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Appearing in the early 80's as an offshoot of the legendary UK power electronics band Whitehouse, Sutcliffe Jugend soon went to to become an equally confrontational and extreme purveyor of the early PE/industrial sound, producing some of the most abrasive and violent electronics albums ever with their early Come Organisation releases We Spit On Their Graves and Campaign . Since then, Sutcliffe Jugend has continued to pursue a unique sonic vision that combines transgressive subject matter and dark, cerebral musings on violence and sexual perversion with explorations into the use of brutal feedback and synthesizer damage. In the past decade, however, the band has delved into darker, more restrained (at least on a sonic level) sounds alongside their harsher work, and Blue Rabbit is the latest such offering, unfolding like a night-terror across the album's eight tracks. You won't find any of SJ's trademark power electronics sound here, nor the dark throbbing industrial of their recent album With Extreme Prejudice for Cold Spring Records; this is a darker, more unsettling experience, heavy with an atmosphere of doom and smoldering violence, as if Sutcliffe Jugend sought to channel the creaking dread of Nurse With Wound's Salt Marie Celeste through a series if blood-freezing psychosexual nightmares.
The first song "Solace" begins with washes of black tidal drift and eerie creaking sounds, wheezing string-like drones, the scrape of bones against the rusted strings of a cello, brief flashes of piano, and strange low-frequency muttering, snatches of melody drift in and out of clarity, while a male voice murmurs just below the surface of this seasick soundscape. The vocals never break into the kind of high, manic screaming that you'd hear on previous SJ albums, instead appearing as a malevolent presence, a depraved narrator lurking in the dark corners of Blue Rabbit. The album creeps through ever more disturbing scenes, from the sparse electro-acoustic collage of percussive noises, asthmatic scraping strings and reedy feedback tones that make up "Seed", a collage of warbly electronic tones, the thump of an oil tank, evil whispers guiding the listener through these aural hallucinations, the track eventually resembling some nightmare free-improv session.
Then there is "The Bad Mannered Prophet", an almost orchestral dark ambient epic unlike anything that I have ever heard from Sutcliffe Jugend, magisterial and haunting, a stirring dark melody and sounds of distant chanting looping repeatedly beneath a creaking, crashing oceanic soundscape. And the rest of the album drifts further through these realms of bad-dream ambience, strange somnambulant improv and the sounds of organ, murmuring voices, mewling cries, jazzy bass frozen into a glacial drip, minimalist drones that waver and fade against the darkness, the slow scrape of the bow across strings processed into buzzing, wasp-like tones, clouds of billowing melodious keyboard, the songs at times resembling the din of a house of clocks gone haywire, finally culminating in the frenzied depravity of "The Death Of Pornography".
For fans of the band that are primarily familiar with their harsher output on Come Org and Cold Spring, this is a revelation; a seething quasi-ambient nightmare that lingers with the listener, enhanced in it's creep factor by the unsettling paintings from Sutcliffe Jugend's Kevin Tomkins that make up the album art. Comes in a full-color digipack.