Little Fictions – Territory Of Light (C30, Small Worm)

On November 23, a new Little Fictions tape called Territory Of Light was released as a C30 through Small Worm, James Shearman‘s wonderful imprint for “experiments, mishaps, rummaging, field recording, grievous chaotic din, rabble-rousing, wall noise, Styx ferryman whistling tunes, children’s rhymes in dead languages, animal mating calls, number station remixes and anything else”. James had asked me to contribute a while back to his label to become part of the inaugural batch. Finding the right form and shape for what ultimately became a new Little Fictions release was a lengthy process that went through many different shapes and forms before settling into what it currently is.

One of the hand-drawn J-cards for the Territory Of Light tape.

James’ explicit invitation to join the Small Worm ranks was an implicit invitation to myself to once more immerse myself in the experiments I had once undertaken under the WOW WAR TECHNO and Super Mario Bros. monikers. I have been active recordings for these on and off through the years, initially motivated by a desire to feel less confined by the boundaries of the sounds I had found myself somewhat entrenched in (Opaque was another such venture, started for much of the same reasons). This initially resulted in a flurry of digital and physical releases (the anniversary of my 100th release was celebrated in part by the physical release of 5 WOW WAR TECHNO releases on tape), though I eventually found myself once more chasing much the same types of sound and delving less into the types of sound rummaging that Small Worm encourages.

Territory Of Light, thus, was prefaced by finding form, again – which was an interesting exercise in and of itself, as it pushed me in directions newly unfamiliar and newly familiar. The process took me through a variety of forms and sounds, in which I revisited designs, themes and approaches which I had previously attempted and abandoned. As such, this then-unnamed project took on a host of possible names, shapes, identities: it was the ambient of Ambient 5: Music For Killing Fields; it was the decayed electronics of Sneeuwval; it was the fuzzy hiss of Korean Cosmetics. These unidentified forms were plagued by a restlessness; the wealth of possibility the project offered became almost intimidating, allowing for such infinite possibility that I had trouble establishing what exactly I wanted it to be.

Visiting Seoul.

In this process of uncovering and recovering, I unearthed another project that I had once worked on but which had never taken on any definite form. In 2018, I visited Seoul with my girlfriend and my sister. It was July and the heat was incredible; pavements shimmered, dry air hung still in palace gardens, the smoke curling from grilled meats disappeared into the ambient heat of sweltering nights unnoticed. The week was like a fever dream, our trek through a relentlessly warm Namdaemun market on the first day setting the tone for the days to come, driving us to escape into airconditioned spaces when possible, the differences in temperature sometimes like being plunged into an ice bath. It was an unforgettable, amazing experience, the memories of which I cherish I perhaps more than those of any other journey I’ve been on.

It was this constant shock of temperature changes that gave my girlfriend a throat infection, after which she ended up with an actual fever that kept her in bed for our second-to-last day in the city. My sister and I took the opportunity to find refuge in the vast, spacious building of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. I recorded our journey through the building as we weaved in and out of halls and rooms, capturing the stray sounds of exhibitions, announcements and visitors that echoed around us. The recordings I intended to issue on tape through Void Worship. I had edited down the recordings, designed the art – done the work, pretty much – but soon found myself actively immersed in other projects, as a result of which the idea of the tape disappeared into the background. Only when James suggested a Small Worm contribution, it sprang back into life.

The Small Worm tape, however, as it finally took shape, did not develop into what it was from the field recordings. Instead, it was a field recording I made from the other side of the world, from the comfort of my own home, where, as I sat reading one day, a faraway storm rumbled its way towards me, rain slowly beginning to drip-drop onto the grass and balconies around me. I quickly took to recording this storm, which ultimately remained gentle – the rumbles of thunder stayed far-off, the rain fell slowly and languidly. The tail end of these showers, with some manipulation, became the third track of the A-side of the tape, Submerged. The first two tracks were designed to share the sonic character of the third track somewhat, though the process for them was different – I recorded two walls and then recorded them – field recording style, I am sitting in a room style – while moving through the space in which I played them. Together, they came to form this trilogy, of sounds summoned, sacred and submerged. In some respect, the A-side became a callback to the two Little Fictions releases I did before this one: Love & Girls was also a room recording of a previously recorded wall, River Spirit a manipulated recording I made of a rain storm.

Love & Girls, River Spirit and Yuko Tsushima’s Territory Of Light.

