Where Is This - Rue Des Lombards [Bored Bear Recordings - 2012]Well, this is somewhat of a rarity in the Harsh Noise Walls scene - a pro-pressed cd and printed booklet, in a healthy edition of one hundred copies. A brave venture from Where Is This, which should pay off given the quality of the sounds within. The cd holds four tracks, and is wrapped in wonderfully shadowy, decayed artwork; which reminds me of the beginning of the film “Irreversible”.
The first piece, “Underground Cavern (Bear’s Den)”, is also the longest - a twenty-five minute track dominated by harsh “digital” sounding fizz and hovering feedback tones. This has several shifts in intensity, which are often achieved by variations in density, rather than changes in equalisation or frequencies - indeed, its notable that the track has precious little low end to speak of. The whole piece is quite static in many ways, often feeling more like a very harsh drone; built on dark, drifting tones, which are buried beneath the scouring, surface fuzz. A strange sense of winding down is evoked here, an atmosphere of melancholy; aided by the very delicate rain-like textures that appear near the end.
“Marco In His Work Clothes”, following, enters with a bludgeoning flurry of noise; virulent surging noise that doesn’t let up till the track ends. The skeleton of the piece is a dirty, lo-fi drilling-esque sound; which pushes and pulls throughout the track, before emerging more clearly in the final moments. This spits out skittering gusts of treble, as well as juddering blocks of bassier frequencies; all of which are covered by a blanket of fizz.
The third track, “Wolf Bar”, is possibly my favourite piece here - a ominous mixture of clipping, bass driven rumbles and more delicate crackling. It starts with these elements equally represented, alongside some breaking-up tones; before switching the emphasis to the slow churn of the bass. The more trebly crackling lurks around the edges of this forceful rumble, until it rises up and the track breaks open - with the treble elements scratching and skittering through the speakers. Unexpected details come in the form of a sudden outbreak of tonal, synthy sounds and a filter swish into bass - probably clues to the set-up utilised by Where Is This.
“Greg In His Sports Gear” closes the album, and it closes it intensely. Its dominated by a very rough, droning tone; which has a hollow quality to it. This streams out of the speakers at a fast rate, until about halfway through; when it pulls back a little, allowing crunchier details to emerge. The rather cryptic sound that is produced - odd, echoing grains of noise - is soon joined by cautious crackle that creeps into the shadows, with accompanying bass tones. The piece ends by pulling the beginning tone into greater realms of hollowness: though, whether this is despair or ecstasy, is unclear.
Curiously, “Rue Des Lombards” is largely devoid of the one thing I most enjoy about Harsh Noise Walls: crunchy textures. There really aren’t too many passages of intense textural concentration. What is more curious, to my ears, is that the album has an overwhelmingly tonal feel to it; which is incredibly unusual in HNW. This gives some of the tracks great emotional weight, as well as giving it an overall sound that stands out. So, despite the lack of my sacred crunch, this is a very interesting release. Its essentially static, without being remotely clinical - though a track like “Marco In His Work Clothes” is more Harsh Noise than HNW - and it has a lot of colour and detail to it - some hidden, some paraded. Its an interesting work and, given the edition, one you have no excuse for missing out on.( editors note: For more info, hear samples of this release & buy direct pop over here )Martin P