The latest release from Baltimore-based noise artist Terence Hannum, known for his work in Locrian, Holy Circle, and Brutalist, makes no bones about its political agenda. Axebreaker is a self-proclaimed anti-fascist power electronics project that rejects the ideological grey zone that haunts much of the noise landscape. Instead, it tackles the organic horrors of state violence and paranoid isolation head-on via mechanized means. Power electronics has always had a Nazi problem, and Hannum has emerged as a confrontational voice in the wilderness. As he told Noisey back in 2017, “As a longtime fan of power electronics, I want to directly confront the right-wing posturing (and beliefs) inherent in its genesis as a genre and push it in a direction that uses its tropes to confront the vile ideology now enthroned in the executive branch and its supporters.”
Vigilance, Hannum’s latest full-length for Obsolete Units, incorporates field recordings and synths into its industrial power electronics palette, undulating through a half dozen compositions that can hurtle from gentle pulsations to piercing aggression at the twist of a knob (see “Tolerance” for a particularly harsh example). The lyrics are an echoing mishmash of Hannum’s thoughts, informed by historical anti-fascist philosophical writings from Austrian philosopher Karl Popper and Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, who both witnessed—and suffered under—the rise of 20th century totalitarianism in the flesh.
Sonically, the album ranges from the contemplative menace of “Mother of Terror” and slippery, mechanical “Abdication” to the staccato noise bomb “Eternal Threat,” whose howled lyrics are a repurposed warning from Levi: “Every age has its own fascism.” With Axebreaker, Hannum is doing his damndest to push back against ours.