Observer: Boy Harsher & Distortion Six

Boy Harsher - Country Girl

Boy Harsher
Country Girl
Ascetic House

Catching Boy Harsher’s recent set in Vancouver was a treat, and not just because they were playing an excellent set to an enthusiastic crowd who were there to dance. The presentation of the duo’s material, both established and new, felt crisper and punchier live in a way which underscored their dancefloor impulses without sacrificing any of the atmosphere which made Yr Body Is Nothing such a compulsive listen. New EP Country Girl cements that move. The new beat pulse of opener “Motion” has an immediate bounce, bu Jae Matthews’ breathy vocals seem to writhe above it all like fog juice and sweat above the club floor. Boy Harsher still offer plenty of quirky sounds despite the accessibility of Country Girl, though; a pinched off sample which might have started life as a string on “Underwater” and a wheezing siren (or bell?) on “Westerners” recall the often estranging sound manipulation of mid-period Wire. By the time the question “What did we do last night?” goes unanswered in the former, Boy Harsher Have conjured up so much dark mystery that nearly any decadence, crime, or magic seems like a plausible answer.

Buy it.

Country Girl EP by BOY HARSHER

Distortion Six

Distortion Six’s Fierce is something of a step forward for Norwegian producer Nichlas Schermann; after a self-released album and one LP on Russia’s Synth-Me, the new record arrives courtesy of Ant-Zen, the non-plus-ultra label for the kind of rhythmic noise the project trades in. And commensurate with the label’s legacy, the record trades heavily in a classic power noise style that explicitly references the millennial sounds of Converter and other famed label acts from the genre’s golden age. Tracks like “Perisher” and “Intruder” feel specifically throwback in their construction, focused on alternately crushing and shredding percussion coated in thick layers of saturation, designed to pummel the listener into submission. Notably though some of the gritty and lo-fi presentation of Schermann’s earlier work feels tamed here. Despite being heavily distorted and subject to monolithic compression, there’s a distinct step forward in the mix and mastering that allows even a busy track like the hectic “Trauma” or the Skinny Puppy sampling “Only Thing” some finesse. The album’s highlight is “Hana Ken”, a collaboration with German industrialists Vore Complex, where the clamour of huge power noise kicks and warped bass meet heavily processed goblin vocals, for an intriguingly musical variation of the record’s sound. Recommended for fans of the classic Ant-Zen period, it’s a record with a distinct old school power noise charm.

Buy it.

fierce by distortion six

We Have a Technical 179: Bort

Fade Kainer in action

On this week’s podcast, we sit down to have a chat with Statiqbloom as their tour with Skeleton Hands and Crimes AM comes through Vancouver. Fade and Denman talked with us about bringing the fury and anger of Statiqbloom’s atmospheric electro-industrial to the stage, their roots in extreme music, and plenty more! We break down the whole show from last weekend along with some news about the recent signing of some Vancouver acts who’ll be familiar to regular listeners of the podcast. We’re fighting through head colds and brain farts this week, fair warning, so thanks for bearing with us. Don’t forget, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Legend, “Midnight Champion”

Midnight Champion
Artoffact Records

Part of what made the 2012 self-titled debut from Legend so compulsively listenable was its scope: it had catchy songs and terrific vocal performances from Krummi Björgvins, but what put it over the top was just how effortlessly grandiose and huge it felt. The long-awaited follow-up Midnight Champion still trades in cool Icelandic bombast, but with the addition of guitars on the songs the band feels more like a rock outfit than they did five years ago. The result is honestly something of a mixed bag; while there’s still a healthy dollop of enormity to be found and more than a couple stunners amongst its eleven tracks, there are also moments that feel diminished by the shift.

Things start promisingly with the massive “Cryptid”, an excellent summation of what Legend can do. The portentous synth opening (a specialty of the band’s composer Dóri Björnsson) gives way to a slowly building drum beat and a typically charismatic vocal from Krummi, who carries the song’s melody with a singular panache. It’s such a terrific opener that the afterglow buoys up “Frostbite”, whose laidback groove and big shiny chorus is underserved by the verse’s simple arrangement of drums and guitar.

And this is where a specific issue starts to manifest on Midnight Champion. It’s not hard to imagine “Time to Suffer” as a solid synth number in the vein of the self-titled debut, but the chugging guitars that appear in the first third weigh it down and keep it from taking flight in the way it feels like it might have otherwise. It’s a pattern that you see repeated several times, where an emphasis on rocking out takes over and chokes other, more interesting instrumental elements. The issue is never with the songwriting or production, which are universally terrific, but with arrangement. It’s hard not to wonder how songs of obvious merit like the title track, or “Liquid Rust”, or “Children of the Elements” might have turned out with a bit less chug and churn in them.

Those moments where Legend gets the balance right are still possessed of a special majesty, and it would be a shame to discount them. “Captive” makes excellent use of a straight rock beat and some tasteful riffing in concert with slick synthwork in a way that just works, each component held in balance with the others. Ballad “Adrift” is an object lesson in holding something back, allowing an especially vulnerable take from Krummi to build over twinkling keys, so when the big blasts of guitar arrive at the climax they feel suitably grand.

Midnight Champion is an interesting sophomore record, because it’s clear that Björgvins and Björnsson haven’t shifted philosophically from the self-titled debut’s ethos. It’s an LP defined by a change in approach that both serves and hinders songs on a case by case basis, but that always still sounds like them. That virtue shouldn’t be undersold because when they’re on, Legend are still glorious.

Buy it.

