First of all, I want to apologize for how quiet Anomaly Index has been over the past while. I have been hard at work on an upcoming very big project: a book, about extreme and obscure music, which will be due out in November of this year. I will post more about that later.
Today I focus on an obscure CD-R label that ran from 2000 to 2008, responsible for some truly strange relics in the noise and dark ambient space. That label was Alarming Echo Beats:
The origins of AEB are a little opaque, but information can be gleaned from the archive of its website on archive.org, which includes a link to a brief interview with the founder, who is known as The Rev, which is short for the Reverend Samekh Anubis Amoun-Ra.
Prior to running AEB, The Rev was a teenager fascinated with the noisecore / shitcore / shitnoise scene: a grindcore-adjacent scene devoted to ultra-short blasts of noise. Canonical bands in these scene include Anal Cunt, Deche-Charge, and Seven Minutes of Nausea, the latter known for releases like a seven-inch record with 293 tracks on one side.
The Rev started putting out tapes under the name Fecel-Cide, a “semi-political noise band” whose primary orientation appears to have been anti-authority. Very little Fecel-Cide content remains easily available today, but here’s a brief track from the Audio Terrorism tape compilation:
In 1991 The Rev started his first label, Fecal-Matter Discorporated, an imprint and distro dedicated to unleashing tapes and CD-Rs by Fecel-Cide and other artists who fit under the rubric of “harsh sick sexual deviant style noise.” His first tape was a split cassette between the band Flush (a one-off Rev project) and Palagi (another one-off of unclear provenance), its cover a crass and grainy Xerox job like many of the era:
This first incarnation of Fecal-Matter Discorporated lasted until 1994, releasing 21 cassettes including two compilations named Bored-Core which remain incredibly obscure at this point:
Fecal-Matter Discorporated then lay dormant for six years, re-emerging in 2001 with more colourful imagery, striking out with the album Suitcase Of Mutilated Entrapment by the Japanese grindcore band Basket of Death. It is at this point that the aesthetic becomes less crass and more graphic. The label’s website, which has been preserved in archive form, is lacquered with images of extreme porn, mainly of the coprophagic variety, and there are very few releases whose cover art I could reproduce here without violating my agreement with my hosting service. The front page of the label’s website lists two slogans: “Cum see the shit we have for you!!” and “Where we force the shit in your face,” which should give you a flavour for the aesthetic. Bands with names like Complete Rectal Shutdown, Imbibing Bile, and Anal Gorecum Pissflap Slap are featured. Here is the charming cover to one of the label’s compilations, Now That’s What I Call Shit!:
Alarming Echo Beats, the much less puerile sister label to Fecal-Matter Discorporated, was started in 2000 to release music under The Rev’s new project, Absynth (To His Macabre Angel), a more subdued approach inspired by the occultist Aleister Crowley. His first release was the album Twilight Mind, by The DSA Working, the side project of prog-rock band Yeti’s bassist, Tommy Atkins.
The Alarming Echo Beats focus was on “occult and magick type genres of musick,” and the discography is a bizarre one. An especially peculiar release is the 2003 compilation He Came to Set the Captives Free, a concept release based around a controversial 1986 Christian book of the same name. That book was published by Dr. Rebecca Brown, and was billed as an exposé of an underground Satanic cult network. In it, Dr. Brown tells the story of her roommate, Elaine, who was recruited as a child to a Satanic cult called “The Brotherhood,” only to eventually ascend to the rank of high priestess. Dr. Brown, while starting her career as a doctor, rescues Elaine and sets up an “underground railroad” for escapees from the cult. According to reporting, in reality, Dr. Brown — whose real name was Dr. Ruth Bailey — had lost her license for misdiagnosing patients with actual diseases as having demonic possession and treating her patient, Edna Elaine Moses (the “Elaine” from her book), with massive quantities of opioids and sedatives, such that she had to undergo inpatient detoxification for withdrawal. She had also been self-administering opioids to herself regularly. From an Indianapolis News article:
“Testimony for 19 witnesses revealed that Dr. Bailey, a former registered nurse, began an impressive medical career in 1979 after excelling in medical school. Over the last three years she deteriorated into a woman plagued by drug addiction, religious extremism and a belief that patients and colleagues were possessed by devils, witnesses said. Several witnesses declined to reveal their current addresses saying they feared retaliation from Dr. Bailey. The physician carries a handgun and has threatened to harm people she claims are possessed, they said. ‘Her diagnosis was that I was possessed by many demons, including one like an octopus with long tentacles…’”
Despite this, Dr. Brown’s book has found a niche in the evangelical Christian universe. Alarming Echo Beats’ compilation includes music by several experimental artists, most notably plunderphonics act The Bran Flakes and DJ Spooky collaborator Totemplow, overlaid with excerpts of an audiotape version of the controversial Christian book.
