Shift - Altamont RisingAltamont Rising: it's a great title, but it's not the meditation on the relationship between Charles Manson, Kenneth Anger and the Rolling Stones I secretly hoped for. Instead on Altamont Rising, Shift illustrate how man is out of balance with nature, fleshing out the harrowing noise layers with samples from the films Apocalypse Now and Valhalla Rising and the Altamont Free Festival, the 1969 free festival where Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by the Hell's Angels security during a performance by The Rolling Stones. Even though this is harsh noise, in some sense Altamont Rising acts a noise infused soundscape. There's constant movement within the monolithic layers of noise, as wave upon wave of noise is unleashed, with Shift spitting out vocals of the death-industrial and power electronics variety. There's little space on Altamont Rising, even the garbled tape layers and film dialogue are buried deep underneath. It's an interesting and effective take of the noise genre even if their premise is largely inchoate.
The sampled atmospheric voices and drone of 'Circling Raptor' evolving into increasingly oppressive noise, slips into the full-on cyclical noise outbursts of 'They Don't Suffer Enough', jettisoning effects, as hollered vocals in power electronics mode bark about weakness, suffering, "we sacrificed you" and such like. As I said, the noise on Altamont Rising almost acts as a soundscape as tracks slide into each other building upon the oppressive atmosphere. The crushing and obliterating effects of 'The Raptors Talons Tore Their Flesh' are fused with screams and cries from what I suspect are the audience at Altamont. It captures the sense of chaos and confusion following the death of the teenage Meredith Hunter, and with the mangled dialogue and broadcast commentary it's like a musical encapsulation of the Jonestown massacre.
There's a slight break in sound at the start of 'Shelter' coinciding with the start of the second side (remember this is also available on vinyl) continuing the confusion felt by the Altamont audience as events unfold. Laden with distorted thuds, buzzing electronics and ripping distortion, the shredded vocal tones, at times, are more akin to death industrial, as they spit out lyrics - "it's just a shot away" - culled from the Stones song 'Gimme Shelter', which remember was also the title of the documentary filmed by Albert and David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin.
The shifting layers of 'Rising' creep forwards creating an almost cyclical rhythmic feel, with vocals so heavily processed vocals they assume an almost watery form, while the distorted noise roar of 'The Raptors Talons Tore Their Flesh II' are leaden with gnarled voices and film samples, while the final track, 'The Greatest Ecstasy', featuring clipped, gritty distortion along with sounds of sexual moaning coupled with Shift's whispered tones of "ecstasy" brings Altamont Rising to its, uh, climax.
I like the way Shift elevate their noise into a soundscape but despite the use of audio footage from Altamont the central thesis of showing how man is out of balance with nature isn't fully realised. Likewise the use of the Vietnam set Apocalypse Now and the savage brutality of Valhalla Rising seems to act as mere atmosphere. Altamont Rising, like all noise releases, isn't an easy listen but it's an intriguing oppressive release, with an interesting take on noise. Altamont Rising is released on vinyl in an edition of 100 copies on Unrest Productions and as a CD edition on Cold Spring. For more information go to Cold Spring Records or Unrest Productions