Forming the Federal Prisoner imprint with Greg Puciato, Jesse Draxler is known primarily for his work in visual collage and photography. With Reigning Cement, he presents an audiovisual document of the industrial decay surrounding the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, with the album’s 22 tracks serving as the sonic accompaniment to the book. As such, it is difficult to assess the quality of such a compilation in the absence of its visual component, the sounds and images serving to immerse the spectator in a world of twisted metal, shattered glass, and eroded concrete; nevertheless, the album fulfills this requirement well enough on its own.
From the propulsive metallic percussion and sustained howls of electronic noise in tracks like Intensive Care’s “Cordite,” Planet B’s “Intimate Terrorism,” Surachai’s “Unrelenting Reign,” or Eric Ghoste’s “Rubble” to the more structured and rhythmically engaging proto-techno of “Impossible Cycle” by Reeko or Uniform’s “Catholic Town,” the sound of Reigning Cement is true to its title, the record’s aural abrasions recalling much of the industrial genre’s first wave acts like SPK and Einstürzende Neubauten. And then there are the more vocally arresting moments like the opening “Valerian” by Chelsea Wolfe and Ben Chisholm, her ghostly voice resonating and echoing above crashing waves of dissonant noise, the sweetly saccharine melody at once disquieting and enticing. The same can be said of the harmonious and emotive “Plastic Fruit” by O Future, or the Nick Cave-esque solemnity of Jaye Jayle’s “I Saw You Digging,” but it is Greg Puciato’s “Everyone Dies and Nothing Goes On” that truly stands out on the record as it begins with a barrage of noise, the vocals screaming and distorted to a crescendo of glitchy hardcore and harmony… the audient miasma dissipates to a haunting ascending arpeggio as twinkling synth tones and Puciato’s pitch-manipulated voice delivers a lush melody that makes for a truly dreamy if disconcerting song.
As stated, the full effect can only be felt with the accompanying book, but with the entire concept based on creating beauty out of ugliness, Reigning Cement is sure to appease audiences who prefer the noisier and more experimental brand of industrial that hearken back to the genre’s beginnings.