Midnight Champion by LEGEND, “Broken Legacies”, "Broken Legacies"
Broken Legacies
THYX Records

Six albums into the grandiose cyberpunk yarn they’ve been spinning since 2004, new releases from need to be evaluated both on the curve of their impressive musical development and the depth and flair they add to the world they’ve been steadily populating with characters and conflicts. On the latter score, Broken Legacies does a good deal more than the crib notes offered on Memories to get people caught up, and musically it takes some gambles by downshifting into a somber yet vulnerable mode we’ve rarely heard the band hitherto explore.

Getting particulars taken care of first, the narrative of the record turns back to our protagonist Black’s quarry, or “The Friend”, for those who’ve been following along since the beginning. We follow him through the time before his “crossing over” in Lost Alone, his defection from the malevolent and near-omnipotent Agency, his later aiding of Black, and the attacks levied against the malevolent Agency by The Friend and a broader resistance movement. This doesn’t specifically advance the story forward from where we last (chronologically) left Black, but it does a pleasant enough job of world building, and makes some interesting intimations about Black’s role in the larger narrative.

Musically, Broken Legacies switches back and forth between an oddly minimal style of instrumentation for m.i.a.b, which puts the focus on tightly packed sequences grinding over and over (“The Fall”), and the more baroque arrangements I’ve come to look for in the band’s work since Crossroads, like the excellent “Coming Down” which flits between punky guitars and bombastic breakdowns. “Icebox” manages to do both, starting off stuck in monochrome rhythmic passages before bursting out with some lively synth leads and the suddenly expansive and melodic vocals Stefan Poiss has been weaving into m.i.a.b for the past decade.

For much of its duration, Broken Legacies is generally a softer if not specifically quieter record than the past couple of m.i.a.b releases – a straight-up four-four number like “Attack” (presumably delivered from a voice within the Agency itself) is the exception – but Poiss and company find ways of conjuring new moods from partway familiar elements. None of the sounds on “Glory Days” are all that far off from those one might have found in earlier work, but the shuffling beat and bittersweet tone feel quite new. The same could be said for the oddly gothic and melancholy tone of “Arcade”, where Poiss’ vocals have a weathered vulnerability we’ve not heard before. “World Of Promises” recapitulates that sentiment in the familiar synthesized voice we’ve been hearing m.i.a.b use to express laments from the beginning, with melancholy futurepop instrumentation.

It’s not until the last of Broken Legacies‘ tunes that things seem to let loose in terms of the ambitious and prog-like compositions which have made their last three records so memorable. “Paranoia” and “Don’t Sleep” are welcome additions to that tradition, but I don’t want to suggest that Broken Legacies suffers for not turning to such excess more often; the weary and embattled tone with which The Friend relates his story is suited to the album’s quieter moments. haven’t become as beloved a band as they are by taking the shortest path, and the bellicose prequel of Broken Legacies ably adds to their mystique.

Buy it.

Tracks: October 16th, 2017

So we just don’t get as excited about Halloween as we used to. That’s probably normal, as the Senior Staff is getting on in years, but we aren’t gonna front at all about the number of live shows and club events the season brings. For one month out of the year, it kind of feels like the early 2000s, before the club scene for Our Thing imploded and when regular touring acts salient to our interests were always making a stop in Rain City. Does that make us sound super old? Probably. But the best part of being old and crusty is not caring about how old and crusty you sound when you start gassing on about the old days. Get off our lawn, and check out Tracks while you’re at it.



Ludovico Technique, “Absence (Encephalon remix)”
In case you missed our review last week, that new Encephalon album is something else. Come to find that the Ottawans have also got a remix on the new Ludovico Technique single, adding some of their singularly quirky take on electro-industrial to a track that is something of a sea change for LC. Peep the remix, but also take some time with the original, which features a clean vocal delivery and a rock style that suits the project well. Single also features mixes from Bestial Mouths, The Birthday Massacre and Ghostfeeder, which makes it a pretty tidy package as these things go.
Absence by Ludovico Technique

Snog, “Corporate Slave (iVardensphere remix)”
Leaving aside our feelings about staunch anti-corporate and capitalist critic David Thrussel’s tendency to re-release old material in new packages, we gotta say that the return of the mega-sized remix single is an unexpected one. Still, “Corporate Slave” is still a banger some 25 years since it’s original release, and we aren’t gonna complain about hearing bands like Null Device, Shinjuku Thief and Divider take a crack at it. Hell, this iVardensphere remix alone kinda justifies the whole thing, listen to how it recontextualizes the phrasing of the vocals, making it into a paritcularly sinister analogue attack club track.
Corporate Slave 2525 by SNOG

Out Out, “January 20, 2017″
Out Out’s Mark Allen Miller’s back with a new EP and good golly each of the tracks on Red Lily offer up an unrelenting barrage of pure machine noise. What on earth could have happened back in January of this year to piss an industrial veteran like Miller off so…oh, right. Well, here’s some raw industrial fire to keep you going through the new dark age.
Red Lily EP by Out Out

hologram_, “The Thirteen Theorems (remix by Amnesy)”
As frequently as it happens, we never stop feeling terrible when we hear a band got their gear ripped off after a show. Such was the case with hologram_, who after playing Audiotrauma Anniversary 2k17 had their complete rig jacked on the train ride home. The label has stepped up with this remix compilation to help get the project back to performing, enlisting the talents of labelmates Verin, Sonic Area, Meta Meat and Antidote Noir. We’re particularly taken with this wild orchestral mix by Amnesy, but honestly, the whole package is worth some of your sheckles, if not for the great music, than to do a solid for an artist who needs a hand.
rescue by hologram_

protoU, “Eyes Of The Shamen”
Never let it be said that the always reliable Cryo Chamber label doesn’t wring every ounce of atmosphere out of its dark ambient roster. Having concluded their series of collaborations inspired by Lovecraft, they’re rounding out their “Tombs” series. Previous split releases have contemplated the resting places of “Empires” and “Seers”; now the likes of Aegri Somnia and Creation VI take up “Druids” as a theme. protoU’s contribution has an earthly constancy to it, even as it pushes into water-flecked caverns.
Tomb of Druids by ProtoU

