The great sonic wave is a 27 minute endurance test of thin textures and distant voices which swoop across the stereo field muttering to themselves. The minimal sleeve notes mention vocals and voiceFX, as well as ‘sounds sculpted and recorded’ which suggests field recordings and improvised screams and shouts manipulated in the studio. Parts of this recording, with its half-remembered screams and quiet noises sound like one imagines a next-door torture chamber to sound like; at other times we are force-marched along by a guttural sounding guard, with the voices of the dead surrounding us. But I am probably making this sound too exciting: this is thoughtless music going nowhere, with no sense of purpose or identity.
20.SV is one of the many projects of Osman Arabi, a guitarist/noisemaker/sound designer based in Lebanon who has explored different facets of experimental/noise/industrial music and released hours upon hours of music under different names and projects (Kafan, Seeker, Shamanic Death Trance, The Ritual Inclusion of Code, Veinen, Xardas ). His works don’t necessarily fall into one category or the other as his goal appears to be to remain, creatively speaking, constantly in flux and always experimenting. Which should really be the goal of every experimental musician, right? If you find a formula that works for you and then simply repeat it endlessly, where does the “experimental” aspect of your creative process go?
The Great Sonic Wave is a single-track CD which runs a little over twenty minutes in length, and is described as ‘featuring hundreds of micro-samples of the sound of iron and steel objects being cut, banged, scraped, slices, slammed; which have then been processed, cut, split and edited in multiple ways‘ to form this piece of what is essentially what I would call, despite maybe offending many, “industrial” music. It’s industrial in the sense that it sounds like a steelworks plant destroying itself.
It’s as if the works of Robert Rutman and his Steel Cello Ensemble and Z’ev’s percussive works were to be mixed together, layered, slowed down, then at times sped up, and then converted into a single piece. It’s brilliant.
On The Great Sonic Wave Osman chose to incorporate a single “human” sound and that is simply the voice of Alan Dubin (Gnaw, Khanate, Old) which adds another layer of textures via screams, whispers, grunts, and the sound of breathing. Dubin’s vocals inevitably make me draw a comparison to the work of Sunn O))), even more so given the Khanate connection which is also a project involving Stephen O’Malley. There are muffled high-pitched screams and the slithery “gollum-like” whispers which have become a staple in a lot of Black Metal music and that I fear are now on the verge of becoming a bit too overdone if that is not already the case…
As it progresses, The Great Sonic Wave increases in density, pulse and intensity, but its all tension throughout its duration. Heavy Metal Nightmare Music, indeed.
I’m not sure how much the vocals really add to this extended piece, I could probably even do without them. Then again, not being entirely familiar with a lot of Arabi’s work maybe adding the vocals was part of this need for constant experimentation and pushing of boundaries so for that alone I cannot fault him. The vocals are powerful and effective; I just don’t feel that they are essential here. This is an interesting sonic statement and I’m really looking forward to delving into Arabi’s extensive discography and see what I discover. The Great Sonic Wave is a great starting point.