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The Savage Electronics of Mental Anguish

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During the Eighties, the indie cassette culture flourished, producing several strong labels like Sound of Pig Music, Audiofile Tapes, and Harsh Reality Music. With the advent of digital technology, Chris Phinney (who runs Harsh Reality and records under the name Mental Anguish) has evolved from cassette tapes to CDRs. Aided by file sharing via the internet, Mental Anguish has become involved with the Tapegerm cooperative, enabling countless collaborative efforts with indie musicians all over the globe.

The times may have changed, but Mental Anguish's dedication to unbridled creativity remains as exuberant and productive as ever. The following releases exhibit that determination with ample vigor.

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ED DRURY & MENTAL ANGUISH: Electronic American (CD on Harsh Reality Music)

This release from 2005 features 53 minutes of frantic tuneage.

These electronics frolic with playful abandon and artificial rhythms snicker away with hyperactive tempos. Those rhythms are generated by electronic effects that pummel the listener with such velocity that they approximate beats urging along the versatile melodies. While one track employs moaning didgeridoo and frantic Middle Eastern strings to establish a multi-geographic sentiment, the title piece conveys an Appalachian mood that hints at home-made stills and wide-brimmed hats. This unpredictability persists throughout the tracks, as flutes and choral voices take the audience wandering into a strange church, then visit a launch pad where grinding mechanics merge with whirling effects to capture a state of high technology in constant flux. All the while, crisp electronics embellish the tuneage with emphatic eeriness, enhancing the plethora of global cultures found within American society.

The sheer versatility of these compositions is dazzling, but each piece exhibits a strong undercurrent theme of synthetic generation combined with a fervent pace achieved by the relentless pulsations and buzzings that serve as percussives.

This release excellently captures numerous aspects of life in America, from daily routines of survival to the overall dissatisfaction the average citizen feels with their aloof leaders. On a more fundamental level, though, the tuneage is extremely engaging, satisfying ears that yearn for catchy melodies that spurn any commercial intent while retaining a delicious peppy presence.

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CHARLES GOFF III & CHRIS PHINNEY: Maestros of the Magnetic Age 1 (CD on Taped Rugs Productions)

This release from 2005 features 63 minutes of menacing tuneage.

On this disc, Goff digitally manipulates and adds to music recorded by Phinney back in the Eighties.

Expect a scary ride here. These electronics are gritty and forceful, like a pack of winged wolves circling a hapless flock of sheep. Densely layered so as to leave no pause to catch your breath, the textures evoke disturbing nuances with their shrill punctuations and eerie structure. Moans and laments are spliced into the seething mix, lending even more foreboding sentiments to the already unsettling harmonics. Other instruments (like guitar, metallic impacts, looping vocal samples) come and go, mired in the toothy morass.

Grinding pulsations cascade with determination. Waves of dark tonalities collide, generating fresh apprehension with each merger. Whirling cybernetics descend from ominous thunderheads--be careful lest you get cut by their razor sharp blades.

While presenting in a musique concrete style, this music actually possesses a more melodic fashion than most abstract noise compositions. Hints of melodies wander into the mix as if lost, where they remain, happy to have found a home--haunted though that abode may seem to outsiders.

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CHRIS PHINNEY & CHARLES GOFF III: Maestros of the Magnetic Age 2 (CD on Harsh Reality Music)

This release from 2005 features 51 minutes of celestial tuneage.

On this disc, Phinney digitally manipulates and adds to music recorded by Goff back in the Eighties. This time, the music is more varied, taking a shriller posture and injecting a dash more melody to the drone.

The first track is brief. Its electronics are piercing and extremely spacey. Frequent radio samples float in the background.

During the second, much longer piece, effects tortured from a guitar provide a foreground melody, while a hoarse wind of synthetic generation worries the mix, causing the electronics to shudder and spin remarkably fast.

The third track is an epic 22 minutes long. Here, things step into gloomier mode. Dark tonalities hover like an impending storm. Treated voices whine in a melancholy manner, while effects dog the theme, ripping out chunks and entering the flow.

The fourth track is compressed in length to 6 minutes. In direct converse, the music adopts an elongated fashion stretching notes out into yearning streams of haunting resonance. Clumping beats and faint voices wander through the piece, while a guitar adds subliminal depth deep in the mix.

The CD ends with another short track, wherein the sounds display a nasty attitude as they clash and duel for supremacy.

