Prol – the new release by Berlin based outlier and producer Hannah S. aka Omen – is a work of scathing and crooked degeneration that hurls together battered late capitalist synth pop, defective cassette dub, combative scraps of industrial noise and traces of deliriously unsound vocal R&B.
Through the means of subverted presets and samples, half broken sound toys, stylophones and liberally calibrated effects pedals, Hannah creates a splintered and skewed perspective across twelve tracks that contend with ill-fated relationships, narcissism, hedonism, admiration, repulsion and all the other usual - and unusual - consequences of shared experience under untrammelled capital.
Intermittently written and recorded between 2015 and 2019 across Berlin, Australia & Peru, Prol transmits a sharply delivered sense of fracture and disorientation that is at once caustic, languorous and euphoric. Electronics trail off down perverse paths, snarling dissonances and scorching in-the-red tremors of low end burst at the seams, vocals are caught between sour, satirical disaffection and astute, fervent appreciation. The results are myriad, disorderly, not easily contained, a case of cutting across different extremes yet somehow remaining a united conception even amidst severe contrasts.
On Mr Freedom Hannah unloads a sardonic, ambiguous takedown set to vulgar, pulverised rhythms whilst YR sheds ruinous hails of distortion, simultaneously sitting fixed upon a brooding, sluggish prowl of monotonal bass drones. With U Don’t Know Y the evisceration remains but is dialled back, instead bringing to the fore a damaged sketch of sizzling, spluttering drum machines and a stream of haunting, disarmingly delicate vocals. Retaining though amplifying the buzz slightly, Who Is combines debased percussive sibilance with formidable soundsystem throbs and peculiar off note trajectories to astonishing and anthemic effect, resembling some weaponized, DIY strain of industrial dancehall. The sound of the ocean, self-recorded by Hannah in Lima, Peru and set beneath the bluster, only adds to the sense of elevation. From there My Baby slips into a euphoric state of narcotized suspension, one that becomes shaded by the wilted downer murk and faintly wrecked AI-blues of Call From You.
In these opening exchanges and frequently in its later stages Prol approaches some strange new alliance between the crepuscular, brooding gravities of Varg & SARS’ Född Död project, the attritional grind of an Industrial Records live cassette, the abbreviated, weathered tape montages of O$VMV$M, the broad estrangement of a Lolina / Inga Copeland record, and even - at a push - the crude and wayward gait of an early Ruff Sqwad demo.
In Prol’s second half Hannah reprises, and in many ways despoils those touchstones. People, for one, lays out a rotten, plastered mania that sounds like it was hysterically tortured out of a toy keyboard; Minimal Wave gone thrillingly wrong. Hardwired subsequently adds to the streak of violations with discoloured synthesis and a gurgling derangement of dub, whilst Hond4 metes out bitcrushed velocity and a vocal front of deadpan invective.
Central to the impact of these corrupted exploits is the way they’re broken up and split with moments that hold a more direct form of exhilaration, as in Ironic Rebels where serrated tides of sub-bass and a frayed digi-click track accommodate a resonant sprechgesang. In this Hannah expresses a laconic reprimand of acquired contemporary behaviours; the prospect of self-destruction masquerading as rebellion. Any trace of vocalization then falls away with the penultimate instrumental Trippy Miso, where a wrecked walkabout of crunching percussion, drunk distortion and panning FX sends proceedings into outlying zones.
Appropriately City of London as a finale represents a strange and revelatory curveball in a release that is full of such moments. Composed of a predictive text creation spoken by the artist behind Prol’s artwork Marijn Degenaar, the track invokes a replicant gone rogue; a mutant algorithmic consultant obliquely assessing the uncertainties of London’s present and future. It embodies the heightened states and extraordinary disarray that emerges throughout Prol, a release that, as worded on Who Is, illustrates the untold power of ‘letting it all out’, whatever that output might be.
For Shaun South
Mixed by Olle Homberg
Mastered by Curved Pressings
Manufactured by Band CDs
Design by Marijn Degenaar
Riso print j-cards by We Make It Berlin