Observer: ProtoU & Celldöd

ProtoU - The Edge Of Architecture
ProtoU
The Edge Of Architecture
Cryo Chamber

Despite being released by Cryo Chamber, fine purveyors of dark ambient that’s as icy as their name implies, there isn’t a whole lot that’s cold or even, well, dark about the latest release from ProtoU. The one-woman Ukranian project crafts contemplative sonic landscapes on The Edge Of Architecture, but they rarely feel like the harsh or unyielding worlds into which dark ambient often casts the listener. Instead, the combination of pads and crackles which feels weather-worn and welcoming. Building upon the theme of cities connoted in the title and album art, the release feels akin to watching the urban flurry of life, activity, and machinery (or even children playing in “Falling Home”) from a slight distance, perhaps through the window of a bus or cafe. Despite not relying on melody as such, The Edge Of Architecture‘s recurring use of seemingly randomized notes in a particular scale producing an intriguing windchime effect, communicated through musicbox keys on “Quiet Sky” and quickly decaying sine waves on “Glass Fractals”. While never explicitly nostalgic, there’s something reflective and perhaps even cozy about the way the environs so many of us spend our lives within are rendered here.
The Edge of Architecture by ProtoU


Celldöd
KESS07
Kess Kill

While the music Anders Karlsson has been plying in his solo incarnation as Celldöd certainly holds appeal to those interested in the intersection of EBM and techno, the essence of his hardware based compositions is firmly in the former camp. What initially separated his work as Celldöd from previous projects like The Pain Machinery was the stripped down approach to production and presentation, beats and synths laid into sequence with an appealing severity. His most recent release KESS07 certainly demonstrates some of the project’s growth from that starting point, allowing some additional elements to infiltrate the suite of four body music tunes. Opener “Flodvåg” comes out of the gate hard with a tightly quantized bassline and a simple kick snare pattern, but it’s Ander’s distant vocal punctuation and the occasional smattering of slightly out time hi-hats that help accentuate the song’s groove. “Dom Kommer Aldrig” is a slower number the ups the funk quotient with a knurled, swinging synth arrangement that can’t decide if it wants to go full acid or balloon out into chunky electro. Side B goes even further afield, starting withe upbeat “Inom Dig” whose chipper and chirpy melody recalls the soundtrack to a vintage industrial education film. Closer “Alltid Vi” speaks most closely to Karlsson’s history, with a sinister, loping rhythm and buzzy texture that suggests Vomito Negro or even The Klinik. As resolute as ever, the 12″ release is an engaging into Celldöd’s increasingly sturdy catalogue.
KESS07 by Celldöd

We Have a Technical 196: A Sandy Grave

This is an image that comes up when you Google "Goth Randy Savage"

It’s time to dig into the mailbag on the latest episode of We Have A Techincal! Idieyoudie.com’s readers and listeners have sent questions which range from the curatorial to the ethical to the decidedly personal. The Senior Staff are taking up each of these questions plus discussing the recent Drew McDowall show on this week’s episode of the podcast that Considers Darker Alternatives. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

TVMVLVS TABIDVS, “Sex”

TVMVLVS TABIDVS - Sex

TVMVLVS TABIDVS
Sex
Squall Recordings

Costa Rica’s TVMVLVS TABIDVS certainly don’t lack for a conceit which sets them apart. The trio’s moniker denotes a rotting burial mound and they’ve opted to sing (and spell) wholly in Latin, all the better for songs dealing with “humanity’s stupidity, the vulgarity of people…[and] the cyclicity of life.” Provocative enough stuff, certainly, but the band have a good sense for the sorts of sounds and compositions which might fit such an audacious set-up. Sex draws post-punk, darkwave, and minimal wave into a murky, uneasy concord which often makes a virtue of it’s grimy, lo-fi execution.

Much of Sex is built on dead simple drum machines left to handle rhythmic duties themselves. Guitars and bass trace out tentative cobwebbed scales and melodies before kicking into nodding grinds which aren’t too far away from classic deathrock. All of these sounds are kept in a blurry fugue state, occasionally bound together with some minimal keyboards (as on the tightly wound “DO VT DES”), often wandering off down distant moldering corridors. Throughout all of this, though, it’s the sharp and careening voice of María del Mar Castro which holds the focus more often than not. Though generally only shifting between a handful of shrieked notes – and processed to sound as though they’re being yelled through a megaphone from the very depths of the band’s eponymous tomb – del Mar Castro’s vocals perfectly cinch both the band’s ancient ethos and the clear ties their sound has to the turn-of-the-millennium nexus of post-hardcore and gothy experimentation: Kill Me Tomorrow, Love Live, and The Vanishing all come to mind.

