Infirmary’s “Necropenetrator,” recently released on the Kalamazoo-based label SNSE, was placed in my hands described as “harsh noise,” which prepared me for an unmelodic, non-traditional listening experience. However, I hadn’t the foggiest notion just how extreme and unrelenting Infirmary’s sound would be, so much so that upon initially dropping the needle, I was convinced the grooves of the record had been damaged.
Out of nothing, an avalanche of crackling cacophony burst from the speakers as though the needle were dragging through gravel. The sound had nowhere to rest, continually pouring out, unsettled and unbridled.
After a few minutes of enduring the havoc, I skipped around on the record in search of a moment of relief, only to find the same mess catapulting forth from every “song”. Convinced this couldn’t be right and that my copy was damaged (the vinyl had been slightly warped), I went to SNSE’s website to sample clips of the record. I was relieved to find that the record was not damaged as the clips sounded identical to my vinyl copy.
Wait. WHAT!?! My relief did a complete 180 to utter horror. How could I possibly review this uncompromising onslaught of chopped up sludge? I had heard some edgy albums in my time, but this one unquestionably pushed the inaccessibility of noise far beyond anything I had previously experienced, this coming from someone who loves the second half of Can’s “Tago Mago” and is familiar with Merzbow! Every piece was completely drenched in a near-identical-sounding destructo clutter with only slight hints of sonic variation coming up from underneath for air. Occasionally very distorted vocals entered the mix but they were merely another instrument of chaos within the madness.
Speaking of instruments, I didn’t even know how Infirmary were achieving these sounds. The liner notes listed the equipment employed as “junk, electronics, analog 8-track”. I could definitely detect the junk.
Regardless of my trepidations with taking on such a beast, I put on my most open mind and dove in headfirst, and at the behest of my housemates. “How can you honestly review this bullshit?” I explained that I had written A+ papers in high school where I had understood about as much on the topic as I did this record.
After several spins, sitting in the thin darkness of my home, it began to dawn on me that listening to this caterwauling sonance was not unlike watching snow on a television set when I was but a wee lad. When I stared into the static-soaked screen long enough, I would begin to see shapes, patterns, objects, all dancing and swimming about, a drug-free hallucination. The same was the case with “Necropenetrator.” The more I stayed as a tourist in this menacing land of sonic turbulence, the more individual sounds and rhythms became present in the mix. One piece had a catchy little groove, in Infirmary’s own unique way, and was aptly titled “Fuck Dancing”.
Surely this was a result of my starved and bored mind feeding me those ornaments, textures, and pulses of noise to thwart Infirmary’s attempt to drive me completely out of society. Yet, upon next listen, those same creatures were still frolicking in the mire, along with some new friends. With each spin, it became clear to me that this was not an impenetrable wall of opaque pretense, this was a prime example of beneficial repeated listens as there were the oddest textural hooks buried under layers of intense madness.
Either these guys are masters of this art or just got lucky; either way, lovers of challenging but rewarding listening experiences will find “Necropenetrator” a worthwhile journey.