Nightmare Castle/Robert Ridley-Sh - Split [Hissing Frames - 2014]Here’s a split on an emerging label of HNW interest: Hissing Frames. It’s had a few outstanding releases of recent and this is another successful venture. The split links up Robert Ridley-Shackleton - the force behind Hissing Frames and an apparently new practitioner of HNW - with Nightmare Castle - a more seasoned HNW devotee. Both contribute one long track each, both untitled according to the inlay. This photocopied artwork is wonderful: scribbled biro words and lo-fi collage work - it reminds me of ancient tape inlays from the noise “underground” and certainly sticks out aesthetically from the usual HNW fare.
Nightmare Castle is first up, and begins with a sample from an unknown horror film before the wall crashes in. The wall is bass driven and dominated, though perhaps a little too washy for my tastes; but underneath this, there are nice chunks of more solid mid-frequency crackle, spinning away. After a while the washiness becomes reined in, leaving a fast, spitting wall; as mediocre and cliched a response as this is, it does sound perfectly like a rain storm at points. This texture continues, underpinned by a sometimes lurching bass rumble, until around the nineteen-minute mark; after which the crackle and spit subsides to become the frosting on a juddering bass drone. This blown-out, saturated low rumble burrows away before the track opens up again in its final moments; ending with a wide open barrage of kinetic treble.
Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s track is a curiosity, but a good one. Essentially, it shifts around and between varying takes on a treble-heavy, rhythmic chattering and crackle: a disciplined choir of crickets. This very electronic sounding, possibly looped, base is tweaked and pulled to produce a multitude of textures and tones. So, what begins as taut, treble splashes for a few minutes, soon cuts to more restrained, reined-in sounds; which then shifts to noisier, but softer textures, before developing into sounds almost akin to electronic delay feedback. That’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but it gives an indication of what’s to be found throughout the piece. Despite being undoubtedly angled towards the treble and higher-mid frequencies, one of the most effective elements is a reverberating bass presence; this emerges during the second half of the track and adds immense, relentless weight. The question begs: “Is this HNW?”. In sonic terms, its quite contentious: you could crassly summarise the general sound as “an electronic pneumatic drill”. However, the treatment of these sounds shows the unmistakable touch of a HNW methodology/practice; with equalisation used as the predominant tool for subtle and not so subtle shifts.
This is another interesting split from Hissing Frames, squaring off conventional and unusual approaches to wall-making - not that there is any negative connotation to “conventional” here. Indeed, despite its less “progressive” stance, the Nightmare Castle track still takes chances - the end section of juddering bass, for example. However, I can’t deny that its Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s piece which excites me most, here; operating very close to the edges of might be considered “HNW”, it nevertheless builds an engrossing wall from less common materials. After my recent review of Tavshed, another name to watch…Martin P