V/A – 07|100|15

zoharum100

[Reviewed by stark]

Quite an anniversary for Zoharum Records from Poland. One hundred publications within eight years. More than a tenner per year. One can’t deny their resilience and dynamism. When they started in 2007 the Polish post-industrial underground was dominated by Beast Of Prey and Rage In Eden (ex-War Office Propaganda). I was curious whether those guys from Gdansk would be able to get close to the status of the aforementioned publishers, even though the label originally aimed at issuing their own materials (the Zoharum label owners are also the founding members of Bisclaveret) and friends’ materials. But soon after they released the first foreign artist (Re-drum), then came the time to reissue Troum and Hybryds, other famous names consecutively joined the stable and today I think we can safely determine Zoharum as one of the most interesting outfits in Europe, while Beast Of Prey and Rage In Eden firmly came down a peg, and at the moment I’m not even sure if we can expect anything else from them in the future.

One of the keys to Zoharum ‘s success is their desire to go beyond the hermetic post-industrial environment and look for artists in other regions of the non-mainstream music world, such as for example the post-metal Echoes Of Yul, the krautrock psychedelia of Expo 70, the oneiric jazz of India Czajkowska or Machinefabriek ‘s intriguing experiments. Sometimes I’m even worried where their ambition will lead them, but since they didn’t release anything by Zamilska yet, I still have confidence in them.

I think it doesn’t make sense to evaluate the compilation as a distinct work having a specific concept or artistic ambition. It’s but a collection of songs by artists associated with the label, a small gift, a kind of “thank you” for the listeners. I like the design, a significant title (“07 | 100 | 15”) and cover presenting… a pile of other Zoharum CDs. So things are getting a bit meta. Two discs, the left one is solely Polish and the right one compiled with pieces by foreign artists. Obviously it’s diverse, both stylistically and in terms of the level of the music. However, most of the artists have managed to provide something at least decent. Zenial is surprisingly intelligible, ambient, based among others on the sound of the sea waves. 23 Threads explicitly refers to the style of Current 93. Tundra and Aquavoice maintain the level of their regular releases. Tundra nicely refers to the soundtrack of “Apocalypse Now,” but I don’t think it was deliberate, it’s rather my subjective impression. Spacious but humming with static is Dat Rayon – I must admit that I like this installment more than the tracks from his records. I appreciate the low-budget movie inspirations by Aabzu, hence my sympathy for this project – a big plus for number samples. Recently I watched the B-class horror “Banshee Chapter” (surprisingly good, pretty creepy), where the theme of lost radio transmissions exclusively broadcasting endless strings of digits was also present. So I like the idea of the musicians, though perhaps it’s not very original. Mammoth Ulthana and Monopium are alright, but without any particular elation. On the other hand I always considered Micromelancolie as an overrated project and the contribution to this compilation doesn’t change my opinion. Rafal Kołacki swirls and buzzes, but needless to say, it sounds good. I have a special relationship with Ab Intra’s music. I’m a psychofan of two previous albums, so I was expecting something huge after the “Temenos”. I gained even more, period. A phenomenal closing of the Polish section.

On the second CD, almost all of the artists present what they feel they’re the best in. Machinefabriek pleases me with a composition built on the basis of delicate sounds of strings. Then comes the weak part of the release, because the thin darkness of both Re-Drum and Feine Trinkers Bei Pinkels Daheim left me indifferent. I prefer Strom Noir in longer forms, because here I barely had time to bring myself in the right mood, the song ended too fast. Bollocks. Emil cultivates such kind of music that fits rather averagely in heterogeneous genre compilations, and it’s not because the piece itself is bad. Lagowski’s installment passes through the speakers quickly and rhythmically. Desiderii Marginis is cool, it presents the atmosphere from around the “Strife” era. I’ve heard dozens of more interesting tracks by Rapoon, so “Alignment Plazma” is rather forgettable. Troum does its job, but again we are dealing with a Strom Noir case. It didn’t even manage to unwind properly and click – we move to another track (despite the fact that “Tumon 2” lasts more than eight minutes, it’s still not enough for me). That other track is by Troum’s old pal, 1000Schoen, with a decent dark ambient “Frankenstein”. Hybryds surprise us by abandoning their rituals for an acoustic ballad with a beautiful female voice singing a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

So most of the pieces are fine, some really cool, a few not so much. I think overall it’s a reliable cross-section through what the label has proposed over the years , although several excellent projects are absent. Anyway, if you don’t know what Zoharum is, “07 | 100 | 15” is a viable option to start, to try out what they have to offer and – if you like – explore further. If you’re familiar with the label you know what to expect, because the compilation is so ‘Zoharum in a nutshell’.

V/A – 07|100|15
Zoharum, Zohar 100-2
2xCD/Digital 2015

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