Wychdoktor, “Blackmagick (MMXVII)”
Ottawa’s Wychdoktor takes a brief look back and makes some adjustments on this remade version of a tune from his 2013 debut, Ritual. Polyrhythmic clatter and some woofing sidechaining amplify things but also underscore just how damn good Wychdoktor is at crafting rhythmic noise banger after banger.
Blackmagick (MMXVII) by Wychdoktor

Encephalon, “We Only Love You When You’re Dead”

We Only Love You When You’re Dead
Artoffact Records

A sociopathic, narcissistic, cyborg celebrity demagogue is trapped in a cycle of death and resurrection, peppered with bursts of violence levied against the shadowy media empire who are directing this bizarre operation. You’d have to have one hell of a track record to be able to make a concept record about that feel like a stripped-down and straightforward affair, but such is the nature of Ottawa’s Encephalon, that rare band who have proven themselves (now for a third time) to be uniquely capable of gussying up classic electro-industrial sounds with the most bombastic of garb and arrangements. We Only Love You When You’re Dead, for all of the whizz-bang excess of its conceit, feels like the closest thing Encephalon have done to a “roots” electro-industrial record, putting the focus on raging vocals and galloping rhythms.

Like its predecessor Psychogenesis, We Only Love You When You’re Dead is stylistically informed by its narrative. But where the former LP had a baroque grandeur commensurate with its galactic themes, Encephalon hit the ground swaggering, imbuing the album with a cyberpunk street aesthetic that matches its focus on a singular character’s oblique journey. There’s still plenty of “big” sounds and arrangements to be found, but the specific way in which a song like “Never Bleed” uses organ-like pads, syncopated drum programming and blasts of intricate programming to convey scope is less cosmic and more immediate, all without going lo-fi or gritty. That change in sound design might not be the easiest distinction for the casual listener to make considering how dramatic and theatrical the record is, but it does have the effect of making the whole thing into an industrial rock opera of sorts.

If that idea sounds ambitious, well, it is. And to their credit, Encephalon do an excellent job of keeping the concept from getting ponderous or schticky. A big part of it is in the album’s pacing: opener “Limb from Limb” is a solid mid-tempo head-nodder which both introduces the record’s death and resurrection conceit and sets the tone for what follows via sustained and processed guitar chords and Matt Gifford’s sneering vocals. “The Calvin Klein of Slime” takes those ideas and amps them up further, developing the album’s product placement and celebrity culture theme over top of a simple arrangement of bass and drums reminiscent of some of Snog’s chuggier moments. The first portion of the record rolls along so easily that when the over the top “Naraka” (which features a particularly stately and regal vocal from Alis Alias) gives way to the slow-build of the title track it feels like a climax of sorts, an act break to set up the extravagance of the album’s latter half.

Like most rock operas, the ascent of the hero – Ziggy, Pink, or the unnamed, undead protagonist here – is matched with a decline on the B-side. The title track has the forces who brought our anti-hero back turning against the “posthumous, solipsitic, artistic deity” whom they’ve given a second kick at the can (speaking of the band’s cyberpunk influences, if they’re not consciously giving an homage to Jack Womack’s Elvissey, then there’s a remarkable overlap of theme and plot). It’s the biggest break from the record’s generally straight-up electro-industrial attack, made up of portentous timpanis and strings which recall Psychogenesis. Even though things speed back up after that turning point, the rest of the album bears a much more somber tone. The exact final fate of our anti-hero as he’s carted back off to organ donation surgery in shuddering closer “What Part Of Me Dies” is left ambiguous as the title indicates, but the second half of the record casts him as undergoing severe damage. The songs themselves feel concordantly beleaguered. “A Debt Of Flesh” feels like a panicked revisiting of first LP deep cut “A Lifetime Of Puppetry”, striking out figures using a simplified palette, as if the band or narrator are struggling to find some stable platform or identity under duress, akin to the T-1000 thrashing in molten steel, cycling through its guises.

Like Encephalon’s two previous LPs, their latest contains multitudes. Where The Transhuman Condition reified classic genre ideas in a slick and accessible club format, and Psychogenesis took that template and sent it into the far reaches of outer space, We Only Love You When You’re Dead is a still new lens through which to view modern electro-industrial. Equal parts concept, execution and the pure audacity to make a record this grand and outlandish, it’s a testament to Encephalon’s deep well of ideas and their commitment to their own chimerical vision of music. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

We Only Love You When You're Dead by Encephalon

We Have a Technical 178: Dashiki

Blade Runner

"Is this testing whether I'm a rivethead or a juggalo, Mr. Deckard?"

We’re making up for a couple of slightly shorter episodes with a doozy this week, folks. Alex talks about the fun he had in Los Angeles at Das Bunker 21 and lists some of the highlight performances from bands familiar and new! Also, Bruce gets real worked up about Blade Runner as the Senior Staff talk about the landmark film’s influence on industrial music and culture on this week’s episode of We Have a Technical. Yes, the senior staff have plenty to say about recent happenings and releases, and as luck would have it, they have a venue to hold forth on them. So pull up a chair, crack a beverage of some description and get ready for a particularly long edition of the official I Die: You Die podcast, straight from our gaping maws to your ears. Don’t forget, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Whiteqube, “The Return”

The Return
Bractune Records

T Ryan Arnold and Jason Schary have always walked a fine line as Whiteqube, dipping from rubbery mutant electro into othe genres and back, slightly off-kilter but always on point. The Return is quite literally that and more: the LP is both their first new music since 2014, and additionally their first full length album. It acts as a showcase for some of the new ideas the band has been cooking up during their hiatus as well as a refresher on what caught our attention in the first place.

