Oversized yellowed card, stapled to hold an orange tape, make a medieval styled adornment for this split cassette. Helhesten are a UK trio that often include extra musicians from the UK/French improve scene. Darkness in Concrete is comprised of members from Chora, Helhesten and Part Wild Horses Mane On Both Sides and appear as an ephemeral collective.
Side A lets loose a trail led by Helhesten. This collective, comprising of members of other UK underground noise-makers Towering Breaker, offer some sublime improvising nestled on this single side. An orchestra, warming the cauldron, whilst whispers emerge to creak the eerie crevasses. The vocal hollering and chanting feels like Dredd Foole, simmered and reduced to a primal slime. Some gaping holes are peppered with wind and scrapes that traverse the sound-scape with impish menace. Things heat up to a chaos of fully explosive fire that invokes madmen and insects to dance a devilish jig. The raucous calamity sounds to big for the little orange cassette, spilling over with stringed drones that creep with horror soundtrack goodness. The percussion finds a pounding rhythm which then drifts amongst the debris after all settle for a little softer play. Then the softness becomes tidal peacefulness, a harbour of echoing nausea that sweeps with pleasant insanity. Things waver and build to an unexpected scene of psychedelic coral. There is a great joining of free-folk and fire music that elevates this act above the crowd. There is also some challenging moments that take all you might to digest, as one might do whilst cowering frightened to a Prurient record. Often the percussion notches into an intricate rhythm that rescues the din, and allows for an anchor of focus. This is a massive set, that one can return to again and again. Great stuff.
Side B is the home to Darkness in Concrete, whom fuses clarinet, flute and violin. The players interlock in improvised displays, that owe more to the avant-garde work of Varese than they do to the free jazz of these artists’ previous outings.
This unit bring together early 20th century avant-garde and deliver this movement with a lo-fi zeal that inspires grandeur from modest foundations. At times it feels like a dawn chorus, veering from over-excited twittering that leap like frightened sparrows under the menace of some large shadowed pray. The scaling of notes in small pockets of action reduces in intensity as the exploration thickens. Self reflective solo expeditions quiver with a disobedience that simmers with taught fervour as duets fleetingly find common ground.
Certain nods to Varese and Stockhausen are apparent alongside the more obvious jazz movements from Ayler to Doyle. The members are deeply rooted in the expanding UK/French improve scene that has recently blossomed through the Singing Knives label and outfits such as Chora and Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides. Take a trip in this glass elevator and enjoy the thrill of elevated transparency. 8/10 -- Peter Taylor (11 June, 2009)