Review: Ambitious Electronics On Sars & AR’s ‘For Those Who Strive’


There’s a moment on ‘For The Hour of Great Humiliation’ when SARS – a focal affiliate of Abdulla Rashim’s Northern Electronics imprint – despairingly announces that ‘salvation/it won’t come/give it up/it’s trending/we’re losing’. Above a thunderous, insistent organ grind growl of no holds barred noise her words sound like fatalistic curses ambiguously concerned with 21st century turmoil and the tools with which said turmoil is now mediated. It’s difficult not to read into lyrics that follow assurances of doom with social media nomenclature. After all, the Paris attacks late last year were first revealed on such networks. With it came reactions which were largely sympathetic but often misguided, tokenistic and hateful. Whilst there’s no way of unanimously substantiating the track’s thematic focus – the specifics of its misanthropic melodrama – it’s a message which nevertheless has weighty currency, one which maintains its potency long after the track’s searing first degree thrums relent. It stands to reason whether she has a point, whether obsessional second hand commentary can really lead to long term redemption? Whatever the intent and however accurate these words are, it’s somehow purging to hear such unfettered exasperation converted to such untold, infectious extremes.

After the glum black sky oppressiveness & dark wave romance of Född Död’s ‘Studie I Närhet, Längtan Och Besvikelse’ – a collaboration between Sars & fellow NE mainstay Varg – the track is a startling, contrastive admonition to hear, one of many daringly sharp toothed passages on this first full length from Sars & Abdulla Rashim. As with Rashim’s solo work there’s a deep glacial iridescence colouring proceedings but instead of the immersive aqueous pulse of his techno productions, here there’s a brutally shredded, grinding forge established, especially on the title track. 

The opening prefers a precipitous menace, and is the closest the EP comes to techno, yet it’s beats are so austere and monotone it resembles more of an atmospheric, undergrowth-skulk rather than anything approaching dancefloor accord. Still to imagine it played at high volume is an exciting premise. There’s something in its monolithic dread that brings to mind the dissolute power electronics and quieter crystalline fatefulness of Prurient’s ‘Frozen Niagara Falls’. This similarity is nowhere more apparent than on ‘The Narrow Life’; a stunning leaden interlude of cold expanse and numb dejection which also evokes the degraded ethereal mournfulness of Internazionale’s ‘Armour of Stars’, a release put out by Posh Isolation, a label which shares a certain fractious Nordic melancholy with NE. 

‘The Cost of Bruised Knees’ continues in the same unrelenting vein as ‘For The Hour of Great Humiliation’ but instead of open scorch there’s a muffled, underhand bite supplanting the vicious vociferation of before. Static crashes and gloaming synth then fill the conclusion heralded by ‘Sleep Through Sensation’, which closes it all with dissipating finality. There’s a sense here that this is the profound cessation after all the spiked combustion and firebrand anti-theatre of before. 

With this abatement it becomes clear that ‘For Those Who Strive’ is one of the most forceful and accomplished noise records of recent times; intransigent in its terminal fixations, obstinately committed to capturing terror and awe, but with enough inherent subtlety and atmosphere to avoid blunting it’s atmospheric, drawn-out doom with overstatement. It demonstrates that Rashim and co are quickly going from strength to strength, getting ever more resolute in bending the intractable weight of techno to new, idiosyncratic ends. With Sars, the often macho dictates of noise receives another well needed injection of variance, though she differs in her approach to someone like Pharmakon. She lurks amid distortion just as much as she scowls and berates in the foreground and her efforts are all the more effective for that. 

Like fellow Scandinavians Posh Isolation, NE show scant regard for half measures, crowd pleasing aesthetics or easy, palatable themes, and with each label showing consistent prowess in releasing challenging, ruthless but crafted, uneasily fused electronics, there’s an attractive insistence to what’s coming out of Denmark and Sweden right now. With ‘For Those Who Strive’ that emanation becomes only more pronounced and vital. 

Visit the Northern Electronics site for Album Release HERE