Maleficia: Maleficia

Mem1: Stationary Drift
Resting Bell

The self-titled, thirty-three-minute debut album from Oakland-based Maleficia, an “experimental noise” outfit pairing Andy Way (electronics) and Ilysea Viles Sunderman (vocals and viola), consists of two side-long pieces, “Making” and “Remaking.” In the opening piece, Sunderman's deathly moaning establishes the gloomy mood which Way then deepens by smothering it in a reverb-drenched cloud of violent blasts, rips, and tears. The agonized wail continues, seemingly indifferent to the vortex of noise intensifying around it and threatening to obliterate it altogether. By the end of side one, you'll feel like you're staring directly into the center of an inferno. “Remaking” opens with the multi-layered saw and shudder of Sunderman's viola and wordless vocalizing, both of which Way subsequently wraps in a grimy, shape-shifting blanket of electronic distortion. There's an elemental, brute force to the duo's sound, something purposefully cultivated if Maleficia's own MySpace characterization is taken at face value (the group's music sounds like “winds, blizzards, fire, rain, earth, the sea, smoke, sea shells, graves, gods, walking, our unending pain ...”). Noise freaks may want to act fast, given the release's modest 400 copy-run.

No such urgency is required in the case of Stationary Drift by Mem1 (Mark and Laura Cetilia) which the kind folks at Resting Bell have offered up as a free download at its site. The twenty-seven-minute EP combines electronic sounds and cello in a manner not entirely unlike Maleficia although Mem1 opts for a slightly quieter and more restrained approach. The four-track release—two pieces recorded in the Netherlands (Amersfoort and Amsterdam) and two in Emory, Virginia—begins with the slow burn of “Hanging Valley,” a meditative piece of brooding character where the guttural groan of the bowed cello is shadowed by ghostly electronics, before “Penitentes” (named after a special snow formation found at high altitudes) unfurls its grainy, Ligeti-like web of creaking textures and high-pitched tones. The title piece wraps its droning mass in a fog-drenched blanket of seaside atmosphere. In addition to Mem1's fine outing, Resting Bell has over fifty releases available free of charge, including EPs by Jeremy Bible, Etienne Michelet, offthesky, Entia Non, and others.

April 2009