Yeah!!! It?s the second week running that a noise cassette has utterly won me over, despite plans otherwise. In the spirit of full disclosure, approaching this thing felt like a bit of a chore at first, even at its modest 20 minutes. I was experiencing a serious case of noise overload, and simply feeling like the scene was more than a little played out. But maybe it was the amazing Hunting Rituals tape last week that paved the way for a change of heart. Maybe it was the late summer sun and the impending change of seasons. Maybe it was something else entirely. But whatever the case, this lovely cassette from the Earth Space Noise Research Laboratories (ESNRL) snuck out of the bag and has provided an utterly crushing reminder that noise as a genre has a lot more to offer, and that the finest purveyors in any genre will produce quality art. Speaking of art, before even getting to the music, this release has some top notch packaging to seal the deal. Professionally printed j-card with perfectly appropriate psychedelic art and mysterious logos inside show that ESNRL take the music seriously and has the good sense to treat its releases accordingly.
Musically, things start off with the Wether side, a beautifully threatening sidelong helping of noise. Even that word however, seems to detract from the quality craftsmanship on display here. Held distorted synth-like tones, undercurrents of sub-bass rumblings, subtle effects panning over top of it all ? these are just a few of the core elements in the Wether arsenal. As the track continues, the density increases and as with the best music of this sort, the listener is fully submersed in an alternate universe. It?s noisy as hell, but it?s also beautifully evocative and emotional too. As the sounds pile up in collage fashion and threaten to fully overwhelm, Wether pulls back and lets the original tones speak for themselves, enabling a much fuller and richer appreciation of their sonic qualities. Somehow, this track manages to be simultaneously ominous, threatening, brutal and powerful while never once seeming macho or showy. It?s a stunning display of technique, and all the better for its avoidance of clich? and its emphasis on the hidden beauty deep within the brutality.
On to side B, where Toronto?s Bob McCully hits another grand slam with his Women in Tragedy project. One oddly titled track (?child bathing debtor?), it?s really the perfect accompaniment to Wether on this tape, providing some necessary respite from the thunderous noise of the first side. McCully starts off with an echoing beat in heavy dub-noise mode, and it?s clear that this is going to be a different trip entirely from the textural walls of noise of the flip. Slowly but surely, additional elements are brought into the mix. Synth beeps, squiggles, and distant vocal sounds, all add melodic content and provide a harmonically rich and contoured product to congeal. The original beat continues, as McCully layers it with increasingly dense (yet always melodic) textures. As with the Wether track, a certain amount of claustrophobia threatens to overwhelm, yet never does. McCully?s side lurches forward until the rhythmic element is kicked up a notch and a distorted fuzzy bass is added. We?re almost in full noise rock band mode, but he manages to inject just enough odd juxtapositions and unexpected elements that you?ll never mistake this for traditional rock music (thankfully). And then just as soon as the listener is lulled into this new zone, ultra distorted screaming vocals take us over the edge for the final conclusion. Both sides of this marvelous tape end abruptly right as maximum listener submersion is achieved. The shock of being pulled from the music so suddenly seems a bit cruel, but give this one a few listens, and it will all make sense. Both Wether and Women in Tragedy get the fact that pulling the plug at just the right moment is the best way to leave ?em wanting more. If Panopticon Eyelids effectively created the party jam tape of the summer, this split provides the perfect medicine to serve as a cleanser before Fall hits hard. Brilliant. 10/10 -- Eric Hardiman (20 August, 2008)