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Revealing the hidden world through microtonal BM - 78%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 15th, 2013

For this album, the 20th in six years (!), JG man Adam Kalmbach had his guitar retro-fitted by Ron Sword of Sword Guitars (and Florida death metal band Last Sacrament) to accommodate a scale of 24 tones that enables our man to explore and play microtonal intervals. At last Kalmbach can break with his previous style of guitaring extreme industrial black metal soundscapes and dive into something even more extreme, hence a reason for the album’s title “Discontinuities”; other reasons will become apparent in the review below.

Listeners will pick up the new sound straight away: on first hearing the album does sound highly discordant and cacophonous. It’s an organic sound, one that comes across putting its feet right and not making awkward turns just for the sake of it. Other instruments on the album (bass, synth, programmed percussion) quickly fall in line with the new sound and my ears at least become accustomed just as fast. The music turns out to be as fluid and natural as Kalmbach’s own song-writing abilities allow.

The album describes a dense and hellish sonic universe in which familiar points of reference either no longer exist or are demonstrated to be bizarre and meaningless. The realisation that our paradigms of viewing the world are and have always been irrational falls heavily on us. Whether loud, defiant and brazenly noisy or subdued, Kalmbach presents us with the truth of our existence, formerly inaccessible because of the limitations of previous musical tools we had, and that truth is not at all pretty. Lyrics of tracks like “Night is the Collaborator of Torturers” and “Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal” force us to acknowledge the ugly consequences of our delusions and self-cocooning with cultural myths, mass delusions, superstitions and propaganda. After the instrumental title track, later songs focus on decline and death in a world collapsing under the ruin we've inflicted on it.

Apart from the title track which is a minimalist guitar groan-drone affair, the songs tend to sound much alike: the basic structure for each track consists of several repeating riff loops. On all tracks the barking vocal is thin, harsh and ragged. The programmed drumming takes a distant second or third place to the other instruments and sticks to keeping time and setting the pace: this prevents the music from becoming bombastic

The whole work is bleak and relentless. Probably parts of it could have been edited for length as the guitar sound is so dense and demented that the music really has no need of repetition and length to accentuate tension. The sound can be a bit flat as well when the music repeats constantly. Only on the last track “Acedia” does the music start to mix volume and mood dynamics: blaring metal guitar noise insanity is punctuated with short quiet and contemplative moments.

Because of its confrontational nature, this might be one album that doesn’t get much play. When you do spin it though, it’s highly immersive and it’ll fair clean your head of the petty issues, fears, lies and obsessions that trouble everyone and keep us all enslaved to The Man. Recommended for those times when you feel you've been fed so much corporate fascist BS that when you look in the mirror, you're more sheepish than a merino in need of its annual shave.

Sui generis - 90%

Apteronotus, March 27th, 2013

The wildly outlandish Jute Gyte is an unquestionably unique musical project. With the occasional tremolo picked riffs and glass shards in the throat vocals, it is obvious that Jute Gyte has taken some cues from black metal. However, outside of these superficial aspects of “Discontinuities” there is no sense in trying to think of the album in terms of existing metal sub-genres. It is best to think of the project as extremely experimental. Jute Gyte takes melodies that are so unusual that they almost sound like accidents and layers them with seamless and oddly natural asymmetry. Think of how a flounder twists and flattens as it ages. The end result of Jute Gyte’s twisting asymmetry is alienating yet spectacular, while “Discontinuities” has its flaws, the album clearly illustrates how Jute Gyte is absolutely unforgettable.

Experimentation permeates every moment of “Discontinuities” in ways that are readily apparent yet deep seated. Dissonant waves of jangling jump out one after another, starkly assuring the listener that the full yet unfamiliar sounds will persist, instead of being used to contrast or highlight soothing melodies. Even the calmer and relatively sedate sections of music are still unsettling and weird. This may not sound like anything new on paper, but the use of a 24-tone guitar means that the album uses notes that typically are not used in Western music. To oversimplify, normally on a guitar you can play 12 different notes but this album uses a guitar that allows for 24.

