Checking in with Hospital Productions
By Austin Powell,
11:41AM, Thu. Feb. 8, 2007
Stumbling through the streets of New York City, a sixth sense pulls me to the underground lair of Hospital Productions. Located in the basement of Jammyland Music at 60 E. Third St., the black-and-red painted pit is only accessible by ladder. Destroyed microphones, blood-stained posters, and a mutilated guitar line the walls. This is where metal music comes to die.
The store only sells obscure death and black metal albums with a side of noise. That means no Southern Lord or Hydra Head, though the latter will be ransacked here in two weeks. I needed a guide for this venture into the underworld. Dominick Fernow, the store's owner, has worked with everyone from Thurston Moore to Wolf Eyes as his alter ego Prurient. He was my Virgil, hand-picking these essential albums from 2006.
Pleasure Ground (Load)
Prurient’s Pleasure Ground can be summed up in five words: Violent narcissistic nymphomaniac seeks same. The four 11-minute suites, which were originally released as a double cassette through Hospital Productions, blur the lines between punishing noise and black metal. “Military Road” opens with a single modulated sine wave that stabs the ears before developing into a pulsating rhythm, like one’s last breaths, over which Prurient repeatedly growls, “Will you miss the abuse? The intimate violence? The parade of bruises? The badge of punishment?” “Earthworks/Buried in Secret” slices the same vein, deepening the wound with cascading synth chords. “Outdoorsman/Indestructible” and “Apple Tree Victim” ease things up a bit, delving into more atmospheric realms, but at this point it’s like choosing between death by fire or suffocation – either way you lose.
Down Below the Fog (Todestrieb)
Extinction’s demonic noise doesn’t sound like death but like an irrational fear of being thrown into the abyss. This remastered, re-release of Down Below the Fog, which comes five years after its original pressing of 50 tapes, is nothing short of “Incomprehensible Darkness” that at times draws comparison to the work of Xasthur. The “Prologue” sounds like a satanic ritual, pulling the listener into “The Fusion of Blood and Fire,” and somewhere beneath the rotting carcass of vocals lies the distorted and endless drone of guitars and smashing of drums. More metal than noise, “The Fall of the Blazing Red Sun” makes for a calming interlude before the monolithic thrash of “In the Shadow of the Moon.” While intense to say the very least, when the fog finally lifts following the “Epilogue,” it reveals either the beauty or insignificance of this album. Pure nothingness.
Hum of an Imagined Environment (Ignivomous)
Alongside Waylon Riffs and Ryan Wolfe, Jason Crumer cranks out Southern metal for Relapse Records trio Facedowninshit and is also a member of Now in Darkness World Stops Turning, Aluminum Noise, and Amazing Grace. With his rather prolific solo work, however, Crumer focuses on creating hemorrhaging, elongated feedback sequences that sound like Earth rotating around SunnO))). Hum of an Imagined Environment, his most well-rounded effort to date, is notable for its title track and opener, “Even Bottom Feeders Have Parasites,” both pushing past the eight-minute mark with free-flowing movements that keep the listener engaged at all times. While extremely harsh on the ears (imagine the aural equivalent of the Butthole Surfers' album cover for Electriclarryland), Crumer’s noise is well worth the pain.
Sexual Infinity (Hospital Productions)
There’s something inherently sexy about a girl with a guitar, a sort of perversion on social constructs involving power and authority that’s triggered by tattoos and flying "V"s. The same holds true when those guitar tones are reduced to feedback in order to create ethereal drone segments. Zaïmph, also known as Marcia Bassett of Double Leopards, Hototogisu, and Shackamaxon, knows this all too well. Her Sexual Infinity is rich with ominous tones that seductively crawl towards “Isolation in Ecstasy.” “Signal Aggression” draws comparison to the more painful moments of Prurient, while “Neither Knoweth” is both brief and gentle. If her thoughts in the liner notes – “The more chaotic the more complete I am" – hold true, then Zaïmph comes one step closer towards the album’s namesake with closer "Double Infinity."