In Conversation: High-Functioning Flesh, “Culture Cut”

In Conversation is a feature in which the senior staff talk about a record we’ve been listening to, recent or otherwise. It’s a nice informal (and often rambling) way we sometimes like to approach an album we have a lot to say about, like the funked-out third LP from Los Angeles’ High-Functioning Flesh…

High-Functioning Flesh
Culture Cut
Dais Records

Bruce: Now three albums in, Gregory Vand and Susan Subtract’s work as High-Functioning Flesh has not only established its own territory, but seems to be operating almost entirely independently. The combination of sloping funk and rubbery beats which make up Culture Cut really don’t suggest any band to me other than HFF themselves. That could just be a function of me getting more familiar with the things that make the band’s songs tick; it was tempting and fun to wax postulative about influences, especially knowing what we do about Vand and Subtract’s deep knowledge of various arcane musical histories and sub-genres. But after playing Definite Structures pretty much non-stop in 2015 (and 2016), in approaching Culture Cut I was struck by how the band had honed in on all of the things which seemed to make them stand out from their peers (and their influences), and had cut out anything which didn’t seem to fit the HFF ethos as they’d established it. Does that scan with your first passes at the record at all?

Alex: I went back and spent some time with their debut LP A Unity Of Miseries, A Misery Of Unities before really digging into Culture Cut, for the simple reason that I have listened to Definite Structures so much that I needed an actual refresher to really position the new record mentally with the previous ones. In doing so I think it really threw what you’re talking about into sharp relief; this is the record you get from a band who have figured out exactly how they want to sound and are exploring what they can do within that. I’d never damn the album with a backhanded assessment like “If you liked the last record, this is more of the same”, but in considering High-Functioning Flesh from the original cassette demo to present this is less of a jump in terms of mood and presentation and much more of a refinement. Which is a pretty long-winded way of saying yeah, this is a band who have it dialed in.

Okay, so here’s a thought I had during a late night listening session: how much of what High-Functioning Flesh accomplish on this LP is based on the idea of engaging the listener physically? Without getting into a broader discussion of body music, I’m wondering about how the rhythms, tempos and structures of this record are meant to elicit movement and an actual material response on the part of the audience. Even beyond the baseline level that all beat-driven music can invoke dancing, moshing, or whatever, I feel like HFF are exploring how to cut through how we consciously process their music and tap into something a lot more deeply-rooted in our nervous system. Like the breathing at the end of “Drawn Out” is a marker for that idea, a literal suggestion of the exertion of performer and audience.

Culture Cut by High-Functioning Flesh

Bruce: I was listening to the record at the gym earlier today and actually found myself syncing my own reps and breathing with “Drawn Out”, no foolin’! Hell, if nothing else looks at the band name. There are a lot of purposes to which the functioning of our bodies could be lent – dance, sex, violence, athletics – and the oblique way in which HFF’s lyrics refer to impulses, frustrations, and desire means they could all be on the table. But yes, between Susan’s constant grunts and gasps and all of the little synth flourishes it doesn’t just feel like music to move to but music about movement.

I guess that’s as good a connection as any to talk about how underscored the funk element of HFF’s delivery feels in this record. It’s always been a big part of the band’s sound, but right from the get go in the way that a funky rhythm’s pulled out from the stuttering sample of “Talk About”, there seems to be a real focus on rhythmic engagement rather than rhythmic aggression…which is a bit of reductive way to look at the funk/EBM nexus, I admit. However, without changing their thematics around that much the duo really seem to be doubling down on sounds which feel, if not softer, more rounded around the edges and can produce a more groove-based feel. I know we talked along these lines at least in terms of the band’s philosophy when Definite Structures came out, but it really feels like something that’s come into its own musically here. I guess that’s another thing that they’ve dialed in, as we were talking about before.

Alex: Yeah, this is the band at their absolute funkiest. I’m super into how songs like “Gone Home” articulate that; the laidback vocal performance from Susan and the chattering synthline and vocal sample that just bubbles away behind the bassline give it this loose, groovy feel that I don’t think you would have heard from the band at their inception. I love how “Invoking Phantoms”, which follows it directly, kind of reinvents that groove as a vehicle for a very clean and melodic vocal turn and a real singalong chorus of the kind that the band hasn’t really done before. In a lot of ways these tracks are differentiated by the way they apply rhythm, more than things like instrumentation.

Which leads me to another thing I wanted to discuss, namely that this album sticks to a very specific set of sounds pretty much throughout. Not that they’re reusing the same drum sounds or synths on every song, but there isn’t a vast variety in how those component parts are presented across the record. That limited palette really makes you focus on the differences in structure and construction. A song like “Provoke the Wound” is on paper very similar to “Gone Home” but they’re actually very different in practice. All the variety comes from things like how Susan rides the beat as a singer, how the vocal cut ups play against the drums and how those leads swoop in. Speaking of those leads, do you get a jazzy, live feeling from how they’re played? So many of the songs feature prominent melodic parts that don’t seem quantized or edited at all, which is pretty cool and different.

Culture Cut by High-Functioning Flesh

Bruce: I’m almost always terrible at guessing what’s programmed, what’s live, what’s quantized, and what isn’t, but yeah: this album sounds very much like their live sets, in particular the DB20 one we caught last year which was very heavy on new material. I’ve also seen them play three times (I think) between the release of Definite Structures and Culture Cut, so the idea of HFF as a live entity is definitely shaping how I’m approaching this record, and likely just about all of their material from this point forward. My point is that it’s very easy to visualize the pair of them playing this record pretty much as is in a live setting.

When we first got onside with HFF we were really interested in how people from outside familiar cliques and labels were approaching what then seemed like “roots” body music from a very different set of perspectives and scenes than had been common for years. That distinction’s definitely blurred since then (to everyone’s benefit, I’d say), but I like that Culture Cut seems to have set aside issues of lineage and influence, be they sonic or sub-cultural, and instead feels like Susan and Greg zeroing in on what they like about their own music, or at least what sounds or ideas get them up in the morning and into the studio. Final thoughts?

Alex: Albums like Culture Cut are a challenge to make. It’s predecessor felt totally revelatory, a reframing of familiar sounds in a modern context that also happened to be super well-written and compulsively listenable. How do you follow-up a record that done changed the game when you aren’t looking to reinvent yourself or your sound again?

The answer is you dig in hard and work to find new ways to explore your ideas within the rubric you’ve established. Culture Cut is an album made by a band who have themselves figured out, and are getting to enjoy the fruits of their labours by playing with the possibilities of their template. It’s not an album you could mistake for anyone else; this is High-Functioning Flesh, and that should serve to tell you what it sounds like better than any genre descriptor. Recommended.

Buy it.

Culture Cut by High-Functioning Flesh

So Fragile: DJ Rexx Arkana

For this month’s So Fragile mixtape, we tapped one of the most knowledgeable and deeply rooted scene DJs we know, Rexx Arkana. You may know him as the singer from FGFC820, the driving force behind millennial supergroup Bruderschaft or from his new project with Eric Eldredge, Coldkill (whose debut album Distance by Design we recently reviewed), but before any of that he was DJing in alternative clubs across the globe. On this installment of So Fragile, Rexx brings his deep knowledge of new wave, ebm and synthpop, with a sprinkling of alternative classics to round things out.

Stream the mix below, and check out Rexx on stage with FGFC820 this year, culminating with a show at DB21 in Los Angeles this October!

