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Reviews
Howland/Russell/Kuehn - Black Casette
Friday, February 01 2008 @ 01:00 AM PST
Contributed by: S:M:J63

Black Casette

Artist: Split Album / Collaboration

Title: Black Casette

Label: A Soundesign Recording United States

Genre: Harsh Noise / Power Electronics

Marked Side: Howland/Russell
01 Narcosis
02 Oncogenetic

Unmarked side: Howland/Russell/Kuehn
01 Black House

Suppose you were given the task of representing disease and psychosis through the media of sound and music – how would you go about creating such a sonic monster? Perhaps you would take the approach that Wyatt Howland (aka Skin Graft) and David Russell do on this C42 cassette – torture their keyboards, sound generators and electronics to within an inch of their lives, and then amp it up even further by piling on screams and howls on top; the resultant barrage is absolutely guaranteed to blacken every inch of exposed skin and rupture every living cell in your body, if not cause all of your vital organs to involuntarily cease working and your brain to melt. The trick here though is that rather than just turn all the instruments to max they at least inject more than a modicum of intelligence into it and there are even hints at composition so that the listener isn’t solely subjected to intense noise – instead there’s an attempt at creating a varied tapestry rather than an incoherent cacophony, as is often the case with these productions. To that end the pair present us with three tracks, one laid down on 4-track, one recorded live and the last one an exercise in the art of total power electronics, aided & abetted by co-conspirator Ryan Kuehn.

There’s enough to keep even the most discerning hardcore noise enthusiast happy on the Howland/Russell side while also piquing the interest of those who might not normally be tempted to sample the delights offered by this particular genre – as hinted above it’s not all relentless ear-bashing. Yes, there are the usual suspects: low bass rumble and granular distortion, squealing feedback, dense electronics and noise generator abuse: in addition there’s subtle looping, samples, and vocals, even the use of short snatches of silence here and there. This is like the slow collapse of a body’s systems: the attack of the microscopic foreigner, reducing once healthy organisms to a weak, mewling, putrid mass of cancerous tissue. Despite the body’s protests and efforts at fighting back the defences are totally overwhelmed and overpowered.

The inclusion of Kuehn on the track on the second side adds a third dimension and deeper density to the sound. This is much more akin to the classic conception of power electronics and there is more than a touch of Japanoise about this; super-dense layers of granular grind and grunge, mixed with bursts of the sounds of destruction and upheaval, industrial engines, feedback, interference, squeals, and vocals, all delivered at a relentless, breathless pace. However, the marks of both Howland and Russell are discernible despite the blitzkrieg of noise. There’s neither space nor light here, just boiling lightning-lit storm clouds, smothering pollution-laden industrial smog and suffocating claustrophobia. The beast is merciless and without compassion – it wants nothing more than total oppression and complete submission.

It continues to amaze me that the noise genre is still evolving, even after the countless number of artists out there working within the field and the innumerable releases issued over the years. This particular set of material had added yet another, albeit tiny, step in noise’s quest to conquer all.

     



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