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Nurse With Wound - The Surveillance Lounge

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Artist: Nurse With Wound

Album: The Surveillance Lounge

Label: Dirter

Review date: Aug. 19, 2009


Nurse With Wound - "Close To You" (The Surveillance Lounge)


I would wager that most Dusted readers are already familiar with Nurse With Wound’s lengthy discography of audio surrealism. But if not, you’re encouraged to check out the Brainwashed NWW page and the Wikipedia entry. The thirty-year journey of Steven Stapleton and his collaborators – including frequent partner Andrew Liles on this album – is a tribute to Dada, like a Tristan Tzara text interpreted via abstract sound.

For The Surveillance Lounge, NWW fleshed out pieces composed for a silent film soundtrack and turned them into four long songs, each around the 16-minute mark. To a great extent, though, this can be considered one long flowing text, as the track divisions could fall almost anywhere. With such a surrealist assemblage, one person’s ending is another’s beginning.

This is a very subtle album, which is both its strength and its weakness, depending on your proclivities and expectations. Ominous throughout, and calm more often than not, the music can easily fade into the background – which, ironically, works well when it suddenly bursts into startling cacophony after you’ve forgotten it’s even on. The dynamics at play can be a bit dangerous when put on late at night, as it will either be too quiet most of the time, or too loud in its random eruptions. Headphones are recommended.

If there’s one word that describes The Surveillance Lounge, it’s dread. Seemingly innocent sounds – shifting static, crinkling and clattering – become drenched in foreboding against distant drones and mysterious reverberations. The slow piano of the opener, "Close To You,”; cut-up radiophonic voices, shouts, and screeches; cloudy murmurs and chanting; crazed factory buzzings and electronic fuzz: All of Stapleton’s sounds refuse to lie still. The intense shrieks, howls, whooshing, and scraping of the occasional frenetic passages often come out of nowhere, and quickly subside back to whence they came.

The most memorable piece is "The Golden Age of Telekinesis,” which begins to build with exquisite patience at about the five-minute mark, and is still on its way up several minutes later. Simple rattling percussion accelerates the pulse as freakish sounds become more and more insistent, until it implodes with a sci-fi squelch into near-silence. Few other moments on the album match its intensity, which comes not entirely from the injection of rhythm and more from the passage’s sense of purpose.

The Surveillance Lounge is certainly not an easy listen, and its crazed moments may put off those looking for a purely spooky listen. The quieter points may do the reverse. It took several listens for the album’s personality to come through for me, and I’m still not entirely convinced. But it’s nonetheless a masterly performance if you’re prepared to give it some time.

By Mason Jones

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Find out more about Dirter

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