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Emperor of the North – Self-titled

Emperor of the North

Emperor of the North

This reviewer could find no information on the internet about this project, which comes as a surprise in this day of excessive self-promotion and instant accessibility.  This mystique is perhaps a good part of my initial draw to the obscure forms of noise and extreme metal.  Erase the personality of the performer, and all you’re left with is the atmosphere of the artist’s inner world.  It makes me think of the bygone era of the ’80’s and ’90’s tape-trading network, and how that layer of obscurity added to one’s experience of receiving a tape in the mail from a contact, rather than ordering off a label’s Bandcamp or Bigcartel where a variety of information about the release in question was at one’s disposal.  But let’s face it, that was then and this is now, and there’s no point in longing for an era that one never experienced firsthand.

As a side-note, the full-color artwork of the J-card (which looks like clips from a low-budget ’70’s drama film) was a bit confusing for me.  Featured are multiple photographs of ’70’s vans and their interiors, and tracks seem to have themes of cynicism and openness towards love:  “So This is What Love Is,” “Living Large (In Love),” “Loving You (Is Wonderful),” “Love is Somewhere,” “Feelings of Love,” etc. With this approach to track titles, one is left with a feeling of ambiguity in the artist’s intention of naming tracks of lyricless, abstract sound pieces. Is this the beginning of a relationship/attraction, or its dissolution?  Are there more nefarious implications afoot?

Side A starts off with cut-up field recordings counteracted by stereo-panning tonal fragments.  This is brought to a halt by high-pitched feedback squeals reminiscent of the beginning moments of Wolf EyesSlicer.  Another interruption into watery depths dissolves into more banal sounds of the everyday.  There is a theme of contrasting organic and synthetic elements that sets the tone for this album. From a percussive call-and-response of printing machines working overtime to constant movement in the stereo field, this tape shapes up to be more than I’d initially given it credit for.

Side B continues the theme of interaction between circuit-bent robotic bird calls and organic elements, but with a few more dynamic shifts.  I’ve heard some of the circuit-bent feedback elements used on multiple other recordings, but they’re used with focus and brevity here.  No sound wears out its welcome.  The field recordings are crisp and work well in tandem with the pedal-work for the most part.

I found myself wanting to hear an entire tape of pure field documents from this artist. Let’s hope they keep at their craft and grace us with more recordings, as theirs is a unique voice worth listening to.

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Track List:

A1) So This Is What Love Is
A2) How Many Ways to Say (I Love You)
A3) (Love Is) in the Air
A4) Living Large (in Love)
B1) You (Are a Lover)
B2) One Twice Three Loves
B3) Loving You (Is Wonderful)
B4) Feelings of Love
B5) Love Is Somewhere

Rating: 7/10
Written by: Jacob DeRaadt
Label: Kitty Play Records (United States) / KPR21 / Tape
Noise / Musique Concrete