Uitgeschakeld / SP - Uitgeschakeld / SP [Reason Art Records - 2017]The eponymous split (or should I say the split album entitled "Split"[?] There has tended to be much deliberation within HNW on how to best represent 'lack' in this case, many writing "Untitled", some writing the artist aliases that appear in the release, and other simply writing "split" - or perhaps a combination of these, although I have never seen "Untitled Split by X and Y" so this culmination is ripe for the picking) by Dutch HNW project Uitgetschakeld and Russian HNW alias SP was released as a limited CDr run and digital album on the Russian label Reason Art Records in August 2017. CDr releases have been quite rare for the label, usually preferring tape, although the labelhead Sergey Pakhomov has long shown an interest in expanding the horizons of the label through an experimentation of plausible mediums - having released noise albums on both VHS cassette and DVD!
I like to think Sergey takes inspiration for this experiment with noise mediums from some of the inspiring forebears of such experimentation - the use of the USB flash drive has been a shining example in recent history, with beautiful releases from Opaque (featuring over 5 hours of wall and over 200 images) and French label Nahàsh Atrym's vast retrospective discography release for Slow Death Records (the former DIY self-release imprint of Julien Skrobek, using such aliases as Ghost and The Sandman Wears A Mask).
Uitgeschakeld is the staunchly "weighty" wall project of Dutch artist Casper van der Veen - an artist who has been making thoroughly paced contributions to the world of HNW for some time - having begun these contributions with the eponymous debut album released in September 2014 on the 'HNW' netlabel. SP was, at the time of releasing this split, a relatively recent project of the labelhead Sergey and as most would rightly guess simply stands for his initials. It is an interesting decision to make for an artist, similar to using your own full name but with a slightly altered connotation. For me the decision seems to reflect and represent a desire to maintain the focus of the listener on the sound itself, as well as the experience of listening, rather than the possible thematic allusions of the release (although this includes not only project and track titling but also visual artwork - something Sergey has always paid particularly close attention to with his label). Casper's own alias doesn't seem to easily translates from Dutch to English, but most online suggestions point toward it meaning 'lack' or inability (the internet may well stand corrected but mostly points towards 'unavailable') - this fits nicely with the decision to go out of your way as an artist to anonymize your work and void all form of intellectual attachment - preferring rather that the listener fully immerse without thought or concern given to the artist and their intentions. With this said, each artist has titled their 40-minute slab of wall, Casper's is entitled "Leeg" while Sergey's is entitled "By The Nail". Such titles are appropriately vague and mystifying for the artistic intention of being less "thought of" by the listener, although their ambiguity could in fact serve to undermine this intention as well - it all comes down to individual interpretation and experience here as it most usually does across the board in the world of HNW.
Whilst listening to "Leeg", I can't help but remind myself of similarities the wall has with previous work from the project. There is much of the weight and 'smouldering' qualities that I have come to expect - and with these a warm sense of nostalgia as the project seems to come into a clearer view. For many HNW projects, there can be an idiosyncrasy that manages to evade you as a listener until you have finally managed to listen to enough of the work. This seems to be the case here - it feels as though the more I listen to Uitgeschakeld the more I feel I "know" it - not only the textures of noise I expect to hear but the experience I expect to have whilst listening. SP, on the other hand, feels slightly harder to grasp at - it comes with much of the context I apply to listening to Sergey's work in general but not much of its own as a project. However, it does have one aspect wholly its own, and that is the way in which the album "Under the Needle" - released by ShchYL-Records from Ukraine - informs it. Under the Needle was one of my pick of thirty for the 'Best of 2017' article and was a release that left an astounding impression on me. As such, here on this split one thing I couldn't help but do was compare the SP wall here on this split to that release and try and learn from their similarities and differences - whilst also trying to determine which I preferred and why.
Listening closely to SP's "By The Nail" - I couldn't help but feel that the wall focused much less on texture than was usually the case for Sergey generally. As a project, Sergey's use of his lone initials (without even stops to clarify beyond doubt to any and every listener that the letters represent initials) seems to focus closely on his inspiring experimental use of record players as source for HNW - most clearly referred to in "Under the Needle", the needle being a record player needle that was used to pick up audio from a heavily scratched disc. Sergey experiments with live equalisation and differing materials to go "under the needle" as it were - it would seem that the SP alias may well have been created to be the sole home of these experiments. Given this possibility, it is nice to slowly zone out to 'By The Nail' imagining a scratched anti-record slowly turning and trundling along to the markedly crawling and soothing wall that rumbles away.
This split was surprising to me in at least one way - the two walls were very much complimentary in sound, much closer than I had imagined for two projects who usually bring to bear so heavily their own exacting styles. In many other ways I was not in the least surprised - both artists have continually amazed me with the calibre of their work throughout their catalogues, and these have been two artists who I have paid especially close attention to over the last few years because of this. As I fall deeper down their rabbit-hole, I am very glad to learn more about myself as a listener as well as the artists and how they perceive their work and intend for it to change and progress as time pushes on. In the case of both walls, their meaty 40-minute runtime meets few pivots or sharp bends that might shake you loose from immersion - and you are left desiring more at their end - these walls would have worked very well at an hours length easily.
As of writing there are still 8 copies of the limited run of 15 available from the label's bandcamp page - I strongly recommend supporting this DIY effort from Sergey. He has been tirelessly aiding HNW with a quiet dignity since it's inception and is in much need of appropriate recognition for that effort.James Shearman