Clive Henry/Trou - Split [Self Release - 2017]The split between Clive Henry and Trou is untitled, that is the spine gives us only the titles given to each artist's track ("Untitled / Scorch I"), and comes in a white case with black text on grey paper for the artwork.
The front of the cassette shows us what appears to be quite an old print illustration of a tree shedding it's fruit beside a lake in which fish are floating at the surface (presumably dead, like the fruit). Each artist takes up an entire side and while Clive's side is untitled, he does include an image of a crucifix below his page in the cassette inlay, made up entirely of the phrase "Every single person you meet is trying to steal from you" in all caps. Accompanying Trou's page for this is an interesting artwork of some kind of horseman, both the man and the horse adorned in a spiky metal armour while the man carries a banner of some kind - the vibe is very much that of fantasy, or even more specifically of the Warhammer franchise. While there is little information physically present in the release, a look at Clive's website will inform us that this is a self-released edition of 40 from 2017 and is a c90.
There is no information on the cassette about how and when the tracks were made, in fact everything I've written above is basically all that you can glean from the exterior. This is an interesting artistic decision as it places quite an emphasis on the sounds alone, leaving the listener totally in the dark is personally something I've always found to be quite alluring for HNW in particular - as a listener, it tends to help aid me in coming up with my own recpetion and interpretation of the release and I can tend to prefer having these to the "desired outcome" of the artist present in my mind. You also have to bare in mind that many HNW listeners are already accustomed to the previous work of an artist they are listening to (as is the case with this release for me) and this tends to be more than enough background information going in. With this said, I don't ignore the fact that to newcomers who are still outsiders, who can and surprisingly do exist in the world of HNW, there is a definite air of enigma and mystery to this release.
On Side A we have Trou's "Scorch I", we open with a crumbling and vaulting wall that jerks all over the place - at one point it sounds meagre and dissipating and at others it seems to slither and grow like a fat worm in loamy soil. The undulating crunch and shudder of the wall continues to move in an unpredictable fashion for much of it's duration - various textures are able to seep through only to be smothered once more whilst moments of calm are continually replaced and then rejuvenated. While the natural urge of the listener is to go to a place of 'wave-like' imagery, I find myself more inclined towards serpents and animal bodies capable of 'writhing' - this feels to me very much like a writhing wall. Flecks and speckles of distorted detritus fall, or shed, from a gargantuan moving body as it makes it's way through some kind of tunnel-like terrain - while a muted hum of bass will always remain in place of silence as a kind of 'stationary sound', we are mostly taken on a journey that suggests continual if intermittent progression. All the while, the wall never strays from its carefully defined pallette of particular mid-shedding and haphazard rumbling - free of much of the high-end, "airy" sound that some wall artists head straight into with every endeavour - the result is a very dark sound accompanied with a very primal imagery. We are frequently tunnelled into areas of outright drone - a large swell of sound pushing so hard out of, or perhaps into, the low-end rumble that the wall begins to fully flake and shed and wither.
Over the 45-minute course of this wall we are led into a dark tunnel that brings us to many stops which ultimately procures an intriguing take on a growing phenomenon within the realm of HNW - applying drone to wall to an extent that many have taken to using the term "DNW". It is arguable that this is just a very dynamica and movement-based HNW, but I am personally inclined to see it in the light of a burgeoning scene of artists all making drone-inspired and drone-based wallcraft - Cory Strand who runs Altar of Waste Records in particular strikes me as a leading figure in said scene, while Clive Henry himself has clearly also had an impact. The approach is executed here incredibly well and by an artist who seems to approach the sound with their own designs.
On Side B we have Clive Henry's Untitled track, which opens with a lusciously ambient swelling of synthetic sound. Like a cool pool it slowly grows and engulfs the listener, feeling very much as though it is lulling you into a false sense of security. A heavy churning bass leaves embers and sparks of crackling HNW fury. The crackling here is perfectly fire-like. The staunchness never faulters and as such, the scorching goes from hellish and brutal to calming and peaceful over time. Eventually a piercing ring brings us to a calming subsidance - something Trou's side had left us lacking, cutting off quite abruptly (although I'm quite used to this in the first side of HNW tapes as many artists choose to cut one wall across two sides frequently).
Overall this is a great split. Trou's side is an expectedly interesting re-envisionment of HNW, in which progression, movement and dynamics are perfectly capable of being the driving force behind a staunch static wall of sound. For a wall which has so much going on, there is still ample chance for the listener to both immerse themselves and also conjure up all kinds of mental imagery (as my own reception would hopefully show). Trou's side is slightly harder for me to apply a frame of reference to in terms of the project catalogue as I don't know it as well as I know Clive's. With this said, Trou's material out on the Craneal Fracture label really brought my attention to the project and pushed me into attempting to engage with it more - the wall in this split is a shining example of the quality of the project and yet another impetus to drive me into further engaging with other Trou releases. Clive's side is yet another shining example of his idiosyncratic style and approach to wallcraft, not straying too far from the drone sound we've heard on previous releases such as 'hymns' on Aetheric Records - but with added HNW flavouring.
You can contact the artists about ordering a copy - Clive's email can be found at his website: clivehenry.orgJames Shearman