The belated release of New York industrial ambient crew Black Rain's early '90s soundtrack work in 2011 sparked something in founder Stuart Argabright. It inspired a belated return to the studio and this surprise album, Black Rain's first for 18 years. Given how long they've been away, Dark Pool is a pleasingly accomplished set. Like their previous material, it wades in dark waters, joining the dots between droning electronic textures, skittish, IDM-inspired rhythms, horror chic, industrial noise and bleak electronica. It's hugely atmospheric, of course, but also strangely claustrophobic. It's a brilliant set, all told, but one that shouldn't be taken lightly.
If there's one thing that can be said of Blackest Ever Black, it's that the label continues to confounds expectations. Having just issued Dead Unique, a "lost classic of English art-rock" by Mick Hobbs under his Officer! guise, Blackest Ever Black now turn their attentions to Sweden and Bremen, a duo comprised of Scandinavian underground punk figures Lanchy Orre and Jonas Tiljander. Their BEB debut takes the form of Second Launch, an 11-track collection that further explores the instrumental blend of krautrock, drone, and progressive rock that made up Bremen's 2013 self-titled debut. Guitar and organ are the primary weapons wielded by Orre and Tiljander on Second Launch, subjected to all manner of reverb and feedback, with drums and synthesiser tones offering some rhythmic balance.
Blackest Ever Black's unwavering commitment to gracing 2014 with some of the most distinct sounds continues apace as their latest long player sees the return of William Bennett's Cut Hands project. Entitled Festival Of The Dead, this new album feels like the next logical progression in the Cut Hands sound, with the label describing it as "most potent distillation yet" of Bennett's "malign percussive energy". If you checked lead track "The Claw" which was made available to stream when BEB first announced the album, you will no doubt have an idea of what to expect but this relentless, bracing approach shown there is not the only card played by Bennett across the album. Indeed it's the moments where the sonics get twisted and chewed up (such as the suitably named "Parataxic Distortion") that prove most memorable.
Ambient explorers Dalhous - AKA producers Marc Dall and Alex Ander - have some intriguing influences; apparently this second full length for Blackest Ever Black was inspired by their fascination with the life and work of radical psychiatrist R.D Laing. Whether this is noticeable in the music is debatable, though there are plenty of varied moods, dreamy melodies, cascading electronics and glitchy rhythms to be found on Will To Be Back. Certainly, it's a thoroughly engaging and entertaining set, far lighter and more melodious in tone and texture than their 2013 debut. There are still droning passages of intense melancholy, of course, but these are countered by sun-bright melodies and beautiful, drawn-out sounds.
Along with Raime, Dalhous are one of the few constant acts on the ever shifting Blackest Ever Black. Originally debuting on the label as Young Hunting in 2011, the duo of Marc Dall and Alex Ander moved from a soundtrack-inspired sound to a more fractured, sample-based electronic palette when they re-emerged as Dalhous at the tail end of 2012. After delivering a fine and rather under-appreciated debut album last year, Dalhous now return with Visibility Is A Trap, and it's seemingly the solo concern of Dall now. Featuring four new originals written and produced by Dall that reflect his "continued interest in the language and imagery of self-help, R.D. Laing and the anti-psychiatry movement", this EP shows a further progression in the Dalhous sound. Karl O'Connor returns for one of his irregular BEB appearances with a Regis remix of "He Was Human And Belonged With Humans" from last year's aforementioned LP.
