• Reviews

    Dissociative Disorder – Mother-to-Child

    Mother-to-ChildDissociative Disorder
    CDr, Notrouble Records, 2012

    My admiration for the work of 余益裔 (Yú Yìyì) is not a secret. This guy from Kaiping, Guangdong province belongs to the new generation of post-80s noisicians and, while managing his own label Notrouble Records, moves effortlessly between field recordings, minimal electronics and full-blown harsh noise. Dissociative Disorder is the name under which Yu Yiyi releases his noisiest output and, with his extremely concrete approach and compositional experience garnished by a savory penchant for HNW, he is emerging as one of the most promising voices of China’s contemporary harsh noise scene. Churning contact microphone feedbacks, ravaged shakerboxes and degraded samples are compressed by radiant distortions and crafted in slabs of noise crawling along the entire spectrum of audible frequencies. Yu Yiyi’s harsh noise compositions often conjure a world of bleak and humid dejection – a Southern China blues without much room for spacey synthetizers, rhythmic elements or cut-up anxiety: more than cases of psychic dissociation, they often sound like nightmares of a paranoiac trapped in loops of endless permutations of a discrete number of shapeshifting and ultimately unknowledgeable objects.

    As of today, Mother-to-Child is one of Dissociative Disorder’s best records in terms of coherency and works as a comprehensive introduction to his already substantial discography, mostly composed of super-limited handmade releases. The handpainted CDr is housed in a opaque slim case wrapped in a folded sleeve of lucid paper printed with medical sketches and captions that illustrate a six-step abortion procedure; all in all, the artwork exudes a crisp goregrind flavor, as the title Mother-to-Child seems quite ironic when paired with titles about infections and partial birth abortion. Pregnant, opening the record, sets the mood perfectly with a kind of disquieting harsh minimalism: a squeaking rubbery sound, tinted by a slight reverb, creaks nervously under the pressure of craving fingers – pregnancy represented sonically as the squirmy rattling of an alien-like substance trapped in an empty chamber, a dreary and disheartened rendition of budding life itself or just the impregnation of noise, so to say, by the simplest manipulation of sound. Overstretched, the elastic sound swells, blisters and eventually gives way, collapsing in the twenty-three minute long title track, a controlled and slowly morphing wall of physical distortion, oscillating between a solid body of middle frequencies and the crumbled ruins of its own high pitches cascading loosely onto the rounded bass basement. The assault is not flattened in the frantic research of pounding volumes and opts to keep the layers well defined, with the sound sources (a rattling shakerbox and some looped fragments of melodic samples) surfacing occasionally in the second half of the song; overall, the track strides forth with a hypnotic and entrancing pace. Unfortunately the following suite, Unknow Infection, does not keep the record flowing and gets mired in a half-hour long bog of lo-fi wall noise, slight variations on a dull theme happening behind a muffled screen and some pleasurable spurts of distorted hiss that arrive too late to save the whole effort from mediocrity. It is a pity that almost half of Mother-to-Child is botched by a not-so-brilliant slop of harsh noise since Partial Birth Abortion, the ten-minute closing track, brings the level back to the promising intuitions of the first half: a Kevin Drummesque droning synth soars slowly from the uneasy background of crackling silence and explodes in a sudden burst of pulsating distortion, followed by trails of wavering delays, while the siren-like sinewave continues its glassy trajectory, unruffled, at the borders of the recursive mayhem.

    Far from perfect, yet impressive in its coherence and low-key mastery of the tools of the trade, Mother-to-Child is a recommended listening for devotees of slow and murky harsh noise, and one of the first steps of a promising career in filthy sound worship.


  • Reviews

    Torturing Nurse – NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNana

    NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNanaTorturing Nurse
    CDr, Obscurica, 2005

    It’s probably too easy and predictable to start a blog about Chinoise talking about Torturing Nurse, but at the same time it’s also the most coherent and fair way of doing it. After all, great part of the “idea” of harsh noise in China – especially for foreign audiences – was informed by Junky, Xu Cheng and friends’ overabundant production. There has been noise, experimental music and glitchy electronics in China before, but it’s with Torturing Nurse that harsh noise finds its own Chinese ambassadors.

    If I have to start from Torturing Nurse, then I’ll gladly avoid the all too popular bondage performances (that actually underplay what Torturing Nurse has been, musically, for years) to focus instead on music itself. My choice is also a matter of a listener’s personal history: NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNana was the the first noise record from China I came in contact with, back in 2006.

    NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNana is a stupid record – and I’m talking here of a sonic stupidity somehow akin to Prurient’s The History of AIDS. Stupidity here does not refer to the musicians but to the sound itself: the tracks are so blatantly direct and the frequency range so randomly unrefined, shifting and coarsely trimmed that every song transmits a sense of vulgar obtusity. Take nna, all built on a foundation of a sub bass frequency panned jerkily from left to right with gurgling vocals perched on top, or AnRa, four seconds describing the unplugging of a cable, or again Nann, with raspy screams over a clean mixer feedback pulse: simplicity drawn to its extreme consequences yields a homely and genuine version of harsh noise not moored in overmastered distortions and massive layering. Other tracks, like Anna, Lan or Qan, present piercing curls of distorted feedback over a backdrop of rumbling bass, a spectrum of decaying frequencies reminding of certain more abstract compositions by Sightings. Occasionally videogame sounds, Boredoms-style screaming and overdriven guitars appear in the background, enriching the sonic bouquet with a refreshing attitude typical of young projects not yet constrained by expectations and codified styles. I say this with a hint of disappointment, since NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNana is in my opinion one of the best Torturing Nurse records and its freshness remains (yet) unsurpassed in their gargantuan discography.

    The album contains 47 tracks and lasts 38 minutes, but actually the second half is just the reversed version of the first, a trick also used by the punk-hardcore band Lords to fill up the recording space on their short EP The House That Lords Built (2004), probably as an ironic comment on the fuss around the existence of satanic messages appearing in rock records played backwards. In NanaNanaNanaNanaNanaNana, though, the reversed half is way more functional: the tracks are renamed with titles spelled backwards so that the reversion is not immediately clear to the listener, and the beautiful translucent cover art by Xu Cheng reinforces the concept of a mirrored, two-faced record. At times, the short collages of unconsequential sounds and the almost cut-up style make the songs result actually funnier in their reversed version, especially the weirdest ones. Just give a listen to the eerie .A.N, the hilarious beginning of nnaN or ann, the reverse version of nna, where the pulses of subwoofer bass and the gurgling laments ebb and flow in a dance of unnatural attacks and decays, to understand why I like the liveliness of this stupid record so much.