One of the members of Berlin’s Genus Inkasso approached me to write a review for their new split C30 with Jugendwerkhof, here’s the result:
Harsh Noise has, from the time of its conception, always been the perfect soundtrack for times of crisis. If there is any metaphorical connection to be drawn between social and musical harmony, then Noise is both an aesthetic representation of breakdown and the rupture of aesthetic codes at the same time. Crisis derives from the old Greek krÍnein which can be translated as ‘to disrupt’ or ‘to disconnect’ and this is a central characteristic of Noise: it disrupts the notion that everything is fine, in order or harmonious. When crisis becomes a perpetual mode of social existence like in the personal isolation, health inequity and dawning economic breakdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic then Noise becomes an aggressive mimicry of this misorder. It does not simply imitate the crisis; it reflects on it as its own aesthetically autonomous bitter self. Shitty times require negative music.
Which brings us to this split cassette by Jugendwerkhof and Genus Inkasso, released one year into the pandemic by Berlin’s Low Life High Volume (the first tape by this label that has been around since 2018).
Jugendwerkhof, named after the infamous orphanages of the GDR, starts off this release in a claustrophobic aural space composed from synth jabs, low frequency rumble and distorted screams. It almost makes you think of 80s Power Electronics for a moment, but it aims into a completely different direction. Over its 15-minute duration Gnadenverheerer (approximately translatable as ‘Mercy Ravager’) constantly accelerates, tightening its sonic thumbscrews but at the same time gradually dissolves into a splendid mess. The more the notion of a basic rhythm gets overtaken by washes of disorderly noise, the more uplifting the whole thing seems to become (uplifting in the sense that violent Free Jazz can be, but only within the space set by the parameters of the song itself). This progression morphs into a second movement during the final four minutes of the song when it slowly grinds to halt, as if exhausted. The whole thing sounds so dirty and lo-fi that it makes one wonder how it was recorded. It’s this quality of the recording process that contains the chaos in a way, isolating it beneath a threshold of mid-frequency muck that keeps it intimate and distanced at the same time.
On the B-side we have Genus Inkasso, a project active since 2009, with The Dirt, The Quiet, The Peace. This is a different approach to Noise that seems more composed (in every aspect of the word). For the first 30 seconds you get lured into the idea that this could be a slow build up, only to swiftly get bludgeoned by something that is almost Harsh Noise Wall – almost because the static is only temporary, a dissolution of form that gets itself dissolved by aural movements and cuts. This is a texture-driven thing, sort of like 90s Merzbow but grittier and at the same time more contemporary. The unexpected and genre-defying shifts and cuts fuck with your sense of time in a quite enjoyable way (if you enjoy disorientation that is). Towards the end there is even a somehow ambient texture hidden in this asynchronous turmoil, but of course it is more on the gloomy and threatening side of the ambient spectrum.
With this tape you get something that completely fits the atmosphere of early 2021. It is a good time to stock up on Noise-tapes for aforementioned reasons anyways and this split seems like a perfect choice for people who like their musical escapism in a more complicated and challenging way. Challenging in a way that it hardly can be called escapism.
The cassette is available here for 5,- Euros and also as a name-your-price digital download.