The biggest and most notable change is probably the addition of vocals to the project’s sound. As major developments in the group’s approach go it’s a solid one, helping add hooks and dimension to the songs without having to subtract anything to make room. The album’s title track is an expecially good example, sounding exactly like the Whiteqube tracks of the past – bouncy bassline, strong kicks and siren synths on the chorus – but with a few well placed shouts to help it pop. Commendably the actual lyrics are constructed with a theme in mind and aren’t just a bunch of word salad; “We Are One” is a call for subcultural unity over a driving dance beat, “The Alarm” reveals a heretofore unheard political angle to the Whiteqube style.

There’s also a techno flavour in certain tracks, albeit drawn from several different schools. “Connections” has a bit of a 90s Hardfloor in it’s DNA, propelled by a lengthy vocal sample and a rock solid rhythm progression. They give hardcore a spin on “Open The Gates of Destruction” and “Headstrong Death March” goes full-on gabber, although both cuts make a point of twisting their arrangements up a little for variety. There’s even a little classic rave action happening on the chirpy “Retroactive”. Whiteqube have always been pretty catholic in the way they approach electronic music, but it’s interesting to see them try their hand at several distinct styles on a per track basis.

We’ve often focused on the video element of Whiteqube’s approach in the past (and for good reason, check out the video for the title track if you want to see the kind of effort the band put into their visuals), perhaps to the detriment of actually discussing their music. The Return is a good solution for that impulse, moving along at a fair clip and demanding attention with its frequent change-ups. If this is indeed the titular return of the project on an ongoing basis, it’s definitely a welcome one.

Buy it

The Return by whiteqube.

Tracks: October 10th, 2017

Another weekend gone, another festival in the books! Yes, DB21 took over Los Angeles for three days of legendary artists sharing stages alongside some of the freshest up and comers our dark little corner of things has to offer. Alex was there to catch all of the highlights and happenings, and will be thoroughly debriefed on this week’s episode of the podcast. Which acts stole the show? Who’s nicer/taller/shorter/drunker in person? And who’s crushing the vegan taco game in LA? We’ll get to that all in due time, but for now let’s get to this week’s tracks!


DAF, “Die Sprache Der Liebe”
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft formed nearly forty years back, and Gabriel Delgado-López and Robert Görl are still alive and kicking. New number “Die Sprache Der Liebe” coincides with the release of new 5 LP/4 album boxset Das Ist Daf and it sounds pretty much like you would expect: a looping Korg MS-20 sequence, boxy, live sounding drums and Delgado shouting leather sex lyrics. Much as we love the group’s mid-80s daliiances in italo disco, we certainly can’t fault them for going classic DAF on this cut, delivering on the sound they pioneered and that inspired more than a few bands we can think of. Video is NSFW btw.

Alter Der Ruine, “Where Are The Bells?”
Our hearts were set all aflutter when there were shudders of activity in the Alter Der Ruine camp. A new release? A possible formal reunion? We were just as guilty of baseless speculation as anyone, but now we’ve got the goods in hand: Doom Soother is “the skeletal remains of what started as I Will Remember it all Differently” according to the Mikes and Tamara, and was recorded just previous to the band’s end. So, no reunion but a whole swack of beautiful ADR jams in that achingly raw but also sentimentally sweet mode they hit upon in their last days, like this one.
Doom Soother by Alter Der Ruine

Der Prosector, “Sun Dogs (2Bit Edit)”
Ged Denton, formerly of Crisis NTI but most noted for being one of the figures behind our beloved C-Tec, is back in the cut (no pun intended). Der Prosector’s Egregious EP (including a nice blood-spatter pressing) brings Denton and company together in a storm of coldwave guitar and programming – making it right at home over at Armalyte Industries. We’re digging the stripped down but still punchy and processed feel on this mix.
Der Prosector – Egregious EP by Der Prosector

Hello Moth, “Take This Away (Nebula Version)”
It takes work to sound as idiosyncratic but also as carefree and confident as Calgary’s Hello Moth. The vocalist/producer/songwriter (underlining each of those roles seems important but doesn’t wholly circle the square when writing about Hello Moth) has a forthcoming EP of tracks which look to be based on the interstellar miasma of nebulae, including this sweet but also economical synthpop reworking of a single from earlier this year.
Nebula Songs by Hello Moth

La Santé, “Brakuje Powietrza”
Poland by way of Sweden body music act La Santé certainly make an impression on this track from forthcoming LP for EK Product Pogansky. As neo-oldschool has died down in terms of volume, it seems like more interesting acts like this one are coming to the fore, taking the established template and inserting individual flavour, like the Neue Deutsche Welle elements that creep into this one as it rolls forward. That said, the band has a previous LP out on Electro Arc, which we’ll have to look into before this one drops.

UCNX feat. Fourth Man, “Tastless Killing Spree (Chrome Corpse remix)”
So, long-running US industrial act managed to get The Fourth Man (aka David Collings, who sang on Numb’s Blood Meridian) to bless their new EP with some guest vocals, which would normally be enough to get our attention. And then they went and got Chrome Corpse out of Seattle to remix the track, which is pretty much a guaranteed stand-up-and-take-notice from us. Well played UCNX. At any rate, the song itself is a good fit for all parties involved, lots of sharp edges, howled vocalizations and speedy sequences, all bathed in a light coating of acid corrosion for that wasteland feel.
Rebellion Ruin Redemption by UCNX

