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Kleistwahr - Winter

Kleistwahr Winter coverKleistwahr is the solo project of Gary Mundy. He is one half of Ramleh and owner of Broken Flag, the highly influential label associated with extreme electronics. On their last few albums Ramleh have been on something of a creative roll extending their warped guitar noise forays beyond psychedelia and into post-punk with some surprising near flirtations with seventies rock stomps accompanied by massed gang type vocals. Both Circular Time and The Great Unlearning have been particularly impressive and well worth seeking out. Kleistwahr the largely wordless solo project of Gary Mundy has been a much more prolific outlet spread over a clutch of impressive releases appearing at least annually on the wonderful Fourth Dimension Records. While Ramleh's blackened psychedelic riffage has remained explosive Kleistwahr has been focussed on something more introspective and at times contemplative, as Mundy expounds on themes that are more personal. Defiance and resistance, and other responses to the turbulent times we're living in have seeped into their previous releases and while it's harder to pin down Winter to anything specific the overall theme appears more concerned with loss, decay and resignation.

Winter was originally issued by the Helen Scarsdale Agency as part of On Corrosion, a 10-tape anthology featuring G*Park, She Spread Sorrow, Himukalt amongst others to mark the 50th release from the label. Housed in a wooden box and limited to 200 copies the On Corrosion anthology was an instant sell out. In June last year, Winter was given a singular release on vinyl and now in these appropriate seasonal cold months I've finally settled down to listen to it. Now spread over 2 sides of vinyl, mastered by James Plotkin and encased in a sleeve redolent of those old Broken Flag releases, Winter proves to be another masterful release from Kleistwahr filled with church organ drone, snatches of noise and frazzled guitar topped off with Mundy's harrowing wails. If you've never heard Kleistwahr before, you might be surprised.

Adrift in forlorn organ drone and electronic angelic chime, 'We Sense It Through the Even Snow' opens with an extended piece of mesmerising ambience. Electronic chime falls like the first flurry of snow, accompanied by ripples of plucked harpsichord and hazy, out of focus background voices which only accentuate its dreamlike quality. Even a rush of shrill noise textures unleashed like a blizzard midway through the first part never manages to obliterate the transcendent nature of the track. Mundy is in great form here. The second part, 'Rust Eats the Future', remains anchored around wavering organ chime, as blackened guitar atmospherics emit arcs of controlled dissonance. Flourishes of lighter electronic melodies surface amidst the church like organ sound but with its searing patterns of guitar effects and Mundy's customary vocal howls this plunges into darker realms. If the first part cast Mundy as lone organist in a carnival of souls, it's clear on the second part he's dealing with dead souls. The sense of loss is unmissable and this is one of Gary Mundy's finest moments.

The first real blast of harsh electronics comes in the opening seconds of 'The Solstice Will Not Save Us'. And yet this isn't a noise track as such, something Ramleh in their earlier incarnations were feted for. Accompanying the ringing and buzzing tones shot through with shrill frequencies are waves of coruscating guitars which dip and ascend, alongside a chorus of distant and indistinct tormented wails/howls. After a few minutes it becomes apparent that the sound is almost looped, with everything trapped and locked into this maelstrom of noise and anguish. It's all deeply unsettling and quite claustrophobic. Mundy's vocal approach in Kleistwahr is particularly unique. It appears here, as it does on other Kleistwahr releases, as an indistinct, unintelligible howl, steeped in rage and despair. Loaded with such an emotional heft, lyrics become superfluous. Those inchoate vocalisations never take centre stage but instead form another layer within the disconcerting sonic intricacies. Respite here, however, arrives halfway through as the harrowing layers fall away and it slips into the glistening drone of 'Everything We Loved Is Gone'. Wracked with the clatter of hollow percussive instruments which become more erratic the shimmering, drifting drone carries with it a sense of giving up, a last gasp of hope until its final moments where it is reduced to a bleak, quivering drone that feels bereft, abandoned and isolated.

We'll put our hands up, we were slow to pick up on Kleistwahr - the only other one we've reviewed was In The Reign Of Dying Embers. But this release, like their others, is deeply immersive and crafted around noise, drone and experimental techniques. Even in its most subtle and nuanced moments Winter remains uncompromising and unsettling. Many may have missed this as part of the ultra-limited On Corrosion anthology but this is one deserving of a standalone release. I said it earlier, but you'll be surprised by what Kleistwahr do. Winter is available from Helen Scarsdale bandcamp and Kleistwahr bandcamp.