Tracklisting:
Camouflage, “That Smiling Face”
Savage, “Only You”
Flexx, “Love Theme from Flexxy-Ball (You’ll Never Change No More)”
Sign System, “Stay With Me”
The Thompson Twins, “The Gap (Rexxtended Mix by Rexx Arkana)”
A Split Second, “Muscle Machine”
The Hunger, “Shoot to Kill”
Boys from Brazil, “We Don’t Need No WW III (Razormaid Mix)”
Dirty Harry, “D Bop (Razormaid Mix)”
Gary Clail & On-U Sound System, “Human Nature”
The Swains, “Don’t Call Us”
Consolidated (ft. The Yeastie Girlz), “You Suck”
Stereo MCs, “Connected”

Tracks: June 26th, 2017

Morning, gang! If’n these aren’t the actual dog days of summer yet we’re dreading how baked out and useless we’re gonna feel in a month or so, up to our eyeballs in dark ambient and EBM records but desperate to get to a patio or at least a vegan friendly bar with AC. In the meantime, we’re trying to stay cool with pro wrestling, new records and a few other misremembered awkward aphorisms lifted from the popsicle commercials of our youth. Note to PR flacks: this post’s about as close as we’re ever gonna get to ever describing anything on the site as “sun-drenched”.

Senior Staff

The Senior Staff reps BC (in both meanings of the acronym) for life at wrestling house shows.

SΛRIN, “Anfal”
More fire from the ever prolific aufnahme + wiedergabe, whose 12″ and EP release schedule shows no sign of slowing down. Along with some new stuff from S S S S and The Horrrorist, their Bandcamp has a new one up for pre-order from Canadian ex-pat and techno-EBM superstar SΛRIN. As ever, the project’s take on sound includes tightly sequenced basslines, phasered out hi-hats and that clanging metal percussion that he knows how to deploy just so. If you haven’t taken the plunge on a+w or SΛRIN yet, this is as good a place as any to get your feet wet, from dancefloor sweat presumably.
Shifting Allegiance by SΛRIN

KLUTÆ, “The Wire & The Cuffs”
The KLUTÆ project has always been the place for Leaether Strip’s Claus Larsen to get aggro and indulge in some more straight-ahead dancefloor material that would necessarily fit into LS’ ornate and orchestral sound. But man, is this new single “The Wire & The Cuffs” on some minimal electro-punk styles, just straight up bass, drums and vocals. And you know what? It bangs. New record Black Piranha is up on Bandcamp, and if it’s all songs like this we won’t be complaining.

Terminal Gods, “Interplay”
The actual debut LP of London’s Terminal Gods came years into the act’s celebrated career, but evidently they’ve acquired a taste for the format; just a little over a year on from Wave/Form, they’re prepping follow-up Meridian. The softer and more brooding side of the band’s been brought out over the past few releases, but lead single “Interplay” carries that further than we might have imagined. Is this sulky yet smooth number indicative of the lads’ current direction? You can bet we’re keen to find out.
Meridian by Terminal Gods

German Army, “Become Free”
Some cool and clattering rumbles from mysterious, anonymous LA duo German Army. Drawing influence from Nocturnal Emissions (though I’m getting some 23 Skidoo here), the act is unnervingly prolific: Swidden, out on Berlin’s Total Black label, marks the fourth full-length German Army release this year. Somewhere, Bryn Jones is smiling.
Swidden by German Army

Bonini Bulga, “By A Higher Thought”
The long-awaited arrival of Pär Boström’s most recent Kammarheit album seemed to trigger a flood of creativity in the Swedish dark ambient artist, with new Cities Last Broadcast plus a new collaborative project with his sister Åsa. That’s been carried forward into Hypnagoga Press, a record label/publishing project by the two siblings. Their latest zine comes packed with a tape of minimalist drones from Pär under the new handle Bonini Bulga; it’s a more stripped down approach for the veteran, yet retains much of the bleak feeling of his more firmly dark ambient work. Check the digital release below or get the full tape and zine here.
Sealed by Bonini Bulga

The Gothsicles, “Round 2: Fight”
As is now tradition, your pals and ours The Gothsicles have whipped up a special song specifically for a forthcoming festival appearance. And this time it’s for Terminus 2017, just a scant few months away! An extended Mortal Kombat analogy featuring references to the infamous Sega Genesis “blood code” and an actual reference to their set time to make you don’t forget when they’re on? This is why you book the ‘Sicles for your festival, birthday celebration, bar mitzvah or office holiday get-together: they bring the party with them.

We Have a Technical 162: Progressive Skiffle

Dude... are you okay?

Records by Grendel and The Hope Blister are on the docket in this week’s episode of the podcast. How does Timewave Zero rework aggrotech sounds for a brighter future? Does …Smile’s Okay merit a break from the legacy of This Mortal Coil? All these questions plus some tour news 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.

Veil of Light, “Front Teeth”

Veil of Light
Front Teeth
Avant! Records

On last year’s Ursprung Swiss coldwave project Veil of Light went all in on hard mechanical rhythms, building a slew of rough post-punk and darkwave numbers on clanging drums and chattering synths. Not even a year later, Front Teeth finds project mastermind M testing the limits of that aggressive approach both instrumentally, production-wise, and as a vocalist.

Where the LP’s predecessor still made a lot of room for swirly textures and soft atmospheres, Veil of Light have gotten a lot leaner in execution, paring all but a few songs down to their basest elements. Tracks like the excellent “Your Love” and “Strurm and Drang” are defined by their bass and percussion, and how those elements are emphasized in the mix. Melodic instruments need to fight for space between each drum hit and wiry sequence, only taking the spotlight when they’re coated with enough saturation and ugly fuzz to overpower the tightly programmed rhythm section. That tension yields some of the better songs on the record, like “Soul in Ethanol” where a rusty pad scrapes away what’s left of the austere coldwave in the track’s DNA, or “Soft Palate” where something – maybe a really processed guitar, maybe a synth made to sound like one – shoots holes through a wall of kicks and snares.

M has really emerged as singer as well, and while he doesn’t have a ton of range and occasionally pushes himself past his limitations, his assertive and sometimes belligerent approach works on a record whose primary concern is exertion. He’s a lot louder than before, and while still presented with plenty of reverb, the sense is that he isn’t hiding himself in his songs anymore and wants to be heard, even when struggling with the material. When the songs require him to sneer, he sneers as hard as he can, and when then they need him to belt it out as on “Fight Fire With Fire”, he leans into it. There are even moments like “Under a Sun that Never Sets” where he approximates Dirk Ivens’ desperate certainty, albeit with a more nasal and slightly off-key delivery.

In the context of their recent history, Front Teeth is everything Veil of Light have been doing, just amplified amplified. It’s a maximal interpretation of traditionally minimal music, pumped full of juice and with all the soft surfaces roughly sanded to a gritty finish. Veil of Light keep getting bigger, uglier and more severe, and damn if that isn’t making them all the more enjoyable to listen to.

Buy it.

VEIL OF LIGHT – Front Teeth by AVANT! Records

Anima Nostra, “Atraments”

Anima Nostra - Atraments

Anima Nostra
Atraments
self-released

Henrik Nordvargr Björkk’s name isn’t just inseparable from the history of death industrial, it’s also inseparable from an innumerable number of projects which have trod the full range of that blasted heath of a genre. So, when pundits like me try to describe a (relatively) recently formed project of Björkk’s in relation to the genre he helped define, we’re almost invariably going to be out of our depth in terms of placing it on that larger spectrum. Hell, for all I know Björkk has half a day’s worth of never-released material in his archives which sits in close proximity to Atraments, but that doesn’t stop the record from feeling like a fresh furnace blast of gnostic meanness.

The second full length from the collaborative project of Björkk and Margaux Renaudin adds further detail to the scene established on the duo’s self-titled debut from last year, which amplified the ritual elements already present in the ‘traditional’ death industrial of Mz.412, and shot it through with unsettling, woozy ambiance. Atraments is a more forceful listen, more direct in its approach; vocal incantations are both more common and more present in the mix, and at times it feels as though some inspiration, if not direct instrumentation, has been taken from the likes of doom metal and perhaps even neo-classical. Less drone-heavy and far more bombastic, Atraments churns along with studied malevolence.

