Sadly, this is actually the second release from Topheth Prophet to hit my in-tray recently which involves people who are now dead. The first of these was This Time,,, It’s Cancer by Kadaver, which was originally scheduled for release on Slaughter Productions in early 2007, but which appeared on Topheth Prophet following the suicide of Marco Corbelli, founder of Slaughter Productions and Atrax Morgue. In the present case, the deceased party is not the prolific producer, sound engineer and musician Maor Appelbaum, who was Israeli-born but is currently resident in the USA and very much alive, but his collaborator Hollowing, a.k.a. Matt Gibney, who was also a member of SOIHADTOSHOOTHIM and the proprietor of Rectrix distro and label, who died in January 2006. Maybe all this death inescapably goes with the territory, given the morbid and shadowy musical netherworlds that artists like these inhabit, but still, it’s kind of depressing.
Collaborating Torture consists of one long 54-minute track, recorded by Matt Gibney in 2005 and then mixed and augmented by Maor Appelbaum. In this, it resembles Mourning Duet, Maor Appelbaum’s recent collaboration with Clint Listing of As All Die, which is also a single long composition. However, Collaborating Torture is an altogether darker work than Mourning Duet, with a sound situated somewhere between the black ambient of projects like Archon Satani, Shining Vril and Sistrenatus on the one hand, and the ineffably sinister conjurations of the Aural Hypnox stable on the other – a potent combination indeed.
The piece opens with distant, deep echoing tones and thick layers of forbidding drones coiling and tumbling over each other. A simple repeating chime keeps time, providing a rhythmic axis around which the ambient darkness swirls. Around the nine-minute mark, orchestral fanfares briefly evoke a martial atmosphere before being submerged back beneath the surface of the ongoing, restless whirlpool of reverberating beats echoing through the void. There are fragments of melody here and there, but nothing remotely approaching conventional song structure. The atmosphere remains resolutely obscure and baleful. After some jangling, distorted piano at around 18 minutes, Collaborating Torture moves into a more subdued middle phase. The steady chime is still there, but very much pushed into the background, and the noisy, chaotic beats of the piece’s early phase disappear. Long, eerie drones and sinister hisses predominate – whilst this is certainly quieter, it’s far from restful. Orchestral brass reappears at 26 minutes, inviting comparison to the ‘Macht Muzik’ of Polish act Horologium, although Horologium’s work tends to be much more stridently rhythmic than this. At 31 minutes, a sequence of mid-frequency tones cut through the thick layers of low-end bass rumble, shortly followed by stray, isolated guitar notes. Orchestral chords fade in and out of the sludgy, enveloping, almost suffocatingly thick ambience which oozes from the speakers like a fat black flow of bitumen. The piano reappears, tuneless and remote. After some minutes of quieter, more subdued drones, the music becomes more insistent and overwhelming at around 41 minutes. Overlapping waves of noise build in intensity, as the piece moves relentlessly toward its endgame. At 45 minutes, assertive church organ chords appear, and the orchestral brass reappears before the piece fades to silence.
Collaborating Torture is an intensely bleak work, likely to appeal to those who are seeking out the most effectively immersive work the dark ambient genre has to offer. But be warned, this is a trip that only fearless and experienced psychic voyagers will want to take. If you’re not ready to dive in at the deep end and cosy up to the dwellers of the abyss, then give this one a miss.
“Collaborating Torture” was created through the collaboration of two artists who shared a dark ambient vision; the increasingly prolific Israeli Maor Appelbaum (Grave In The Sky, Poochlatz and many others) and Rectrix Records founder Matt Gibney’s solo project Hollowing. Gibney, who also recorded with SOIHADTOSHOOTHIM, sadly passed away shortly after the pair completed the album and before they could meet up in person. After two years, Topheth Prophet and Heart & Crossbone Records jointly release the album that the two of them created from their shared vision.
Consisting of a single 54 minute track full of heavy, dark drones, “Collaborating Torture” is a haunting, shifting mass of sound that evolves, expands and contracts as it progresses. Layered drones intersect as chimes gently ring out and voices from another dimension call out from deep within the rumbling depths of sound. Although less bassy than most drone based recordings, “Collaborating Torture” focuses more on a sweeping, swirling maelstrom of encircling sound that encapsulates and cocoons. Adding to the more atmospheric and ethereal aspects are creaking, chinking, chiming little sounds that resemble movement and activity in the shadows while dominant layered drones and obscured ritualistic chants sweep all around in dark swathes. After building and building the layers of sound, they are stripped away and, while the earthquake-like drones rumble beneath the feet, the sound opens up, the chants and delicate chimes become clearer as if observing some ancient ritual deep in an underground cavern with painted symbols and burning torches. As sounds build and fall again, the addition of short passages of acoustic guitar and rattling percussion can be made out amongst the murky layers.
