Human Flesh - "Penumbra"
(EE Tapes 2006)

From Aural Innovations #39 (May 2008)

Human Flesh is a long lived project of Alain Neefe, utilizing a wide range of veterans from the hometaper underground. Based in Belgium, Alain started the Insane Music label in the early 1980s, and will also be known to many readers from the bands Pseudo Code and BeNe GeSSeRiT.

Penumbra is a collection of 15 never before released tracks recorded between 1985-1995. The various participants bring lots of intriguing variety to the table, with the common theme being Alain Neffe's appearance on each track and a fascinating array of spoken word vocals. Among the highlights is "Rust", which includes Deborah Jaffe (Viscera, Master-Slave Relationship) on spoken word. The music is dark and ethereal on the one hand, but the saxophone gives it an eerie lounge jazz feel too. Very cool. "Ofullbordad Malning" features Britt-Marie Lanner on Swedish spoken work, along with Phantom of the Opera organ, tasty guitar bits and spooky atmospherics. "Blind" is another excellent track with Britt's voice, this time with a bouncy proggy guitar and keyboard (mellotron sounding) segment. "Blond Smile" is a duo piece with Daniel Malempre on guitar and Alain Neffe on organ/synth/keys. It's a pleasant instrumental with a combination of gothic and spacey sounds.

"Possession" is one of my favorite tracks of the set. Darline Victor's voice is intense and haunting, and the supporting music is ideal for her vocal delivery. I like the avant-chamber music that backs Lydia Tomkiw's poetry on "So Weak", which later develops into a mysterious Residents-like carnival feel. "Nino Estrella" features a simple guitar driven melody backing all too brief dual vocals by Sandra Balderas and Larisa Lopez. Almost like some Anthony Phillips "Private Parts & Pieces" work. "I Love You, You Know…" is the most song oriented track on the album, and struck me as having a Tuxedomoon quality. Very nice. "Our Last Word" is a beautiful dreamy violin and soundscape piece. And at over 14 minutes, "Meditation and Fears (the fourth day)" is by far the longest track. It opens with an alluring Gothic/chamber music combination, with a cinematic quality that sounds like the soundtrack to some avant-garde film. Strangely image inducing, with multi-layered voices, some played in reverse, creaking sounds, and a use of strings and atmospherics that inject a deeply felt passion into the music. Freaky…. I dig it!

Overall, the music on Penumbra is sparse but creatively constructed and highly effective, with a focus on developing mood and atmosphere that supports the spoken word elements. Check out these gems from the hometaper archives.

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Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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