Generic: Torture

Osman Arabi: Burning Sigils

No, Generic's Torture and its six “Torture Garden” variations don't mimic the brutal grindcore miniatures John Zorn's Naked City issued on Torture Garden (Shimmy Disc, 1989; re-released on Tzadik, 1996). You'll hear no blood-curdling screaming by Yamatsuka Eye or cranium-shattering thrash of the kind generated by Zorn's band. No, UK-based Adam Sykes is hunting different game on his Generic release, FracturedSpaces' second: in place of pummeling hardcore, Torture opts for the slow inward crawl. If you can imagine the unscratchable and insanity-inducing itch that would develop if insects, having entered through your ears as you were sleeping, were to then continue their inner penetration, then you've got a pretty good idea of the ambient style Sykes is targeting. Generated from “foley tracks” and sound effects (used for both film and television), as well as guitars, bass, and found sounds, Torture evokes the image of chained, emaciated bodies dragging themselves along damp chamber floors, and fills its fifty-three minutes with the rhythmic rumble of grinding machinery echoing down underground corridors and anguished voices moaning like the wind. Not so much “dark ambient,” then, but rather the gloomier variant “torture ambient.” Incidentally, Torture makes a perfect complement to John Watermann's Calcutta Gas Chamber, the coloured vinyl release Die Stadt issued early last year.

Osman Arabi's Burning Sigils is nothing like Sykes' release. For one, Burning Sigils is a single, thirty-eight-minute piece of brooding “ethno-ambient” character whose exotic textures and rhythms evoke Aarabi's homeland (the material was recorded in El Mina, a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea in Northern Lebanon, and in Tripoli, situated five kilometres to the east of El Mina and eighty-five north of Beirut). A languid, drum-and-bells tribal pattern anchors the work from the outset and a serpentine theme enters at the six-minute mark which likewise repeats thenceforth. Wind formations blow continually across the ancient rhythms, just as they do across the area's heat-ridden deserts. Though Arabi attempts to avoid repetition by occasionally dropping out the tribal pattern and theme, by introducing the distorted snarl of an electric guitar halfway through, and by gradually intensifying the rhythm pattern, the piece ultimately feels excessively repetitive and thus overlong and probably would be more effective had it been edited down and issued as a twenty-minute EP.

November 2008