Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

NON - Blast of Silence

NON Blast of Silence coverNON's Blast of Silence features a beautiful ceramic encrusted hand grenade on the clean, stark imagery of the cover but there's nothing explosive to be found here. Boyd Rice has a rich history in experimental music. His early sound experiments and performances, often performed in an art context, used an early noise manipulation unit. Those early records were designed to be played at multiple speeds and featured locked grooves. His first album, often referred to as the Black Album, featured full-on experimental, looped and noise manipulations, while Physical Evidence documented his ear-splitting live performances. Fast forward to 2012 and the release of Back To Mono where he returned to his noise roots, revisiting old material together with archive, new and re-recorded tracks and a cover version of 'Warm Leatherette', the punk electronic single from The Normal which kickstarted Daniel Miller's Mute label, and which would soon include Boyd Rice amongst its roster of electronic artists.

Much of his earlier work could be considered a wall of noise, and Blast of Silence is just that a blast of near silence where long all-consuming drones literally block out all extraneous sounds. And while his earlier work was physical, Blast of Silence works away in your headspace creating images, shadows and forms unknown. These are abstract constructions created for the imagination. Even the four twenty minute tracks are untitled giving the listener no cues to hang the sound on.

Boyd Rice has form for these abstract creations. The 2004 compilation Terra Incognita: Ambient Works 1975 - Present focussed on his minimalist and ambient output often filled with ideas similar to which he explores more thoroughly on Blast of Silence. It's most apparent on the tracks culled from his eponymous debut album, Blood & Flame and the later Children of the Black Sun. Although mixed with voices and other sound sources the looped and elongated drone of tracks such as 'Cruenta Voluptas' and the sustained angelic hum of 'The Fountain of Fortune' have at their core a more condensed and less sophisticated version of what Boyd Rice presents on Blast of Silence.

Blast of Silence works more subliminally with each track surfacing sounds and melodies which may or may not exist at all. You could argue - and many do - that it is simplistic. A cursory listen might show that, but on headphones and played loud there's a lot of subtlety to be found here. Listening to this on different devices I've found that they highlight distinct sounds resulting in another NON release offering multiple playback opportunities. Blast of Silence requires focus and the ability to listen closely. Everything else seems to take place in your own mind's eye as the hallucinatory sounds worm their way into your neural pathways.

The first track sounds like ringing Tibetan bowls, the sustained drone of bagpipes or even a stuck siren. Maybe it is comprised of all those elements. There seems to be a tension at work within the continual drone causing sounds to form, change shape and timbre. And although there's little, if any, evolution within the sound little details and other patterns of sounds do emerge within the queasy drone the closer you listen.

There's more of an ambient hush to the second untitled track, an electronic hum that is subdued, spacey and spacious. There are tiny micro sound developments some slightly grating and some fizzing like electricity. At points I was sure I could hear faint orchestral strings which I may have just imagined. And yet there's definitely something subtle going on within during the duration of this most minimal of tracks. This one is ideal for zoning out to or perhaps to meditate with.

Track 3 operates in desolate spheres with a sustained drone at its core, creating a wriggling, niggling sensation that is blurred and muffled. That elongated drone may be piano or organ based carrying a haunted air but there is a restless churn which sounds machine based, as if soundtracking a twilight visit to an abandoned industrial structure. Other times I swear I hear an airy whistling circus sound, like the calliope that his old mentor Anton LaVey performed at old fairs and on the carny circuit.

The most intriguing track is the fourth track based around a piercing glassy shriek. At first it's like an amplified version of wet fingers skimming around a glass or a rusty swing swaying in the breeze or a metallic drill cutting through glass. But as it unfurls and the sounds coalesce it takes on the sound of Moroccan pipes. On this one I hear the ancient Pipes of Pan performed by Joujouka musicians all taking place within a Brion Gysin painting. It's all relative of course, but these are the images my head conjured.

Boyd Rice remains a controversial character as a result of his questionable and dubious take on life. But there's little might or right to be found within Blast of Silence beyond its ability to block out all unwelcome extraneous sound elements allowing you to focus on its hallucinatory possibilities. When I first got this and listened to it in a period locked down at home it felt just right. The four 20 minute drone abstractions allowed me to travel to places mentally while physically confined to home. It is a minimalist release offering an unparalleled wash of sound and images courtesy of the listener. I doubt you'll find a seat as groovy as Boyd has, as pictured within the gatefold sleeve, to listen to this but do find somewhere comfortable, turn it up and let Blast of Silence take you to places only you can imagine. Blast of Silence is available on double white vinyl limited to 1000 copies from Boyd Rice official store or direct from Mute Records.