I can’t say for certain whether opener “Composition For The Shadow Self” is actually using guitars to blast out its tight and ferocious buzzes or whether it’s the product of intensely sculptured sound design, but either way the proximity to the likes of Celtic Frost feels palpable. Later on, “Blameless” leaves no such uncertainty; tying Björkk and Renaudin’s unrepentant barks to a mercilessly punched in bass (if I have one complaint about the record it’s that I was hoping for more vocals from Renaudin to add some further nuance). It’s not just in ‘traditional’ rock instrumentation that new vitality is found: the organs in “Solemn Majesty” pair wonderfully with muted timpani-like drums, somehow livening a military march into an infernal jig.

My familiarity with Björkk’s more classically industrial (and EBM) work is likely guiding my perspective on Anima Nostra. I’d be keen to know how those more familiar with, say, Neurosis than Pouppée Fabrikk might react to Atraments, but whatever one’s point of entry to the record it’s invigorating to hear such a diverse blend of instrumentation and ideas being carried forward with purpose and inspiration. Recommended.

Buy it.

Atraments by Anima Nostra

Tracks: June 19th, 2017

We’re rapidly approaching the six year anniversary of I Die: You Die and as usual we have absolutely nothing planned to mark the occasion. Oh sure, it’d be nice to have a star-studded celebration with performances by our favourite acts and maybe some tasty vegan cake or something. Then again, part of what has kept us doing I Die: You Die has always been the simple of pleasure of writing and talking about music, and maybe the best way to celebrate that is to just do what we always do, week in and week out. Not to get all dignity of labour or anything, we’re just happy you come to check out what we do: we’re flattered by it and always will be. Speaking of which, here’s some new music for your trouble.

Mahr

Mahr

Pig, “Prey & Obey (Leaether Strip remix)”
Last year’s The Diamond Sinner was if nothing else a reminder of the force of Raymond Watts’ personality; people who like Pig tend to really like Pig. New EP Prey & Obey arrives just in time for Watts and crew (which includes a few names you might recognize, like say, En Esch and Günter Schulz amongst others) to road test on their Summer tour, which finds them spreading their filthy gospel across North America through mid-August. Enjoy this Leaether Strip remix of the title track, a tasty electro remake of a song co-written by Sisters of Mercy guitarist Ben Christo.
Prey & Obey by PIG

Mahr, “Hollow”
Atmospherically minded producer Mahr is back, returning to the textured drones and soundscapes of her debut after her more beat focused second release, but there’s a twist. If this album aren’t didn’t tip you off, The Wretched borrows from the weird sub-strains of black metal which end up in wholly ambient territory. It’s a nice theme for the Madison artist, who has the sound design chops to pull off this subtle shift in course.
The Wretched by MAHR

rendered, “BENDOVER”
Daniel Myer and Clément Perez’ collaborative project Rendered is relatively new, but between their recent drop for aufnahme + wiedergarbe and this BENDOVER release from Fleisch they aren’t wasting any time establishing themselves. As you might expect given their backgrounds, this is on that techno-EBM tip, albeit from two artists whose work spans so far beyond those genres that reducing it to that doesn’t give you the whole acid-soaked, elastic-sequenced picture. Include a remix by Codex Empire, and you have a pretty irresistable package for heavy beat fans.
B E N D O V E R by RENDERED

Codex Empire, “Powder Treason”
Speaking of Codex Empire, his release on aufnahme + wiedergabe collates the Vienna producer’s three EPs for the label for the benefit of those who might’ve slept on a+w’s (traditionally rather limited) 12″ pressings. There’s also a new cut appended, which adds a little bit of classic 90s rave a la Fostercare into the techno/industrial mix.
Codex Empire by Codex Empire

Ash Code, “Icy Cold”
Deep dark synthpop by way of post-punk from dour Italians Ash Code. We slept on their LP from last year Posthuman but the sound of this has us thinking we should go back and check it out. We’re especially feeling some of the darkwave touches on this one, reminiscent of some of the Frozen Autumn’s more aggressive moments.
Icy Cold by Ash Code

Alex Reed, “Literally Industrial (Club Mix)”
Okay, yes, we’re waiting for the sophomore Seeming record with bated breath. But in the meantime, enjoy this bagatelle from Alex Reed inspired by last week’s podcast. Now we just need someone to actually follow the directions and reconstruct the track to make things even more meta…
Literally Industrial (club mix) by Alex Reed

We Have a Commentary: Ministry, “With Sympathy”

On this month’s Patreon-supported and selected bonus commentary podcast Alex and Bruce talk Ministry’s love-it-or-hate-it new wave debut With Sympathy. This is definitely the record we like the least of any we’ve done a commentary for, but behind the cheese and the fake accents there’s some pretty fascinating connections both to Al’s later work and the origins of the project. What he say? Find out on We Have a Commentary! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

We Have a Technical 161: Waxed Mustache

We’re taking up the role of sampled voices in industrial music in this episode of the podcast. From staccato cut ups and obscure manipulations to easily recognizable movie samples from cinematic blockbusters, what role does the human voice play in a non-singing capacity in Our Thing? How do samples fit into the larger philosophy of industrial music? Is there a statute of limitations on Blade Runner samples? We’re not shying away from the tough questions. We also chat about some upcoming tours and the great Severed Heads show we just saw, all this week on 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.

Night Sins, “Dancing Chrome”

Night Sins - Dancing Chrome

Night Sins
Dancing Chrome
Funeral Party Records

Lord knows I’ve kvetched plenty on this site about the outward exploding of the term “goth” to the level of a transcendental signifier, seemingly meaning whatever anyone who wants to pick the well-worn term up wants it to mean. Any fashion writer on a deadline or uninspired jangle-pop band can use the word to describe any trend or sound, often just as a stand-in for anything “dark” or “sad”. Hell, the recent praise being heaped on The Mountain Goats’ Goths underscores a long-standing lament of mine: that it’s perennially cool to have been goth or to reference it, but it’s terminally uncool to ever be goth.

I give all of this preamble to underscore just what an impressive trick Kyle Kimball & co. have pulled off with Dancing Chrome. The third Night Sins LP has one foot in the lo-fi post-punk diaspora which has shown no signs of disappearing from underground shows and well-curated labels across the planet over the past seven or eight years, and another firmly in fog-juice thirsting classic goth rock. It’s deft proof of how much currency true-school goth can have in a contemporary milieu when it’s taken as an honest source of musical inspiration, rather than as a catchall buzzword.

Right from the gate with the terse, pentatonic fret-workout of “Crystal Blue”, Dancing Chrome‘s debt to the likes of Gary Marx is apparent. But what differentiates the record from pure nostalgia is the way in which those goth sounds, often baroque and aloof, are paired with distinctly fuzzy and grimy foundations. Check the wash of pinched keyboards on “Spire And Ecstasy”. On their own the might just seem pleasantly gloomy, but paired with the aforementioned guitar they anachronistically rewrite goth history, either bringing the genre’s later formalism back in time to the earliest stabs at synth-punk, or carrying it forward into contemporary basement shows.

Kimball’s vocals, dropped down to near-Carl McCoy depths, and no-frills drum programming fill out the record, and nearly every element gets its own moments to shine in a tightly packed, sub-30 minute listen which breezes by (over-amplified synth instrumentals and all). Hopping from Leeds to the Batcave to the more guttural Teutonic goth fare before making its way back to the US, it’s a record keenly aware of its own pedigree but has enough in the way of a contemporary vibe to never feel slavish. Whenever you signed on, wherever you signed on, regardless of the incarnation you owe fealty to, Night Sins have a moveable feast for goths of all shades.

Buy it.

Dancing Chrome by Night Sins

TSTI, “Endings”

TSTI
Endings
Basic Unit Productions

Let’s start with the obvious: TSTI’s sophomore album Endings is deeply indebted to early-mid period Depeche Mode. The sound design, the songwriting and the vocal performance all show signs that S. Smith has been studying his Black Celebration closely, and using it to inform his work. You can’t really talk about the LP without acknowledging it, although the real question after making the baseline comparison is whether what it does with that template is worthwhile.

