Tarmvred - Subfusc
As recording techniques and equipment become more accessible to anyone with a fistful of cash and a relatively quick computer system, musical experimentation becomes equally more available to those with a penchant for anything other than the latest pre-configured, rubber-stamped, assembly line formulation vomited forth by the major labels. For the experimentalist, there are fringes to explore, outer territories where sonic manipulation and rhythm are the only coin of the realm, and all other aspects of musical composition are neither invited nor expected. The outer territories are all about sound.
Far away from the formulaic smaltz of the earnest arena rock star and the calculated juxtapositions of peaches and cream innocence and back-room brothel sweaty sexuality is the place where there is no sun -- no sky -- for it has been blotted out by the nuclear storm of mankind's overbearing hubris. This is the realm of noise, and this post-industrial, post-biomechanical land is overrun by artists who fashion music from the clip of the overdriven speaker, the spark of a split cable, the buzz and the snarl of proximity feedback, and the growl of tortured machinery. Here you will find Jonas Johansson, operating under the moniker of Tarmvred.
In the 19th century, Beethoven wrote the Pastoral symphony, celebrating the natural world. In the 21st century, when musicians look to their landscape for inspiration, they see only factory towers that belch steam and fire into the sky; they see only the relentless growth of soulless fabrication; they can't see green forests or blue waters any longer, just the endless line of gray concrete-six lanes wide. Some artists react in horror, their music a agonized howl of unrelenting feedback; others look at these landscapes and see the inescapable imprint of mankind's hand on the natural world and they, in turn, put the imprint of man into the empty sound of the mechanized world.
They don't hear noise, they hear sound and rhythm; they hear specific instrumentation in the rattle of the factory, they hear a pulse and beat in the blast of steam from the furnaces. Their symphonies take elements from the cacophony of a wrecking yard at full production, much like their predecessors took the sun and the rain and the ducks and squirrels as inspiration, and use these as their sonic palettes.
Subfusc has seven untitled tracks and bristles with beats and static overload. It opens with a knife wind across a scoured plain, a sinuous dust devil that builds in energy as it approaches. It explodes above you, a bursting thunderhead of torrential acid rain and tumultuous lightning. The movements -- the "songs" -- rumble like massive underground movements if you keep the stereo low, and, if you turn it up (and, really, it should be played as loud as you can get it), the sound is a calamitous avalanche of released energy and overloaded static discharge. It does, at first, feel like getting the shit knocked out of you by three hulking brutes with steel-toed shoes and aluminum bats. But is that any different from the mental assault you undergo every day as a constant witness to the frenzied destruction of urban expansion? In two hundred years, musical historians will look back on these industrial pastorals and lament the transformation of the natural world. When our souls are gone, replaced by synthesized polymer-oil jellies and ceramic valves, we will listen to records like Subfusc and wonder how we lost our humanity.
Johansson's telling us: because we stopped listening, because we stopped asking for something creative, and just settled for machine-stamped action figures with sixteen pre-recorded number one hits. Johansson challenged himself to find music in the mechanical -- in the steel and the wire -- and, in order to save ourselves, we need to listen for it as well.
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