A career-long member of Hospital Productions‘ roster, New York-based producer Ron Morelli is better known in dance music circles as the head of the Long Island Electrical Systems (L.I.E.S.) imprint, a no-wave label which leans towards techno and house while managing to bring rough-and-ready post-punk experimentation to the U.S. club scene. In spite of his popularity, a penchant for industrial-grade sounds has always lurked below the surface of the label’s output (check out his dead-eyed electro single as U-202).
Here, on his latest record for Hospital Productions, A Gathering Together, Morelli indulges that gritty noise inclination like never before: his previous two LPs, Spit and Periscope Blues, were dank, seedy electronic records full of raw drum machines and disconcerting synth-slime; nighttime music for android muggers trawling the streets for victims. In spite of this nocturnal abrasion, those LPs retained his link to dance music by containing palpable rhythms—the click-clunk of electro and the heightened pulse of techno—which are notably left out from A Gathering Together, though not to its detriment.
Instead, sickly drones redolent of a dubbed-out SPK (in particular, Lechenschrei‘s opener ‘Genetic Transmission’) creep up and form the bulk of these tracks, while analog noise scratches and slashes at the edges. In doing so, Morelli inverts his older tracks and pushes the synth to the fore. Rhythm isn’t completely out of vogue, however, being used in an atmospheric manner rather than driving the track forward, such as on the all-too-brief ‘New Dialect’ which uses deep bursts of machine-gun drum to unsettling effect.
Morelli’s freedom from the constraints of the dance-music formula (although he was never a practicing producer before his love affair with Hospital Records) is best illustrated and appreciated on the LP’s title track, which after a swirl of voices builds to an intense percussive crescendo of handclaps (sampled, not your stock 808 sound, the staple of much house and techno) only to drop a quaking bass pulse in at just the right moment. Never quite sliding into ‘danceable’ territory, Morelli nevertheless take the structural principles of the genre and reappropriates them with nastier, more satisfying results.
Later tracks build on more traditional noise tropes, such as ‘Voices Rise’, which amasses a squall of feedback and layers of crackling frequencies before sloping off suddenly, and the off-kilter concrete loops of closer ‘Dock Splinters’.
A Gathering Together doesn’t feel like Morelli as a tourist in noise-town, more coming out of the noise closet and enjoying the feedback blowing through his hair. It won’t move dance-floors anytime soon, but hopefully his reputation will introduce a few newcomers to the ‘other’ forms of electronic music out there.
A1) Cross Waters
A2) In Secret
A3) New Dialect
A4) A Gathering Together
B1) The Story of Those Gone
B2) Desert Ocean
B3) Voices Rise
B4) To Celebrate through the Storm
B5) Dock Splinters