Endings is exceptional when it digs deep and unselfconsciously into homage, breaking through simple imitation to a more profound understanding of its influences. At a time when the gear-barrier has been eroded by access to VSTs and classic sample libraries it’s not enough to just have access to the same or comparable instruments, the canny artist needs not just to identify the right toolkit, but to understand the philosophy underlying its application. Smith has that down pat, and on songs like opener “Things I Would Do” he flawlessly invokes not only the mechanical clatter that underwrote the Mode’s first forays into the period, but the melodrama and the effortless cool that arose from it. You can hear it in the use of choral patches, the plucky leads and the richly textured reverbs, all applied in service of amplifying the feelings contained in these songs as much as possible.

That emphasis on emotion ends up being a pretty good angle to examine Endings from. Varying in tone from the syrupy ballad “R.A.S.” to the anxious fretting of “Naïveté”, Smith never falls into the trap of detachment or playing things campy for a cheap pop. A song like “Sincerity” works well beyond production techniques because it’s, well, sincere. In fact, that sort of unironic candor helps wallpaper a few of the record’s weaker moments; Smith’s voice might not be as strong as you’d like on number like “Forgive Me” and instrumental “To Visit You Again” feels a bit generic, but those flaws are easily forgotten in context. There’s a charm in how earnest this stuff is, and you’d have to be a hell of a cynic to discount the value in that.

It’s tempting to try and couch an assessment of Endings in whether it transcends devotion to become a worthwhile work in its own right, but a record marked by its honesty deserves a more candid evaluation. The truth is that the record doesn’t need to surpass comparisons or similarities to be enjoyable to listen to, just as it doesn’t use nostalgia as a replacement for substance. TSTI made a record that is tribute and meaningful work in one, and that alone is enough to recommend it.

Buy it.

Endings by TSTI

Tracks: June 12th, 2017

Summer’s snuck up on us here at ID:UD HQ, as much as we might have welcomed its approach weeks earlier. Should we be field-testing this new body-heavy EBM record at the non-existent muscle beach? Do we need to wait until 2am to walk around with the latest trad goth releases to ensure the environs are sufficiently dark? Can we possibly begin to take stabs at what are our favourite records of the year thus far, regardless of subgenre? These are the problems anoraked trainspotters like ourselves have to contend with whilst you jet-setters are out enjoying or avoiding the sun, so keep your browser tuned to the station which’ll keep you properly clad in ebon sounds all summer long!

Lingua Ignota

Lingua Ignota doesn't know the words to your birthday request.

High-Functioning Flesh, “Talk About”
It’s only a little over a year since High-Functioning Flesh released what we believe was the best album of 2016, so it seems inconceivable that there would be another missive from Greg Vand and Susan Subtract so very soon afterwards. And yet, Culture Cut is scheduled to come out in less than a month and there’s even a video to whet your appetite. We love the minimal and funky direction their songwriting has taken on of late, and “Talk About” is pretty much a perfect example of how they get the most out of the style. We didn’t even know we were hungry for more of this, and now we’re ravenous.

Caustic, “The Coital Staircase”
Bah, look at what happens when Caustic takes a riff on Coil halfway seriously: you get a cool, nodding techno track which probably has more in common with Underworld than anything we’d care to rip on or mock. Anyway, the first taste of the new Caustic record is a pretty nifty trek out to psych-out heaven which has absolutely nothing in common with any of the bullshit he’s foisted on us thus far and may just signal us having to take whatever is coming down the pipe halfway seriously. Fuck you for making more work for us, Matt.
The Coital Staircase by Caustic

Terminal Gods, “Red Labour”
It’s been a wacky week by anyone’s measuring stick and we’re still no closer to determining whether the UK is under the whip of Orange Thatcherism or guided by a bright, new, decidedly socialist Labour hand. Parliamentary democracies can make for the oddest of bed-fellows, but in the meantime our pals in Terminal Gods are sticking to their guns and are celebrating the stake in the heart of New Labouw with a tightly wound track which cleaves to Tony Benn’s rabble-rousing which feels more pertinent than ever.

Laibach, “Das Nachtlied”
The last couple of years have seen Laibach stick pretty close to their lighter, more satirical and camp mode of operations. Affirming as it was to listen to 2015′s Spectre, we gotta say we’re feeling this classic industrial grinder that just popped up on Mute’s Youtube page. Milan sounds positively demonic on it, and the arrangement of dark electronics and sparse orchestral elements that surround him aren’t anything to scoff at either. Who knows what themes their new LP will be centered around (although the trailer and title offer some clues), but is there anything more Laibach than an oblique invocation of Goethe? Probably not.

Lingua Ignota, “Woe To All (On The Day Of My Wrath)”
Tip of the hat to Alex Reed for warning us of the vocal assault which is Lingua Ignota. Apparently she was supposed to play a show with some noise acts up here in Vancouver a few days ago but was turned away at the border; we can only assume for vomiting black bile on border guards who asked too many questions about her baggage. The All Bitches Die EP is about as pleasant as it sounds and should tide some of us masochistic fuckers over until Jarboe decides to carpet bomb Cascadia again.
ALL BITCHES DIE by LINGUA IGNOTA

Pouppée Fabrikk, “No Way Back (2017)”
Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and his merry band of SwEBM old schoolers Pouppée Fabrikk offer up 2017 versions of the final two tracks of their 1990 debut LP Rage. Made to coincide with their appearance at this year’s WGT, these rejigged and extra spicy versions really highlight exactly why the group is so venerated by so many body music purists: at their best few could match their grit and brute force. We’re especially taken with this 2017 version of “No Way Back”: all engine and nothing extraneous to slow it down.
Watch Your Sex / No Way Back by POUPPEE FABRIKK

We Have a Technical 160: Bite Your Tongue

Decree will straight up pose for a picture by a burning oil rig.

On this week’s episode of them podcast, some of our Patreon backers join us to talk about a trio of records that hail from right here in Vancouver. This kind of came together completely by coincidence, but we’re always happy to talk the enduring appeal of records from right here in the heartland of Canadian Industrial. We also (smack)talk some NIN, the Cold Waves Los Angeles line-up, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and more! All this week on We Have a Technical, from the folks at I Die: You Die! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Coldkill, “Distance By Design”

Coldkill - Distance By Design

Coldkill
Distance By Design
COP International

The debut LP from Coldkill has been in the works for a goodly amount of time and has been preceded by plenty of tasters and mixes, plus a detailed introduction on our podcast courtesy of the vocalist. The pitch has been to stress the commitment of the project – a collaboration between FGFC820′s Rexx Arkana and Interface’s Eric Eldredge – to a decidedly dour model of early 80s synthpop. While there’s plenty on Distance By Design that measures up to that standard (not to mention the band and LP’s names), it has more than enough flourishes from other retro-minded synth stylings as well as its members’ other projects to latch onto listeners who aren’t already immersed in the genre.

The band make good on the promise of pre-release single “I’m Yours”, whose bubbly bass and cleanly delayed synthlines acting as the vehicle for Arkana’s half-monotone vocals is essentially a blueprint for the remainder of the record. Like that song, “Black or White” finds a commonality between the detached minimalism of European coldwave and modern synthpop’s distilled hooks, zeroing in on the stickiest motifs and working them as hard as possible. Indeed, no good melody goes to waste here, with the choruses of numerous tracks presaged in the attendant introductions and verses. Consequently you can pick up on the tune of the excellent “In Here” or “Memories” pretty much immediately, and remember them well after hearing them. That sort of pop songcraft abounds here, speaking to the project’s excellent grasp of what made the classic records that inspired them so memorable in the first place.

The mechanics of songwriting aside, there’s an interesting quality to much of the programming here, namely that while these often feel like throwback songs, the way in which basslines and leads are presented owes something to millennial EBM and even futurepop. An uptempo dance number like super-quantized “Systematic” could easily play as the descendant of Front 242 or Boytronic, depending on the dancefloor you’re hearing it on. There’s even a nod to the robotic funk of new beat in the deep bass groove of “Leave it all Behind”, drawing a line between that genre’s origins in discos that had been overtaken by the sorts of records that inform Distance by Design.

