Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Where is This - Narcissus at the Gym

Artist Where is This
Year 2011
Label Bored Bear Recordings
Genre(s) Harsh Noise/Industrial

Another release from Ireland's Mark Ward, under his Where is This moniker, Narcissus at the Gym serves up around thirty minutes of tense soundscapes and uneasy listening. Before starting on the actual musical content I just need some time to praise the presentation. Narcissus... is served up with a standard (Though beautifully drawn) J-card that sets the tone and deals with the themes of the release. This is alongside a short booklet with writings also surrounding the themes.

As with previous WiT effort, Elegant Domesticity, the atmosphere is the primary focal point of the release. Heavy electronics serve a specific purpose, bent and twisted into a claustrophobic incantation. The high and low end dance with one another in some insane provocative dance. Whilst each side of the tape is split in to three distinct tracks they flow together and work as a whole. Each side's scant 15 minute duration passes as if it were much shorter. Leading to repeated relistens.

Whilst there are six tracks on this release I feel it would be doing the tape a dis-service by referring to them by themselves. Each side of the tape forms a distinct gestalt, strengthened by the juxtaposition and combination of each of the three tracks. The A Side opens with creeping electronics and soundscapes that call to mind early industrial works, slowly morphing into harsher and more direct assaults. Walls of static being to be erected, adding to the claustrophobia, trapping the listener and forcing them to submit. The industrial styles carry on throughout the release, ending the side with an almost danceable section that calls to mind early EBM. This juxtaposes perfectly with the harsher elements of the music to create even more tense atmospheres.

The B side opens with harsh feedback wailing, subtle changes growing in the background and becoming more apparent. The perfect pace is achieved for the coming tracks, a slow pace allows for the atmosphere to build amidst the tumbling waves of noise. There isn't a minute of wasted space on either side of this tape, both are full, but organically so. Not one single second of this release is misused. Everything slots in to place and makes this release one of the best, so far, of 2011.

I'd also like to take a moment to praise this release for it's thematic concerns. From the art and the booklet there's a very clear theme laid out for the release, a theme which carries over to the noise (Which, and I assume I've done this correctly, makes a perfect soundtrack to reading the mini-book that's included). It's becoming more common for releases to be cobbled together and lack a cohesive narrative or drive, a trap that Where is This has managed to avoid. I really can't recommend this tape enough and I'm fairly certain it's gonna find itself in my best of 2011 list.

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