As artists grow more popular, they often re-visit their back catalogs with an ear to revision and re-release. Is any version of a song ever definitive? To some artists and listeners, yes; to others, perhaps not. Certain live versions have been known to trump studio versions, remixes to top originals, and cover versions to inject new life. Add the tweaking and tinkering that takes place with format switches, anniversary reissues and plain old remasterings, and it seems that no work can be called definitive, only better or worse than other versions. Even then, the claim is tentative.
It’s a pleasure to find that Ryan Huber (also known as Sujo) has chosen to combine and re-introduce his work as Olekranon on a new digital “compilation”. The words are in quotes because these aren’t quite the same versions found on Armor, Listerga, Abadina and Barbarians, the last of which was reviewed on these pages in 2012. Track orders have been changed as well, as some tracks have been left off. This is always an unusual choice, as it reflects the artist more than the consumer, who may question why some songs have disappeared – in this instance, certain originals have also been removed from the artist’s Bandcamp page. As a writer, I understand; I’d love to remove some of the things I’ve written (especially emails – so hard to take back!) but they seem to have lives of their own. What Huber does here is define himself by his output, saying in effect, this is Olekranon. In some cases, tracks may have been left off not because they were less appreciated, but because they didn’t fit the overall timbre of the release. These tracks flow together, sequenced as a single piece, and one is hard-pressed to find gaps in which other selections might intrude.
The darkness is spread throughout the release, with oppressive drones and stifling rhythms. The overall mood is claustrophobic, and save for a few isolated moments (for example, the opening of “Pisellini”), there’s always a noise in the background, if not the foreground. Shoegaze and metal elements are sometimes present, even in the same song (“Biclave”), and in extended tracks like “Marek’s Nail” (this reviewer’s highlight), one can clearly hear the connection to Sujo.
The Helminth 3″ didn’t waste much time joining the aforementioned quartet in selling out; it may be time for Huber to up the print runs. This little three-track gem clocks in at 19:44 and represents a clear step forward for the Olekranon moniker. On this release, greater attention has been given to the complexity of beats and development of mood; the dynamic range of the 3″ seems greater than that of the compilation album. Opener “Alinea” is a broken-beat classic, harsh and unyielding at times, but pliable in others. The contrast provides the piece with a perfect sense of tension. If one isn’t watching the counter, one might miss the transition to “Etude”, underlining the thought that Helminth is a suite (and also a parasitic worm). This middle piece creeps along through the auditory system, chomping on protruding tissue while looking for a place to exit. Even when the marching snare emerges, the little creature keeps crunching. An extended, vibrating chord provides the link to the title piece, which grows rapidly into an industrial churn. Combined, the three tracks provide a hallucinatory score to a horrifying experience.
Junin is a welcome retrospective; Helminth is an encouraging taste of things to come. We suspect that Huber may be able to break into new markets with this one, and that 2013 may be his year. (Richard Allen)