Oxen Records Triple Scoop

LEECHER “Retfa” C30 (Oxen)

“Retfa” opens quietly with a rumbling storm, heard from miles away. The electrical din gives way to columns of steam, blasting above the distant thunder. Voices hiss below the burst and churn of the storm. Just as it all begins to fade, a harsh blast of static begins the second section of “Retfa,” during which Leecher turns up the voltage - letting fly shrill voices of static which wind round one another, skipping and rolling to a climax. The B-side is a live performance containing a great variety of sounds, opening with a slowly shifting groan - like a giant motor slowly gaining momentum. Over the ringing feedback, the audience can be heard cheering in excitement during a brief pause. Between the pulsating, grinding distortion and the crashing whine of static, at a few moments this track could pass as a lo-fi black metal demo. Buzzing oscillators chant under a thick haze. Ragged voices join the thick haze of sound, screaming all the way to an unexpected conclusion. Nicely paired with some high-contrast closeup photography from Leah Purse, this is a wonderfully active and chaotic harsh noise experience. Very dark and kinetic - while I don’t know much about Leecher, this tape makes me want to seek out some more. My only complaint on this one is that the A-side is so short.

SPORE SPAWN “Ochitsuitara” C22 (Oxen)

According to my online translation sources, “Ochitsuitara” translates roughly to “if you’ll relax,” but the A-side is an unnerving track during which I imagined being chased by a homicidal hand puppet. “Itsunokotodaka” (When is it? according to google translate) opens with a looped sample that would otherwise sound benign, but due to some roughly trebled reverb it gives off a rather creepy vibe. Spore Spawn lets this build for about a minute before a barrage of feedback kicks in. The speakers thrust frantically as layers of harsh tones, scrapes, and pulses overlap with the sampled loop - now coming in and out - both forming and affected by the feedback and chaotic throb. We find respite now in a damp and dripping alley, and have a tense moment to check on our surroundings and catch our breath - but it is futile. The voice is always just beyond the last corner turned... We begin the B-side, “Yameta Yameta,” (seems to translate to an ending and/or illness) with a rather pretty, quietly shimmering drone, then enter short stabs of feedback and crunchy blasts of noise. A frantic, rasping voice cries out over the ever-shifting drone. In the middle of the track we’re allowed to peer into a looking glass, a chance to see these machines in the background working in reverse. For the last half of “Yameta Yameta” directional time is useless - as forwards, backwards, and static flow all at once - experience the beautiful terror of realizing the meaning of all. Life is but a joke. Check this one out, it’s filled with fucked-up wonder.

PRIMORDIAL WOUND “Pure Blight” C43 (Oxen)

“Pure Blight” is two sides filled to their brims with high-energy noise. The 15-minute title track is bookended by a vocal sample which sets the tone for its psychotic break. Restless tones swirl and crawl, buzzing and squealing above a bed of low-range hum. Something is always moving, the walls twitch at your eyes. “Scrabble at Lock” creeps up slowly, an electric rain falls from the dark sky and your key slips and clatters upon the stair, threatening to be lost in the gutter among the refuse. Pure dread. Side B opens with a new variety of sounds, dominated by metallic crashes processed into squeals and static washes which never sit still. “Strained” is a constantly mutating beast with some strange voices (I swear I heard some electric guitar with wah) calling out against the rumble. The third track ends with a soft fade before blasting into “Antagony,” which gallops and gnashes before outright spitting fire. C. Mumma’s artwork presents this tape as it sounds: a hand-delivered unbodied head - a mental struggle to get out of this physical hellhole.

--Ben Myers