nalog synths. They’re all over the noise underground these days, spitting and sputtering, being rewired and circuit bent. Control seems far more the exception than the rule. But let that stop here. On Sand Beasts Michigan’s Hive Mind (Greh, the one-named wonder behind the Chondritic Sound label, here joined by one Shawn Royal of Sirkut Electronics fame) handle no less than six vintage synths with a surgeon’s precision. Like a maniacal back alley $20 surgeon of many a B-movie, but an M.D. all the same.
The amount of control presented on the disc is really astonishing. While doomed bass frequencies play off each other, Francisco López-like chirps eerily modulate as they fade in and out. If you can imagine a guy like López sitting in with Sunn 0))), you’re on the right track. The sole 40-minute track emphasizes these two elements to the very best. Alternating between isolated segments of one sound or the other and varying combinations of the two, the subtle shifts keep the track from getting stale without drastically altering the aura that surrounds it. While I’d hesitate to pigeonhole the album as dark ambient, this is certainly dark and definitely ambient. Maybe a few more releases of this caliber and the good guys can reclaim the title.
As each minute takes the listener deeper, the album’s title becomes more and more appropriate. It sounds like someone—or thing—burrowing. And while I’d like to think of it digging through some dirty underground caverns, I feel the joke is on me. This beast is actually working its way through my flesh. Pause or stop the album at any point and the air actually feels lighter. It’s akin to removing a cinder block from your chest or pulling your head out of a vice you didn’t realize someone had been carefully squeezing. Resuming is like dropping or squeezing twice as hard, without the benefit of being eased into it.
There’s no info whatsoever on the disc or packaging, so I can’t tell whether Sand Beasts is improvised or composed. Based on the precision, power, and physicality I’m inclined to guess the latter, but it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is, it’s executed almost flawlessly and the astute listener is rewarded with a spinning head—and, if really lucky, stomach.
Reviewed by: Mike Shiflet
Reviewed on: 2005-01-06