For his part, Arkana works hard to find his voice singing cleanly, and while you can hear him struggling at points, the specific style Coldkill uses benefits him a great deal. Subdued sincerity isn’t the easiest thing to convey, but Arkana manages it by sticking close the melody and cadence of synth parts and keeping things reserved, never pushing too far beyond his range.

The breadth of Coldkill’s tracks and stylings seem like an excellent blend of the band’s interests and skillsets. The duo never reaches into areas they can’t contend with, but they’re also having a lot more fun than the taciturn cover story would suggest. A smoothly charming debut which was worth the wait.

Buy it.

Distance by Design by COLDKILL

ID:UD Dozen – 12 Underrated Dark Ambient LPs Vol 3

We’re proud to be hosting the third installment of Danica Swanson’s series on underrated dark ambient works here at I Die: You Die. We like to dip our toes into the dark ambient pool from time to time, but there are few people on the planet who have Danica’s knowledge of or passion for that most stygian and contemplative of genres. Take a look at her first and second pieces in this series, and check her Black Stone Monestary site for oodles more writing on dark ambient. You couldn’t pick a better guide through some of the lesser known underground lairs and cosmic reaches of the genre, so put on your druid cloaks and grab your chisels and stone tablets, because you’re about to be taken to school.

The dark ambient scene has been growing steadily since my first article in this series was published in 2013. Even in the wake of the demise of the legendary label Cold Meat Industry, and in defiance of the predictions of a cadre of naysayers who stubbornly insist that the genre is stagnant or in decline, dark ambient music continues to thrive.

As listeners discover its potential for facilitating altered states of consciousness and evocative rituals, dark ambient is attracting new generations of fans outside the industrial scene of its origins. It’s even finding its way into yoga classes and meditation retreats, where it is sparking discussions about theta brainwaves and sound healing.

Nonetheless, dark ambient is still a widely misunderstood and under-appreciated genre, with much untapped potential. Ready to dig into a treasure trove of obscure releases? Here are a dozen hidden gems you may have missed.

1. Skadi, Norrland

Skadi - Norrland

Accomplished German musician Alexander Leßwing has many superb releases from the early days of his Skadi project that have thankfully found their way to his Bandcamp page in recent years, yet have somehow remained obscure despite their brilliance. Norrland is particularly vibrant and invigorating, kicking things off with the mystical textured soundscapes of “Skadi och Njörd,” and painting an aural portrait of the mountainous dwelling lands of the project’s namesake goddess of Norse mythology.

The percussive elements are bewitching, and bellydancers will note that “Nordljuset” even features a seductive saidi rhythm. Even the stormy and dramatic bleakness of “Inget Ljus av Hopp” (No Light of Hope) is juxtaposed with layers of ethereal reverence, as if the listener had just been graced with the icy breath of the deepest winter stillness. It’s a particularly effective starter album for introducing neophytes to the genre as well. Not to be missed!

Norrland by Skadi

2. Phragments, New Kings and New Queens

Phragments - New Kings and New Queens
If you’re one of the folks who put off listening to this marvelous album after reading one of the unfortunate reviews that described it as “dry” – or underwhelming, perhaps, in comparison with Phragments’ other releases – I encourage you to give it a fair chance. Granted, it’s rather short, with six chapter segments totaling just over half an hour. It’s also the most minimalistic and subdued of their releases, with none of the gritty industrial elements for which this project is rightfully known and appreciated.

Yet this somber, poignant, beautifully understated Malignant Records release will sneak up on you, soak you from head to toe in atmosphere, and curl its sonic tendrils around you in the best possible way. It’s the kind of album that will deepen meditation, boost creative flow, or provide amicable company on contemplative afternoons spent sipping tea in front of rain-streaked windows. Keep the exquisite monotone cover art handy as you listen, too – the mysterious magical mountains on the cover complement the orchestral swells of the music perfectly, and you may even find that these mountains speak to you of worlds untold.

Fans of Kammarheit, False Mirror, or Sinke Dûs should appreciate the flow of these carefully sculpted, dreamlike compositions. I recommend listening all the way through, as one uninterrupted track.

New Kings and New Queens by Phragments

3. Antikatechon, Privilegium Martyrii

Antikatechon - Privilegium Martyrii
Released in 2011 on Italian label Silentes Minimal Editions, this is Davide Del Col’s first release as Antikatechon, and to my mind it’s one of his finest. Winsome choral elements lend a poignancy and a sacral feel of grandeur to the tracks, as if a full choir will burst into song any moment now, and transport the listener into a reverie. “Summa Obnubilatio” is the noisiest of the tracks, but no less saturated in mystery.

While the album is certainly dark in mood and style, it’s impossible to miss the enduring sense of optimism and promise that dwells within these refined soundscapes – a far cry from the desolation, bleakness, and doom that dark ambient fans have come to expect from a certain segment of releases in the genre. Wisps of ethereal melody fill the air, especially as the album closes, bringing to mind one reviewer’s alluring description of the album as “cathedrals of sacred drones.” If you’re among those who appreciate the sort of dark ambient music that evokes imagery of dark processionals or a cloister walk in a monastery, look no further.

Discogs, buy online.

4. Osman Arabi, Beast Mutation Rituals

Osman Arabi, Beast Mutation Rituals
In the mood for something sinister, noisier, and more harrowing? You can’t go wrong with this unsettling single-track odyssey from a talented Lebanese musician with an impressive roster of genre-defying releases spanning the realms of industrial, dark ambient, noise, and black metal. A close listen is required to fully detect all the richly textured layers as it builds into an ever-creepier crescendo. Is that segment I hear around the 15-minute mark a sample dredged up from the subterranean sonic pits of Lustmord’s seminal release Heresy? Or, perhaps, from Inade’s classic Burning Flesh? It’s not…but the fact that this piece brought to mind the work of those respected veterans of the genre should give you a sense of how impressive it is.

This one may be a stretch for inclusion on a dark ambient list at all, considering the crushing beastly growls and screeches in the last minute or two. Nonetheless, fans of the harsher and more occult side of dark ambient will find that this haunting release packs quite an impressive punch into 25 minutes.

If this leaves you wanting more – and who could blame you? – I recommend you cue up Arabi’s cover of “Aghartha,” also available via Kalpamantra, and “Energizing the Triangle of Set”- a dark ambient track originally made as an intro for a black metal band that stands beautifully on its own.

Soundcloud, www.osmanrabi.com
Beast Mutation Rituals by Osman Arabi

5. Shrine, Nihil

Shrine - Nihil
If you became familiar with the work of the talented and versatile Bulgarian artist Hristo Gospodinov through the calm and subdued Somnia, his acclaimed 2012 release on Cyclic Law, prepare yourself for vastly different sonic territory. Nihil is certainly every bit as sophisticated, dynamic, and richly layered as the rest of Gospodinov’s work, but it’s far more unsettling.

Nihil is densely packed with massive doses of gloomy blackened sound palettes, evoking imagery of ecological devastation and denuded lands. Even the most serene and alluring of these dronescapes has been coated with the aural equivalent of a thick layer of creosote. Cryptic, hair-raising guttural sounds punctuate “Hellfire,” leaving the listener to wonder if a gaping maw might suddenly open in the ground below. The ominous portents continue through a track named after what is, ostensibly, “Paradise” – this time in the form of muffled screams and peals of unnerving disembodied laughter. Not until the closing track “Disintegration of an Ego” is there any softening, and even then there’s a backdrop of disquiet as the dim tones fade.

