Jute Gyte

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Old Ways (2009), 5/10
Verstiegenheit (2011), 5/10
Discontinuities (2013), 6.5/10
Vast Chains (2014), 5.5/10
Ressentiment (2014), 7/10
Ship Of Theseus (2015), 6/10
Dialectics (2015), 6.5/10
Perdurance (2016), 6/10
Oviri (2017), 6.5/10
The Sparrow (2017), 6.5/10 (EP)
Penetralia (2018), 5/10
Birefringence (2019), 4.5/10
Respice Finem (2020), 4/10
Mitrealitat (2021), 5/10
Diapason (2021), 4/10
Unus Mundus Patet (2023), 4.5/10
Eclose (2023), 6/10
Krun Macula (2023), 5/10

Jute Gyte, the solo project of Missouri-based Adam Kalmbach, released a ridiculous amount of music. As is always the case with these self-appointed Mozarts, most of his music was disposable; which is regrettable because his career as a whole (especially after 2014) contain at least 40 minutes that could have made a masterpiece.

He began with trivial bedroom albums such as Apidya (2006), Arakan (Jeshimoth, 2007), and Thanatron (2008).

His first black metal album was Old Ways (Jeshimoth, 2009), a relentless parade of trivial walls of noise with shrieks, such as the seven-minute opener Waves and the ten-minute Peace (mildly more interesting). The 18-minute Death and the ten-minute Round are mostly examples of pointless exuberance and extravagance. One wishes that Death had been pruned down to only the last (desperate) five minutes.

This was followed by Subcon (2009), Young Eagle (Jeshimoth, 2010), Ghost Sickness (2010), Ritenour's Earth (2010), Communicants (2011), and Verstiegenheit (2011), which features the eleven-minutes Apparition In The Woodlands At Dusk, a piece with occasional moments of piece. All the pieces, including this one, are good examples of how shrieks that are meant to be terrifying can turn out to sound comically childish.

At the same time he released: Wounded Snake (2011), Faunscan (2011), videogame noises Impermanence (2011), Andreyev's "Lazarus" (2012), Volplane (2012), Isolation (2012), Witzelsucht (2012), Senescence (2012), Noctis Labyrinthus (2013), and Metonym (2013). The guitar playing was consistenly substandard throughout these recordings. Each album contains a few minutes of interesting sounds amid tens of minutes of tedious repetition of cliches.

Discontinuities (2013), which contains six pieces over eight minutes long, was his first album of microtonal guitar. He started playing a 24-note per octave custom guitar and resurrected his career. For example, the drumming in the eight-minute Supreme Fictions And The Absolute Fake is less epileptic and the snarls have acquired a less childish tone but the real change is in the anthemic riffs of the guitar. The microtonal approach brings out similarities with Glenn Branca's guitar symphonies and therefore with early Sonic Youth. None of the lengthy compositions is an indisputed success but there are bits and pieces of clever arrangement. The nine-minute Night Is The Collaborator Of Torturers, perhaps the most unnerving, begins calm and dissonant and therefore the effect is even more powerful when the music explodes with pounding drums, and then the break with manic drumming and manic strumming is no less disturbing. The eleven-minute The Failure Of Transmutation achieves the most psychological impact: desolate, disorienting and painful. The ten-minute The Haunting Sense Of An Unrepeatable Unidirectional Vector builds up monster intensity, and the nine-minute Romanticism Is Ultimately Fatal lives up to his epileptic fame. Best is probably the nine-minute Acedia, trapped into a martial dissonant rhythm and flirting with Arto Lindsay's atonal albums.

Vast Chains (2014) sounds a lot more trivial. The slow nine-minute Semen Dried Into The Silence Of Rock And Mineral and the frantic eight-minute Endless Moths Swarming sound like complementary songs, but the simplistic guitar phrases make both sound similar, just at different speed. The eight-minute The Inexpressible Loneliness Of Thinking has moments of real suspense during which the music is severely impaired. The ten-minute Flux And Permanence spends a lot of time simply accelerating the riff and the drumming. For a few minutes, the nine-minute Refusing A Heavenly Mansion sounds like a carbon copy, but then one begins noticing that the voice has a different tone, a cartoonish ghostly tone, and the ending is certainly devastating, like an old Sonic Youth record played ten times faster. The 13-minute The Fire Of This conducts its jarring and dissonant business mostly at limping tempos, and here the screams finally make sense (perhaps for the first time in his career). The thing that is indeed brutal and terrifying about most of these songs is that they go on for such a long time. Throughout the proceedings, it sounds like a number of different guitars have been layered on top of each other for maximum audio impact. One guitar with a few good ideas would have been preferrable.

