Review: Various Artists, All the Little Devils are Proud of Hell (Chondritic Sound, 2015)

Presumably titled after a line from the 1971 thriller Wake in Fright, All the Little Devils are Proud of Hell is an immense double-cassette compilation marking the 300th release from Chondritic Sound, easily one of the finest experimental noise labels going right now. I must confess that I'm largely unfamiliar with most of the artists responsible for its 18 exclusive tracks over the course of an hour-and-a-half, but I can certainly state that it's a fantastic sampler of why the label's discography is so consistently excellent.

Among the standouts, Image of Life's opener, "But I Remain," uses spacious and restrained melodic pulses and sparse punches of percussion with spoken, monotone vocals buried in the mix; and "Under the Front Lawn There Were Liquid Contaminants," from Oil Thief, tops eight minutes of ominous dark ambient hums and whirrs slowly layering upon one another as deep, resonating percussive blasts surge to the foreground. The piece takes a surprising turn just past the halfway mark, and becomes increasingly distorted and aggressive as an industrial rhythm fights for space against heavily distorted vocals suppressed by the surrounding elements. Mortal Bodies' "In Gestures Designed to Last" is dark ambient with tinges of death industrial overtones—in sinister atmosphere, if nothing else—as lurching drones transform into windy, metallic pierces with what might be some obfuscated whispers swirling around underneath; while Plagues creates a chilling aesthetic through simple, repetitive synth washes decaying under distortion and struggling to retain musicality in "Devotion."

Other highlights include contributors who have also just issued their own cassettes in the latest batch of Chondritic releases. Smokey Emery's "Horizon Scanning" is a nice, lush dark ambient piece that slowly washes across its four minutes like a tide (fitting, as A Clear Dark comes highly recommended for the top-shelf dark ambient crowd). "IIIII" finds JT Whitfield creating a very similar atmosphere to Mortal Bodies—a hint more active and persistent in its use of heaving rhythm (Adjustment, too, is very much recommended for fans of superbly textured dark ambient explorations). And a looped drone builds the foundation for Pleasure Island's "New Strategies for Resistance," where power electronics-styled vocals sit deep in the mix alongside the surrounding sounds, as opposed to leading the charge (Special Forces actually achieves similar results to an even more impressive degree).

Beyond that, S. English's "Shift" creates crunching, scraping, textural loops turned subtly musical in quite brilliant fashion—repetitive without getting stale; "Obtaining Information From a Person With Powers" finds Sleep Clinic exploring minimal, somewhat glitchy experimental noise utilizing deep low-end and wispy midrange; and Liebestod's "Less Terrible of Two Terrors" is comparable in its minimal simplicity and deeply pulsing low-end drones, though it does introduce indecipherable spoken vocals beneath the surface.

I suppose it would be acceptable to classify Scant's "Concrete Floor" as harsh noise—it's certainly among the more consistently distorted pieces herein, granted it always hovers just below the threshold of blowing up into a full-blown chaotic assault. "Man," by L.F.A., and "Coroner's Seal," by SECAM Kino, both create a similar feeling for me—the former with bassy hums, distorted wisps, and peculiarly hammering "beats" (for lack of a better term); the latter with minimal drones and a percussive pulse building into an atypically quirky sense of musicality. By contrast, the raw, stripped down beat of Granite Mask's "Chamber Drama" could be classified as "dance-y," to some degree (at least more so than the other compositions).

The name "Ligature" may conjure the anticipation of ear-splitting ferocity, but that's actually not the case with "Skepticism Provides Fact"—another sparse, carefully paced dark ambient work with some sort of cryptic, heavily manipulated speaking in the background. Strain of Laws just barely eeks out Scant for the harshest cut of the bunch in "We Live Sick." Again, not exactly a go for the throat blaze, but certainly a little more rambunctious and chaotic than most. The Siamese Pearl's "Clipping Wings" offers a twisting, turning combination of low-end swells and grating stabs of feedback with a narrative vocal style layered over top of religious-themed samples; before Hive Mind closes out with an intertwined series of reverberating percussive loops over a bed of machinated whirrs in "As Smoke Leaves This Fire."

I've not seen the physical release, but all of the label's output carries an enticing visual aesthetic that effectively creates interest, and this set is to be housed in a 5" box with pro-printed covers, a foldout insert, and a download code. Chondritic Sound's tapes are always issued in limited editions (in this case just 200 copies) and tend to sell out rather quickly, so... if you're curious, act fast, or this impressive collection will be gone!

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