In the early eighties Laibach referred to a ‘magical dimension of the industrial process’, to something uncanny and excessive that emerges from industrial (dys)function (see http://www.ljudmila.org/embassy/3a/10.htm). Laibach operated in a context that was still nominally functional, although its mythical treatment of socialist heavy industry hinted at how it was already becoming archaic (see Monroe, A. Laibach and NSK: “Industrial Diagnoses of Post-Socialism”, M’ARS Ljubljana VIII/3-4, 1996.) The current generation of Russian and post-Soviet noise and industrial artists also operate in an ex-socialist context, but one that has failed on a far more catastrophic scale than in Yugoslavia. Western industrial groups prophesied the sudden and violent collapse of industrial civilisation, but their post-Soviet successors live in and respond to such a scenario. Abandoned bunkers and military facilities, decaying factories that were recently state of the art, depopulated arctic cities and gulags – even those living relatively sheltered lives in the post-modernising cities are surrounded by and aware (consciously or otherwise) of this Promethean debris. For such artists, meltdown and apocalyptic collapse are not aesthetic ideals but an element of everyday reality.
This project, released on the French label Mechanoise Labs evokes both the uncanny aspects of industry and the trauma of its operation in an increasingly dysfunctional context. It is sometimes almost overloaded by ghostly radio frequencies that seem to haunt themselves and by grinding oppressive processes. What these might be we can only guess, but it hovers in the imagination somewhere between a grimy noisy nightshift in a provincial factory and some dangerous Tesla style techno-occultist experiment. The heavy bass pulsing of a chronically unstable power supply gives the work its momentum. Over this dense layers of noise and texture emerge. Sonic sparks fly off unnameable ominous processes. Even the more ‘ambient’ (in the stricter sense) tracks such as Radiokatzenjammer tend to give way to the layers of writhing unworldly textures constantly lurking in the depths of the sound-mass. Machinic rhythms sometimes emerge from the fog and Ohne Augen is slightly reminiscent of Techno Animal’s massively overloaded beats. The corroded metal textures and abrasive velocities of Verborgenen Spuren suggest the operation of some demonic particle accelerator built from contaminated obsolete components. Despite the predominantly dark atmosphere, more ethereal tones sometimes emerge from the din, and sublime hints emerge from the machinic carnage. Krampf in particular seems to possess an epic/cinematic quality. Organ type tones swim through a deep pulse wave, and a symphonic/elegiac atmosphere struggles with a constantly grow(l)ing seething sub-layer agitated by deeper approaching and departing pulses. On the closing Goworit Moskwa! the post-Soviet theme surfaces explicitly as a slightly kitschy but melancholic version of the old Soviet anthem battles with feedback textures. All this suggests a stance somewhere between Soviet nostalgia and absolute horror at the consequences of Soviet industrialisation (but also at post-Soviet de-industrialisation). The traumas and the aesthetic opportunities arising from these colossal traumas are inseparable but if it is possible to salvage some meaning from what Laibach once called ‘a mad tale of woe’, there is perhaps room for some perverse optimism. While it does recover valuable elements, 22.SZ is too ambivalent and abrasive to win over the listener completely. The number of layers deployed and the tensions between them give it a productive ambivalence that maintains distance, preventing full identification while still generating fascination.