Sunday, 1 September 2013

Reviews: Hair Police and Dean Blunt

Hair Police Mercurial Rites (Type, 2013)

Noise is chaos, and some of the best known provocateurs of the genre are keen to remind us of this - see the agitating Pulse Demon or the sickening Human Animal. However, what happens when noise is less chaotic and dissonant, and more nuanced?

"Ready to lose... the final grip."

Noise veterans Hair Police have dropped the harsher elements of their sound for Mercurial Rites, their first proper album in 5 years, and have instead explored the more ambient, atmospheric realm of noise. The result is a different kind of terrifying from the mangled, unforgiving Certainty of Swarms; this release meanders like a horror movie soundtrack, and any moments of (relative) peace are smothered with twisted sounds sourced from god-knows-where.

"I like this colour... I want you to know that."

Mercurial Rites is anything but mercurial, a slow-moving, dense piece of noise music that's more likely to threaten your sanity than your speakers. The best testament to the horror of this record is that the somewhat ordinary musical elements are still fucking scary in the context of the rest of the album - that vocalist Mike Connelly's flat, monotonous spoken word of "Scythed Wide" is just as ominous as his Whitehouse-meets-Malefic-from-inside-a-coffin shriek on "We Prepare" should tell you that Mercurial Rites is as unsettling as they come. Which is a very good thing, of course.

Dean Blunt Stone Island (Self-released, 2013)

The ever-stupefying Dean Blunt has followed up his brilliant The Redeemer with an album out of nowhere, titled Stone Island, probably in a reference to the brand of clothing (Dean has a thing for fashion, doesn't he?). Quite what it has to do with proceedings, I have no idea, but then who ever does with Dean Blunt? It seems that every single artistic move he makes is but another piece in a never-ending puzzle; over the past few weeks, we've seen the apparent dissolution of Hype Williams, a rare interview in Moscow, and now Stone Island, released in conjunction with the Russian webzine Афиша.

While Dean continues to make us scratch our heads, he also manages to win our hearts with some fantastic music, and this is no different. Stone Island is yet another awesome set, and although it's a continuation of the themes explored on The Redeemer, these tracks aren't - or at least don't feel like - mere castaways from his magnificent release earlier this year. Yes, Mr Blunt borrows from himself a fair bit; I can hear strings from "The Pedigree" and "Flaxen" reused here, but they are re-worked into the record in such a way that its difficult to deny their pulling power. The previously released "Heat", an affecting guitar track featuring vocals from Joanne Robertson, may seem at odds with the MIDI strings and samples on first listen, but it proves to be a touching highlight of the album - a simple, elegiac beauty in an album filled with musical peaks.

Stone Island is another great album from a great artist, but perhaps the best thing about it is that Dean Blunt is giving it away for absolutely nothing. Because, y'know, the music business works like that here in 2013.


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