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Napalmed – iii

Napalmed - iii

CD, Napalmed, 2008

Napalmed is both a label and an act at the heart of the Czech extreme noise scene. Theirs is a physical, visceral mode of production using various physical materials and playing with the “hands-on” templates developed by Test Dept., Neubauten or Les Tambours Du Bronx.
In the words of the charming press release this third album contains “No Music, No Silence, Nothing more than Pure Harsh Industry Impro Noise.” “The I-word” makes me instantly suspicious as it’s so often a cover for doctrinaire self-indulgence and sonic self-abuse, but fortunately the most obviously improvised moments don’t intrude too much (even if I’d prefer they weren’t present).
“iii” is a single, 80-minute track with a gradual, rattling opening comprised of Z’ev-style clattering percussion. Initially it seems more like the twitching aftermath of a napalm attack than the actual thing. For the first twenty minutes or so the ritualistic percussion creates a pagan atmosphere which gradually accumulates power (in this sense it’s closer to “Materia Prima”-era Test Dept. than their classic “metal-bashing” phase). Gradually distant blasts and what seem to be radio signals assume form and then dissolve again. At the end of this first main section the flow is broken up by random hammering, unidentifiable sounds and voices – luckily they eventually pull away from the improv vortex before disaster strikes.
Momentum returns from around 28 minutes as harsh details strive to cut through the dense sound field. At around 32 minutes there’s another slight deceleration, accompanied by raw bleeps, then a gradual acceleration. It reaches a peak around ten minutes later. The various elements coalesce into a very powerful immense mix of blasts, drones, on/off percussion and other tormented elements, some more identifiable than others.
By the 80-minute mark it’s a powerful experience, but brings with it the usual frustrations of single-track albums: artists who release these obviously want you to experience their work as single block yet make this very hard when they deliberately or accidentally include elements that disrupt or block the flow of the whole and leave you wanting to make your own edit. Nevertheless, this is a fascinatingly dense, volatile and unstable mass of sound full of fascinating detail that will probably sound different on each listening and on each system it’s played on.


— Alexei Monroe

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