01 Black Death Rise
02 I Shall Forever Invoke
03 Prayer Walk
04 Brooding Haze
05 The Announcement (Death Over China)
06 The Desecration From Within
Anemone Tube is a German project which started out in 1996, and is counting several releases and collaborations between 1997 and 2003. After that a 7-year break ensued, and the project appeared again in 2010 with “Dream Landscape”. “Death Over China”, co-released by Israeli label Topheth Prophet and Belgian label Silken Tofu, follows immediately after that, signifying a new era of productivity for Anemone Tube. It’s a limited edition of 731 hand numbered copies, and it comes in a 5 panel folder with a 19 x 14 cm metallic/black print, packaged in transparent bag. In the artwork is included the painting “Ulysses and the Sirens” by H.J. Draper, a photograph by Jan Ciecierski, poetry by the artist, various photographs taken in China in his 2007 trip, as well as historical photographs taken around 1905 in Beijing, which depict the last public execution employing the especially cruel method of Leng T’che (the slicing of parts of the body, with the purpose of torturing the person to the extreme, and delaying the penalty of death). Now these are extremely shocking photographs, certainly not for the fainthearted – you have been warned!
“Death Over China” is comprised entirely of field recordings made during the artist’s trip in China in the year 2007, more particularly in Nanjing and Shanghai. Additional synthesizer is used only in “I Shall Forever Invoke” and “Prayer Walk”. Despite the manipulation done on the field recordings, the original ambience of the places is retained, to a degree where a complete traveller’s impression can be conveyed through the album. A somewhat distorted impression for sure, and one that digs too deep under the surface for comfort, but an impression nonetheless. Its trademark is a combination of brutal, grim noise, recorded sounds, spoken word and machinery turned into heavy, slow rhythms. Other unidentified sources provide a multi-layered complexity. A distinctive trace of dark ambient melodies lurks ominously in the background, giving a cheerless, despondent tone to the whole. Anemone Tube uses field recordings masterfully, reaching down into their inner core, surgically removing and replacing the various elements to bring to the surface their true spirit.
“Black Death Rise” begins calmly with traffic sounds from a nearby street, and slowly introduces us to the rhythmic use of found noise sources. Harrowing screams can be discerned in the background, and a monotone male voice loops over the rhythms, resembling the hypnotic chants of an urban shaman. “I Shall Forever Invoke” begins with the utilisation of patterns very similar to the previous track, adding more layers and cautiously increasing its volume, while the sharp metallic sounds and its fiendish melody inhabit an imaginary scene. In “Prayer Walk” a female voice loop prevails, repeating a public announcement. A guide from beyond, it carves a path through an infernal, frightening landscape, while static noise moves frantically, imitating the howling of the wind. “Brooding Haze” is an entanglement of many different sounds engaging in a demonic dance, the back and forth of its tempo resembling the ebb and flow of the tide of souls, the internal heartbeat of the city. In “The Announcement” the dark ambient elements of Anemone Tube’s music are more easily perceptible, as the track contains the least amount of noise in comparison to the rest. Droning and voice samples create a varying, desolate landscape, a ghostly emptiness from where occasionally spring the remnants of hope. A hope soon to be irrevocably crushed in “The Desecration From Within”, a massive wall of rhythmic death industrial, the grandiose, military air and relentless repetition of which cry out “utter annihilation”. Undoubtedly the best track of the album, and one of the best I’ve ever listened to. In the unlikely occasion of the rest of the album failing to grab your attention, this one surely will.
The combination of Draper’s paintings with the title, the overall atmosphere and the disturbing pictures of public torture, facilitates the apprehension of the concept. Death hovers over China like the ancient, eternal creature that he is, and the impressions he receives surpass the boundaries of time, in an admixture of past, present and future. Locations are haunted by their historical significance, countless little incidents, and just as many big ones, all merge under the darkness of Death’s wings. His presence can be actual, metaphysical or symbolic, can be distinguished in an individual as well as a collective level. It is found in the demise of matter, the corruption and decay of human flesh. In pain, chaos, confusion, fear. In the crushing sounds of an insatiable industrialisation, replacing memories with structures, beauty and natural order with mechanical production, human nature with its hybrid counterpart, a creature half-engine, half-man, carried away by Death’s alluring song, merging with the functions of the machine. Because the demands of life are also the demands of death, what is born must necessarily expire. Death is the ultimate ruler of all. We must necessarily succumb to life’s charms, and the moment we do so the idea becomes reality, the image becomes matter. Each beginning is indeed, an end.
That is of course, an interpretation based on my own imagination – you may very well apply your own. The fact remains however, that “Death Over China” is painfully alive, bursting with the agonizing tension of such an understanding. It grips the listener with admirable force, never letting go until the 45 minutes of the recording are over. Its devastating voices, hopeless atmospheres and stifling, crushing noise are parts of the monstrous, roaring machine that destroys everything in its path, laying its wheels sluggishly on the dusty, blood-stained ground. The screams of the perished souls pierce the air in a hellish crescendo. Despite the fact that extinction is sure to follow, you cannot help but be enticed, and willingly, even excitedly, approach it.