Observer: Mala Herba & Displacer

Mala Herba

Mala Herba’s six track demo feels like anything but. Insofar as a demo is supposed to be a rough or unrefined version to attract interest, the music and aesthetic presented by the Vienna-based darkwave artist is fully realized and potent. While the two previously released songs – the towering “Rusalki” and the dark crawler “Chwasty” – are the best on the release, every cut shares in their magisterial air. A huge part of that has to come directly from the vocals, which are by turns soulful and frank (“Lament”), woozy and distant (“Zaklęcie: Droga”) and discomfiting (“Kupaly”). The delivery is distinctive and matches the spare feel of the synthetic backing tracks, like how the rolled r’s, shrieks and held notes of “Rusalki” are placed in direct contrast to the bassline and the synth lead. The slightly rough edge on the production works in the release’s favour, borrowing some of European cold wave’s deliberate rawness but none of its detachment, allowing for impact and emotion that feels very immediate and real. The cassette version (only available at shows) apparently comes with actual herbs, which should tell you something about the project’s “synth witchcraft” mandate, and the powerful connotations thereof. Recommended highly.
Mala Herba Demo by Mala Herba

Displacer - Astral
Section Records

We’ve become so accustomed to Michael Morton carving out his own little niche not only for Displacer releases but for similarly-minded ambient and downtempo stuff on his Crime League label that the thought of Displacer cropping up on another label is a bit jarring. Not to worry, though; even playing an away game for the UK’s Section Records, the warm, transporting, and always tasteful sounds Morton mines are still wholly present on this EP. The title and artwork of Astral obviously point to cosmic themes and sounds, though there’s never anything austere or cold about Morton’s compositions here. “Extent” echoes and chimes as if to connote the emergence of constellations (and later shifts into a Kraftwerk homage), yet something about the echo on the pads feels grounded and almost homey. The gossamer melody of the title track is passed through a whole mesh of spacey phasing, but the tune itself is so lilting and pretty that it never feels alien. A tight and pretty little package, Astral finds Morton with his head in the stars and his heart at home with a nice cup of tea.
Astral by Displacer

We Have a Technical 177: 3 Books, 7 Swords

Sweet Gary D, still rivet

Morning, folks! This week on the podcast we’re tackling classic early albums from now-veteran acts who have new work on the docket. Mentallo & The Fixer and’s legacies stretching all the way back to “Revelations 23″ and “Lost Alone” are considered as those two records are analyzed in their own time-frame and in the cold light of history. All that, the expected festival updates and the even more expected horsing around about sub-par fantasy novels await you, the listener, on the newest installment of the podcast. Don’t forget, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Cyanotic, “Tech Noir”

Tech Noir
Glitch Mode Recordings

It’s a little weird to think that Tech Noir is only the fourth proper Cyanotic LP; Sean Payne’s industrial rock project has felt like a constant in the landscape of the American scene for well over a decade at this point, the actual number of albums released aside. At least part of that sense of presence is due to the enormous number of collaborations and side-projects Payne has been a part of, and the reflection of his musical interests in the releases by his Glitch Mode label. As such, the new album feels like a good affirmation of Cyanotic as Payne’s main outlet, a meat and potatoes listening experience that reasserts the band’s template while showing some technical advancement in its presentation.

Interestingly, Payne has gotten good enough at making songs in this style that he can get industrial rock across almost entirely through synthwork and production – although these songs feature bass guitar provided by Kevin Barron, programming rules the day on Tech Noir. Check out how the synthetic drums and the chugging verse on “Deadweight” convey a live rhythm section, albeit tightly assembled and edited to give it that mechanical flavour. There’s a crispness to the mix that helps highlight individual sequences and samples, like on opener “Mainlining Tension” where thunderous kicks land distinctly between chattering glitches and synth bass.

That slick studio feel doesn’t belie the project’s roots and inspirations however – there’s something distinctly old school in how these songs are presented. It’s not just the movie samples or Payne’s take-it-or-leave it growling vocals, but in how these numbers feel like they could have been written in a different era, and transposed to 2017. Despite varying in tempo and instrumentation songs like “Surveying City Ruins” or “Hyperaware” feel like they could have fit neatly into any given early-to-mid 90s Numb album. You can find it in the arrangements which favour momentum, and in the texture of the design which falls somewhere between sleek cyborg and decrepit wasteland. It’s an aesthetic choice to be certain, and one that allows for some variation when the project decides to go there: the cinematic instrumental “Neo-Tokyo Skyline” and the busted up digital hardcore cut “Salvage the Excess” slot in just as well as anything else here despite being cut from a different cloth.

Tech Noir is a solid piece of work that is served by its brevity and its potency. At 8 songs and around 35 minutes, it shows Cyanotic at their most focused, and their most functional, a robotic state of the union for a band that hasn’t ever wavered from their path.

Buy it.

Tech Noir by Cyanotic

Analfabetism, “Skammen”

Analfabetism - Skammen

Malignant Records

The previous two times I’ve discussed Analfabetism’s records on this site I was fixated on how the solo project of Fredrik Djurfelt (perhaps most known to readers as one half of Severe Illusion) managed to triangulate classic industrial, noise, and death industrial in a way which prompted some interesting questions about the origins and motives of each of those genres. That interesting balance is certainly still on display on third record Skammen, but it’s the album’s focus on looping sounds that produces a sense of disquiet.

Time and again, tracks on Skammen introduce individual, often discrete chunks of pure shuddering noise and, after a beat, loops them again, and again, and again. While obviously carefully sculpted and textured by Djurfelt, few have any apparent rhythm or meter in isolation; it’s only in their repeated appearance that the mind begins to look for patterns in the chaos, to anticipate each squelch or thump. That intractability sits in sharp contrast to the notions of chaos commonly imagined with material this noisy, and the familiarity of a particular passage after hearing it four or five times sits ill at ease with the seemingly unmusical nature of such violent sound. Like a horrific memory one can’t help but replay, the foreknowledge of its return produces a second sense of horror.

