From the archives: Wolves – King Fragile (C10)

Many a noise artist is no stranger to an absolute preponderance of aliases, name variations and obscurely secret projects; they reflect subtle or larger style differences between them, entirely different thematic or musical approaches (and an obsessive engagement with them), collaborative or collective efforts, or, sometimes, mere whimsy. The use of numerous aliases can be an act in its totality: the sheer web of intricate untraceability that is so woven creates the impression of an enormous beast that is hard to ever take in fully, whose infinite limbs shoot off outside your peripheral vision, whose body is contorted and constantly contorting, whose presence is multidimensional, rock solid and fleeting, volatile at the same time. Parallels can be drawn to the strength in numbers that some apply to releases; I can recall Phil Blankenship of The Cherry Point remarking something along the lines about a flurry of The Cherry Point releases that were not only, or especially not, individual works, but whose totality constituted a work in itself. In the digital sphere, of course, such an approach has become remarkably easier (and therefore much less remarkable), and a large body of work by itself may no longer constitute such a transgressive act, though the argument that a mass of works supersedes the value of the individual works may still stand (I think the controversial Nosferatu 1922, despite its hundreds of releases, can pretty much be considered to be a single work).

I’ve also previously touched on the possibilities of HNW as a narrative genre. This can be considered an added dimension to the wealth of considerations that can be behind excessive alias usage. Using a different alias affords more ease in adopting a different voice, the establishment of a narrative or universe which is unaffected by an artist’s other efforts, unencumbered by prior themes, techniques and aesthetics. While some artists will feel perfectly content unifying extremely disparate sounds and approaches in a single oeuvre, many prefer curating a whole host of micro-oeuvres. Even if the functionalities of a database such as Discogs make it a lot easier to go down the rabbit hole and gather much sooner a total view of a particular artist’s micro-oeuvres, which arguably somewhat runs counter to the efforts of excessive alias curation on part of the artist, even it does not by default present an artist’s entire output in a single overview. The illusion, therefore, remains somewhat intact.

In the nearly 20 years I have spent in harsh noise and related genres and styles, I have also adopted numerous aliases, some more enduring (Opaque has been running for a decade) and some larger in scope (Panic has drawn inspiration from horror movies, war, pop stars, video games, and so on), but many much more restricted and confined to their own, singular (thematic/sonic/aesthetic) and, typically, small space (and even if Opaque has proven particularly fertile ground, its focus is extremely narrow). One such project is Wolves. Its genesis, in fact, was not an isolated occurrence: it came into existence in conjunction with Void Worship and served as the first release on this label. Up until then I had been running Hoarse, a mostly 3″ CDr label (the occasional regular CDr and tape were also issued) that had no particular focus or vision – or, at least, so I had come to experience it myself. In fact, its focus was probably typical of the type of noise labels and artists that existed in the 00s and that connected, often, through the internet. I found inspiration in labels such Roil Noise and Obscurica and close contacts in people such as Kyle and Carey (Cantankerous Records), Evan (Dirgehead Distribution Company), Joe (Cracked Bat Tapes) and Jelle (Muzikaal Kabaal). The main unifying vision driving all these people and their labels was nothing more than an intense enthusiasm for abrasive sounds. Hoarse functioned in much the same way and thus issued harsh noise, ambient, HNW, drone, noisy free jazz, and more. And while the enthusiasm was real, and while I can look back at the label and its output with fondness, its all-over-the-placeness became a nuisance for me eventually.

The J-cards for the two Plague tapes: Panic’s The Grudge (on a red C40) and Female Harakiri’s Dread (on a red C20). One may note the stylistic similarity to the artwork for Panic’s The Ring, which was ultimately issued on CDr through Mark Ward’s Bored Bear Recordings. It, too, was originally intended as a Plague tape (a C70).

I briefly ran Plague, for which I released two tapes (Panic – The Grudge and Female Harakiri – Dread), a digital release (Panic – Super Metrhnw; a physical copy of the related METRHNW I ultimately self-released as Panic a few years later), and, in 2014, a 3″ CDr (Clive Henry – The Police Station) in a Resident Evil-themed series that I had initially run as a subseries of Hoarse, but that I then transferred wholesale to Plague, adopting its (Xeroxy) aesthetic for it, too (but that was discontinued immediately, then). One may note that the Plague Bandcamp is incomplete and that it lists two Resident Evil series releases that were officially issued through Hoarse. Not entirely content with what I felt were the restrictions I had imposed upon myself with Plague, I ended its operations as quickly as I had started them. In the same exchange of fictional cover art mentioned in the Purge Fluids post referred to above, I had created fictional art for an album entitled or artist called (the artwork was purposely ambiguous) Void Worship. This name stuck with me, and when I realised its fortunate potential for having a first release with catalogue number VO1D, I was determined to make it a reality.

The three paintings considered for King Fragile. From left to right: Caravaggio’s The Entombment Of Christ, Lucas van Leyden’s The Dance Of The Magdalene and Van Leyden’s Esther Before Ahasuerus.

At the time, I did a lot of collaboration and trading with Dennis (TRAITORS, Sendot Sklin, etc.), who I had initially met when I had purchased some Gerogerigege vinyls and CDs from him. It turned out then that he lived from the next (small) town over from my own, and we struck up a productive friendship (along with Jelle, we formed High Five And The Nikkei Six and regularly met to record, variously, harsh noise, noisecore, noiserock and free improv). One time we met Dennis was dubbing tapes for a new TRAITORS release and pointed at a pile of ten C10s he had received in an order but didn’t know what to do with and instead offered them to me. These C10s were the ones that I used as the King Fragile tapes. I barely recall anything about the actual recording process for the two walls on this tape, though I remember clearly how I had settled upon the visual idea for the artwork before the name and title came about; I had briefly considered using coloured artwork (I made concepts using Caravaggio’s The Entombment Of Christ), but then finally settled on a black and white engraving, for which Lucas van Leyden’s The Dance Of The Magdalene was the first candidate, to finally become that same artists’s Esther Before Ahasuerus. With the visual identity established and the walls recorded, the name and title then quickly followed; there was never any doubt in my mind that the name should be Wolves and that the title should be King Fragile. I printed the covers myself with a laser printer, dubbed the tapes at home, and so established, with the issue of VO1D, Void Worship.

The J-card for King Fragile.

Wolves would remain dormant for years; although it was occasionally part of conceptual brainstorming (for which I considered a C30 entitled Bleak Princess / Queen Fatigue, the physical release of which briefly seemed to become a reality courtesy of Tera-AntiQu), nothing physical would ever transpire again apart from an excerpt from the A-side of the King Fragile that was mixed into Drifting Flowers, a one-off compilation that was previously mentioned in the post on Purge Fluids. The final sign of life of Wolves was a contribution – FUCK LORD – to the 2000 Member HNW Group Compilation, the second in a series of digital compilations to celebrate 1000-member milestones on the dedicated HNW group on Facebook (the same compilation also features an Opaque track). Curiously, the track here is listed at a length of 14:48 (with two or so minutes of silence at the end), while my submission was 12:10 – where the ghost silence has come from I do not know. Outside of that one contribution, Wolves has remained in a universe of its own, the universe of King Fragile, the universe of an unmarked, white C10 with a cheap laser printed J-card, the universe of generic, anonymous 2011 HNW – the universe I wanted Wolves to inhabit. Void Worship, of course, has grown and grown since – VO2D followed, then VO3D, and so on – until, most recently, V20D, which was a tape reissue of an obscure (and excellent) early Female Harakiri CDr, Empty-handed I entered the world, barefoot I leave it.

You can listen to King Fragile here.

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