ACL - Holy GhostItalian born and resident in London, Gaya Donadio is ACL - also known as ANTIchildLEAGUE. Gaya is best known and well respected for her tireless promotion of industrial, noise and neo-folk music in London under the banner Hinoeuma the Malediction - and more recently as Level X and Confession. Their varied bills have featured countless underground and industrial heavyweights including Whitehouse, Death In June, 6 Comm, The New Blockaders, Merzbow, Con-Dom, Sorrow mixed with lesser known acts. When living in London I was a regular at Hinoeuma's residence at the Red Rose, a North London Labour club. Unsurprisingly her events haven't been without issues; numerous shows resulted in unwanted and unnecessary attention from certain quarters. Thankfully she's managed to overcome the inevitable accusations that surround underground experimental even programming a show of industrial noise music for London's Resonance radio station in 2009.
Holy Ghost is the final part of a trilogy that begun with The Father (Hagshadow), The Son (Old Europa Cafe) and now back on her own Hagshadow imprint - which also operates a mail order service - we have Holy Ghost. Outside of ACL Gaya has sung with Con-Dom, Sutcliffe Jugend's Paul Taylor, on one of his solo releases, and way back in 2000 she appeared on the Susan Lawly curated compilation Extreme Music From Women, which also launched at one of Gaya's Hinoeuma events.
The tone of Holy Ghost is set from the start with the solo choir boy recital over low electronic hum comprising the opening title track. It's fair to say that the name AntiChildLeague has caused concern to some. Yet Gaya doesn't hate children; her choice not to breed is based of personal choice, a considered response to societal expectations and the effect of bearing children on the global population and its subsequent impact on the world's resources. And that's a world subject to consumerism, control and chaos. Holy Ghost tackles these issues, and as I'm lead to believe, also focuses on institutional paedophilia particularly of the religious persuasion. Holy Ghost, like the other two parts in the trinity of releases, has Gaya kicking back at religion and its structures of control. Heavy stuff, and at the hands of ACL the results are also potent. Lunging into the shuddering harsh electronics of 'I Hate You'; its ripping beastly vocal roar is forged over rhythmic clicks pierced by industrial clatter. The following rumbling electronic rhythms of 'Ice Heart' are laced with industrial screech over background ambient synths. The vocals here, as on other tracks such as 'Guilty Women', are a combination of hushed spoken tones and aggressive guttural outpourings, with words and phrases given emphasis through a variety of different sound treatments. Dispensing with the harshness 'Guilty Women' unfolds to buzzing electronics accompanied by hand shakers, underpinned by sheets of glistening synths. 'Weak Seed', meanwhile, is just as intense. The whispered exasperations let loose over rhythmic clatter, owe more to an industrial atmosphere than forceful noise. Let's be clear, ACL aren't a power electronic outfit, sure it's an influence but as Holy Ghost attests it is merely one element in sound incorporating harsh electronics, industrial noise, dark ambient and ritualised electronics.
ACL hold back the noise on these powerfully restrained tracks, especially when compared to the disturbing tones of 'In The Shadow' giving light to an ugly sexualised aspect within its layers of revving electronics that comprise the backdrop to its distorted vocal tones. It is by far the most brutal and discomfiting track on Holy Ghost as a result of its catalogue of names and nefarious settings. Even the blistering power electronics of the final track, 'Zigzag Holy Mix', doesn't blow away the unsettling and uneasy impression created by 'In The Shadow'.
Holy Ghost features a number of shorter wordless tracks allowing ACL to create some varied atmospherics that veer from the ominous industrial electronics of 'Unreal' to the buzzing dark ambience of 'Demystify', while the ritual experimental 'Pigeon Murder' resounds to thumping drums with a series of knocks over synth shriek.
Of course, Holy Ghost isn't without controversy. Its cover is festooned with an image of a rotten flaccid penis swarmed with flies from Finnish artist Jukka Siikala. Siikala has soundtracked exhibitions with noise music from Merzbow and Masonna and live performances from Bizarre Uproar. That image feeds into the ACL tracks 'Penis Dead' and 'Dick Funeral'. Amidst the whipping pulse of 'Penis Dead', Gaya co-opts ferocious screaming akin to Jap musician Junko (Hijokaidan), alongside rabid spitting vocals, subjected to multiple treatments and guttural scrapings. At points I can't help thinking that it sounds like Regan MacNeil, the possessed child from The Exorcist. While 'Penis Dead' falls into the realms of electronic noise the throbbing echoed electronics and shimmering frequencies of the following 'Dick Funeral' give way to a more ritual experimental sound; with Gaya's growling intonation of words - "Idiot, dick...damn yourself...penetrate me" - over ritual pounding and buzzing electronics. Less forceful than the preceding track, 'Dick Funeral' moves to a more measured intensity.
Holy Ghost contains two mixes. The sinister electronics of 'Weak Seed Holy Mix' opens with controlled layers of vocals, before the electronic music enters via crunchy distorted tones, analogue squelch and screech and rumbles of distortion. It is Gaya's powerfully varied vocal style which takes centre stage with electronics acting as mere embellishment. The closing 'Zigzag Holy Mix' is, however, a power electronic noise assault of shrieked vocals, amidst high frequency tones and waspish synths. Sure Whitehouse is an easy reference here but in an album based on harsh textures drawing on dark ambient and industrial electronics 'Zigzag Holy Mix' is conversely the most powerful and direct of the tracks on Holy Ghost but it is also the weakest due to its obvious association with the power electronics genre. It is a blistering assault, nonetheless.
Don't be fooled Holy Ghost isn't just an album of harsh textures. Noise and power electronics play a role here but even the most cursory listen throws up elements of dark ambient, ritual experimentalism amidst the harsh sonic textures ACL produce. I missed 'The Son' the second part of this trilogy but I did catch the singles 'Big Fat Arse' and the split with Schräge Musik and Holy Ghost is a much more powerful and coherent release. ACL acts as a conduit for Gaya Donadio's individual vision and vocalizations and Holy Ghost is a distinctive and worthwhile release spanning a myriad of undergrounds styles. Those that revel in harsher experimental realms will revel in its varied intense and aggressive musical and vocal structures. Holy Ghost is to be followed by a Holy Spirit cassette release, with new tracks recorded complementing and expanding on the concepts. For more information go to Hagshadow