gruntsplatter-chronicling-the-famine“Chronicling The Famine” CD – Desolation House (2002)

8/10 – It seems like it’s been an eternity since the last Gruntsplatter full-length was released, so I was very much looking forward to hearing this. Needless to say, it was worth the wait. As usual Gruntsplatter has achieved a masterful balance of dark ambient and death industrial soundscapes, at times leaning more in one direction than the other, but always maintaining a consistent approach that flows perfectly and never ignores the cohesion of the whole. In fact, this CD really plays almost like one long song, granted there are separations between tracks, but there are a lot of similarities between the compositions, and the atmosphere remains constant (perfectly reflected by bitter titles such as “To Walk the Earth in Spite of It”, among others). Dismal synth reverberations, abrasive loops, soothing undercurrents, churning distortion. everything is in place. “The Slow Exhale of a Man Looking In” is totally twisted and completely disturbing. Suffocating density takes hold while tons of sickeningly eerie textures bubble forth on occasion. “Waiting Among the Dead for Death to Come” is similar in the darkness of its mood, but more aggressive. Very textured distortion tones are mingling back and forth while the ambient drones hum away in the distance. “Underneath the Luminous Poison” is the shortest track, even hinting at blatant melody with a musical pattern that repeats in the background. Piercing treble is kept very low in volume so that it just barely breaks the surface here and there. This time out the recording has taken a step up. That’s not to say that prior work from the project didn’t sound very nice, but things are obviously a bit more well rounded and clear on this outing. A lot of the detail involved in these pieces is very subtle, so headphones would be recommended, but the warmth of the recording along with it’s distinct crispness and loud volume helps matters for sure. The disc comes packaged in a superb digipack with some excellent artwork. The imagery is collaged from photographs and mostly revolves around images of bird skeletons and bleak landscapes, all tinted a subtle purple-ish hue. Some of the imagery is very abstract, and I think that works out very nicely because you can just stare at it endlessly and still have no clue what you’re looking at, but that makes it even more curious. There’s also an illustration of a bird inside, and some use of silver metallic ink as well. A single Louis-Ferdinand Céline quote underneath the CD tray seems to sum up the attitude of this album surprisingly well: “The world only knows how to do one thing, to roll over and kill you, as a sleeper kills his fleas. That would be a stupid way to die, I said to myself, to let myself be crushed like everyone else. To put your trust in men is to get yourself killed a little.” Very well done. Gruntsplatter definitely remains one of my favorites in the genre, and the quality of his work remains incredibly consistent. This is the first release I’ve heard from Desolation House, so I’ll be curious to find out what else the label has/will come up with. [Notable tracks: The Slow Exhale of a Man Looking In, Underneath the Luminous Poison, Methane, Extinction & The Absence of Divinity]

First, if you liked the “the death fires” from “Gruntsplatter”, this new release is definitely one for you, too. It is a bit more varied, but in the same style. You need to hear both cd’s in a whole, because the tracks refer to each other providing a “cinematic” experience. The style i would describe as “death ambient” – (with influences from “dark ambient”, “industrial”, “noise” and a bit of “power electronics”). All that mixed in a very “nice” way… Another thing is, to enjoy this recording, the volume has to be turned up a little bit unto a certain level – because of the background-sounds. (maybe also listen to it, for example, in a darkened room). If you haven’t heard something from “gruntsplatter” before, Then try to obtain the split with “slowvent” – you will get to know two artists at the same time. (I have just recorded “ctf” on tape for testing on walkman outside…). (DEATHAMBIENT)”

Gruntsplatter’s release on Desolation House records, a sub-label of the Relapse/Release family has struck me as a well produced and extremely quality oriented release. The beautiful digipack it comes in is complimented with an interesting “noise ambient” compact disk. But it comes with much more than that. When I pressed play on the cd player, relaxation and an altered state of mind followed. I haven’t heard much “mellow” noise in awhile. The only other mellow noise I can think of at the moment is Death Squad, and this cd is something else altogether. I really didn’t expect the disk to create such a digital bliss. The sounds incorporated on Chronicling the Famine are truly impressive… Imagine listening to the sounds of your inner organs alongside the sounds of the decaying dying planet. Think about how this would sound. Sickly wind sounds and grunts of organic sound textures fill this disk. The music is extremely complex and well performed. It is highly original and in fact highly meaningful in its own way and many other ways. I have listened to this disk, lying down in bed with eyes closed, completely absorbing the atmosphere. The album took me to this strange state of mind that was never before awoken within. As I understand, this is the second release of a finite number of releases by Desolation House. Also as I understand, the limit is 1000 copies, never again to be packaged so beautifully.

