Brooklyn industrial. It sounds like a thing, and probably is. If it isn’t, it should be. With that out of the way: how would you feel about a little Brooklyn industrial today? Memento Mori is the latest release by New York project 156 – a 10″ vinyl, also available as digital download – that travels the somewhat well worn, but always fresh, path of industrial noise/ambient. The band states that they are regularly “described as a drum circle in a rusty junkyard”, and that they have utilized only human bones on this recording. Gimmick aside, the result is short, articulated pieces of industrial (non)music. Needless to say, there is also a strong presence of musique concrete here.
Memento Mori opens with what sounds like insane wind instruments run amok, a polyphony of sirens wailing over a rasping, clicking rhythm that has a nice feeling of organic roominess. From there on out, Einstürzende Neubauten and Metgumbnerbone would be the obvious go-to talking points when trying to describe this album using comparisons. A mean reviewer would qualify that statement by calling this somewhat more amateurish, a nice one would use words like “more personal” or simply authentic. I’m obviously both.
Clanging, rasping and the rhythmic application of bone against bone. The limitations of the utilized “instruments” make a kind of ambient out of what would have been a more violent cacophony, had junk and metal been used. Even so, there is nothing remotely relaxing about these ritualistic pieces. The initial wailing, apparently produced by blowing through bones, recurs throughout the entire experience, creating a rather distressing mood. There is an eeriness here that moves the sound away from more abstract, noisy industrial, and creates a more conventional musical quality at times, however slight.
An odd feature of the 10″ is that one side contains nine tracks, which constitute the actual recording, and the other side consists of the very same pieces, somewhat remixed. Or should that be remastered? The main difference I can detect is some additional wetness to the sound, a far cry from the promise of hard beats and crazy dancing implied by the “Thunderdrone Version” parentheses following the track titles. It’s almost as if dark and moody industrial bands using human remains for percussion aren’t supportive of crazy club dancing. Kidding aside, this is an effective piece of industrial/musique concrete/ambient. Meant to “serve as – for those who cannot obtain one – the skull’s replacement in the ritual room where a scholar contemplates death in the Renaissance rite of “ars moriendi (The Art of Dying)”, this also works well as easy listening for writers on obscure review websites.
Once again, Brooklyn industrial sounds like a thing, and probably is. But if it is, it’s probably not this. It should be.