Tuesday, February 9, 2010
KLANGMUTATIONEN "SCHWARHAGEL" (Utech)
I first heard of these guys when Holy Mountain released an LP of theirs last year. I didn't pick it up because i was broke as fuck, but i remember the blurb describing them as some sort of Malaysian free metal avant-garde destruction unit. Tonight i was rooting through a box of new stuff and deciding what to listen to to review and this, their entry in Utech's outstanding "URSK" Series, jumped out at me. Utech is a label that traffics heavily in drone and noise and the URSK series has been nothing but quality, boasting such noiseniks as Skullflower, RST, and Final among others so i was expecting quality. On the other hand i had a terrifying suspicion that this album would bear more than a passing resemblance to the pointlessly obscure dissonant-shred of another Holy Mountain band, the supremely boring Zdrastvootie. Neither idea really applies. Free from drums, Klangmutationen wallow in a dark, scathing brand of noisy ambience. Comprised of four pieces but really consisting of just two (parts I and IV are short, worthless bookend "intro" and outro" experiements), "Schwarhagel" explores two different extremes in a mysteriously unengaging way. "II" is a throbbing mess of scraping guitar drone, drifting along in a weird comfort zone that becomes very relaxing despite its anxious attack. Things become much noisier when the two saxophones come in, bleating away like the Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman of the free-jazz world, yet for all their lungbusting the track still retains its comforting mellowness. It's like Borbetomagus without the nihilism. "III" tosses the warmth aside and becomes an all-out guitar assault. I'm hard-pressed to pick out any other instrument within this 20 minute meltdown (although they may be there, maybe all the frequencies are just blending together) and if the whole thing weren't so fucking boring it'd be an amazing piece in the Masayuki Takayanagi vein, a natural spasm of amp clipping and pure overdrive. I really wanted to like this album, and i'm honestly not sure why i have such an ambivalence toward it, but i just don't feel involved when i'm listening to it. The best noise albums are immersive as well as assaulting and Klangmutationen, while certainly good at manipulating their instruments, are not very good at manipulating the listener's mind.