The Hollow Organ EP

There was a time when the absurdist assault of Dadaism still had the power to truly shock, yet modern wall-to-wall screen culture’s everyday assault on the senses renders the movement almost laughably feeble in hindsight. The movement was only truly realised through music relatively late in the game, with two key figures appearing from the tail end of the 1970s. Both Nurse With Wound and Merzbow payed quite literal tribute to Kurt Schwitters, whose Merzbau best reflected precisely what made Dada so rife for sound over vision.

The Merzbau saw Schwitters electing to build structures rather than paint pictures, whole rooms attacking the corporeal rather than the cerebral, and building frames to inhabit rather than fictions to be framed and observed. Ninety years later, Helm is doing the very same thing, and having been desensitised by maximalist attack and absurdism growing up in a society more Dada than Dada was itself, his sonic structures utilise the building blocks of NWW and Merzbow – noises, hisses, field recordings, found sounds, synthetic drones and rhythmic semblances – but are crafted with a dutiful care, control and purpose. Perhaps this is the very thing the Swiss school were keen to avoid, but sonic anarchy has since lost its bite. More than ever, the ability to fabricate alternate universes is something not to be taken lightly.

With The Hollow Organ EP, Luke Younger continues wandering into the cavernous depths opened up on 2012’s Impossible Symmetry album. Having long since outgrown the initial tirade of outrageous guerrilla noise excursions put together as Birds Of Delay with Steven Warwick (better known as Heatsick), Younger’s Helm project had already sanded off the gristle of harsh sound art by Cryptography in 2011, presenting impeccably selected and seemingly near-untouched field recordings – it was hardly surprising to discover they were assembled using the relatively limited Audacity program in Helm’s Quietus interview last year.

On Cryptography, Younger was DJing using the entire fucking city, a la Arseny Avraaramov’s Simfoniya gudkov ("Symphony of Factory Sirens", 1922), but Impossible Symmetry and the subsequent Silencer EP – both released on PAN – built entirely new structures from the ground up. It’s the difference between being in the right place at the right time, and simply creating the right place and time yourself.

The EP opens with ‘Carrier’, both the shortest Helm track to date and the most razor sharp. Curtains up on an ice cold drone, frozen in eternal stasis before metallic pulsations and a monstrous scraping clatter to life in the foreground. ‘Analogues’ takes the seemingly familiar percussive elements of cymbals and morphs them into an quivering wall of hypnotic ambience. ‘Spiteful Jester’ meanwhile – perhaps titled in reference to Aaron Dilloway’s taxing yet brilliant 2011 masterpiece Modern Jester – matches ear-splitting high frequencies with the menacing grind of insane asylum radio hiss, while the ten minute title track shimmers with intensity as static oceanic drones and distant bells remain coldly immovable, before a ninety second epilogue played on the titular instrument. Unlike Dilloway, who often utilises the same affronting structureless sensibility that characterised the work of early 20th century electronic composers and made their music often such a slog, Younger is very much building structures to be inhabited.

It’s a rare thing to turn the mundane into the sublime, or build something of beauty out of chaos, yet its something that Younger excels at, much like Schwitters did. The semblances of rhythm on Silencer that seemed to hint at a more listener friendly future for Helm have again almost entirely melted away, but it makes for an even more encompassing listen. The Hollow Organ EP is Helm’s most evocative, chilling and all-engulfing statement to date.

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