Anyone thinking that electronica reached the raw and harsh with the advent of Skinny Puppy, noise (or, puleez, Prodigy) need only check out those early Whitehouse records. That 80s UK band, along with NON, set a standard from dark, menacing electronic music that really hasn’t been matched. Whitehouse alums Sutcliffe Jugend are still kicking it, and hasn’t lost its edge or taste for the distasteful. If “Blue Rabbit” sounds less outrageous than we are perhaps used to hearing from these artists, attribute it to familiarity what has come along as a result of their early output, not to any mellowing.
The dank and ironically titled opener, “Solace,” swirls in ambient drone with a creaking, metallic underbelly, like instruments of torture being rustled in an abandoned building. The minimal fits and starts of “Seedless” give off a Tom Waits rehearsal in hell. These are followed by the eleven minute grinding sputter of “The Bad Mannered Prophet”, which could have been subtitled “I Was Eraserhead When Eraserhead Wasn’t Cool.” While some tracks, especially the title track and “The Good child” are straightforward ambient tunes, there are other gems. Perversely, the woodwinds and spoken word on “Feeding the Mouth That Bites You” creates an evil space jazz that should not work but does; in lesser hands this could have been a lame pseudo-poetic farce. Here it is a minor ambient horror masterpiece.
Jugend was born to record a song titled “Offal,” and this builds off of Prophet and is, if anything, greasier. The closer, “The Death of Pornography,” flirts with some of the more abrasive sounds on the record, but here the earlier experiments find their dead end. This feels more like a space opera; whereas there was a dark cinematic grace in other songs, here it seems like it is a given that this will work as well, and it doesn’t. Aside from a muted tone that repeats at intervals to disturbing effects, this is telegraphed where other songs were maybe as confident but more defiantly so.
While more deceptively laconic than what we are used to from them, “Blue Rabbit” is every bit as creepy and cruel as any Sutcliffe Jugend record. If anything, the muted pulses are even more subversive. This is a night music is many senses of the term.