When I listen to records like this I just want to give up writing this blog. Must find words to describe sounds. Very hard. I suppose if I think of Kevin Drumm in terms of his recent output he takes on either the guises of the drone genius of Imperial Distortion and Organ fame or the noise beast on records like Sheer Hellish Miasma and Land of Lurches. When I first forked out my cash for his self-titled debut and the followup, Second, I was expecting something that, while I concede may not have sounded like those more familiar Drumm records, wouldn’t sound quite like this. This almost verges on sound art. The seven untitled tracks almost explore the vastness of silence and the listeners reaction to its disruption. There are long stretches of near silent amp buzz which are assaulted in various ways by what sounds like a plugged in guitar falling down a flight of stairs, strings being violently ripped out, an electrified pice of felt and … well you get the idea. Strange, uncomfortable and challenging. What does it all mean at the end of the day? I have no idea. I simply do not have the patience to work it out. Is it a good record? Sure. It’s a great record. I’m just not sure if it is an enjoyable one. It’s a very different experience to the normal record that Kevin Drumm has given us in the last 10 years or so. This is noise on an almost micro scale and the more I stretch my comfort zone to take in records such as this, the idea that what artists such as Kevin Drumm do is a series of noise rather than as a block of noise makes sense. Maybe this is what any noise record would sound like if you took a three second snippet, shaved off the layers and played it all separately as a long strand of sound. Maybe this is an exercise in unwinding noise DNA. I’m keen to hear other people’s experience with it. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Archive for the Kevin Drumm Category
I like Kevin Drumm. I like the fact that he never puts out the same record twice. His explorations of processed guitar are never less than fascinating. Land of Lurches is now out of print but is pretty easy to track down and if you like your noise with a dose of heaviness then, friends, this is the record for you.
The first track, Samson’s Cold Minotaurs might start as a heavy duty drone track, but the tsunami of blackness that builds in the distance and crushes everything in its path, might just be of the thrilling noise moments I’ve ever had … and it only gets better from there.
I might be howled down for this but I think that Land of Lurches is a direct challenge to the Sheer Hellish Miasma tragics. Is Land of Lurches actually a better record?
A fair bit of Drumm’s back catalogue has been rereleased in the past couple of years. This one may not have the reputation of Sheer Hellish Miasma or even his self titled debut but it would be great to see Land of Lurches get the same reissue treatment. Noise nerd heaven in less than 40 minutes.
The problem with discovering a new artist is that it might be entirely possible that the first record that you hear might not exactly be representative of the work that the artist is known for. Take for example Kevin Drumm. I had listened to his great split with Daniel Menche some time earlier but Imperial Distortion was my first experience of solo Drumm. Most sensible people would have started with Sheer Hellish Miasma which is considered by many (including me) to be one of the finest noise records ever made. On SHM, Drumm produces a harsh electronic guitar masterpiece. Imperial Distortion is a much more muted ride.
In a recent interview, Drumm said that he created the sounds of Imperial Distortion from discarded work that he rediscovered. Pieces that had a less dense quality about them. So in effect this record is made from work produced between 1995 and 2008 which has been processed, tampered and played with to create one of the finest meditative drone records I own. Hardcore Drumm fans might tend to be a bit dismissive of Imperial Distortion due to an absence of noise per se, but if you pick you way through his back catalogue the drone has always been there; usually sheathed in layers of blistering distortion or fuzzed out walls of extreme volume but they were there. Drumm called these “go nowhere tracks” but you know, sometimes the fun is is staying in the same place.
There were some great records that came out last year. The one that has stayed with me the most was the mighty Necro Acoustic which I think stands as a staggering record. Necro Acoustic was one of those records that had me wanting to explore the entirety of an artist’s back catalogue. For any noise/drone artist that is an impossible task given the number of small release CD-r’s and cassettes that are usually feature of their work and with Drumm there are some horribly rare records that I will never hear. Luckily, although there is fuck all of his records in print (some collaborations with Menche and Prurient, the stuff on Hospital, Sheer Hellish Miasma and the last year’s re-releases of his first two), a fair few of his records are easy to track down. Probably the easiest is Comedy. You can pick it up for a couple of bucks from Amazon. The question I suppose is that is there a point trying to get it? On balance I think there is. There are two shorter versions of Organ, the track that made its first appearance in full on Necro Acoustic) which are both great and are essentially a sophisticated drone call and response. There are two short pieces under three minutes which are both great and the fourth track Just Like a Parvenu is also fantastic. The only downside is the third track To The Ending. It would be easy to make a corny joke about the title considering that I haven’t met a track as boring since the crap that featured on Birchville Cat Motel’s Seventh Buried Hex. I actually couldn’t wait for it to end. I suppose it is successful in that sense. It made me tense and a bit agitated but with the rest of the album being so damn good it just sticks out like a sore thumb. Comedy is closer to his drone based works rather than the much harsher noise based Sheer Hellish Miasma and Land of Lurches. I think it’s essentially an album full of great tracks it is just not uniformly brilliant. Worth a listen.
