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]

Spiegelsplitter ‎– Spiegelsplitter anti-7″ (Rocktopus, 1981)

Image of the Spiegelsplitter anti-record from Dirk Schlömer’s collection.

Twelve years back, a strange anti-record turned up on Discogs, credited to a German duo named Spiegelsplitter. Images revealed a grooveless LP that appeared etched with the band’s name in stylized letters, alongside a Xerox-collage cover. A note was included in the listing:

Not released for commercial, only send to stores, radio stations, discotheques etc. to promote the debut-release “Spiegelsplitterspitz”

Spiegelsplitter was the duo of Dirk Schlömer and Peter R. Deininger, responsible for one lone 1981 single called Spiegelsplitterspitz, which was released on both the seven-inch and twelve-inch formats.

Intrigued by this unusual artifact, I spoke with Schlömer via Skype, and he generously filled me in on the story behind the release. He told me he was a guitarist in a conventional rock and new wave band called Cöln when he decided to leave and form a synth-wave duo in Berlin within the Neue Deutsche Welle mould. His friends were shocked by the change.

The concept behind Spiegelsplitter, whose name referred to a mirror breaking, was to de-prioritize the guitar in favour of sequencers. Schlömer was the instrumentalist and Deininger was the singer.

Spiegelsplitterspitz was recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, just next to the Berlin Wall — the same studio where David Bowie wrote the lyrics to “Heroes,” Schlömer mentioned. The A-side is up on YouTube; it’s a jagged post-punk opus with abrasive samples that estimate the sound of a shattering mirror. Schlömer told me they had recorded enough material for a full album, though it was never released, apparently because Deininger joined a travesti troupe and no longer had time for the band.

The anti-record in question was crafted by Deininger, and was actually one of two promotional items produced to help draw attention to the release of Spiegelsplitterspitz. The other item was a series of mirror pieces with a similar design on them, a reference to the single’s name, which refers to shards from a broken mirror. The blank LPs were individually stamped with the band’s name using a hand-crafted stamp created by Deininger. “It was a promotional tool,” Schlömer explained. “The idea, as always, was to cause some curiosity or some questions, like you have now. It was sent mainly to radio DJs or music journalists.”

He estimates that there were between 300 and 500 copies produced, the blank vinyl coming from a pressing plant. He stressed that the record was not intended as a conceptual statement, but instead to help promote the actual single. It came with some unusual liner notes which included photocopies of Schlömer and Deininger’s passports. “We really wanted something strange, something disturbing, but not politically, but more in a Dada way, or, as said, surreal. That is why we put in copies of our passport, and the only photos that music magazines had, were those passport photos you see on the paper.”

He wasn’t aware that it had been posted to Discogs, and was tickled to find the release there. Since Spiegelsplitter split up, Schlömer has been involved extensively in music. To this day, he runs a studio and record label called AmygdaLand, which has, as of late, released some great guitar-based music in a drone / ambient vibe.

Dirk Schlömer’s copy, from another angle.

Fukte – The Threatening Aspects of Technology hard drive (Toxic Industries, 2016)

(Source: Discogs)

Fukte* is the name of the noise project operated by Fabrizio De Bon, who lives in northeast Italy and has run his Toxic Industries label since 2009. He arrived at noise music through black metal, in particular through the various side projects of Mz.412 and its most famous member, Henrik Nordvargr Björkk. His first noise record was by Björkk solo project Hydra Head 9, which he bought on on a whim because he was intrigued by the cover. And while his initial impression was that he had wasted his money, he forced himself to listen a few times and eventually saw the light. He started recording noise experiments in 2004, at first using a “very cheap microphone” and an old copy of Fruity Loops. He eventually built his own contact mic and invested in distortion pedals and a proper mixer, preferring the analog sound for his noise.

He didn’t release any of his noise until 2009, when he put out his first release, a split-cassette with his pal, Escaton, that had motherboards glued to the front of the cassette cases, grinded to shape by De Bon himself. Over the decade he’s spent releasing music on his label, De Bon has earned a name for the distinctive packaging of his releases. He often utilizes broken computer parts in his packages, which he primarily sources from his work in I.T. In the past, his concepts have included repurposed circuit boards and releasing a three-inch CDR inside malfunctioning hard drive cases. Most of his elaborate packages have been issued on a sub-label called Very Toxic. Another sub-label, Irritant, is dedicated to Harsh Noise Wall music only, and limits all releases to 33 copies.

His 2016 release, The Threatening Aspects Of Technology, wasn’t just a packaging novelty. It was an album whose format was hard drives, namely old internal drives recycled from work.