The choice to feature the field recordings I had previously made in Seoul then seemed natural. It functioned both as a complement and as counterbalance. Side A was a field-recorded approach to hiss and crackle, ambient, captured in the presence of spring rain; side B the field-recorded document of sweltering heat and refuge taken thereof, the hiss of spacious, empty hallways. There were, for me, clear ways in which there were significant similarities in approach, setting and sound as well as valuable contrasts. All that was missing, finally, was the overarching theme – the way in which it was to be expressed. Territory Of Light, in retrospect, seemed to be the only possible title. It has a wealth of references encapsulated in it – to the ambient spaces in which the recordings were made; the light bursting forth from clouds amidst spring rain; those lights covering the mountains and streets and buildings of Seoul at the various times of day and night; the making of a territory, both in the physical realm – by defining it – and the sonic realm – by capturing it. It also is a reference to the novel of the same name by Yuko Tsushima, which conveyed a familiar sort of feverish light that illuminated all its pages and words – fragile, unreal, yet corporeal.

Territory Of Light was released in an edition of 10 copies. While these are now sold out, you can freely stream the tracks on the Small Worm Bandcamp.

Absent Erratum interview and new Opaque: Moncler Hudson

I was recently interviewed by Michael Tau about Absent Erratum for Anomaly Index. Anomaly Index is a great website which frequently posts interviews with people involved in fringe experimental projects (or some of their releases), among which, for instance, The Rita, Atrax Morgue and Fukte. You can read the full interview here.

And out now: Opaque – Moncler Hudson, a new digital release comprised of a single 15-minute track focused on the magnificent Moncler Hudson coat. An absolutely amazing FW 19/20 down jacket that is available in four colours – white, grey, beige and black – of which the black is easily the most magnificent (although the beige is also fantastic). The images, in that respect, may speak volumes. Hyper-focused crunch obsession.

You can listen to Moncler Hudson here.

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.

Absent Erratum: Atlantis Princess – Live At Aquaria Towers (Wild Lights, Volume 1)

Atlantic Princess 🌊 Live At Aquaria Towers (Wild Lights, Volume 1) is the 42nd release on Absent Erratum. This submission features one track at a total of 17 minutes and 41 seconds. It was released on November 4th, 2020.

Bubbled under, the weight of all the water resting on her shoulders, Absent Erratum traverses the vacated hallways of these submerged towers; she is oceanic, vaporous, pelagic, aquatic, her feet and hands webbed – she lightly finds her way through coral reefs and seagrass meadows, brushes off lovingly clinging algae and descends, descends, into the pressure of the darker depths, from where a sublime hum emanates: the abyss, now alive, has awoken.

You can listen to Live At Aquaria Towers here.

Panic & Ariana Grande

Pop music and popular culture have long proven fruitful sources of inspiration for harsh noise and harsh noise wall. James Killick’s Love Katy project can probably be considered the pioneering voice in the particular niche of pop music-inspired HNW, and plenty of others have followed suit, such as Killick with his own Carrie, as well as projects inspired by the likes of Garth Brooks and Jane Birkin, on top of a slew of other projects centred around popular culture figures (Chloë, Skönhet, to name two) – which doesn’t even scratch the surface of the many, many individual releases dedicated to some pop star or another. I made some modest contributions to this particular niche under the Panic moniker; 2011’s Hunter C30 did so in name only (it was named after the Björk song and used her image in the artwork – hidden amidst washed-out Xerox textures, though), 2013’s Jewel C30 incorporated samples from the Ayumi Hamasaki song of the same title (and visually was also a truer pop-themed HNW tape), 2014’s BESTie series was the first conscious attempt at pop song length walls (at 12 C10 tapes in all), and the culmination of all this was, evidently, the series of tapes themed around Ariana Grande songs.

One Last Time was the first in the series, announced as follows:

My latest release (and the first in a new series) is dedicated to my #1 pop idol, Ariana Grande, and takes the form of what is essentially a split single, with Ariana’s outstanding track ‘One Last Time’ on side A and my HNW reworking of that same track on side B. Playing them back to back will once more remind you of how wonderfully complementary pop idol fandom and HNW fanaticism are. The inserts and tapes are royally sprayed with the singer’s favourite perfume to ensure complete immersion into Ariana fandom. Full-colour insert on heavy card stock featuring a still from the equally outstanding MV (be sure to check it out) and transparent-golden C7 cassettes. Edition of 4.

