Nic Endo — White Heat (1998; reissue 2013, Digital Hardcore)
One of the least “accessible” records on the Digital Hardcore label (which is saying something!) yet also one of the most impressive. An earth and eardrum shattering release by Nic Endo from 1998, White Heat is not only a superb solo debut, this release also proved that the DHR label was capable of exploring the extremities of sonic art and wasn’t solely committed to the electro-punk and hardcore trappings of the Berlin scene in the 1990s. Cascading sheets of pure, unadulterated sounds blister your speakers for 35 minutes. Hip-hop samples aren’t just buried in the mix, they’re absolutely decimated by it. Shards of white noise, computer glitches, and microphonic feedback rage like a tempest, guaranteed to nail you square in the nose. In a fleeting moment of respite, “Don’t Interrupt” hears a brief bit of tape hiss followed by 10 seconds of deafening silence. When the sonic tumult resume, it hits twice as hard. The 2013 reissue of this LP is finds itself supplemented with “Walking, Dancing, Falling.” The addition takes the record to the next level. Endo ventures into Cluster territory — if Cluster were born in a divided city and embodied the disillusionment and despair of late-capitalism in place of their pastoral experimentalism and the hope ubiquitous with the Wirtschaftswunder. If the first five tracks are the flurry of punches that leave the listener on the mat, this is the sound of said listener’s head swirling. A great addition to an already superlative release that surely ranks among the finest harsh noise release ever.
Holger Czukay – On the Way to the Peak of Normal (1981, Electrola; 2013 reissue, Grönland)
Listen [partial playlist of the album on youtube]
More restrained and less bizarre than Czukay’s 1979 Movies, 1981’s On the Way to the Peak of Normal feels like the lost alternate soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train. If Movies was a carnivalesque appraisal of rock music, On the Way is an acid trip, wondering through the vacant lot where the big top has just up sticks. Side A kicks off with the brooding title track, which grooves and moves like a a tune culled from the Suzuki-era Can catalogue, featuring an amalgam of distant horns and whistling oscillations. “Witches Multiplication Table,” a tune penned by producer extraordinaire Conny Plank, no less, keeps the creeps going. Had Count Dracula ever been chronicled in a film by Sergio Leone, I’d expect to hear the brief and enigmatic “Two Bass Shuffle,” as the accompanying score. Public Image Ltd.’s low-end agitator Jah Wobble assumes bass duties with Czukay on drums, not your Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor bullshit by a long shot. Side A is thematically consistent and it’s rather easy to lose yourself in Czukay’s grooves and off-kilter sonic motifs. The flip side, is arguably one of the greatest tunes of all time, the sultry “Ode to Perfume.” An 18 psych-kosmiche slow-burning come down. This is Sgt. Pepper’s, if the Beatles had come from Mars. Imbued with a near operatic sense of grandeur, yet ultimately retaining a sense of intrigue and risk, the track manages to be that rare feat, a work which is both sexy and artistically engrossing at once. Dark and spooky vibes permeate this release, but not in an unsettling way: it’s the end of the night, your head is swimming, and you want to fall asleep, but can’t. This record is playing square in the middle of that head space.