Hansten Klork

Released 1980 on Drömm
The Seth Man, November 2022ce
‘Brutalist’ is more like it.

Who the hell knows what ‘Hansten Klork’ even means? Could it be an official Danish municipal title? The name of a garbage tip in the Orkneys? A wry expression of Scando-Kelt origin? A 1980 handbill read: “Hansten Klork could be your friend too” which was hardly encouraging as it looked nothing less than a Damon Edge-like collage of body parts assembled into a humanoid. But what’s in a name, anyway? Besides, the rest is more important...the music.

As stark as Jacqueline Bailey’s incorporation of Suprematist style and use of the none more post-punk typeface than Helvetica, this album is as thorough as it is homemade. Its unvarnished matte sleeve, released on the group’s own Drömm label, recorded at the group’s own studio and with a sub-basement sound quality that actually shores up the proceedings with mystery, are impressively strident and all-knowing at every turn. As a group, Metabolist were comprised of a quartet: Malcolm Lane (guitar, synth, vocals), Simon Millward (bass, vocals, synth), Mark Rowlatt (drums, percussion) and Anton Loach (saxophone, synthesizer) and as an independent recording group, were comprised of much, much more. This London SW12 post-punk band was so post-punk it was more pre-proto-punk from nowhere. The angular guitar, the nervous, pent-up rhythms, the crazed, dark instrumentals and when there was singing, it was a hypnotising Kobaian death chant rather than spitting out lyrics about urban alienation, imminent death or social decay. The undying rhythms of Krautrock, the DIY spirit of post-punk, and the memories of European Virgin imports thread throughout Metabolist’s disciplined experimentalism and HANSTEN KLORK, their only album release.

“Curly Wall” begins, and the track goes on through two parts of forever. One: the opening stuttering guitar against blaring Nik Turner/Jaxon saxophone punctuations in a prog-punk locked groove into an unlinked barrage of free-guitar noise racketeering. And Two: directly into unswerving Kobaian groove with accompanying low growl vox intonations. It builds to yield forth a call and response between the Klaus Blasquiz growl vocal and the merely dead somber vocal when all the while: the unyieldingness proceeds and towering walls continue to rise and close. When it all peters out into silence, the space that ensues is massive...until a brutalisation programme of shrieking, squonking and crashing piledrives everything off a cliff into silence. Coming in sideways, “Alien On Sunday” is no less uncompromising as an exhaustive repetition of sawn-off guitar, severe electronic overlays and disembodied voices preparing for imminent apocalypse press on. Soon, a group chant breaks in to disturb everything except the rhythm. Soon, it too falls away with a whimper not a bang.

The trudging paces of the klang associatively-named and impossible to pronounce quickly, “King Quack” enters, soon stripped away of everything except its raw-nerved minimalism. The slow-paced drum pattern, flanged bass, random sax blarts and ominous clouds of slowly growing electronics provide a nervous canvas for Central European vox to intone and punctuate at odd intervals. Soon, the musical backing takes on the character of heavy industry falling apart as it approaches the groove it was seeking out to lock into and once it does: grinds into itself hard and slow while a group chant sends it off into oblivion. Side one is over, but who knows how long it was running for.

Like something cutaway off Can’s UNLIMITED EDITION (1976) LP, “Lights” is a light, improvisational piece based around a searching, filigree e-guitar pattern with simple bass guitar providing an anchor so it all doesn’t float away. Weaving stubbornly forward while maintaining a quiet pulse, soon drums and electronics enter to embellish and give this otherwise inaudible arrangement shape and form only to be cut off and into “Hoi Hoi Hoi,” a pulsation of Joy Division rhythm sectioneering, bitterly severe guitar bursts, and further chanting along the lines of Christian Vander and Klaus Blasquiz reciting “You Can’t Do That” in Kobaian against an unrehearsed outtake of “Mother Sky” that went horribly wrong. Guitar strikes hit electrified fences while the rhythm continues underneath the oppression of the wordless vocalisations and it’s a wonder that a squall this fierce ever ends.

The drift piece Metabolist called “Merchandise” wafts in and after an initial flurry of grinding, manicured noise, begins to settle into a vapour of guitar feedback, alternatively throttled and caressed, then ultimately: fogged in by synthesizer and bass drones.

Crackling with static, scratchy guitars yet overhung with weirdly jolly chanting at a busy toy factory, the title track “Hansten Klork” ends this unnerving album on an equally unnerving note. Unnerving because it’s like Pere Ubu’s “Real World” fed through a shredder that renders everything into a Magma nightmare. The vocals are chanted out at the usual rapid pace, yet background voicings yip and yap in the background. Then everything halts into silence. Then reenters, continuing the chant while bubbling noises increase in the background. Suddenly, it all ceases with final (and at this point, breathless) chanting.

Note: Time has been extremely kind to Metabolist’s singular vision but not so much in terms of the non-availability of their material. A single reissue on CD by Vinyl Japan collected the HANSTEN KLORK LP and all vinyl singles together into a comprehensive collection. However, it was released in 2007 as a limited edition and is now long out of print with copies fetching princely sums. Perhaps a label with an ear to the future will remedy this state of affairs.

Metabolist Discography

Hansten Klork (Drömm) 1980

Drömm / Slaves / Eulam’s Beat (Drömm) 1979
Identify/ Tiz Hoz Nam (Drömm) 1980
Metabolist: Le Grand Prique / Die Form: Situation Base / Gestual Equivoque (Bain Total) 1981

Goatmanaut (Drömm) 1979
Stagmanaut! ‎(Cassette King) 1981

International Compilation 1 (Scopa Invisible) 1980
Miniatures (Pipe) 1980