That abrasive and unrelenting quality only makes the opening half of mid-record cut “Långt om länge vi dör ihjäl” all the more unnerving. Simple dips and sonar-like tones pass over low sine waves which are almost inaudible. It’s a sedate and ostensibly calm period of relief, albeit one interrupted at a couple of points by the more familiar mechanical stutters and noises, but the inescapable loops of the more abrasive tracks which precede it can’t help but shape one’s reception of it. Those ambient passages are just as insistently repetitive as their more violent counterparts, bringing up a host of questions: can the looping of seemingly “ambient” music be monomaniacal and punishing in its own way? Is the seeming inevitability of a certain sound welcome or horrific, regardless of its timbre or volume?

These ‘how many devils can dance on the head of a resistor’ type questions might be sophistry, but like I alluded to at the beginning, Analfabetism’s music provokes some structural thought about its own make-up as well as the more obvious moods of dread and inevitability. Terms like “contemplative” are often tossed about with regards to dark ambient (a genre the second half of Skammen certainly is informed by) to describe the reverie it can produce, but the inward pull of these tracks’ repetitions acts like a mental gravity well, constantly drawing the mind’s eye back to the pure, malevolent noise sitting at the center.

Tracks: October 2nd, 2017

With Cold Waves Prime just having wrapped up a few hours ago and Das Bunker 21 only a few days away, it might be a good time to think about the embarrassment of riches available for us in North American industrial. While it’s true that the club scene’s protracted torpor shows no signs of abating (and maybe that’s for the best?), there’s no shortage of fests and touring acts to go see, and labels consistently releasing new material from bands new and old. It’s pretty exciting stuff, and we’re happy to be here writing about it. Like in a Tracks post for example. Read on friends.

Winter Severity Index

Winder Severity Index

Konkurs, “Descender”
Joey Blush and Emad Dabiri just can’t stop. Not content with the frenetic pace at which they’re churning out solo releases as Blush Response, SΛRIN respectively, their collaborative project Konkurs has another EP loaded in the chamber (due on a + w, natch). This first cut drops the BPM a titch but more than makes up for that with the sheer maelstrom of metallic clash and clang which they’ve marshaled. Looking forward to hearing what the rest of Object of Subversion has on deck.

Crisis Actor, “Electronic Eye (Iszoloscope remix)”
All seeing eye meets all consuming void on this remix of Gnome and Thrussel’s Crisis Actor project by cosmic horrorist Iszoloscope. The sardonic acidic original is still present, but overhauled with crushing percussion and sweeping washes of reverb for that deep space terror that has marked so many recent productions by Yann Faussurier. You can find it and a bevy of other mixes by the likes of Dead Voices on Air, Displacer, and others on the recent The Dissonant Reality Show release from Ant-Zen.
the dissonant reality show by crisis actor

Winter Severity Index, “Candidate”
A new release from Winter Severity Index has reissued the Italian gloom-merchants’ second EP, the long out of print Survival Rate, but also appends a clutch of more recent tracks scattered across hard to find singles and compilations. Simona Ferrucci taking on a tune as dour as Joy Division’s “Candidate” would seem like an easy lay-up, but this version shrouds the stark and bare original in billows of reverb and atmosphere (no pun intended).
Katabasis by Winter Severity Index

Karger Traum, “Familienlied”
Punky body music with a German flair straight out of Oklahoma of all places, Karger Traum are the latest project to work with the good folks at DKA Records. This is the first exposure we’ve had to the duo, but the way they use plonky guitar and grody synth textures feels very different from the polished way many similar acts approach EBM. Check the huge emotional pad that breaks through at the song’s climax, straining to keep up with the looping bassline and drum machine thud for a taste of how that tension works in practice.
Such A Dream by Karger Traum

iVardensphere, “Align, Get In Line, Stay Alive”
The incredibly prolific Scott Fox and the iVardenphere crew return with a whole new LP Hesitation this Fall, incredibly hot on the heels of their January’s Exile. Much to our surprise, “Align, Get in Line, Stay Alive” feels like a return to first principles, with the track’s heavy beat emphasized, and a vocal from Jamie Blacker acting as one of the few melodic elements. iVardensphere has been making some sneaky good club tracks these past couple years (think “Thin Veil” and “A Tale of Two Wolves”) which this one falls handily in line with. Bring on the LP!

Amrou Kithkin, “Tempest”
Low-pro Polish duo Amrou Kithkin have released another EP of misty-forest dream-pop by way of post-punk which nicely captures the fey nature of their namesake. While a couple of the numbers on Lamentations are in their familiar cozy and reflective tone, they’re also taking on more ambitious and tense material, like this melodramatic lead cut which wouldn’t sound too far out of place on a Skeletal Family or Corpus Delicti album.
Lamentations EP by Amrou Kithkin

Observer: Feral Body & Klack

Feral Body

Feral Body

The appeal of the debut EP from Detroit’s Feral Body lies in the tension between its rough production and its ghostly mood. Coarse and scraping blasts of rhythmic noise make up the backbone of the three tracks on offer here, but they lope along in a fashion that’s far more hypnotic than it is brutal. Opener “Flesh War” at first sounds as thought it’s preparing an all out assault, but instead gives itself over to its own internal pulse. The textures which echo around each beat on the EP are hardly polished, yet they connote a deep and spacey resonance which frames the whole affair in a contemplate and reflective mode. Dan Barret’s intriguing Ghosts in the Clocktower release comes to mind as a rare other project which conjures the same mixture of exploration and indifference as “Death Slip”. Vocals are mixed so low and blurry that they serve as shading, or connective tissue between between beats, rather than as an emotive or narrative thread. The EP clocks in at a brief sixteen minutes, but that’s more than enough time to communicate Feral Body’s hazy but steady aesthetic, especially when the atmosphere of each track is so thick. Refreshing stuff which is far less aggressive than one might suspect at first glance.


