Reviews of Absurd Exposition titles past and present.

TED BYRNES - Double Negative CS (2019)

---Noise Not Music (March 13, 2019) -

As I sit down to write about Ted Byrnes’ new tape Double Negative, I realize that there is really nothing I could bring up or praise that Sam McKinlay hasn’t already acknowledged in his beautiful piece about the album. So instead I will reprint it below (full credit to Mr. McKinlay, who makes his own music as The Rita and with Byrnes as CACKLE CAR, and the Absurd Exposition page) and do my best to continue the discussion

“One of the most interesting aspects of Ted Byrnes’ C16 work Double Negative is the fact that it is presented by Absurd Exposition, which is very much an analogue electronics based label that is most commonly concerned with ‘harsh noise’ and ‘power electronics’. The exciting aspect of Ted’s percussive work versus the electronics is its incredibly common means to an end. After years and years of my delving into the world of silicon and germanium fuzz circuits with various colleagues, contemplating the electronic processing of source into rough textures can really make someone question the various apparatuses conceptually, especially when you experience raw comparable sound via internal combustion, or in Ted’s case – percussion. ‘Striking something’ for a conceptualized sound acts as a pinnacle of deconstructed sound technique, especially when making a career out of creating seemingly percussive rough textures via electronics, can make the artist doubt their practice and its analogue gear avenues that may simply be (in extreme terms) a ‘waste of time’ when compared to straight well conceived percussion. Again, presented within the world of harsh noise specifics, Ted Byrnes’ rapid fire washes, lines and layers of shifting percussively created textures very much converse in the language of harsh noise with a vicious truth that analogue electronics may never be able to replicate. Every year I think about ditching my electronic gear and just having some ‘percussive’ setup like strips of aluminum that are lined up to make ‘slapping / snapping / crack’ noises, but then I’m constantly reminded of Ted’s work and the fact that I’m just purely jealous and should just stick to what I know.” 

As McKinlay says, improvised music and especially abstract percussion shares a great deal of qualities with ‘noise,’ an observation immediately apparent from the squealing abrasions and endlessly pummeling walls employed on Double Negative. It’s a, if not the, culmination of Byrnes’ visceral approach that he’s taken on recent releases such as Materialism and Source, and leads me to question the often ambiguous dividing lines between noise and other abstract musics. It’s easy to fall into a bottomless pit of semantic runarounds in discussions of genre, but in this case it comes down to what definition we give ‘noise’; while an archetypal artist in this area would use tabletop electronics such as effects pedals and contact microphones, if the sound produced is viewed as an isolated entity, the breadth of ‘noise’ grows tenfold. I by no means intend to completely abandon the attachment of methodology to the sound it creates, because the actions behind the sound and the relationship between the two are often just as important. Instead, with this hypothetical redefinition, I argue for a less restrictive view of noise music, one that doesn’t exclude atypical approaches. This ultimately allows me to articulate what is so magnetic about Double Negative: that it doesn’t hide its direct physicality behind curtains of effects and manipulation, yet still fills the same void as more conventional harsh noise works do, a dual identity that cannot, and should not, be ignored. So when McKinlay resolves to “stick to what [he] know[s],” I couldn’t agree more; the best noise is made when the artist uses the arsenal with which they are familiar, reaching that clamorous catharsis in entirely their own way—which, certainly, is what Byrnes accomplishes with Double Negative.

FLATGREY - Tombs CS (2017)

---Noise Widow #2 (June, 2018)

Ah, another straight-forward HN tape. Fine by me. You'll be happy to hear that it sounds like a noise flame thrower. Conjures up images of Kurt Russell in The Thing. Or - if you'll indulge me here - making the four hour drive to visit my grandpa at the height of summer, never having cars with AC growing up, so every window is open and hot wind is assaulting my face, my hair is whipping into my eyes, I'm squished between my two older brothers, my father refuses to drive in the HOV lane... Yep, this tape sounds like a hellish summer drive on the Long Island Expressway to visit an elderly relative, sandwiched between your enemies. Slight undulations make for dynamic waves of sound, setting this baby a bit apart from your average harsh noise tape. Nice and crackly, too. Side B is a lot more mechanical. A jigsaw running in the basement (more childhood memories).

