Mike Shiflet – Merciless

Mike Shiflet’s followup to last year’s Sufferers is said to be a “seismic companion piece” to the former.  And while it does continue the grit, grind, and grumble of Sufferers, it most importantly solidifies the two companion pieces as the Ohio-based noise artist’s most solid effort to date.

The record sets off with the gnashing claustrophobia of “Feeble Breaths,” which gives the first insight of how well Shiflet utilizes the sounds of Merciless to create a detailed image and engrossing atmosphere.  The cinematic track hums throughout plucks and drill squeals with a growing density, but only to be contrasted by a consistent white-noise-type of intermission in “(Breaths)” before the gentler and more meditative landscape presented in “Exodus and Exile” takes over, exemplifying Shiflet’s diversity as a composer.

“(Exile)” then collapses the mood into more damaged tape manipulations.  It is important to note that Shiflet’s destructive sounds aren’t necessarily doom-ridden and dark.  Depending on the individual experience of the listener, these walls of distortion can easily bury one into a euphoric hypnosis, but yes, the tracks can have a haunting, bone-rattling effect of equal proportions.  But it’s that variety of experience that sets Shiflet apart and takes his work beyond intellectual meandering and into more transcendental and even cathartic territory.

As the “(Exile)” track seamlessly streams into the final title track, things start to get even more complex, with particular waves taking new shapes and dimensions.  Instrumentation is at its most diverse  and elaborate here, and the result is absolutely stunning.  Merciless is simply a gorgeous noise record that deserves the attention that it’s been getting.

Available through Type.

-Jared Micah


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