Shurayuki-hime - Mori [Altar of Waste - 2016]Shurayuki-hime's "Mori" is the third release from the project on the Minneapolis label Altar of Waste. The release comes as a c20 cassette, the casing is a nice pastel lavender and it was released in an edition of twenty, presumably long-sold-out, copies. This will be the second time I've reviewed the project for this site and, where as with other projects I might feel that it is unwarranted to return to a project when I could be devoting review time to so many other amazing artists who are yet to be given proper attention, this project has proven itself to be a powerhouse of mindblowing HNW that deserves all of the spotlight thrown its way.
And that spotlight has been shone by some of the best - Shurayuki-hime has had releases with such fine labels as Needle & Knife, Void Worship, The Levle of Vulnerability, Grey Matter Productions, Dancing Shadows, Geräuschmanufaktur, Reason Art Records, Lurker Bias and Fall Into Void Recs. These labels represent a huge chunk of my listening when it comes to HNW and experimental music in general and I hold any project which is able to feature across all of these platforms in very high regard. Just as Shurayuk-hime is able to have such an ear for HNW and have that show in their wallcraft - moving between multiple forms from dense, thick, slathers of thunderous wall to thinly-spread crackling ambience - the heads of these labels have proven with their own curatorial quality to have such an ear as well.
At the helm of AOW we have Cory Strand, a proponent of many experimental fields, his particular devotion to the HNW realm has shone through with the labels more recent output especially. The label is fairly prestigious and there are likely few dedicated artists and fans who will not have heard of it by now, having begun its intense volly of releases almost six years ago. The Shurayuki-hime project comes from the UK, Newcastle specifically, and has been creating HNW since November 2015. The project began seemingly as something that might have been a one-off dedication but thankfully was not - with a release which was in tribute to the black and white silent film "Yukoku" by Yukio Mishima. The releaese featured twenty-four hour-long tracks which were all made daily in the month of November as part of the ongoing 'Noisevember' event of that year, in which a whole range of global artists come together online to attempt to create a track a day in the month of November, usually leaving behind a compilation of their efforts. The releases from the project to proceed this would cement it as one particularly interested in Japan's history of anarcho-feminism and portraying this history in the imagery and themes of releases - although as time has passed the project has broadened the lens towards various disparate aspects of Japanese culture.
"Mori" is comprised of two perfectly ten-minute blocks of wall. On side A we have the eponymous "Mori" and on side B we have "Hayashi". Mori opens into a densely bubbling broth of lusicous textural landscape - the wall lulls me in to a calm state of mind fairly quickly and I can't help but think of comparing the sensation to travelling at high speeds in a vehicle with a window slightly cranked, that lusciously rasping air that seems so uniform yet also so fluctuating. It would be good to point out there that, while this wall is perfectly immersive, both walls suffer for being so short. I can't deny there is something very "listenable" about them being so short - it can sometimes be a refreshing change of pace to be able to devour a HNW release in less than half an hour - but with these particular walls and my particular mood at the time of approaching them to listen for reviewing, I can't help but feel that they could have done with a jump to fifteen-minutes a piece so that the release as a whole slides into half an hour and more of the 'immersion' that the listener craves is able to take place. As the release moves swiftly into "Hayashi", the dense bubbling remains but is taken down to a lower pitch. This change allows the wriggling highs and crackling sinews of the wall to really curve and wind their way around the bulk of bubbling and rumbling - overall the wall here becomes more interesting texturally than the previous and I am led into much more careful and appreciative listening than I am 'total immersion'. The textures here are decidedly delicious - while I have lost the sense of deep immersion and also the comparison to such hypnotically meditative states as when listening to the natural, acoustic walls of those heard 'on the road' - the very quality of these sounds keeps my mind aflame, engorged on every flame-lick and melting splutter, every slight change of course the worming rumbling takes and every crisply shredded slice of static that falls upon another in a heaving underground avalanche. There is still something immersive here, no doubt, and I'm sure for most it would suffice as much as the first side's wall in working as a perfect 'study aid' or simply to help encourage a kind of 'mindlessness' that might be desired - perhaps for meditation or maybe just simply relaxation. Both walls are staunch and unflinching all the while - they present alluring and exciting textural worlds that are at once immersive and interesting, with a multi-faceted range of sounds which are somehow still confined to a rather narrow pallette - with no noticably dynamic shifts, there is much subtle shifting that the listener is led to question - is this the work of slight equalisation touches or this simply the desired effect of hearing movement where there is none in a staunchly unmoving wall? The question here is not to the fore of the release, as with many others, and as such the listener doesn't spend too much time getting bogged down in that age-old 'conundrum', as it were - instead delighting in the meticulous attention the artist has paid to the textures and how they move and evolve across such a limited time and framework.
Overall, this is a stunning addition to the catalogue of Shurayuki-hime, a project I will always continue to follow with the eyes of a maniac - hell-bent on acquiring as much as I can. I can't recommend it enough, as usual - and this goes for almost every release Cory puts out on Altar of Waste. So, while this particular release may be long sold out, I cannot stress enough that you go and check out the work currently being put out by the label and go and support it, as it will not always be around. Cory has already done his service to us, he has put in a lot of work and time and the label is already cemented in HNW history as having made a profound impact - he can leave this venture knowing the label will be well-remembered as one of the best and he has been talking about closing the label for a long time now. This is completely understandable - personally, it seems to me like there has never been a better time to go and show your love and support for all the tireless work he has and continues to put in!James Shearman