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Striate Cortex roundup (Part 1) – Jan M Iversen/On The Wrong Planet/Petals/Sleepwalking/Star Turbine

Striate Cortex

Striate Cortex seems to have gone, in just a few years, from another ‘yet another’ label putting out tiny editions of unheard of artists (or ‘no-audience underground’ as radiofreemidwich have it) to having a pretty heavy catalogue of exquisitely-packaged things. I can’t claim to be a completist but I’m seeing a lot of names on their discography of bands and people who are making great sounds – Plurals (whose SC release, I’m assured, is their best record to date), Bambikill, Petals, Dead Wood, [post=joinedbywire-48-space-platform text=”joinedbywire”], the sadly missed Joey Chainsaw

I think there’s a great caprice around these records – when they came in the post, I almost didn’t want to listen to them. The packaging is just so entirely gorgeous. A response to record industry atrophy, perhaps – no-budget labels can’t compete with the big guns but they can make desirable objects. With these, it’s a real shame that record shops are scarce nowadays. I remember picking up a record by Alvars Orkestar solely on the basis of a lush embossed wood sleeve. I’ve kept the record because of the packaging, but I can’t have listened to it in years. All of these records would make for exactly the sort of thing that people would have a punt on, based solely on sexy packaging.

Generally speaking, a lot of these records make me think of a sort of modern industrial music. Where the 70s version was reflecting the environments of the time – factories and what have you – a lot of these records feel more like the modern office environment: ice-cold server rooms, iffy printers and bleary half-awake inertia. Taking them in order of release…

Jan M Iversen – Live Klubb Kannin (SC10)

If it was a film, it’d be all soft-focus, like those moments before you’ve put your glasses on first thing in the morning. It’s got probably the highest note-content of any of these – but that’s not saying much, there’s very little in the way of obvious chromaticism across these Striate emissions. A few looped notes, languorously drawn out in soft tones, is quite different to the droney soundscapes of the other SC releases here. “Niverlar and Cameramans Revenge” is probably the best track here – discreetly throwing out some nice textural shapes before doing that Luc Ferrari trick of suddenly sounding like a colony of anti-social ants agonisingly pecking out your inner-ear. Utterly gorgeous packaging, but I’ve said that already, right?

On the Wrong Planet First Visit (S.C.21)

One of the things I always struggle with in drone (and associated) music is that I feel a bit like old people watching films – I get about three quarters of the way through and suddenly remember I’m watching it and then go ‘where did all those bad guys get the guns from?’ Actually, I say old people, I actually mean me with films. But anyway. This record did this – I forgot I was listening until I suddenly realised I was quite enjoying it, then it finished. Most of the tones are really incredibly soft and rounded – you certainly wouldn’t pick this one to cut through wet paper. A friend of mine has always wanted to do a symphony for squeaky gates – get loads of them together and have people playing them – and one of the tracks on here has pretty much piqued that plan. A lot of this sounds a lot like middle-distance electric storms heard through pillows. Tasty.

Packaging: lovely bobbly dark felt (?) with sprayings.

SleepwalkingState of Low activities (SC29)

The first track made me think of drowning underneath a SunnO))) gig, then being slowly fished out into some tinnitus nightmare in the rainforest. If you can picture that. It’s very good. Lots of gorgeous feedback tones. Second track is possibly more gloomy – repetitious elements and very tight intervals feeling like… being half awake and realising that the relaxing dream you were having about some warm velvety soup-bath was in fact a mangy dog licking your balls.

Packaging – lovely textured black PVC. Kinky.

Petals – Masted Out (SC 40)

Some good old fashioned literalism in the packaging here – the 3” CD comes out of some curled up (wait for it) petals, like a sped-up version of a flower blooming on a nature documentary. Gorgeous, again – there’s actual grass embedded in the felt of the cover too.

I’m not sure if it’s me having carparks on the brain (I did some recording in one recently) but this has a sense of being about stuck in a piss-dank car park in the arsehole of winter. That sense that it would be melancholy, if you could feel your fingers. A lot of soft tones – I had assumed that it was largely guitar feedback, but it transpires that it’s for reed organs, ukulele, violin and tapes. I’m assuming they’re all processed, because a lot of it’s not immediately obvious. Makes me think of a knife fight with children’s play knives – you’re not going to get cut, but that headache’s going nowhere. Probably my favourite of the bunch.

Star Turbine Equilibrium (SC 44)

I have to say that the softness, indistinctness of the tones on these records makes them quite difficult to describe. Not to say they’re bad, but melodically minimal tracks, droning on, without much in the way of sudden timbral or textural variances kind of elude description. There’s a track on here – “phase II” – which made me think of a rave gradually being cloaked in an iceberg, all muted basstones throbbing away. I thought for a second that one of the CDs here had some sort of thematic bit to it, but it turned out it’d gone back to the beginning (for the second time).

Best packaging on this one – a gorgeous little box with the band name as a kind of bow and two beautiful little 3” CDs. Well worth it for the packaging alone.

*

Yeah, so – in summary, any one of these CDs would make a great addition to the bit of your record collection devoted to sexy little objects. Personally, I always tend to quite like this side of drone (ish) music so I reckon any of these are worth a punt if that’s your bag. I think most importantly though, home-run labels making objects with this much care and attention to detail deserve your patronage, so go to the Striate Cortex website and empty your pockets OR I’M CURSING YOU WITH AN ACTUAL PROPER CURSE LIKE IN BIBLICAL TIMES.

-Kev Nickells-

 

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