Work/Death might be a new name to most, but for anyone listening to noise that is lucky enough to be based in and around Rhode Island, then Scott Reber’s grizzled drones are likely a well-known staple. Reber is something of the noise musician’s noise musician, and his deeply knowledgable and surprisingly technical take on the sound has left those able to source one of his rare tapes or manage to catch a show slack-jawed. One such tape is Phone About to Ring, which emerged from the ether on Reber’s own Three Songs Of Lenin imprint in 2012 with little fanfare. Now Type is proud to announce that it is being given the deluxe treatment, and has been remastered by Reber himself before being cut to vinyl for the first time. The music itself is hard to get a grip on — two effortlessly gloomy passages of sludgy, ominous noise, which in the wrong hands could end up falling into usual traps, but with Reber at the helm sound both fresh and deeply complex. Instruments are bashed into near obscurity by Reber’s steady-handed layers of tape-hiss and crunch, and thick, doomy bass echoes like an earthquake in the background. The most startling aspect of Phone About to Ring is Reber’s ability to inject harmony into his stark, low-end rumbles and piercing cacophony. Comparable to Tim Hecker or even Thomas Köner at times, Reber makes noise that has a lot more beneath the surface that you might initially realize, and Phone About to Ring is his most concise and involving statement to date. Cut at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
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In 2006 Xela (aka Type Records main man John Twells) released the horror-flecked epic ‘The Dead Sea’. Taking influence from the movies of Dario Argento and Umberto Lenzi and fusing them with a Lovecraftian concept he created the perfect tribute to his obsession. Every good horror movie has a sequel, and for this full-length follow up John has used the dark corners of the Christian religion as his guide.
Composed initially for a fear-themed Chicago art installation, the sixty-minute piece gradually took shape as a celebration of desolate cellars and distant church bells, the things that truly scare him. Researching further took him to Spain and Italy as he explored Basilicas, Cathedrals and crumbling churches in search of inspiration. Ancient stories, whispered histories and sounds drifting through generations became the basis of the recording, which is split into four distinct parts.
Beginning with metallic scrapes and haunting industrial soundscapes we drift among fluidly dense drones, electrical hums and crumbling noise. Like a doom-laden take on the crunching assault of Hair Police or a noisy version of David Lynch’s Eraserhead soundtrack, the music is stripped down to the bare bones of what is necessary. Before long we hit the record’s central piece, ‘In Deo Salutari Meo’ which takes an almost funereal tone, using religious bells as the primary sound source. Eventually the album climaxes on the longest piece, ‘Beatae Immortalitatis’, which features Heavy Winged’s Jed Bindeman on drums. Bindeman was last seen lending his percussive skills to ‘Calling For Vanished Faces’ which appeared on the Xela/mgr split earlier this year, and here his pummelling beats accompany John’s icy oscillator tones. Like a free-form Pan Sonic this takes heavy electronic music into a frightening new place ending in a thick cloud of screams and crackle. One might even call it a religious ex
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Not much is known about the shadowy figure of the Head Technician, the man supposedly behind Pye Corner Audio. There are rumours that in another life he was an engineer to the stars, and while that can’t be verified, there’s certainly an air of expertise in this bumper set of productions. ‘The Black Mill Tapes Volumes 1 & 2’ were originally released by the Technician himself, and have been picked up for a very special vinyl release. These collect up the first handfuls of tracks from the Pye Corner Audio vaults, and are a perfect introduction to the Head Technician’s fuzzy Radiophonic funk. While Pye Corner Audio might be loosely associated with the much-lauded Ghost Box collective, his music is more difficult to put a finger on. At times the dusty soundscapes bring to mind the flickering into to mid 60s Doctor Who, but at others you’re catapulted into a Dodge-driving neon-flecked US road movie circa 1979. It’s an enviable concoction of genres, with the muted 4/4 pulse of Theo Parrish sitting happily alongside the wired electro of Other People Place and the cracked homespun ambience of early Boards of Canada. Somehow though, our Head Technician uses his technical knowhow to pull it off, and emerge with a collection of tracks that is far more than an exercise in retro fetishism. ‘The Black Mill Tapes’ are a collection of long lost club records, engineered solely for the woozy drive home – 4am, long highways and bright lights. Just leave Ryan Gosling out of it.
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It might not have been so long since Jeff Witscher released his debut ‘proper’ album under the Rene Hell moniker, but he’s kept himself busy in the interim all the same. Since ‘Porcelain Opera’ Jeff has put out a whole series of collaborations, 7”s, tapes and splits but few of these have given even a hint at what to expect from this sophomore full-length. Looking to his love of classical minimalism Jeff took this as the starting point for the record; he is quick to state however that this is not homage but a reinterpretation of those specific forms. The result is a deeply electronic rendition of this classical formula; the digital and analogue synthesizer and drum machine sounds that brought ‘Porcelain Opera’ to life are reframed and transferred into a very different compositional structure.
‘The Terminal Symphony’ is Jeff’s attempt to write tighter, more composed pieces of music – something of a reaction against the glut of long, often-flabby drone compositions that have become a mainstay in the scene. The pieces here are short, concise, and packed full of ideas that can take multiple listens to unravel, and the album, as a whole is almost obsessively structured and complex. Each side of the record is composed very specifically with a beginning, middle and an end (as opposed to the almost expected prolonged noodling jam) and when we begin with the familiar grunt and grind of ‘Chamber Forte’ it is only mere minutes before the track dissolves into the main theme of the album. The sounds we became familiar with on ‘Porcelain Opera’ are pushed slowly into the background to allow these new symphonic passages to shine through. An appropriate enough comparison might be arch-recluse Aphex Twin, but there is no pandering to dance music culture here. Rather Jeff has used his enviable background in noise, punk and synthesizer music to come up with something totally removed from the current scene, and absolutely singular.
The album comes to a close with the hauntingly melancholy and purposefully referential ‘Adagio For String Portrait’. The dancing synthetic blips that pirouette across Witscher’s mournful electronic waves not only re-enforce the decades long love affair between electronic and classical music but help to define it in 2011.