Even more bizarre is the album Necro Audio Forensics: 13 Stairs Palo, Iowa, which bills itself as a series of recordings of EVP, or the electronic voice phenomenon: a belief that disembodied voices can be heard amid the buzz and hum of electrical interference. (There is a key compilation on the Touch label, named The Ghost Orchid, which collects EVP recordings).
According to the label copy, Necro Audio Forensics was created from tapes that were recorded at the supposedly haunted Pleasant Ridge cemetery just north of Palo, Iowa, which is nicknamed “13 Stairs” due to the distinctive staircase leading up to its hilltop locale. According to local lore, this cemetery is a prime location for supernatural phenomena: it is supposedly a hotbed of ghoulish EVP voices, and is also home to a red-eyed ghost dog that materializes occasionally.
The Necro Audio Forensics CD-R is attributed to Ichabod Crane, the alter ego of Kristian Day, who now is a successful film and TV producer who has also composed scores for horror films. The CD-R features recordings made at the cemetery, purportedly of EVP, augmented with samplers and sequencers to create the creepy final product.
Day, who corresponded with me briefly via email, explains that he was sixteen when he created Necro Audio Forensics. He is now 35. “Palo is probably the first haunted space I have encountered,” he tells me. “I remember taking the tape recorder out there and it kept stopping. When I finally got it home the sounds were not super audible but there was definitely something there.”
The rest of Alarming Echo Beats’ respectably sprawling discography spans drone, extreme metal, and power electronics. There is a split release (Cththonic Cat Cult, AEB-022) dedicated to an H.P. Lovecraft short story in which a cat killer is eaten by a swarm of felines. By 2007, the label’s discography becomes even more fringe: Qlippothic Kommandos was a bizarre compilation dedicated to the theme of “Satanic psyops,” featuring a number of controversial contributors.
The exact origins of the person behind Alarming Echo Beats — The Rev, as it were — are quite obscure, seemingly deliberately so. I found numerous email addresses associated with The Rev and his various projects, but multiple queries sent to all of them yielded no response. Based on some sleuthing involving caches of the websites for Alarming Echo Beats and the Absynth music project, I suspect that the person responsible is from Texas and is named Sean; at one point he appears to have been an avid collector of Godzilla memorabilia. (The power of the internet, right?) Digging deep online, there is also a possible association with a briefly-existent racist CD-R label, which I will not name here, but I cannot confirm overlap in the absence of concrete evidence. I will also note that the He Came To Set The Captives Free compilation and one other AEB release also seem to have been reissued by another label (not the racist one named above), which also released two albums by groups associated with racist themes.
At any rate, around 2008 the trail goes dead. Copies of AEB releases appear to be exquisitely scant, with only a small handful available on the secondary marketplace, and digital uploads also seem to be absent. One wonders how many of each release were produced, and whether a full archive exists somewhere.
As a whole, Alarming Echo Beats is emblematic of the many productive but briefly active experimental music CD-R labels that existed in the 2000s. By and large, this body of music remains under-documented and under-collected, with incomplete Discogs listings representing the best quality information about many of these small labels. Many mysteries remain, but as time passes, the details fade further and further into obscurity…
Do you know more about the Alarming Echo Beats story? If so, please leave a comment or get in touch! I’d love to fill out this story.