Churner - The Pain Gallery [Violent Noise Atrocities - 2010]The Pain Gallery was released in 2010 in the midst of Churner’s most prolific year to date. The one man noise generator from the Southern States released a total of 27 solo albums that year, not including numerous split releases, of which The Pain Gallery was the 18th. With such a high level of output it is unclear how to approach it all; and, with its often formless layering of relentless improvised noise, this isn’t a music that always rewards repeated listens despite its powerfully forceful mix.
‘Cutting Deep’, the opening track, is like a document of the sound of a determined expedition as the loud engine roar of an armoured vehicle cuts through the heavy terrain of a bleak, deserted land. Stubbornly ploughing the straightest of paths, the unmanned machine bores its way through everything in its path, including hills and mountains, spitting out the chewed scree in its wake. Undaunted by the fierce gale whose writhing whistles surround the engine cycles, all but masking the occasional electronic bloop of its navigational systems, the wheels relentlessly tear on down the road of its own making.
Most other tracks presented here could be described in a similar way: ‘Threshold Obtained’ perhaps has its contact mics placed on the outside of the vehicle this time - its layers of incessant rumbling seeming that bit thicker, that bit closer, while ‘Memories Faded’ focuses more on the surging cyclone hampering its progress. Curious then, for an album where many tracks sound much the same, for it to include an addendum to correct the listing of its track names, suggesting some design subsequently lost in the sonic devilry.
‘Scar Patterns’ and particularly the last track, ‘Trance Perception Removal’ stand out, merely because they employ rhythm and a less convoluted mix that reveals the qualities of individual sounds instead of constantly drenching its listeners in a typical noise storm. ‘Scar Patterns’ shrill drilling creates a revving industrial beat on which the obligatory explosive rumbles burst and batter while distorted screams and shouts suggest some illicit, arcane experiment, whereas ‘Trance Perception Removal’ reminds of the film Creep as its heavily reverberated revolving click suggests a network of tunnels through which the frustrated screams and yelps of a feral youth trigger slabs of harsh noise and streaks of violent feedback as it repeatedly exhausts itself with its own captive frustrations.
Maybe instead of attempting to find significance in the churning one should instead bathe in its intensities to blanket the real world? It is certainly true that after over an hour of concentrating on this release, the sound of a single piano note is rendered remarkably elegant, dramatic and seductive. Maybe viewed in this way, exposure to Churner’s work can help create a blank state of mind from which listening powers can be enhanced. But with its combination of relentless noise on a relentless release schedule it can feel like we’re passively watching him sieve for gold, as opposed to marvelling at the much rarer fruits of such labour.Russell Cuzner