Xtul: Petrichor (Beartown cassette); Motionless trails
BBBlood: Untitled (Beartown cassette); Moments (KIKS/GFR cassette)
Sometimes, after a busy day expediting corporate solutions and doing your best as a proud part as one of Britain’s many hardworking families, you need to wallow in the dust and the dirt. And these releases, from Yucatan in Mexico and north London, do just what’s required to sheer off the skin of respectability and reveal my true lizard hide.
Xtul, a duo of Enrique R. Palma and Javier Beci, describe themselves as “Yucatan’s noisiest experimental ritualists,” which is a cool phrase and, based on their Petrichor cassette, pretty darned accurate.
This is mangled, white noise fuzz, mesmeric but sinister too. Layers of machine rhythms smother disfigured growls, while close, humid drones seem to suck the air from your lungs. In Goldenrod, a weird mid-section of plinks and plunks is unsettling through its very mundanity, horror core sine drones amping up the tension.
This soon gives way to swooping synths halfway, which build up into a dissonant mulch of electronics and shortwave garble, a fried alien visitation in the middle of demilitarised zone.
In the epic Canon for Blood Stars, garbled voices seem to be trying to break through the walls of static. The noise here is almost tangible, like a gritty dust devil irritating your eyes and coating everything with its finely grained grime. The album’s five tracks swirl by in a cracked, enigmatic blizzard, haunted by dark shapes and indefinable figures stalking the edges of your vision. But clarity is hard to come by round here.
Petrichor’s final piece, Sullen Mirage, does exactly what it says on the tin, kicking off an ominous collage of reverse echo and electrical glitch. Bleak but lovely synth burbles lurch in on a bed of echoing crashes. Everything is smothered in a bed of downers.
Motionless Trails, a digital single released earlier last year and available as a pay-what-you-want download from Xtul’s Bandcamp, inhabits a similar though slightly more austere, realm. Windswept and itchy, it stands as impassive as a desert spur in the midst of a sandstorm. In contrast to Petrichor’s careful layering, noise comes in sudden bursts here, abrupt jump cuts evoking a kind of sonic montage.
Mexico to London is giant step geographically. However, sonically, tripping from Xtul to Archway’s very own BBBlood is but a nimble hop. The baron’s Untitled cassette is, like Petrichor, a Beartown production, with two pieces each weighing in at around the 15-minute mark.
Both exhibit a more furtive, gloomy aura than is usual for BBBlood, whose recordings tend to sound like an avalanche crossed with an earthquake in the middle of a supernova. Is this the birth of a new aesthetic for him? Or a pleasantly uncomfortable side road?
Hallucination Password is, overall, the quieter of the two, sitting in a glowering lowland full of broken glass and rusting junk. A wreck of a land. There’s a constant, low-level hum, which soon becomes oppressive, punctuated by all sorts of metallic scrapes and shrieks.
For a while, it sounds as if we’re following a shadow figure around a nightmare landscape, hearing its dragging footsteps and the rustle of its clothing. Is it a some kind of Beckettian tramp-hero shuffling around its rubbish-strewn kingdom, or someone more malevolent?
Its companion, Natrosol Rituals, has more dynamic range, with an opening passage of echoing clangs soon subsumed by a shrill blast of noise guaranteed to set anyone’s fangs on edge. A pause, and then a stop-start sequence of rubbly noise, soon opening up into a thrilling cascade of warty, debris-strewn cack. It cuts out all too soon, unfortunately, although the minimalist throb and ferric drone of the last half are even more interesting coming after this torrent of swill. Quiet then loud then quiet.
BBBlood’s Moments came out more or less the same time as Untitled, on KIKS/GFR, another label gambolling in the waterlogged pastures of crumpled sonic detritus. All decked out in the team livery of black and yellow, this C40 gives us a couple more foggy notions and migraine belters.
The title track, despite making me think of a smeared lens advert for some lovely chocolate nibbles, wheezes and puffs with a rusting malevolence, a mediaeval torture instrument extracting confessions from some poor village apothecary, the bones of previous incumbents clogging its rusty teeth and providing rattling accompaniment to the cyclic horror.
With They Never Show Up On Tuesdays, we’re back to the echoing desolation of Untitled, with all sorts of bashing about. This time around though, shit gets real with a cut’n’paste avalanche of unkempt violin swipes, musique concrete orchestral stabs and all manner of distorted electronic jizz, before coming to something of a droney symphonic head. Most pleasing.