Do You Klack?

Whether for reasons of obscurity or indifference, new beat is a strand of electronic dance music that seems particularly resistant to revival. Maybe it’s the difficulty of capturing the quirky charm of the Belgian dance craze’s 80s originals, or the ease with which any song can slide into EBM or NRG, but very few artists have attempted or succeeded in recreating “the sound that creates a new dimension”. Enter Klack, the new project by Eric Oehler (Null Device) and Matt Fanale (Caustic), a loving new beat tribute that manages to summon up the jerky rhythmic charms of the style without stumbling into soulless homage. Each of the four tracks on the project’s debut release Do You Klack? treats the bassline as the be-all-end-all, slaving extensive vintage vocal samples and twinkling synths to the ever looping rhythm. While the title track and “Synthesizer (v 2.0)” cleave close enough to the classic belgian template – gratifyingly so – that they could be mistaken for lost Subway sides, “DMF” and “Coup De Grâce” use vocals from Oehler and Fanale to add some flavour. The former song takes on a more aggressive sheen, where the latter becomes a smooth euro slice of funky synthpop, somewhere between A Split Second and Taste of Sugar. Good stuff.

Do You Klack? by klack

We Have a Technical 176: Motherfather


Comaduster live at Terminus. Photo courtesy of Jill Grant of Take It For Granted Photography.

On this week’s episode of the podcast, longtime friend of the site Réal Cardinal of Comaduster drops by the ID:UD HQ to discuss his incredible recent album Solace. The ins and outs of his creative process, the expansive universe in which the album takes place, and its live translation all get thoroughly chewed over! Additionally, we chat about the latest batch of archival :wumpscut: releases, the barrage of upcoming festivals happening in Chicago and Los Angeles, and plenty more on the latest installment of We Have A Technical. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Replicas: Soviet, “We Are Eyes, We Are Builders”

Replicas is the handle we use to write about reissues and archival releases, offering some thoughts on the original material, and whatever additional goodies or format shifts may have been appended. This week, an oft-overlooked millennial synthpop classic…

Soviet - We Are Eyes, We Are Builders

We Are Eyes, We Are Builders
Medical Records

What is it?
The 2001 debut of Keith Ruggiero’s Soviet came at an odd time in synthpop history. Broader appreciation for the genre had recapitulated itself in the woefully ill-defined form of electroclash, which often ended up splicing the most obvious of 80s markers with contemporary club trends. True-school acts who had weathered the 90s were so far underground as to be subterranean, and the goth/industrial world which had always been receptive to the genre was busy gussying up 90s trance under the futurepop rubric. In contrast, We Are Eyes, We Are Builders was definitively based in the roots of the genre, with big and bright pastel smears of synths and slightly funky drum programming, but also had a contemporary attitude at points, perhaps even drawing upon the more recalcitrant side of Britpop. Either way, Soviet didn’t really slot into any of the contemporaneous synthpop pictures, and a quirky but also deeply emotive record like We Are Eyes stood out to some likely for the exact reasons it was ignored by others.

What’s on it?
Medical Records are serving up a double-LP version of the record, which uses the track-listing from the first CD pressing, but the art from a subsequent one. The remastering job by Martin Bowes (certainly someone who would have been able to track all of the above synthpop currents and their origins) is bright and warm, punching up tracks like “Circuit Love” and the instrumental OMD-pastiche of “l’Objectif” with a bounce which was apparent in the original songs, but was somewhat muted in the master. I’m pretty sure I’d never caught the pinging tick-tock synthline that sits way in the back of “Sensitive” until now. Real studio work above and beyond the hummable quality of the tunes went into this record, and it’s great to have a version of it which brings all of that subtlety out. That said, the alteration of opener “China” to end with a fade-out felt rather jarring after being so familiar with its original coda.

The D-side of the set’s made up of unreleased songs which aren’t as polished as the core track list but offer some interesting insight into Ruggiero’s process. “Frantic” reads like a simultaneous vocal homage to Jarvis Cocker and Neil Tennant while field-testing the melodic sweep of “Marbleyezed”. Somewhat puzzlingly, the two tracks which were swapped in for others on the aforementioned second CD pressing aren’t included, but the physical limits of two LPs might be a factor there. Perhaps most importantly (for me, at least), this pressing of the record includes the simply heavenly remix of “Modern Love” which was never included on either CD pressing of We Are Eyes. I’ve been unable to find any indication of it appearing on singles or compilations, so I have to assume that the friend who put it on a mix CD for me fifteen years back must’ve found it on Soviet’s page or some other long since abandoned platform. As grandiose as the original, LP-closing version is, the remix somehow condenses everything which works about Soviet into three and a half minutes.

Who should buy it?
As I implied when I pitched We Are Eyes to Alex, a larger sense of where the record falls in the history of synthpop makes it an interesting piece for students of the genre to research, but the combination of strong fundamentals in and breezy play with synthpop gives it a broader appeal. The fresh coat of paint supplied by Bowes, plus the bolstered track list offers value to long-time aficionados, but also puts the band’s best foot forward for those just coming to this off-the-beaten-path gem.

Buy it.

We Are Eyes, We Are Builders (MR-074) by Soviet

Slighter, “Erode”

Confusion Inc.

Colin Cameron Allrich’s 5th full length as Slighter occupies an interesting space in the industrial rock milieu. Like his contemporaries FIRES and Comaduster, Allrich is using extensive sound design and production to modernize the sound of machine rock. However, where Allrich focuses his efforts is on menacing mid-tempo grooves, forgoing full on guitar chug for atmosphere and crawling menace.

