Sluice Room’s self-titled debut is an unusual and rewarding listen. Released by Sink Slop Processing, a label based in Seattle, Washington, the first thing one notices about the CD is the unusual packaging with a detachable plastic braille insert, which is a first for me and likely many others. Clearly, if the creations on the CD itself fall flat, any manner of unusual packaging is doomed to seem gimmicky. Thankfully, this release avoids this pitfall.
Not personally being able to read braille, a unique-sounding brand of intense though vague noise is the order of the day. As someone who has worked in hospitals, a sluice room is generally not a place you want to spend too much time in. It either smells heavily of chemicals or a variety of unpleasant odors: steel surfaces, old soiled linen, and deep industrial-style sinks. Track names like ‘Sentience is Sadism’ and ‘Crowd Crush’ give an idea of the psychology underlying the project. Sometimes harsh noise artists heavily lean on image (not that that’s particularly a problem), but the minimalist sleeve (including the braille) puts the focus on the sound they create over the course of five tracks. The music is intense and jarring but not overly bleak.
Sluice Room’s vocals feature heavily throughout and a throbbing, looping wall of noise is created and maintained over the course of the album with plenty of sonic variation that sounds too considered to have been fully improvised. Listening on headphones reveals a thoughtful and well-crafted sonic palate with a relative paucity of low-end and plenty of reverb. Sometimes this type of music is best kept on headphones but, on speakers, different qualities in the music are revealed, especially when played loud. It’s not something to play at a house party (unless you run in some very pretentious circles), but I do recommend listening to this on a pair of decent speakers if you can.
Of the five tracks, the third, ‘Self-Deliverance’, is a standout. The unusual lead synth seems out-of-place yet adds great texture to the sound and successfully divides the album in two. It doesn’t feel over-indulgent and is self-assured for a debut. I was pleased to find out that Sluice Room have had two subsequent releases since the release of this debut, both again appearing on Sink Slop Processing, and I’ll certainly be checking them out.
Well, this is one of the more curious items in my collection of harsh noise... If I hadn't found it in the "Experimental" section of the indie record store near me, I would have thought it was some kind of instructional CD for the blind. The undulating, loop-based pulverizing seems to owe more to the western tradition of noise (NON, SPK, even elements of early Swans & power electronics) than to the washes of white-noise and staccato punctuation of Japanese noise, though there are elements of that here as well. Very little info, and a whole lot of brutality. Interesting, if somewhat baffling...