Whourkr is a French duo making digital grindcore. Their songs seem to start out in relatively traditional extreme metal territory, with fast, staccato guitar riffing and harsh vocals the dominant elements. But those sounds are immediately chopped up with the computer equivalent of Vince’s Slap Chop, reduced to gleaming audio shards, with drum machines that stutter wildly and synths that zap and skree and hum. There are some almost songlike sections on the group’s second CD, Concrete; “Santo” is full of mock-religious chanting and delicate piano. But the core of their style is a full-on assault on the listener’s eardrums and nerve endings.
There’s a mini-school of this sort of stuff; it’s not that new. One of the earliest practitioners was Alec Empire, whose Atari Teenage Riot combined punk and techno, slapped some preposterous “revolutionary” lyrics over the top, and thrilled the surly teens of Europe. Later, Agoraphobic Nosebleed discovered that you could make much better grindcore records if you did them with a drum machine and enough of a sense of humor to give your songs titles like “Death Takes a Shit 2” and “A Clown Pointing a Gun at a Small Dog (Reprise).” The 2006 Relapse Records compilation Drum Machinegun gathered tracks from a bunch of similar artists, including Genghis Tron, Dataclast and Nemo, for a total of 67 songs from 20 bands in 73 minutes. Dutch drum ’n’ bass producer Bong-Ra built somewhat more straight-ahead tracks out of death metal samples on his Full Metal Racket CD, while the Japanese duo Noism pushed the sample rate and the digitally processed grind guitars nearly past the limit of human comprehension on +/-, released on Crucial Blast, the same label that’s just put out the Whourkr disc.
It’s hard to listen to this sort of thing for any length of time; maybe that’s why so many of the tracks are less than a minute long. But it’s got a ferocity that no music played by mere humans can match. I doubt anyone but me has fond memories of the 1995 sci-fi movie Screamers, starring Peter Weller and based on the Philip K. Dick short story “Second Variety.” But if the screamers (robotic killing machines that could imitate human beings) made music, it would probably sound like this.