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Mike Shiflet - Merciless [Type - 2012]

Yet again we delve into the world of experimental noise.  Here we find Ohio-based Mike Shiflet with his latest offering Merciless.  Happy was the surprise of hearing this release.  While it is based in noise, it’s a appealing fusion of drone and ambient.  Cassette manipulation, guitars and other instruments and yes noise are all mixed into a delicious broth of sound.  Since 2001 Shiflet has released a slew of cassettes, cds, cdrs and vinyl by himself and with collaborators.  Merciless is a limited edition vinyl pressing from Type Records.

It all begins with a texture of pops, static and rattling on “Feeble Breaths”; forming a queasy, strange transmission.  While volatile, it is immense and intense; a steamroller of nervous raucous sound.  A very mechanical sound, slightly analog; beeping, pulsing, and sputtering almost pushing you around.  It is noise yes, but listenable (not cringe worthy in an earsplitting way) and more exacting in the moods (chaotic, anxious, apathetic) that are created.

A short reprieve is found on “(Breaths)” but soon we are plunged into the oscillating sounds of “Exodus & Exile”.  One note seemingly held forever (oddly enough reminiscent of the inspiration behind Pink Floyds Echoes), forms a very hypnotic, slightly psychedelic pulsing intensity.  A bit sinister in tone, but more mystical and esoteric in atmosphere.  High pitched sounds are equalized by lower tones giving a disturbing and quite lovely feel, almost chilling.

“(Exile)” is another short piece, this time it’s more of an angry, forceful sound.  “Merciless” then emerges from a shimmering, distorted din, bouncing elongated tones with varying pitches.  We hear intense reverb, a shade on the drone side, with nice feedback every now and again.  This time the sound is massive but done with a subtle hand.  Sort of like a lumbering behemoth coming towards you.  In tone it has the effect of sounding like bagpipes and guitars and it works together beautifully. By the end the mechanical humming and grating sounds give the feeling of an exhausted machine.

Those familiar with Shiflets work will be excited by the settings he has created and the uninitiated will be enamored by the sheer immensity of the sound both in volume and richness.  As a first time listener, the well thought out pieces and deftly layered sounds has been motivation to seek out his other works.  Merciless proves to be an engaging and stimulating listen.

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

Viktorya Kaufholz
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