Penny Royale – black widow and the archivist (Ghetto Naturalist Series)


Side A – A live performance of manipulated noises centered on feedback of various sorts. I think it sounds like a lot of it might be from a guitar, and the suspicion is based on a small segment toward the end of the side where a distorted guitar line is played in a low register. There are moments throughout that seem to hold brief guitar notes, too. This may all be from a pre-recorded source, though. Over most of the piece is an effect which makes a rhythmic cutting of the noise. The rumbling is filtered and flipped and gyrated mercilessly and seen through the variable-size iris of the mid-paced pulsation. At times the cutting of the sound is removed and sustained tones of feedback are unleashed and float mid-air. About half way through, what sounds uncannily like a child’s voice is distorted and echoed out in changing ways over the top of the harsh haze. The voice seems to take slight pleasure at the sound of itself being broadcast and wacked out. This is a classic nicely raw / lo-fi recording of a live noise performance with a tasty real room echo that puts you there.

Side B – ‘Peter’s Swine’ is an odd one. An assemblage of pig recordings. Starting out as a somewhat mild aural picture of around a dozen pigs being relatively talkative, snorting and grunting. You can take in the scene and there’s room to breathe. The pigs are just sort of hanging out, maybe a little excited over some food. Possibly some of them are flirting, having a mildly opinionated dialogue, complaining, bickering. Something starts to go wrong. Everybody gets excited. 25 more pigs are herded in. Now everybody who wasn’t joining the discussion just has to add their opinion. We’ve got about 50 pigs here, kind of agitated. (At this point in the piece, I am drawn to read the final 5 pages or so of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and remember the feelings it gave…) (Also at this point in the piece, my female lady friend girl came out from the bedroom, noted the novelty of the pig sounds, and after a few moments of attention paid was overwhelmed and disgusted as the piggies escalated to new levels of intensity, forcing her to retreat with extreme prejudice to the bedroom in an act of futile avoidance.) (I admit that I was kind of amused at her disgust over the piggy orchestra.) After a couple minutes of pig cacophony the din takes a turn into bending reality; the pig sounds start elongating and almost imperceptibly wobbling. The squeals and grunts are slowed down and overlaid in ways that make the terror of the pig-crowd into a near psychedelic experience. Everything is turning into pigs. The ground is made of pigs, the walls are made of pigs, your clothes are made of pigs, you are turning into a pig. All of these pigs that everything is made out of are grunting and squealing intensely in a dumb, mindless agitation. In a matter of 30 seconds or so, the intensity relents and goes back down to a level of everyday reality with only the original 10 pigs and the track ends. You’re not a pig, and the walls of the barn are no longer made out of the faces and skin of living pigs stupidly grunting. I guess it doesn’t get quite this weird. It was just fun for me to say so.

 ‘The Furrier’s Wife’ is a journey of a piece that starts with a short loop of a degraded melodic phrase. The sound quality is like that of an old 78 rpm record being played on an equally old victrola machine. A low wandering drone accompanies the loop, making a pensive atmosphere inside a dusty snowglobe drained of its water and partially re-filled with cobwebbing and dead bugs. The melody loop departs and we’re left with only the discomforting low droning and some breathy echoes that soon take over, elevating the overall frequency range higher and higher until a digital static is reached. The static changes forms many times, with differing bits of sound entering and leaving. The melodic loop shows up again after some pretty quiet moments of crumbling and fizz. This piece is oddly moody and cerebral, as is the whole tape in an odd way. Strangely nostalgic and contemplative, though at times noisy and fierce.

Penny Royale does an interesting variety of things on this tape. It isn’t just a harsh noise, lo-fi microsound, field recording composite, psych-noise… but it has good elements of all of these I would say. The willingness to include a big dynamic range is something that I enjoy in a noise artist, and I would think that a great noise artist would as a rule include this kind of mindset in their approach. Penny Royale seems to have a variety of sound-screw toys and an open approach to their use that piques my interest in hearing more in the future. The Penny Royale discogs page only shows two releases including this one, both from 2012. It would be fun to come across some more of their/his/her work in the future and see the list bulked up.


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