Thanks again to The One True Dead Angel!
Neil Jendon -- MALE FANTASIES cs [Land of Decay]
Formerly a member of bands like Catherine and Reliable Sound Products, Jendon gets his solo gig on here with five tracks of drone noise created using a Korg Lambda, Doepfer modular synth, and various efx pedals. The first salvo of sound here appears in the form of gritty clouds of dark drone on "Red Nurse," where the sonic terrain is dominated by various buzzing noises in the foreground and bleak synth washes in the background. This track segues seamlessly into "Vigilante!" and "Red Nurse" -- so seamlessly, in fact, that the entire side appears to be one long track -- and the ice-like synth drone acts as the anchor for all the buried sonic effluvia happening around and beneath that sound. Side two of the cassette opens in a similar vein with "Sister, Impure," where there's more endlessly bleak synth in the background and a swirling miasma of muted, dirty noise upfront, a sound that manages to be subdued and edgy at the same time. By the time the track segues into "Pillars Before the Sea," the synths have burned off, leaving only the swirling noise element; then light synth drones begin to creep back in, steadily growing stronger and more prominent as the noise recedes into the background. At last the synths turn into a steady hum like the sound of a blown-out amplifier as warbling noises waft up from nowhere and mutate into the sound of UFOs hovering overhead, waiting to descend and lay waste to an unsuspecting world. Dark, brooding, eerie stuff, and limited to 100 copies.
Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words -- NO WORDS cs [Land of Decay]
The band with the long, unwieldy name is the work of Swedish musician / designer Thomas Ekelund, and this release combines tracks from two obscure and limited releases now out of print. The tracks were originally recorded in 2009 and this version includes artwork by Terence Hannum. The A-side consists of two variations of "No Words"; the first is a pensive, minimal track strongly reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream, featuring a melancholy synth loop that is eventually joined by repetitive bass lines and spare percussion. The synth loop drops out halfway through and is replaced by cryptic rattling noises buried under icy keyboard drones, until a percolating bass line fades in, accompanied by a chorus of strident drones. The end comes via a simple but dramatic chord progression on the keyboard that continues even as everything else dies away. The second version is a radically remixed version that reduces the track to an even more minimal bedrock of drone over a muted rhythmic loop. Over time the loop grows louder and more prominent as the harmonic tone of the background drone becomes denser, but even at its apex of activity, this is still a pretty subdued drone track. The flip side, "Forget Forgive Regret," is just under twenty minutes and is a much darker and brooding piece of work. A slow but persistent rhythm that sounds like a distant gong reverberating in the far corner of a darkened dungeon forms the backbone of the track as a black drone hums in the background until disturbing noises begin to creep in, like the sound of metallic roaches attempting to escape from captivity. The parade of incidental sound continues, but the distant, booming rhythm and near-static death drone remain the primary forces at work, giving the track a desolate sound. It does get louder and the drone more harsh toward the end, but mostly the track is about distance, simplicity, and subdued sound. Land of Decay deserves a commendation for making this obscure but potent work available to an American audience, even if the pressing is limited to only 100 copies.
Andre Foisy -- AFTER THE PROPHECY cs [Land of Decay]
If the name is unfamiliar, it's because you haven't been paying enough attention: Foisy is one-half of the godlike Chicago noise duo Locrian. This cassette, on the band's own label, features two tracks (repeated on both sides), and the big surprise is that these tracks are less about noise and more about psychedelia and drone. The first track, "The Great Disappointment," opens with the looped sound of neo-folk guitar over a background of subterranean drone. It's a fairly static track in that it doesn't really develop much, but it's also not long enough for that to become a problem, and in the meantime it certainly sounds swell. The rest of the side is taken up by the considerably longer (21 minutes or so) "Call to Clarion: Flee That Flood," which opens with trancelike harmonic bass lines and complementary guitar arpeggios and gradually but inexorably expands into a series of drone-heavy movements. At one point the drone action is augmented by peals of noise like a whirling army of knives, but eventually that noise is transformed into something considerably more appealing, a sound rich in harmonic overtones. The bass-heavy rumble that kicked off the track returns long enough to usher in a new direction to the track, one in which the drone becomes more subdued and the guitar action more minimalist... then the looped neo-folk guitar returns, accompanied by a strong drone that rises and falls, then drifts into muted, jangling movements of delayed guitar lines and more haunting drones that eventually dwindle away into nothingness. Unlike Locrian, this material is more meditative than soul-crushing, but it's every bit as brilliant as the work of that band. It's also limited to 250 copies, so you should move on it.