Tracks: June 25th, 2018

As we mentioned on last week’s podcast, it was by sheer accident that we ended up DJ a Nine Inch Nails tribute party just one day after the release of Bad Witch, Reznor’s new ‘more than an EP, less than an LP’ record. In short, it was a very NIN-centric weekend for the Senior Staff, and that prompted no small amount of discussion of the legacy and discography of the band even as we were spinning highlights and deep cuts from said discography for Vancouver club-goers. Like we’ve said before, we often keep NIN talk somewhat in check on these pages as there’s so much able coverage of (Oscar winner) Trent Reznor’s work elsewhere. That said, Bad Witch interested us in some ways the last few NIN releases didn’t, so expect some further discussion of it in this week’s episode of the podcast. ‘Til then, we have six new tracks to keep you going through the week!

You may be intense, but you ain't Lingua Ignota intense, fool.

Lingua Ignota, “God Gave Me No Name (Nothing Can Hide From My Flame)”
Lingua Ignota fucked us up with her brief but incredibly intense performance last week. The strength and control over her voice, the sparseness of her material arranged for piano, and blasts of power electronics were all astonishing and incredibly powerful to see. Catch her on tour with The Body, and pick up her All Bitches Die LP which has just been reissued with incredible bonus track “God Gave Me No Name” which you can stream below.
All Bitches Die by LINGUA IGNOTA

Locked Club feat. RLGN, “Osaka Madness”
Info on (possibly Russian?) producer Locked Club is scant, but their second release in as many years is nothing if not effusive. Full of over-the-top acid and self-consciously lo-fi kicks, the ЛОМАЙ EP is brash and exaggerated for much of its run-time, but things are dialed back a bit for this cool and steady EBM-tinged stormer which weaves just the right amount of melody over some classic and undeniable basslines.
ЛОМАЙ EP by Locked Club

Neon Cities, “In Waves”
We’ve covered Chase Dobson’s work in the electro-industrial and technoid worlds through his Cellar Graves and projects, respectively, but he also has an interest in smoother synth realms via his Neon Cities project. As the name indicates, there’s a heavy synthwave vibe to the new “In Waves” single, but Dobson’s able to bring some silky guitar work – half new wave, half yacht rock – to add some texture and build to the proceedings.
In Waves by neon cities

Black Nail Cabaret, “Bête Noire”
Brand new one from Black Nail Cabaret, whose material has been gradually moving towards electropop in recent times. Admittedly the sensuous cabaret elements of their earlier releases can still be heard on the new Bête Noire EP (especially on the track “Lorraine”), thanks in no small part to the elegant and stately vocals of Emese Arvai-Illes. She’s for real one of the most distinctive singers across the board in Our Thing, so getting to hear her sing on any track at all is gonna be a pleasure.
Bête Noire by Black Nail Cabaret

FEAR730, “DownTownDistrict”
More off the wall yet undeniably compelling stuff from Seattle’s Vertex collective. Moving between hardvapor, classic rave, and ambient sounds, FEAR730′s debut Gemma City points to a broader and more holistic approach to electronics than we’ve yet heard from the Chrome Corpse and Night Terrrors camp. Digging how the sparse arrangement on this one allows interesting choices in string and drum sounds to hold sway.
G E M M A C I T Y by FEAR730

Coldkill vs Kant Kino, “Silent Morning (Original Mix)”
Who else but your dude Rexx Arkana is out here repping 80s synthpop obscurities like Noel’s “Silent Morning” in 2018? For his take on the track Rexx enlisted the help of Norwegian EBMists Kant Kino, and the result is pretty good indeed; latching onto the melancholy of the original but in a nice modern production style. You can hear the whole EP over on Bandcamp, including a couple of tasteful remixes by Solar Fake, Jean-Marc Lederman, and Aeon Rings. That vocoder tho!
Silent Morning by Coldkill vs Kant Kino

Front Line Assembly, “WarMech”

Front Line Assembly
Artoffact Records

In 2012 Bill Leeb’s long-running industrial project Front Line Assembly released AirMech, the instrumental score to a giant mech combat video game from Carbon Studios. The record was well-received by fans of the project for its modern production and sleek, futuristic design, and was very much a precursor in spirit to the exceptional Echogenetic LP that followed in 2013. That same sensibility is present is on new LP WarMech, a direct sequel to AirMech and a continued exploration of how the modern era of Front Line’s production and songwriting aesthetics can be applied to soundtrack work.

Like AirMech, the sound of WarMech integrates a healthy amount of bass and dubstep elements, but diverges in how those sounds are applied. The syncopated rhythms and LFO-wubs are less pronounced here, fitting into a broader constellation of musical influences. You can hear the interplay between those rhythms and the timbrally rich pads, rapidfire sequences and naturalistic string sounds that run through the exceptional “Force Carrier”, or even more subtly beneath the surface of the vast soundscape of “The Imminent”. Indeed, Leeb and company find room within each track to explore numerous ideas; witness the transition from upbeat club-ready beats and rubbery bass into half-time breaks and ultimately to harmonized synthwave style bleeps and washes on “Heatmap”. As befits a soundtrack many of those motifs carry over from one song to another, as the aforementioned hints of synthwave blossom into neon-lit Outrun electro on “Molotov”, whose echoes in turn can be heard at the outset of complex and emotional closing track The Creator. Focusing in one any one genre marker or stylistic choice runs the risk of not seeing the forest for the trees, and underselling just how masterfully Front Line are able to bring all of it together into a cohesive work.

