The world of punk and hardcore music rarely collides with what I write about here at Seven, but with this new disc from Crowd Control Activities the two smack into each other with surprising results. Aaron Turner sings and plays guitar for the blistering hardcore band Isis, and also has a hand in running their highly active label, Hydra Head Records. With Submarine Immersion Techniques, his solo debut, his music takes a decidedly new turn, exorcising the calmer, more subdued side of his musical talent.
The disc kicks off with a curt, repetitive, relaxed guitar riff that basically replaces drums, keeping the beat in their place. More guitar is recorded over top, with a wandering, intuitive feel that reminds me of Neil Young's soundtrack work for the brilliant film Dead Man. Ironically this impression doesn't apply to "Damnation of a/Dead Man," a collage of sampled voices, modem noises and distant tapping coated in a thick, foggy atmosphere. Many of these songs would suit a soundtrack perfectly, though, as they work well setting mood and tone.
"Submarine Immersion Technique Transmission II" opens with a sampled clip of vintage wartime music, before being overtaken by more deep, droning guitar riffs and controlled feedback. There are some really interesting ambient interludes throughout the disc that make the various shifts in mood and style fluid and seamless. "Another Tragic One: Hands Sold by Poachers" is a gradual, pensive mix of soft textures and aqueous, melodic guitar notes drenched in reverb. The guitars are used in a minimalist style, creating simple but emotive compositions with a level, refined intensity resting just under their surface.
"I'm On the White Horse" is one of the more conventional tracks: a short, softly strummed acoustic guitar piece with a very subtle darker edge. This leads up into the eleven-and-a-half minute finale, "It Approaches." Haunting soundscapes are forged out of layers of experimental guitar noise and a deep, slow-motion beat counting off the time. Near the end the same repetitious, chugging guitar riff that opened the disc returns, bringing it around full circle. Here, however, it finally reaches its climax, with sharp, twisting bursts of guitar putting it to rest.