Well this is something … different. End is the one-man project of Odd Qvam, a Norwegian artist who has been active since the nineties, but who doesn’t seem to have been very active since the nineties. Known originally as The End, the project released three 7” records in 1998-99 and then faded from view. Subhuman Tracks on Epic Recordings, an imprint run by The Epicurean, marks the act’s return from hibernation after nearly twenty years.
I’m not generally a fan of the cassette revival. I understand the arguments in favour—it’s an analogue format, much cheaper and more accessible than vinyl, and it allows the artist greater creative freedom when it comes to packaging, because there are a greater number of manufacturers and lower print-run requirements foremost among them. However, whenever I’m confronted with a cassette, I’m taken back to those desperate days of recording whatever I could get my hands on and listening to it until I could see the tape start to stretch or flake. It’s a finicky medium at best. For people like me, Subhuman Tracks has a download-only option, but I’ll be honest: this is one of the cases where I’d spring for the limited-edition (100 copies but still available) hard copy, because you get the delightfully crust-punk-looking packaging by French artist Alkbazz.
But that brings us to a crucial question: Is this music you want to bring into your home? I’m not sure who would truly appreciate this, but I am absolutely sure that it won’t be pleasing for everybody. It actually does remind me of the cassette-trading halcyon days in the early nineties, discovering the insanity that was gabber techno, where DJs and musicians seemed locked in a battle to see who could be faster, crazier, harder, and loopier. That music had a directness and absolute simplicity: there was no depth or profound themes—just goofy samples, catchy analogue synth riffs, and a massive 4/4 beat.
End has brought that sound back to life, except that this release already sounds like some of those cassettes of yore—the sound compressed and muffled from being copied too many times and the central 909-through-Marshall-stack bass drum is a muted shadow of its real self. This isn’t music for raves, exactly, but music for people who go out to raves to listen to while they’re between parties. There are definite signs that this embrace of the old-fashioned copy-cartel sound is a deliberate choice: the ballooning bass line on ‘Slaughterhouse’ is huge and clearly benefits from good production, as does the wet-sounding 303-like riff in ‘Daughter of Satan’. The EP’s self-awareness does make it kind of adorable, and the artist has wisely chosen not to overstay his welcome with the eight tracks clocking in at a grand total of twenty-one minutes.
But for all its cuteness, I wonder who is really going to get into this release; people are no longer deprived of good sound quality on their music. Anything that they want to hear is available in crisp digital through streaming, most likely from multiple locations. You don’t even have to worry about music taking up space on your computer, much less physical space in your home. Listeners of a certain vintage might tap into the nostalgia of the sound, but it’s asking a lot that those people would still be interested in this style of music (which never seemed to have staying power front of mind) and that they would appreciate the ‘joke’ of the exquisitely flawed production. I think that, for those who like this style of music, it may well make for good listening in the car or at home between raves; or possibly middle-aged folk who never quite came down from that first trip on E. It’s niche, to be sure.
A1) Gaschamber Death
A3) First Your Soul, Then Your Body
A4) Point Zero
B2) Future Graves
B3) Dark Voices
B4) Daughter of Satan