VA: Bacterium

Adeptsound rather coyly characterizes its first compilation CD Bacterium as a “rewarding and intriguing listen.” It certainly is intriguing and by and large rewarding too but that's not to say that it's an easy or always enjoyable listen. To some degree that admittedly should be the case for a project whose driving concept concerns “one-celled organisms that lack a cell nucleus, reproduce by fission or by forming spores, and in some cases cause disease.” There's unquestionably a toxic quality to some of it, or perhaps nightmarish would be the more accurate term. Listening ot the collection, one often feels as if one's entered a subcutaneous world where infection reigns and viruses proliferate.

Some contributors appear to pay homage to favoured strains of bacteria. “Yersinia Pestis,” Josef Nadek's piece, refers to a kind of infection that can take three forms—pneumonic, septicaemic, and bubonic plague—all of which have been responsible for high mortality epidemics throughout human history (fittingly, the setting itself is an abrasive slab of grinding noise). The Psychogeographical Commission's “Pathogenic Suspension” focuses on parasitical bacteria that weaken, break down, and eventually destroy the human body (sonically, the piece is a black drone characterized by microsound burrowing). Elsewhere, DDAA, a self-described industrial poetic French band in operation since 1977, contributes a noxious setting called “Verdeter” whose violin sawing, noise squeals, and monotone voice recitations are purportedly concerned with “earthworm writing by Victor Hugo.” For “Culture,” Cheapmachines deploys guitars, electronics, computers, and modular analogue synthesizer to give birth to droning duststorms of silvery shards and industrial smears.

On the nightmarish tip there's Maison Close's “Filoviridae Mutatis,” which whips short-wave radio-transmissions into a torrential frenzy for the reason that, like bacteria, such transmissions are everywhere—inside and outside of us, infecting us at every moment with their presence. Praying For Oblivion's smattering of screech and churn, “ALH84001” (the title a reference to a meteorite discovered in Antarctica in 1984), is equally punishing. The album isn't without its more restrained moments, however. Mnem's “Invisible Organism” might be a sickly, pestilential ambient-drone, but it also offers a temporary shelter from the storm, while “The Scattering Of Bones - Place & Call (Klebsiella)” by Adeptsound mainstay Schuster (Tim Bayes) is likewise a relatively easy-on-the-ears spectral sound sculpture.

It's no exaggeration to state that Bacterium will be a challenging sixty-eight-minute undertaking for even the most adventurous listener. Even so, one must admire or at least have grudging respect for a label that would commit itself so resolutely to a project so uncommercial and uncompromising, and the release certainly impresses on presentation grounds, with its digipack accompanied by a twelve-page colour booklet that includes images and production details for each of the CD's twelve pieces.

October 2010