Swarm Intelligence: Rust
Representative of the harder, industrial-techno end of the Ad Noiseam spectrum are new collections from Ontal (Serbian duo Boris Brenecki and Darko Kolar) and Swarm Intelligence (Simon Hayes). Entropia is the debut full-length by Ontal, which formed in 2011, and the format suits the duo well in the way its nine tracks grant them plenty of room to flesh out their concept. The opener “Foray” effectively illustrates how the duo develops its material gradually, with, in this case, the pounding beat pattern with which it opens incrementally building in force and intensity. What begins as an industrial expression eventually morphs into an industrial-techno behemoth that takes on a rather IDM-like character when Autechre-styled keyboard figures join in. Ontal's music is raw, yes, but it's also not without sophistication, as shown by this introductory salvo.
Two guests appear: Fausten joins Ontal on “Terraform,” the collaboration resulting in a particularly lethal combination of metal machine noise and pummeling beat throb, and 2nd Gen helps make “Steel Forms” the album's most immolating noisefest. While some of Entropia's productions are comparatively single-minded in their focus on industrial-techno (the seething, buzzsaw roar of the title track, for instance, which calls to mind a trepanning procedure), others are distinguished by imaginative touches, cases in point the thumb piano-like figures that brighten “Loa” and the choral vocalizations that accompany the wiry techno pulse in “Spritus Ex Machina.” And Ontal mixes things up beatwise, too, with “Transmigration” parting ways with the other cuts in powering its sweeping groove with breakbeats and “Sojutsu” slowly transitioning into gurgling acid-techno. It's details like these that make Entropia feel like something more than a one-dimensional riff on a single style.
To create his third full-length, Rust, a so-called “homage to decay and bleakness,” Hayes first collected field recordings of deserted power stations and factories, corroded metal, and found objects and then processed and developed the material into the ten soundscapes presented on the fifty-four-minute album. Some tracks, such as “Chamber,” resemble audio vérité, gloomy sound portraits that present the originating data largely sans processing. Elsewhere, Hayes re-shaped the source material using a whole host of sound-altering devices, among them distortion pedals, modulators, and granular effects. As a result, Rust straddles multiple genres, industrial music and noise on the one hand and Musique concrète on the other.Though it's less fundamentally beat-based than Ontal's album, Rust does often thread beats into its tracks, with ones such as “Iridescent,” “Attic Spring,” and “Vibrating Wire” assuming a more muscular character when grime-coated pulses are added to their sound design. As indebted as Rust is to field recordings, it isn't unmusical, with Hayes having carefully shaped the bits and pieces into productions that, even at their most extreme, aren't all that far removed from the industrial noise genre (e.g., “Excavator 288”), and some of these grinding cuts, “Low Power Line” one such example, ooze an industrial-slowcore vibe that's hard to ignore. To his credit, Hayes stayed true to the album concept from start to finish, and resisted the urge to soften the doom-laden material's tone to make it palatable to more sensitive ears. One of the more interesting things about the project is that he opted to leave many of the field-recorded sounds in undoctored form, resulting in a collection where clanks, creaks, and other metallic noises are heard in plentiful supply. If you're going to ground a project in themes of decay and demolition, he presumably decided, you've got to go all in.