x-ray five: Jute Gyte - The Sparrow EP


Clear one-sided 12" vinyl screenprinted with ‘moth’ artwork + bonus download track

The post-genre sounds Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records has mined and curated over the past couple of years might not immediately code as metal, but as early as our home-dubbed tape days we were exploring death metal’s potential as vocal-only music with blue ten: EyeSea.

Jute Gyte is unambiguously metal music and I genuinely believe that Adam Kalmbach, the sole musician and producer behind the project, is the most important musician in metal since Death’s Chuck Schuldiner, himself the most important metal musician since Tony Iommi, the man whose fingers created metal.

As a teenager into the Mortal Kombat soundtrack and Nine Inch Nails, Adam learnt metal guitar. Later, he studied composition at university, and had his brain nuked by early and baroque music, serialism and Sibelius, and the universes of potentials opening like wormholes in his head created Jute Gyte.

Jute Gyte applies microtonality and modernist compositional approaches to black metal. This isn’t in itself what makes Jute Gyte’s music great, though it does explode an increasingly conservative musical tradition out into something new, that no one has heard before. New sounds and new feelings.

This is not dry, academic music. It is scientific, exploratory, but as physical as the most brutal splatters of 1991-era death metal (which - despite using gore as a convenient if slightly-knuckleheaded shorthand for the abstract, lurching new riff forms of the genre - had a transdimensional element even then).

Jute Gyte’s orchestra of microtonal guitars sounds as though it is vomiting blackholes. But maybe what initially scans as occult horror in Jute Gyte’s music is just seasickness caused by the unfamiliarity of this new terrain.

“I understand how stuff I've done sounds ugly to people,” Adam concedes, “but it doesn't sound ugly to me. Or, it doesn't sound exclusively ugly. It's just a different kind of language. If you haven't internalised that language, then you're going to hear a lot of things that sound like 'wrong' notes. I hear little musical jokes, I hear happy parts and sad parts, and I hear a lot of parts that don't seem to have any emotive content at all. It's not just uniformly ugly, just as Schoenberg's work is not intended to be uniformly ugly.”

For x-ray five, Adam has crafted two side-long pieces. The first of these, The Sparrow, is a kind of modernist black metal symphony that might share some signifiers with the despair-loaded blizzard hymns familiar to fans of Norwegian BM. But those beautiful flocks of guitars - sometimes they sound like they’re hovering, or scrolling back and forth, rather than ‘riffing’. A dazzling murmuration.

And it wasn’t some grimoire that provided the lyrical inspiration for the piece, but Stoner author John Edward Williams’ 1965 poetry collection, The Necessary Lie.

The second piece, Monadanom, is from a suite of ambient microtonal guitar pieces that Adam began developing for us in early 2014. It is oceanic, not in the usual new age-y sense most often applied to ambient music, but in that it is raging with life and detail; unfathomable.

Self-released Jute Gyte albums like Perdurance, Ship of Theseus and Ressentiment are acknowledged as modern classics not only of metal or experimental music, but of any genre.

Adam doesn’t self-promote or use social media, play live or collaborate with other artists, but a fiercely loyal fanbase has already swarmed around him. This is his first full release with a label and I consider it to be one of the most important releases for Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records.

This is a metal record, but for me, it makes total sense that Jute Gyte would be on the same label as Katie Gately and Tashi Dorji, rather than Roadrunner or even Relapse. These humans are his peers - artists who are changing people’s perceptions of the possibilities of modern music at a cellular level.

Adam Kalmbach is influenced by Harry Partch, Xenakis, Penderecki, Gloria Coates, Mahler and Brahms; he regards Jute Gyte as belonging to a continuum of ‘late Romantic’ music.

Jute Gyte will appeal to any fans of Stockhausen, Morbid Angel, Sonic Youth, Gojira, Autechre, Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Slayer, Tim Hecker, Daniel Lopatin, Khanate, Ulver, Anaal Nathrakh, Liturgy, Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson or Godflesh.

A few words from John Doran, editor of The Quietus:

"A house sparrow beats its elliptical wings up to fifteen times per second. This may seem paltry compared to the ruby-throated hummingbird which can flap 200 times per second but it simply isn’t. The beats are just slow enough for us to be able to discern the highly focussed power of passer domesticus - the most widespread wild bird in the world. No floating gracefully by on an invisible blur of feathers for the common sparrow just the powerful little upstroke, the powerful little downstroke and all of the other (half and quarter) positions that join them. One sparrow takes wing; then another; then another. Common, ungainly birds? Spiteful little pests? Not a bit of it. If you spent your life watching them perhaps you could frame the astonishing lattice of a meinie of these tiny creatures. Perhaps you could figure the calculus of a tribe of sparrows taking flight. A host that breaks apart on the ground and reassembles on the wing.

