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Syphilis Sauna – From Initial Infection to Eventual Deterioration

Syphilis Sauna - From Initial Infection to Eventual Deterioration

CD-R, Sycophanticide, 2006

I first came across this guy, Patrick Urn, on last year’s “Electric Shepherd” tribute to P. K. Dick, where his track was one of the strangest and most memorable. After that, this handmade anthology of fourteen stolen and contaminated artifacts doesn’t disappoint. Glitchy yet melodic, quirky yet comprehensible, Urn works with samples and various pieces of analogue and digital equipment, many of which he’s modified himself. The resulting pieces collectively seem too nice to be noise, too energetic to be ambient and too personal to be electronica, while touching on all of these genres.
A look at Syphilis Sauna’s influences, from Coil and Nurse With Wound to Public Enemy via Autechre, is enlightening, and the tracks range from the jagged and brutal (“Subject A”) to the blissful (“Orange Mitten”). One particular highlight is “2 Cultures (1 Slide)”, supposedly exploring the relationship between electronica and tribal musics, but – at least in its first half – sounding strangely European thanks to an accordion loop (or something very much like one). This human element is echoed by the processed, layered pianos in “There Inside (inquiry)”. “Trouble with the Mammals”, a god’s-eye view of humanity, is suitably ominous and monolithic, and its bass-heavy sound is revisited in “Hhallway” and “A-pathetic people”.
After reading the liner notes, however, the track I was most looking forward to was “GRK (a letter to the blood)”, the artist’s reaction to the news that his long-lost biological mother had been found. It’s unusual for an electronic musician to explicitly deal with a subject like this, and Urn’s treatment, near the end of the album, is certainly worth the wait. Skilfully hinting at cloying sentimentality with the warm ambient harmonics of the opening strains, it gradually becomes a glitchy brainscape of confusion and mixed feelings before exploding into a fuck-you of pent-up noise. Nicely done.


— Andrew Clegg

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