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The pairing of Kenny Sanderson of Like Weeds and Eric Wood of Bastard Noise is a union with many decades of experience behind them. Sanderson with his Facialmess project since the mid-90s, and Wood with his well-documented and significant contributions to Man Is The Bastard, Bastard Noise and prior works that dipped as far back as the late 80s. The collusion of these two has led to Human Free Eden, a split cassette release on Orb Tapes.
The suggestion that Eden, a place of rich abundance and everlasting joy that is free from the threat of death, ever existed is pretty difficult to fathom by modern standards. But maybe, just maybe, the omission of humans from the equation could have made such a place possible.
It seems both artists have their gripes. Sanderson, with the acceptance of his hometown’s unenviable tag as the most pro-Brexit region of Britain from his home of Tokyo, Japan. The poor, scummy streets of low-income Britain contributing to a nice bit of reverse-culture shock for the British expat.
Then we have Eric Wood, a man whose anti-human, pro-animal rights views precedes him. In 2021, Discipline Mag had an in-depth chat with Wood about these very topics, including the state of his home of Los Angeles, the hollowness of the digital age, and his most recent album, The Skull Scriptures, on Deathbed Tapes.
Atypically, it’s the lesser known artist, Like Weeds, taking out the A side of this release. Unlike the harsher Facialmess output, Like Weeds is generally creating much cleaner and rhythmic industrial noise music. On Human Free Eden, Like Weeds constructs four instrumental tracks of tonal misadventures, samples, clunks and noises, and ominous overtones all while staying on track with a routine beat.
Playing directly into the tracks’ cleaner sound is the expert production value. High pitched screeches have more than enough aural atmosphere to fade and dissipate. Buzzing noises linger with an omnipresent, rather than distracting, quality.
Take for example, track 2, “LIVES AT WAR – DISLOCATION”, with its recurring bass drops. The continuous thumps are met with accompanying abrasion, and although an atmospheric passage helps them end in a different place to where they began at the beginning of the track, there’s a conformity across segments. Again with track 3, “LIVES AT WAR – FENLAND”, junk metal enters the loop with a side of abrasion and sirens, high-pitched without becoming overwhelming. Repetitive and cohesive alongside crystal clear production.
This repetition plays right into the theme of depravity in small-town England. Track 3’s FENLAND suffix (a small British county – the kind of place where all the bad shit happens) and track 4’s samples of alcohol fuelled violence and delinquency are quite telling. The monotony of small towns, allure of negative influences, and unbreakable cycles of poverty and abuse are a far cry from the bright lights of Shinjuku.
Moving to side B, it’s probably by design that Eric Wood’s Bastard Noise music is not exactly the most “user-friendly”. There’s a “Noise Is Music” mantra that has run deep through his work since the 90s, and it can’t help but be felt that this is a deliberate attempt to trim the fat away from his listenership. But those who remain will be rewarded.
Enter “Megalomaniac Complex”, a 32 minute long track that builds upon the pre-established disdain for humanity, power, and commodification that Bastard Noise (and Man is the Bastard, for that matter) have been so vociferous about.
“Megalomaniac Complex” very much belongs to the family of tracks that includes the two on 2021’s Full Length for Deathbed Tapes, The Skull Scriptures (which you can read more about on Discipline Mag’s 2021 end of year album list). All of which clock in around the 30 minute mark and weave through an array of movements – sometimes atmospheric, sometimes harsh, and with a set of lyrics that display Wood’s vocal range and question the state of humanity.
Opening ominously and with the introduction of sirens and oscillators, this newest era of Bastard Noise tracks presents their sonic landscape as a kind of sci-fi dystopia. Slow, wide-angle panning of low volume electronic under-currents and systematic robot scanning orientate the listener into the smokey noir-like settings.
Noise ensues with a haphazard array of blasts atop a background of warning sirens. As the dust settles, deep growls and screams narrate the sonic and reproductive terror. Narcissism, megalomania, and a selfish desire to procreate in the face of the commodification of our most valuable resources. The viral infection of greed and self-interest remains as we end on a disorientating note of sci-fi bleeps and bloops.
Wood and Sanderson overlap in more ways than just their friendship. Both of whom are intent on pushing noise forward, whether professionally or conceptually. And both look to noise, music’s most anti-social genre, as a vehicle to explore the more desolate ends of human existence. Recommended.
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