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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Vargrwulf - Elite [Breaching Static - 2011]

Three tracks of Harsh Noise Wall, on Breaching Static; in a cryptically packaged dvd case which doesn’t give many clues away. This is a good thing, it makes an interesting change from so many HNW releases with explicitly clear themes and “obsessions”. So, apart from the titles, the cover has a crude metal-type logo for Vargrwulf, a negative photo from a women’s clothing catalogue and a couple of small runic doodles/sigils. The listener thus enters into “Elite” with no real preconceptions…

All three tracks are around the twenty-two minute mark, which might suggest that a four-track was the method of recording, or it might indicate something entirely different. (A four-track, recording on a c90 tape on the “high quality” setting, gives about twenty-two minutes of recording time.) The sound quality certainly leans towards the dirtier side of things: this is not a HNW release of pristine textural clarity.

The first track, the aptly named “Mysteries”, starts with the sound of rainfall; which then increases in volume and grime until a destroying synth-like tone enters; leading into a full-on wall of rough, mid-frequency ripping. After five minutes, this cuts to stuttering static and hum; and some excellent, varying passages of hovering crackle and fizz. Halfway through the track, a dirty keyboard, or feedback, tone breaks out of the crackling; dominating the sound-field in a bleak drone. Its bleak, but also somewhat blank and lifeless - in a good way. This courses through till the end, before cutting to chugging signal hiss and then re-emerging; clipping and singing with gain.

“Inviolate”, the second piece, opens with a very brief section of crackle; before charging headlong into a wall of churning dirt. This takes a more treble-y, “opaque” shift, before recordings of water dripping are introduced; followed by a truly punishing, surging wall. With an abrupt change, the water dripping returns; accompanied by a lighter, yet still scathing, version of the wall. In an echo of the previous track, the latter half of “Inviolate” meditates on a strong, unchanging noise wall; really ramping up the intensity as its end approaches.

The last track, “Fountain”, also starts with sounds of water amidst the fire of the wall; cutting later to a low-end surge, with streaks and flecks of more processed sounding tones. This builds into a rushing wall of treble, with the sounds of dripping still audible underneath; until it suddenly changes direction, about halfway through, into a shrill barrage of static. Vargrwulf pushes this wall for a long stretch, bringing in more low and mid-frequency elements. Nearing the end, the wall noticeably retreats in intensity, entering more calmer waters (so to speak); before a piercing gust of treble prefaces the track’s end: a very brief burst of signal sound, followed by a very brief section of rusty fizz.

This is a very powerful recording. It has a variety of textures, without bring overly “textural”; indeed, often the most texturally satisfying parts (to my ear at least) are very brief sections or digressions (the final burst, for example). But the power expressed in “Elite” is very visceral and unavoidable; with the early movement of some of the tracks making their later stasis more pronounced and meaningful. The exact “meaning” of “Elite” remains a mystery. Each track prominently features recordings of water sounds, but its unclear what to draw from this. The power of the internet suggests that the titles might possibly reflect something Crowleyian going on here, but again… So, it remains a mystery; and I’m fine with that.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Martin P
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