Recently, Scott “Gruntsplatter” Candey and several members of the Worm Gear forum were commenting the strange fact concerning “Chronicling The Famine,” the latest output by the acclaimed San Francisco based musician and designer: while the disc is currently sold out from the label, paradoxically the CD has passed almost unnoticed within the realms of our limited scene. “Chronicling The Famine” meant the second reference for a new recording outfit, Desolation House, nothing more and nothing less than the newest Experimental sub-label of the mighty Relapse; so it has materialized into a considerable “mainstream” distribution for a Noise release (Amazon and the likes), while the habitual distributors of this kind of stuff have carried it in limited quantities, or at least not enough to fulfil de demand of the album. And the fact results especially sad because Gruntsplatter couldn’t have chosen a better presentation card for the big audience, but I can’t help fearing that such a proof of subtlety and compositional task probably won’t be appreciated in its full magnitude by it, while some of you, who could and should take the oeuvre as a true reference in terms of elaboration, probably still haven’t tried it…. But let’s centre in the motives that make worth that checking. To commence, I see “Chronicling…” as a rather different work when compared with its predecessors in all aspects. Of course you will still find that characteristic Noise Ambient (or Ambient Noise or call it however you want; whoever has listened Gruntsplatter anytime, already knows what I’m talking about) sonorities, but even if a release like “The Death Fires” was amusingly rich, its complexity really pales when compared with this newest effort. And to say the truth and being more precise, instead of difference, I should call it “evolution”: that’s the key. As I was saying, the genuine elements are still there, but the artist seems to have paid attention to his past works trying to improve elements he maybe thought were previously incomplete or not mature enough, because fluidity, cohesiveness, richness or balance are just some of the words coming to my mind, apart from the obvious gear improvement, etc… And maturity in all senses, because if I’ve complained above about the Desolation House’s task regarding underground distribution, I wouldn’t say all the truth without pinpointing some of the privileges than a big label, with a major professional approach, can provide regarding artistic possibilities and means. Firstly, because of the superb mastering work of the Experimental legend Robert Rich, which really makes the difference when compared with other examples of Noise releases. In my opinion Mr Rich has understood the essence of Candey’s work, as his site claims it: “Mood and depth of composition have continually been of the first importance for Gruntsplatter. They are really the only goals I have with music, to make something evocative and subtle in its detail”. Unfortunately, I’ve always had the impression that the sound in some of the previous recordings of the project made difficult to appreciate those heavily elaborated details blurred by the hard mixing and mastering duties that such genres, Dark Ambient and Noise, demand. But now, even if someone can argue that part of the prior charming density has disappeared due to the crystal-like production, the highlight of the final master is the way it achieves transparency without sacrificing a single bit of the atmosphere, trademark of Gruntsplatter; and I would dare to say that this work is responsible, at least in part, of the progression that this disc offers… As every work by the project, every single track has a noticeable development from beginning to end, avoiding the classic repetitive character of the Industrial genre most of the times. But here the disc as a whole reveals its own growth as well. It starts rather powerful with “Ravens At The Cradle”, one of the best accomplished compositions, with all those reverberating and abrasive layers with background lugubrious pseudo-melodies. And Noise increases progressively in this part, for instance with “Swollen Like Their Bellies” or “Tyrant Among The Bloodless” to name a few, with all those gritty sounds that will disappears towards the end. Probably, the sixth cut, “Waiting Among The Dead For Death To Come” (by the way, notice in all the titles how the Candey’s suggestive poetic sense is still there) works as a inflexion point. The granular stratum doesn’t disappear, but the tone is less harsh. In the subsequent cut, “Underneath The Luminous Poison,” the role of the hypnotic melody turns the aggressive textures into a smoother result. And with the exception of the eight song, the final two (especially obvious in another highlight: “Methane, Extinction & The Absence Of Divinity,” maybe the one to blame in the apparent late change of sonorous direction of the CD) prove those more relaxed ambiances, even if the approach in all the compositions is more or less the same… Returning to the final product, and talking about mood, the artwork deserves another of the big applauds in my comments. “Illustration by Rob Middleton, additional graphic manipulations by Scott Candey and layout by John “C17H19NO3″ Bergin,” I really don’t know how they’ve exactly managed a work of three, but the final result is one of the more aesthetically well-achieved digipaks I’ve seen in the last times, and what visually the content demands: dark as hell. Again it has really captured the concept of sound… But anyhow, whatever comments I could keep on adding, “Chronicling…” is a disc to be experimented on your own and let it grow; there’s always something new in each of its multiple obscure corners and labyrinth corridors. And such a complexity turns out pretty simple when trying to say the last words: fascinating and essential; it’s really that easy.

