Volhnn - Artefact [Modern Tapes - 2017]Artefact presents the listener with two near on half-an-hour examples of stark-yet-moodily detailed & subtle shifting walled noise; which moves between ANW & dense atmospheric Wall matter. The release appeared late last year on Albuquerque, New Mexico label Modern Tapes- coming in either a cassette edition( which I’m reviewing) or a digital download.
Volhnn is the more moody & atmosphere focused static noise texturing/ ANW project of frenchman Matthieu Wagner- who will be known to euro wall noise fan for his hugely prolific & often horror/ sleazy themed HNW project Chier. Volhnn started in 2016 and has so far put out around six releases. This is my first taste of the projects work, so I can’t say how it compares to the projects other releases; but from what I hear on Artefact it’s up to the creative standard of his work with Chier- just more pared-back & bleak in its feel.
The white-shelled features a small stuck on label on one side, and the tape comes packaged inside a small metal tobacco tin. The tin features monochrome labels on both sides- on the front we get a very stark landscape photo of a barren landscape spotted with a few brick towers & mounds, and on the back the labels logo & minimal texts. Also in the box, you get a download code, a folded inlay featuring another bleak picture, and a small sticker. Sadly this tape is now all sold-out from the label; so I think your only option is the DL, unless you can track a copy down on discogs.
Both tracks here are untitled/ self-titled, and side A’s track is probably the more ( subtly) shifting & ambiently pared back of the two walls. The track starts out with a uninformed & constant mesh of gritty feasting static- this is blended with battering & buffeting of sways of thinner textural sweeps- all bringing to perfectly either images of a barren wind-whipped desert or a stinging winter storm blowing across a landscape of monochrome bleakness. By around the 7th minute a slow churning ‘n’ crumbling rumble has moved up in the mix, and with it, the wind battering sweeps seem to ease back. This allows the more defined & feasting mesh of grained static to take hold, which also sees a shifting & splits in its patter-nation- with a blend of swirling-yet-slurred cascades, rubbing & slightly hammering descents, and slowly receding lines of pop ‘n’ hiss. At around the 18th-minute mark this buried-yet- slowly advancing & growing throb can be made out; this has an almost synth harmonic feel about it, but it never fully forms into notation, but instead creates this slow circling & hypnotic buzzing vibe. In the tracks final five or so minutes Wagner brilliant builds up & shifts the textures to great moody & brooding effect, with the addition of mid & low ranged sweeps, spiraling tunnels of gritting, and tunnelling organic drone undercurrents.
Moving onto the second track/side, and this starts off a lot denser & thicker in its feel, though it still has an ambient feel to its attack. We get a blend of sustained purring & slowly simmer synth like hover, constantly descending webs of slicing ‘n’ knocking textures, and a muffled ‘n’ churning hiss- which has quite an industrial quality to it. As we reach the 12th minute the sound picture has become very dense & crowded in its feel- all to creating quite a sinisterly throbbing ‘n’ churning feel to proceedings. By the 16th minute the more sustained & building drone feel with-in the tracks depths seems to falter & wavering somewhat, and with this development, you get these sweeps of small chopping & snapping texturing- bringing to mind a shifting tunnel like vista, which seem to slowly unfold on & on. Much like the first sides track, in the last quarter, we get a more focused & semi harmonic feeling building at the edge of the track, and this blends together with a lower drone feel & more expanding feedback pulls 'n' stretchers. As the minutes tick by it appears to be both accelerating -yet-moodily expanding in its feel, which is an interesting contrast, and quite screws with one's head.
I was most impressed & taken by Artefact- as it shows both great & creative textural control, a keen sense of barren atmosphere & mood, and lastly great compositional flair. If your going into this release expecting Chier like material & feel- you may be disappointed, as Volhnn is very different in both it’s less strict wall setting, general feel, and mood. But if you want to hear masterful atmospheric & ambient focused wall-matter you will not be disappointed by Artefact.Roger Batty