All the tenets that would become central to the concept of the would-be series were clear: taking a single song as its theme (and a single at that, no album tracks), it featured the original on the A-side and its HNW counterpart – at the exact same length – on the B-side. The cover featured a single, distinctive screencap from the music video. The insert and tape were sprayed heavily with, initially, Ariana Grande’s favourite perfume, Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb (this was prior to the release of Ariane’s first own perfume; later tapes in the series were sprayed with Ari). I had not conceived of it as a series from the start and had thought One Last Time would be a one-off.

In January of 2016, what had been a one-off initially then became a series with the release of six more tapes, each equally featuring a single Ariana song on the A-side and a wall on the B-side. There were four tapes which featured solo walls: Baby I, Break Free, Focus and Bang Bang. On two other tapes, I collaborated with fellow pop aficionados James Killick (for Right There) and Mitchell Rotunno (for Love Me Harder). Whereas One Last Time had been released in a particularly scant edition size of 4 and had been issued on a transparent tape with golden inner liner, this second batch was released in a slightly more generous (but still small, yet generally genre-appropriate) edition size of 8; the tapes colours were coordinated to the colours of the screencap and overall insert design: Break Free on silver, Baby I on yellow, Focus on aqua, Bang Bang on pink, Right There on transparent ruby red, and Love Me Harder on transparent midnight blue.

The second batch of six Ari tapes was comprised of the then-final entries in the series, and, contrary to another series that had once seemed to have finished but has recently been expanded upon (Down Sluts), I don’t expect this series to be revived. The Ari era up until My Everything I hold in particularly special regard, and while Focus was a very decent single still (even if it could not stack up against earlier bangers), my interest waned with the release of Dangerous Woman, whose titular single I have always found an abomination (though the acapalla video is absolute eye candy); the album itself has also not managed to excite me much. Although there have been some decent things since certainly (Sweetener and thank u, next are decent efforts; her featuring on Nicki Minaj’s Bed elevates the song to something brilliant; 7 Rings was the source for a magnificent dembow flip), the absolute reign of this pop queen, to me, is over. This wall series may stand as a testament to the pop brilliance of Yours Truly and My Everything.

A small final note on the J-cards for these tapes: each featured the title of the album the single was culled from on the reverse underneath Ari’s signature. When Focus was released, it was a stand-alone single; at the time, the rumored follow-up album to My Everything was tentatively titled Moonlight. As such, the J-card for Focus makes mention of Moonlight; in fact, of course, the following album was ultimately called Dangerous Woman. Focus has, in fact, stayed a stand-alone single in Ari’s discography. It is, in the end, an odd duckling that perhaps signified an important transition in Ari’s career. Whichever way, it definitely marked the end of an era.

Opaque – Delirium (Down Sluts Vol. IV) C30

Thomas Puopolo’s excellent Summer Interlude Records today released a new Opaque tape, a C30 entitled Delirium: Down Sluts Vol. IV. The Down Sluts series began as a trilogy of releases: the brief Intimacy (released digitally through James Killick’s Maniacal Laugh – just after another Opaque release on that same label, Moncler Hermine), Sensuality and Ecstasy (the latter two both self-released tapes, a C60 and a C25 respectively). With the first two volumes released in 2015 and the third in early 2016, the series remained, conclusively, a trilogy for years. I had never even thought to expand the series into a tetralogy until Thomas got in touch. I personally felt the release could go in either of two ways thematically, so I consulted Thomas to find out what he thought, and the result is evident: the Down Sluts series now has a fourth entry.

The existence of a fourth entry (as well as the first three) owes, of course, some credit to the main inspiration: without the fetish work of Julie Skyhigh, there would be little in the way of material to inspire a Down Sluts series at all. While some down fetish porn is scattered throughout the web, most of it is kindly amateurish material with models in oversized, unflattering old-school Moncler jackets or Nuptses – nothing I find particularly thrilling. Julie Skyhigh, by contrast, has shown to understand a certain niche of down jacket enthusiasts a lot better: she presents something decidedly more hardcore, all the while adorned in far superior jackets such as the absolutely wonderful Moncler Alpin or a tight, shiny Pyrenex bomber. As such, she graced the cover of Intimacy, dressed in a Moncler Alpin, and was also featured on the covers of both Sensuality and Ecstasy – in both cases in the aforementioned red Pyrenex bomber, along with Gina Gerson, dressed in Julie’s classic black Moncler Alpin for the occassion.