Ressentiment (2014), instead, contains the highest density of experiments, and almost justifies the length of the compositions. Less than two minutes into the nine-minute Mansions Of Fear Mansions Of Pain one guitar intones a raunchy hard-rock riff while the other indulges in an atonal elegy. The piece is surprise-filled and by the fifth minute it has become a chamber concerto for multiple guitars with no drums, expect that one minute later it is pounding and lacerating with no mercy. The ten-minute Oh Soft Embalmer of the Still Midnight boasts grating noises mixed with syncopated guitar riffs at a slow pace (a welcome relief). The ten-minute The Central Fires Of Secret Memory alternates agonizing and visceral moments and boasts a clean guitar break. The eight-minute Like The Deepening Of Frost In The Slow Night is varied enough to sound almost melodic, while the ten-minute The Grey King thrives in contradictory attitudes: subhuman strumming, horror panzer riff, atonal passages, all thrown at each other in a disorderly manner. Of course, the limit of Jute Gyte is that the trick is always the same: break the monotony of mindless banging and riffing with some dissonant guitar phrases. Each time the trick employs a slightly different technique, but that hardly qualifies as "variety".

Ship Of Theseus (2015) is neither as radical nor as varied as Ressentiment, although one can feel the effort made by the songwriter to attain composer status. For example, the nine-minute Lugubrious Games seem to incorporate all possible kind of breaks so far utilized by Jute Gyte (needless to say, the result is a mess). On the other hand, it takes seven minutes for the twelve-minute Pain And Wrath Are The Singers to do something that can capture our attention (a oneiric harp-like break) The album seems to presuppose the acceptance of a covenant the the composer: one is supposed to digest all the guitar and vocal noise waiting religiously for the break that will hopefully present something different. The eight-minute melodramatic Ship Of Theseus even indulges in a few of barely-audible musique concrete before resigning itelf to a slow, unglorious death. The promise is fulfilled in in the nine-minute Grief Of New Desire, notable for darkly atmospheric breaks that run the gamut from King Crimson-ian pomp to Black Sabbath-ian doom, from shrill cacophony to utter silence, and especially in the nine-minute Machinery That Renders Debt Infinite, notable for (finally) original unruly rhythms that multiply the impact of the guitars.

However, Jute Gyte was about to change direction again: metal guitars were out, and ambient drones were in. Dialectics (2015) introduced significant doses of electronic sounds. Delimit is all about the subliminal discomfort created by cryptic percussion and distant drones. Apophrades fuses the two in a more vivid manner: irregular industrial polyrhythms and a languid cosmic drone. Fallow is "industrial" in a slightly more psychotic manner. Kalmbach may or may have not heard Brian Eno's impressionistic vignettes of 40 years earlier, which appear to be the progenitors of the ghostly electronic wind of Heautoscopy and of the mysterious drone of Reduviidae, or the dark ambient music of the 1980s (Throbbing Gristle, Lustmord) that seems reflected in Obepsm and especially Dialectics, the standout track. Less accomplished is Rebind, a childish, videogame-like experiment with drum-machines. Kalmbach still hasn't learned to edit his compositions, but it is a good sign that (for the first time in many releases) none of these pieces lasts nine minutes. Give him another ten years and he'll come up with industrial-metal a` la Blut Aus Nord circa 2006.

The by-product of that album was the more sophisticated arrangements of Perdurance (2016), in particular more complex rhythmic and sampling techniques. While returning to his original black-metal vice, the album's breaks display all the science learned with Dialectics. The usual whipping atonal guitar is rudely interrupted by all sorts of electronic detours in the eleven-minute At The Limit Of Fertile Land and in the eleven-minute i>The Harvesting Of Ruins. The more catastrophic nine-minute Like The Woodcutter Sawing His Hands pays a particular high price: it sounds like a whole population infected by a terrible disease, and it doesn't seem to have the energy to recover. The resurrection takes place in the the eight-minute Palimpsest, that sounds appropriately quite vengeful, with a zombie-like dissonant finale. The ten-minute Consciousness Is Nature’s Nightmare stands out mostly for the apocalyptic finale. The problem remains the same of all pre-Dialectics albums: it is quite annoying to have to listen to long minutes of tedious banging, screaming and distorting in order to enjoy those two or three minutes of creative break. The twelve-minute I Am In Athens And Pericles Is Young is the rare case in which almost the entire piece deserves notice because it jumps all over the spectrum (from Dialectics-style impressionism to Ressentiment-style expressionism) without sacrificing too much of its coherence.

