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Black Sun Productions, "Toilet Chant" and "Dies Juvenalis"

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Hallow Ground continues their impressive recent run with two vinyl reissues from these erstwhile Coil collaborators and eternally provocative and intriguing iconoclasts.  Both of these releases were originally issued as very limited CDrs on the band’s own Anarcocks label in the mid-2000s, so they never managed to get the attention that they richly deserve, making this quite a worthy pair for a vinyl resurrection (one more so than the other, admittedly).  Unsurprisingly, the Coil influence is quite strong on both, as Massimo and Pierce traffic primarily in stuttering, hallucinatory electronics and eerie moods.  In fact, Jhonn Balance himself even contributes vocals (of a sort) to Toilet Chant’s "E2 = Tree 3."  If Black Sun Productions are derivative of Coil here, however, they seem to have been focused primarily upon the bizarre and unpredictable fare of the Unnatural History series.  More Coil-eque music in that vein is certainly fine by me, but each album also boasts at least one piece that admirably transcends that long shadow to blossom into something wonderfully beautiful and unique.

Hallow Ground

Toilet Chant was originally released back in 2004, in an edition of 99 numbered CDrs that each featured a no doubt highly collectable thumbprint/shitstain (Massimo and Pierce were, of course, no strangers to the base and scatological).   Despite its more deviant, transgressive, and earthbound trappings, however, Toilet Chant is actually quite a complex and otherworldly suite of songs.  In fact, parts of it are legitimately brilliant.  Hallow Ground seem to have valiantly tried to eliminate as much of that potential cognitive dissonance as they could, as aside from not being shit-smeared, this reissue also no longer features the original cover art of two urinals in a graffiti-covered bathroom (though the new artwork could potentially be an abstract sphincter).

In any case, the music here often reaches some truly spectacular highs.  The opening title piece, for example, is essentially just six minutes of eerily inhuman howls, lying somewhere between grinding metal and a pack of wolves while still managing to sound improbably ritualistic.  Elsewhere, “E2=Tree 3” resembles a slinky, sexy, and Latin-tinged groove built from the dissonant whines and crunches of massive machinery.  I think it features actual wolves, as well, who perversely seem a lot less feral and a lot more intent on hitting the right notes than Jhonn Balance (he basically turns up just to yowl for the final minute).  Yet another highlight is "Glüewürmlitanz," which sounds a lot like a bagpipe drone piece might sound if the bagpipes were replaced by slithering and fluttering Lovecraftian horrors.  That is not an easy aesthetic to pull off.

The rest of the album definitely has its moments as well, though the remaining three pieces are somewhat hobbled by some arguable missteps.  The most bizarre and original of the remainder is probably the 13-minute "Spermatic Cord," which is a deeply abstract tour de force of ugly shudders, throbs, deep gurgles, and ominously dissonant drones.  It is more of an uncomfortably long vision of hell than a song though.  As for "Anarcocks Rising" and “Yesterdays Dream," they fall short solely because they contain actual recognizable instruments and attempts at conventional melody.  That would normally not be a deal-breaker, but the rest of Toilet Chant weaves such a perfect illusion of being a beautifully hallucinatory nightmare that any conspicuous evidence of human interference is like being splashed with cold water.


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The considerably shorter Dies Juvenalis EP (2007) remains heavily Coil-influenced, but (for better or worse) sheds nearly all of the disturbing elements of Toilet Chant.  In fact, the opening "Percettive Riflessioni" is quite tender, melodic, and almost rapturously beautiful.  Built upon a dense chorus of stuttering and heavily processed voices, it sounds like the sort of religious music that someone like Bach might have made if he only had a laptop and microphone at his disposal (and possibly also a rooster).  There are also some snatches of classical music in there, but it is truly the chopped-up voices that do all the heavy lifting; the occasional orchestral swells only serve to intensify the epic feel of an already heavenly masterwork.

Unfortunately, opening Dies Juvenalis with such a perfect piece leaves nowhere to go but down afterwards.  The remaining two pieces are not necessarily bad though–they just feel extremely underwhelming beside the creative supernova that preceded them.  The title piece sounds like a cross between American Minimalism and a haunting soundtrack to a Japanese avant-garde film, as it combines a very Reich-ian marimba motif with eerily layered flutes and explosive snarls of brass.  The album then closes with “Veneration XXX,” which the label describes as “an ethereal homage to pleasure and lust.”  I guess that is as good a description as any, as it sounds like a haze of wordless vocals over a NIN-groove that took a massive dose of ketamine.  In any case, I could probably do without it.  I do not want to hear Black Sun Productions sounding like an industrial rock band sleepwalking though a jam–I want to hear Black Sun Productions being the exact opposite of that.  Oh well.  They cannot all be winners.  Adding to the sense that Dies Juvenalis exists only as a showcase for "Percettive Riflessioni" is the fact that different versions of "Dies Juvenalis" and "Veneration" were already featured on Chemism.  If Massimo and Pierce were that committed to filler, they would have been much better served by including two more versions of "Percettive" instead.

As I noted with Toilet Chant, Massimo and Pierce seem to be at their peak when they abandon conventional instrumentation altogether and just plunge wholeheartedly into hallucinatory abstraction.  When they do that, this EP is great.  They just do not do that nearly enough for my liking.  Though Dies Juvenalis is otherwise a fairly minor and insubstantial release, "Percettive Riflessioni" does admittedly offer nearly ten minutes of the duo at their zenith.  Thankfully, the digital version is still available through Anarcocks, so the merely curious need not splurge on import vinyl just to track down one absolutely unmissable song.



Last Updated on Monday, 25 July 2016 18:48  


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