After a lengthy dormancy, Andrea Chiaravalli reinstated his long standing harsh electronics project Iugula-Thor in 2012 and has been active ever since, releasing some of the strongest work of his career. This is the first full fledged release since then, with the prior ones being largely splits and singles, and also features Chiaravalli partnering with Paolo Bandera (Sshe Retina Stimulants, Sigillum S) to create a bleak, but multifaceted record of diverse electronics.
Iugula-Thor never fit in quite as specifically as many other Italian artists associated with the power electronics scene. Their work largely took on a grey aura simultaneously colored by Marizio Bianchi's depression and the violence of giallo films. It is a distinct and great style, but it is always great to hear an artist breaking away from what is expected. Iugula-Thor’s influence has drawn more heavily from the thrash and speed metal scenes, and while that may not be immediately apparent these days, I think that influence adds a lot to the duo’s unique sound.
Rhythms play a notable role in the sound of Choosing Your Own Brand of Evil. "Unknown Third Party" is driven by a crashing loop and an insistent, throbbing bit of bass, as the two work a multitude of weird synth sounds in, at times twinkling and almost light, and other times dark and sinister. The overall effect is wonderfully schizophrenic. The terse "One Mind No Views" is a bit less subtle in rhythm: a big, rib cage pummeling kick drum that never subsides for the pieces' brief two minute duration, with other bits of trash percussion and simply oscillating noise synths stay prominent.
Even a more noise oriented composition, such as "n.a." has some semblance of rhythm with the crunchy static-laden loop that underscores it, but the tasteful applications of filtered noise and other bursts of static place it somewhere on the spectrum between avant garde experimentalism and outright noise brutality. There is a similarly tenuous balance to be found on "First Time My Wrists Opened", though the grinding electronics and sinister slowed voice passages nudge it a bit more in the death industrial direction.
The moments where the duo take a "throw everything together and see what happens” are the ones that stand out the most for me, however. For example: "I'm Not" is at first all noise loops, but with an almost toy-like synthesizer line. Voices appear here and there, and the whole song alternates from lighter bits of electronics into vaguely industrial stomping. The voices and what almost could be horn samples make for a confusing, scatter-shot quality in instrumentation but it all manages to work together. The album closer "Hammer" is also a bizarre mix of marching band like rhythms, largely clean synth sounds, and what could almost be a violin here and there. Compared to what preceded it, it is lighter and less oppressive, but still just the right amount of abrasive and weird.
For their first full album release in nearly two decades, Chiaravalli and Bandera have put together an excellent, fully realized album with Choosing Your Own Brand of Evil. The mood and style may not be a surprise, but the actual work from the two artists is a unique, idiosyncratic mass of collaged electronics and abrasive electronics that comes across as composed, rather than just improvised. The music itself is where the unpredictability lies, and that sense of the unknown is where it excels the most.