Los Angeles based experimental tape label Night Gaunt Recordings has long been on the radar here at Black Metal & Brews. With a reinvigorated attack to kick off this Fall, we’re finally taking the time to explore a few of this label’s cassette-based offerings. For those who prefer digital, fear not, it’s 2016 and these are streaming in full on bandcamp for your enrichment.
Starting things off is Santoine‘s self-titled debut. These six tracks encompass a sense of isolation and tension that lies just out of reach, conveying both the false sense of security and the dread of knowing it could collapse at any moment. A highlight is the transition of “Walking Through the City of Rotterdam North” into “Riots in Europe,” which highlights the oppressive nature of the music as it spreads from minimal background pulsing of the first track into the outright percussive noisy dance number that follows. This unpredictable yet seamless force drives these songs onward in a way that hints at human presence, yet never fully shows its hand. If any one composition here can sum it up, it’s “I Will Remember You As You Were,” which balances pensive moments of melody with crackle and feedback that never fully dominate, yet spend most of the song threatening to overpower the listener. It’s a display of composure and focus that is unprecedented for a debut. This artist is sure to be on the radar from here on out.
Whereas the anxiety and oppression often lay just out of reach for Santoine, The Stage Extends Beyond the Plague by J. De Sosa is a festering and forceful offering of jagged electronic filth. Bass drones rumble beneath distorted cymbals and inconsistent rhythms, creating the aural equivalent of dimly lit rooms and taps that can’t stop dripping in the darkness. These are soundtracks for uncertain nights walking through alleyways and memories that can’t quite be washed clean. Fear and regret dominate the atmosphere, yet aggression is rarely utilized. There is a clear power dynamic at play here and it works brilliantly. While many tracks often show restraint, some of the best work is on songs like “Lined, Separated and Marked” where a beat comes fully into play to hammer home the depravity in all its glory. If you want to bury the line between power electronics and techno in a shallow grave, J. De Sosa is a name to watch. Grab both tapes of the fall batch for a discounted rate here.
As a final treat, let’s take a brief moment to examine the recently reissued self-titled cassette by Shift Worker. It’s more rhythmic, repetitive, and direct than the other two albums featured here, but no less potent in its impact. Clicking, whirring noise accumulates and builds towards a constant motion that captures the claustrophobic blur of city life and disorientation in an industrialized workforce. Perhaps the name and the art hint at this element a bit too much, but the two work well in unison. It’s too dark to dance to, leading instead to a cramped headphone experience that is cathartic and unsettling all at once. The hypnotic forces of digital sound eventually overpower other elements, removing all humanity and replacing it with a cold neutrality. Get disconnected with a copy of this reissue to accompany the two newer releases. While these three releases are a solid set of starting points, I highly encourage you to click any of the links in this article and peruse the Night Gaunt Recordings bandcamp at greater length for your own enrichment.