Robe. – Did I Not Bid Thee to Arise CDR (Vade Retro Records, 2008)

Robe. was the doom project of two twentysomethings from Indiana, Adam Cooley and Kyle Willey. Over their run, Robe. released dozens of albums on CDR and cassette, some of which had interesting backstories, including an album recorded in a bathtub and a box set whose every copy came with a different bodily byproduct. Did I Not Bid Thee to Arise was one of their most unusual records.

I met with Robe. member Kyle Willey over Skype to discuss a number of the band’s releases, including this peculiar CDR. Unfortunately, Adam passed away several years ago, at the age of 27. Kyle, who still misses his friend deeply, credits Adam’s dynamic personality and zest for innovation as key factors in Robe.’s sprawling discography. The idea for Did I Not Bid Thee to Arise was a classic exponent of his offbeat creativity. Kyle explained to me that Adam used to spend a lot of time listening to music in his car, often blasting releases that they had recorded together . Their work together was all about experimentation, and they started to wonder if it might be possible to record a full release in a car – intended to be listened to while driving.

To make it happen, numerous details had to be sorted out, including where to sit and how to power up their instruments. Adam suggested using a portable mixing board connected to the cigarette lighter via an adapter. They then figured out they could both fit in the trunk of the car, lying flat in opposite orientations, while a friend played trombone in the backseat. Adam played guitar and Kyle played bass; using the mixer, they could modulate the relative volume of the trombone. Another friend was behind the wheel, responsible for driving the band to Indianapolis and back, the trombone blaring just behind her. Because they were in a car trunk, it was a dark ride. This was made worse after Kyle dropped his flashlight as the car hit a bump; it fell under his back and lodged there, leading to an uncomfortable ride and two days of back pain.

After the drive, they chopped up the recording, isolating its best moments then shuffling the pieces together into a record they were proud of, naming the album and its songs after de-contextualized quotes from Edgar Allan Poe stories. The release was put out on CDR by an Italian label called Vade Retro, run by Steve Spettro, who also performs as Spettro Family. Kyle tells me that he is still occasionally in touch with him, and that the label even arranged for Robe. to appear in three issues of a still-running Italian music magazine called Blow Up, including a three-page interview published entirely in Italian around the time that the album was released.

Did I Not Bid Thee to Arise is available on Bandcamp. It’s an entrancing collection, primarily composed of droning guitar tones, though the trombone appears at times, deep in the mix, hollowed out by infinite layers of reverb. The one noisy freakout jam, “Into The Outer Night,” is almost a diversion, coming right before the album’s finest moment, the sepulchral “The Conquering Worm.” Suffice to say, you would never guess that this disc was recorded in a car.

Atrax Morgue – 000000000000000000 anti-cassette (Slaughter Productions, 1995)

Atrax Morgue, born Marco Corbelli, was an Italian noise artist obsessed with the concept of death. Over the course of a long career on the experimental music avant-garde, dating back to 1992, Corbelli issued a stream of releases dealing with the subject, from 1993’s In Search of Death (which was more industrial than noise) to releases like Autoerotic Death (a C60 of analog synthesizer improvisation released on BloodLust! in 1996, and later reissued in a deluxe box edition by Urashima) and Close to a Corpse (a live performance from 2001 issued in a 3-CDR set). Many of these came out on his very own Slaughter Productions.

Corbelli, sadly, died by suicide in 2007, though reissues and even new releases of his work continue to trickle out, reflecting the impression he made on noise listeners.

One of Atrax Morgue’s more unusual releases was this item from November 14, 1995, also released on his Slaughter Productions imprint. Reported as a limited edition of “00000000000000000 copies,” it was a box for an old VHS tape which, when opened, revealed the mangled parts of an audio cassette laid on a bedding of burnt cotton.

Corbelli’s motivations behind this release aren’t fully known, but the packaging includes a clue, the cover describing it as “an example of real ‘dead music,'” which suggests this was yet another manifestation of his long-standing fascination with death. Corbelli also warns the anti-tape’s recipient:

"do not use a tape recorder for listening
just use your brain and think that music is DEAD."

Incidentally, it has been written that, prior to releasing music under the name Atrax Morgue, Corbelli produced several A5 zines under the name Marco Rotula, namely The Pleasure Agony, Sick, and Murder. These apparently dealt with themes of “sadism, schizophrenia, insanity, murder, psychosis, necrophilia, diseases, and most importantly, death.” To my knowledge, none of these zines have materialized in digital form — I wonder if copies are still out there and, if so, whether they might find their way online.

[Cover images courtesy of https://www.diary.ru/~comusic/p133807913.htm?oam]