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BT.HN and Sistrenatus - Exposing the Rib Cage [Existence Establishment - 2009]

Exposing the Rib Cage is a live recording revealing the results of a three-way British Columbian power electronics team-up involving Sam McKinlay (The Rita), Josh Rose (Sick Buildings) and Harlow MacFarlane (Sistrenatus and Funerary Call). The set is a single piece just over one hour in length that explores the extended interplay between a limited arsenal of generators and effects to create a monochromatic Arctic tundra.

This journey isn’t as relentlessly harrowing as one might expect from the prospect of enduring over an hour without respite from these stalwarts of noise. Even though what seems like broken washing machine engines - whose propulsive cycles chug, skid and pulse across the full frequency range - battle for supremacy with the distorted dead air of antique radio sets and the fiercest of gales spitting sand and stone, this dense turmoil rarely extends for over six or so minutes at a time. Such contrast is provided through judicious reductions positioned almost evenly across the piece where layers of distortion disappear as much as they dominate allowing the detritus of subtler sounds, from sci-fi glissandi and spectral emissions to buried vocal screams and the beeping of an old ECG machine, to emerge, albeit briefly, from the carnage.

At these semi-regular resting posts the heavy tape delay that pervades the whole album becomes most transparent, throwing selected events around with abandon, economically maximising the extent and effect of the pooled sounds through overdrive and feedback. But the pace of the delay seems mostly fixed throughout and working with such a minimal range can reduce the impact of its colliding, textured trails. Consequently, by the mid-way point the drama needs some concentration on the part of the listener to be sustained and the formlessness can have a surprisingly soporific effect as the brain succeeds in cancelling out what has become background noise, literally.

Thankfully the quality of the recording and mastering ensures that this bleak, decaying landscape is rendered in high definition as a crisp, textural experience. Without this quality the chaotic cacophonies would lose the granularity of sound required to distinguish the many and complex shifts and patterns within. So it is with a clear vision that we are invited to join an expedition across a harsh, alien terrain from the safety of our homes.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Russell Cuzner
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