Juv: Juv

All Miasmah releases are distinctive in one way or another, but Juv has the competition beat in one respect: it's probably safe to say that no other release in the label's catalogue sat on a shelf gathering dust for a dozen years before being made available to the buying public. Juv—a Norwegian word that refers to a kind of bottomless hole or space within an underground cave—was recorded by Juv duo Are Mokkelbost and Marius Von Der Fehr in Norway between 1996-1998. Unfortunately a falling-out prompted the two to abandon the doom-laden material that, not quite finished, they'd intended to issue as their debut album. Only recently did the two reconvene to put the finishing touches on the long-dormant material and bring closure to the project. Mokkelbost cites Deathprod and Tony Conrad as artists whose work influenced Juv, and certainly one can hear echoes of the former's menace and the latter's uncompromising microtonality in the disturbed set-pieces that emerge during Juv. The metallic shards screeching through “Revolusjoner” also could just as easily be the unholy spawn of Sunn O))) as Juv.

Bleak and merciless, the prototypical Juv dirge lurches forward in a deathly crawl as glacial sheets of black ice and metal guitar shudder collide. Like many a recording of this genre type, Juv created the material by mutating conventional instrument sounds into unrecognizable form and augmenting the results with field recordings gathered throughout Europe (among the sounds captured: a bomb signal from a construction site, cars on the interstate highway, brakes on a bicycle, etc.). Having been recorded with a four-track tape recorder and sampler, the pieces (only one of which involved a computer) were mixed straight to tape, and consequently there's a rawness to the recording that's very much in keeping with the music itself.

What's remarkable, of course, is how prescient the duo seems to have been in fashioning the album's portentous ambient-dronescapes as they did. The thirteen settings sound like they could have been laid down yesterday, so in sync is the duo's vision with the style adopted by kindred soundscapers today. The more immediately accessible pieces include the title track, with its gaseous contractions and expansions, and “Forvarsel,” through which a grainy cloud mass drifts; such settings are offset by more unsettling fare such as “Undergang,” where some poor soul deep in the throes of anguish haunts the track's gloomy underbelly with a pitiless howl (apparently the vocals were recorded in a Berlin tunnel underneath the Siegessäule monument). Juv is anything but easy listening, as “Sut,” for example, demonstrates when screams appear alongside sickly string creaks, but it's also a recording that in the end deserves to be exhumed and given the chance to be heard.

March 2011