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Hive Mind - Elemental Disgrace

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Artist: Hive Mind

Album: Elemental Disgrace

Label: Spectrum Spools

Review date: Jan. 10, 2012

Synthesizer music refuses to be pigeonholed. The cinematic sweeps, locked-in arpeggios and hypnotic renderings of 1970s Popol Vuh and Tangerine Dream came to define what was then the birthchild of the West German Krautrock movement. Listening back, it isn’t hard to hear what infatuated the copy-cats of the Kosmische and Berlin School rubrics. The other side of the coin saw album’s like Neu!’s 2 from ‘73, which found the band mixing in varispeed versions of previously released material, while Faust’s debut from ‘71 went to great lengths to avoid sounding electronic via a totally surreal blend of motorik pre-noise tape collage.

If Faust were the initiates of noise than Greh Holger’s Hive Mind project shares a common conscience: to exist both inside and outside the path of contemporaneous synth travelers. Holger’s been around the block a few times, his Chondritic Sound label ¬-- of which you’ll find something like 35 Hive Mind releases -- has been undoubtedly important in the molding of the American cassette culture phenomenon; and if Elemental Disgrace reveals anything with its modest length, indistinct cover art, and use of arcane sounds, it’s that Holger feels most comfortable lurking in the shadows with his tapes.

Alongside Spectrum Spools releases by Forma, Mist and Bee Mask, Elemental Disgrace looks modest, but Holger does breathe new life into the synthesizer by distilling his sounds through a lens not dissimilar to that of the well traveled field recordist Francisco Lopez, who works exclusively with recordings that he’s captured in cities, rainforests, deserts and countless other environments. It’s surprising that Lopez’s name would even surface here, but the more time one spends with Elemental Disgrace, the more every electronic layer begins to take on an organic quality: Unyielding oscillators become the distant blare of cicadas in some South American swamp, while blistering sinewaves become the swarm of mosquitoes that just won’t leave you alone.

Elemental Disgrace may be a field recordist’s electronic record, but who’s to say Holger didn’t actually crawl around in a marsh with a shotgun mic to get some of these sounds, or down in the cave that so candidly adorns the cover? Sure, the more probable scenario is that the album was recorded and arranged entirely in a living room in Ann Arbor. Nonetheless, Holger laces enough B-lined brutality and primitive introspection into Elemental Disgrace to make for a listening experience that is, in a word, transformative.

By Adrian Dziewanski

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