That said, work that emphasizes deeply crafted and considered sound design will comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been tracking recent FLA releases, but the record’s tempos, builds and denser arrangements makes WarMech feel even more considered and expansive than its predecessor. While that can sometimes make things a tad laborious (the average run-time of the record’s twelve tracks is over six minutes), on the whole the slower pace brings the sound design, upon which so much of WarMech‘s impact rests, into closer focus. The somewhat carefree blips which dance across the surface of “Rip Sensor” offset the closely considered chiseling that’s gone into the slabs of bass which sit in the track’s dense center, and the slow and murky procession of that bass across the track allows that detail to be examined from every angle. That languid pace may seem at odds with the record’s origin as the musical accompaniment to a fast-moving RTS game, but the granular detail of every sound on the record certainly befits the technophilic process of crafting, upgrading and detailing a mech.

With songwriting and production credits from Bill Leeb, the late Jeremy Inkel, Sasha Keevill, Jared Slingerland, and Craig Johnsen, WarMech is the culmination of the sound this incarnation of the long-running project has been pursuing for close to a decade. Whether or not there’s more material still to emerge from this configuration of the band, the untimely passing of Jeremy Inkel in 2018 makes WarMech the symbolic end of an era, and consequently makes listening to the album something of a bittersweet experience. As a major contributor to FLA and creative partner to Bill Leeb from the middle-2000s onwards, Jeremy Inkel was an architect of the sound which runs through the record, and its success in welding complex melodies, mechanical precision, and deep design to FLA’s electro-industrial framework is part of his artistic legacy. Its success is his success, and the album stands as a document of and testament to his talent and skill.

Buy it.

We Have a Technical 213: TV’s Police

Mlada Fronta rocks the party

Texture and rhythm heavy records by Mlada Fronta and Zex Model come under the microscope in this week’s episode of We Have A Technical! From Rémy Pelleschi’s stockade of breaks, dub, and techno beats to Paul Von Aphid finding ways of reworking the classic drippy electro-industrial template of Skinny Puppy, Bruce and Alex are ready to talk turkey about “High Tension” and “Mind Slaughter”. All that, some live updates and plenty more on this week’s episode of the podcast! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Conformco, “controlled.altered.deleted”

Glitch Mode

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that a new project from Cyanotic’s Sean Payne and Project .44′s Chris Harris would hearken back to the Wax Trax era: both artists have been longstanding fixtures of the Chicago scene and paid fealty to its celebrated industrial rock history even as they became a part of it. The specific vein the duo mine on Conformco’s debut controlled.altered.deleted is the heavy groove and sample style pioneered by Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker in their Luxa/Pan guise, shot through with some more modern perspectives on that material and its legacy.

Debut single “eighty-sixed” is Conformco at their best, arranging a flurry of pitched-up orch hits over a funky electric bassline, tortured and stuttered vocals and a flurry of samples. It plays as a 2018 take on a PTP track, but doesn’t necessarily suffer from the comparison, leaning into the homage hard enough to justify itself. You get a similar vibe from the aggressive “supply+demand”, where a charging arpeggiated synthline runs up and down across the track and Return of the Living Dead dialogue sounds out, invoking the era of 12 bit samplers and 12″ remix singles. Speaking of remix singles, Conformco make a point of offering up songs in extended and altered arrangements. “into the cut [funk-o-tron]” is a maxi-sized and club ready take on “eighty-sixed”, with the addition of numerous programmed instrumental passages, where “demand supply” ups the rock ante over its source material with blasts and squeals of guitar.

The songs on controlled.altered.deleted are obviously indebted to the project’s influences, but you can’t fault Payne and Harris for having fun with such an iconic template. While classic EBM and 90s dark electro have scads of acts borrowing liberally from their playbook, very few bands have turned their attention to the sounds Conformco are staking their claim to. To whit, when the big kick-snare drum sound and electric bass a la “Attack Ships on Fire” kicks in on “time to conform” or the joyous sampled sax break in “we are conformco” busts through the mix in all its downsampled glory, its hard to find fault with them, tributes though they are. If the songs had less energy and verve to them it might be a different story, but Conformco hit the right balance of snarky charmy and creative reverence to make it hang together.

Buy it.

controlled.altered.deleted by CONFORMCO

Lana Del Rabies, “Shadow World”

Lana Del Rabies - Shadow World

Lana Del Rabies
Shadow World
Deathbomb Arc

It’d be easy enough to spy Lana Del Rabies’ moniker flitter past on a screen, give a quick chuckle, and keep scrolling. Sure, imagining the aughts’ most tranqued chanteuse getting high by the beach on bath salts rather than benzos merits some mirth, but thankfully the moniker Phoenix’s Sam An has used for her recent recordings doesn’t portend madcap zaniness. Instead, An samples from a wide range of noise, industrial, and dark traditions to assemble disturbing and often violent tracks which place a premium on rhythm without ever becoming garish or excessive.

It’s as tough to describe the composite form An ends up offering on Shadow World as it is easy to identify the record’s influences and component parts. Textures and motifs from power electronics, rhythmic industrial, and the broadest (and roughest) understanding of early American darkwave all find their way into the mix, but are brought to bear by An’s submerged, lo-fi production style and sparse arrangements. The stabbing static and accompanying nails on chalkboard scrapes of “Devour”, for instance, might not be too far removed from early Dive, but the way in which they interface with a low, booming klaxon and An’s pained yet almost wistful vocals aren’t remotely in Ivens’ ballpark.

