Shurayuki-hime - In The Beginning, Woman Was The Sun [Geräuschmanufaktur - 2016]Shurayuki-hime's "In The Beginning, Woman Was The Sun" is a C-40 release on the esteemed Geräuschmanufaktur label run by Jan Warnke in Osnabrück, Germany. It comes in a white casing with an extended artwork inlay - featuring a portrait of Raicho Hiratsuka and some explanatory text surrounding the theme of the release. As explained in said text, the release's title quotes the opening lines of the first edition of Hiratsuka's literary magazine "Seitô". The project itself has long been fascinated with the early feminism of Japan and this release extends the projects gaze into that realm.
Both sides are eponymous and/or untitled, and even before listening the listener is most likely right to make the assumption that this will be one near-forty-minute wall that has been carved into two to fit the format - although, with this said, of all the HNW projects out there, there is a special attention to details and to these kinds of choices that Shurayuki-hime is aware of that also leans towards the presumption that we will have two distinct and carefully crafted near-twenty-minute walls that nestle side by side and complement eachother in both their differences and similarities.
Side A enters calmly into a perfectly smouldering and crunching texture-filed wall, with a muted and airy auditory sensation that, once proper immersion has taken place, forms a low-level high-pitched whining that carries and moulds the various walled textures together in one shapeless and uniform mass. The default level of recording itself feels quite low (speaking broadly and comparatively in terms of levels HNW is usually dubbed at) but, personally, whilst listening I like to experiment with low levels and loud levels and find a juicy centre of maximum enjoyment - which is quite tough to find, seeing as this wall is the kind of crunchy brute that tends to satisfy at literally any level. There is a delicously ceaseless churning to this first side, addictingly so, it makes the listener pine for more of the same on the second side.
Entering into that side, we discover a much more muted and mellow adversary to the first wall - but it does very much sound like the listener was correct in their initial assumption, and that we have two walls that have been, admittedly carefully and consciously, carved into two halves. Where the first had considerable weight and lent itself almost immediately to a very blissful and tranquil state of immersion, there is a touch more minimalism and sparsity to this side which makes that type of immersion slightly harder to achieve. Instead focusing the listener on the various slight and sinewy textures that crawl around and lurch within the wall's mass - some minutes in, there is the uncanny sense of a building of momentum that suggests that this wall will be approaching once more the staunch weight we first heard on the initial side of the cassette.
I have a particularly long personal history listening to this project, having digitally released one of its earliest albums (Kanno Sugako). The project appears to have released almost thirty releases in its lifetime, most of these being self-released, and the very first being a long twenty-four track digital release (Rite of Love and Death) as part of the global/online/UK 'Noisevember' initiative, in which one attempts to create one track a day in the month of Novemeber - this was in the November of 2015. For a project which has managed such a large catalogue in the space of only three years, there is a surprising level of quality across releases - most of which I have had the pleasure of hearing, although one or two may have slipped through the net. In "...Woman Was The Sun" particularly, there is such a high quality to the attention to detail, the artful way in which textures are shaped together, starting and ceasing incessantly, and always carried along by a staunch weight that makes up the 'harsh' in HNW, whilst never being so blaring that some of the deliciously miniscule textures are smothered. It is very easy to tell that Shurayuki-hime is a project by an artist who has spent a long time carefully honing their wallcraft and developing an ear like no other for HNW. As per usual, I wait with baited breath for the next instalment from this project.
Jan's label released this tape in July 2016 and has long since sold out of all copies, although there may be some surfacing on Discogs for the keen collector. Jan himself is responsible for some fine experimental, noise and HNW projects and collaborations of his own and has proven time and again with this label of his how much of a keen ear he has and that he has a well-honed approach to its curation and its underlying label aesthetic and ethos. I very strongly recommend to those interested in noise- and specifically minimal noise and HNW- checking out the continuing work of the label and its future editions - there is much gold to be uncovered.James Shearman