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Sewer Election/Incipientium, "Sorceress"

SorceressA pairing of two Swedish artists, the veteran Dan Johansson (Sewer Election) and the relative newcomer Gustav Danielsbacka (Incipientium), Sorceress makes for an unsettling collaboration at various points throughout its four compositions. With their heavy use of manipulated tapes, they add an uncomfortably organic sense to the sputtering electronics and junk noise that sound anything but human throughout. It may be unsettling, but it is also delightfully enchanting throughout.

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The album is essentially split into two halves, with Johansson handling mixing duties on the first three shorter pieces, and Danielsbacka tackling the 20 minute fourth and final work. The two different approaches clearly reflect that mixing was handled by each individual, but the overall product complements each other quite well.

Right from the onset of "Hallucinations of R. Maxfield," the deluge of tapes is apparent. Immediately it is a mass of hissy backwards analog noise peppered with the odd outburst here and there. It is primarily based upon loops that never become too harsh, but as the volume increases, the duo introduce sputtering electronics and grinding sounds to the fray.

The duo again lead off "Sorceress" with tape hiss, but in this case mixed with some low-end heavy bass synth tones. The bass portion loops throughout as the two throw in an uncomfortable pastiche of tape cut-ups, consisting of muffled voices and what sounds like pained groans and coughing. These unpleasant voice bits are joined by some shrill passages that make for an engaging, if unsettling piece. High frequency tones and mangled tapes set the stage for "Gaps of Brain," but the pseudo-loop structure and lo-fi fog that enshrouds the piece keep things a bit more pleasant in comparison to what preceded it. It becomes a bit more abrasive as squeaky, wet noises pop up at the end, but overall, it is a more restrained work.

"Steel Temptation-Concept-Deviations" is the 20-minute Incipientium mixed piece that closes the disc, and compared to the first three it is a bit more dynamic (at times chaotic), and is an overall more forceful approach. The duo again launches with some hiss drenched tones, unidentified clattering soon comes into the mix, with creepy voice fragments appearing soon after. The focus soon becomes on a rattling bit of metal, with a crunchy pulsation and deep buried noise churn filling out the spectrum. Clattering junk and rough stop and starts are joined with reversed echoes and banging loops.

Soon everything is turned up to the maximum, resulting in a good old fashion harsh noise crunch that hearkens back to the golden era of the genre, with a combination of rhythmic loops and random blasts keeping the flow going. For the final third, everything comes to a dramatic, reverberated stop as the duo shift focus to lighter wobbly passages, loops, and eventually menacing tones and spectral crunches to conclude.

At times Sorceress has Johansson and Danielsbacka pushing everything into the red zone of harsh noise, but for most of the disc's duration the duo exercise restraint, balancing electronics, junk, and cassette tapes. Throughout—and most explicitly on the title piece—this actually results in a more disquieting sensibility, since the familiar sound of human voice is presented in a way that is so unnatural sounding in execution. But it is this mood that makes Sorceress so great, because the weirdly shifting mood only served to draw my attention closer to trying to figure out what was going on, which is the hallmark of a captivating noise album in my eyes.

Listen here.