Self-Inflicted Violence - Defeated [Somnolent Shelter Records - 2013]Self-Inflicted Violence is the depressive harsh noise project of Tomasz Piotrowicz, who also uses the alias I Am A Slut. While I've heard in passing of the man's work, I'd never listened to any of his output prior to hearing this latest CDr "Defeated". The album runs just under a half hour, and contains 6 tracks.
Song names such as "Life Is Better When You Are Drunk" and "So Sad When You Are Not Here" would suggest a more melancholic listening experience than actually presents itself here. The album opener "Madeline" is 1:22 of somber, dulled Gothic ambient pads and garbled samples, but as of track 2, the synths and atmospherics become wholly subservient to choppy, frequently interrupted squalls of feedback distortion texture, which stab in and out with apathetic randomness. While this sound is surely born out of the emotional darkness indicated in the song names, the noise itself is ambiguous, interpretable to mean whatever the listener would like. Typically, I find listening to this kind of sound to be soothing to the nerves, if not to the eardrums.
Certainly, this is the 'scree' characteristic of the 'harsh noise' genre Merzbow popularized, however Self-Inflicted Violence opts to keep the noise mostly in the middle frequency bands, without Merzbow's usual density or penchant for punishing high frequencies. The distortion is charmingly grimey and lo-fi, with an ear-pleasing EQ that recalls old school death metal, but lacks a large diversity of textures. It sounds as if virtually the entire album was recorded as an improvisation using the same setup and distortion settings. It's not long enough that it becomes tedious, but it doesn't bring much new to the harsh noise genre either.
The most interesting thing about it is perhaps that the ambiences never totally disappear from beneath the noise for duration for an album, yet stay at such a quiet volume that they are little more than a hinted backdrop; at some points I begin to wonder if I'm really hearing them. If these had been mixed just slightly louder, the album could have been a more fascinating combination of melancholy ambience and harsh unpredictable spasms of noise. The potential of such a sound is exhibited in the final few seconds of many songs, in which the noise crumbles away to leave a murky low-register piano loop or string synth. The effect of noise reverberating and receded into an understated ambient space is quite haunting. This is most successfully explored in the second half of the album, with the track "No Reason To Do Anything Vol Minus"; there are frequent pauses in the din in which such a haunting dissipation can be heard.
I can't wholeheartedly recommend this album because there's nothing on it I haven't heard accomplished with more clarity of purpose and force, though I imagine I'd enjoy one of Piotrowicz' live performances. The seeds of a powerful and emotional sound are here, but he has allowed the noise to bully the more subdued side of his music into near inaudibility. Though the album lacks diversity or momentum, I'm glad I heard it. Hardcore fans of cathartic, lo-fi and melancholy noise would likely get something out of this recording.Josh Landry