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Fe-mail - Syklubb fra Haelvete

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Artist: Fe-mail

Album: Syklubb fra Haelvete

Label: Important

Review date: Jul. 4, 2004

Last year, a pink piece of vinyl sent a message to the noise community. In a limited edition of 500, it made a ripple, but quickly sold out before more had a chance to hear it. This year, Fe-mail’s debut record arrives again – on CD this time and with two additional tracks – as sexy, mischievous and terrifying as it was the first time.

On the cover of Syklubb fra Haelvete, Fe-mail stares out with alluring eyes. Their flirtatious gazes coupled with bright lipstick and a hot pink color scheme could pass for fashion photography. In contrast to the harsh, violent, or brooding imagery that often accompanies noise albums, their coy suggestion invites listeners to drop their guards.

Maja Ratkje and Hilde Sofie Tafjord improvise noise assaults with unlikely combinations of electronic bursts, vocal babble, and sampled sounds. Peeling harmonicas and piercing birdcalls peek above the rumbling distortion before being swallowed completely. Fully sliced and diced, these samples tear through the air and then vanish on a whim. Ratkje’s vocal sounds gurgle, flip, and sputter across the album, hinting at the startling vocal gymnastics she developed more thoroughly on Voice, her solo album from 2002.

Fe-mail also proves adept at quieter combinations. The seventh track, “Water Music,” builds a babbling brook of electronics as Ratkje and Tafjord get busy with vague chattering, deep throat urging, and tense breathing. A distant piano chimes a nostalgic melody. The walk in the park quickly disappears when “A Merry Day in the Woods” arrives with a shuddering boom and a subway disaster. The only appropriate ending? Applause. Nothing written indicates that “A Merry Day in the Woods” was recorded live, but authenticity is not the issue here. I clap along with the disembodied crowd.

Fe-mail excels with wonderful samples and Ratkje’s elastic voice. While a lineage from Whitehouse and Merzbow is obvious, this duo signals a confident and skillful – not to mention seductive – future for noise.

By Jeff Seelbach

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