Major exclusive incoming! Nine Inch Nails‘ keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Alessandro Cortini has teamed up with Dominick Fernow’s Hospital Productions label for a solo record called Sonno. Hear “Di Passaggio”, taken from the LP, exclusively on EB.
Dialing back the budget you’d associate with his day job, Cortini opts for a more primal, ambient sound, attributable to its genesis: Cortini apparently created the record on a Roland MC-202 in various hotel rooms while on tour with NIN. It follows on from last year’s solo experiments Forse 1 and Forse 2, released on Important Records, which were also built on a series of analogue sketches possessed of an eerie emotional charge. We’re hooked.
Alessandro Cortini’s Sonno will be released on June 23rd via Hospital Productions.
Machine Gun Nest: Cassette Works, Vol. 0 acts as the perfect primer for the Hospital Productions artist and sound engineer, showing off his varied styles, evolutions and influences, says Daniel Jones.
Last year I wrote an article about how I learned to appreciate techno through the lens of its harsher cousin industrial electronics, as injected by Hospital Productions. There’s a rare and special joy in discovering a new musical genre that you don’t often get as an adult, especially as one who listens to music for a job, and since the time of publishing I’ve discovered plenty of names to immerse myself in—Monolith, Huerco S., and G.H. to name a few. But Hospital Productions has a sort of saucy, fuck-off rawness in its artist roster that makes it my prime source of inspiration in this field, and no name has peaked my interest more lately then Alberich.
One of a variety of projects from Hospital’s sound engineer Kris Lapke, Alberich first caught my attention due to his beautiful synth contributions on HP boss Dominick Fernow’s 2011 Prurient masterpiece Bermuda Drain. This subsequently led to me purchasing Psychology of Love, playing it until I knew it backwards and forwards, and then promptly forgetting about it for some reason. It was the release of Machine Gun Nest: Cassette Works, Vol. 0 that drew him back into my ears. As the title implies, you could previously only hear these tracks on short-run cassette tapes, or if some kind soul happened to upload a rip. Now they’re available to those of us who missed these limited editions, and to those whose beloved cassette decks are still locked in a storage unit in New Jersey. (I miss you, Cassettey Betty.)
For those who’ve yet to discover Lapke, Machine Gun Nest is an excellent starting point in his punishing world. In fact, it acts as a primer for the artist himself, showing off his varied styles, evolutions and influences. Pummeling power electronic bruisers like “Rumbala” and “Snow Is Falling In The Ruins Of Stalingrad” (off the White Eye of Winter Watching compilation, highly recommended) sit side by side with the sleazy synthpunk of “Panerial” and “Open Warfare” and the dub-haunted techno beast “Image of Progress“; mutant relations declaring ordered destruction upon the ears and soul. Lapke’s engineering shines most, however, in his heartbreakingly beautiful and haunting synth constructions. “Gold” hearkens back to Bermuda Drain‘s Carpenter-esque terrors, while “No Mistake” suffocates with the sound of slow, roiling gray eternity—empty but for the echo of the Void. It’s the towering, pulsating “Virgins“, however, that stands as one of his finest pieces of work. The searing synths roil like a wall of flame, building steadily beneath the pulse of a god and a might of a military drumbeat to close the album like a tomb for humanity.
The pleasures I’ve reaped from Lapke, Fernow and Co. have influenced me as a musician, a DJ and a clubgoer, and continue to do so. There’s a feeling in the air lately that more and more young musicians are discovering the harsher and shadier sides of electronic music. To any reading, I say keep it up, and if you ever feel your inspiration dipping I recommend lying in a cold, dark room with this on. Lose yourself in the power of noise—and to the beauty beneath it.˜
Machine Gun Nest: Cassette Works, Vol. 0 is out now on Hospital Productions.
“When you hear this in the club, you’re gonna turn this shit up.” – Scott Walker
There’s more than one path to making a racket, and Dominic Fernow‘s discography crosses many of them. From the brutal simplicity of his earlier Prurient work to the militarized techno of Vatican Shadow, there’s always a sense of subtle change and growth in his compositions that places him above the binding ideologies of genre classification. 2011’s Bermuda Drain was one of the first signs that his harshities were shifting; volatile synth-noise that was occasionally as somberly gentle as it was gut-wrenching. Through The Window, his first release for Blackest Ever Black, replaces much of the dissonance for heavy, brooding rave—a move that parallels the evolution (some would say ruination) of industrial music, but rather than confusion, it breeds ritualized celebration of the darkest sort.
The title track begins with searing synth loops and sub-audible whispers, building an atmosphere of disorientation and thick unease. Rhythmic percussion evokes raw, organic engines chugging across a vast desolation, steadily focusing itself into something denser. When the track finally bursts through at the halfway-point with a pulsating dance beat and chrome-plated synth stabs, it becomes clear that this is not just a stylistic shift, but rather a different take on what noise music can mean. Fernow’s power was never in his harshness or experimentalism, but rather in the hypnotic power he evokes with it. All the elements that existed in his earlier work—aggression, the steady howl of drone, a feeling of some monstrous work being done just beyond your perception—exist here. They’ve just been reformatted, re-imagined. “Terracotta Spine” is the post-party k-hole, a spiral of looped drumming, tape scratches and refracting vocals that feel like a public service announcement delivered to a dying mind. The plucked and trembling chords of “You Show Great Spirit” feel fragile afterwards, the skittering train-track beat and the sounds of broken glass shiver together in the cold light of concrete artificiality.
The surface elements of Prurient have changed a lot from his earlier work, though the dirty film coating it has more or less remained. What hasn’t changed is the truth inherent in his sounds. It’s a vicious and terrible truth, certainly, but terrible truths are far more enlightening than pleasant ones.
