Prolific nature meets extreme patience in this clash of two strangely spiritually-minded Japanese artists. Dissecting Table, the aural doppelganger to Ichiro Tsuji, offers up just one thirty-one minute long track for this split while Vasilisk takes up roughly 26 minutes over four tracks. Dissecting Table, like many of his elder contemporaries, should need little introduction to any avid industrial noise fan having proudly represented Japan’s underground noise culture for a quarter of a century. During this long period of time, Ichiro has, quite understandably, released an incredible amount of material upon the world — much of which is more than a little difficult to find today. Since the mid-80′s, Dissecting Table has avidly been releasing albums through the likes of Dark Vinyl, Daft Records, Triumvirate, Rape Art Productions, Suggestion Records, Psych KG, R.O.N.F. Records, and lately has seen interest from Steinklang Industries as is evidenced through his recent releases on their “Steinklang International” series. Of course, much of his output has been via his own label, UPD Organization (Ultimate Psychological Description), whose back catalog of 80-something Dissecting Table physical releases is staggering if not mind-bending. That’s dedication.
Vasilisk on the other hand tend to take things a bit slower, though they also found their career begin in the mid-80′s out of the ashes of White Hospital. Between 1987 and 1989, the project saw three different vinyl releases in “Whirling Dervishes”, “Mkwaju”, and “Acqua” — the former two of which were released by Yun ‘Grim’ Konagaya’s own label Eskimo Records (along with releases from White Hospital and Grim). Luciano Dari’s Musica Maxima Magnetica would take up the reigns after this releasing the Acqua LP and Liberation and Ecstasy CDEP consecutively. It would be eight years before Vasilisk was heard from again as the primary man behind the music, Tomo Kuwabara, was off soul-searching, trying to find himself in various points in Asia. 1998 saw the release of “Sixth Darshan” on Trinity Records out of Germany, which should ring a bell for long-time dark electronic music lovers as it was the original incarnation of what would become the Trisol Music Group. After this, Vasilisk simply offered only silence and in their dormant state seemed to fade into the same mythological mindset that their namesake implies — that is until they re-emerged on the strength of this split with Dissecting Table.
The split opens on Dissecting Table’s track “Saddharma” which is a track that slowly evolved over a 31 minute period until it hits it’s excessively heavy, nearly doomy power electronics climax at 15+ minutes. The track opens with various industrial elements and experimental oscillations that scratch and writhe amongst each other, co-existing as a family of snakes slithering amongst each other. Noise and static fades and swells, weaves in and around other sounds until the full momentum of the track gives way to a simplistic trudging industrial heartbeat. Noises slowly work their way back into the track after being scattered before, heralded by a creaking and cranking that justifies the tempo of the swell. Again, noise scatters off in favor of minimal industrial elements that line a background of dark ambiance, creating a subtle death industrial atmosphere in sparse moments. Noise builds one last time, teasingly, before the bottom completely falls out of the track and a brutal onslaught of harsh noise disturbingly shifts the album into a new gear and makes anything within range and with any kind of aural capacity take notice.
This is where I struggle to understand Dissecting Table on a thematic level. The Sad-dharma is, unless I’m looking at it from a different perspective, the eternal occupational duty of the soul away from what our very individualism represents as materialistic entities with Earthly interests (asad-dharma). Is the destructive noise paired with the term a protest of sorts? Or a warning? Those stuck in this cycle of modern society obviously often struggle to find any kind of spiritual identity, let alone attach themselves to what their spirits guide them to. Obviously only the artist knows as this style of music in itself is meant to be incredibly personal, and is perhaps intended to invoke philosophical contemplation in the mind of the listener. Regardless, the track inevitably finds a slightly rhythmic pattern through the harshness of the opening before, once again, the bottom completely drops out and heralds a primal and putrid, incredibly brutal industrial metal section that rips and tears through indiscernible vocals and raw, overly distorted electronics, vocals, and guitar. This moment of structure eventually gives way to a blasting electronic supremacy, completely deconstructing back into chaos. The noise, no longer heavy, takes on a high-end experimentalism before submerging into a slow-paced industrial-influenced rhythmic style of electro-acoustic looping that swells into one last buzzing shofar mantra that heralds the coming of Vasilisk’s spiritual reckonings.
Vasilisk takes quite a different approach to come to a conclusion through their unique style of music. The project borders much more on what could be considered (what I believe Mike Page would be quite proud of) Tibetan dark ambiance. Their music is all in the subtle changes that come and go with the evolution of their tracks. Light static can fade to the buzzing of a conch shell trumpet or a shofar horn. This buzzing is ever-present in most (if not all) tracks and represents the basis of most sounds found within Vasilisk’s offerings. “Grief” takes on perhaps the most complex elements through extremely rhythmic percussion and heavily distorted simple, articulate guitar hits that are paired with gong crashes. Mournful, wailing vocals appear in the background making for a modestly humbling, nearly psychedelic experience. Invocation immediately takes us into dark territories however, effectively existing as the most cryptic track on the album. Fluctuating notes from a shawm line the track in free-style performance while Ulf Soderberg-style percussion beats away in the background conjuring images of ancestral spirits staring emotionless from the cliffs of the Tibetan alps — an expression somewhere between the grief of the realizations of the modern world and anger at the indifference of it’s inhabitants. “Silent War” is more traditional on a dark ambient level but still contains elements of traditional Tibetan instrumentation. Drones line every level of the track from a low-end consistent hum to a hardened spherical sound.
This has been one of the more fulfilling releases that has come through our doors recently on both a philosophical and strictly musical level as well as a political one. Through Vasilisk’s use of traditional Tibetan sounds and the obvious name of their half of the split, the need for a sovereign Tibet lives on. Such an array of emotions is present through the entirety of the split that it’s hard to take in completely through the first listen. Most split releases seem to come and go without much attention, but this one has certainly earned it’s place among the best releases of 2012 thus far.
02) Buddha’s Warriors
05) Silent War