Ep Review: Shadduh Tuum – Merkabah Ep
Part of the beauty of the more atonal and abrasive styles of music is that they are, by nature, hard to market; the listeners are generally less susceptible to fluctuating trends and media campaigns, and the music is generally discussed for its own merits and made by individuals with only a vague image of their receptive audience. All this makes for a wonderful cacophony of disembodied howls, clangs, machine gurgles and torrents of static made by equally off kilter people (maybe). I would like to think it is with this approach in mind that Shadduh Tuum decided to release their debut physical record amidst no fanfare onto new Berlin imprint Portals Editions. They could have easily hyped this release given the Zeitgeist status of Berlin, the esoteric sleeve design, limited pressing for the exclusivity fetishists and the excellent remixes served by technoise hero Samuel Kerridge and Stroboscopic Artefacts duo Dadub. But no, nothing but the music as someone once said.
This new project between two relative unknowns Nicolas Lefort and Brandon Rosenbluth- one of the founders of UnReaL– is unremittingly bleak- and convincingly so. Their other projects though at turns interesting (Rosenbluth drums in a doom band; Lefort seems to enjoy making sub Raster- Noton sketches) fall short of their intended effect, resembling hastily recorded demos and partially finished ideas. Shadduh Tuum however sounds complete; each element feels appropriate and every transition serves its role in tightening the pressure in their doom-laden atmospherics. Though it might seem odd, my favourite Industrial/Drone/Noise-Techno records are carefully arranged; an anchoring point or narrative arc to guide is often needed to guide the listener through the abject chaos and avoid sounding sloppy and disjointed. More importantly though scary music should avoid sounding like the FX for your average horror film. This is a little trickier as the signifiers used to invoke feelings of dread and images of otherworldly terror- in a strangely uplifting way- can easily collapse into ridiculous caricature, turning a disorientating headfuck into a lame cliché resplendent with naff theatrics and cinematic pomp. Given the recent surge of interest in and cross pollination from the harder fringes of electronic music it’s become particularly difficult finding a strong record amidst all the weak ones in circulation. The stronger releases often draw from a wider and older reference pool than simply the new crop of Industrial Techno records. Given the backgrounds of the people involved with Shadduh Tuum however, it’s little surprise it manages to carefully navigates the frontiers between techno, industrial, drone and noise without becoming a convoluted mess or hilarious soundtrack.
Opener Merkabah, the most restrained of the bunch softens the listener up for the ensuing onslaught, beginning with an impenetrable fog of mechanic noise that soon evaporates revealing a claustrophobic static saturated vista for the grotty sub-bass and syncopated beats to wade through. For some reason, the hypnotic rhythms of the drums battling against the layers of static brings to mind the image of a whirling dervish with both arms chained to each other but still managing to manoeuvre himself . The numerous metallic clangs littered throughout the track threaten to derail its momentum but never quite succeed. Dadub’s rework magnifies the mesmeric intensity of the original, freeing the dervish from his chains, elevating his percolations to the level of an amphetamine fuelled military tattoo amidst a shifting landscape of static, decaying machinery and disembodied war cries. This is probably the EP’s only ‘club’ track; it’s very easy to imagine the likes of Regis sending the revellers of a sweaty techno dungeon into fits with this number.
But the EP’s centrepiece isn’t the most palatable but the most difficult to initially listen to: Samuel Kerridge’s remix of Sun In Your Head. It’s little surprise his contribution reigns supreme; the past few years have seen the Berlin based Mancunian go from strength to strength carving out a bloody niche for his psychedelic Noise/Industrial-Techno to cavort in. The immense physicality of Kerridge’s productions- something that has become a defining feature of his music since 2013’s From the Shadows that Melt the Flesh- is even more tectonically crushing here. Around the halfway mark, this horrific voice emerges from the crushing waves of distortion pitchshifted beyond human recognition, sounding more like a cosmic maw that has ripped apart the universe, spewing Lovecraftian terrors as the earth is submerged. Fucking terrifying. Kerridge’s remix brings to mind Sunn O)))‘s version of Cursed Realms, a group I feel have the shared approach of punishing the listener with waves of distortion and sustained noise.
Given the immersive, hypnotic, abstract and at times brutal quality of this music, with the right conditions, hearing it over a significantly powerful soundsystem can cause a temporary detachment from your everyday self. A particular kind of ego death, where your consciousness seems to function solely as a node for sound and the flow of sensations. Though this transcendent state can be reached with any music that effects someone deeply enough to ‘take them out of their self’, the repetitive, abstract and abrasive strains of sound and music seem to invoke this experience much easier. I for one would be at a loss if it weren’t for noise merchants like Shadduh Tuum et al to lift me out of the mundane and make that trip to Sainsbury’s a plunge into the abyss.