Friday, December 2, 2011

Review: Anal Birth - Aborted Artifacts & Re-Animated Remnants

So this is the beginning of gorenoise I guess, which is very hard to believe since it manages to predate "Putrefaction in Progress" by about a century (or a decade, anyway.) No one really suggests that "Putrefaction in Progress" is the first gorenoise album- it's not really a proper gorenoise album anyway- but it's the single album that seems to have inspired more deranged social rejects to start idiotic tape projects than any other. Without that album, there is no gorenoise; it was a necessary building block for Last Days of Humanity's followup projects to establish gorenoise from: Biocyst, Urinefestival, Tumour, you know the drill (well, you probably don't.) But hearing Anal Birth, with its first releases ostensibly dating back to 1996, shakes all of that up. It seems so far ahead of its time that it's basically impossible to justify its mere existence. What the fuck was Adam Rotella doing? On a long-abandoned Myspace page, he says that Anal Birth was intended to basically be a mashup of all his favorite goregrind bands, but Anal Birth goes so fucking far beyond what any of them were doing at the time (or, indeed, since) that it seems completely ludicrous to use that as a justification. In my less charitable moments, I'm inclined to think it's a Nargaroth situation: completely falsified. Stuff like this didn't, COULDN'T, exist back in 1996. What the fuck was the market for it then? Then again, what's the market for it now?

Harsh noise people listen to gorenoise and think of it as a random, tertiary hanger-on that isn't really affiliated with the noise scene proper, which is true, except for the fact that it's not hanging on at all. No one behind any of the myriad of gorenoise tapes I own has probably ever bothered to study Merzbow's electronic slash-and-burn composition; the style comes from a much more feral and primitive place than any of the high-minded buggery of the noise scene. Even calling it a natural elaboration of Anal Cunt or The Meat Shits stretches the bounds of logic so far they nearly break; try as I might, I can't see the logical connection between those bands and stuff like this. Gorenoise is as depraved and sexually scatological and disgusting as the worst, dreariest parts of power electronics or noisecore, but seems governed by neither, lacking both the socially conscious pretense of the former or the youthful joy of the latter. It's just ugly and hateful; at no point do you get any sense of fun out of gorenoise. Even in its most self-effacing, humorous moments, the jokes seem empty and pointless- mean-spirited barbs that would be designed to shock if anyone who listened to this sort of thing could be shocked by something. It's empty, hollow, disgusting stuff that spits on the idea of "art" and offhandedly rejects any attempts to analyze it for greater meaning.

From my personal experience, the people who make gorenoise tend to be shitty people: drug addicts, unemployed losers, and even the occasional authentic sociopath. On that same aforementioned ghost town of a Myspace page, Adam Rotella mentions how he can't mail out a bunch of CDs on his tradelist because he got evicted from his apartment and had to shack up at a homeless shelter until he found a new living situation. The only job I've seen him mention: janitor. If you have something to give the world, you don't make this kind of music. If you make gorenoise, chances are that you're human garbage and you like it that way. Actually listening to it doesn't make you much better. This isn't a judgment- just reality. I have no qualms about saying that if you have any connection to this style of music, there's something fundamentally wrong with you.

"Aborted Artifacts & Re-Animated Remnants" is a casette compilation of some of Anal Birth's work. A couple demos, a full-length, something like that. It's stuff, and that's really all that matters. Despite the sheer ferocity of this music, there's a certain apathy to it which extends itself towards the listener- does it really matter what releases this material came off of? They all sound identical apart from changed (not "improved") production quality. Supposedly there was going to be a second one of these to compile the other half of Anal Birth's material, but it never happened to my knowledge and I don't think it ever will happen. It doesn't matter. It's a totally pointless labor of love by sick people and the only people who buy this cassette are people who've never heard of Anal Birth before, like me. The more I listen to it the harder it is to give a shit. There's a sort of hopeless, inherent pointlessness to this sort of thing which saps your energy after the sixtieth untitled track of frenzied, grinding noise.

If this contains the first gorenoise ever recorded (and I'm forced to conclude it does in the absence of compelling evidence otherwise,) it provides a good archetype for what the style is. A drum machine set to spastically blast; it's hard to tell if it's actually programmed since it sounds like it's falling down the stairs a lot of the time. Distorted bass so low and rumbling it's rendered sort of inaudible due to the shitty, degraded tape sound. Roaring, howling, massively distorted vocals which just sort of scream over everything without rhyme or reason. Most of the tracks are untitled and for the most part the different musical voices blend into a borderline indistinguishable mass of fuming distortion, from which only the snare drum and vocals manage to escape in any real way. There's no melody, no structure, no meaning- just anger and chaos from the most absolute gutter level of American society.

Some points of note, which actually point to '96 as a possibility for the oldest material here: while this is still a giant leap away from The Meat Shits, you can hear a certain noisecore pedigree at work. It's rather secondary- more the product of a noisecore influence in the goregrind bands Anal Birth emulates than a first-hand influence itself- but it's distinctly there in the rhythmic chaos and grind-oriented vocal performance at work. Rather than muddy and pounding, the sound of this stuff is more midrange and spastic; while a lot of modern gorenoise attempts to drown you under a tidal wave of distorted sludge, Anal Birth is more about ripping the listener apart from multiple directions with constantly shifting drum programming, demented gasping-for-breath vocals, and a sense of entropy so complete that it's impossible to tell what's going on at any given time- not that something in particular is going on. If typical gorenoise drowns you in a sewer, Anal Birth engulfs you in an avalanche of viscera and dismembered limbs, leaving you unable to tell which way is up to dig towards safety and oxygen. It's tense, stressful music despite its sloppiness and incoherency; rarely does gorenoise sound this unbelievably angry.

Of course, what few appreciate about gorenoise is the fact that the music itself is secondary to a more intangible "experience," within which are a million self-contained parts. Listening to this music isn't just a matter of putting the tape into your player. Part of it is tracking the tape down via next-week-dead links on obscure Geocities pages and navigating terrible site design to find an email address to request the release. Part of it is the crude, vaguely self-made cardboard packaging that you receive it (and likely two dozen other tapes) in. Part of it is just looking at the blearily Xeroxed layout that tells you nothing and offers no contact info. Part of it is throwing it on a pile of other, similar releases and not bothering to listen to it for three weeks after you acquire it. Part of it is listening to it for the first time when you've stayed up until five in the morning on bad liquor and worse memories. Part of it is the one time you listened to it while driving and felt tense and confused while trying to get to the store. Part of it is ripping the tape to your computer and separating each and every untitled track individually for no reason other than your own obsession. Part of it is fast-forwarding to a random part of the tape to listen because which song you hear is so completely irrelevant. Perhaps the most important part of it is wondering what the fuck you're doing at every preceding point in this paragraph.

Part of it is giving up and hating.


  1. Rasmus from DenmarkDecember 3, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    What an amazingly interesting, intelligent, and well-written post. I realize I sound like some sort of ass-licking fanboy here, but this is the kind of writing that's so rare, yet so direly needed with regards to underground extreme music. I'm absolutely gonna be spending time tracking this shit down! Thanks!

  2. Great article. I grew up with Adam and his brothers, and was one of the first people to hear Anal Birth back in 1996. You got everything in this article exactly right. You can read about some of Adams latest projects, including his new tape label on my blog :

  3. A friend recently sent me a link to this article thinking I hadn't read it. After reviewing it a second time I noticed one thing you got completely, immeasurably wrong: Adam Rotella is the hardest working, most trustworthy man I've ever met in my life.

    Fuck you for calling him human garbage.