December in music, or any kind of culture journalism for that matter, seems to be a month of lists and thein endless regurgitations. I sometimes wonder how come that in spite of the fact that there is in increasing amount of music out there—to the point of sonic gluttony—journalists and fans tend to replicate some sort of media directives with a handful of names and albums on rotation. Are we living in an era of democratization and proliferation of music production or is it still the case of the old gatekeepers situated in the few centers who decide what gets heard and hyped and what doesn’t?
2012 was a year soaked in pre-apocalyptic anxious sonic darkness—not surprising since the end of the world has already happened by the time you read this. Since I’m a certified melancholiac, I’ve been almost naturally drawn to music from imprints like Blackest Ever Black, PAN, Mordant Music, Hospital Productions, etc and their guttural, quasi techno productions. Somehow it felt as if I found myself again on that dancefloor at the former nuclear bunker U.Club in Bratislava at a Downwards party in 1998. Actually, not at the event itself but on my way home on the first train still hearing echoes of bass and kick drums in my head. This time around, it is all coated in perspective of a second order observer coupled with the general messed up global situation and lack of any viable future alternatives filtered through a fog of desolation, orientalism and psychotropic hallucinations.
2012 was also a year of our East European explorations—as documented for instance in the Eastern Haze column. This autumn we set out to Bulgaria (check out our visual memories here), which turned out to be much more exotic than I had thought. Merging oriental influences with Orthodox religion and communism, this southern European country is a strange mixture of post-communist entropy and charming people and places. Sitting at the top of the Soviet monument in the seaside resort of Varna, with the husband and wife musician couple Жълти Стъклa, him strumming the guitar, her singing with her slightly hoarse voice, the breeze caressing our faces.
Which also brings me back to the first paragraph, so much good music we encounter never gets the attention it deserves. For instance the resurrected Polish label Mik Musik, and their vivacious string of releases, especially within their super secret editions, each of which hovers in some liminal sonic space where echoes of techno merge with experimental electronics and psychedelia. RSS Boys, Mangrove Mangrave, Pawel Pesel or Bangeliz are definitely worth keeping and eye and ear for.
Photo: Peter Gonda
Rome, October. I sit in the shadow of the Vatican, listening to Vatican Shadow. Those passing by either ignore me or stop to watch the pale kid dressed in black, sitting cross-legged and swaying to a rhythm they cannot hear. A woman screams at a man, her arm outstretched as he walks away quickly to the slow-churning Mythic Chord pulse of “Cairo is a Haunted City”. As the shadow fades and the ethereal chug of Andy Stott emerges, I become aware of something that I never thought possible: I have become a fan of techno.
As a post-goth, my formative tastes were shaped by a scene that, despite pretensions to open-mindedness, is extremely rigid in a lot of ways (as are most subcultures). Oftentimes in the goth scene, there’s a lot of nonsense where you designate yourself a certain kind of goth based on which kind of boots you wear or how much you like cats or elves or whatever. A goth picnic is a bit like a comic convention, only slightly less depressing. One thing is certain, however: if you’re a proper gothy-goth, you do not like techno.
There’s something of a good reason for that. Most of the EBM that gets pushed by clubs is essentially either Eurotrash hardstyle with bad goth poetry over the top, or some jock in black covered in fake blood, making interchangeably misogynistic songs about different swear words. Many goths refer to fast, repetitive electronic music of any kind under the blanket term ‘techno’, in the same why that Marilyn Mason and Bauhaus might be the same thing to the average person on the street. It’s foolish, of course, especially when you consider how many goth idols like Alien Sex Fiend, Psychic TV and Fad Gadget were never afraid to advance their sound through new dance mediums, but then nobody has ever accused the goth scene of sensible forward-thinking. By the time I bothered to learn what ‘proper’ techno was, I was in my late-twenties and past the point when hardcore raves could have drawn me in. To me, techno had always been boring, and I didn’t see that changing.
It’s because of labels like Hospital Productions that, in recent years, I’ve adjusted that view—up to a point. The trick was attaching the structure of techno to industrialized aesthetics and trusted names, which I admit is something of a cowardly way to approach a new genre—though who doesn’t love the comfort of the familiar? Names like Prurient, Whitehouse and Tropic of Cancer were already ingrained inside my musical soul as trustworthy; all keywords to open the doors to Vatican Shadow, Cut Hands and Silent Servant. Each new aspect brings with it an old one, while expanding the aural horizons to something even more menacing and trance-inducing. Before, I had only seen techno as a straightforward way for normal people to shift around without having to think, a succession of cold tracks that maintain the same level throughout the night. No peaks, no changes, no soul.
Now, however, I begin to see it as a tool for ritual. Tribal gatherings brought to the dancefloor, satisfyingly difficult yet still connecting to the feet on a primal level. Silent Servant’s Negative Fascination, with its minimalistic synths and infections dance patterns, was the easiest pill to swallow, which is perhaps why I found myself returning to the grim military-radio vibes Vatican Shadow’s Ornamented Walls more often. It was more of a challenge to find something to connect with, and I love to challenge my ears. Black Mamba combines the difficulty and danceability of both, provided you have a taste for tribal occultism. To my ears it’s the perfect blend of the experimental sounds I was weaned on and the nightlife bass that sustains my restless feet.
If techno is something that you, too, view in a rather dim light, perhaps the key isn’t to illuminate, but to darken further. Pick a release from any of the bands I’ve spoken of here. Listen to them, but don’t think the word ‘techno’. Think: industrial. ritual. magick. bleak. beautiful. night. Think majesty. Think of your God, or lack thereof. Just think, and you will find something in here to take away your expectations.
Read an edited version of this recommendation in the new issue of Electronic Beats Magazine—out today.
Photo: Dominick Fernow, from A Lie Must Tell A Single Story