On SNSE’s website, the label warns that Double Nature, due to its “extreme” characteristics, was turned down by three mastering engineers, each of whom feared for the functionality of their equipment. SNSE is also quick to disavow any responsibility on the part of the label or musician for damage to one’s speakers during the enjoyment of Mammal’s music, and there’s no sign that they’re anything less than serious. And while no audio components met their demise during the listening that preceded the composition of this review, Double Nature and Fog III do little to calm the fear that such a disaster could feasibly take place. Mammal’s music is as harsh as advertised, and these two discs exhibit this in fine form.
Fog III, originally released as a cassette in 2002 by Detroit's Animal Disguise, is the earlier of the two discs featured here, though the year that passed between the two albums seems to have witnessed little change in Mammal’s sound. Gary Mlitter, as he is known to the civilian world, specializes in brutal, primordial electronics, crushing distortion, and unsettling sonic environments. In a world of underground noise artists who make extreme sounds their forte, Mammal could just be the most grating of them all. Fog III’s 11 untitled tracks are punishing, cacophonous studies in primitive sound, but Mlitter’s music is far from a freeform exercise in sheer aural terror; each track rides a slow to mid-tempo beat, and the surrounding noises, no matter how savage seem to definitely follow a pattern that belies compositional intelligence on the part of their controller. Rhythmic undulations rise and decay, underlain by an ominous stew that both bubbles and boils. Heavy, pummeling locomotives of momentum come undone under their own weight and metamorphose into squealing, squirming tendrils of feedback that slowly fizzle into nothing. Effects warp and transform the music to create punishing, industrial psychedelics. The feeling of man warring against machine is almost palpable as Mlitter summons the ominous sounds from his equipment and subjects them to various forms of aural torture, though never fully abandoning the heavy beating of the tempo. Clocking in at over an hour, Fog III can be a test of any listener’s endurance, but the music itself is never a torment.
Even harsher still is Double Nature, recorded and released in 2003. Comprised of four tracks, three of which clock in at close to 10 minutes apiece, Double Nature offers even less time to catch one’s breath than Fog III. The four-minute “Anti Cloud” features one of Mlitter’s best beats and a flurry of electronics that scatter like snow around the rhythm. The album contains segments of high-pitched squeals, most likely the sounds that caused the problems with the mastering engineers, especially in the beginning of “Hide a Body,” in which static battles unsuccessfully with the piercing whine. Double Nature covers much of the same ground as Fog III, but with a slightly more eerie slant. Still present are the pounding rhythms, shrieking electronics, and amplified audio detritus, with extra servings of disembodied screams, and even more extreme dynamics. The longer track times allow for slower deconstruction and rebuilding of rhythms, as well as more time for Mammal’s music to get under the listener’s skin, the place where it sounds best. Choosing the better of the two CDs is a fairly fruitless task, as it’s best to let Mammal take the mind to more primal planes, where one can try to ride the music like a bucking bronco, and hold on for dear life.
By Adam Strohm