Nexsound – experimental, ambient, noise, improv record label


the Moglass/Nihil Est eXcellence – split

Tasteful packaging on this 3″ CDR from Nexsound, the shaped cardboard foldout slipping into the vinyl glove like an executive into a Martini – as in slickly professional. Once past the surface cosmetics, the listener becomes shrouded in obscured and reversed soundscapes, evocative harmonics that swirl intoxicatingly around the distant lights and the waking dreams of a banking clerk dozing over some ancient organge CRT. The two artists are simialr enough in approach to make this seem more like a collaboration instead of a split. Slowly evolving constructions constantly changing form and focus.

The disc opens with three tracks from The Moglass, the first of which is wet sounding, like the mandibles of a hoofed animal chewing on fresh bone. The animal can be seen as a silouhette out the doorway from a darkened cave above a burning city. I find it rather drug like myself, the backwards threads leading into the echoing chimes of the second track like an unexpected psilocybin resurgence. There are no voices but the atonal shifts around the sphere of vision evoke after images of eastern chanting. An extremely adept mixing of elements here, constants against variables like electrode to nerve ending. The third track from The Moglass uses what sounds like either a filtered arpeggio or a step quantized effect patch to add a tingling intelligence to the shimmering mist left by the vast chordal work. It just takes over the air around you, not in an asphyxiating manner but more like the way the negative ions from a coming storm set your hairs on end. Electric. From there it’s a slow, cautious build into the Nihil Est eXcellence material. The most notable difference is in the frequency spectrum used. It’s as if suddenly every odd harmonic has been ripped out, giving a very cold and indifferent feel to the tracks. Medical beeps suggest that perhaps your surroundings are but a mental projection to protect you from the reality leaking through the windy, filtered modulations. A definite feeling of malevolent science or imminent surgery here. Digital choking opens the final track, the air starved composition getting more and more agitated, grasping limbs flailing about in a desperate attempt to increase the amount of oxygen reaching the brain until warm light washes away all memory of pain.

Evocative ambience from both artists makes this quite a successful little EP. I really like the pacing here, just enough movement to keep the plan working but not so much your eyes have trouble tracking and I find I can listen to the disc on repeat multile times without tiring. The result is the kind of atmosphere you suck deep into your lungs lest any of the precious vapour escape, as effective at subtle volume as blistering sound pressure levels (though the latter much more satisfying of course). From this EP and the recent Kotra effort, I’d recommend the Ukraine electronic scene and Nexsound in particular as a point of current interest.

Kotra – Stir Mesh

I was first introduced to Ukraine outfit Nexsound via their Alphonse de Montfroyd co-release with German label Ad Noiseam. That outing is one of my personal faves of the last year so I was definitely keyed up when this release appeared in my PO Box. Kotra has their embedded microprocessor firmly soldered into some malfunctioning Gameboy, the material here somewhere between gritty Nanoloop and pure system reset. It’s glitchy but in a very low level, crude assembly glue manner. Instead of pristine artifacts and polite silence, kotra uses sounds straight off the bus, raw and aliased, sharp and bursty. It’s still pretty glitch in that most sounds have extremely short, squared off amplitude envelopes with spark gaps inbetween but I find the approach here not unlike listening to a Suffocation album in that it’s got that same “let’s play all the damn riffs” density to it. No shortage of sputtering, strangulated little noise constructions and seemingly no end to the shifting variations, linearly applied as the laser follows the spinning disc.

Although in many ways sonically related, this album is the total opposite of the recent Mugen “770” release. Both artists work with cold little bits of machine language, repetition and sparse, wide strokes of the printer head. However, where Mugen worked with steady, metronomic constructions, kotra is downright frenetic, a mix of attention deficit disorder and building pressure in some overflowing disc cache. Keeping the nature of the material in mind, “Stir Mesh” is crammed to bursting, a relentless stream of code fragments, malloc()’ed bytes off the heap and long lost clusters. No bit of data seems to be considered crucial over any other, lifespans here often measured in mere seconds.

The disc clocks in at 48 minutes, spread amongst 13 tracks though you will be hard pressed to find all the markers if you are facing away from the CD player display. Structurally, it’s maybe 30% sinewave, 70% high frequency burst. Not a lot of low end focus on this disc, the restricted bandwidth of an 8 bit device supplying the formants almost exclusively. A lot of the sounds sound like normalizations of ancient PCM artifacts, like cranking up the volume on the death of reverb trails or the last millisecond of a digital answering machine message. It also has a strong non-audio data feel, like Sound Forge let loose on the operating system itself. Zero emotion of course, Borg-like detachement making this one more like a nature trip into deep space vaccuum, the sights taking the form of life stilling radiation and hull puncturing micro asteroids. Very strong on curiosity and satisfying like a machine room full of fan hum. Kotra have definitely succeeded here, the listener’s eyes almost stinging from the acrid burnt circuitry smell wafting out from “Stir Mesh”.

