It’s a little surprising that Anemone Tube, the primary musical project of Stefan Hanser, has been around for nearly twenty years. Of course, their output during that time has been sporadic. In twenty years, they’ve managed just five albums (two of which were released on obscure cassette labels in the 90s) and three EPs, including In the Vortex of Dionysian Reality. Indeed, the band’s greatest name recognition comes from what many assume to have been their first album, 2011’s Death Over China, a fine slab of nasty, noisy, electronic goodness. So what might be even more surprising is that this release is a sharp turn away from the howling miasma that was Death Over China (or Anemone Tube’s contributions to 2013’s This Dismal World, a split release with Japan’s Dissecting Table) at a moment when noise/ industrial fans were starting to get a handle on their sound.
In the Vortex of Dionysian Reality is described by the Epicurean as ‘a musical homage to guitar solos and dreamy sci-fi death metal influences’. That makes sense insofar as the music is clearly guitar based, and sci-fi samples burble in and out of the background with regularity. However, it’s more along the lines of drone than doom, drifting surprisingly close to prettiness in certain places. How did we get here from earlier Anemone Tube releases?
Guitar drone music is sort of like white ink tattoo work: in theory, anyone with the standard skill set can do it, but it’s really the province of a few highly specialized artists; with regards to In the Vortex…, we get an object lesson in why that’s the case. Those who use guitars to the greatest effect in industrial/experimental music (think Maeror Tri or Thisquietarmy) are experts at exploiting the full potential of the instrument’s sound. They elevate the guitar to a level that overcomes the limits one would normally encounter. In the case of Anemone Tube, it feels like the artist is still very much working within the limits of traditional guitar work.
Now, as a tribute to the idea of guitar solos, that might be part of the point—that the traditional rock or metal guitar is being stretched and shaped into something different, without abandoning its origins altogether. The problem there is that rock guitars are accompanied by other instruments for a reason. On this release, the guitars occupy their usual space in mid-range, meaning that there aren’t highs or lows to provide balance and dimension. The result is a sound that’s truer to the rock concept of ‘guitar-ness’, but the different layers are competitive rather than complementary.
There are a few moments of real beauty, especially the second track, ‘Turm des Bösen (Die Letzte Weisheit)’, but much of the rest fails to meet, or to maintain, those heights. The best noise opens up your ears and your brain to sounds that are beyond what it would normally experience. It’s expansive and enriching. Noise that hunkers down within a specific framework possesses neither of those qualities. It’s no different than hearing the sounds of rush-hour traffic. (‘Well, I happen to like the sound of rush hour traffic’, I hear you say. To which I would respond, ‘Good for you, maybe this release will be right up your alley. Far be it from me to come between you and enjoyment, but the experience isn’t going to be fundamentally different than you can get by listening to the sounds of the city for free.’)
It’s far too easy for bands to rely on one signature sound on release after release, so I’m happy to see someone who decides to take things in a new direction. I hope that future Anemone Tube releases will hold on to that desire to shake things up and channel it into something thrilling. I believe they have that in them. What I don’t want is for the urge to do something different to come at the expense of the strength and power on display in Death Over China. That would just be a damn shame.
01) In the Vortex of Dionysian Reality / Le pont du Diable
02) Turm des Bösen (Die Letzte Weisheit)
03) Terror of Nature
04) In the Vortex of Dionysian Reality II
05) Evangelium der Weltharmonie