On The Chopping Block: Transmissions From The Outer Reaches

Feel that rumbling underfoot? That's the sound of Rum Music emanating from the Quietus office, as Luke Turner and Rory Gibb take a tour through some of this month's outer reaches, via Emptyset, Man Forever, Thomas Koner, Human Greed, Richard Skelton & more

As we reach the middle of the year, a recent embarrassment of riches is seeping forth from the darkened corners of the musical underground, providing a nice, cooling alternative to the heat and humidity oozing through the windows and walls into the Quietus office. So Rory Gibb and Luke Turner take the opportunity to draw together a selection of some of this season’s finest Rum Music, taking you on a tour from Olympic construction sites, sewers and old filing cabinets to the bloody chopping blocks of the French Revolution. Mon Dieu! L’horreur!

Man Forever – Pansophical Cataract [Thrill Jockey]

Such is the experience of listening to Pansophical Cataract, the batshit crazy new album from Man Forever – AKA Kid Millions, drummer from Oneida. Anyone who has witnessed the magnificent spectacle that is Oneida live will know full well just how fearsome and potent a drummer Millions is. He plays with a momentum and velocity that few can match and, despite the fact that this project was conceived of as a “punk-infused Metal Machine Music for drums”, a huge amount of soul. The two tracks featured here, ‘Surface Patterns’ and ‘Ur Eternity’ are condensed from their full lengths into 18 minute pieces. ‘Surface Patterns’ sees Millions’ tattoo eventually submerged in a violent, unpleasant eddy of abstract noise before the toms eventually return. ‘Ur Eternity’, meawhile, features a nastier scratch of electronic noise hovering above the endless roll, like a Biblical plague where stampeding buffalo accompany a swarm of locusts toward your apocalypse. This is not listening for the faint eared: when, at 18:45 it ends with a click of stick on drum rim, the silence of The Void comes as blessed relief. LT

Emptyset – Demiurge Variations [Subtext]

The scorched-earth side of dubstep started and ended with Porter’s work with Vex’d, but where that project whipped up a firestorm – made explicit by titles like Cloud Seed and sprinklings of dialogue from Blade Runner and suchlike – solo album Aftertime described the bitter reality for those left clinging to life after the event (see the BBC’s chilling 1980s nuclear drama Threads for suitable visual accompaniment). His take on Emptyset’s ‘Function’ – titled, with a clear nod to Pantera, ‘A Vulgar Display Of Power’ – returns to the furnace, its ruined cityscape repeatedly shaken by incendiaries. Somewhere, right now, Skrillex is glumly praying that one day he manages to be this crushingly, symphonically heavy. RG

Production Unit – ICU Tracks [Broken20]

It would take a brave DJ indeed to drop these on all but the most twisted and masochistic of dancefloors, though, as they’re frequently uncomfortable listens, directly forcing you to confront the relationship between your body and the world surrounding you: ‘Broken20.1’ presses itself into the curve of the cochlea and refuses to budge, setting up a residency somewhere at the high-frequency end of the basilar membrane and whining there for long after the track has ended. RG

Thomas Köner – Novaya Zemlya [Touch]

Where Köner really excels here is in his imbuing of an ostensibly detached sound palette – consisting of field recordings, electronic interference and soft drones heard as if over great distance – with great emotional resonance, without resorting to tired cliche or obvious melodic manipulation. In this case, given the violence wreaked upon it, it’s enough for him to simply describe the landscape and its inhabitants in the meticulous manner of a geographer or surveyor. There’s nothing paranormal or psychogeographical about the sensations Novaya Zemlya stirs up: simply by placing the listener in the landscape it offers a searing critique of our species’ casual disregard for the wellbeing of ourselves and our planet, and a reminder that when the damage is already this extensive, melodrama and hyperbole pale in comparison to harsh reality. RG

Richard Skelton – Verse Of Birds [Æolian Editions]