Don’t let the intensity of the sonic onslaught deter you from this top-notch release, though; the rawness is part of its beauty.
Nihil by SHRINE

6. Daina Dieva, Ice Cold

Daina Dieva - Ice Cold
Gorgeous murky drones and lush cavernous echoes of sonic melancholy are certainly nothing new for this talented Lithuanian musician and performance artist. With Ice Cold – her fourth release – she treats us to an evocative and multi-layered mix of guitar drones, all expertly woven into languorous atmospheric soundscapes capable of lulling the attentive listener into ever-deeper meditative reverie. All 52 enchanting minutes of this single-track, album-length release are saturated in intoxicating elemental layers of wonder and awe. With refined flourish and thorough attention to the most exacting details of her craft, Ice Cold transports the listener through unseen horizons and landscapes, as if the essence of winter itself were breathing its secrets into your ear.

If, like me, you once thought you weren’t much of a fan of guitars in dark ambient, Daina Dieva will deftly prove you wrong with this 2013 release. It’s truly a feast for the senses. More, please!
Ice Cold by Daina Dieva

7. Abandoned Shelter, Yersinia Pestis

Abandoned Shelter - Yersinia Pestis

As a long-time fan of this obscure and long-dormant project by the enigmatic Bulgarian artist Krasimir Velkov (also known for his dungeon synth project Mantle of Dust), I was delighted when I heard it had been revived in 2015. His early albums are extremely difficult to find; just 166 hand-numbered copies of this limited edition were released on the Slovakian Construct.Destroy.Collective label in 2006, and even Discogs has none for sale. Unfortunately, Velkov no longer has copies of the album, nor even the original sound files – but dark ambient fans will be richly rewarded for their efforts to track it down. “Chant of Death” alone would be worth the effort; it’s one of his most well-loved tracks, and with good reason. “Suprema” is another track long-time fans may remember fondly from Vespero Mundi Expectando, another of his albums that remains undeservedly obscure.

Yersinia Pestis is “dedicated to the Black Plague” – the bacterial menace that caused the Black Death, a.k.a. bubonic plague. It’s a grim tale for sure, conjuring up unsettling imagery of mysterious ailments, quarantines, and landscapes strewn with bones. “Forming of the Black Cloud” and “Wheels of Plague” delve deep into these netherworlds of decay, yet “Chant of Death,” with its tolling bells and choral backdrop, imparts a sacral mood – reminding us that there is often a harsh beauty wrapped within the folds of even the deepest grief and horror.

Velkov’s brand of industrial ambient features lavish attention to detail, suffused with just the right level of creepiness – and even within these endarkened spaces, hints of spaciousness peek through.

While the album isn’t officially available, I recommend you track it down, however you’re able – and while you’re at it, see if you can grab Vespero Mundi Expectando and Haxornas Europa, another rare release that was made available for free download from Velkov’s site in 2006.

Velkov has confirmed that a new Abandoned Shelter release will be on the way in 2018.

Discogs. Tracks from Vespero Mundi Expectando. Mantle Of Dust Bandcamp.

8. Tertium Organum, Alud

Tertium Organum - Alud
The name of Croatian project Tertium Organum (“third canon of thought”) may be a reference to Russian philosopher P.D. Ouspensky’s bestselling 1911 book of the same name. The talented Jurica Santek, whose other projects include the better-known Aegri Somnia on Cryo Chamber, certainly delivers introspective dronescapes on this notable 2016 Kalpamantra release.

If you’re a fan of space ambient or “pure” dark drone ambient of the sort that is suitable for deep thinking and meditation, Alud is an appropriate choice, as there are no vocals or sudden shifts to jolt you out of your mind-altering journey. The metallic tones and washes of acquatic sounds at the close of the title track exert a curiously magnetic pull, and “Aeon” is particularly compelling – something about the shift into deepened bass in the last minute of the track catalyzes an alchemical process I have yet to identify, but always appreciate.

Savor the emptiness and the sense of vastness as Alud leads you on a journey through the formless void into another dimension of space and time.
Alud by Tertium Organum

9. Subterranean Source, Relic

Subterranean Source - Relic
Relic is the sound of the end…” reads a cryptic note inside the cover of the CD release of this 2008 hidden gem from talented Italian composer Andrea Bellucci, also known for IDM project Red Sector A. It’s an apt description, as Relic is a shadowy sonic trip through the chambers of a dank and roughed-up subterranean world in search of a fallout shelter, while clad only in the humble garments of a survivor. I can almost feel the cold granite and gravel roughing up my bare feet as I descend into the depths.

Distorted sound collages dissolve into a maelstrom punctuated with bursts of clanking chains in “Pagan Moon,” a standout track featuring some of his best and most refined work. “From The Deep” is equally devoid of light, creaking and groaning its way through fetid sunken worlds and visions of impending doom.

For another taste of his work with this project you can ferret out “A Sense of Doubt” and “Lost Areas,” two tracks on a 2009 compilation from Reverb sidelabel Desolation House, or head to YouTube to sample his slightly more low-key 2002 album Vivid Circles.

No word on whether there will be any more releases from this project – I certainly hope there will – but in any case, Relic is a worthwhile find. It’s on CD only, but copies are readily found on Discogs…and if we’re lucky, Bellucci will put it on Bandcamp one day, where it will hopefully attract more of the appreciation it deserves.

Discogs. Vivid Circles (full album).

10. Olhon, Sinkhole


Massimo Magrini’s respected dark ambient/noise project Bad Sector is well known in the genre; Olhon, his project with Zairo, is much less well known. This beautifully sparse and deeply chthonic 2006 gem – their second release, and their first on Italian label Eibon Records – was crafted from original field recordings made in Pozzo del Merro, the world’s deepest sinkhole. (It’s over 400 meters deep, and could in fact be much deeper; to date no one has reached the bottom.)

If you’re a fan of ultra-low-frequency bass and rumbling drones, as I am – sounds that have been literally dredged up from immersion in the bowels of the earth – this will be a treat for your ears and your bones alike. As the album progresses, the tracks are crafted from recordings made at increasing depths, and processed with filters and mixes that enhance the eerie mood. A few elements of unnerving distortion are introduced at just the right intervals to sweep you underneath the sonic current.

If you can listen in an audiophile space, “Hiball 300 R.O.V. (-310m),” especially around the one-and-a-half minute mark, should put your subwoofer to the test. No doubt you’ll want to fully savor even the deepest of those bone-thrumming, roof-rattling low bass tones, and let yourself float away into blissful musical oblivion.

Discogs.

11. Asmorod, Hysope

Asmorod - Hysope
Right from the first opening notes of “The Third Secret” – one of two tracks which features beguiling choral vocalizations by eLL of Sui Generis Umbra – this pensive, emotionally profound dark ambient opus smolders with mystery. A 2006 release from French musician Nicolas Asmorod on Austrian label Steinklang Industries, it conjures up hazy imagery of picturesque misty forest lands, ancient temples, and the breath of ghosts.

Thick with ethereal mystique, Hysope is a sophisticated aural tapestry – the work of a skilled sound designer who knows how to build anticipation. If the heavier doomscapes of Asmorod’s early releases aren’t so much your speed, this one is much more likely to suit you – especially “Forbidden Daughter of God” and the transcendent “Enlightening Fire,” both of which fall squarely into the lighter side of the dark ambient palette.

Hysope is available on CD only, and copies are available on Discogs…but it belongs on Bandcamp as well, as it has an enduring appeal and deserves to be appreciated by a whole new generation of listeners. It’s a crowning achievement that deserves its rightful place as a genre classic every dark ambient fan should own, right up there with artists such as Sephiroth, Northaunt, raison d’être, Atrium Carceri, and Desiderii Marginis.

A new release from Asmorod is in the works; to whet your appetite while you wait, be sure to check out “Therianthrope,” a 2016 collaboration track with Esylt.

Discogs. “Therianthrope“. Snowblood Artists United.

