Various Artists - Hard Panning: The Ultimate Contemporary Cut-Up Har [Triangle Records/Somnolent Shelter Records - 2014]
Triangle Records and Somnolent Shelter Records presents Hard Panning: The Ultimate Contemporary Cut-Up Harsh Noise International Compilation. Whew...that was a mouthful! As the title implies, this CD offers 16 tracks of harsh noise, cut n’ paste mayhem. While not quite a comprehensive who’s who of noisers toiling with the cut-up aesthetic, it is nevertheless a really good showing. Featured are a collection of some of heavy hitters of the sub-genre: Developer, K2, Facialmess, Ahlzagailzeguh, Purgist, and T.E.F. along with some artists I‘m less familiar with. That said, this compilation is all killer no filler! There’s not a single dud to be found from beginning to end.
The CD is packaged in a gatefold, cardstock cover. It’s quite stunning in it’s utter simplicity. It’s all black & white, featuring mostly stylized text with a super dark photo of what appears to be a man making a peace sign to a soldier. The broken up font they used for the “Hard Panning” logo is really classy looking (and I say that without a hint of sarcasm) and contrasts well with the typeface used for the informational text.
Through 16 tracks, Hard Panning assembles a diverse array of cut-up artists providing a 53 minute soundtrack of disorienting noise, played at (mostly) dizzying speeds, expertly cut and stitched up. Think lots of hard stops and starts, chopped up field recordings, harsh noise static crunch, junk metal abuse, ear-splitting feedback, and (you guessed it) hard-panned channels. While I thoroughly enjoyed spinning this release through and through, there were some tracks that especially resonated with me.
Facialmess’s opening track “Original Soldier,” is a particularly explosive statement. The 3 ½ minute piece is a chaotic maelstrom of hard stuttering tones, quick breaks, punchy glitch bits and high end feedback. Canadian act, Jake Vida, on “Stressed,” presents a steady stream of squelchy pulses, juxtaposed with junk metal damage and sparse (though well executed) vocal work. “Farewell,” by Kazuma Kubota sounds like an artificial jungle teeming with digital wildlife, periodically broken up by harsh static wash, stressed synth sounds, and even ambient moments. MAAAA on “Utmost Restraint,” incorporates a lot of delayed sci-fi synth tones and spacey, psychedelic sweeps in his own brand of harsh noise. On “Collapse” Purgist contrasts some lightning quick electronics (that sound like a chorus of shattering glass), muffled pulses, and what sounds like a car engine on the verge of collapse. Ohio’s reliably cacophonous Developer offers a nameless track of barreling harsh noise, delayed tones, sprightly synth bits, and even adds some drumming to the mix. Encephalophonic’s colorfully titled, “Cut My Flesh While I Pulp Your Ass,” offers up an array of laser-like synth blasts, plodding beats, and a torrential downpour of screaming static tones. Lettera 22 almost sounds like an outlier on this compilation, most notably for the artist’s restraint. A majority of this track is made up of subdued, digital artifacts mixed with random whirring and buzzing, only achieving a harsh noise assault in the track’s final salvo.
A mysterious, uncredited track, occupies the disc’s 16th final slot. Taking bits and pieces of sonic detritus from the 15 prior tracks, this piece could very well be a remix of all the artists on the entire compilation. While I don’t know for certain, I’d say that’s a pretty good guess.
Had I been on the ball and acquired Hard Panning much sooner, it certainly would have resided at the top of my 2014 “best of…” list. This is without a doubt an exemplary statement of the cut-up aesthetic. I have little doubt that a decade from now noiseheads will fondly be looking upon this release as a seminal compilation from the era and a watershed offering from this sub-genre. I can’t recommended this enough!Hal Harmon