The ambiguity of those vocals, haunting but seeming to connote very real, very concrete, and very contemporary horrors rather than otherworldly specters, is given plenty of space to shift about in Shadow World‘s concrete haze. When “Repose” morphs into something approximating the classic rhythmic noise template for its last minute, with rapid beats and distortion finally pressed close enough together to blot out anything else, it comes as a shock, putting into start relief just how much space and atmosphere An’s given the rest of her beats.

Whatever the provenance of her sounds, An’s voice finds ways to bend them to her purpose, whether she’s barking out condemnation and confession simultaneously amidst “Disgrace”‘s boiler room hisses or weaving her way through the circular lope of “Unwilling”, perhaps holding on to half-remembered childhood melodies as talismans of strength. For a record so uniformly bleak and upsetting in tone, Shadow World showcases the considerable talents and range of an artist who knows a myriad secret avenues and passageways, though each may very well lead to the same intractable hell.

Buy it.

Shadow World by Lana Del Rabies

Tracks: June 18th, 2018

This week Tracks is being guest curated by Sólveig Matthildur, one third of Icelandic synthpunk trio Kaelan Mikla and solo artist in her own right. Her 2016 vocal/synth/strings release Unexplained Miseries & the Acceptance of Sorrow attracted the attention of Artoffact Records who will be re-releasing it this week on vinyl and CD. Speaking of attracting attention, Kaelan Mikla played just this past weekend at Meltdown Festival by personal request of Robert Smith (yes, that Robert Smith); one hell of a co-sign for the project. If you want to know about what’s happening in the Icelandic outpost of Our Thing, you could do worse than to listen to her Tracks picks below!

Solveig getting lit, no literally

Aska, “Úr nafnlausum prósa”
Aska is the solo project of my good friend Kristófer who I first met when he joined a poetry group I started in 2013. Kristófer creates his music around his poetry with his analogue gear and records it on cassettes. I was so lucky to get one of 30 copies he made. I recommend everyone to check him out. His work is so well thought out and I recommend everyone to check him out.
út við sundin grá by aska

Johnny Blaze & Hakki Brakes, “WD-40″
These two disco guys are brand new in the Icelandic music scene. Before I checked out their music I wasn´t sure if I was gonna like it or not. It looked too vaporwave for me. Then in early May 2018 I was so lucky to catch them live in Reykjavík and they completely blew my mind!
Vroom Vroom Vroom by Johnny Blaze & Hakki Brakes

Rex Pistols, “Never Done Anything”
Rex Pistols is an amazing woman from Montreal who moved to Iceland some years ago. We got to know each other through the music scene in Iceland and also when we were working together at a cafe in Reykjavík. I really look up to her. She used to be in a band called Antimony that unfortunately quit couple of years ago. But Rex Pistols rose up from their ashes and I am forever great-full for that.
SQUALOR DEMO by Rex Pistols

IDK I IDA, “Bees Riot”
Ida is also an amazing woman from Denmark that also moved to Iceland some years ago and we also met while working at a cafe in Reykjavík together. Reykjavík is small. She makes her music out of field recordings and everything she does is so brilliant! I really look forward seeing her music career blossom. She released her debut album last year “the bug” and it is definitely my favorite album of the year.
The Bug by IDK IDA

Hatari, “Biðröð Mistaka”
I don´t want to tell you anything about Hatari. They are so much more then music…so catch them live!
For example at Kalabalik på Tyrolen.
Neysluvara EP by Hatari

We Have a Commentary: Snog, “Buy Me… I’ll Change Your Life”

David Thrussell’s 1997 opus Buy Me… I’ll Change Your Life goes under the microscope for this month’s We Have A Commentary podcast, made possible by our Patreon backers! Snog’s staunchly anti-capitalist, anti-corporate ethos was blended with a melange of folk, pop, and country sounds. How have Thrussell’s screeds aged on the other side of 9/11 and Trump? Can we ever have too much nihilism? How does Lee Hazlewood translate into a post-industrial context? We’re pulling no punches with this one, folks! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Observer: Pod Blotz & Deadframe

Pod Blotz
Light Mass Body
Difficult Interactions

Suzy Poling’s Pod Blotz has been around since 2002, and has an expansive discography commensurate with that sort of tenure. Those who have yet to experience the project’s particular version of DIY industrial could do far worse than to start out with new EP for Difficult Interactions Light Mass Body, which gives a handy summation of where Poling is at in 2018. The sound of “Returned Human Source” is dense and frantic, featuring blasts of shredding static, long winding filter sweeps and Poling’s own voice doubled and delayed, warping it into new forms as the track rapidly spirals towards its conclusion. Far more slowly paced but no less unnerving is “The Infinite Now” which slows the tempo to a crawl and fills out the track with a massive, swirling phaser that always seems to be moving further out of orbit with the simple kick and snare at the song’s center. Not strictly rhythmic noise, and not totally power electronics, Pod Blotz finds an unhappy medium between the two, forgoing straight anger for an anxiety tuned up to frenzy or reigned in to jittery distress. With commendable intensity, Poling is still pushing her long-running outlet into new and as yet unbounded territory.
Light Mass Body by POD BLOTZ

Deadframe - No Contact
No Contact

Vertex, a Washington crew loosely assembled around those lo-fi low-lifes in Chrome Corpse (and we mean that in the best way possible), are at times as cryptic as they are coarse. For every couple of Night Terrors or Chrome Corpse release rooted in vintage, grimy electro-industrial and dark electro, there’s an anonymous left-field release like the debut from Deadframe. Comprised almost entirely of staticky electronic drones which sound as though they’re either echoing down wind tunnels or being compressed by 386-era soundcards, it’s a record that’s utterly forthright in its sound while also somewhat mysterious in its intentions. At times, the odd punctuation of these walls of noise by vaguely rhythmic pulses and potentially even super-distorted vocals (it’s rather tough to say) seems to be making feints to death industrial or possibly even Throbbing Gristle, but on the whole the focus is on walls of noise subjected to huge amounts of phasing – think power electronics on the other side of vaporwave, or possibly even early Arca after too many playthroughs of System Shock 2. At just under seventeen minutes, the EP’s over before it has a chance to wear out its welcome, or for the shock of its force to abate.

