Monday, November 26, 2007

BRUTUM FULMEN "1000 Suns" (Throne Heap)

"I had my back to the blast, my fists shoved into my eyes. At the moment of detonation there was a flash. At that instant I was able to see straight through my hands."

Brutum Fulmen's first above-ground effort appeared in 2002 with the full-length "Blood of the Moon" CD and more recently the band appeared on RRRecords' "New England" 5 LP box set. It looks as if the band was on hiatus for a while, but thankfully they're back with this gem on Throne Heap and an interesting departure from the group's usual style. A self-described "impressionist audio drama," "1000 Suns" resembles at first glance the kind of soundtrack which might have been played at Halloween parties a few decades ago, or the audio from a 1940s public safety announcement. Reading the list of "instruments" present on this release almost makes it sound like a regular special effects record: "rusty music box, spring night creatures, breaking lake ice, 'fiddle trees' rubbing," etc. I'm definitely missing that volume in the library, if anyone finds it. But as the grand tradition of tape manipulating cut-and-pasters has continuously shown (and BF isn't exactly a small fish in this area), how one ties these elements together makes all the difference. Brutum Fulmen's sound is as far from kitschy and random "weird for weirdness' sake" as you can get. Rather, "1000 Suns" is an intriguing construction of voiceovers, warm minimal tones and obscure sound sources that weaves a narrative of an ominous and paranoid reality. The binding element is a chain of World War II era eyewitness reports of nuclear testing, read by a monotone parade of scientists and soldiers. Most of these accounts are bizarrely horrific, like the quote above. Once these voices begin reporting, accompanied by deep rumbling and subliminally jarring creaks and moans, your attention stays captive until the side is over. What makes "1000 Suns" so haunting is its power in mirroring the spoken word with an emotional response in sound. When the speech is purely scientific, deep oscillations erupt like plumes of smoke from an industrial laboratory. During another segment describing parties being held to watch a rainbow-like nuclear aurora, the music takes on a cold and melancholy beauty. Whereas others might have interpreted this subject matter with blatant violence, Brutum Fulmen employs suggestion and subtlety. The second side of the release offers another methodology of construction, including about fifteen different types of tape degradation involving the original recording on side A. The contrasts are interesting, and it easily holds its own against similar examples of cassette abuse in this genre. But regardless of the insanely complex tape destruction it doesn't quite hold the attention in the same way the first version excels. I've found myself returning to side A about fifteen times now, and although it' s one of the weirdest (maybe uncharacteristic?) Throne Heap releases it's certainly one of the finest and accomplished. The case includes a sweet black silkscreen on brown craft paper that works swell with the "goverment issued" theme. I'm just sorry that it took me so long to write about, and I sincerely hope this one stays in print for a while. RECOMMENDED!

Brutum Fulmen's website: http://www.noisician.com/
Throne Heap's website: http://www.throneheap.com/