The sprawling, 75-minute Oviri (2017) further diluted the ideas of Dialectics, instead preferring to increase the level of dissonance from Perdurance. The album also further extended the duration of the songs: six songs for an average twelve minutes each. They are so long that sometimes they feel like multi-part suites. The eleven-minute Democritus Laughing has a final section that is a crescendo from quasi-silence to loud, solemn metal. The 13-minute Mice Eating Gold opens with strident limping and stops after six minutes for a vocoder-distorted prayer, and in between it channels blind fury. The start-and-stop-and-resume tactic reaches delirious heights in the 15-minute Fauna Of Mirrors, the black-metal equivalent of a field of landmines: tricks and barely-sketched ideas pile up one after the other, periodically swept aside by black-metal riffs and drumbeats. For about eight minutes, the 16-minute The Norms That Author The Self Render The Self Substitutable is its ferocious counterpart, an avalanche of brutal sounds that shift and leap, but remain true to the overall shock strategy; then we are treated to eight pointless minutes of digital doodling. Had he edited the album down to 40 minutes, this would have been his best yet.

Having perfected this kind of theatrical black-metal melodrama, Jute Gyte applied it to even longer compositions on the EP The Sparrow (2017): the brutal 20-minute The Sparrow, that closes with one of the noisiest effects of his career, and the relatively calm, electronic, 17-minute Monadanom, which, by comparison, sounds like a symphonic requiem.

The 20-minute piece of the EP Helian (2018) begins dense and atonal, but then loses steam and sinks into anemic aimless and mildly melodic plodding.

Penetralia (2018) was the follow-up to Dialectics, a new album of electronic, dark ambient and industrial music, and a gigantic one: 17 lengthy tracks for a total of almost four hours. The first problem is that the quality does not justify the quantity, but that is a chronic problem. The second problem is that precious little here sounds new. Agowenijeng (16:07) comes as close as possible to Brian Eno's original ambient music. Snow Turned to Rain (10:43) and Haumea (10:57) could be experiments of early computer music in the 1950s. Another Pioneer (12:36) is a simplistic collage of manipulated voices of the kind that were popular in the 1960s. The Cave Is Empty (29:12) evokes Robert Rich's electronic poems of the 1980s. An industrial-grade polyrhtyhm finally surfaces in Eye Myth (16:00), but that's all for 16 minutes. Operation Flip-Back (9:52) harkens back to sci-fi movies of the 1950s. Forced Entropy (10:02) could be one of Constance Demby's new-age pieces inspired to classical music. Some are so trivial that a simple computer algorithm could easily generate them. The playful Red Gaze (12:49) is at least original, and so is the festidious evil hissing of Orcus (11:21). Even more interesting is We Are Making a New World (13:26), a kinetic collage which deservedly joins the ranks of contemporary musique concrete. The colossal Slow Fire (30:40) begins promising with muffled cosmic drones, but one waits in vain for something to happen in the next 30 minutes. At best we get an old-fashioned and stereotypical choir. Adam Kalmbach enjoyed the privilege of reinventing the wheel without his listeners knowing it, because most of his listeners were fluent in metal, not in ambient. Amateur's night.

Birefringence (Jeshimoth Entertainment, 2019) is half ambient (notably The Foam That Flows From the Mouths of Wild Boars) and half metal bedlam (best Angelus Novus).

Kalmbach continued to indulge in droning new-age pieces such as the 87-minute piece of Respice Finem (2020), reminiscent of Robert Rich's "sleep concerts", or the 143-minute piece of Diapason (2021).

Returning to his avant-metal, Mitrealitat (2021) tested the patience of the listener with its abuse of atonality and microtonality, and with a closing ten-minute piano sonata. Nonetheless, the 16-minute The Griding Sword With Discontinuous Wound is a good summary of his convoluted strategy. The third piece (titled in ancient Greek) is an electronic composition that evokes a mechanical organism in interstellar space. The 18-minute Mitrealitat is a sparse soundscape of metal eruptions and electronic ambience, a fusion of the two sides of Kalmbach's career. Unfortunately his avant-metal ambitions are not correlated to his talent.

Unus Mundus Patet (2023) collects brainy black-metal songs composed between 2017 and 2023, such as the catastrophic Disinterment of Sfanomoe and the wildly dissonant and disordered Only Castles Burning, but also some pointless extended banging (like in Fausta in the Third Heaven), the slower and monotonous Philoctetes and 14 minutes of frantic strumming (Hesperus Is Phosphorus).

Eclose (2023) contains ten abstract electronic vignettes, possibly his best electronic work yet. The closing ten-minute Littoral Series is an evocative piece of musique concrete. Compositions such as Diobsud achieve a psychological depth (not to mention a sublety) that was missing from both his droning music and his psychotic metal. Krun Macula (2023) delivers ten more ambient pieces, notably the nine-minute Nessus.

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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