16 Aug 2023 - Stephan
Noise | WV Sorcerer Productions, Damian Records, Hell Simulation™ | Release date: 07 Jul 2023 | Favorite song: Contractual Punishment
More than most other musicians the creators of Harsh Noise have to walk a very fine line between three possible outcomes: It’s either bearable (bad, because it misses the point), unbearable (not ideal yet, but we’re getting there) or body-grindingly, mind-cleansingly unbearable. That last one – that’s what you want to aim for!
Named after the tectonic fusion of eastern and western land masses which formed today’s shape of the Japanese archipelago, Fossa Magna is the gathering of three Noise projects from Japan, the United States and the Phillippines: Astro (=Hiroshi Hasegawa), Many Blessings (=Ethan Lee McCarthy) and Coalminer (=Chester Masangya and Robert Glen Dilanco). Admittedly safe Ethan Lee McCarthy, who is also known for Primitive Man and played a collaborative show with Elizabeth Colour Wheel at Roadburn Festival this year, all those names have only just entered my personal horizon, so I won’t pretend to be qualified for any comparisons of this collaboration with all their respective discographies and just experience and judge this collective debut on its own.
I bet you’ll already have guessed that this stuff is – as the average person from the street would put it – not music any more. And whether these six tracks indeed aren’t music, but just pure Noise really depends on the ultimately pointless academic question, where the defining characteristics of music actually begin. The Fossa Magna triumvirate intentionally produces sound which aims for certain effects on the listener. So the least you can say with confidence is that this album is an artistic aural experience. It’s not a work of tight arrangements and order, but rather a loose layering of sonic textures. And while it’s not even closely discernable to me what the sources of many sounds even are, they aren’t just merging to a shapeless mass of white noise. It’s always possible to reach into the chaos and fixate your attention on one element which you might have not even noticed the last time. This challenge of catching and holding tight to pieces in the inferno actually plays an important role for the intellectual appeal of the album, even before you begin to paint pictures and scenarios which could be scored here or ask for the specific meaning of track titles like “Contractual Punishment” or “Fulminated by a Vermillion Light”.
But then there’s of course that other level of rather felt than understood consumption, the leaning back and zoning out. That hypnotic experience which in many musical contexts manifests itself as a freeing elevation. Not so much here. This isn’t Ambient which triggers calmness and inner balance. This isn’t Drone which points to a primeval spiritual truth. This doesn’t provide the highs of Trance or a Psychedelic Rock trip. If this is a trip, then it’s a nightmarish one. And it’s supposed to be just that. The artists themselves even admit that their Noise consists of combative tones sharpened and pointed by design in order to scrape the listener clean to the bone. There’s no inherent naturalism at the core of this album. Its sounds are explicitly human-caused and deeply civilizational, the score of our self-made demise. Fossa Magna imprisons the global failure of man, the painful inevitabilty of mankind’s self-destruction - and unleashes it back upon us in relentless waves.
That punch in the face and stab into the ear is harrowing and brutal, but it also comes with the cleansing tabula rasa of hard-edged truth. There’s no escapism, no cathartic channelling of aggression. We’re just taking a merciless beating with the bleak bat of existence. No noise or music can safe us. But at least for this moment we’re wiser - and so mangled that nothing can hurt us anymore.