Luckily I Was Allowed To Get Dressed When I Left The House - (1:04) 159 BPM
I Am Made To Greet Each Guest With A Limp-wristed Handshake - (1:49)
Only Carla - (5:03) 132 BPM
She Is Pretty Strange, The Way She Dresses, That Punky Hair God Knows What She Gets Up To - (0:13) 148 BPM
Jack The Damned - (2:25) 157 BPM
Since I Am On A Strict 500 Calorie A Day Diet With Extensive Exercise & No Alcohol, I Have The Shape Of A Petite Little Woman, & My Wife Has Paid For Breast Implants & Facial Surgery To Make Me More Acceptable - (3:45) 65 BPM
Duck Shall Not Have The Audacity To Request Release Himself. Duck Shall Not Gripe Or Complain About The Duration Of His Confinement, The Length Of Which Will Be Solely Determined By Mistress - (1:01) 123 BPM
He Might Be Able To Earn A Meal Of Slop If He Does Dangerous Work (for Instance - Crash Test Dummy) THUNDERSKINS - (0:51) 144 BPM
To Compensate, While The Average Lifespan Of A Male Will Be About 70 Years, Medical Advancements Will Make The Average Lifespan Of A Woman To Be About 750 Years - (1:02) 75 BPM
When Thanksgiving Approaches, I'm Usually In My Third Week Without Release - (2:27) 123 BPM
My Breasts Were Pierced, So Red Ball Ornaments Were Placed Through Each Nipple Additionally, Each Ear Was Pierced, So A Red Ball Ornament Was Placed In Each Earring Hole My Nipples Were Protruding - (8:36) 152 BPM
Thunderskins London Dungeon - (1:11) 152 BPM
The Grad Student Turned Her Eyes Toward The Closet Where She Had Made Him Hide THUNDERSKINS - (5:33) 150 BPM
Drugs Alan, I Don't Believe It But Somebody Saw Her Shooting Up In The Restroom - (1:07) 123 BPM
Only Tease - (5:02) 110 BPM
Tennis Has Always Been My Life Since I Was A Small Boy In Mexico City My Father Was The Head Gardener At An Estate Owned By A Very Important Man & He Used To Take Me With Him So I Could Hit The Balls On The Court - (0:21) 152 BPM
Something has clearly stirred at Fernow Towers of late with this collection of material under the Exploring Jezebel name one of several album endeavours from the multifaceted US noise icon due within 2015's first quarter. Dominick Fernow completists will be fully aware of Exploring Jezebel, a project of S&M themed nocturnal transmissions issued on limited cassette format mostly through his own Hospital Productions. It's perhaps the one creative endeavour that shows off Fernow's black sense of humour best, as evidenced on the tracklisting for this Blackest Ever Black album. The label describe On A Business Trip To London as a "dramatic document of curious electronics" and that's certainly the case from what we have heard.
F Ingers is an Australian trio made up of Carla Dal Forno, Samuel Karmel, and Tarquin Manek - a new and exciting outfit dealing in stone-cold electronics. "Escape Into The Bushes" is an opener fit for an apocalypse thanks to its shivery waves of ambience and hymns, while "Mum's Caress After Trip" is sinister and foreboding in a wholly different way, and "Tantrum Time" fully enters the doom with its drugged-out vocals and broken melodic patterns. These are just three of the most chilling sculptures inside, but it's clear that F Ingers will be around again in no time and that BEB have found material fit for their catalogue.
Blackest Ever Black boss Kiran Sande recently described "Tragedy of the Commons", the 17-minute lead cut on Felix K's belated label debut, as "exemplary Berlin noir". In many ways, it's an apt description. A murky, claustrophobic collage of looped Tangerine Dream style synth lines, dystopian field recordings and fuzzy bass, it's a particularly atmospheric snapshot of Felix K's immersive, off-kilter aural world. "Silent Money" continues the otherworldly feel, delivering post trip-hop rhythms and thunderous sub-bass. Finally, "Onar Anxiety "delivers a thrillingly dark, paranoid and tribal remix of "Fundamentals", with voodoo drums helping propel the bleak techno groove towards the horizon.
