ALBUM: Der Baader-Meinhof Gruppe/Red Army Faction
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
Taking its name from a West German communist/terrorist organization, this project makes music that's about as subtle as a pipe bomb going off (and nearly as loud). Drawing on the violence of Japanese extreme noise and European power electronics as well as the martial atmosphere of industrial ambient acts like Der Blutharsch, DBMG/RAF's sound is largely defined by shrieking vocals and thick, abrasive electronics, all drenched in a generous blanket of feedback and distortion. It's harsh stuff, though unlike a lot of extreme noise acts, project creator Joshua David Richardson has a solid grasp of rhythm that he uses to keep his tracks just shy of aural torture; with its midtempo bursts of crunchy bass and bellowed catch-phrases, "Kalashnikov" resembles a less rhythmically complicated version of Synapscape at their harshest, and the layers of whirring machinery and clanking percussion on "Fistula" call to mind early Einsturzende Neubauten. At times, things seem to get a little too chaotic for the mere sake of chaos, as on the randomized analog tones of the aptly-titled "Paroxysm," but for an album that on the surface seems like a total assault on the senses, there's also a surprising amount of subtlety in evidence. "Shoah" is fascinatingly unpredictable as it alternates between minimalist ambient, rhythmic glitches, and earsplitting shrieks, for example, and "Anhedonia" ends things on a quietly disturbing note with a tearful woman describing the aftermath of a terrorist attack layered over distorted ambient tones. This final track is so viscerally disturbing that it calls into question the nature of the rest of the album and Richardson's fascination with the imagery of the group for which he named his project; what started out seeming like yet another calculated attempt to use extreme political imagery for shock value ends up being something as ambiguous and provocative as Laibach's early work. Disturbing for all the right reasons, this self-titled album isn't an easy listen, but it is a fascinating one.
Join the revolution and overthrow the capitalist oppressors of your eardrums at www.dbmg-raf.com.
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