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Tunnels of ĀH - Charnel Transmissions

Charnel Transmissions is the much awaited fourth album release from Tunnels of ĀH, the musical project of Stephen ĀH Burroughs. Previous albums have been steeped in Gnosticism, Buddhism and mystic Christianity but Stephen ĀH Burroughs, the former singer in noise rock group Head of David has a background in industrial music, as a member of Comicide during the eighties heyday of cassette culture, and Charnel Transmissions more so than their other albums in many ways digs deep into those industrial roots. Charnel Transmissions was inspired by the "chime and gong stations" recordings of the Cold War era but with Burroughs' spiritual leanings they take on a less coded form and act more as channel for spirit communication. Charnel Transmissions could easily be regarded as Tunnels of ĀH's (trans)mission of dead souls. Informed by intuition, meaning and intent, a hallmark and common denominator found within much of the great music produced by Coil, Death In June and Current 93 right up to Cyclobe, it is why I consider Tunnels of ĀH one of the key exponents of ritualised sounds today.

Charnel Transmissions opens to the low noise infused rumbling and industrial scrape and buried transmitted voices of 'Homage To The Landfill Dogs'. Sweeping up threshing layers of industrial sound, in a similar vein to earlier album tracks such as 'The Perpetual Holocaust'. Unlike those albums though Charnel Transmissions features the ritual percussion of Francis P. and 'Homage To The Landfill Dogs' whips up the cling and clatter of industrial percussion, as drones reverb, ricochet and rumble. It eventually opens up to permit the percussion to evolve in a Z'EV like fashion, with a gong like cyclical drone. Underneath spirit voices are cast through a gnawing and flitting buzz with gongs ricocheting before it subsides into shortwave tones. It is an intense and evolving track that maintains an air of ritualism amidst the drone, noise and percussion.

The ringing and whistling modulations of the radio signals of 'Stations Of The Skin-Bag' are spliced by a rhythmic tone, as it flutters into a broader sound of quaking low drone movements pierced by an irregular rhythmic tone. Burrowing deeper with mammoth shuddering, messages are broadcast and rendered in a quivered processing. Although inspired by the chime and gong stations whose many and mysterious transmissions have been collected and released as The Conet Project there are points during the track where the quivering shudders sound like the spinning rotors of helicopter blades and with the radio broadcasts you can almost picture an, uh, underground version of Apocalypse Now filmed with the depths of the earth. I'd hazard a guess though that 'Stations Of The Skin-Bag' is based on the Buddhist master Hsu Yun's 'Song of the Skin Bag' which he wrote early on in his path to Buddhism.

Unfolding to echoing caverns of distant serrated industrial tones spiralling into treated secret radio messages cast against light skittering percussive patterns, 'Kosmiglot' is by far the most claustrophobic and oppressive track on Charnel Transmissions. Pushing onward through tunnels of shimmering atmospheric droning and progressively quickening percussive claps and intermittent body breaking hammer taps it eventually implodes under its own weight ending in an abrupt explosion.

From the off 'Here Is The Heap' rips through drone layers; its jarred sound layers shredded and cut with flickering passages of mechanised hiss and frequency noise. The title conjures images of sky burials and the charnel ground where bodies are left to decompose, the remains left exposed to be picked upon and eaten by vultures. It is also the first track where the voice of Stephen ĀH Burroughs surfaces, even though it is buried and wallows within the dark atmospherics. "Come in a dark red tumultuous storm, come with weapons, whistle and moan, here is the heap of bones and flesh, the ocean of blood" he repeatedly intones. Summoning spirits, in the words of Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsen over sudden blasts of noise and careering drone noise, 'Here Is The Heap' is a restless atmospheric noise piece.

While 'Here Is The Heap' is good, 'Fissuring - Genesis - Great - Power', the final track is great and a wonderful distillation of the sound of Tunnels of ĀH. It surges with energy through bursts of crackling noise textures powerful enough to open up a rift to permit a broadcast of a string of words. A swirl of singing bowl chime and clank of chains follows before processed gong chime emitting frequency tones give way to cavernous quakes and earthy howls. Set amidst this heady concoction of sounds are percussive clanks which are eventually let loose like fire crackers, as drones spiral and quaver continually shape-shifting with an unruly turbulence. Tunnels of ĀH have produced many good tracks but the evolution of sound on 'Fissuring - Genesis - Great - Power' is just staggering.

This is another great release from Tunnels of ĀH. The mysterious secret broadcasts of The Conet Project may have been its starting point but Stephen ĀH Burroughs has channelled them through his Buddhist and esoteric visions, transforming them into spirit voices and along with his fertile and innovative composition skills he has created something really special. It's a vital release, and especially to those who has found solace in the early ritual works of Current 93 and Coil. Tunnels of ĀH in their own way are bringing their own voice to esoteric electronics and here they breathe life into the charnel grounds with their singular concoction of noise, drone, electronics and percussion. Great stuff. For more information go to Cold Spring