Verdict: Cohesive and effortless. The artwork looks like the sonogram of a fetus that's not doing too hot. Or maybe it's just clouds. No labels but the A and B sides are marked on the cassette shell, at least.

GRIEFER - Communication Denial CS (2020)

---Noise Receptor (November 18, 2020) -

Griefer, a Canadian power electronics / death industrial project have been releasing material since 2004. Although this new 2020 cassette is the fourth album releases, it functions as my introduction to the project.

Of immediately note is the relatively clean sonic tone of the overall sound, which perhaps reflective of or at least aligns with the technological slant of the lyrical focus. Sound wise it features revving tones, looped metallic textures, wailing ‘air raid siren’ sounds, and echoed field recordings, which have been chopped and hewn into a series of compositional structures. Select tracks have a more focused power electronics bent, yet others contain a more ominous death industrial core, based on deeply echoed soundscapes, caustic noise and slow thudding beats. On the tracks which are based on looped structures, this gives a rhythmic aspect to the sound, yet this is not of the rhythmically driven type generated through programmed beats. Vocally, this also functions to set the material apart as they feature as a gruff yell with minimal treatment and which are balanced within the mix.

Seven tracks in all feature, with a total run time of around 35 minutes, which demonstrates Griefer to have both individualism in sound and sonic skill to back it up. Despite its adherence to a power electronics / death industrial sound there is a quite surprising degree of sonic and stylistic variety within this framework, making for varied and far from one dimensional listening.

GRIEFER - Egress Report CS (2017)

---Existence Establishment (September 8, 2017) -

I like song structures. Griefer‘s tape is a power electronics tape is full of actual songs with a theme that is as evidently intelligible as it is challenging.

Of the five songs featured, two contain vocals with the rest featuring impressive instrumental barrages. Griefer chooses to use, sparingly, looped samples along very cranky synths. The vocals on here are the most remarkable thing because they are not only intelligible, but Griefer‘s cadence is more akin to an older chain lord with deliberate acts of rhythm than some skinny guy screaming through 5 distortion VST plug-in pedals. “Quantum” in particular really goes no holds barred in a furious nod to Con-Dom‘s Hatred album and (sonically only) Slave State atop tin cookie box dropped from a high rise building type percussion. Rapid fire beats, when they do kick in, really amp things up as needed. It’s something I don’t hear often well-employed.

The strange crypto-economics/strategic analysis/cyber espionage concepts here are up my alley. I think it’s a very unique approach and certainly a chilling reminder that your porn habits and bank account numbers are not safe. The mix of different kinds of sounds offers a wide berth for Griefer to balance vocals and instrumental parts. I would have liked to hear more angry vocals because I think it conveys a sense of urgency that so few PE artists are unwilling to put forth with such a creative, non-shock value theme.

Looking forward to hearing more of this entity…Egress Report is probably one of my favorite PE releases in a while. Again, the song structure of this album make it memorable, filler burned off the motherboard for the most part. Absurd Exposition, based out of Montreal is the credited party for the release of this c30. Perhaps you can find it state-side. Get your head redboxed with this ASAP.

KNURL - Intial Shock CD+DVD (2020)

---Special Interests user TordonLjud (November 2, 2020) -

I wondered fairly recently where all the Knurl reissues are and suddenly here is one and what a reissue it is! I have yet to listen to the DVD: 3 hours, so that is a solid weekend project. But having listened to the CD my immediate thoughts are maybe less about the actual material on this CD (impressive physical harsh noise, of course) and instead how consistently impressive Knurl has been (and still manages to be). There are not many projects which epitomizes the tag "long running harsh noise project, consistently high quality, but severely underrated" quite as well as Knurl. (Obviously you have to mention Government Alpha and perhaps Guilty Connector in the same breath.) I do have quite a bit of Knurl releases in my shelves but there are really no good reasons not to get more. Lastly, a mention for the label and those involved for the effort going into materializing this reissue.

