out of place on some of the releases coming from the ‘Mego’ stable.
It’s a warm heartfelt sludge in part, something that dirges along in the background giving it a wonderfully homely feel for want of a better word; there is nothing cold about ‘Strops’, which is a relatively new and invigorating experience for me when encountering music from within this genre.
Blissfully odd in places, careful attention has been paid to not over playing the lightly off balance areas of sound taking the Industrial overview into areas that wouldn’t be too out of place on a ‘Fennesz’ record or even those that filter through from the likes of sound sculptors ‘Pan-Sonic’ playing in Haus Arafna’s backyard; Its’ the variation and genre crossing here that is the key to this being a cracking album.
There is something remarkably fresh about this act, from within its rich drone landscape comes the pulsating humming of a swarm on the move and in its simplicity manages to essentially hold the listener, refusing to follow convention and ultimately coming out on top because of its blatant refusal to follow the masses within an already overcrowded scene.
DEAF MACHINE: Transistor CD Raubbau
This is the second part to Deaf Machine’s cassette only, extremely rare back catalogue and the follow on from the CD release of ‘Found Noises’; a blistering, crushing and overpowering affair delving deep into the heart of power electronics and cavernous ambient and a release that I took straight to my heart having a soft spot for music of this ilk.
‘Transistor’ pretty much picks up where the debut CD left off; radio static like drones are left to pulsate over the listener whilst organic sounding materiel is left to waver in the background and be lifted back up with rich Dark Ambience.
It’s an odd off-kilter affair and a whole lot more disjointed than the first disc leaving you less time to settle in and in some respects is a lot darker for it; more in touch with some form of brutally cold ‘b’ movie horror than anything else.
Mikael Svensson was one of the founding members of Black Ambient masters ‘Megaptera’ and obviously this material is old now; but quality usually comes from people with a pedigree for it in the past and this is by far no exception. ‘Transistor’ however, doesn’t have the immediacy of appeal as ‘Found Noises’ did and I guess that is down to the nature of the time frame the tracks were recorded in (basically a year after his previous cassette release) and as such a different subject matter was probably in mind and does somewhat fit the nature of the title.
Taken in context this album does work and I recommend it to all aficionados of this genre; but to grasp the full nature of Deaf Machine in their entirety I would strongly suggest you pick up ‘Found Noises’ beforehand.
DEAF MACHINE: Found Noises CD Raubbau
For those of you who may go ‘who’ right now, Deaf Machine is the project of Mikael Svensson, the founding member of oppressive black ambient genius that is / was Megaptera.
Pretty much safe to say then that ‘Found Noises’ isn’t going to be a happy affair then, especially with track titles such as ‘Death Season’, ‘Silent Intruder’ and ‘Noise Destruction’ to play with. Good.
Deaf Machine originated around 1991 and earned a cult following amongst the death industrial fraternity. This was a low-fi analogue response to other music producers at the time, a lash out against the use of computers keeping the perspective as natural as possible. Indeed Deaf Machine only had a couple of releases imported to the world via cassette tape, and you don’t get much more old school than that. DM only appeared on a couple of occasions after that on compilations, disappearing, not to be heard of again until now.
Lucky for us the German label Rabbau have picked up these long forgotten sounds and have decided to release these works again bit for the first time on CD. Found Noises is the first fruits of this new found friendship.
DM has a knack of pulling on the samples to great effect, wrap this up with analogue synth, electric food mixers (?!), four track analogue cassette decks, video and radio sounds and you are going to get the idea exactly where Michael was coming from with these tracks. The thing is its all done with consummate professionalism. Songs such as ‘Reaction’ are as great as any I have heard within this genre, with fleeting undercurrents of emotional pads that glue together underneath the ambient drone and noise. It begs you to turn the volume up to the max, and is utterly rewarding when you do.
One for the old timers out there from this scene and a lesson to be learned for those who think they know it all whilst purchasing the latest offerings from CMI.