We Have a Technical 212: Rollerball Rock

A rare pic of the wild JLDM and Marc Heal

A Pick Five episode aims for the singles charts this week on the weekly ID:UD podcast! Bruce and Alex are picking songs whose single versions they prefer to album versions. Expect some big names (and a couple of smaller ones), plus some discussion of upcoming C-Tec dates and how you might be able to help out ArtOfFact in their hour of need. All that and more on the latest episode of We Have A Technical. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Alphaxone, “Edge of Solitude”

Alphaxone - Edge of Solitude

Edge of Solitude
Cryo Chamber

It’s been a couple of year’s since Iran’s Mehdi Saleh released a stand-alone Alphaxone LP (a lengthy sabbatical by his standards), but he hasn’t been standing pat. A slew of split and collaborative releases with a wide range of other dark ambient artists speaks to the varied company Saleh keeps; compare the impressionist cityscapes of ProtoU to the gnostic forestry of Council of Nine. Edge of Solitude is nothing if not a sonically and thematically unified release, but it opens up another dimension to Saleh’s work while retaining his smooth production style, showing that he’s still absorbing new methods of crafting dark ambient, even nine LPs into his career.

Outer space and cosmic themes aren’t wholly new territory for Alphaxone, but the whole of Edge of Solitude finds myriad ways of evoking them. Wispy sprites swoosh past in stereo on “Echosphere” suggesting passing satellites, while the faintly ringing echoes of “Broken Worlds”‘ pads connote a slowly fading corona. “Solar Pulses” breaks from the record’s propensity for long and slowly phasing passages: a series of gentle harmonic tones chime out in slow sequence in the track’s first half, then abruptly leap out at a shockingly brisk pace (well, shocking by dark ambient standards, at least) in almost playful, Glass-like phrasing. The simply joy (yes, joy) of the movement of the track underscores another of Edge of Solitude‘s characteristics: for a dark ambient record, it ain’t really all that dark. The often somber and turgid attitude with which so many dark ambient producers approach themes of space and astral processions is rarely found here. Even when it’s slow and repetitive (as it often is), the record never feels gloomy or ruminative. Instead, it often adopts a picturesque and observational tone, casting its eye on the music of the spheres without any recourse to human consideration.

Whether you want to take that position as an exercise in object-oriented ontology or simply Saleh mixing some brighter colours into a dark palette, Edge of Solitude is another solid entry in the Alphaxone catalog, and one capable of communicating the massive scope of its subject. Closer “Ocean Grooves” feels vastly longer than its actual run time, with the same tranquil tones rising up and falling away like slow breaths. If the title’s meant to connote a planet’s surface, etched away by long-since vanished bodies of water, it’s a fitting final scene for Edge Of Solitude. Simple yet beautiful monuments to ages no one was alive to experience, discovered eons later.

Buy it.

Edge of Solitude by Alphaxone

Autoclav1.1, “Makeshift Splint”

Makeshift Splint
WTII Records

Per Autoclav1.1 mastermind Tony Young, the project’s new LP Makeshift Splint is an album about the details of day to day life, and the various systems in which we find ourselves embroiled; technology, transit, technology and privacy. Those themes seem very appropriate for Young to tackle: his music has always been rooted in relatable musical ideas, using melody and instrumentation to keep his brand of IDM/technoid digestible. That concern with the prosaic is hard to maintain while also making material that’s entertaining to listen to, but Young does a good job of keeping the level of listener involvement up across the LP.

As with many instrumental concept records, it’s the power of suggestion that helps draw the line between Makeshift Splint‘s ideas and the musical results. A title like “Vacate These Seats” is enough to suggest a train or bus on its own, but the track’s motorik backbeat and slightly manic sequences bring the inconvenience of a commute into sharp relief. Likewise, while being named “Thin Client” might otherwise conjure images of Cyberpunk 2020 deckers to mind, the song’s use of reedy, chorused leads and a laidback but insistent groove take it straight to the IT department.

Sometimes, though, a bit of the ambiguity really helps the record and spurs some thoughts about what Young is getting at or drawing inspiration from. It’s not so easy to parse the pleasing arrangement of synth horns, dubby bass and pads that make up “Beacon on the Hill”, but the wistful melody and its eventual degeneration into morse code like bleeps give it a relatable melancholy. Interesting as well that the evocative title track is one of the album’s most rich and ambient moments, taking a break from the rhythmic bustle of the rest of the record for a few fleeting moments. Is it meant to suggest the relief of a stolen moment of personal time? The difficulty of maintaining social niceties? Impossible to say, but considering it in the context of the songs that surround is one of the album’s paths to engagement.