---Vital Weekly #1259 (November 17, 2020) -

It makes perfect sense for a remastered CD reissue of Knurl’s first cassette, one that’s accompanied by three different breathless testimonials to the artist’s impact 25 years on, to include a DVD. In fact, I prefer to think of this as a DVD with accompanying CD rather than the reverse. Knurl’s albums have always had a sculptural aspect to them, often implied by the physicality of his sound if not stated outright or depicted in the artwork. Alan Bloor, a former welder, aimed to reproduce the harsh metal-on-metal grinding noise of factories with his music. Like GX Jupitter-Larsen, he came from a background of early 80s punk/hardcore and performance art but wanted to take the noisy aspect of that music farther than song forms would allow. From the beginning, the Knurl sound came from metal junk and sculptures that he amplified, bowed, sawed, pummeled, struck and ran through electronic effects. Who wouldn’t want to watch how he does that? I’ve been curious for years, but haven’t had the opportunity until now since I don’t live near anywhere he’s performed.

The DVD is as generous as can be: more than 3 hours of live performance footage shot from 1994 to 1999, plus a 1996 television interview (in French and English). Hearing the sound on CD is one thing, but it’s the DVD that, for me, really puts the artist’s work in perfective. What I gather after viewing it is pretty much what I’d always suspected from hearing the recordings: Bloor’s noise really is as physical and performative as I imagined. We get to see him shaking metal junk, rapidly cycling between attacks on pipes, springs, metal plates… a blur of anxious energy, controlled and purposeful within the ceaseless shriek. His body is frequently seen affecting the sound when he alters his distance from the metal instruments, standing up taller to wring out more feedback, shifting his weight and taking loud tones with him… the interaction is evidence of Bloor’s live-wire act of careful control that might (but doesn’t) derail with one wrong move. A discernible marriage of process and sound isn’t always necessary to appreciate an artist’s work, but viewing Knurl in his natural environment adds to my enjoyment of the music. I see someone who’s thought as much about the visual/spatial component of a performance as to the audible result, of how his presence is integral (both in regards the sound and to the gestalt impact) to what he does.

“Initial Shock” first appeared as a cassette in 1994. Of course, it’s not Knurl’s best album. How could it be? He wouldn’t be much of an artist if he peaked at his very first tape and then spent 25 years trying to live up to his debut. Bloor got better as he went on, refined his sound, improved his production quality and grew more confident in his performance. If you want to hear the best Knurl albums, try “Thioarbamide”, “A Hail of Blades” or “Risk of Entrapment”. But taken on it’s own terms, “Initial Shock” is a fun ride. The sounds seem to be more electronic than metallic, lots of feedback waves and clouds of dirt interrupted by microphone overload, line hum and other nasty crude artifacts. All ten tracks are in perpetual motion. Even the relatively drone-like “Itradem” is a cascade of crude shattering and circuit fizz that crashes into itself over and over again. “Ridzt” is just a punctuation, half a minute of static interference, but I liked it. “Abjective Singe” retains the raw impatience of a young guy furiously bashing on boxes in his bedroom, a patina of amp hum coating the explosion in ugly filth. The album closes with “Sehnt”, in which the smack of metal on metal is clearly legible through a mess of fidgety gear-shifting and electronic squeal. After viewing the DVD, I can’t hear “Initial Shock” without imagining how it might have been created. I can picture Bloor in his workshop, yanking scree from the guts of springs and sharp scraps, vigorously crunching down on cords and leaning in to continually adjust and shift direction. That’s the best part of this set: it doesn’t simply reissue an out-of-print cassette, but uses the cassette in order to provide a bigger picture of who Knurl is and what he does. After hearing this and viewing the DVD, you’ll want to go back and check out more of his catalog or dip into it for the first time. (HS)

MASS MARRIAGE - Nothing Underneath CS (2012)

---Weird Canada (May 30, 2015) -

From the spirit warehouse of Chris Taggesell:

Melissa Paget‘s unique brand of sonic experimentation projects audial filth filled with frequencies that will shatter your windows and scare the neighbour’s dog. Obscured behind a suffocating wall of fuzz and titanic warehouse percussion, Nothing Underneath screams with a mouthful of broken glass. Ghostly reverb-soaked mantras permeate the noise with a powerful feminine voice that cannot be ignored amidst the mechanical cacophony of sizzling feedback and cavernous discord. Mass Marriage embodies the fraught, confused relationship with technology that typifies our modern world – this is a dark and beautiful musical protest that spits blood from the shadows to remind us of things we prefer to ignore.