You may have noticed I haven’t been around a great deal. One reason is because I went and visited my folks in the rainforest in Far North Queensland but the main one though is because I was trying to tackle this massive fucker of a beast, Necro Acoustic.
Christ, where do I start with this one. I don’t for one minute claim to be a Drumm expert so there is no point reviewing this in reference to Drumm’s previous work. So I’ll simply review it as a noise fan. Necro Acoustic is a five CD box set of noise goodness released by Lasse Marhaug’s excellent Pica Disk label. As a package it is very nice indeed with the five separately titled discs a mix of old and new Drumm, noise and drone. In fact, to be fair, Necro Acoustic is five new Drumm records conveniently packaged together.
From the outset, I’ll nail my colours to the mast – Necro Acoustic is overwhelmingly brilliant. My problem is how to describe it to you with even a sliver of intelligence. Sure it is all about distortion and layers and blips but so is a Merzbow record and this, my friends, is a very different beast indeed. I don’t plan to write about all the discs but to give you a taste if what to expect my two favourite discs are Decrepit which includes tracks recorded between 1998 and 2009 and the single track record Organ from 1996.
Most tracks on Decripit are previously unreleased except for a couple at the end which appeared on vinyl in various guises. It runs the gamit from harsh noise, high-pitched drones to repetitive electronic nirvana (Totemic Saturation). What Drumm does on the majority of the track is produce sketches in manipulated and controlled distortion. It is some of the most intelligent and clever noise you may ever hear.
Organ was recorded by Jim O’Rourke in 1996 and made an appearance in an editted form on Drumm’s album Comedy. This is the first time the entire piece has made an appearance on any format. The track itself (all 50 + minutes of) shifts between mid-level drone and doom laden distortion all created with an organ and various filters and effects pedals. As a listening experience it is a strange one and the only words I can think of to describe it are it invokes a gentle malevolence. It’s the kind of drone track that begs to be played on the best equipment available.
The other records in this box set are Malaise which is a reissue of a douple cassette released on Hospital Productions in 2006. No Edit is a duo of prepared guitar and oscillator pieces recorded last year and Lights Out is four tracks recorded between 2006 and 2008 using two pulse generators and band-pass filter. It’s all extremely good and I know that Necro Acoustic is a big investment but if you buy only one more noise record this year it should probably be this.
Well here is one I forgot to add to my list of the best albums of last year. In fact if I had a ranking, this would have been about number three. This collaboration find the sublime and sometimes noisy drone of Drumm anchoring some classic Prurient moments. Given just how damn visceral and unsettling most of Prurient’s work is, it is a true testament to both that the bedrock of different drones are used to amp up the creep factor quite a number of notches. The opening track is full of ordinary Prurient themes: masters, slaves, pervy things, rubber underpants and pain – but I guarantee you that you’ve never heard them in this sound context. At times it is Drumm’s drones, nearly distorting under the strain, that dominate proceedings which makes perfect sense when your teaming up with Prurient because isn’t a lot of his work about dominance and submission? There are things on here which are simply extraordinary if you are a noise nerd. Take the fourth track Though the Apple is Rotten – the static effect is so unsettling that it’s like degraded hypnagogic Wolf Eyes. I thought half way through that my headphones were fucked.
All Are Guests in the House of the Lord is one of my favourite records by either artist. As an aside if you are new to exploring noise and experimental sound then you should never shy away from a collaborative record. In my collection some of the best records I’ve heard are when artists team up to create something fantastically original. Excellent.
You see, if this had been released this year it would have been my album of the year but it wasn’t so you know, whatever. I love this but I am a little afraid of it. Now that may sound totally lame and it is but there is something really intimidating about Sheer Hellish Miasma. This is noise and drone in the hands of a master. The sound moves around like sand in a storm and from what I can make out is made from layers of tightly woven static which for the most part is pitched very low. The longest piece is The Inferno which is a fat slab of greasy drone punctuated with Merzbow-light electronic trickery. The opener Impotent Hummer is where my fear comes from. On the surface the tracks is a slowly moving, volume boosted drone track but when I concentrate I’m sure I can hear the sound of some sort of life under the impenetrable fog. Well at least I think I can because just when I think I can hear them they disappear. They’re either there, it’s a trick to the ears caused by the dense layers of drone or I have may a mild psychosis. Take your pick. The most fun track is the very short Turning Point which is what hard house sounds like played by John Wiese at 400 beats per minute. The whole thing is rounded out by the calm and beautiful Cloudy, which considering the power of what precedes it, is like having a nice sorbet after chewing through a raw piece of venison, well at lest until the track eats itself whole in the last 20 seconds. Utterly compelling.