Project of Scott E. Candey, owner of Crionic Mind label. All I have tasted by GRUNTSPLATTER so far has been to my liking, it could occasionally be harsher; I especially keep in mind “The Cessation Of Spoil” CD on Glass Throat Recordings by TRIAGE, GRUNTSPLATTER & RUHR HUNTER collaborative project. This here is a bit in the same vein, cold & organic, subtle mixture of pulses, frictions, flux of frequencies, small noises. Perfect example of what I would call “death atmospheric”, delicate thunder & path in profound, inner worlds. My faves in here, although it’s hard to definitely fix, would be 5th “Tyrant among the bloodless”, superb stereo effects, & 7th “Underneath the luminous poison”, shiny melody over very dark sounds, like vermin gnawing the last fossilized remains of a corpse under a sun in renewal. The rather evocative album title fits perfectly. Very recommended CD. Nicely designed digipack. Desolation House is a sub-label of Release Records, with taste as already mentioned; keep an eye on it.

Two and a half year after his debut CD “The death fires”, and bearing a surprisingly similar artwork (dark blue tones, skulls and medieval imagery), Gruntsplatter comes back from his relative silence with an album on Desolation house, a label which seems to be the sequel to Crowd Control Activities as death-industrial sublabel of Relapse / Release. Though Scott Candey (Gruntsplatter) seems to have relatively open tastes, heavy-eared on the metal side and supportive of a wide array of industrial projects with his Crionic Mind label, “Chronicling the famine” follow the same precise path and rules as “The death fires” did, and stay inside the same ambient-ish noise boundaries which Gruntsplatter has built for himself. Low overdriven white noise builds the foundation of most of the track, while crackling and repetition saturation bring a slow ghoulish pulse, and answer to the occasional analog tones and feedback that spring from time to time. Slow and repetitive, Gruntsplatter’s music has always had a very weird edge, not entirely because of the dark imagery in which it comes packaged, but also for the pulsating and oscillating form of its noise. And still, if “The death fires” was rich of precise loops and little grindings, this “Chronicling the famine” presents a more ample, bassy edge. While it looses in sharpness, it becomes a more mind-numbing form of music, in which the tracks, though often thick, drown very quickly in the background. It might be lighter in textures, but I for example found the less noisy and more changing second half of this CD (and most of all “Underneath the luminous poison” and “Methane, extinction and the absence of divinity” to be more of an attention-catcher that the first tracks. Gruntsplatter is good at what he is doing, he knows his instruments, his music and has a precise objective. However, while all the elements are present and in place, there is something that didn’t quite work for me on this album. The house is well built, but something prevented me from entering it. It might be a more lush sound, a possibly more ambient mastering (by Robert Rich), or just a lack of variation, but “Chronicling the famine” sounds too much like a calmed-down version of noise for me, and I wished that either the distortion or the tones had taken the forefront, instead of getting mixed in an album that sometimes doesn’t really know where it is going. Still, not an unpleasant album, but one which failed short from getting a grip on my ears.

