Northaunt - In The Midst of Life, We Are In Death
Objective-Subjective is putting together a 12-issue run of mini-CDs that pay homage toand find inspiration in Alan Moore's The Watchmen graphic novel. Each mini-CD has a single chapter of the book as their anchor and Northaunt drew Chapter Two. Titled "In The Midst of Life, We Are In Death," Northaunt's contribution to the "Watchmen" series is frosted ambience, shot through with strands of darkness.
It is still early in the story, characters have been tantalizingly introduced and we are barely able to discern the larger canvas against which Moore is playing out his story. Northaunt approaches his chapter with this same caution, showing us just the edges of the rougher world, allowing us just a peak or two beneath the broad skirt of stars which cover the slumbering world. Voices come and go, pale conversations with no antecedents and no conclusions. Mechanical devices rumble and chatter; these are the machines which drive the world and, even as we sleep, they continue their long-forgotten functions. Cavernous echoes moan and drone across a backdrop of a polar wind that is curling ice around the foundations of the world.
The single track is titled "Autumn Cold, Rain From The Stars" and it hovers on the edge of a bleak night. Heavily remixed down from a thirty-six minute piece, "Autumn Cold, Rain From The Stars" is a dense piece of dark ambience, filled with ominous promises and resigned apprehension. Reminiscent of Darrin Verhagen's Soft Ash record and some of Lustmord's more organic work, Northaunt's contribution to the "Watchmen" series is a gentle introduction to the chaos and magic that is yet to come. Excellent.
Notime - Living Planet/Dying Planet
Seattle's own noise sculptor, Scott Sturgis, takes a break from destroying machinery with his Converter project to deliver two CDs for local experimental label, Auricle Media. Called Living Planet and Dying Planet, these two releases have been released under the name Notime and are variations on a theme: sculpted sounds taken directly from the daily sonic climate. The distinction between the two releases is the source of the material. Living Planet is sourced from, well, organic material and the companion disc is crafted from sound samples of darker, inanimate stuff. It is a manipulation of the Yin and Yang of our aural atmosphere.
There are no track titles on either disc, and the source material is referenced only as a list on the back of the casework. Each has been burned onto an unmarked black CDR and each case is identifiable only by the photography attached to the cover of the solid black case. The pictures have been taken by Jenny Sturgis and are thematically linked to the appropriate source. Each cover is unique (and so, yes, this is a limited release, act now or feel the shame of having missed out) and showcases Jenny's talent with the camera. The whole project is a well-executed, home-crafted visual and audible experience: the Sturgis' local world converted into sight and sound in a flat plastic case.
Living Planet is filled with 22 tracks which are spread across an hour of time, each track taking its moment to suggest a palpable presence before drifting on. Some are short, brief ambience which flows over you like the noise of the crowded public space of "Eight" or the flowing water along the ocean shore in "Seven." Others like "Two" and "One" are more heavily manipulated, the actual field recording lost beneath near-melodies and elusive ambience which has been teased out of their shape.
Whale and bird song thread "Nine," undulating lines of long aching cries which swim under the rolling thunder of an epic heartbeat. A favorite of mine on Living Planet, "Nine" is a layered mix of sounds from the world as I know it, combined into an alien landscape -- a world of shadow, fog, and unknown creatures moving in the distance. This is a finest piece of "Hour of Monsters" dark ambience that I've heard in a while.
There is the slow soft lament of "Thirteen," jangling partial melodies collide and ring off one another in "Twelve," and the hollow movement of an unmanned lighthouse as it sweeps a desolate, fog-shrouded shore is the primary rhythm in "Fourteen." "Nineteen" takes us back to the water, sending us beneath the seas like J. Alfred Prufrock to learn the distant song of mermaids (or, as it may actually be, the undulating chorus of whalesong). Living Planet ends with a two-minute piece of space music, a crackling, rhythmic loop grinding away beneath a hollow flute song of vast stellar spaces.
If Living Planet is the 12-hour cycle of daylight, then Dying Planet is the soundtrack to the unpopulated nocturnal hours. Harsher and colder than its counterpart, Dying Planet is filled with metallic energy. Its source list reads: "cars, trash, a jackhammer, the highway, scrap metal, garbage cans, dumpsters, fences, steam roller, traffic..." A more obvious cousin to Scott's rhythmic noise work as Converter, Dying Planet is the sound of human evolution devouring the natural world.
Dying Planet begins with the mangled sound of an engine starting before caustic machinery overwhelms it like a monolithic, unmanned terraforming machine crawling across an abandoned cityscape. Think your favorite futuristic rendition of Earth a hundred years from now and this half of the Notime planetary release will escort you straight through that landscape. Blasts of machine noise, scattered light pulses torching a ruined sky, piles of debris and rusting empty shapes: it's all here, swept by the wind and neglected in the aftermath of man's disappearance.
The wind crawls across pipes and broken windsills in "Three," haunting the blasted corners of shattered rooms. The jackhammer is a recognizable sound in the beginning of "Four" before being lost beneath more abstract clatter as if the support structure of a building is being torn apart. The track erupts into a wall of noise, the central support of the tower gone, and the noise bleeds into the pulsating force of "Five." "Nine" gathers together a metallic quartet, a Japanese-styled manga-influenced robot combo, to play space music.
The middle of Dying Planet is filled with short bursts, compressed transmissions of sonic detritus, leaving a disquieting sensation of continual upheaval. Whereas Living Planet dwelt awhile within its songs, the middle third of Dying Planet moves by quickly as if we were watching the dissolution of an abandoned world through time-lapse goggles. The sonic terrorism expands towards the end with a quartet of delightfully noisy and spacious tracks.
The last track, "Twenty-two," is a sublime piece which brings the clatter of Dying Planet into the embrace of the living vibrance of Living Planet. If there is any commentary to be heard here, it is the combination of machinery and nature -- writhing static and winsome melody -- of this final track. Man, there is an aching hole in my chest in the wake of this track.
The Notime project is a self-contained experiment for Scott Sturgis, demonstrating an experimental flair which has been subsumed beneath the stomp and fury of his other projects. The two discs may be a quiet little release, but every effort has been spent by Sturgis and his wife to provide the listener with a fully realized, uniquely packaged product. An hour of music for whichever polar extremity moves you at the moment, Living Planet and Dying Planet are engaging noise ambient experiences. Get a set while you can. Let Sturgis know that you like the direction he has gone. Let him know that we want to hear more.
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Publications I've Written For
- Eraldo Bernocchi
- Fields of the Nephilim
- Peter Gabriel
- Chris Randall
- This Morn' Omina