Makeshit Splint probably isn’t going to blow your mind, but that doesn’t seem to to be the end goal of the record. Instead Tony Young is exploring approachable ideas, a commendable enough approach in a genre that often valourizes abstraction for its own sake. It’s not a coincidence that the LP ends with the determined sequences and energy of “Take a Bow”: it’s a short victory lap for making it through another day before you inevitably need to start the next one, and a nice summation of how an examination of the mundane need not be tedious.

Buy it.

makeshift splint by Autoclav1.1

Tracks: June 11th, 2018

Hey, gang! As folks who read these pages are likely aware, we’re big fans of Artoffact. They’ve released countless incredible records from across the spectrum of Our Thing and beyond for nearly twenty years. We’ve long since lost count of the number of incredible releases of theirs we’ve discussed on the site, but we can tell you that five of the seven records we’ve chosen as our favourites in a given year since we started ID:UD have either been released or distributed by Artoffact. Pretty impressive by any measure. Anyway, we try to keep our nose out of other people’s business, but when Artoffact is facing a $10,000+ accounting error, and their legal counsel suggests that social media saber rattling is the best course of action, well, we saddle up. See, FedEx added an extra 0 to a shipping invoice and are now charging Artoffact $12,000 for a shipment which should’ve cost $1,200: not exactly chump change. However, FedEx have been giving AOF the runaround for months to no avail, and it looks like it might be up to all of us to give them a hand The dudes behind AOF are solid citizens through and through, and deserve our support. If you can retweet their petition or do anything to get FedEx to rouse from their slumber on this issue, you’d be doing a world of good for some of the finest purveyors of new and archival releases Our Thing has to offer. Thanks in advance, now let’s get on to this week’s Tracks!

Ashbury Heights

Ashbury Heights. No, we told them it was casual dress - they just showed up like this.

Need For Speed, “c/o”
Progress Productions out of Sweden are consistently one of our favourite labels year over year. Partially it’s because they put out records by bands we already love, but a big part of their appeal is how they bring brand new Swedish synth music to our attention regularly. Such is the case with Need For Speed, a Malmö based duo who make sweet simple synthpop with pleasingly smooth vocals and relatable subject matter; new song “c/o” is about overdoing it on a night out and the associated shame thereof. First album drops in the fall, which is basically the perfect season for this sort of sound. We’ll be listening for it.

Ashbury Heights, “Recorded For MG Lewis (ES Mix)”
Whatever we might have presumed Ashbury Heights’ fourth LP Victorian Wallflowers to sound like was a fair distance away from this revved up club mix. True, this pre-record release remix appearing on the fifth volume of the Electronic Saviors charity compilations is likely a far cry from whatever Anders and Tea have in store for us in the months ahead, but it’s still fun to try to reconstruct the original from the remix…even if the side-chaining excesses of this club rager would make Lewis’ libertine monk Abrosio blush.
Electronic Saviors Vol. 5: Remembrance by Ashbury Heights

Cellar Graves, “Cold White Skin”
Very happy to have some new material from your dude Chase Dobson, better known to some of you by the work he put out on Tympanik as or from his guitar on some recent Black Tape for a Blue Girl. A couple years back Chase started circulating some demos for a classically styled electro-industrial project called Cellar Graves, but it wasn’t until just yesterday that we got word that a debut EP was nearly complete. The first song we’re hearing from it is “Cold White Skin” which goes heavier on the atmospherics and sound design, seeming both retro and timeless on that Doubting Thomas tip. Can’t wait to hear the rest of this!

XISIX, “Dirty Kiss”
We often like to talk about the still evolving industrial-techno matrix in somewhat florid terms. Between northern English art spaces and post-reunificication Berlin raves there’s plenty of chin-stroking to be done about the theory and intersection of these two aesthetics. Well, Seattle’s XISIX couldn’t give two shits about all that. His new release Jupiter’s Orbit via LA’s DTH X CMP clique is nothing but raw and noisy acid that certainly owes something to the legacy of Hymen Records but isn’t taking any time out between thumping kicks to pay polite homage.
Jupiters Orbit by XISIX

Dead Voices On Air, “Plucked and placed in lines of five”
Mark Spybey’s new DVOA release purports to be a flashback to his Zoviet France days, with a focus on unique cassette distribution. In lieu of a clear way of purchasing said tapes, we’re left to skim the online iteration of One Hundred Titles. Few folks in the post-industrial milieu have zoomed in so closely on timbre as Spybey, and as this track shows he’s still a master of excavating the colour and shape of the noisescapes he’s been creating for decades.
One Hundred Titles by Dead Voices On Air

Pod Blotz, “In Between Worlds”
Writing about music tends to lead to spending a lot of time thinking about things like genre tags and classifications, as we try to sort out the endless amount of music we have available to us into some kind of organized system of reference. Artists like Pod Blotz defy that kind of categorization though, shifting effortlessly through noise, ethereal, retro synth, ambient and industrial sounds, often in the course of a single track. If you haven’t checked out Suzy Poling’s work previously you could do worse than to start with new EP Light Mass Body, which arrives from Difficult Interactions replete with the intensity of the project’s previous work in a concentrated into a digestible form.
Light Mass Body by POD BLOTZ