Kotra – Dissilient

As much as I enjoy clicks n cuts and similar glitch based difficult music, it has occurred to me that this style of sound could be considered a contemporary equivalent to progressive rock. It is almost by definition self-indulgent and for some folks likely just as hard to take seriously as Rick Wakeman’s ill fated “Myths and Legends of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” on ice debacle. I’m not sure who prog-rock was actually for (before my time) but geeks could easily be accused of being an elitist demographic and therefore the genre directly analogous to the complaints that partially led to the birth of punk rock. Now while this has struck me from time to time, it certainly doesn’t stop me from enjoying collections such as this one from Kotra regardless of whether sets of blips and blats is something most folks do not want to hear sputtering out of their stereo. That said, “Dissilient” veers dangerously close to endurance test in some sections with out much accompanying catharsis to compensate for the occasional excesses of art for art’s sake.
This is more of an EP really since 34 minutes is only a full length album if you are AC/DC. The tracks are all named as mathematical offsets which is as good a choice as any for a series of sounds that taste like the end of a probe plugged into a function generator. While all of the sounds are digital in nature if not in actual execution, there is an analog type approach to the feedback and distortion appearing here which finds repetitive beeps and modem squawks getting wrapped up in themselves to the point of bumping their heads on the dynamic ceiling. This is not always pleasant and the first few minutes are likely to lead to removal of headphones or at least volume reduction unless you are completely deaf already. It is quite unique sounding it should be noted, just perched at a frequency akin to screaming babies in the seat beside you when stuck on a public bus in a traffic jam that spreads around you as far as the eyes can see.
Some rhythmic structures comparable to 8 bit beatbox appear mid disc and of course this is the most approachable section since the beats (if you can call them that, more like gating effects) help provide some momentum past the more nasal and shrill feedback bursts. There is also a wide variety of little bitty cutups that sound less like data files in a wave editor and more like a modem suddenly breaking into a solo. The kind of music that makes you yearn for an oscilloscope and data analyzer. At its best the varied trace can be quite captivating, like the smoke trails from a soldering iron or watching vials of blue fluid being mixed together.
I guess it is part of the point (call me a wimp if you must) but my main complaints here are to do with how the frequency spectrum falls out – it almost hurts to listen to this at any sort of volume at all. While that may sound all bad ass on (virtual) paper what this means is that to hear the overall recording at a true discernable level you would need to sport earplugs in your own freaking living room. Raucous cacophony is welcome in these here parts but unlike a release like Dustbreeders and Junko’s “Mommy Close The Door” which as their label suggests, “peels paint from the walls” this release does not offer enough fist in the air teeth grinding payback for its abuse of your cochlea. It is just too academic and stuffy most of the time which tilts the scales towards dry frustration instead of neuron driven arcing electricity. If the mastering had trimmed just a little from about 1kHz upwards this likely would be a glowing review because there are some very cool functions cavorting about the soundscape but it’s so damned nasal and sharp that I feel like I am chewing on tinfoil while suffering a flu headache as well as feeling like I am being forced to adjust the volume at gunpoint. Unless you feel like remastering this yourself definitely only of interest to the most dedicated prog fans, er I mean difficult glitch converts.

Alphonse de Montfroyd – Silence

This 3 inch CDR EP from Alphonse de Montroyd creeps in glacier slow. With three computers in near vicinity it took a good minute and 9 seconds before I realized that the ambient PC whine was not just particularly loud today and that instead ‘silence’ had swelled over the banks into my perceptable foreground. Medical grade scientific instruments calmly tracing the smooth contours of rising and decaying waveforms, much of the movement originating underground or in the ionosphere. Extremely frigid ambience that throbs with a cold blue light. 5 tracks, one short moment and the rest hovering between the four minute and five minute notchs. One nice aspect of the ‘Silence’ approach is the apparent restraint used here. Track time is kept long enough to establish presence but not so run on as to get lost in the noise floor of distraction. Progression is via low speed vectors with no abrupt transitions, compacting the layers into a cohesive sound mass but with a low enough density to allow lateral movement through its structure. Overall, this release has the antiseptic pallor of a microwave tower. The lack of overt biology is less pure intent and more just an uncaring and emotionless side effect of the radiating inanimate technology. At times the rotations are macroscopically rhythmic, hypnotically soothing much like the scent of gasoline. At other moments more like the oscillations of a high wattage filament just before its white light burns into infra-red atomization and then afterglow into blackness. Together the result is like running high tension wires for thousands upon thousands of kilometers, the ozone hum making inner dialogue the universal language. One I am definitely pleased to now speak.