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Electro-Chamber (1997): Spastic Sonics

Death Squad, Electro-Chamber (Spastik Kommunications, 1997, lim. 89)
[originally posted 8May2000]

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I wish I’d been able to get to my copy of this without destroying the packaging, especially since it was limited to 89 copies, but that would have been defeating the purpose…

Death Squad, traditionally, have bristled any time the term “powerelectronics” has been attached to the work. But if this cassette is representative of the band’s pre-Theological Genocide output, then I can see where critics would be justified in putting Death Squad in the same class as, say, Maurizio Bianchi.

The first thing one notices about this short cassette is that (correct me if I’m wrong here, but I sure couldn’t find any other way to do it) the packaging must be completely destroyed in order to get to the cassette itself. A plastic case of some sort (is that a videocassette?) is glued together over the tape, which is wrapped in a sheet of liner notes, which is wrapped in technical diagrams. The videocassette, if that’s what it is, is then wrapped in cassette or video tape. Layers of the stuff. There’s also some kind of grey goo that I couldn’t identify, but is murder to get off your couch (some kind of builders’ putty?). Then, finally, the whole thing is wrapped in scads of duct tape, with a convenient handle/loop so you can use it as a Christmas tree ornament.

It took me longer to unwrap/break/unravel than it did to listen to the tape, which I believe (I wasn’t timing it) is a C-20 or C-30. If there’s a way to get the cassette out of the hard plastic whatever-it-is without breaking the hard plastic whatever-it-is, then Michael should have a second career making Chinese puzzle boxes.

Then you pop it in and hit play, and it assaults you. I can’t say that side A, “pulse death conductor,” spikes the levels on the equalizer, because from beginning to end, it never goes below the top LED. High-register grinding loudness vaguely reminiscent of what you might get if you took Whitehouse’s “Movement 1994,” shoved it through seven or eight ring modulators and a couple of digital delays, cranked the whole mess up to just below the point where it would destroy your speakers, and then recorded it for ten or fifteen minutes while it fed back in on itself over and over again. This is the kind of track that I’d actually be scared to hear live–not that I believe it could ever be performed. Even Mad Ralf Haussman wouldn’t allow this kind of noise through his speakers before hitting the cutoff button. I mean, this is LOUD. It’s distorted beyond all reasonable recognition. Did I mention it’s loud? Really. I mean, really. If you have cockroaches and rats and things in your walls you want to get rid of (or neighbors, for that matter), turn your cassette player all the way up, put this on infinite loop, and leave for the weekend. By the time you get back, ATF may have bombed your house into oblivion.

Given that, side B, “…converter,” is a relief. It only spikes about half the time. And I’m almost positive I’ve heard this (instrumental, as far as I can tell–if there are any vocals they’re mixed WAY down) as source material for another Death Squad track, but Theological Genocide is at home and Prosthetics is in the car… and my mind is a sieve. Much more low-register stuff in here, not rumbling so much as sliding, and a phased higher tone that might not take your ears off as quickly as the stuff on side one, but will do it just as effectively after a few minutes of continued listening.

It’s painful. I love it, as usual with most of the stuff Death Squad releases. *** ½


“Pulse Death Conductor.”

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

3 responses »

    • Deservedly so. I’m not sure “pulse death conductor” is one of the ten harshest things in my collection (one of these days I will have to sit down and just make a list), but if not, it’s sure as hell in the running.

      Hopefully it’s a little easier access this time around. (What WAS that grey goo, anyway? I’ve half-expected for the last thirteen years you would pop up at one point and say “you probably shouldn’t use bleach on that, it’s C4…”)

  1. Pingback: One Track Mind, vol. 3: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue | Popcorn for Breakfast

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