For the 100th official post on the blog, I wanted to cover something really special; a multi-disc set by my favorite noise/power electronics act, Sutcliffe Jugend. SLAVES was released in 2016 on 4ib Records.
Sutcliffe Le-gend. This would be an appropriate name given the solidified place Sutcliffe Jugend has earned in the history of power electronics/noise music; areas in which they have traditionally been identified with.
Yet Sutcliffe Jugend has demolished barriers and burnt any remnants of rule books to a crisp; rewriting their own time and time again.
SLAVES is no different. Released in 2016, SLAVES is a monumental game-changer. Sutcliffe Jugend once again is redefining electronic and noise music, incorporating many different styles: noise, ambient, drone, avant garde. In fact, long gone are the days from 1982’s breakthrough We Spit On Their Graves 10x cassette release. Even since SLAVES, Sutcliffe Jugend has offered new direction while redefining themselves yet again.
From 4ib Records: SLAVES “was conceived with the intent of capturing very different elements of the Sutcliffe Jugend sound…conceptually and stylistically” and was intended “to remind us about how we are all passive slaves to our slowly evolving tastes and ultimately doomed to fail in our struggle with life and ultimately death.”
SLAVES is a 6x CD Box Set, limited to 300 copies. The CDs are separated as “Theatres” within the context of “an abstract dance performance “THEM” displayed at the Centre Pompidou; Paris 2012″ (4ibrecords.com). Theatre of Cruelty, of Imagination, of Innocence, of the Absurd, of Tragedy, of Passion. Each disc maintains their own distinct identity albeit united by Sutcliffe Jugend’s sensibility. Let’s take a couple of tracks from disc 6 for example…
Disc 6 – Track 1, “For Those Who Shine a Light With Fire” starts off simple with synth textures mixed with simple noise, goes to guitar strikes, and blips, becomes increasingly complex with unstructured piano hits followed by columns of noise. The volume increases with additional synth notes and noise, more guitar, all sounds eventually merging creating overwhelming tones of their own. Track 2, “Burnt Retinas” we see ambient synths, increasingly complex textures meandering with manipulated string sounds followed by a noise barrage. That’s simply an analysis of two tracks from the set.
SLAVES balances the structured with the improvisational, the soft with the loud, the delicate with the abrasive; chaotic at times disturbing… beautiful at others. Essentially, SLAVES is a dynamic achievement of monumental proportions.
Each track on each separate disc really reads like separate chapters, each one being very distinct from the other. Two notes of importance regarding the mixing; 1. most of the tracks on the album start with minimal sound and end with either a steady stream or increasing amount of layers and complexity and 2. the use of left/right channels in the mix add significantly to the over-all effect. For this album to be truly appreciated, I recommend listening to it with earphones.
It’s impossible to grasp the depth of this 6 CD set in one single sitting….perhaps even in separate sittings of each single disc. The strength in SLAVES really revolves around a number of factors; the diversity of the sounds used, the manipulation and mixture of those analog/synth/noise and found objects and the increase in complexity that exists in most of the tracks. Without question, SLAVES presents a more mature sound for Sutcliffe Jugend and again sets them apart from their contemporary artists. It’s no wonder that work on SLAVES began back in 2012. The painstaking detail must have been mind-blowing.
Surely a work of this proportion will be seen as a collector’s item and one of the more important works in Sutcliffe Jugend’s history because of it’s diversity and complexity. While light years away from the harsh noise of the legendary We Spit on Their Graves, it once again reminds us of Sutcliffe Jugend’s place as one of noise’s real innovators and boundary breakers.
Stay tuned for a special interview with SJ’s Kevin Tomkins in the near future.