Scholl - Stadelheim Prison Mantras [ULFO - 2020]
This neatly packaged tape is from Peter Keller, the figure behind such heavyweights as Bacillus, Condo Horro, and Geißt, and indeed the owner of the ULFO label. In an apparent departure from the above projects, Scholl - named after, and themed around, the heroic actions of Sophie Scholl of the White Rose during the Nazi regime - is primarily rhythmic, even beat-based; however, the firm pursuance of harsh noise in an unadulterated, pure form - and a commanding grip of those techniques - remains a dominant presence here.
This is a curious release; I like it but I can’t see myself listening to it much. There have been several attempts to blend HNW and techno/etc, with varying success, but Scholl is perhaps the most static sounding version I’ve heard; this is possibly because where other attempts have sometimes sounded like obliterated, over-saturated beats, on Stadelheim Prison Mantras the rhythmic elements are foregrounded, creating a brutal sense of monotony and repetition. This is very much the simultaneous strength and weakness of the release - a ‘marmite test’ for the listener. It is relentlessly monotone - each track simply beats a loop or rhythm into the ground, often pitched perfectly between brutal, dirty noise and crafted, texturally obsessive noise - the force of the former and the articulation of the latter. It can’t be overemphasised how ‘static’ the pieces are; I’m inclined to suspect that several of the tracks are indeed wholly static - ‘no change, no development’ - and that even though I hear minor shifts these are in fact aural tricks of the brain. All five works are similar in that regard, and long: ‘Bill For The Wear Of The Guillotine’ is over 18 minutes in duration. As an indication of the general sound, the first track, ‘Freiheitsaktion Bayern,’ features pummelling, rhythmic blocks of noise, monotonously marching over a bed of machine whine and quieter, shadowing crackle. And that’s that. That’s not a criticism as such, the sonic qualities are obvious, but the brutal repetition presents a challenge in terms of the listening experience - for me at least. Essentially I found that the only rewarding, meaningful way to listen to Stadelheim Prison Mantras was incredibly closely and intensely, where it became hypnotic and compelling - if bleak. However, whilst this is arguably the optimum way to experience music, we all know that a lot of the time our attention is less devoted and concentrated, and I didn’t feel that the album hit home as ‘background listening.’ So whilst it’s not a criticism of Scholl as such, I’m really not sure how often I would listen to this.
Stadelheim Prison Mantras is a good release, and a solid contribution to the world of noise/techno/etc crossovers - though very much from the noise side of the equation. The album is pure and uncompromising, without diversion or concession, and that’s precisely why it’s good, but also challenging. I recommend it with the caveats I mentioned above. Head here to pick up a copy of the tapeRoger Batty