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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Servant Girl Annihilator - Higher Source [Needle and Knife - 2015]

Here’s a tape on Needle and Knife, the subsidiary of Palinopsia Recordings. Two tracks of noise from Servant Girl Annihilator, both weighing in around the ten minute mark. The project name is beautifully cryptic, and that extends to the artwork and titles too.

The cassette inlay is adorned with various images of an old man, performing a speech to camera - and judging by those images, the resulting film appeared via VHS tapes. The title, Higher Source, combined with the imagery - which seemed familiar from somewhere - led me to research “US cult leaders”, and lo and behold, I very quickly found that the man was Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate group. For the uninitiated, Heaven’s Gate were a throughly intriguing, and thoroughly modern, religious group, that ended in mass suicide - via UFO’s, aliens, biblical prophecies, and castration. (That should spark your interest…) The two pieces here are dedicated to this clearly stimulating, colourful story.

The first track, St. Thomas (1965), is formed primarily of two elements: a high, organ-like drone, and several layers of noise textures. The drone shimmers and reverberates throughout the piece, though it does dissipate a little near the end - lessening into echoing lines. The noise which surrounds the drone isn’t very static either. Initially, the main layers are a fizzy - but hard - crackle, and very wispy sounds which are almost ambient breaths or washes. The layers seem to gain solidity as the piece progresses, and as the drone lightens its presence, the noise becomes very strong, taking on the appearance of a very hard drone itself.

8 Members (The Ascetic Lifestyle), occupies the second side, and has a similar set-up to the first track. Again, there is a combination of noise and (what sounds like) an organ, but here, the balance has shifted. Where St. Thomas (1965) was almost a straight drone, 8 Members (The Ascetic Lifestyle) is outright noise. Dirty, burrowing noise, that speeds along, fizzing and cracking. But buried within, something tonal and droning lurks, this time lower in pitch, and volume: those organ-like sounds. At points, they are more reminiscent of creeping, low feedback; they are practically smothered by the rampaging skree overhead, and a low-end that frequently threatens to overload things.

There’s something brilliantly unapologetic about this release: it feels like two slabs of noise just hacked off, thrown onto a tape, and ‘what more do you want?’ There’s no real sense of finery or decoration, just these very raw creations. This isn’t to suggest a lack of craft, or ideas, or indeed that the tracks are sheer brute power - all things considered, the pieces are far from being noise blasts - but there’s a material rawness, a primitivism, that works on a sonic level. There is a plainness, even a simplicity, that becomes a real virtue throughout the cassette.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Martin P
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