Although “Collaborating Torture” is heavy, dark and oppressive, the feeling it creates is more atmospheric than disturbing. The ever-present layers of droning sound rumble constantly accompanied by monk-like chants deep within. The addition of small slithers of sound bring light and a glimmer of hope to a grim landscape that flits between lengthy segments of relative calm and short phases of disquiet and unrest.
To be honest: I never heard of Matt Gibney, musician and labelowner of
Rectrix, and so his passing away in January 2006 went unnoticed by me. Not by Maor Appelbaum from Israel, with whom he shared ideas and worked together. Appelbaum before worked with Maurizio Bianchi but in Gibney he found another lover of anything dark. In the fifty-four minutes that span this disc the two walk the darkest paths available in music. From the rattling of bells at the beginning to the more spacious paths in the middle end, things remain grim and dark. Industrial music for sure, but the industries are longer at work here. It’s a bleak, empty, barely lit landscape that once had activity, but it’s no longer there. Everything is gone and the nuclear fall out is heavily amplified by these two men. Rain drops become small but effective bombs, falling on rusty metal sheets that are on the floor of an empty warehouse. This is not pleasant music, but then that was never the idea, I assume. It’s highly effective music at work here. Deep bass rumbling, mean high end sounds and other means are put to work here. Quite an achievement, I’d say, and surely not of the weak minded. If depression isn’t there, it may such things after hearing this. Nice, I’d say, although I wouldn’t want to hear this every day, but this hard to swallow pill needs to be taken, at least every now and then. (FdW)
Here is a collaboration between Maor Appelbaum, an artist I am unfamiliar with and the late Matt Gibney’s project The Hollowing. For those of you who do not remember the contributions that Matt made to the noise scene, he ran the excellent dark noise (when such a term had relevance) label The Rectrix who released debut albums from such artists as Chaos As Shelter and Wilt. I did have a chance to witness The Hollowing live many years ago but this collaboration leans in a much different direction then the insanity I witnessed that night.
Collaborating Torture is probably first and foremost a drone album, although many of the elements here seem a bit dated, harkening back to the late 90’s dark noise sound. Echoing drum beats, creepy synth melodies, noisy bell sounds and tons and tons of reverb are some of what you will find here. As so much of that music did, this carries on many of these ideas a bit longer then they warrant interest which is a little disappointing. Consisting of one, long, 54 minute track, Collaborating Torture certainly would be a stronger piece of it had been condensed down into about 30 minutes.
There are moments here where I am drawn in, the first 10 minutes are dynamic, shifting synth sounds, more organic and concrete elements that work nicely. The noisier melodies are somewhat repetitive and so forgettable that being forced to hear them over and over again just magnifies the redundancy to a place where it definitely should not be. On top of that the drums that don’t really sound like anything more then echoing standard drum kit sounds just add to the monotony.
Around 18 minutes in things finally die down a bit and are able to breath to provide a thankful respite. The ambient elements here are a little more airy and undulate in a character that is quite pleasing. There is definitely a lot of thought put into these tracks, even in the quieter parts there are detailed layers strategically placed to form a carefully composed ambience which works for multiple listens. Eventually the track works up into more abstract and atonal melodies, drifting and creepy.
The production here is one thing that I have a problem with. Since a similar effect is used throughout the disc the frequency range is in the same place and it seems that the ultra high and low frequencies are softened so, that their barely audible. Everything is forced into the mid range by the noisy reverb which is applied, and which also adds that riding-in-an-airplane aspect to the track which makes it quite difficult to endure. I feel that if some different types of reverb were used, maybe some delay instead, or just a focus on dry mixing some of the elements the disc would have been much more effective.
It makes sense that this disc really sounds like it should have been released 10 years ago, and it probably would have made much more of an impact back then. But at this point it seems like most of the methods used here are “old tricks” that have come and gone and now are used much more tastefully by current artists. Not to say this is a bad track it just sounds quite dated. I’d recommend this to people interested in old-school dark noise like Gruntsplatter, Wilt, Murderous Vision, etc.