VARIOUS ARTISTS  Herz Aus G.R.O.S.S. Best Of G.R.O.S.S.  4 x CASSETTE BOXSET   (RRRecords)   19.98

Reaching way back into the RRRecords catalog, we've dug up this four-cassette boxset that features eight sides of heavy analogue earblast from the legendary Japanese noise label G.R.O.S.S.. G.R.O.S.S. was operated by Akifumi Nakajima from AUBE and released tons of exquisitely crafted tape releases from some of the biggest names in the harsh noise scene, but is nowadays focusing primarily on his releases as AUBE. Most of the original G.R.O.S.S. releases have been out of print for ages, but the Herz Aus G.R.O.S.S.: Best Of G.R.O.S.S. - Japanese Noise compilation collects eight of these tapes from 1992-1993 in a single boxset and is actually still available as a domestic release via the RRRecords/Statutory Tapes vaults. The tapes feature one side each from a handful of Japanese noise artists that I've been following for awhile (Aube, Monde Bruits, Thirdorgan) as well as some as-of-yet unheard groups that I heard here for the first time (Dislocation, Mortal Vision, Club Skull, Shida, A.M.M.T.). With each side averaging around 25 minutes of material, there is plenty of hard-edged noise here for fans to sink their molars into.

Here's what you get with this tape set, in order of appearance:

The first side is Akifumi Nakajima himself as Aube, and his "Spinning Re-Mix" is a super dense dronescape constructed from recordings of water that have been processed and manipulated into heavy swirling drones and textural grinding. The sound here isn't all that loud, but it's definitely heavy, with deep low-end rumbling echoing across the soundfield of Aube's liquid noise sculpture. Early on, this piece is actually kind of hypnotic, with bubbling rhythms and dripping sounds looped into mesmeric patterns, but as this progresses Aube contorts the sound of water into a roaring mass of distorted, deafening noise.

"Cubic Remix" from Monde Bruits showcases another one of Shohei Iwasaki's monstrous distorted dronescapes, a wasteland of throbbing bass-noise loops and grinding guitar generated feedback, hissing electronic wind and swarms of chirping noise. Dark and ominous and heavily psychedelic, like hearing a Total cassette melted and muted and spliced into layers of endless loops. Iwasaki died in a motorcycle accident several years ago, but he left behind an impressive body of work that anyone into harsh noise should check out.

The Dislocation side is my favorite of the bunch. Their "Distilling Mix" erupts into massive clouds of improvised noise with saxophone, electronics, and guitar all battling for air, creating a dense, crushing free-noise jam that's in the same vein as their CD on PSF. The fiery sax blowing and skincrawling high-end squeals point towards Borbetomagus as one reference, but the guitar noise that the band generates is off the hook, obliterating everyone in the room with huge squalls of grinding, scraping, ultra distorted amp sludge and monstrous black drones. This rules! Totally violent, cathartic extreme-free-jazz-noise destruction, abstract and beautiful, and a must hear for fans of Borbetomagus and Exias-J.

Mortal Vision is a lesser known project from CCCC's Hiroshi Hasegawa. Instead of the hyperdense cosmic noise blasts that we get from his work in CCCC and Astro, Mortal Vision sounds like it could be almost entirely guitar generated. "Nacht Dream Mix" emits a lengthy freeform guitar noise jam with crushing distorted drones and sheets of wavering leaden feedback, all buried under a mountain of murky tape noise and electronic grit. It's like listening to a cassette tape of Sunn O))) playing free jazz guitar that has been baking in the sun for a month, the massive tones and feedback blurred and smeared into a monstrous abstract ambience. So cool.

Next up is Club Skull. I had never heard of this group before I picked this set up, and it looks like this tape is the only thing that the band ever recorded. It turns out that Club Skull was a one-off project with Hiroshi Hasegawa (CCCC, Astro, South Saturn Delta) on synthesizers, and Akifumi Nakajima (AUbe) and Fumio Kosakai (Incapacitants, CCCC, Hijokaidan) on electronics, and their cassette for G.R.O.S.S. is a masterpiece of delirious cosmic noise, an epic flight through sparkling kosmiche drones and haunting deep-space ambience, whooshing synth blissouts and ominous black drift that has more in common with the sounds of Klaus Schulze and Cluster than the hardcore noise blowouts that they share this boxset with. Wow! By far the most beautiful and dreamy piece in this set, and a must-hear for fans of Hasegawa's other projects.

Then comes Thirdorgan, and we're sucked straight down into the mouth of hell. "Cyclic Re-mix" is a brutal demonic noise blitz from one of the more vicious practicioners of second wave Japanese noise. Akihiro Shimizu's approach to harsh electronic noise is to pile on sound upon sound upon sound until he ends up with a churning miniature universe of monstrous roaring, exploding machinery, shreiking guitars, oceans of murky distortion, endless squeals of feedback and crushing psychedelic FX. It's the sound of a thousand cracked death metal tapes playing simultaneously while a chemical plant explodes nearby. Brutal.

Shida is a ambient drone side project from Toyohiro Okazaki, who also plays in Dislocation. A far cry from the ecstatic earth-shaking nuclear improv of his other band, Shida instead crafts an ominous dronescape of muffled voices, looped rhythms, subterranean drones, and washes of decaying noise.

The set closes with A.M.M.T. and "Hi-Density". Another project that I didn't know anything about before picking up this set, A.M.M.T. is apparently another project from Akifumi Nakajima, but it's hard to verify this as there is no info on this project anywhere to be found. All I'm going on is that the contact info for A.M.M.T. that is included in the packaging is the same that is used for Aube. Whoever is in charge, they sure wrap this up loud. Grinding improvised free-noise, quivering theremin manipulations, super-heavy guitar grind, screaming, melodies...is that a free jazz band in there? Sounds like there might be. Also sounds like there's a couple of death metal guitarists somewhere buried underneath all of the wreckage, shredding into infinity. Definitely borders on Borbetomagus territory, and further investigation is required.

The four cassettes are packaged in a white hinged box with labels attached to the front, back and spine, and it includes a postcard with contact info.