Observer: Kali Jugend & Roya

Kali Jugend
Crippling Narcissism & Absolute Self​-​Doubt
Detriti Records

Despite having formed some four years ago, Kali Jugend’s debut EP Crippling Narcissism & Absolute Self​-​Doubt just touched down courtesy of Detriti Records. The trio comprised of Zarkoff (Sumerian Fleet), Chupa (Baden Baden) and Tzar make an addictive blend of body music and mutant art punk, with an emphasis on awkward, upbeat funk. “New Body Beat” and “Keep Things Clear” revolve around chunky basslines played on electric bass, with needle sharp peels of guitar slipping in and around the errant synth sequences, orch hits and other electronic elements that fill them out. The songs are good but are really set-off by the vocals, which by turns growl, yelp and mumble their way across each track, creating an odd counter-rhythm of their own and injecting the proceedings with an elastic and unpredictable tension. The band prove malleable in their approach, though, gearing down for a Suicide-like bit of muttered synthpunk on “Cold”, going full-EBM on “Synaptic Fire” and creating a sprawling instrumental closer on the hypnotic “Vapor”. The EP is solid stuff all ways around, but especially in how instantly it captures the listener’s attention with its offbeat sense of humour and unpredictability. Kali Jugend keep it strange, but are never less than charming in their approach to danceable weirdness. Recommended.
Kali Jugend – Crippling Narcissism & Absolute Self-Doubt by Detriti Records

Roya - Hive
Eshqui Records

One-woman act Roya’s new LP exudes a haunting atmosphere throughout. But rather than stemming from overly layered production or whispering synth pads, that sense of disquiet comes from the strained yet engrossing sound design Roya uses on the electronic figures which run through it, and the recurring theme of domestic unease. Between Hive‘s art, its titles, and what can be gleaned from Roya’s vocals – quiet but never submerged, more wallflower than ethereal spirit – questions of where and what “home” is acquire somber weight. As the strange synth washes of “Mode” and the reverberating metal echoes of “Host” slowly twist and turn like cosmic Rubik’s Cubes, a sense of estrangement and displacement takes hold and gives rise to both chills and contemplation. The record’s closing piece, “Post”, finally yields to the brighter synthpop sounds the rest of the record is clearly cognizant of but has studiously kept out of frame. The light yet resolute pulses and melodies of “Host” connote the sense of home Roya has been trying to locate throughout Hive, but the toll that quest may have exacted remains a question, even long after the hearthfire of “Post” has faded.
hive by roya

We Have a Technical 211: Shirt

Love is Colder Than Death have 90s monochrome brooding down pat.

It’s an odd couple of records being discussed on this week’s episode of the podcast. The early darkwave stylings of Love Is Colder Than Death’s “Mental Traveller” are considered: what are its connections to modern understandings of ethereal and neoclassical? Also under the microscope is the debut LP from Destroid, “Future Prophecies”: how does it fit in not only with Daniel Myer’s discography but also post millennial club trends? All this, plus some talk about the just announced Killing Joke Tour featuring PIG on the new episode of We Have A Technical! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Replicas: Lycia, “Bleak – Vane”

Bleak – Vane
Lycium Music

What is it?
In 1993 Mike VanPortfleet formed Bleak with his Lycia bandmate David Galas, with the goal of exploring harsher, more industrial sounds. Released in 1995, the project’s sole album Vane was distinct from Lycia not so much in terms of instrumentation but intent; where contemporary records from the latter project were focused on finding a balance between lushness and severity, Bleak would largely forgo any sense of comfort for, well, bleakness. Within a few years David Galas would quit Lycia, effectively ending the side-project, with VanPortfleet’s demos for the sophomore record being reworked as part of the new Estrella project, which itself became a prelude to the a reformation and then dissolution of Lycia. Now in 2018 Bleak’s sole LP sees a digital re-release under the Lycia aegis as Bleak – Vane, with the 2009 remix by Galas that brings it more in line with the rest of that band’s catalogue.

What’s On It?
In the light of history it’s not especially easy to parse the distinction between Lycia and the material on Bleak – Vane. Both projects were concerned with atmosphere above all else, building massive cathedrals of sound out of guitar, synth and programmed drums. Indeed, songs like the swirly “Forever and Ever” and the plodding “Darkness” would have fit in perfectly with the sort of dark rock songs that populated Lycia releases like A Day in the Stark Corner – a bit less folky, but definitely of the same genus.

That said, with the benefit of the remix, the record really does act as a showcase for VanPortfleet and Galas’ capacity for arrangement and mood. Songs like “In Vain” or “One Last Breath” make excellent use of rolling rhythm programming in contrast to VanPortfleet’s vocals and extremely textured guitars, creating movement that belies their enormous and glacial sonic boundaries. They’re still a bit too somber to qualify as rollicking, but they have an energy to them that carries over to the less upbeat numbers like the excellent “Grey Clouds” and the clanging neo-classical tinged “The Weather Vane”. Where earlier versions of the record felt somewhat muddier and more obscured (perhaps intentionally given the goals of the project) the version now available via Bandcamp is crisp and full-bodied, removing sonic clutter to highlight the strength of the material.

Who Should Buy It?
There’s a strong chance that Lycia’s notoriously loyal fanbase will have already nabbed this exact 2009 version of Bleak – Vane, but the transition to being a pay what you want release on Bandcamp really does go a ways to making it more accessible to casual fans or those who might be interested in exploring the catalogue of one of the US’ enduring darkwave acts.

Buy it.

Bleak~Vane by Lycia

Visitor, “Expat”

Visitor - Expat

Detriti Records

Much of the body music renaissance has rested either on a punk-inspired embracing of the genre’s rawer and more unrefined sounds, or a reappraisal of the more diverse rhythms which were often lost in the palimpsest-like rewriting of post-industrial history around the turn of the millennium. Despite their relatively recent arrival on the scene, Edmonton duo Visitor are able to pick up both of these threads and carry them ably on a moody debut LP of dark electro and related sounds which is by turns morose and funky, and sometimes both.