MOT - Savage CS (2020)

---Bandcamp user Guillermo Pizarro (September 4, 2020) -

One of my favorite things in life are short, live set length noise tapes. MOT knocks it out out of the park with this one.

MUNITION - Gaze/Gauze CS (2019)

---Raised By Cassettes (April 8, 2019) -

Deep, distorted electronics come through like waves and then it just turns into this blurry, jumbled sound of static.   It gets so loud and it feels like we're going to find ourselves easily lost within it.   Some sharper songs sneak through, like car horns in traffic, but that feeling of distortion washing over us all remains.   It feels a bit like there is feedback from a guitar but there is also a powerful force in here like a thunderstorm.

It can grow quieter, minimal, and just embrace that winding synth like something which always seems to remind me of an old VHS tape for some reason.   There are a few haunted noises within this as well, a darkness.   That echoing sound like Jason Voorhees can also be heard at one point. 

A mechanical rhythm now, like robots marching.    This seems to blur into where it sounds like an airplane taking off, only if you were underneath it rather than inside of it.    It feels like we're screeching to halt-- if you're inside the inner workings of this airplane it seems to have something wrong with it and perhaps it is unfit to fly.   Then it just kind of tapers off and ends.

---KFJC (January 22, 2020) -

Munition is the alias of Dexter Outhit, a noise artist from Toronto. This cassette is his second release, and KFJC’s second library addition from Montreal-based label Absurd Exposition. Gaze/Gauze would stand well alongside the first Absurd Exposition release that we recently added, the excellent Base Waters LP by Rusalka; both works draw the sound of ocean waves into enveloping expanses of composed noise. This Munition version has an anxious, suspenseful feel, as deep pulses surface and mobilize into martial rhythms. The marching beats summon visions of ancient voyages, hunts on the high seas, naval warfare. One ~15 minute piece that repeats on Side B of the tape.

ANDREW NOLAN - Museum Etiquette CS (2020)

---Noise Receptor (September 2, 2020) -

Being completely unfamiliar with this Canadian experimental noise artist, I have to take this new tape from this on face value – which certainly provides a good first impression. Amorphous and elastic in form, each side of the tape features an untitled 16-minute track. But rather than displaying a singular idea or sound, it is more of an amalgam of segments which are seamlessly interconnected. Element of musique concrete and urban focused field recordings are blended with dank experimental noise soundscapes making for engaging listening.

Side A opening with deeply echoed field recordings which have been composed into buzzing and vaguely looped drones mixed with metallic toned and loosely rhythmic structures. With the first section gives way to a field-recordings of an individual ranting in public, later segments cover electric drones, periodic bass tones and undercurrent of field-recordings (vocal chatter, train sounds, crossing alarm bells etc.). Sonically it arcs back and forth from intense to calm, but retaining a general melancholic edge throughout, even including a short mid track passage of maudlin orchestral strings. Side B brings a similar approach, with scrabbling metallic textures, slow plodding and deeply echoed death industrial thuds, arcing electric drones, and further partially abstracted field recording elements (aka train-yard noise). Again relying on an ebb and flow approach, it rises to elevated sonic peaks and recedes to minimalist tonal valleys, while towards the end of the track it gives a clear nod to the tape’s title, as it concludes with a segment of what sounds like a museum tour lecture.

Sonically this is rather artistic in approach but also rooted in a darkly underground tone, Museum Etiquette is a varied and very enjoyable experimental noise tape.

PRIMITIVE ISOLATION TACTICS - Past Spheres and Present Circles CS (2018)

---Bandcamp user metalm8200000 -

For someone not at all accustomed to or well versed in the world of noise music, this was an incredible experience. One of the darkest experiences of my life, not only music, but in general. Instantly sparks your interest with a brooding, but not overly intense, wave of bottom-ended noise that sucks you in, and only gets louder from there. Incredible. Simple as that.

RUSALKA - Base Waters LP (2019)

---1208 North Fuller Ave Apt 1 (December 8, 2019) -

RUSALKA, is the Vancouver Canada based project of Kate Rissiek and has been active since 2007.

