Sound Bytes : PAN : Concrete Fence, Helm, Black Sites and Mohammad

PAN is a Berlin/NYC based label founded in 2008 by Bill Kouligas (aka Family Battle Snake). In the past, the label has released abstract, improvisational and experimental pieces by Hecker, SND, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Mika Vainio, Kevin Drumm and many others. On this Sound Bytes Label Special, Matthew Mercer explores some the latest offerings from this purveyor of the outer-limit pseudo-techno noise-filtered world. Enjoy!

Concrete Fence
New Release (1)
This collaboration between noise maestro Russell Haswell and techno legend Regis (Karl O’Connor) delivers the goods as anyone familiar with either artist might expect. “Industrial Disease” kicks things off, living up to its name with a sick combo of rhythm and noise. It starts with a drone of midrange noise before a patient, strident beat takes hold. The staggered kick and snare combo is pure Regis, not unlike some of the icier remixes he’s turned out in the last year or two. The slow and continuous manipulation of feedback and noise into unusual shapes and configurations keeps things plenty interesting as the rhythm section otherwise disappears. “Caulk” is the least punchy of the three, with no real rhythmic low-end to anchor it like the other two, but its combination of drippy effects, skittering and sputtering, with Haswell’s wilder noise patterns and sculptures is effective. Its final stretch of thick, midrange noise reminds me of vintage NON in the best of ways. My favorite track might be the third, though. “The Unabridged Truth” starts in more conventional form, if only by merit of its steady, ordinary kick drum that provides the meter for its swirling doodles of noise. It’s deceiving when its techno framework seems to be building while the noise recedes; halfway through, the beat drops out completely, never to return, and the noise loops and sputters and shifts shapes. It really shouldn’t work, but it does. I hope the duo continue to explore this intriguing combination of sensibilities.

The most noteworthy thing about Silencer is its percussive clatter, all midrange toms in a start/stop pattern. It sets the release apart immediately from Luke Younger‘s varied but generally less rhythmic repertoire. Once it begins to evolve, “Silencer” sounds like the scary junction of a haunted funhouse, a drumming dirge, and a gamelan orchestra. It has the fury of vintage Neubauten or Test Dept. but with a slipperier disposition; it’s immediate but not necessarily confrontational. By contrast, “Mirrored Palms” is a prolonged series of drones punctuated slowly with a deep bass thud — it’s an awesome wall of drones that is far more intense than the more active opener, despite its minimal, plodding rhythm. “Bergamo” brings back more drumming, but reverberating from a distance while murky sounds of water, feedback, and piano innards build and consume the space. “The Haze” is more spacious and patient, with a vaguely dubby sound that recalls the dark amble of Raime, muted, steady drums scattered through the stereo spectrum while insect-like chirps and chatter fill in the spaces between. A gliding, looming dread dominates the track as taut drones increase in scale, harnessing the same tension that characterized “Mirrored Palms” earlier. This rhythmic output from Helm is some of best stuff I’ve heard from Younger to date; Silencer delivers on the promise of his previous flirtations with rhythm and expands upon it with this handsome foursome of tracks.

Black Sites
Prototype EP
The duo Black Sites (comprised of F#x and Helena Hauff) herein present two tracks of fairly squirrelly techno that’s rough around the edges in all the right ways. “Prototype” starts and just goes, a dusty kick drum, open hi-hat, and filtered stabs that repeat continuously. Stray bleeps and noise find their way into the mix as it proceeds, before the kick disappears and the entire thing feeds back onto itself until it turns into a shrill wall of rhythmic noise. “N313P” continues along the same lines but pushes further into the outskirts of accessibility, starting with a squelchy synth that falls in sync with a distorted 4-to-the-floor kick. Syncopated leads and patterns weave in and out, giving the track rhythm beyond the lurch of its main kick. It’s a noisy tapestry of squelches, noise, zaps, and beats that would likely lend itself surprisingly well to mixing with a qualified ear but also is effective on headphones as a squirmy crossover between techno and something other. Recommended for fans of Container, Metasplice, or perhaps Actress in a ruder mood.

Som Sakrifis
Mohammad is a trio that seems to truly triangulate between its members’ strengths. Coti K plays contra-bassoon, Ilios (owner of the Antifrost label) plays oscillators, and Nikos Veliotis plays cello. Most of the time, Coti K. and Veliotis play in sync, with droning, extended tones that bend within one another, creating a beguiling result that certainly sounds acoustic but otherwise can be difficult to identify specifically as to what exactly is creating the sound. “Sakrifis” starts it off with 7 minutes of gliding, deliberate, dirgelike tones that culminate in a swell of sound with vocalizations underneath. “Lapli Tero” continues along those lines but with a more compelling, hypnotic refrain that sounds as resolute as it is hopeless. But perhaps the most evolved piece is the last of the three: “Liberig Min” is seventeen minutes long and starts unassumingly with a rhythmic tweet and a slow, steady crescendo of cello and oscillator tones, one which persists throughout the track, punctuated by prolonged rests and near-silence.


All words by Matthew Mercer of Ear Influxion
Additional editorial by HC