Blackest Ever Black crank the releases gears back into action for 2014 with the first release of what promises to be another perennially intriguing calender year. Typically, their focus falls on a musician who might not be that familiar to the wider audience but has a discography that commands respect. Check the Blackest Ever Black website and you'll find a press release that paints Stefan Jaworzyn as "a notorious and energetic presence in the UK underground of the 1980s and '90s" who enjoyed stints in acts such as Whitehouse, Ascension and Skullflower, as well as overseeing the Shock Records label. Having withdrawn from music in 1996, Jaworzyn remained off the grid until earlier this year when the Shock Records label was reactivated and he set to work on sifting through his personal archives of recordings for the KINO reissue/compilation series. It was during this process that Jaworzyn chanced upon a set of "driving, faintly sociopathic and supremely zoned pieces" made at his Cardiff studio in 1982 using a Korg MS10 or 20 and a Dr Rhythm drum machine. Seven of these compositions now feature on Drained Of Connotation, which is perhaps the most BEB-appropriate title in some time!
Having already appeared on Blackest Ever Black with the Licht LP in 2013, guitar-drone three-piece Shampoo Boy make a stout return to the label with a new excursion into ranging layers of feedback and tone. Alongside the masterfully sculpted squalls of six-string noise on "Spalt", there's a strong current of electronic interference that pulsates throughout Crack, from subtle undercurrents of low-end throb to high-frequency static. Such sounds melt into the fabric of the band dynamic beautifully, creating a racket that is unsettling, and yet also quite uplifting. "Riss" takes a turn downwards into omninous caverns of bassy drone that shape out a very tangible space, while "Bruch I-III" evolves from eerie minimalism to sheer sonic terror over the course of twelve minutes.
The latest Blackest Ever Black release revisits "Tearing Down Heaven" by Six Six Seconds, a track that will be familiar to fans of the excellent 2012 Downwards compilation and a rare musical outburst from the band fronted by Claude Eden. With the arrival of "Tearing Down Heaven" in two slightly different versions on this 10" comes a bit more information about the origins of the track, with Eden laying down the recording in Berlin in 2012 with the assistance of DNS boss Karl O'Connor. For this new BEB edition, an extended version sits on the A-side, adding a further nine seconds whilst the reprise is a more drastic revision, embellishing the dronish qualities with breath-taking effect.
Carla dal Forno and Tarquin Manek together are Tarcar and they're here to sign off another winner of a year from the now cult-like Blackest Ever Black label. There isn't much that BEB haven't deserved a medal for, and they have yet again amazed us with their ludicrously on-point artistic repertoire! Mince Glace is a true thing of beauty, an album which doesn't give a damn about genre or style, but instead travels the treacherous paths between noise, drone, dub and pretty much any other genre of music! In our opinion, the nuttiest cit on here has to be "Emboldened" for it wavy jazz edge and far-out melodies, but be sure to also check out "Fireball" for a real spin down the wormhole. Lovely stuff from both label and artists. Don't miss it.
Aside from all the projects that he's been involved in the past - Bum Creek and Tarcar being among some of our favourites - Tarquin Manek has only released one tune on his own name, a track entitled "Not Missing You" that came out earlier this year on the mighty Blackest Ever Black. Manek is finally back on BEB with his own mini LP this time, and it's a splendid mixture of eerie electronics and Eastern influences. For instance, the opener "Sassafras Gessundheit" is a wonky twist of pseudo didgeridoos and unstable electronic patterns, and "Fortunes Past" is so molecular in its aesthetic that it sounds like organisms floating at the bottom of the ocean. "Perfect Scorn" is another favourite of ours, but what we most like about Manek's music is the little details dotted everywhere. Like intricate sculptures, his music is a journey into subtlety and elegance. Beautiful.
Another year, and it's another special compilation of Blackest Ever Black's work from the last 12 months. As always, this is jam-packed with a ridiculous amount of quality music, but also presented as an impressively wide array of styles and genres. Of course, there is always a common thread of gloom and darkness running through them, but there is something very familiar about the techno of Barnett & Coloccia's "Dreamsnake", and Tropic Of Cancer's "Stop Suffering". Ossia's "Red X" is a surprising slice of pseudo house among the greyness of the compilation - and a highly recommended one - and we're totally in love with Tarquin Manek's "Sassafras Gesundheit", the best piece of lo-fi oddness you'll here for some time. Quality brims from all angles.