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Artist Feature: Putrefier – Cog Dominance + Beyond Scathing + Unreleased And Compilation Archive

Putrefier I

What we have here is three compact disc reissues of the 80’s British noise artist Putrefier on Finland’s excellent Industrial Recollections imprint. Industrial Recollections has been tirelessly reissuing many classic noise tapes from the 1980s and 90s on compact disc in large editions, making sure that unmolested (so to speak) releases by artists such as Striecher, Macronympha, and One Dark Eye, presented in their original mixes with no digital trickery. I must confess that I know little to nothing about Mark Durgan and his Putrefier project except that these three compact discs are excellent noise listening and they sound just as modern now as they must have at the time of their original release. If these recordings are any indication, Putrefier must have been a live force to be reckoned with during the pivotal and vital era of British noise from which birthed the genre of Power Electronics. Although there are no vocals for the most part on these releases, the spirit of sonic discovery that is present in early releases by artists like Consumer Electronics and Sutcliffe Jugend is present in these releases from over twenty years ago.

Of these releases, “Cog Dominance” in particular is a mammoth release of destroyed electronics. Shortwave radio-like sounds, odd disturbed howl-like screeches of feedback, objects being struck, and the sounds of etheric violence blend together in a whirl of chaos that sometimes washes out into a nice bed of sci-fi synths. The sounds are heavy analog and futuristic, opting toward exploration in a genre that was nascent and without expectations at the time. The openness for the potential that anything could happen on a release shows the noise genre in its earliest form springing forth fully formed. There is an astounding amount of sounds and textures that Durgan gets out of his equipment on this release alone. Cymbals and other pieces of metal are stuck and used for authentic Industrial sounds to a very positive effect throughout “Cog Dominance.” This release in particular was originally issued on the now legendary Broken Flag label, run by one of the gentlemen from Ramleh. Durgan uses a relatively small setup on this release to achieve an enormous variety of sounds, a feat both impressive and sonically pleasing.

Putrefier II

Like on the early Whitehouse records from around the era that this release originally was unveiled, a synth (Wasp?) is used to generate a sort of squirting/flowing water sound at the beginning of the second track on “Cog Dominance” creating a really nice effect. This track has a balance between a low end presence that counterbalances a high-pitched scree as odd sounds float in and out. It can remind one of the H.P. Lovecraft tale of the man who created a resonator that caused creatures from another dimension to be briefly seen in our frequency vibration. The rest of the release easily holds up the quality of the first two tracks, but like on many of the early Maurizio Bianchi releases it is the lead-off track that is the strongest and most heavily textured. All of the material on “Cog Dominance” is top notch however, and with historical context and the level of sonic extremism happening it is certainly an important and necessary slice of noise history.

“Beyond Scathing” was originally released on the Birthbiter label in 1986, the year previous to the “Cog Dominance” cassette. It has an even more minimal sound, a little bit more reserved from the full-on violence of “Cog Dominance.” “Beyond Scathing” opens with a section that could be taken from one of the first two Cluster records, sounding something like the psychic conversation between two massive sentient energy beings, ending with an exploration of piercing high-pitched tones. The “Beyond Scathing” release in general is a little closer to the sound of older industrial that came before it, whereas the “Cog Dominance” release shows a massive leap forward in sonic development. The two releases work well together as companion pieces, however.

Putrefier III

The third disc reviewed here, an odds and ends collection spanning the work of the project from 1988-1994, shows the most variety of all of these releases (mostly due to the span of time represented). “Sepsis Venation” has a creeping modern Industrial feel that is a bit of a precursor possibly to later metal can abusers such as Macronympha and Sick Seed. The sound is both ugly and ecstatic… “Writhe Spitter” has a nice cutting drone that fills the air nicely. Both of these tracks were recorded for compilations on the Epitapes label. The unreleased tracks are cool, but you can see why they were unreleased compared to some of this other stuff. “Pray For Fire” and “Body Hole” were both released originally on a 7″ EP, which surely was one of the most blistering harsh noise releases to be foisted on the public in 1992. These two tracks have the industrial/rhythmic sort of feel that the project had been incorporating combined with the intensity and extreme tonal abrasion exhibited on the noisiest Putrefier material. A long, atmospheric track titled “Suffocation” is presented here in both its original long form, as well as a truncated edition created for its official release on a 1993 compilation. The closing track to this release, the heretofore unreleased “Anti-Assemblage I” from 1989, is actually quite an awesome capper to this collection of compilation and unreleased works. All in all, it is great to be able to hear this stuff now thanks to Durgan (for his creation of the original sounds) and the Industrial Recollections label (for re-releasing them). Definitely worth a listen for old-school noise heads.

Track List:

Cog Dominance:
01) Cog Dominance 1
02) Cog Dominance 2
03) Cog Dominance 3
04) Cog Dominance 4
05) Cog Dominance 5

Rating: 4/5
Label: Industrial Recollections (Finland)
Industrial / Power Electronics / Noise

Beyond Scathing:
01) Beyond Scathing 1
02) Beyond Scathing 2
03) Beyond Scathing 3
04) Beyond Scathing 4

Rating: 4/5
Label: Industrial Recollections (Finland)
Industrial / Power Electronics / Noise

Unreleased and Compilation Archive:
01) Sepsis Venation
02) Writhe Spitter
03) Lineage
04) Choid
05) Pray for Fire
06) Body Hole
07) Suffocation
08) Suffocation (Remix)
09) Trance & Demon
10) Anti-Assemblage 1

Rating: 4/5
Written by:  Joseph Gates
Label: Industrial Recollections (Finland)
Industrial / Power Electronics / Noise