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Russell Haswell – Factual EP/Scandinavian Parts (Immersive Live Salvage Supplement)

Editions Mego/Ideal

Russell Haswell‘s Further 12″ opens with a burst of what could be fireworks, or might indeed be some kind of demented “Black Metal Instrumental Intro Demo” for that matter. The rippling bursts of reverbed drum machine splutter and brap with an apparent randomness which could just as easily be blasting into the sky as into an unlit, dank Norwegian cellar club with spasmodic arhythmia and no sense of blast beats being allowed to kick in. It’s this sort of toying with expectations, especially when if comes to track titles, which makes Haswell so entertaining. That and the crawling chaos of noise which he introduces into the mix; and as with all the best noisemongers, he knows how to judge when and when not to go for the overload (and yes, he does, in shuddering spades, by the track’s end).

So the gut-wrenching fuzziness of “Urban NO!se” or the kitchenful of cutlery repeatedly hurled into a blender of “Record Shop Day” and the whiplash crossfader technoid scurry of “Killer Snakehead” conduct a series of assaults and batteries which still demand to be heard live in preference to on disc; unless of course the listener’s stereo is fully up to the task of blasting out at wall-splitting volumes – in which case the neighbours had better have left town. Likewise, a decent set of headphones will make sure that the outside world need never impinge acoustically when out and about on public transport and listening to Haswell. The prospect of dropping “Rave Nihilation” on the unspecting punters at a rave could either result in the decapitation of the DJ by the dancefloor – or, given the right checmicals – their exploding in ecstatic spasms of deracinated fragmentary joy at the expropriation of the sounds – if not the beats – of the electronic acid test. Likewise, the queasy synthetic churn of “Sheffield” is enough to make a grown musicologist heave, a grand finale of recursive regurgitation and grind recorded live in the city of the same name, finishing the EP with a ripple of applause and the sounds of departing footsteps.

Scandinavian Parts was also recorded live, in this case on tour with Autechre across Europe. As the title indicates, the concerts presented here took place in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Haswell eschewed the use of a laptop, his solo free improvisations using sounds generated solely by hands-on electronic devices (including Tom Bugs′ iconic Bugbrand DIY synth board and a truly grating SOS whistle) shoved through FX pedals and mixed in real time through surround sound speakers. The CD is also encoded in 5.1 surround, allowing anyone with an Ambisonic UHJ decoder on the reproducing device to recreate the multi-speaker effect.

It’s those moments when the noises he generates sound like angle-grinders or churn into the semblance of rhythm which really set the teeth on edge in memory of the dentist’s drill and the stomach heaving in sympathy with the pitching waves of a storm at sea when the success of Haswell’s improvisations really shines; a record to be respected and perhaps even feared, if not necessarily enjoyed in the conventional sense. The combination of the screaming electronics, which often sound as though the devices themselves might break under the strain, with the full-blooded response from the crowd goes to show just how strong an effect the application of distended noise on a willing audience can have. Haswell spares nothing in the attack, ratcheting up the levels while keeping a tight enough rein on proceedings that some semblance of control is evident among the relentlessly blistering shards of sound, or at least he maintains direction of the electronics as they interact chaotically with each other; and in the case of those fitted with light sensors, the ambient light levels in the room.

The sounds of the audience – and the instruments’ clicks and movements of Haswell (including what sounds like drink bottles popping open) onstage – can be heard throughout the mix too, though quite how they managed to bellow their chatter over sundry groans, whirrs, whines and savage scrawls of noise is somewhat baffling – or maybe they were exclaiming in surprise, given that a good majority were doubtless along for the Autechre show. The excited whoops, cheers and whistles indicate that maybe they were an open minded crowd in Scandinavia (which is after all, the home of black metal – see Further above). One wag in the audience calls out “Now play something fucking hard!” at the end of part one of the Gothenburg show, so Haswell does his best to oblige with a withering storm of frazzled electrical discharges.

-Linus Tossio-

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