12. Coma Centauri, Of Restraint and Rust

Coma Centauri - Of Restraint And Rust
Coma Centauri, a promising project launched in 2009 by U.S.-based musician Brandon Clark, released an album of what I consider his most impressive work in 2014. Featuring intriguing cover art by Steven Williams of Kalpamantra, Of Restraint and Rust sets the pace smoothly, with little of the stereotypical bleakness for which the genre is known.

Coldness and mystery lurk here nonetheless, however. The wistful “Junction” builds momentum, followed by the two-minute “Wilt” with…wait, just what is that sampled sound, anyway? An off-key music box? An after-hours carnival, with creepy clowns?

About halfway through “Retreat” we’re returned to the meandering flow, albeit in a downtrodden way, with grainy textures to season the mix. The last track, “Sleeper,” is the standout for me – a soulful juxtaposition of wistfulness and beatitude. Dim the lights, kick back, and let the world fade.
Soundcloud.
Of Restraint And Rust by Coma Centauri

13. Honorable Mention: Calabi-Yau, Compactified

Calabi-Yau - Compactified
This introspective and understated 2008 album is the sole release from Russian musician Igor I. Sidorov-Moiseev (also listed as Grigory R. Abdullaev). Released on Russian label Faria Records in an edition of 650, the album’s title is a reference to string theory, referring to the dimensions of space-time that are “compactified” – unobservable at human scales.

Drenched in restrained, gentle atmosphere, Compactified overflows with reverence, as if the listener had been scooped up through a portal into numinous liminal spaces while exploring the depths of a moss-draped forest.

This one is a slight “cheat” as an album for inclusion on a dark ambient list, as some of its tracks are closer to a more mainstream ambient sound than dark ambient. But he darkens it up with “Voie Lactee,” “Nebulae” and “Imaginarium,” all three of which would be right at home alongside, say, a Cities Last Broadcast track, so this one gets an honorable mention. (Admittedly, though, I’m also spreading the word about this amazing project in the hopes that he might be encouraged to release new work, or at least to put Compactified up on Bandcamp where it can reach new fans.)

Discogs. “Voie Lactee”/”Nebulae”. Vimeo. He still has a Myspace! Анатолий Цымбалю (artist’s name in Cyrillic).

Tracks: June 5th, 2017

Much as we enjoy jawing about classic here on the site and on the podcast, the heart of I Die: You Die will always be new music, and the seeking out and appreciation thereof. This year feels like a pretty good one for brand new acts and bands really hitting their stride, as the initial rush of the industrial resurgence wears away and we get to see the actual substance of things show itself. The health of a subculture is always gonna be related to how many new and interesting it contains, and it makes us ludicrously happy to put together Tracks every week and really dig in to what Our Thing has on offer. This seems as good a time as any to note that if you as a fan know of something cool we aren’t covering, please feel free to leave a comment on these posts or drop us a message via e-mail, FB and Twitter. We want to know about it!

Spectra Paris

Elena's Lee Aaron cosplay was a big hit at Gen Con.

Die Selektion, “Der Augenblick”
It’s been far, far, far too long since we’ve had anything new on the table from Die Selektion. The Berlin trio was on an amazing run of singles clustered around their 2011 self-titled debut before they fell off the map, with only the odd whisper from a solo project. A new LP, Deine Stimme Ist Der Ursprung Jeglicher Gewalt (that’s a mouthful) is out on Aufnahme + Wiedergabe (of course). Expect a full review from ID:UD shortly; until then grab onto this frantic cut which has one foot in classic DAF and the other in the smooth and savvy dancefloor moves recently made by Body Of Light.
Deine Stimme Ist Der Ursprung Jeglicher Gewalt by Die Selektion

Street Fever, “In Your Lungs”
All kinds of hay has been made from the EBM/Techno crossover vogue currently running wild, to the point where we’re starting to get a lot of pretty marginal music made to try to cash in. Thankfully we also got producers like Street Fever dropping serious bangers that do justice to both EBM’s funk and menace and techno’s spartan sound design and austere sensibility. This new EP ENCHAÎNÉ has a lot of good tracks, but dang dude, the one embedded below and “Monument” are fuckin’ murder played loud. Get on it while the getting is good.
ENCHAÎNÉ by Street Fever

Joel Eel, “OMG”
Joel Eel’s Very Good Person drops today and we’re all in on it. The Toronto producer’s first release goes to some interesting places, speaking both to body music, acid, and clanky post-industrial, in a border blurring style that shows fealty to ideas over genre or style. Someone please remake Blade and when the sprinklers come on at the Blood Rave have “OMG” blasting, kay?
Very Good Person by Joel Eel

Spectra Paris, “Star Bubbles”
The focus from within the Kirlian Camera camp on both the band’s future and the archiving of its past has been so intense over the past few years that, if we’re being honest, Elena Alice Fossi’s work on the side as Spectra Paris had slipped out of our mind. After all, it’s been seven years since she offered up a pair of records under that title, one with a heavy James Bond theme, the other a suite of Christmas tunes. But Elena’s back with a new Spectra Paris record on Dependent, Retromachine Betty, and if this is any indication it’s going heavy on the retro electropop steez which is just fine by us.

Death In Rome, “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)”
Up until now, we’ve gotten a kick out of the pranksters behind Death In Rome’s ability to marshal (or martial) the most familiar of neo-folk tropes around relatively trite pop fare, and in doing so take the piss out of both traditions. On their contribution to Wisconsin label Brave Mysteries’ ongoing compilation of tracks dedicated to saints, though, they’ve done good by a song whose strident sense of duty and heartbreak is perfectly suited to neo-folk being delivered straight-faced. Yes, it’s no less an iconic song than OMD’s beloved synthpop epic “Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans)” which they’re taking up, and doing damn well by.
Communion of Saints by Death In Rome

Mildreda, “I got the morbs (in Xbalba)”
We liked Jan from diskonnekted’s first Mildreda LP, the release of which signalled the return of his long dormant dark electro project. There’s an album of new material on the way apparently, but in the meantime we get the Coward EP, a bridge of sorts between Mildreda’s past and future. This unusually named song is actually exactly what we want from a latter day dark electro project: creepy samples, gritty vocals and an emphasis on atmosphere that compliments the programming. Recommended for fans of classic X Marks the Pedwalk, yelworc, Will, and the like.
Cowards EP by MILDREDA

We Have a Technical 159: Jean Luc Orders a Pizza

These dudes.

We return to our classic “Two Albums” format on this episode, chatting about records by Mild Peril and C-Tec. The line between pop and kosmische and whether the Heal/De Meyer alliance constitutes the greatest industrial supergroup of all time are on the table. That and so much more all this week on Town Talk, er, on We Have a Technical, the official I Die: You Die podcast! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Observer: May 31st, 2017


XLV
self-titled
self-released

XLV’s self-titled debut release is divided roughly along the A and B programs on its handmade cassette. Side A is largely made up of songs that revolve around the human voice and how our brain processes language aurally. On “Cover Its Face” ex-Volt 9000 member Andrew Dobbels starts by cutting up words, rearranging and dropping syllables and otherwise hacking a lengthy sample, eventually allowing it to coalesce into comprehensibility in contrast to the deep analogue kicks, whirrs and metallic pads that make up the song’s instrumental. The effect is both intriguing and unnerving: while the election night broadcast on the brief “Have & Hold” is kept mostly intact, those voices heard on “Four” and “Qual der Wahl” are drowned in acidic distortion and deep reverbs until they are indecipherable. Side B abandons voices entirely and dives headlong into chaotic sequencing, using chattering squeaks and squeals, blasts of noise and elastic synth basses as building blocks. “Chisel” is the most uptempo of these, bordering on rhythmic noise at points, a quality shared by “Zeroing” which plays more sedate while blurring the line between deliberate saturation and fuzz and actual signal degradation. The tape stands as a pretty good mission statement for Dobbels, eschewing genre and style markers for broader ideas and experiments in sound and structure.
XLV by XLV