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MENTAL ANGUISH: Open Loops Vol. 2 (CD on Harsh Reality Music)

This CD from 2005 features 71 minutes of industrial music stemming from online collaborations, with each band borrowing samples from each other and utilizing them according to their own idiosyncratic style.

Included here are tracks by:

Buzzsaw & the Shavings: who contribute three tracks of gritty rhythms and quirky electronics that cuts deep and leaves a permanent sonic scar.

Omnitechnomatrix: who contribute three beat-driven compositions that are dense with whirring effects and nimble-fingered chords.

Cystem: whose three tracks harness chaos with glib deftness, generating melodic tapestries of brutal impacts and liquid basslines.

Mental Anguish: whose pair of contributions combine delicate riffs with hyperactive velocity peppered with grinding effects and industrial electronics.

Q-Cut: whose single track introduces a slippery edge to the overall harsh milieu with distinctly dancefloor sensibilities.

Blind Meme Ensemble: who deliver one track whose approach tends to harness spastic delivery and create lavish surges of dreaminess to a gritty sound.

DJ Get Yo Fat On: whose single track applies growling punctuations to a searing foundation of nasty sounds.

Mystified: whose single contribution is an astral take on the industrial motif that delivers a softer edge with fragile riffs and sedately vibrating beats.

Besides being an excellent introduction to these various bands, this release has solid stand-on-its-own power. The tunes are captivating and thoroughly enjoyable if you're looking for music that spurns commercial intent and explores personal expressions of dynamic charm.

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MENTAL ANGUISH: Open Loops Vol. 3 (CD on Harsh Reality Music)

This CD from 2005 features 75 minutes of industrial music stemming from online collaborations, with each band borrowing samples from each other and utilizing them according to their own idiosyncratic style.

Included here are tracks by:

Mental Anguish: who contribute one track comprised of savage beats and fervent electronics.

Esu Kurasu: who offer three pieces that blend frenetic electronics with sampled vocal snippets and furious rhythms.

Mystified: whose single contribution provides a calming break in the overall fury with pensive tones and languid beats.Buzzsaw & the Shavings: whose pair of tracks mix metallic rhythms with wavery keyboards and a rising tide of anticipation.

Cystem: who deliver one track of glistening mien that combines steadfast beats with surging electronics.

DJ Get Yo Fat On: whose pair of contributions take different approaches, the first exploring numerous variations of an eerie theme with snappy percussives and novel electronic embellishments, while the second splices clever vocal snippets together with a plethora of unconventional instruments and injects a touch of dance fever to the strange mesh.

Dave Fuglewicz: whose single offering injects a sense of hesitancy to a dose of whirling effects and speed-altered sounds.

Omnitechnomatrix: whose single contribution steps up the pace with explosive electronic punctuations mired in a seething pool of glooping rhythms.

Climax Generator: whose sole track applied jungle sentiments to the savage beats and surging electronics.

DJ Mar "N" Dean: whose single contribution tempers the industrial motif with a sparkling touch of chittering effects.

Eel Eye: whose sole track combines a haunting undercurrent with jovial riffs and a hint of hip hop.

Again, a superb vehicle to learn the styles of several bands while enjoying a durable sampling of industrial music laced with pep and humor.

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DJ GET YO FAT ON: Fat Country (CD on Harsh Reality Music)

This release from 2005 features 36 minutes of peppy electronics with an industrial hip hop edge.

DJ Get Yo Fat On is Graham Phinney, the fifteen year old son of Chris from Mental Anguish. Apparently, the lad shares the father's fondness for piercing electronics coupled with frenetic rhythms and an overall sense of grating intensity.

These tunes are harsh, but they possess a frolicsome demeanor like pop on a diet of cheerful amphetamines. A profusion of samples are utilized, providing the tuneage with novel beats, fast-fingered basslines and even a dose of horns. Masterful electronics sweep through the pieces, accompanied by locomotive tempos and punctuated by bubbling diodes.

DJ Get Yo Fat On often applies his quirky sensibilities to conventional genres of music. There's a parody of death metal that will leave your stomach aching from laughter.

There's even a taste of psychedelic jazz with a looping bleating horn, meandering xylophone and a hesitant beat. A touch of humor shows through with the sampled voice of a teacher asking "Jimmy, can you give me a noun?"

The percussion is integral in this music, producing layers of complex rhythms that do more than motivate each tune, they mature into nests of hyperactive beat anthems for a mechanized age.

A sense of mirth is quite prominent in this music. DJ Get Yo Fat On has a twisted outlook on life, and it shows in these tracks even when there are no lyrics to provide the smirking irony.

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