It took me some time to work out what it was exactly about Verdant Hum that reminds me so strongly of the first wave of industrial music. I’d read other reviews that referred to ‘old-school’ industrial music and the like, but I’m not particularly comfortable with such lazy references. I tried latching onto the sounds, the atmosphere, and the methods, but I’ve realised it’s more the abandon and experimentation that harks back to the heady 1980s. And while I’d argue we’re in the midst of a strong resurgence of industrial goodness full of much-needed fresh blood, it has to be said much of it relies heavily on the tricks and tropes laid down in foundations twenty to thirty years ago.
Verdant Hum, on the other hand, is anything but formulaic, and reminds us of those heady early years: a reactionary D.I.Y. aesthetic, a complete disregard for fashion, and a bloody-minded punk ethos. In the short years after the work of our founding fathers, a handbook of sorts quickly developed. Familiar themes emerged, common hardware and instruments gained currency, and vocal deliveries all started to sound the same. I love the formula when it’s done well, but it’s often just all too familiar.
The characters involved in this release were all there at the start, front row centre, but they are clearly not relying on past glories. The common thread through both sides of this tape—a split between Krank and the Grimsel Path—is the effortless, drawling brilliance of John Murphy. Since the early 1980s, Krank (alternately Kraang and all manner of variations, which surely amounts to being Murphy’s bone-dry humour at play) has given him an opportunity to collaborate with various folk: in this instance, Till Brüggemann. Brüggemann himself brings a good deal of heritage and experience, having been active since the early 1980s when he founded the German multimedia group Gerechtigkeits Liga.
The project’s offering here, ‘NAOS Number 1’, clocks in at over nineteen minutes, and it’s an interesting listen, at least for the first few minutes. It makes its point quickly—high-end squeal running furtively among clatter and groan—but gets stuck in that groove for the lion’s share of the track. It’s not until eleven minutes in that the duo change tack with sparse, restrained metal explorations. Thankfully, it’s a strong finish.
The Grimsel Path’s six tracks on Side B, on the other hand, are far stronger, and showcase the hugely talented Jon Evans pairing with Murphy. In 2014, the Epicurean and Silken Tofu also brought us the pair’s excellent Towers of Silence LP as Last Dominion Lost (joined by Julian Percy)—a release most definitely worth picking up. The similarities between the two projects are undeniable, but here the Grimsel Path is decidedly more arcane and generously draped in soot. That the tracks were recorded live—at the Foetus Frolics Festival, Berlin in 2012—demonstrates their talent for performance and improvisation.
There’s all sorts of shit going on here, and it’s gloriously disconcerting. The plodding drum-machine clank of opening track ‘Scorched Earth’ anchors electronics and acoustic simulacra. It’s at once jarring and hypnotic, and while the brooding rhythm is lethargic in pace, it’s positively brisk in relation to the following tracks.
The remainder of the tape opts mostly for insidious atmosphere and filigree electronic work—almost musique concrète in nature—but it’s nigh impossible to identify the source of all the clatter, even with so much space. The individual elements are diverse and often inane, but Evans and Murphy do a fantastic job of bringing together what would be an incoherent mess in lesser hands.
The music is perfectly complemented by the Epicurean’s sharp eye for design and Kristian Olsson’s immediately recognisable take on collage filth (in all seriousness, give that man a cutting board and a sharp knife and he can do no wrong), rounding out a lovely release indeed. Limited to 100 copies, the tape has sold out at source, but is surely worth picking up should you find it. In fact, it appears that Tesco still has copies available here as of the time of publishing.
A1) Krank – NAOS Number 1
B1) The Grimsel Path – Deviation
B2) The Grimsel Path – Scorched Earth
B3) The Grimsel Path – Hair Soap Candles
B4) The Grimsel Path – Run Please Master
B5) The Grimsel Path – Sideshow of the Soul
B6) The Grimsel Path – End of Transmission