Cataclyst: Monuments of a Rubicund Age
Tantric Harmonies / Zhelezobeton

The Infant Cycle: Playout

Monuments of a Rubicund Age is an unusual collection of atmospheric industrial settings that Cataclyst duo Peter Andersson (raison d'etre) and Johanna Rosenqvist (ex-Institut, Koeff) produced all the way back in 1992 (first issued by Andersson's own label Yantra Atmospheres in 1999, the current edition is a joint reissue by Tantric Harmonies and Zhelezobeton). No one should be too surprised that certain aspects of the sound design give off an early ‘90s scent but for the most part, if one didn't know the music first appeared fifteen years ago, one might just as easily think that it was produced recently. Full credit to Andersson and Rosenqvist, then, for creating material that doesn't sound dated despite its date of origin (the more cynical might explain it by arguing that the industrial genre itself hasn't changed radically over that time period).

Monuments of a Rubicund Age's nine pieces occupy a hallucinatory space that draws upon gothic, industrial, and ambient styles. A typical piece works simple tribal beat patterns, distorted voices, and chanting choirs into a haunted, sonic equivalent to the funereal imagery depicted in the black and white photography by Pavel Bourchenko that adorns the CD cover. The light-footed jaunt that grounds the ten-minute ‘Short Mix' of “Dwarfs in Hidden Realm” appears harmless enough, especially when accented by a meandering flute and bell accents, but the unintelligible garble of its backwards speaking voice gives the piece an unsettling edge, an effect intensified by the howl that erupts at its close.

It might seem that pretty much every thing one needs to know about The Infant Cycle's Playout can be found in the sources listed on its sleeve: “one carved vinyl record groove, record player [an old 4-speed Califone record player, to be exact] operational sounds (augmented by violin bow and razor blade).” But merely listing the sources conveys little about what the half-hour EP, appropriately sliced in half by its two pieces, “How to Bow a Tone Arm” and “Skinning the Platter,” sounds like. Playout's the brainchild of Canadian artist Jim DeJong who has worked under The Infant Cycle name since 1994 and manages his own label The Ceiling. In “How to Bow a Tone Arm,” a skipping rhythm of pops—a gallop almost—generated from a carved run-out groove provides a hypnotic foundation for grinding drone tones that stretch out over top until an abrupt derailment briefly occurs nine minutes in, after which the rhythm dusts itself off and carries on, now overlaid by distant industrial noises and faint whistles. To produce his sounds, DeJong ran a razor blade along the platter while it was spinning, and used a violin bow on the tone arm to manufacture different tones (amplified via the needle). “Skinning the Platter” changes character throughout: it's variously a pitter-pattering microsound exploration, NASA recording of alien transmissions, and, finally, an exercise in entropy. The DVD component of a kindred work, Otomo Yoshihide's Multiple Otomo, argues so strongly in favour of Yoshihide's approach, one wishes Playout had been granted the same, admittedly deluxe treatment. Certainly it would be engrossing to witness the EP material's sounds being generated in addition to hearing them.

October 2007