The album’s first track Sinking Blood Deep begins with a massive, deep distortion that has noise going off over the top of it. The intensity of the distortion is impressive; even on its own. The sounds on top seem to repeat themselves for a period until the main distortion seems to explode and take prominence and shift. It is as if the sound destroys itself in order to move on, in some ways this organic process occurs throughout the album.

I have frequently spoken about Noise Wall a lot on this blog and keep going to the term ‘Deconstructed Noise Wall’, this track in parts has those features, in that it builds up to thick density whilst allowing individual elements to still have clarity. This then leads to the breakdowns that allow minimal elements to thrive for periods of time to play off each other until the work builds up again. There are cycles like this continually woven into the work.

Water flows and splashes to Reflection Underneath Waves until it is eclipsed by what I would call strained humming that dominates like the mass of distortion did on Sinking Blood. As the drones strain to their breaking point and begin to distort the drama is high, only to be added to as hissing noise plays over this. Reflection rises in intensity gradually and confidently, sometimes the tracks sonic language is very minimal. Shifts and interruptions play with the listener as if to keep your attention focussed – the work is in control of you.

Cutty noise that takes the form of broken high frequencies and chopped distortion begins to lead the work midway through the second track as if forming a more violent passage of sound that builds and ends for the water to return and bring an end to the album.

I don’t see this as a continual session, there seem to be individual passages of noise worked into each other to form the bigger picture of each track. This has been very well thought out and conceptualised, it ties in very well with the water ties to the character of Rusalka. The deep emotion shifts and with the rapid changes in sound and delivery, nothing stays still for too long -this is an amazing album.

I was meant to see this project with MK9 and ANTIchildLEAGUE, sadly the show got cancelled. The slightest thought on what the show might have been like just blows my mind away. I have discovered several what I would call outstanding ‘Alpha Female’ noise projects this year, this is one is as great example of that – thanks for this Noise Karma, I am very grateful for this day.

Nevis Kretini 2019.

---KFJC (January 8, 2020) -

Rusalka is the project of Vancouver noise artist Kate Rissek. Her work over the past decade includes several solo cassettes and split releases (with MK9 and The Rita, among others), and now in 2019 her first full-length LP washes onto KFJC shores. On Base Waters, Rusalka uses a theremin and electronic effects to harness the power of the seas on two sidelong pieces. A sunken ship ascends back to the ocean surface on “Sinking Blood Deep” (T1). The vessel’s weathered hull – massive walls of corroded noise – rises from the depths; its horns sound, lights flare, and engines roar once again. On “Reflection Underneath Waves” (T2), field recordings of waves transform into massive columns of noise standing amid powerful swells of sound, a raw expression of the creative and destructive forces of the sea. Beautiful, compelling work, released on Montreal label Absurd Exposition.

K.M. TOEPFER - Undercut CS (2019)

---Raised By Cassettes (March 27, 2019) -

There is this ringing.  It sounds kind of like a phone, but it also has this distorted static within it which makes me feel like it's coming through some other way.   Sharpness comes through as well, causing it to be somewhat harsh and then it's full blown wind.    That sharpness persists through the rippling wind.   The intensity can seemingly cut out from one side to another and it plays tricks on my ears.   Lots of static now.   Lots of wind.    It creates this harsh noise drone.

The static begins to start and stop.   Alien frequencies come through and as it gets harsher it reminds me a bit more of someone like Waves Crashing Piano Chords.    There is a definite modem vibe behind this static march.    The way this crackles though, just the way the static is manipulated is what makes it so special, so unique and why you must really listen to it, as it feels like the siren of a war raid is going on behind it as well.   Those alien frequencies channel in and out.

It can begin to change those frequencies, higher and higher in pitch, as the static crackles like a giant fire, growing and growing.    Through that static the sharp ringing can almost feel like the howling of a wolf.    For some reason, I am reminded of the film "Cabin Fever".     Ringing through more and more, this begins to sound like a metal detector or sonar.   Full tilt now, into video game glitch and then robotic sounds like Wall-E.     Stronger now, it can feel like a lightsaber cutting through.    Scrape, scrape, scrape, we slowly scrape through the static.

