Label: Colectivo Casa Amarela
It’s been quite a while since I listened to a release of pure harsh noise, but Pânico-Ambiente – a collaboration between Portuguese noise artists Aies and Rui P. Andrade – has reminded me why I was as in to Merzbow as I was Minor Threat during my late teenage punk years. It strikes all the right notes – equally unsettling and intriguing, abrasive without being out-and-out unlistenable, the two jam-based tracks on this release work both as art and as something to listen to. It might not be the first thing you reach for after a long day in the office/factory/etc., but as with the best harsh noise, there is something cleansing and cathartic about it, making this as much a spiritual or mental experience as it is a sonic one.
The first track, “Pânico”, is the longer of the two, at a touch over twenty minutes. Opening with washes and stabs of static, the track rarely sits still, with elements constantly being introduced and removed, and the emphasis and texture changing often. Yet it defies such a constantly changing and jam-based nature, coming across as cohesive and relatively structured, rather than as a mess or senseless wall of sound. Rare moments that come close to melody help give small handholds for the listener to grab hold of, yet such moments are few and far between – the emphasis is very much on the noise and its harsh, abrasive nature. It is almost suffocating and overwhelming at points; whereas some harsh noise and other comparable genres that overwhelm the senses can sometimes end up coming across as some sort of damaged ambient music, Pânico-Ambiente certainly does not. There’s something very clever about that, especially considering that the album translates to English as “Panic Ambient”, and that both artists involved have previously released very impressive ambient related releases. Likewise, despite the predominantly mechanical nature of many of the sounds used here, there is something distinctly human at the heart of this music – a sense of life and energy, even if it is not exactly pleasant.
Second track, “Ambiente”, is hugely unsettling from the start. Stuttering rhythms and joined by a throbbing thunder-like sound, all washed beneath a layer of static, sounding immensely ominous despite being relatively sparse compared with the preceding track. Harsher elements are rise and fade as the pressure increases, and the track comes to settle upon a throbbing bass pulse, as high-pitched trebles dart in and out of prominence. Yet the feeling of pressure and anxiety never lets up, making this a challenging listen.
But despite this, Pânico-Ambiente is a very compelling release, that will keep you coming back for repeat listens. As with the best harsh noise, by the end you feel strangely refreshed and cleansed – like submerging from a cool, crisp lake, or waking from a long sleep – and that feeling is every bit as rewarding as the music itself is.