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House of Low Culture / Caustic Touch / Daniel Menche / EMS

House of Low Culture - Caustic Touch - Daniel Menche - EMS Split - album cover


15th December 2017 - Accident Prone Records

01. House of Low Culture – The Pervasive Mind
02. Caustic Touch – Desiccating Wind
03. Caustic Touch – Coarse Harrowing
04. Caustic Touch – Even Now, Morning Will Not Come
05. Daniel Menche – Is She Electroplasm?
06. EMS – Hierarchy of Bodies

Now that we have Spotify playlists, the concept of a split record sounds a little quaint, even though in reality it’s a great way for two bands to quickly fill out a release (plus they’re punk as fuck). At first, a four-way split sounds even more oblique, but in the realm of experimental noise, four different voices converging with different perspectives and distinct takes on an unforgiving, challenging genre presents an engaging cross-section of dramatically left-field experimentation, united by a dark spirit. It’s like the anthology episode of The Simpsons with the steamed hams, but more of a bewildering hellscape.

Anyone following this movement will notice Aaron Turner as the star player here, though there’s plenty of noise royalty; Daniel Menche is a huge player, and Faith Coloccia from the Monolith-favourite Mamiffer makes an appearance on the House of Low Culture track, their first offering in four years. Said track, “The Pervasive Mind“, is typically expansive, creepy and minimalist. It holds back on destructive impulses; instead of raging it seethes, flickers of static emulating agonized breathing.

Caustic Touch‘s three offerings are die-hard classic noise; Merzbow fans are in excellent company here. This is the record at its most destructive and pained, the kind of ear-test-from-hell stuff that defines the harshest extremes of the genre; distended and repulsive, it still knows when to hold back and when to attack. “Coarse Harrowing” is a particularly mortifying track.

Daniel Menche‘s contribution pulses and writhes; the most psychedelic and rhythmic track on display by some distance. Throughout the shimmering overtones there’s a steady static hiss, like hearing a distant party on a broken radio. Marking the rough mid-point, this is where the record really starts to expand its sonic pallet.

The EMS track sounds watery and foreboding, then escalates into a complicated, bleepy mess; it’s like ambient Star Trek sounds remixed into something more off-putting. It shifts into different moods; it’s capricious, alternatively bewildering and melodic and pleasant.

There’s a lot to like here. There’s a dazzling range of approaches, philosophies and techniques and it’s cleverly arranged, leaving the deeper, less destructive tracks until much later. Individually, everything is well-balanced. For fans of Aaron Turner’s work adjacent to his genre-defining metal projects, this is a great addition and if you came here because of his star power you’ll leave enriched.

The usual caveats apply; this has a very narrow niche, though as there’s an increasing market and appetite for drone-doom it’s easy to see how the central minimalist philosophies can be carried over into ghostly, spectral noise..

Overall these individual projects sit well with each other, and their exploratory vibe helps connect them despite their sonic differences; the record deeply benefits from taking a measured approach to arrangement and a thoughtful curation. This sits well on a playlist with some of the recent, darkly experimental bands like Xiu Xiu, but after all, it’s sort of a self-contained playlist on its own.

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