Boy, is Gruntsplatter a great band name. It’s a little misleading, though, because it sounds like the name of a death metal band, and Gruntsplatter is not a metal band, or even a band, period. It’s the solo project of Richmond District dweller Scott Candey, an apparently busy-as-hell guy who is almost invisible around these parts unless you know exactly where to look. He runs a label, Crionic Mind (whose best-known roster member is Zeni Geva guitarist K.K. Null), and co-edits the long-running metal-experimental zine Worm Gear. He also has a slew of recordings out via collaborative projects with groups bearing shadowy names such as Umbra and Blunt Force Trauma. The music runs the gamut from creepy-drone ambience to heavy-duty electronic noise…. Gruntsplatter is his main project, however, and Chronicling the Famine, his second full-length release under that name. What distinguishes this disc from others in this genre is Candey’s way of taking would-be harsh sounds and submerging them in a thick, unsettling soup so that they don’t sound harsh at all. Loosely comparable to fellow local darkness-dwellers Noisegate and Tribes of Neurot, Gruntsplatter makes for good 4 a.m. headphone listening. It would also make a nice accompaniment to your next trip to the isolation tank. (Will York)

Over 2 years have passed since the debut from Gruntsplatter and what a welcome back it is to hear this new cd called “Chronicling the Famine”. This release has beautiful art consisting of a tri-fold cd case with all sorts of dark imagery of ravens and trees. The music follows the artwork with its bleak strokes of distorted darkness and creepy vibrations. I didnt think the cd needed track numbers because it blended so well but there is to make room for some of the best song titles of the year like: Ravens at the Cradle | Swollen Like Their Bellies | The Slow Exhale of a Man Looking In | Lanterns Blanch The Spoil | Tyrant Among The Bloodless | Waiting Among The Dead for Death to Come | Underneath The Luminous Poison | To Walk the Earth In Spite of It | Methane, Extinction & the Absence of Divinity | The End of the River. Gruntsplatter is Scott Candey and he knows his instruments and gear very well. Anyone into dark ambient/noise will love this release. I hope Gruntsplatter goes on tour for this album because it would be a treat to see how all of this would come together. A forest at night would be the perfect place to enjoy this release if possible but if it isn’t,just turn down the lights and drink a glass of wine.

Scott E. Candey’s sophisticated sci-fi séance of dark ambient noise. Sounds like a gargantuan galactic tarantula’s slimy cavernous lair, teaming with thousands of spindly legged arachnids, mandibles dripping with ooze. This is quite an astonishing nebulous of electro-experimental atmospherics and abrasive auditory inclinations towards outer spaces’ furthest reaches. Digital electronic sequences and scratching noise samples seize hold of the very air, permeating the ear canal, pulsing through receptive nerve endings. Experimental & ambient electronic pioneer, Robert Rich, not only gives his blessing on Chronicling the Famine, he mastered the album. If Candey’s inspiration stems from esoteric literature, histories, and his emotional state of mind, consider Gruntsplatter his looking glass into drastic social decay and morbid psychosis.

This one-man project by the US citizen Scott E. Candey came into existence in 1994, this album contains tracks recorded during the period of summer 2001 until spring 2002. Inspired by a somewhat esoteric approach of literature, history and the tragic genetic decay of humankind, Gruntsplatter manages to combine noise and dark ambient in an almost sophisticated way. The gloomy and frightening soundscapes often sound like a storm raging over the surface of a post-apocalyptic world, generating macabre tones from slowly decaying scrap sticking out of the frozen rubble. The modulated white noise sounds ,because of its throbbing and rustling, like something that’s living in a realm where only death should exist. You may consider this to be the instrumental dark ambient answer to the industrial horror of MZ.412, in case you want a compact summary. And if you’re one of those people who just want more despite the fact that you actually want to run away screaming, I would like to name a few titles… “Ravens At The Cradle”, “Waiting Among The Dead For Death To Come”, “To Walk The Earth In Spite Of It” and “Methane, Extinction & The Absence Of Divinity” are just a few of the ten tracks whose sounds manage to feed my distressed grimness. Be warned.

Harsh minimalism is a fascinating thing; Gruntsplatter is a perfect example of the successful marriage of dark ambient and death industrial. The result is a clever juxtaposition between noise and silence. Chronicling the Famine (2002) employs the harsh nature of noise to create not only a dark sound true to death industrial, but a minimalist style. The forceful dark nature of death industrial is united with the encompassing emptiness of dark ambient. Not every sound in this album is harsh; eerie harmonics ring through the static with an ominous effect. The nightmarish atmosphere is especially palpable, samples of bells and boiling sounds bring to mind the perfect imagery to accompany the dark style. Chronicling the Famine is unforgiving, inhuman music at its best. – Review by Douglas

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