Kostis Kilymis’s Organised Music from Thessaloniki label had a good 2014. The first six months saw impressive releases from Seth Cooke, who in Sightseer reimagined the airy spaces of modern leisure as sites of foreboding and terror, and Grisha Shakhnes, whose Distance and Decay burrowed through time and space to create dense, grubby tape collages of awesome power.
Towards the end of the year, another brace of releases included a beautifully rendered document of VV AA LR’s work with distress flares at the 2014 Newhaven festival and this gleefully pissed off set from US noise artist Nick Hoffman, which could well be the best of the lot.
With Necropolis, Hoffman serves up five chunks of surly machine intransigence, where blasts of static rub up against splintered electrical noise. Grunts and wheezes of dismembered electronics are steamrollered by flaming, gassy belches and then wrapped in tape data eruptions.
It’s an airless, claustrophobic world, with little room for human emotion or interaction. Instead, we get abstracted, disembodied sound, unintelligible dispatches from the data cloud. Often, as on the sinister flutters of Eros, there’s a strangely propulsive effect to the tracks, which gives the pieces the tangible feel of industrial activity.
In Eros, those flutters are quickly superseded by wave of hissing noise, as if some vast sheet of metal is being cut into pieces by a giant welding torch, itself, and then replaced by an ongoing rush of metallic hisses and hollow whooshes.
Human voices do actually appear towards the end of Dem Fuss En Hacken, following a succession of smooth and gassy drone, maximalist cloud of data chatters and fatty crackles. They sound like recordings of a clay pigeon shoot and here they feel curiously disembodied, as if they are pale copies of living breathing people, sepia-tinted echoes lost in the matrix.
By Love Triangle, the linearity of some of these earlier pieces starts to transform into something more nuanced, as the sonic artefacts start to overlap and bleed into each other, or rather locking together like gears in some pristine mechanical assemblage.
All of this comes together in the 18-minute The Scent of Ground Teeth, whose brooding, scuffed textures cast a dark shadow over the preceding tracks like a huge, rough-hewn monument to an ancient civilisation. Its initial section is a bubbling squall of noise, like some huge flock digital birds, almost overwhelming in its maximalist attack.
Yet this dense cacophony disappears after two minutes and for the next quarter of an hour we’re left with a shifting, pitted rumble, a locked-groove of static that seems designed to drive us loopy with its seemingly endless not-quite-repetition.
Rather monotony, listening to this invokes a fugue state, a meditative zone where time stops and the everyday world seems to fade away. It’s like those long car journeys when you were a kid, sitting in the back seat staring out at the vehicles and countryside streaming past. Fun on the autobahn.
There’s progression too, of course, as the rumbles are slowly subsumed in a hissing cloud of sound, so that by the end, all we hear is an amplified rustling like thousands of plastic bags scrunching simultaneously. It’s a wonderfully gnomic end to a strange and fascinating album.