Microforms #5: June 5, 2023

Imagery by Jacob McKeating

Cruel Nature Records recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a 23-track state of the union double cassette. 100% of profits will be donated to The Toby Henderson Trust, an independently funded charity in North East England which supports autistic youth and adults, as well as their families and caregivers. Here are the seven personal highlights.

VHS¥DEATH “Sacrifice”

A fully charged-up cut of dark EBM / techno pulse, “Sacrifice,” gathers industrial weight as it progresses, building sinew and connecting digital layers as it goes. Oven ready for both sticky floors and bad-mood city-at-night travel, and on the strength of this track, VHS¥DEATH sound like they could make the breeziest of Summer festival tents look like the club scene from Blade.

It’s equally possible to go with just the unforgiving sullenness head-down-hood-up beat thump or to focus in on the electronic blacklight Tron avenues of digi ticks and loops that dart into the foreground. The rattles, pulses, and nasty ass goth sounds swirl in a mix that dominates the focus.

Gvantsa Narim “Sitkboba”

A drone piece caught at the point of low-key mid-rise ecstatica, arms open, eyes shut. Lolling out of the headphones, “Sitkboba” pools around your head like an impressionistic splurge. The track also contains some essential ‘human’ elements that quasi-ground it, occasional screenshots of glitching aural interference, splinters of colored vocal snippets (the tiny laugh caught in the room as it ends) and stretches of field recording both drift and punctuate. Rather than popping the bubble of the ambience, these parts only make the drone seem even more otherworldly as it contracts and expands in stasis.

Pound Land “Flies”

Post Industrial Post Brexit music; an anthem for the temporarily closed and soon to be demolished. A bed of a migraine bang rhythm and stinging TG electronics, even just instrumentally “Flies” captures the endless buzzing of a crushed and crushing environment. Pound Land’s are all loose wiring with no Health & Safety, the boom from a flat above with no carpeting, and the distressed jitterings of a man past the point of comfort or assistance. Messy, upsetting, angry. 

Nathalie Stern “One By One By Two”

One By On By Two is the near-perfect sound of fragile gorgeous hesitancy, a handful of coastal horn drone notes with a ringing metallic chaser. 

Natahie Stern’s quietly somewherenothere vocals create a parity of elements in this simple song, both organic, solid, and fingertip touch unsure. Bearing the mark and sound of a kind of conceptual Folk horror, though more of the wind through windless cornfield variety than blooded sickle in the barn style. Musically grounded but with Stern sounding adrift and getting further away, towards the song’s end, the notes feel like they may be temporarily reaching for a surge; it’s the tension of water shuddering just below the rim of the glass. The choice is to stay submerged or to reemerge.

Petrine Cross “I Have Cherished Our Season Of Friendship”

A tar-drowned kiss off, the overblown tones intro soon implodes into an ugly flailing trapped in amber released in fury like an ugly loop. Ash-covered distorted black metal spits and shrieks tied to a pyre of bullish low-end and broken strip-lit corridor cell shrieks. Petrine Cross disgorges magisterial levels of self-disgust that end up spilling out onto all those other pieces of shit out there.

Lush Worker “Time Machine Doesn’t Work”

Definitely recognizable as a Mike Vest project, here he uncoils his Lush Worker alias forming sound out of chaotic blitz fuelled bliss. Huge guitar trails blast through moorland fires and lung-crinkling smoke, with storm winds and a fucked fx rack laying waste to everything, leaving cityscapes like Nevada test sites. After many listens, it’s still not 100% clear if what I think is someone panning the fuck out of drums is actually that, or whether its speaker damaged feedback several layers down just feeding on itself. Follow your brain as it’s hurled into the void. How far can you fall in 7:34?

Kitchen Cynics “Maybe”

With a waltz of bass that steps in and around phased guitar, and ghostly, spindly, skeletal notes picked in the midst of a dark swirl, Kitchen Cynics probably steal the show on Spectrum. Alan Davidson’s distinctively delicate voice quavers through an unsteady, darkly comic narrative. It’s a homespun slice of grandly DiY psych folk. The curious and wiry lead guitar worms its way around the song, spacing itself between verses like smoke and snakes. Sweetly claustrophobic, “Maybe” is a closed chapter of questions and second guesses.

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