Review: Russell Haswell - FACTUAL

It barely warrants explicit clarification that a track name of “BLACK METAL INSTRUMEMTAL INTRO DEMO” reeks of the working title – something impulsively scribbled down in the moment that screams the eventual need for revision and change, reducing to its most prominent traits as a means of temporary identification. But it’s beautifully appropriate for Russell’s way of working, with FACTUAL continuing his process of one-take synthesiser workouts from both digital and analogue modular sources. His sound is invigorated with a sense of present tense, as if materialising in the listener’s ears out of nothing at the very moment of perception – the sound moves in flashes of muscular reflex and the convulsion of limbs, bringing the body of the maker very much into the perceptual frame.

FACTUAL feeds a variety of sources through Russell’s explosive and bodily occupation of the now. The aforementioned “BLACK METAL INSTRUMENTAL…” harks backs to his early initiation into one-man black metal projects through various European live shows, breaking down a lo-fi drum machine into guttural rips of kick drum and occasional snare patter. A dirty buzz enters to smother the percussion, thus bringing Russell’s warped black metal solo set into being, and ultimately amounting to a particularly grimy Xasthur track fed through a rusty gauze of electronics.

Elsewhere, “KILLER SNAKEHEAD” and “RAVE NIHILATION” explore the “logical interplay” between techno and Japanoise (the former as throbs of low frequency and a stuttering high hat tick beneath relentless noise loop, the latter as an obliterated techno bassline that unwinds ribbon-like through a cascade of seemingly random notes) while a swift live cut takes the album to a close. While I initially expected something swiped clincally from the mixing desk to slot in with the dry immediacy of the other five tracks, “SHEFFIELD” surprisingly arrives moist with venue acoustics, nestling itself in one corner of the room and reflecting brightly into the remaining open space. A mix of woops and applause takes the album to its conclusion and the sudden presence of an organic sound is stark, with humanity manifesting as the percussion of the flesh rather than forming by immediate extension via an array of cranked synthesiser dials and switches.