The squared-off programming and simple leads which populate Expat will likely have most greying rivetheads drawing comparisons to the likes of Psychic Force, early :wumpscut:, and yes, even the ur-source of that mean but eminently danceable sound, The Klinik. And while those comparisons are certainly invited by the programming (and lightly distorted vocals), Visitor have learned from the likes of more recent acts like Minimal Man, Forces, and possibly even early VALIS. To wit, there are great rewards to be gained by adding a lithe sense of swing and head-nodding funk to this this side of the broader EBM revival.

Visitor prove themselves quite adept at crossing the various traditional streams from which they’re drawing influence. Plenty of mid-90s records which perhaps weren’t so far from the staccato bleeps of “Imp” would trot through similar dark electro instrumentation, but Visitor find ways of bringing 80s synth-funk swing back into the mix, as they also do on the bridge of the opening titular number. As much as they play with rhythm to good results, they don’t get bogged down either in overproduction or forced aggression; tracks are kept relatively clean and minimal in their construction, allowing the appeal of the rhythms and alternately rubbery and crunchy synths to stand out. A tune like “Celebrate Death” has an immediate punch but isn’t trying to blow the listener out of the frame; you’re instead invited to hang and move with the proceedings.

Visitor sit quite far afield from the rest of their peers in Edmonton, but regardless of their geographic origin they’re positioned quite well in the contemporary throwback body music field. Tasteful but not wholly demure, they’re showing off clear instincts for rhythm and distinct synth sounds on Expat.

Buy it.

Visitor – Expat by Detriti Records

Tracks: June 4th, 2018

Fucking June already, seriously? How did the last five months even happen? It seems like just yesterday we were polishing off our best of 2017 lists and rejoicing at the fabled “slow period” we usually luxuriate in at the beginning of the year before release schedules pick up. Except that kind of didn’t end up happening this year as 2018 has been wall to wall with new and interesting stuff, so much so that we’re still playing catch-up from like a month ago. As we’ve noted many times, too much good music to listen to is the best curse you could possibly have put on you, almost a blessing really. Join us for some new Tracks and share the bounty why not?

Going outside to... stalk... Stockhaussen

Stockhaussen, “The System”
We enjoyed Cold Lines, the previous LP from Mexico’s Stockhaussen, for its straightforward blend of minimal synth structures and a whiff of gothic atmosphere. New record XXI (one of two LPs being released simultaneously, from what we can gather) looks to be a much peppier affair at first blush, with a strong focus on vintage synth styles ranging from Kraftwerk to synthpop to straight up italo. Check this speedy little number featuring no less of a synth luminary than Tracy Howe of Canada’s own Rational Youth!
Stockhaussen – XXI by Infravox Records

Wulfband, “Amputieren”
Is it even possible to dislike Wulfband? The mysterioso Swedish EBM act have so much appeal to fans of trad body music, general industrial audiences, and even openminded punk and metal types we’ve played them for. Is it the songwriting? The manic energy that comes through on the recordings? The mystery of who is behind the masks? Probably a bit of all of that, but the music is immediate and plain fun that it kind of defies analysis: you just want to stomp out to it. Here’s the b-side to their new single, which you can snap up on Bandcamp. Good times!
Liebe Offensive / Amputieren by Wulfband

None, “Isolated”
We’re not sure that one-woman German act None had ever crossed our desk (good luck Googling that moniker), but a whopping fourteen releases of varying lengths have been issued by Anna Nin since the project’s inception a year and a half ago. New EP Hydrophobia is rife with witchy beats and atmospheres as on this piece, but the classic goth/coldwave style of the guitar threading through it points to a solid grasp on older forms. We’re keen to dig back into Nin’s discography and see what other dark treats are ferreted away within.
Hypnophobia EP by None

Front Line Assembly, “Force Carrier”
Some more of that orchestral industrial soundtrack steez from Front Line Assembly, leading up to the release of the project’s soundtrack for Warmech. Definite Vangelis vibes at the outset mixed with modern bass music style production that is executed thoughfully and exactingly. The weird thought that occurred to us recently is that back in the day this sort of thing might have been a whole other side-project for Leeb and company, a la Pro>Noise, Equinox or the like. That it can now be just a full FLA thing and for that variation to make sense is certainly a testament to the mutability and push by that project to try new ideas over that last decade or so.
WarMech by Front Line Assembly

Conformco, “Into The Cut [Funk​-O​-Tron]“
The lead single from Sean Payne (Cyanotic, Glitch Mode) and Chris Harris (project .44) clearly wasn’t a one-off. The pair have just dropped a full record under the Conformco brand, promising Wax Trax inspired irreverance and grooves…and evidently more than a couple of Simpsons samples. The title of this cut from controlled​.​altered​.​deleted tells you all you need to know, with Payne and Harris bringing back the funk influence to classic post-industrial programming.
controlled.altered.deleted by CONFORMCO

Kali Jugend, “New Body Beat”
Wild and weird stuff from Kali Jugend, a trio made up of Tzar, Zarkoff (Sumerian Fleet) and Chupa. Located somewhere between early Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo and Section 25 in terms of sound, the project has been around since 2014 but have just recently released their debut mini-album Crippling Narcissism & Absolute Self​-​Doubt, via Detriti records. It’s awkwardly funky and insidiously catchy stuff, appealing to those with retro-tastes but not totally beholden to them either. Look out for a review of the release from us soon, we’re gonna be bumping this for a while.
Kali Jugend – Crippling Narcissism & Absolute Self-Doubt by Detriti Records