Ultimately, this is just another tool that Jute Gyte uses to create uncomfortable soundscapes. Instead of making everything sound out of tune, the dizzying flurries of notes are jarring, but deliberate. This approach keeps the experimentation from sounding either haphazard or manufactured, and with such an important change to the guitar this success is vital. As past albums have shown, Jute Gyte does not need a 24-tone guitar to make off-kilter music. At its heart, “Discontinuities” is unusual because the overall approach to composition and melody immerse the listener into an alien world. So while Jute Gyte utilizes many tools like a 24-tone guitar or polyrhythms, which do influence the composition, the central focus is still on the music rather than how it was put together.

Despite the overwhelmingly dissonant nature of the music, the mood isn’t nearly as abrasive as one would expect. Outside of the shrieking violence in the vocals, there is a peculiar and even paradoxical calmness in the tone that supersedes the frenzied parts that make up the album. Most of the time this feels like a stalwart sense of direction that guides the notes along the way through all of the chaos and is perfected at the end of “The Haunting Sense...” This is also a key part of how enveloping waves of clashing notes can be. Infrequently however, this quasi-calmness sounds like the cold emotionless side effect of contrived musical ideas. Fortunately, “Discontinuities” mostly maintains a strong direction through the very same technique that helps create some of this paradox of calm chaos. This technique is the careful layering of melodies on top of one another to bury you deep in dissonance.

The typical path in music is to have many parts acting mostly together, as a flock of birds to create a whole, Jute Gyte instead favors more independent parts that coalesce to create a coherent whole. As a key part of this, melodies do not clearly stop and start together. Picture how the molecules of air inside of a jar are always moving around, yet that air never separates into chunks of its component elements. This speaks to the calmness in Jute Gyte’s chaos, as one melody drifts off into bizarre territory another melody is still pulsing or repeating. Each part is moving but the mix as a whole remains consistent. Look to how the persistent drums, plodding rhythm, and bass smooth out the angular melodies in “Supreme Fictions....” and “Acedia.” This is how there is such a sense of both change and stability and it makes the alienation fantastically alluring by forging its own sense of logic and structure.

Fleshed out and detailed with synths and a warm sinuous bass, “Discontinuities” also relies on them to round out the abrasive vocals and angular approach to the guitar and drums. The synthesizer in particular immediately drapes other instruments in its emotional color as when the eerie and light chords of “The Failure of Transmutation” sneak into the mix. Flourishes like this serve to keep the rough and jangling parts within the realm of the unsettling rather than creating more of a harsh atmosphere. Contrary to this, the drums feel bare and mathematical, yet follow the overall emotional intensity of the music enough to make their dryness fade away as an issue.

While the large majority of the focus is on the composition rather than underlying technique, there are times where the album fails on this point. Sometimes the album is overbearingly alienating when the sense of calmness stops being unsettling and starts getting tiresome. Undue repetition is the culprit here, but it is a repetition of patterns rather than particular riffs or notes. The more structural example of this is in “Romanticism Is Ultimately Fatal” where the intro’s predictably declining melody repeats and then later gives way to a chugging riff that similarly rises without going anywhere. Sounding like the musical equivalent of a staircase drawn by M. C. Escher, these parts and the title track “Discontinuities” unfortunately come across more like sketches practicing with a new tool (a 24-tone guitar) than complete pictures. Still, both songs are strong. “Romanticism....” has perhaps the most eerie melody of the album, which is beautifully reinforced by electronic flittering. The minimal instrumentation on “Discontinuities” serves as useful break from the chaotic music, even if it is far too long and repetitive. There, the quiet screaming noises that bookend the song are also an excellent and subtle detail.

With this radical level of experimentation, the degree to which the album feels natural rather than manufactured is impressive. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Jute Gyte is a one man band, the work of Adam Kalmbach whose experimental tendencies have gone untempered by the compromises that often happen with collaborations. “Discontinuities” is daunting because of its strangeness, its hour long length, and a certain kind of majesty that isn’t immediately obvious or instantly rewarding. Still, the album has lasting power far beyond whatever novelty it provides. Although supremely strange, it is more importantly a great album because of how the immersive layering makes such an alienating experience one that is absolutely worth repeating.

Originally written for:

The enigma of survival - 85%

autothrall, March 18th, 2013

Traditionally, I've not been the sort to ramble on about musical theory when composing reviews. Part of this is that a sizable chunk of readers might not have any idea what I was talking about if I were to count out the 64th notes or harp over the Mixolydian scale for a paragraph. The other is that, being separated from the Music Major since the mid 90s, when I swapped to another out of boredom, more the fault of the particular curriculum and professors than the subject itself, I'm probably rusty and would have to do far more technical research on the exact terminology being thrown around these years. Having said that, when vectoring in on an album like Jute Gyte's latest black metal adventure, Discontinuities, it would be criminal not to at least make mention of the techniques being employed, since they're representative of why the album is so revolutionary in its style.