Delirium features several screenshots from a more recent Julie production, in which she and co-star Lucy Cat are both dressed in magnificent Moncler jackets. It’s a shining example of what down jacket fetish porn might aspire to and provided the proper inspiration to continue the Down Sluts series, with a title that, I personally find, visually and sonically achieves what the first three volumes achieved too.

Delirium was released in an edition of 25 copies and can be purchased from Summer Interlude Records here.

Opaque – Ienki Ienki Michlin Supreme Rose

Just out: a new digital Opaque release, Ienki Ienki Michlin Supreme Rose. This release may be considered a teaser of sorts to a tape that’s coming up soon on Fall Into Void Records. Ienki Ienki, the brand, has so far been unexplored territory for Opaque, since the project’s focus has primarily been on Moncler, of course. Other brands and jackets have definitely served as inspiration, however, such as – recently – the Duvetica Diadema jacket, Miu Miu’s cropped two-tone quilted hooded down jacket and the Mackage Emerie lightweight down puffer in cobalt. Before that, excellent brands (and excellent jackets by these brands) such as Pyrenex, Nickelson and Millet had already been spotlighted.

Ienki Ienki is a luxury brand whose signature Michlin jacket is absolutely fantastic. Utterly puffy and available in a range of colours, as well as various matte and glossy styles, it’s an excellent display of pure devotion to a brilliant design. For this release, the Supreme Rose – a foil variant, so extra glossy – served as the inspiration. Ienki Ienki Michlin Supreme Rose consists of two tracks, each 13:43 in length, and can be listened to in full here.

From the archives: Malheurr – Purge Fluids (Causerie Sur Le Temps) C20

One of the main attractions in sound creation, perhaps especially in experimental music and, for me personally, especially especially in HNW, is how much it is a narrative medium, in a practically writerly fashion. Voices can be employed at will, either by adjustments in sound design, thematic approach, visual identity or any combination of these. As such, sound creation enables one to, much like in (fiction) writing, construct characters, fictions, narratives to embed the created sound in a singularly immersive, sustained experience. While such approaches are part and parcel of music in many genres and styles, they are often barely or not at all removed from the artist proper: his/her/their voice is always the one relaying the character or story, as within most traditional genres the removal of the artist from the music is not in any particular (commercial) interest. Such concerns exist less or not at all in more fringe genres and styles.

The J-card for Soft Fires.

Soft Fires was an exercise in the employment of several distinct narrative voices within a single release. Of course, my writing on it in part – if not entirely – untangles its mystery, demystifies it, which runs counter to what was at least its (or my) intention upon conception and creation. However, I find it is quite illustrative of the point I wish to make and, as such, will delve into it to some more depth. I released Soft Fires in 2014 on home-dubbed C60 tape as a faux-compilation featuring a slew of artists operating in a variety of genres: crystalline ambient and beats, lo-fi black metal, MIDI free jazz, drone, PE, harsh noise, witch house and synth pop. The tape was released through the fictional Super Pink label as, supposedly, a compilation featuring artists who had performed at an equally fictional festival, Super Pink Fest, some months prior to the tape release. The artists featured, among others, included Mothers, the bedroom synth pop project of 19-year-old Brit; Maria Cortez’ industrial drone project Inverse Reflection; and Kjell Bråten Berg, a Norwegian composer of chiptune jazz. Of course, what all these artists really were was a personal challenge to myself to employ numerous voices in equally numerous genres.

Another project featured on the Soft Fires tape was Malheurr, given in the liner notes as the project of ‘Dominic et Luc’. Also evidenced by the title to their track, L’essaim Interminable (The Endless Swarm), it was clear their project was conceived as French(-language) two-man band. In fact, I had conceived of their name even earlier, in 2012, in an exchange of fictional cover art, where I presented the at-that-point entirely fictional Malheurr and their album Malheurreuse, supposedly “depressed shoegaze metal from France”. For Soft Fires, then, I gave shape to Malheurr properly and recorded a gritty, lo-fi black metal track, which was then wedged in between the opening sample (from Ti West’s Sacrament) and Kjell Bråten Berg’s beepy, manic bursts of chip-jazz.

