Earlier this year, the long-running UK experimental label Cold Spring announced they would be releasing a new 12” LP by cult Japanese drone-doom metal band Corrupted. It was noted in the description on their website that the record “isn’t your standard doom fare. The titleless tracks are to be played at either standard vinyl speed. Therefore (and at the band’s request), no samples or download code.” Speculation amongst fans began – would this be another simple, and frankly boring, ambient release like the second disc of their 1999 album Llenandose de Gusanos, or were they going to throw us a curve ball with something unexpected? Read on to find out.
At 33 rpm, side A begins with a low drone that softly rumbles it’s way higher into your ear space before transforming into a clash of harsh noise, and what sounds like objects being destroyed. In this sense, it’s like early Merzbow and other junk noise releases – shattering glass, static fuzz, and crashing cymbals all battling to see who can be the loudest. This ends abruptly, though, and a long and low drone finishes the first side. Corrupted have never done a harsh noise track in their long and prolific career, so we seemingly were indeed in for something different from the doom legends.
When flipping the LP over to side B we are greeted with more drone, but not in the same low-end fashion we heard on side A. Instead, it’s a constant, machine-like whir – a humming low-powered engine that buzzes along for about ten minutes. Towards the end, we become privy to what sounds like a hushed conversation as if the voices are whispering or talking in the other room. The machine fades away, as do the unwelcome strangers, and we finish our journey at 33 rpm in what sounds like a small wooden boat being gently jostled by the incoming tide.
At the faster speed of 45 rpm, a mid-range drone pulses across at regular intervals, accompanied by high-end shimmers of what may actually be guitar. There’s a cavernous quality causing a bit of an echo as chimes ring in the distance. Next, violent distortion takes over as it sounds like a swarm of angry insects have entered a china shop. Things quickly escalate until it feels as if you’re in the eye of a tornado that is whisking broken glass across your ears. As the storm begins to taper down, high-pitched skree and radio static filled with demonic interference come to centre stage, though the noise comes to a dead stop with what sounds like a lone piano chord. The piece then transitions to some pleasant ambience lulling the listener into a dreamlike state, reminiscent of Mick Harris’ project Lull. It is minimalist yet cavernous, making you feel comforted by your solitude and the absence of light.
Side B is where the LP sounds the most familiar at both speeds, the machine-like buzz more constant when played at a faster rate. The conversation in the background quickly stifles into the sounds of running water as the unidentified engine continues until dissolving into a low hum. At the same time, the running water transforms into what sounds like a weary traveller slapping a drum as he drifts out to sea, never to be seen again.
The record does indeed sound good, and even provides a significantly different listening experience, at both speeds. Enthusiasts of experimental music should find good examples of many of their favourite styles here: drone, ambient, and harsh noise. Strict drone/doom metal lords, on the other hand, may find themselves as disappointed as they were with Corrupted’s previous attempts at expanding their sound.Astral Noize
Words: Tim Burkland