It’s especially an interesting approach in that it relies more directly on rhythm programming, deep modulation and sound manipulation over melody. The power of a song like opener “Activate” doesn’t come from a big chorus, but instead from how it establishes a mechanical pulse in its opening bars and then develops it over the course of its four and a half minute run time. Similarly the nasty bass guitar fuzz that runs through “Disinformation” has a sleazy, barroom feel that makes more of an impact by how it sounds and is mixed than by the actual notes it’s playing. Allrich’s day job as a soundtrack composer seems to inform a lot of the record’s aesthetic, especially on tracks like “Error” where feeling is conveyed through atmospherics, subbass, washes of sound and vocal glitch and manipulation.

There are some moments on Erode that pair the emphasis on rhythm and production with a solid hook, and they stand out. The catchiest song on the record is one of its most downtempo; “Mute Yourself” combines deceptively simple cymbal and kick programming with sustained chords and a very sticky vocal line that is instantly hummable. There’s plenty of complexity in how those elements are positioned and manipulated in the mix, but never to the detriment of their immediacy. “Lights Out” (which features a particularly nice vocal turn from Ohm/Landscape Body Machine’s Craig Joseph Huxtable) is a little busier and has more movement, but stays to the same less-is-more approach to construction, to its benefit.

Erode is a record made by an artist with a considerable toolkit at his disposal, not to mention access to collaborators who add their own dimensions to his approach. While it could have used one or two more absolute killer jams on the non-bonus version of the LP (be sure to check out the Legendary House Cats mix of “Lights Out” and the Dean Garcia remix of “Mute Yourself” on the bonus disc), it’s a pleasingly modern sounding record with some deep grooves to explore via repeated listens.

Buy it.

ERODE (Deluxe Edition) by Slighter

Tracks: September 25th, 2017

The arrival of fall often draws us into a more contemplative and focused mode of listening to records. Less “speakers at park picnics with pals”, more “headphones while staring out windows at grey skies”. We’re not saying that one frame of reference is necessarily better suited for the sort of music we end up considering on these pages, but more conscientious listening’s never a bad thing in our books. A conversation last night with this week’s interview subject (stay tuned) turned towards making time for serious and dedicated listening. It’s odd that in an era when it’s possible to pull nearly any tune we might care to hear from the aether at a moment’s notice there seem to be less opportunities to focus in on a new record without distraction, but that’s often how it feels. Whether it’s this week’s tracks, an old favourite, or a new record you’ve been eagerly anticipating, make time to give music the space and time it deserves (this is more a reminder to ourselves than anything else). It’s always worth it.

Encephalon, “Never Bleed”
If you read the excellent interview Matt from Encephalon did with the homeboy Adam from amodelofcontrol you’ll have some idea of what to expect from the band’s forthcoming We Only Love You When You’re Dead. We won’t spoil matters by going deep here, but rest assured if the idea of an electro-industrial rock musical about Frankenstein in a dystopian corporate-controlled future sounds appealing – and how could it not? – you won’t be disappointed. This is one of the more straightforward tracks on the record but rest assured, there’s a lot of high-concept Encephalon weirdness there for your listening pleasure.

Boy Harsher, “Country Girl”
In a year where we’ve seen a lot of very good live performances, our minds keep returning to the sweaty art space show we say Boy Harsher play in East Vancouver, and the amazing emotion and power of the event. It has us very excited to hear the forthcoming release they’re putting out on Ascetic House, especially when the new videos are so striking. Peep this one for the EP title track, which has some moody synthwave touches, but tasteful ones if you follow. And don’t forget to catch them at Cold Waves: we’d love to know how their act translates to the festival stage.

Anima Nostra, “A Way Out”
More gutteral death industrial from Anima Nostra, Henrik Nordvargr Björkk’s collaborative project with Margaux Renaudin. The slamming percussion and buzzing dones which were recently showcased on the Atraments LP are just as heavy, and maybe a bit more immediate, on this clutch of tunes taken from a split with Shibalba. Björkk never half-steps anything, but the combination of groove and atmosphere he and Renaudin have struck upon seems to have really lit a fire under the arse.
Drakonian Adversary by Anima Nostra

ELM, “Burial”
It’s a bit odd to get a single from Sweden’s ELM a year and a half since their Hardline LP was released, but that record was a fun blast of no-frills, classic EBM, and getting an extra dose via this B-side is certainly welcome. Peter of Restricted Area’s used the ELM moniker to showcase his talents in pure EBM kicks and basslines, and as long as it keeps paying dividends like this, we can keep waiting for another Restricted Area LP for a while longer.
Wapenrustning EP by ELM

Hexadiode, “Hexon Shift (Xavier Swafford)”
Been a minute since we’ve heard any non-3Teeth material from Xavier Swafford, but it just so happens that the producer/programmer has a remix out for Dayton, Ohio industrialists Hexadiode. Hot analogue synth action combined with that deep syncopated groove that makes it’s way into Swafford’s work makes for a hell of a club track no doubt, and reminds us that we totally dropped the ball on that Hexadiode LP last year. We’ll make sure to catch up soon.

RE_P, “Wild Bohemian Party”
Heavy-duty bin-shaking stuff out of Italy, RE_P’s EP features mixes from Melania (no, not that one, the one with the EP on a+w) and French old-schoolers Blind Delon. There are no frills to be found on the original mixes, though, just rough and ready kicks and big, squelchy raved-up synths. One can’t help but wonder if this is where Fostercare might have ended up had he stuck around.
Wild Bohemian Party by RE_P

We Have a Commentary: Kirlian Camera, “Still Air”

On this special bonus podcast Bruce and Alex discuss Kirlian Camera mid-career highlight Still Air (Aria Immobile) We discuss the lyrical themes, the ongoing evolution of the band and how this particular record occupies a specific place in the long-running darkwave act’s catalogue. Thanks to our Patreon supporters for making these bonus commentary episodes a reality on an ongoing basis! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.