(Source: Discogs)

In an interview over Skype, he told me the story of the audio itself, explaining that it was recorded during a rehearsal session. Trying to create a Harsh Noise Wall, he carefully tuned his gear to get the noise he wanted to hear. “I said OK, let’s try to set up the gear in a way I like,” De Bon explained. “After a couple hours of adjusting the noise, I found the sound that I was interested in. I said okay, let’s leave it to evolve for a couple minutes.

“After twenty minutes, I came back, then thought I’d stretch the experiment, change it a little bit, a slight movement of the knobs, or the position of the microphone. Then I thought why not go even farther than this. I decided to leave all night, then went to work. All this time, the sound was evolving itself.”

After two and a half days, he figured it was time to stop the recording, though it took two and a half hours for his computer to save the file. He has never listened to the whole thing, only having listened to a few parts to “follow the flow a little bit.”

(Source: Discogs)

He copied the files to the outdated hard drives, producing ten copies of this inaccessible release on its inaccessible format, which requires that the owner purchase the necessary cables to connect the hard drive to their computer. About half the copies were sold, and half were traded with other noise artists and labels. And while he figures that most people obtained their copies to “collect it as a weird piece of noise music,” he does know of one friend who endeavored to listen to the whole thing. That friend consulted with De Bon about what equipment he needed to hook it into his laptop, then bought it all on Amazon. He listened to the whole thing, in hours-long chunks, over the course of a few weeks.

De Bon was impressed by this, since even he had never listened to the whole thing, only listening to a few snippets to get a general sense of what it sounded like.

*De Bon wants you to know that Fukte is pronounced ˈfukˈtɛ (i.e. fook-teh), not the far more vulgarˈfʌkt (fuckt).

D.L. Savings T.X. – Thank You Urine Doll C90 (American Tapes, 1997)

When it comes to record labels specializing in elaborate, handmade packaging, there’s no getting around American Tapes. It was a record label run by John Olson, a founding member of the seminal noise band, Wolf Eyes, as well as over a hundred other bands and solo projects. American Tapes started in the early nineties (there were a series of early, unnumbered tapes that are poorly documented prior to the start of their ‘official’ catalog around 1995) and ran for twenty years, closing shop in 2015, accumulating an incomprehensible mass of approximately one thousand releases in total.

Cover of Thank You Urine Doll — see the cassette attached to the tormented seven-inch single. (Source: defunct American Tapes website)

Olson’s label was known for releasing minuscule editions of experimental music, often released in elaborate handmade packaging. In an interview conducted via Skype, Olson explained that he was inspired by the similarly inventive packaging pioneered by noise artist MSBR (Koji Tano), and that he often used extra odds & ends that he obtained while working in an antique store. He also shared with me his passion for lacquering things — which was often the final step in producing an American Tapes creation.

Many of Olson’s American Tapes releases were immortalized on the Geocities-hosted American Tapes website, where he documented his discography and included images of the creations, which now are all that remains of many of the releases. Much of the website has dropped from the internet, but subsists in archived form and on Discogs. It has been said that Henry Rollins himself has been attempting a full archive of Olson’s tapes and records.

Many of American Tapes’ releases were by John Olson sound projects, of which D.L. Savings T.X. was one. This “band” was originally named Daylight Savings Time, inspired by a particularly nerve-rattling daylight savings time day; he shortened the name after being inspired by a fellow Lansing experimental musician named D.S. Hastings, who himself once stuck a microphone in a laundry dryer, recorded the resulting rattle, and released it on tape.

American Tapes logo, designed by John Olson’s friend — who had never heard any of American Tapes’ music! (Image source: Discogs)

Thank You Urine Doll, which was release number 28 for the label, has an especially distinctive cover. Olson, who loves commemorating occasions where he subtly mishears a spoken phrase, states he named this tape after drunkenly mishearing a friend telling him, “thank you, you’re a doll.”

To construct the cover, he took a bunch of seven-inch records and coated the surface of each with as many noxious chemicals as he could think of, including lacquer, enamel, acrylic, laundry detergent, Windex, oil, and paint remover. He then left the toxic stew for a month to react. Together, the chemicals were about half an inch thick, and by the end, the surface of each record looked a little like the surface of Mars. Each mutated disc was then fixed to the surface of one of the tape containers.

The tape, each side of which is a prolonged jam (at the time, Olson’s preferred method of sonic exploration), has two track titles. Olson loves naming things, expressing a preference to establish song titles first, then hit record. He explains that “Bird On Wire” is a Leonard Cohen reference, whereas “Front And Center At The Bargaining Tab” was a truncated version of an oft-spoken phrase on NPR.

The only known image of Thank You Urine Doll comes from the defunct (but fortunately archived) American Tapes website, and this is also the image that appears on Discogs. An mp3 rip of the tape was put up on the New Noise Net blog in 2009, which suggests at least one other copy still existed then, though the link is now dead.