Outside of White Church, a witch house project that had another track featured on a one-off, one-copy compilation of personal works I made for Alexander Adams entitled Drifting Flowers, none of the projects featured on Soft Fires ever made another appearance. Malheurr, however, was to be revived, although it would no more be black metal. In 2017, I released Purge Fluids (Causerie Sur Les Temps) on Void Worship with the following blurb to describe its sound:

Current explorations in HNW – especially those explorations that investigate the very fringes – have served both to show the broad scope of the genre as well as to define its boundaries more clearly. While on the one end of the spectrum there is a steady stream of ever harsher walls that leave no space to breathe, the other end of the spectrum has seen artists employing quiet and sparseness instead; especially in ambient noise wall and crackle studies, the individual bursts of sounds (pops, crackles) that make up the wall – and by extension, the spaces between them – have grown ever more important and distinct. The broad range of sound within the wall genre (from sparse crackles to harsh blasting) exemplifies – in a fascinating way all of its own – the interesting interplay of tone and tempo. Purge Fluids is French duo Malheurr’s modest contribution to this active musical (noisy) dialogue and juxtaposes HNW with black metal rife with blast beats.

The J-card for Purge Fluids.

Indeed, Purge Fluids presented something of a blend of black metal with HNW. Although the sound was decidedly HNW, with a jittery, grinding crackle dominating the sound, buried in the mix there were distinct blast beats and even some guitar shredding to be discerned, though I think they were incorporated into the sound subtly and successfully enough to keep the wall a wall while at the same time managing to lend it a black metal vibe. The black metal nature of the recordings was, of course, further emphasized by its artwork, which – while keeping to the Void Worship template, breathed a distinctly (black) metal vibe. The blurb was accompanied by a quote from band member Dominic:

Luc [fellow band member] plays a lot of HNW before our recording sessions. This time he plays a really nasty, grimy tape. We sit with our beer nodding our heads to the wall and I give Luc a look. ‘Putain, this is like a fucking blast beat!’, I scream at him, and in that moment we know what we must do. We record two filthy blasting bm tracks and then we play them in our room while putting our hnw on top. The room fills with PURE FUCKING BLAST. We don’t know if it’s wall or drums but what we know is it’s bliss.

Dominic’s voice, of course, was entirely mine and encapsulated some thoughts and ideas I’d had concerning HNW and the way it does or might interact – or, perhaps, rather overlap – with other genres. I discussed such ideas at various points with other artists, most notably Damien De Coene, who equally had observed that any genre pushed to its musical extreme might resemble or be entirely similar to HNW. The lo-fi, gritty black metal that was the inspiration (and even a sound source, of course) for Malheurr is one example; splittercore and extratone are other examples of a genre pushed to an extreme where it may become a wall in and of itself. (Equally, of course, HNW’s derivations, especially those into areas of ANW and beyond, have served to demonstrate its closeness to lowercase music, for instance.) One anonymous contribution to my Absent Erratum label, Nike Air Max Nostalgia, is a wonderful demonstration of how (ar)rhythmic oscillations, gabber beats, basses and stutters can be used to create something akin to HNW (although purists may beg to differ with its classification).

A close-up picture of the Purge Fluids tape release.

The full Soft Fires compilation is currently not uploaded anywhere online; however, I’ve uploaded a few tracks to YouTube, each also adorned with supposed individual cover art.

War Story

War Story is a series of tapes issued through the eponymous label, each tape – with the exception of the Atlantikwall set – featuring two sides of walls recorded directly onto tape and issued, as such, in an edition of 1. The tapes were issued under the Paniek moniker, a variation of Panic (here rendered in Dutch), which was my first exclusively HNW venture.

The idea for the series originated in a recording that was inspired by Concrete Threat’s Young Blood and a newspaper article from which the art that was to be used for the first War Story tape, Brethren, was clipped. This recording, entitled Brethren I (Side A), was made available on Soundcloud and would eventually be followed by a second track, Brethren I (Side B) (both tracks were ultimately uploaded to Bandcamp here). At this point, of course, the series’ initial entry may have the semblance of being on tape, but it was only a digital venture.

The series made its tape debute, finally, in August 2011, with the release of Brethren, which shared its name and artwork with the digital version available on Soundcloud, but which featured all new recordings, laid down directly on tape. A further three tapes were recorded and issued that year: Normandy (#2), We Threw Our Mortars (#3) and M4 Sherman (#4). All tapes were distributed through the then-current incarnation of the HNW board, though I can’t remember who received which tape (or who even received them). All first four tapes were, if I recall correctly, recorded onto recycled tapes and thus varied in length (I haven’t kept record of their durations and back-ups of the tracks do not exist).

