Hecker: Sun Pandämonium, Aleph Empire: Playback Confusion Device Volume One

Sun Pandämonium

Aleph Empire
Playback Confusion Device Volume One

As genre names go,

computer music

is one of the most off-putting: It suggests a legion of white male academics fiddling around with bi-quad filters in the service of making "tone-poems" with less funk than a retirement home's polka band. Lucky, then, that Austrian experimental label Mego defies such connotations. Over the course of its 10-year-plus existence, the Mego crew has produced a bewildering array of gleefully deranged records, proving that laptops can make sounds as savagely beautiful as any scuffed punk 7-inch.

Mego's latest two unruly releases by Hecker and Aleph Empire are fine examples of their trademark borderline-malicious music, but Hecker's Sun Pandämonium is perhaps the more startling of the two. Whereas his debut IT ISO161975 was a compelling piece of clinical minimalism, Sun Pandämonium is pure noise, coming on like David Lynch's score to a malevolent child's tantrum. "bsfštyk 5" opens the proceedings with a disorienting rush of granulated shards, eventually giving way to the 21-minute showstopper, "Stocha Acid Zlook," which pitches a razor-edge drone against swarms of crunchy glitches. But with "Jxean-z Character Generator," the album shifts abruptly, offering five short tracks of near silence punctuated by micro-edited squalls of noise. The cumulative effect on the listeners' nerves is devastating: Anyone who can press "play" and survive all the way through the closing track, "Vi Retrospect," should probably consider a career testing the relative frequencies of dental drills.

In comparison, Playback Confusion Device Volume One by Aleph Empire (not to be confused with didactic Digital Hardcore boss Alec Empire) is a surprisingly analog affair. In fact, the album sounds like some lost cassette release from the ever-inventive local noise imprint Freedom From. A chaotic live recording of a vinyl cut-up session at Vienna's legendary Rhiz club, Playback Confusion Device swings from brutal noise to cut-up screaming to breakbeat splattercore mayhem with scant regard for the traditional linear narrative of the DJ set. The opening few minutes offer a condensed summary of Empire's wayward techniques, with a jet plane blast of feedback slowly collapsing into recorded laughter, hyper-distorted breaks, and a repeated scream of "Fuck you!" It's at once confusing and exhilarating and a test of patience to rival even Hecker. Thank you, Mego. Now where's the aspirin?

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