Review: Semai – ‘136199’ (noise)

Warning: Listen to this release in the middle of the night with the lights out and the volume up on your earbuds at YOUR OWN RISK. The latest release from Czech noise artist, Semai is really one of the most sonically frightening, vacuous releases I have heard in a long time. This recording rivals the sound of KK Null in the depths of Hell. While perhaps that description might be a bit exaggerated, in all seriousness, this recording is really one of the most visceral, apocalyptic-sounding releases I’ve heard in a while.

According to Bandcamp, this four track digital release is the ” sound vision of one of the Yuggoth planets, which science calls trans-Neptunic objects.”

Semai seems to take the direction of exploring different areas of low-end chaos rather than some recordings where multiple planes also contain different frequencies. The first track, “Perihelion”, for example begins with a low-end drone coupled with some seriously over-driven mid-level sounds. It feels like they took a sharp knife to a bass string and went as slow as they could adding an over-drive effect… either that or a serious explosion in very slow motion. Some nasty noise fields come and go for the track with the shortest length of the release. That one lasted under four minutes whereas the other three topped nine minutes or more.

The next track, “Eris” has a grittiness to it that sounds like a stoner metal band, down-tuned as far as they could go and then playing in slow motion. There are some bass and percussion strikes that give he track the feeling of the track being some kind of apocalyptic warning alarm. Some slow Norwegian blackmaily style drums make an appearance but are effectively buried in the sonic filth. The track gets absolutely guttural and perhaps more subterranean in feel than most acts choose to go. The drums pick up in speed toward the end for an even more dire sense of urgency…. just absolutely guttural. It makes me wonder about the trip the artist’s psyche must have taken during the recording.

But just when you thought it couldn’t get any more apocalyptic, the death-industrial, overdriven sounds of track 3, “Dysnomia” comes in. It’s similar in some ways to the previous track but this one definitely has a more organic buried death industrial, dystopian vibe to it. The release closes with “Aphelion” which sounds a bit like low-end drones with some early Sutcliffe Jugend – style chaos weaving in indiscriminently.

At times this recording is downright frightening. At other times it’s virtually goosebump-inducing. Overall I feel like the artists goal was to create a sound collage vision between organic and manipulated noises and instruments. There was definitely some thought put into this release because it takes the listener on a pretty uncomfortable but interesting trip.

If you are into work that mixes low-end drones with harsh noise and a sense of the end of the world, this one is definitely for you.


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