The series lay dormant for several years, until I was inspired to record again in 2015. Two tapes were recorded that year: The Ruins Of Itri Square (#5) and Amidst This Rain Of Shells (#6). The release of these tapes was announced through Facebook, where I wrote the following about the creation processes behind them:

The recording process for these was slightly different. I initially recorded two walls, then dubbed these to a tape master and then recorded them back and forth between the master tape and a second generation master tape, gradually degrading the walls. When I deemed them sufficiently degraded I dubbed them to the final (released) tape. The first and second generation masters were then erased and the original recordings deleted.

Back-ups of these tracks, as such, neither exist. The tapes used for The Ruins Of Itri Square and Amidst This Rain Of Shells were not so much recycled: they were left-over shells from an order of tapes I had received a while before. One of the two – the C4 used for The Ruins Of Itri Square – had been wrongly loaded (and was supposed to have been a C60 – these were used for the Clock Tower tape on Void Worship). The C22 for Amidst This Rain Of Shells, meanwhile, was a left-over tape for the run of Wulfy Benzo’s Dogglefox tape, also on Void Worship (and was probably actually a C23, though the info I can find on it now seems contradictory).

The currently final entry into the War Story series was issued in 2016. The creation process differed again. For Atlantikwall, the tracks were pre-recorded, then dubbed onto tape. Contrary to the previous releases, since the tracks were pre-recorded, they could be backed up, and I chose to do so in this particular instance (clearly, I found it hard to say goodbye to). All in all, Atlantikwall contained six hours of material, spread over four C90 tapes in a large white 4-way presentation case. The eight tracks featured on it each came in at 45 minutes sharp. I’ve occasionally distributed the files to people requestion them specifically, but recently uploaded it to Bandcamp instead, where it can now be streamed. You can find it here.

Opaque – Duvetica Diadema Princess

This year I participated in the Staticism tape swap, along with other such excellent artists as Cannibal Ritual, Bruising Pattern, She Walks Crooked and more. My entry was for October. The result was Duvetica Diadema Princess: a two-tape set housed in a double library case. The cassettes themselves are a marble lilac, with the four respective sides – Duvetica, Diadema, Princess and 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰 – each coming in at 15 minutes sharp.

Duvetica Diadema Princess is a tribute to Duvetica’s 2019 Diadema jacket, a down jacket that comes in 6 colours: black, white, pink, lime yuzu, light grey and dark blue, although their availability has differed regionally (incidentally, for 2020 a plum version seems to have been added, which has the Duvetica patch on the left arm rather than on the chest; additional note added 20/10/2020: the fabric in the 2020 black version seems slightly more matte, as far as I can judge from the pictures on various webshops, such as here, which would mean that the 2019 version is clearly superior! Also, the yellow is now sunbeam yellow and tends more towards orange than the lime yuzu, which leaned more towards green). The three variants I find the most amazing, the black, pink and lime yuzu, are in my collection. They are without doubt some of the finest down jackets ever designed, finally putting Duvetica – whose previous collections I found generally unremarkable – up there with the likes of Moncler. Interestingly, of course, Duvetica was founded by two former Moncler employees, Giampiero Vagliano and Stefano Rovoletto, who initially launched the brand exclusively for the Japanese market before they expanded to the rest of the world. Still, the brand’s ubiquituous presence in South-East Asia surpasses its general popularity elsewhere, as evidenced by its recent popularity in South-Korea, with its jackets gracing the shoulders of numerous social media-ites and those of actors and actresses in TV shows and at public events.

Four tributes to the Diadema jacket were released prior to this double tape, each consisting of two tracks of 8 minutes each and dedicated respectively to the black version (Duvetica Diadema), the lime yuzu (Duvetica Diadema (Colour Variation 1: ▢)), the pink (Duvetica Diadema (Colour Variation 2: ▢)) and the white (Duvetica Diadema (Colour Variation 3: ▢)). These were only released digitally for now, but will likely see physical versions in the near-future.

Duvetica Diadema Princess was released in an edition of 12, one each for the participants in the 2020 Staticism tape swap. Each tape was accompanied by a Moncler Opaque patch and shipped in a matte pink/purple bubble envelope to the participants. A thirteenth copy of this tape, in a special edition, was sent to a close contact. The 〰〰〰〰〰〰〰〰 used both in the artwork and for the track title of the closing track, incidentally, is a small tribute to one of the most excellent down jacket accounts on Instagram, @jacketpablo. It was the direct or indirect source for several images used across the different Diadema releases.

Duvetica Diadema Princess is not available online as of yet, but may be in the future. Of course, most other Opaque releases (including the other Diadema releases) can be streamed or purchased on the Bandcamp here.