Various Artists - Séance [Worthless Recordings - 2012]
Here’s a very smart double cassette compilation on the reliable Worthless Recordings label. Presented in a dual tape box, with pro-printed inlay, inserts and tape stickers, the release’s imagery is all very funereal: skulls, graveyards and decrepit mausoleums. The cassettes contain fifteen tracks, from a variety of projects; some new to me, some not. I don’t feel that there’s any over-riding theme or concept to the collection, so we may as well just go through each tape in turn.
Opening the first tape, Aderlating contribute one of the best pieces on the compilation: a collision of kinetic percussive noises, droning synth lines and distressed bass churn. The opening percussive workout places its sounds all around the stereo field, to great effect; and the track impressively builds and builds. Following this, we have a shorter piece from Flesh Coffin, which cuts junk skree into walls of noise; again, there’s a solid sense of development here, a crumbling noise drone emerging before the track ends with circling junk sounds. Presenting a more droning aesthetic, Luasa Raelon’s contribution is an eerie, subdued piece; with heavy synth atmospheres and reverb drenched feedback. Its a very tautly managed track, with an oppressive tension maintained till its end. The last piece on side A comes from HHL, who present a longer, ten minute track of noise and crackle. It rigorously pursues these textures and skree to the bitter end, with a “coiled” sense - as if its always on the cusp of breaking open.
Side B starts with Demonologists, who give us reverberating noise with a vague sci-fi feel. This is much due to some of the synthy loops and sounds they deploy, echoing through a ripping, but spacey, wall of noise. They add some unintelligible vocals to the blown out barrage; but its the, often eerie, digital synth sounds that catch the ear - and indeed, the track dies out to these. After this, Josh Lay combines black metal-esque vocals, bubbling noise drones and some guitar unpleasantness; but not to any overwhelming effect. The next, shorter, work is from Skin Graft; with squealing feedback abuse, growling synth throbs and over-saturated noise - it’s the hyperactive cousin to the track which follows, from Camisole. This essentially ties muffled, delayed vocals to a heavy noise drone; and brings the first tape to a somewhat boring close.
The second tape begins in a much more promising fashion, with a short, teasing piece from Winters In Osaka. It starts with delicate, slight sounds; looping and echoing, whilst a shrill tone builds. This tone, along with the other elements, is slowly ruined and eaten up by some nice sub bass - its the shortest track here by far, but also one of the most effective. It contrasts well with the next piece, from Goat, which switches control and stealth for blown out power; its a rush of noise with whipping, synth-like modulation and sounds - but ultimately nothing too special. Vomir is as Vomir does, and his untitled track here is the usual thick wall of densely layered crunch and crackle. This concentrated dose of textural exploration sets the scene nicely for A Snake In The Garden, who deliver one of the best tracks on “Seance”: “During Her Assistance”. It’s a very well paced, patiently developed piece; building from crumbling, scratchy pummel, with streaks of feedback, into the sonic equivalent of a sped-up fight from a martial arts film. A great end to the third side.
The final quarter of the compilation, side D, opens with a long drone from Ghoul Detail. It creates a murky, oppressive atmosphere; burying smaller elements deep in the drone and using reverb effectively to create a genuine eeriness. This is followed by another drone, from Haare; again with submerged details, though this time they are percussion and vocals of a “tribal” nature. There is an “epic” scale to the drone, but its made smaller by the introduction of some rather unconvincing guitar near its end. The compilation closes with a track by Persistence In Mourning, which starts off with staccato, Godflesh-flavoured, doom stabs before building into a murky black metal lurch. It struggles to convince on any level, but it does end with an odd trance-esque bassline; which gives the whole affair a very skewed feel.
This is a pretty monstrous compilation: fifteen tracks and over an hour and a half of music. Its not all pure gold if I’m honest, but certainly the good outweighs the bad. The finer points on “Seance”, to my ears, come where the walls of noise are held back a little; with some projects exploring more articulate and delicate textures. In this respect, the tracks by Aderlating, Winters In Osaka and A Snake In The Garden are clear highlights for me; but the pieces by Flesh Coffin, Vomir, Luasa Raelon and Ghoul Detail are also of worthy note.Martin P