For this release, the West coast of Ireland has supplied inspiration. Yet aside from a spray wash of cymbal in ‘Vearsa Ean’, he chooses to lead the mind and imagination rather than proscribe. Although Skelton explores the natural world with his music, he never falls into twee, pastoral evocation. Instead, this is a grapple with the sublime. So the high treble of ‘Promontory’ brings to mind slopes of scree and sharp rocks, around which a wild sea thrashes itself into foam. ‘Grey-Back (For Ceapaigh An Bhaile)’ meanwhile, uses strings to create a similar primeval eddy to what Tim Hecker achieves with organ and electronics. ‘A Kill’ has the feel of a swell rolling in from the Atlantic, still powerful days after the storm. LT

HELM – Impossible Symmetry [PAN]

For all the steely-fixed-grin optimism of the official Olympics, from this angle Luke Younger’s latest album hints at its darker underbelly: areas with vast tracts of money poured into them for redevelopment pressed up against areas left dilapidated; the event’s exploitation by unseemly landlords and property developers; vast corporate logos emblazoned across the capital and tenuously associated with healthy living; how any benefits to be had from the pouring of money into a short-term event are vastly outweighed by a government’s continued insistence on paying its own way by delving into vulnerable peoples’ pockets.

So opener ‘Miniatures’ delves into the sewers beneath the capital to track the flow of shit and negativity that runs beneath its surface; ‘Arcane Matters’, in title and tone, would likely appeal to fans of Demdike Stare, though it’s grounded in urban concerns where the latter trade in rural mythologies. But for all that Impossible Symmetry is a dark and frayed listen, there’s a warm glow to proceedings that prevents it from being an alienating experience. Younger – also one half of Birds of Delay, alongside Steven ‘Heatsick’ Warwick – engages with his source material in a very tactile way, and this album’s genesis in the live arena lends it a spontaneity that suggests there’s light just around the corner, just out of visual range. You might just have to climb up through that manhole to get to it. RG

Human Greed – Dirt on Earth: A Pocket Of Resistance [Omnempathy]

Since Russell Cuzner interviewed Begg for the Quietus a few months ago (full disclosure: Begg has since started writing the occasional feature for us), his music has gradually crept onto my radar, thanks to his involvement with Clodagh Simonds’ Fovea Hex project as well as musical relationships with the likes of Andrew Liles and David Tibet. Those names give some notion of what to expect from his music thematically, too: like the above artists and others, the Human Greed aesthetic is all darkness and humour, death and magick. It touches on landscape, legend and occult practices (his last album was themed around the raising of a museum mummy from the dead, and returning its spirit to its original resting place), but presented from a personal perspective. So the geographies of Dirt On Earth – in particular majestic closer ‘Scenes From The Carefree Life’ – feel like secret routes through highland terrain that’s already vaguely, naggingly familiar, with certain landmarks along the way reminding you briefly of your location before ushering you swiftly towards hollows and hills you’ve not yet explored. RG

Powell – Body Music [Diagonal]

Klara Lewis – Klara Lewis EP [self-released via Bandcamp]

Akatombo – False Positives [Hand-Held Recordings]

Akatombo (or Paul T Kirk as his English passport has it) has created a similarly colourful and diverse, talkative record. A filmmaker and musician who released his first album in 2003 via the SWIM label, Akatombo deals in cinematic instrumental pieces that lurk with quiet horror and urgent dread, a colourful and vivid drama. ‘The Right Mistake’ sees a pacey, uncomfortable beat that comes in and out of deep electronic thrums, a cutaway shot before it all comes back. It is, oddly and perhaps appropriately enough, an Ealing Studios thriller take on something fantastical and colourful from the world of Anime. Similar duality is heard on ‘Masked’, where the swoop of piece of traditional soundtrack orchestration is crushed underfoot by the kind of electronics deployed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The conclusion of False Positives is all drones-as-screams atmospheres (‘Necessary Fiction’) and the cross fuzz of ‘Hikiko Mori’. Before that, Akatombo’s music is akin to feelers going out across the digital ether, picking up fragments of electronic music and film soundtracks: ‘Dominion’ combines four/four techno with weird Spaghetti spangles of guitar, ‘Torsk’ takes on the dub, and the squeals and mumbles in the mechanical ‘Precariat’ suggest the night shift in an abattoir. LT

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