DSX, “Soviet Synthesizer”

Soviet Synthesizer
Basic Unit Productions

Dejan Samardzic was well ahead of the curve on the techno-ebm-industrial crossover sound when he initiated DSX as a solo project in 2012. At that point he already had two decades under his belt as part of forward thinking industrial innovators Haujobb, so hearing the exacting, minimal analogue sound he took up for his solo efforts was revelatory and shaped popular understanding of that former project’s efforts past and present. Some six years on new mini-album Soviet Synthesizer continues the exploration of rigid, beat-driven body music that makes the most it can of a deliberately sparse toolset.

A track like “Strategic Defense Initiative” tells you a lot about what you need to know about DSX; a thick, punchy analogue bassline and meaty kick propel the song, as gated snares and metallic claps and cymbals go off with a military precision commensurate with the cold war era dialogue sample that plays out behind it all. The track’s zing comes from Samardzic adherence to fundamentals, reducing body music to its most basic form and using modulation and deceptively complex delays and reverb plates to build out the track’s structure. Sparseness as aesthetic runs the risk of turning out dry and inert, but listen to how expertly the title track deploys percussion simultaneously as accent and framework, building the song into a tiny automated symphony of clicks, clanks and noise.

That these tersely arranged elements can point to a sense of uncanny unease just as handily as they can the dancefloor is something Samardzic has a preternatural understanding of. As with his debut Anonymous Soviet Synthesizer thrives in a liminal zone between accessibility and a sense of sickly undertow. That tension is underscored by the vocals which have been brought to bear on it. Berlin house artist Jennifer Touch lends icy and arch whispers and high-register punches to “Separation”. The impassive and echoing vocals of Aleta Welling match the thudding kicks of “Pinpoint”, and the pinched off acid flurries of “Kill As We Are” are well suited to some yowling from The Horrorist (with the track and its vocalist pointing to the lengthy genre-crossing history preceding DSX’s topical sound).

Soviet Synthesizer‘s structure matches the restless nature of its sound. It crosses streams in ways that are simultaneously agitating and instinctive, and it ends just as the breadth of DSX’s sound has been established, not hanging around to exploit the territory its plotted nor wear out its welcome. The mileage Samardzic gets from his clockwork beats and industrial groans is proof positive of skill acquired through decades of studio work and brought to bear just in time for the rest of the electronic world to catch up.

Buy it.

Soviet Synthesizer by DSX

We Have a Technical 210: A Technical Foul

Kite are classy you know

Patreon backers join Alex and Bruce to discuss albums which tickle their fancy. Releases from Urceus Exit, The. Invalid, and Kite have been chosen and are considered from historical and biographical perspectives. Also, in a move without precedent, we assure you, the Senior Staff gush on and on about Encephalon for a while. Join us for all that and more on the latest iteration of the podcast! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Panic Priest, self-titled

Panic Priest
Negative Gain Productions

The distinction between post-punk and darkwave is indistinct and often up for debate, with most arguments hinging on some arcane interpretation of artistic intent and specifics of songwriting and production. One-man Chicago act Panic Priest (aka Jack Armando) walks the line between the sister-genres well on its debut album, getting across the grandeur and melodrama of proper darkwave, executed via thoughtfully deployed rock instrumentation and electronics.

Perhaps owing to Armando’s history in electro-tinged indie rock act My Gold Mask, there’s a goodly amount of guitar woven into each of the 10 tracks on the LP. Despite the consistency of the production it’s interesting to hear exactly how the instrument gets switched up from song to song; sometimes it acts as rhythmic accompaniment, as strummed against the electronic backbeat of “Velvet Cage”, sometimes as textural element as on the shoegazey version of “Untamed” that closes the LP. Most notably and potently, Adorno lays in some intricate goth rock-styled six string leads, such as the one that wends its way through the stomping “Holy Ghost” or the rolling mid-tempo “Fallen Dream”. It’s not that guitar is the focus of these songs – album highlight “Gaffer” finds the guitar playing parallel to a shimmering synthline for example – but that it’s used tastefully and effectively throughout.

The other really distinctive element of Panic Priest’s sound is Armando’s rich, expressive baritone. As a vocalist he has very good control and phrasing, providing the requisite gravitas that the songs demand without lapsing into the dull monotone that so many male vocalists in the genre default to. Listen to how he modulates gradually upwards from the bridge to the outro of opener “Sideways”, or the string of “oh oh ohs” he gets away with by virtue of confidence on “Death Seasons”, all indicative of the care and effort he puts into his parts. There are a few moments where the vocal mix feels a bit loud and unseated from the songs, but by and large Armando’s singing is a major asset to the project and stands out strongly amongst the current crop of male darkwave vocalists.

Panic Priest’s debut obviously had a lot of work put into it, from the attentive arrangements and production through to the programming and performances, all of which have the air of exactitude around them. Where that kind of perfectionism runs the risk of sucking all the life out of a collection of tracks, it imbues Panic Priest’s material with a distinctive touch, all the better to distinguish it in a year where this particular style of rock-infused darkwave is on the rise. It’s a solid LP built on a foundation of well presented songs and serves as a memorable introduction to Jack Armando as a solo artist.

Buy it.

Panic Priest by Panic Priest