Shortly after the release of Soil came Blacktop on the cae-sur-a label out of upstate New York. Loosely inspired by the Monte Hellman/Rudy Wurlitzer masterpiece "Two-Lane Blacktop" this album dove into motorik, pulsing rhythms and dense, sparse drones.
From Upstate Soundscape-
One of many interesting developments in music this year was the emergence of outsider dance music, a genre that saw noise artists move toward beat driven music and offering a new take on it. From the mutant house of 100% Silk to the techno of Diamond Catalogue, much of it was interesting, if not really good.
While definitely not a release to lump in with outsider beats, Mold Omen’s Blacktop sets out on a somewhat parallel path. The opening track on the Baltimore duo’s cassette, “The Driver/The Mechanic,” demonstrates that although there are no real beats to speak of here, there are elements of beat-driven music along with heavy doses of noise. Interestingly, these two elements are set against each other creating a sharp contrast whereby any remnant of rhythm is threatened to become overwhelmed by noise. This makes for a thrilling listen as “The Driver/The Mechanic” drags you along to the finish line. The term ‘drag’ is key here for describing this track; the undercurrent-like rhythm pulls you with it only to plunge you into a sea of noise.
The next two tracks make a sharp break with the noise of the first; pulling back to explore a more drone-like territory with machine-like whines, delayed tones, and heavy emphasis on atmosphere.The listener will remain captivated when listening to this cassette by all the different pieces, sounds, and textures that emerge. These diverse elements create an engaging release that rewards the listener for close listening.
Fans of this cassette’s label, Cae-sur-a, have come to expect nothing less from this Rochester-based imprint.
From Animal Psi-
Side A of Mold Omen’s Blacktop wastes no time initiating a continuous battle between a heavy, droning maelstrom of noise and the electro-melodies desperately trying to free themselves. By the end, the balance between forces is a serious mantra for the head. As side B begins to creep in, the sonicscape is lo-fi and deliberate. This release from the Baltimore duo has it all.
From Heathen Harvest-
The only information I could find about Mold Omen indicates that this is a “weirdo noise duo” from Baltimore, MD, USA. According to their Discogs page, however, they have seven releases. I guess that means I was asleep at the wheel on this band.
“The Driver / The Mechanic” takes up the entire A side of this release, with a mixture of rhythmic feedback loops, tape manipulations, synth, and some oddly melodic passages that suggest tapes or samples or who really knows. This is all speculation. Whatever they have in their arsenal, this slowly morphing amalgamation of melodic lines, interwoven with ambient loops and feedback drone never really goes anywhere — or it never took me anywhere.
“The Girl” opens up side B with a low drone, followed by buzzing horn (or hurdy-gurdy?). I hear scrap metal. I have to give this track credit — after about three minutes, I feel like Mold Omen has come relatively close to how I imagine the onset of a panic attack would sound. Drone buzz and static washes over the sound of what might be a floor fan, blades being sharpened, something sinister…
I can only assume that “GTO” picks up at the point I think it does, as there is not definite break between tracks. Sure, there is a stylistic shift, but am I just hearing things? Regardless, somewhere around the end of “The Girl” and the beginning of “GTO,” a fading pulse tone appears. Tentatively, yet solid in its rhythm. Static feedback cries emerge from the silence beneath each pulse. This is the sound of a lone car alarm after the end of the world; Elder gods trudge into the distance, their inhuman voices carried on the ashen breeze. This is the hotline still ringing after the last bombs have gone off, and electrical whirring still in the atmosphere.
So, Blacktop really redeems itself towards the end. I actually would argue that the lackluster A side only helps to improve the far superior B side (the big joke will be when I find out the cassette was mislabeled!)
From Virtual Ritual-
Mold Omen is a Baltimore based duo comprising of Mike Pursley and Andy Livingston. "The Driver/The Mechanic" begins with some electronic synth pulses and minimalist rhythms and a low feedbacking, bass drone with it. The pulses are distorted and become progressively more indecipherable and hard to hear as more lo-fi electronic wash overtakes it. Cae-sur-a aptly describes it as a “battle between a heavy, droning maelstrom of noise and the electro-melodies desperately trying to free themselves.” The foreground/background relationship between the rhythm and the drone is constantly shifting throughout the piece, creating a beautiful kind of sonic tension. As a result, what I think happens is a meshing of the two, producing a dynamic, textural, electronic noisescape. All the sounds are essentially made of distorted wash, yet there are different varieties, different frequencies that enter the mix. Side B begins mildly with a few texturally different, droning noises. The sounds don’t seem particularly electronic, but they sound like they could be coming from a warehouse or a factory. Another words, the source of these sounds is difficult to place, and I say a job well done. One piece on Side B is a bit softer than Side A, with a slow, electronic beat and some high-pitched, whirling synth noise. The aesthetic theme of this whole tape (and especially Side B) makes me feel like I’m listening to some old 20th century musique concrete and that these electronic textures were sampled or are found sound, because they have such an aged quality. Though that’s probably not the case if I were to venture a guess.
I listened to this tape first and it’s stuck with me the longest—it very well may be my favorite of the lot. Baltimore’s Mold Omen have brewed up some really quality compositions that are instantly likeable although they fall far towards the end of the experimental spectrum. Thatching themselves together with churning, rhythmic scribbles of sound these multi-layered instrumentals are made from only the finest in colorful synths, the rawest percussion, and subtle blasts of noisy power electronics. I found Blacktop to take a novel approach to noise music—one which coils, and builds itself up step by step, instead of instantly alienating you with run-of-the-mill penetrating blasts of static.The countless layers and overall refined details somehow work really well with its general lo-fi aesthetic. Ultimately, it's a release where the results are more organic that mechanical, and make you want to start looking up phrases like "bioelectronics" and "saltatory conduction" on wikipedia. Don’t sleep on this one.
While you hunt this one down, you can stream/preview/download a lot of their stuff here. Count your blessings.
released August 4, 2015
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