Categories
ambient

Europ Europ – Slow Train

In a way Slow Train is a typical Europ Europ release: there is no easy way to describe the music. Referring to older material doesn’t work.

Next year the band turns 25. Still, with every release, the Norwegian trio sounds different. This new one is probably the most accessible. The emphasis on rhythm and beats gives a sense of structure and flirts with minimal techno. It reminds me of Repeating Mistakes (2012) and Mellowharsher (2012), both blending lof-fi noise with a sort of utopian krautrock. It also has some similarities with the dancefloor-oriented Much More Ordinary 7″ (2015).

But… Okay, referring to older releases doesn’t really work.

Slow Train is a combination of the eponymous 8″ single and a handful of new songs recorded this and last year. Although the differences between the tracks are significant, there is a common factor. All eight tracks are moody, dark, slowish, experimental, exciting and playful. Especially the playfulness makes Slow Train so incredibly good.

Slow Train is rhythm and beats driven and resides in the twilight zone between industrial ambient and psychedelic drone-rock. Well, that deserves a further explanation. In the early 1990s, the term industrial ambient described a loosely connected group of artists that blended elements of dub, soundscapes and industrial music with ambient. The results were terrifyingly beautiful. Think acts like Scorn, Ice and Techno Animal. Producer Kevin Martin made a compilation series for Virgin records, but he called the music illbient, a term also used for experimental hip-hop from New York.

Some tracks on Slow Train sound like they have been made in Birmingham around that period of time. ‘Spider’ and opener ‘Desert Disco’ would fit on Scorn’s Evanescene (1994). Psychedelic drone-rock is a more complicated term. I’m referring to bands like Hair and Skin Trading Company here. Europ Europ is definitely not playing rock on Slow Train, but ‘Slow Train to Death’, ‘Hear! Hear!’ and ‘Slow Train to Drugs’ have that sluggish, dark dub structure that was so typical for the short-lived career of that band.

That’s not all. Underneath that sluggish, dark dub structure Europ Europ experiments with different layers of beats, bass lines, soundscapes, noise, rhythms and sounds. When I wrote about their MellowHarsher release back in 2012, I described the music as a blend of New Weird America, unpolished folk and industrial noise. Trying to grasp the essence, I wrote:

Europ Europ sounds ‘primal’, as if they are digging deep in the essence of Northern Europe. Industrial machines are buzzing, the occult gods from before the invasion of Christianity seem to emerge. There to haunt us. This is music for a continent adrift, a soundtrack of the demise of Europe. Beautiful, raw, grotesque, terrifying but also cathartic. Music that seeks to expel the evil spirits from capitalism by freeing the ancient demons, hidden deep within earth itself. And well, we also know: those demons are within us. Scary stuff. But oh so beautiful.

In another review (for Gonzo Circus or OOR, I can’t remember), I used the term New Weird Europe to describe their music. I guess that’s still the best I can come up with. In spite of the emphasis here on rhythm and beats, the essence still lies in the haunted character of the music.

Ancient and timeless.

It’s the musical expression of Das Abendland‘s struggle for survival. The soundtrack to go with the ritual cleansing of a romantic past that never might have existed.

A typical Europ Europ release. And I love it.

Slow Train by Europ Europ is self-released.

Categories
electronic

Burial Grid – Negative Space

Negative Space is meant to be the soundtrack to the same-titled new horror novel by B.R. Yeager, but it also serves as an uncanny musical representation of the current Covid-19 crisis. The novel also serves as a nice distraction. While we are in social isolation in The Netherlands, reading a book instead of watching a Netflix series brings more peace and produces another kind of distraction.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first few pages of Negative Space, but I like it and I am curious about the way the story will unfold. The novel follows four friends who are while struggling with a small-town suicide epidemic, drawn to WHORL, a synthetic hallucinogen that brings them into contact with ghosts. Love to finish the novel.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack by Burial Grid does a good job as ambient for my temporary home office. Although Adam Michael Kozak calls it ‘horrorsynths’, his compositions (all between three and six minutes) range from dark ambient to synth-drones with film music tropes (Jong Carpenter, anyone?). While sounding uncanny and dark, Kozak’s music also leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation. His production is light like the music is floating on air. It brings to life the ghosts that play an important part in the novel.

The open sound benefits from Kozak’s recording setup: his studio is filled with analogue en digital equipment. Besides a Kurzweil K2000, Korg MS20, Minilogue and Wavestation, Roland TR-8 and Waldorf Blofeld, he also uses field recordings to help shape his sound. It gives Negative Space that lively touch, situating you as a listener in the music: there is no escape.

Nice detail: if you buy Negative Space at Burial Grid’s Bandcamp the money will be donated to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy Covid-19 Relief Fund.

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Negative Space, the soundtrack, is released on Burial Grid’s Bandcamp. The novel Negative Space is published by Apocalypse Party.