"The music of Jute Gyte, made by the visionary musician Adam Kalmbach, makes me feel sick. I hope there has been a distant civilisation somewhere along the way who have paid emetic tribute to their most revered cultural producers, as I do mean this as the highest of compliments to the chef. Because while the harsh, fiercely avant garde, black metal of microtonal progressions and complex time signatures he produces does genuinely make me feel quite queasy, I’d like to think any genuine regurgitation suffered by me would be the kind that precedes the ayahuasca vision or the state of satori triggered by a pure dose of MDMA. The churning thunder of albums such as Ship Of Theseus and Perdurance - and now this genuinely awesome 12”, The Sparrow, on X-Ray Records - is equally matched by a nagging aesthetic of pessimism. While this may well by umami to a depressive realist’s palate, as with The Silence Of Animals by John Gray, this music contains the very real possibility of transcendence. (This being the rare transformative state often promised by modern black metal, yet the most conspicuous by its absence.)

"There is a bird sanctuary on the West Lancashire Coastal Plain, near Burscough, called Martin Mere. In the foyer of the visitor centre there is a charity coin spinner, a large money collection device, sometimes also known as a coin vortex donation box. The device is essentially a large, smooth, downward-curving funnel, protected by a semi-spherical clear plastic dome. There is a slot into which you press a coin. Now sometimes, but not often, the coins don’t take and they slide, flat side down straight into the funnel and immediately out of sight into the collection box. Mostly however they circle. This happens slowly at first; a large graceful loop of the shallower edge of the funnel but because of gravity they never make a complete circumference, instead they always travel in a concentric circle, down the funnel, picking up speed as the spiral shrinks inwards. Each pass round the funnel becomes shorter and shorter until it essentially becomes a tube, round which the coin travels horizontally at great speed. It moves so quickly it is hard to tell what is happening.

"Whump, whump, whump, whump. The coin becomes more absence than presence. And then, just for a fraction of a second before disappearing into the dark for good, the coin is no longer touching the funnel wall.

"And at that moment, there is take-off. "

Praise for x-ray five:

"The two tracks that comprise Jute Gyte's first vinyl release are fearsome in ambition and uncompromising in their delivery... The Sparrow winds up far outside of conventional black metal paradigms. But Kalmbach is too accomplished and too exacting to be considered an outsider, and this feels like a challenge to genre orthodoxy, a set of possibilities for those who dare follow." - The Wire

"Artists like Jute Gyte are pushing the boundaries of what metal means and sounds like in 2017." - Broken Amp

"Musically The Sparrow sounds like someone trying to drill through the twelve-foot thick, concrete wall that surrounds a nuclear reactor whilst listening to Slayer on a speaker large enough to affect the gravitational power of the moon." - Collective Zine

"Jute Gyte’s The Sparrow threatens to consume all in its path. Unrelentingly brutal the experimentation of the sound is profound with a wall of sound approach that feels akin to Glenn Branca’s approach to rock given a metallic tinge." -Beach Sloth

"By limiting himself to a distinct set of rules, Kalmbach taps into a creative environment within which he can flourish; “The Sparrow” is perhaps the most unassailable and confounding black metal song in Jute Gyte’s arsenal. Yet, the premise is simple. The heart of this song is a single, pulsing drone, and upon this singular thread all other instrumentation and vocalization hangs. Those other eight tones cluster and explode and sizzle and whisper throughout the track to drive us mad, but the central drone is maintained, pressing forward like some obscene obsidian pillar into the heart of conventionality." - Toilet ov Hell

"The titular first track whirs and flits with a speedy, anxious energy true to its namesake; “The Sparrow” maintains a steady, rigorous clip across twenty minutes that throw the listener into a war of attrition against the whirlpool tide of microtones and harsh vocals. As soon as “The Sparrow” ends, leaving listeners stung and in dire need of reprieve, “Monadanom,” the second half of the record, throws its calming, sonorous weight onto the listener like a thick, fluid quilt. However, what starts as refreshing and peaceful gradually becomes more viscous and cloying as the track goes on, and “Monadanom” builds a life entirely its own out of the series of vignettes it presents." Heavy Blog is Heavy