VARIOUS ARTISTS – HUNGRY GHOSTS
(Mutant Music, P.O. Box 4549, Saint Paul, MN 55104 USA http://www.mutantmusic.com/hungryghosts.htm)
Mutant guru (and Skye Klad/Salamander bassist/producer) Dave Onnen assembled this 2xCD collection with David Miller from Fadladder, whose glossy, electronic, Kraftwerkian “Incense” is one of several highlights on Disk 1, which opens with Onnen and his Skye Klad mates beckoning us to “AWAKE!” (emphasis in the original). A brain-rattling, ominous shitstorm of a “how do you do,” it highlights their gothic metal trappings and paves the way for the avant electronic soundscapes to follow. I’m reminded of Italian soundtrack progsters, Golem’s ‘Orion Awakes’ and this may be the sound of the mythological son of Poseidon showering, shitting and shaving after a night of hearty partying…and he is not in a good mood! Stephen Meixner’s metallic Faustian electronics form the background for half a dozen readings from Harry Stolt’s diary, which namechecks his fascination with krautrock, Trio’s “Da Da Da,” and Falco’s “Der Kommisar” in the weird and wonderful “ndw.” Sheet Metal music aficionados of the work of Faust, Einsturzende Neubauten and Lou Reed’s unlistenable ‘Metal Machine Music’ will enjoy the pants-shitting scares of The Breast Fed Yak’s “The Joey Rejection” (originally available on their Birdman recording, ‘Get Your Greasy Head off the Sham’) and Argentinean noisemonger and Reynols co-founder, Christian Dergarabedian (aka C.D.)’s “Musica para el universo frio,” but they’re not exactly material that others will want to revisit.
Experimental sonic architecture is the order of the day for the remainder of Disk 1, with the electronic, tone-poem-cum-hearing-tests that are Jazzhorse’s “Caravan” (the results of a bit too much overexposure to “Wisconsin Brown” if you ask me!) and ex-:zoviet*france sound manipulator, Robin Storey (aka Rapoon)’s “Dysfunctional Ghosts of Jazz” leading the way. These may please fans of Mark DiGenero’s ‘Wire Music’ collaborations with Alastair Galbraith and those of you who fall to sleep each night with your ‘Ohm: Early Gurus of Electronic Music’ box tucked under your pillows. If you’ve ever found yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in the middle of the winter, prolific Canadian artist Jim Dejong (aka The Infant Cycle)’s “Exhaling Your Tape Hiss” may just about capture that bone-chilling fear. Scott Puhl (aka Dm) contributes “Lesslist,” which consists of ominous, throbbing, sterile basslines that add a brilliant icy sheen to the ambient, speaker hum works of Eno, Stars of the Lid, Aix Em Klemm, and early Aarktica and Azusa Plane.
Not to be outdone by Sonic Boom and his collection of noisemakers that
made up Experimental Audio Research’s ‘Data Rape’ release a few years back, Not Breathing offers “Crossover,” wherein Dave Wright combines circuit-bending toys, reverb and his cellphone scanner to closely approximate the toy aisle at your local K-Mart on Christmas Eve. Minneapolis’ own guitar heroes, (Rich) Barlow/(Jesse) Petersen/(Erik)Wivinus wrap up Disk 1 with “Flooded Forest,” a three-guitar onslaught that is a nebulous intersection of wind chimes and an approaching freight train howling in the distance. If Skye Klad is awakening the beast, these guys capture the pre-cognitive, procreative juices from which it sprang and whets the appetite for what awaits us over on Disk 2…
…which is somewhat less effective, featuring mostly abstract sound collages with lots of recordings of air, electricity, downed wires, broken circuits, loopy electronics and assorted beeps, burps and blunders. Nevertheless, several tracks are worth repeat visits, including Brett Smith (aka Caul)’s illbient “Collapsing Bell,” an electronic horrorshow that rises from its “hum”-ble beginnings to razors-on-blackboards shards of white noise, with lots of whistling tones akin to rubbing fingers along wineglass rims along the way. The strangest track in the compilation, Jared Davidson’s “The Songs Hidden in the Long Grass” is composed entirely of field recordings of cicadas, grasshoppers and crickets. It may either lull you to sleep at night, or induce creepy-crawlies under your skin, but in either case, should be labeled with an acid-ingestion warning.
A warning of a different sort is offered via the latest from Dan Burke’s 20-year old project, Illusion of Safety, whose “Too Much of a Good Thing Is Never Enough” sounds like someone tossed Inspector Gadget into the swimming pool and recorded him short-circuiting. Industrial punks and noiseniks may also enjoy “5×7 in White Styrene with Turques Droplets” from fellow Twin Cities label owner (Doctsect), Cordell Klier. While it sounds, to me, a little like a chemistry experiment gone awry, it certainly illustrates why he was voted “Best Avant Garde Artist” of 2003 by the local writers in City Pages.
While most of these artists may not be familiar to anyone outside their small circle of friends, ‘Hungry Ghosts’ goes a long way toward rectifying that. Overall, it’s an eclectic mixed bag with more hits than misses (perhaps slightly overextended – a single disk would have been perfect) that is recommended to fans of ‘The Ohm Box’ and other avant garde, outré electronic, glitch music and circuit bending recordings.. In fact, Experimental Audio Research would have been the perfect title if Sonic Boom hadn’t already taken it! (Jeff Penczak)