Saturday, May 31, 2008

Black Metal Mashups (pt 2)

It should be frighteningly obvious by now, to everyone, that we love the sound of record crackle. Pops and clicks, buzz and fuzz. Just have a look at the last 8 or 9 years of reviews, and you'll see that we are grade-A suckers when it comes to that unmistakable sound. In fact, more than once, we posited that if we had a way, some simple system or an effects pedal even, that would render EVERY record we had, more fuzzy, turn every super clear crystal clean recording into something that sounded like it had been sitting in the garage for 50 years and was being played back on a rusty Victrola, well, you know we'd do it in a second.

And if there was one single artist, responsible for cementing that love of crackle and pop, of twisting our tastes all around, of taking a love, and turning it into an obsession, it would very likely be one-man black metal outfit Iudal. Ever since his Nocturnal Coda record, we have been smitten, no, obsessed is more like it. Desperately waiting for another missive of utterly dark murk, of bleary black misery, of swirling roiling madness rendered in disembodied melodies and all manner of distortion and grit. We would later becomes similarly obsessed with soundmakers exploring similar territory, but our fuzzy crackly blackened hearts will always belong to Iudal.

Which is all the more ironic considering A Gate Through Bloodstained Vinyl, his brand new record, is perhaps the least fuzzy, the least murky, the most crystalline and clear recording we've heard from him yet. Recorded in his practice space over the last couple years and later edited into a series of slow developing warbly black soundscapes, Gate finds Iudal moving beyond the so-called "metalgaze", allowing his deft hand at arranging, at collaging various sounds, heck COMPOSING, take the center stage. That element was always present, but was often overshadowed by the sonic weirdness and bizarre, very lo-fi production (tape hiss, drop outs, etc...), whereas here, in these SONGS, the fuzz and crackles is just one more compositional element. Fear not, there are still plenty of old fuzzy recordings, stumbling blast beats, haunting blurred riffs, but here, it seems as if Iudal has chosen the parts and pieces more for their melodic content than their texture, and the results are quite surprising.

The opener is a mysterious creep, muted buzz woven into a blackened whir, in the background, deep melodic swells drift in and out, soon to fade out completely, leaving just crackle like the sound of black rain. Over the track's 9+ minutes, sound shifts and changes, timbre and tone are altered dramatically, often unexpectedly, but it manages to work, finishing off with an utterly bleak fade out peppered with intense squelchy squalls of white noise.

From then on out, the sound is crushingly epic and majestic, the buzzing riffs, rumbling bass and pounding drums stretched out and tangled up into long form pulsing fanfares, some sort of melancholy strange murky ur-drone, underpinned by strange subtle rhythms, and a constantly churning undercurrent.

The end of "Residue Of Nowhere" almost sounds like Nadja at points, with short sharp bursts of heavily delayed and effected samples, but spends much more time writhing and twisting, traversing seas of thrashing chaos. "Shining Through Mirrors" is all low end rumble and whir, shimmer and sway, pulsing and throbbing, a churning blackened sea of sound, this time peppered with strange almost-rhythms crafted from layers of fuzz, giving it an almost Chain Reaction minimal techno vibe.

The disc finished off with the 11 minute "Fanfares Beyond Utter Blackness", the third and final part of Iudal's song trilogy on A Gate Through Bloodstained Vinyl, and begins with a splatter of crackly percussion, a woozy warbly loop, all slowly overtaken by a waltzing minor key dirge, slowly becoming a sort of ghostlike lullaby, that strange persistent percussion, making the track sound like, at times, like it could be from some forest folk or free drone cd-r. Iudal sets up a mournful arpeggiated melody, wraps it in flanger, occasionally spreads a little distortion and record buzz over the top, and lets it weave and say and sprawl until it explodes near the end into a flurry of bleary eared distortion, the melody blown out, the sound jagged and intense, a subtly chaotic, in-the-red climax, that doesn't fade out, instead just blinks out, leaving the strange vacuum of silence.

At first we were a little disappointed that A Gate Through Bloodstained Vinyl wasn't more fuzzy, more murky and washed out, more distorted and damaged sounding, but the more we listened, the more we realized, that all of those elements WERE still present, just in ways that might not be so obvious, A Gate Through Bloodstained Vinyl is still fuzzy and murky and dreamlike and distorted, and it's a testament to Iudal's skill that he's able to make it seem otherwise. And judging from how often this gets played in the store, we're all just as smitten as ever.


This was a mash-up of two Aquarius Records reviews, a review of Philip Jeck's most recent album 'Sand' and a review of the Hydra Head reissue of Xasthur's album 'A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors'.

Iudal is a demon from The Testament of Salomon: "76. The fifth said: "I am called Iudal, and I bring about a block in the ears and deafness of hearing. If I hear, 'Uruel Iudal,' I at once retreat.""


mrG said...

Just so you know, in the Linux Ubuntu-Studio distribution, there is an LADSPA effects rack app called Jack-Rack that includes, under "Applitude/Distorions" an effect called ViNil; the effect has 5 controls:

Year - 1900 to 1990
RPM - from 33 to 78

and three ratios:

Surface warping

Sigivald said...

"Metalgaze" makes me think "shoegaze" (naturally), which makes me think Cranes.

Which makes me think that someone needs to do a black metal cover of the entire Wings of Joy album.

Could anything in history be better than that?

valter said...

Thanks Mrg! BTW, nice Jazz blog!

Sigivald, I must admit I wasn't a big Cranes fan way back when, and I haven't listened to them since. Perhaps I should; I can certainly see why it would be interesting to merge Cranes with BM.