The static pushes through now, mechanical, on the flip side.   Starting and stopping, ringing and fading, this is a full on assault of the ears.    Through the skipping it somehow manages to create this distorted trill now.    The sharpness brings out a feeling of a helicopter blade turning and then there are crashes into destruction, doom, like bombs being dropped from the sky.     It's a lot of static and ringing in sharpness now.     While it cuts in and out, it also maintains a certain steadiness, which I know sounds like it contradicts itself but it really does work like that somehow. 

The loudness, the constantness of this cassette while having breaks and becoming sharp is what creates the magic within it.    By the end, it just seems like a free-for-all of static and no one will survive.

VIOLENT SHOGUN - The Possibility of Life's Destruction CS (2020)
TED BYRNES - All Hands CS (2020)
B.P. - Zhiishiibi-Zhiibiing CS (2020)

---Vital Weekly #1250 (September 15, 2020) -

The resurgence of the cassette was I suppose to be expected after the likes of HMV got the resurgence of vinyl thing. These three releases of pro produced limited edition tapes being a good example. As are the Bandcamp tags "experimental harsh noise power electronics". The tags related to genres of between 70 to 30 years ago. The cassette a product of the Dutch company Phillips, which first appeared this month 57 years ago, its heyday being the 70s and 80s mainly due to car stereos. However, unlike Vinyl and the CD, a cassette from the get-go was recordable without expensive mastering and the need to press minimum quantities. Thus, until the CDR and Internet sites, it became the obvious option for small scale releases. Added to this was the then availability of cheap photocopies and you have the technical background to what became the tag genres. I will discuss the tracks, but this is also not as Vital was first produced as all three are available on Bandcamp to hear, and the cassettes come with digital download. I'm reminded of Art magazines in which gallery installations are described and wonder why, when one could simply video the show and upload to youtube, why spend paragraphs of description. Of course, the answer is, 'that is what is expected'. I attach no value judgement to this, whereas the 'origin' of the art/music review, cassette with crude photocopy was necessitated by technical/financial criteria, now it is produced as an emulation of that process. Given the digital download, one doesn't need to play the physical object, one doesn't even need a player. The point is that now with these three releases we have a radical 'inversion'. The mistake then would be to apply criteria that one might once have done to this 'inversion'. By which, for instance, someone might say that there is nothing 'new' here, or as Mark Fisher said, 'everything now is retro'. However, this is not a criticism, but a description of contemporary culture, one in which the openness to what this is in sonic terms becomes 'Art'. The Possibility of Life's Destruction's theme is given in the title of both side A and B, disintegrated mechanical harsh white noise, crashes, deep rumbles and static. Side B begins with a short loop of what could be very distorted music, metal clanking which builds to slow rumbling and collapsing metallic/static sounds. The achievement here, and I mean this, is the re-production of the original difficulties and limitations of analogue technology, in which the blurb gives the description 'nuclear inferno' – again a retrospective paranoia. All hands are 'solo acoustic percussion' (sic) - “The Latin adverb sic inserted after a quoted word or passage indicates that the quoted matter has been transcribed or translated exactly as found in the source text” but here relates to sound not text, and my point about creative emulation being made again. Outrageous metallic percussion, it is not to say radically new, because obviously, that is not the case, but the radicality is the creation as a re-creative act. It re-defines, and so defines percussion, which is to "state or describe exactly" and "mark out the boundary or limits" an activity in which a craft becomes an art. Zhiishiibi?-?Zhiibiing translates from the Native American to "Duck River" in Manitoba where field recordings were taken as the basis for the 7 tracks. A basis which yields to what appears at times heavy processing, at others not, turned into panned loops and noise, at times placid at others ambient, at others a wall of static. I.E. the possibilities and potentialities of field recording. Field Recording as a source is nothing new, can be dated to Musique concrčte of the 1940s and before, or in the case of Messiaen sans recorder. As in the other pieces the work, therefore, must exist in history, and here in its diversity IMO does so as an achievement explicitly. Mark Fisher thought the appropriation of previous genres if not bad, something he personally could not tolerate. I disagree, art has not only been ever inventive in its development, from Roman art through to the Renaissance it has re-appropriated its past. Art which aims at more than mere entertainment reveals the world as it is, with its history, 'warts and all', and these three releases are excellent technical and aesthetic examples of that process. (jliat)