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156 - The Art of Dying

156 - The Art of Dying coverAdel Souto is an active figure in underground circles producing music, publications, art and photography. He has written fanzines, most notably Feast of Hate and Fear which became a website. Since the late eighties he was a member of various punk and hardcore groups. You might remember him as vocalist in metalcore group Timescape Zero who released the album Total War. 156 is the name of the industrial percussive collective he conducts influenced by Crash Worship, Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept. Erin Powell conducted a comprehensive interview with Adel for The Aither which we'd encourage you to read to learn more about Adel Souto's varied activities.

The Art of Dying is a meditation on death recorded over a 2 year period using instrumentation made from human bones. Those instruments include human skulls, femurs and vertebrae, plus bone whistles, and Tibetan thighbone trumpets (kangling) from a collection Souto assembled over many years. The Art of Dying was borne from Memento Mori, a 10-inch on bone white vinyl released in 2016 which we received years ago from Adel as he believed we would enjoy it - which we did. This edition has been expanded with the other tracks from the sessions to create the definitive collection on this meditation on death.

As a result of the instrumentation this isn't a song based album but a collection of instrumentals ranging from moody, meditative pieces to more percussive lead tracks. The tracks are quite simple in construction, primitive some might say, offering varied atmospheres and approach from rhythms, scrapes and breathing through bones in sessions which took place in studios, and outside on empty subway platforms and moon drenched fields in Brooklyn and Manhattan in order to provide different atmospheres, echoes, and reverberations.

'Kokoro', which opens the album, is filled with an ululating meditative hum, layered with Tibetan trumpet offset with gritty scraping textures. 'A Swarm Of Butterflies' patters to flurries of beating hollow tones, while the rhythms of 'Demeter And Persephone Run From Hades' tick like a clock signifying the passing of time, and clack like hooves referring to the Greek myth to which the title alludes. As much as this is based around rhythms some tracks incorporate breathing, either blowing air through skulls or like the breathless pants on the aforementioned and the wordless exhalations amidst the rhythmic flourishes of the meditative 'Me-Olam, Ad-Olam'. It's worth pointing out the breadth of subjects covered by the titles: 'Demeter And Persephone Run From Hades' relates to the Greek myth, while 'Me-Olam, Ad-Olam' appears to relate to time and eternity. 'Winds Of Vãyu' which refers to the Hindu God of breath and winds billows to layers of thighbone trumpet wails and skull scrapes.

Tibetan trumpets and human bones have long been used in ritual industrial music and I'm thinking here of Ringo the human skull used in recordings on Psychic TV's Dreams Less Sweet and the Tibetan thighbone trumpet of Psychic TV's Themes One, and those played by David Tibet on early Current 93 and 23 Skidoo releases but it's Zero Kama and Metgumbnerbone who are the primary influences on The Art of Dying. 156's cover of Zero Kama's 'Starlit Mire' taken from the ritual industrial classic The Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. album is a brittle reading of tiny, hollow bone rattles and clacks. Like Zero Kama, 156 breathe life from the remnants of death into something transformative by rubbing bones together, scraping skulls, tapping bones together or passing breath through human bones, alongside the use of thighbone trumpets.

The feverish clack of rhythms and textured scrapes of 'Dance Of The Ophites' ups the tempo, before closing on the lone pierce of bone whistles - crafted by Adel Souto out of a human bone. But it is on 'To My Sons And Daughters' where things gather a chugging momentum propelled by cyclical rhythms. Amidst trumpet wails and bone whistles it's perhaps most reminiscent of 156's improvised performances informed by earlier percussionists such as Crash Worship and Test Dept. 'Chödpa', which closed the original Memento Mori release, is another moody ritual piece reminiscent of the opening 'Kokoro' combining layered trumpet wails into drone.

Always use with contemplation but play loud, and if you have the vinyl of Memento Mori you can play at 33rpm to get the extended Thunderdrone Versions. The Art of Dying is completed with additional material from the original recording sessions. From the Humanhood Records lathe cut 7-inch single Music For The Bardo comes 'Jigo Jisho' combining sustained Tibetan thighbone trumpet mixed with a heady mix of scrapes and rattles, and the distant atmospheric bone chimes and trumpet wails of 'Zhenyan'. The buzzing drone piece 'The Beehive Suite' originally appeared on a playable postcard release, while the previously unreleased 'A Madness of An Itch' wrestles with textured grates and scrapes.

The entire piece is designed to "serve as - for those who cannot obtain one - the skull's replacement in the ritual room where a scholar contemplates death in the Renaissance rite of ars moriendi". Its approach is quiet and meditative, and although it shares ideas and an approach with those noisier industrialists its rhythms and textures are perhaps more reminiscent of the works of Z'EV. The vinyl edition may be difficult to track down but cassette and CD editions are now available making this modern day ritual work a worthwhile entry to sit alongside those earlier ritual industrial works. The Art of Dying is available digitally, on cassette tape and CD-R from 156 bandcamp