Kalmbach's music has always been experimental and original in both structure and theme, but this time out, he's shifted over to a customized, 24-tone guitar, exploring microtonal intervals in note phrasing rather than the normalized 12 step semitone. Various other cultures (ancient and modern) have employed the practice before, in particular a number of 19th/20th century composers, but its use in rock music, and by extension extreme metal, is a rarity at best. I had heard a track from a Florida death metal group a while back (Last Sacrament) who were messing with microtonal composition, and while impressive, I felt like a lot of the rhythms did not heavily diverge from the standards of what I'd normally expect. Lo and behold, the guitarist for that band is the very same individual (Ron Sword of Sword guitars) who helped adjust Kalmbach's axe here, and it's a good thing: because through this novelty, Kalmbach has managed to reinvent his pre-installed vision into something even more unnerving and cacophonous. Having long been a fan of unusual, alternate tunings and instrumentation as applied to genre, the very notion of this is a thrill; even if it comes with some escalated trepidation due to my familiarity with just how disturbing Jute Gyte's music can get..

I've probably said it before, but this is basically a one-man Sonic Youth for the post-Burzum generation. The guitars fixated more on the former comparison, the vocals and shared love of ambiance redolent of the latter. This is an album which heavily explores textures. Warped, wonderful textures. From the thundering, droning inaugural progression of "The Haunting Sense of an Unrepeatable Unidirectional Vector", you can immediately feel the difference in the chords as subtle bass grooves are wrought below them. There is still a propensity for sheer 'wall of noise' amplitude, especially in some of the faster, harder hitting sequences, but these are never given so much face time that they grow to any level of annoyance. Instead, they're measured off against jangling, cleaner passages of dissonant tranquility, and once in awhile he pulls off a truly climactic, otherworldly chord sequence: near the minute mark of the wryly titled "Romanticism is Ultimately Fatal" (best song title this year?) would be one example, or the hustling post-punk clamor opening "Supreme Fiction and the Absolute Fake", which turns out to be perhaps my favorite overall of the metallic tracks.

Ironically, while I often find his instrumental/ambient tracks highlights of his albums, this time around I found the titular "Discontinuities" to be the least remarkable piece among these seven. Instead of synthesizers, this is replete with murky guitar strums that trade the usual distortion for some echo, but though the notes change, and the middle of the album is the perfect placement to give the listener some rest from the surrounding chaos, it simply wasn't as interesting as its neighbors. The production is about even with prior releases. Bass lines are fluid and mesmeric, but obviously simpler than the quarter-tone guitar passages and bright shards of ear stabbing bedlam. Drums are tightly fit and mechanical, but I found myself so drawn to the unusual guitar phrasing that I only paid them cursory attention. Vocals are harrowing and impetuous, unfettered rasping which never seems monotonous or rehearsed; almost like someone experiencing acts of self-mutilation and being captured on a microphone. There is no sense of overly cautious syllabic structure, just deep and disturbing poetry being channeled via the suffering. No, it doesn't lend itself to the conventional, glorious dichotomy of verse/chorus songwriting, but it's fresh and mildly unpredictable (other than the voice).

Discontinuities is symbolic in title, because it does break from the slowly stagnating course of the previous albums, which were themselves pretty damn discordant and distinct. Jute Gyte will remain unlistenable to many, more to their narrow range of aural acceptance than through any fault of the music, but I honestly was surprised that the shift in intonation didn't render the music inhumanly annoying. There's a shocking sense of warmth exuded by even the most frenzied and insect-like polyphonic picking patterns, and though it might not be labyrinthine on a purely technical level, there's a natural complexity that builds while the mind reels and attempts to place the guitars into perspective. Uncomfortable? Of course. But in the clause of 'it if didn't hurt, it wasn't worth it'. Kalmbach continues to traverse genre boundaries as if they were mere hallucinations, and I do hope he continues to incorporate aesthetic divisions, implement nuanced instrumentation, and twist the knobs (and spines of the listeners). Another killer in a largely unbroken line of killers.