N.Strahl.N/Metek - Drowning Devices [Cohort Records - 2009]My familiarity with Metek starts and ends with my having heard a few of his releases – all collaborations – in addition to a sort of bewildered intimacy with the eponymous threads on various noise boards dedicated to his person, filled to the brim with love, hate, anger, what-not – virtually every emotion on the spectrum.
Regardless of your opinion (he divides? Yes. He rules? This is subject to great debate.) it’s hard to ignore the sheer quality of some of his output. And while my favourite Metek material (Fuck, the Retarded Girl vs. Metek on Monstres par Exces) is technically only Metek plucking together the ingredients and the other guy doing the hard work – the kneading, the baking – even the pure sonic fundamentals intrigue at all points. And it seems that Metek, whether kneaded or kneading, rules pretty much after all.
On Drowning Devices, Metek teams up with N.Strahl.N, a German sound artist who has churned out an impressive (or, simply, huge) amount of releases since 2006, including releases on labels such as Roil Noise, Bone Structure, and, here, Cohort. The CD, housed in a DVD box with its stylish artwork printed on thick brown paper, is filled with five compositions, each of which made in ways similar to earlier collaborations. On three of the five tracks, Metek provides the source material, which N.Strahl.N then reworks; on the other two, N.Strahl.N’s source material gets the Metek treatment. The result is surprisingly coherent, suggesting that the two artists entertain similar ideas of what the electronic soundscape should sound like: a gritty, ice cold barrage of industrial ambient sounds. Constant whirs and zooms swirl round, icy winds and deafening blizzards echoing like mad, the sonic equivalent of a nightmarish scientific expedition to any of the Poles gone horribly wrong.
Atmospherically, sonically, Drowning Devices is simply incredible. Among the endless streams of sounds impossible to identify, strange field recordings sometimes creep in; distant voices blurting instructions to no one, speakers spewing forth beeps and buzzes to alarm only ghosts, the ambiguously mechanic/organic squeaks and creeks of a horror that devours everything in its path. The album is barely ever harsh, only rarely touching upon distortion, fuzz, white noise, but it’s all the more effective and successful for it. Within the sounds’ tentativeness is exactly where their power of suggestion lies. The unspeakable terror that runs underneath the entirety of album, as if praying upon the listener, waiting for the perfect moment to crawl out of the shadows and to stab, tear, mutilate, never does tread on the foreground, and the unpleasant feeling, feeling haunted, is all the more difficult to shake for it. Drowning Devices is a truly excellent disc that is highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in dark and industrial ambient sounds. Sven Klippel