Plack Blague
Night Trax
Ormolycka

Plack Blague’s Night Trax is EBM at its sweaty, leather-clad, filthiest. Electronic Body Music has long had an aesthetic fascination with muscles and S&M, but the Nebraska based-project actually inhabits those arenas, abandoning subtext for a record of full on leather daddy sex jams. Odes to cruising like “Just Another Man of the Street” and “Man on Man” rely on swinging rhythm programming, keeping the instrumentation minimal so that Raws Schlesinger’s keening, come-on vocals can be in the spotlight. “Destroy The Identity” speeds that template ever more until its rapidly bubbling synthline loses all its musicality, providing a weirdly groovy underpinning to Raws’ demands that you “fuck the man who fucks with you”. In fact there are quite a few interesting diversions from the body music template here, like the spacey dark electro of “Electronic Way” and the clunky deep grooves of the robotic “Placktuality”, complete with a breathy diva impression that creeps past seductive and into sleazy handily. That speaks to a huge part of the appeal of Plack Blague’s work; while you certainly get some camp and some vampy theatrics in the execution, these are real songs that reflect a lifestyle many artists in the genre allude to but few ever explore so fully. It’s why a song like “In The Name of Blague” feels so weirdly powerful, and self-actualizing, transmuting synths, sex, sweat and saliva into a bracing whole. Good stuff.
Night Trax by Plack Blague

Ghost Twin, “Plastic Heart”

Ghost Twin - Plastic Heart

Ghost Twin
Plastic Heart
Artoffact

Winnipeg’s Ghost Twin impressed us right out of the gate when their debut EP Here We Are In The Night brought us a swath of pagan-minded darkwave a couple of years back. On the one hand, Karen and Jaimz Asmundson courted the esoteric, issuing limited VHS tapes including reworkings of Coil; on the other, the snappiness of the tunes on Night had an immediacy which couldn’t be denied. On their first full-length, that dichotomy is writ large in an entertaining fashion.

Musically, Ghost Twin hone in on a mode of darkwave which ruled the roost around the turn of the millennium. Illumina, Faithful Dawn, and Diva Destruction would be ideal points of comparison were it not for a couple of tics which make Ghost Twin simultaneously more of the current clime and a more classic act. They’ve underscored the debt darkwave always owed to pure synthpop, stripping guitars almost entirely out of things (though pulling them back out for live gigs), but the heavy pulse of tunes like the title cut underscores a connection to modern synthwave interests. More intriguing to an unreconstructed goth like myself are the way Karen and Jaimz weave their vocals in, trading the spotlight, sometimes harmonizing, but often letting Karen’s keening soprano flit over the arrangements. Here, Faith And The Muse seem like a more apt analogy.

The themes the couple take up for their sound find them reaching to sources far older than their musical influences. “Mystic Sabbath”, appearing in slightly revamped fashion after debuting on the EP, offers up a riotous ode to living deliciously which Black Phillip’d approve of. “Into Oblivion” is of a more somber cast, but takes the classical concept of the momento mori to its hedonistic conclusion and entreats the listener to drink and celebrate…while they can. Even when Ghost Twin wander away from pure Bacchanalia there’s something decadent and seductive about their attention to the worldly. Closer “Transfigured Heart” takes a Hyusmans-like tack, blending description of an ornate trinket that’s been secreted away with an account of the emotions it’s capable of evoking. It’s the sort of lavish exercise in imagery Siouxsie would often indulge in, here offering a slightly sentimental but still wholly sensual coda.

Walking the line between contemplation and indulgence is difficult in any genre of music, but Ghost Twin pull that balancing act off by selecting an aesthetic which can serve multiple masters. They have a clear sense of how their toolkit can be employed to produce the moods and themes they’re pursuing, and Plastic Heart is, resultingly, a mature and self-aware debut. Good stuff.

Buy it.

Tracks: May 29th, 2017

If we’re shooting straight with you, folks, 90% of the listening we do for this here website happens under the most banal of circumstances. On buses, in front of glowing screens, while working out, at work. No, most of the time we’re not hacking the Gibson or traipsing through Paris catacombs while we listen to the most legit of new industrial or goth releases (respectively). That said, every now and again a particular context for a certain playthrough seems to punch through the quotidian. Bruce spent much of today driving through the interior of British Columbia, a land marked by centuries old gold rushes as much as modern property markets, but predominantly untouched, shifting from scrubland to the purest of Cascadian rainforest. It was an alternately brutal and beautiful background for finally giving proper time and attention to Arca’s gorgeous and confessional self-titled record. If we can offer one thought this week, it’s to remember that you exist when you listen to music. You are breathing, walking, smelling, living as you play whatever it is that strikes your fancy or is absolutely crucial to your taking another step. Context matters. Whatever yours might be at this moment, we hope it suits this week’s tracks.

Blac Kolor

Blac Kolor. Don't worry, it's the photo, not the pills.

Seeming, “I Love You Citizen”
We have been obsessing over this song since we saw Seeming perform it at Terminus a few years back, and god damn does it feel good to hear it again. “I Love You Citizen” is the first track you can hear from Alex Reed and Aaron Fuleki’s sophomore album as Seeming, Sol due August 4th on Artoffact Records. As with their debut (our album of the year in 2014) the naked emotion and songcraft transcends genre and expectations, inhabiting that rare place where a piece of music seems to pick you to listen to it rather than the other way around. We are honestly so excited about this, prepare for a lot of Seeming talk as the date grows closer.
Sol by Seeming

Blac Kolor, “Resistance In Cattle Stall
The third release in Hendrick Grothe’s ’24U’ series is up and ready to go on Bandcamp, with the Blac Kolor producer again seeking to get a quick double shot of whatever sounds and ideas are currently percolating out into the public ASAP. Are we thinking too wistfully anarcho-vegan if we imagine this acid/body track as the score to an impromptu revolt? Aim your kicks at the crotches of the keepers and run like mad, pretty little cows.
24U – Vol. 03 by Blac Kolor

Hexheart, “A Thousand Times”
Heaxheart is the new synthpop project from Jasyn Bangert of God Module fame, exploring some melodic territory that doesn’t necessarily fit with his main project God Module. We like the middle ground this song finds between retro and modern electropop signifiers and some of the programming styles that have always been Bangert’s bread and butter. The band hits the road for their debut tour with Voicecoil and Blakk Glass this Wednesday, check their Facebook for a date near you and keep an eye out for that debut album Midnight on a Moonless Night on Metropolis Records June 9th!

Ovter God, “Nothing Left”
Straight out of the grindhouse which is the Telekon Slack channel, we’ve got some banging darkwave from just below the 49th parallel. Ovter God are hitting just about each of the sweet spots a band could aim for in terms of our tastes: tight, churning darkwave, a hint of classic goth rock, and an indebtedness to one of the purest distillations of Lovecraft’s worldview. This number from the Seattle duo’s debut EP is about as proper a soundtrack as we could hope for if we ever reach beyond our means and fall into the sky.
Kvlt Life by Ovter God

THYX, “Doubt and Regret”
Stefan Poiss’ THYX side-project has always been about exploring different territory than his main endeavor mind.in.a.box, but the identity of the project has been gradually evolving over the course of the last few releases. Where THYX initially felt like a place for Poiss to try on different styles and ideas, the band’s recent output has focused in on a proggy genre of electronic rock that isn’t quite like anything else out there. Check out new single “Doubt and Regret”, which goes from highway blazing electro to exploratory space synth to emotive finale in the space of six minutes. God only knows where Poiss is going next, but when the ride is this fun and unexpected it’s hard to begrudge him the freedom to keep doing whatever he wants.
Doubt and Regret by THYX

FLESH, “White Clove Withered”
Hamburg’s FLESH have done a great job of cleaving to the woozy sickness of the initial wave of classic witchhouse, despite the countless incarnations the offshoots and reinventions of the genre have taken. New LP Fungus has just been released and brings all of the tense, itching highs and bowel-thumping lows we’ve come to expect.
Fungus by FLESH

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