The contrast between the all-caps obscurantism of the band’s name (not to mention singing-in-a-dead-language) and the pedestrian bluntness of the record’s title threw me for a bit of a loop. I’ll admit that very little about the record felt sexy apart from the simple pulsing beats of a few tracks. While the PR copy helpfully notes that the word also means “six” in Latin, the skeleton popping bottles in preparation for some Dionysian revelry on the cover points towards Eros in opposition to the record’s gloomy Thanatos death drive. That feels as good a metaphor as any for the balance TVMVLVS TABIDVS strike here: despite a dour sound, the delivery of the material has a zealful energy which the crypt can’t contain.

Buy it.

Sex by TVMVLVS TABIDVS

Wetware, “Automatic Drawing”

Wetware
Automatic Drawing
Dais Records

Brooklyn duo Wetware’s debut LP for Dais Records is pretty outré, even by the standards set by their handful of previous releases. Between the echoing percussion, synth sequences that are alternately uncomfortably rigid or unnervingly off-kilter and the vocals of Roxy Farman which are often processed to the point of unintelligibility, Automatic Drawing ends up being a challenging listen. Weirdly, for all the discomfort and unease on display, the album feels strangely inviting, building up a economical array of sounds and ideas that it rearranges to accommodate the listener.

One of the keys to Wetware’s sound is their approach to rhythm, and specifically how they build and deconstruct patterns within their songs. The album speaks to that idea with opener “Pantomime”, an instrumental where a quantized sequence of squawking notes seems to constantly be trying to slip into another time signature, buffeted by analogue tones that could have been ported from an entirely different song. Before long Matthew Morandi is building out arrangements of kick drums and metallic synth patches that bounce and slide off one another, never coalescing into a recognizable song structure. Tracks like “Likewise” and “Ode to Joe” have covert musicality hidden in that chaos, as if they might have started life as more recognizable electro songs before getting mangled in some kind of industrial accident.

What keeps all that from being alienating is the voice of Roxy Farman. In spite of her frequently deadpan delivery on songs like “Hand Over Mouth”, there’s a tangible and messy humanity in her performances that helps ground all the abstraction. It’s cathartic when she bursts through the wall of bitcrushed noise and tumbling bass on “Except All Presents” with syllables that may or may not be actual words, and bracing when she takes on a conversational tone on “The Luxury of Declining”, sliding her way between waves of beeps with supreme confidence. Live footage of Farman on Youtube demonstrates her physicality as a performer, and it’s hard not to imagine erratic movement and full body shakes as she spits out a plea to “Let me explain” on closer “Frequent Dreamlands”.

People often describe Wetware as confrontational, and that’s accurate although a bit reductive; Automatic Drawing is difficult, but it’s not bellicose or hostile. What the band do supremely well is present confounding sounds in a palatable fashion, keeping track times short and allowing just enough room for the listener to navigate their compositions without becoming overwhelmed by them. For a record possessed of a restless experimental streak, it somehow ends up being a fun and engaging listen.

Buy it.

Automatic Drawing by Wetware

Tracks: February 19th, 2018

We’ll have a full discussion of it on this week’s podcast, but in the short term let’s just say that Drew McDowall’s live performance of Time Machines in Vancouver over the weekend didn’t disappoint. In a darkened warehouse the power of the record’s core drones, augmented by McDowall’s improvisations, was given free reign. Time Machines is as ideal of a Coil project as could be chosen for this sort of presentation sans Balance or Christopherson, as the sense of becoming unstuck in time which the trio were pursuing with the record relies upon a sense of anonymity and placelessness. More details from the astral plane to come, in the meantime stay grounded with this week’s tracks.

Person A making the magic happen.

Qual, “How Many Graves”
The first track we clocked from Qual’s forthcoming album The Ultimate Climax “Black Crown” was more on the death industrial tip, but first official single “How Many Graves” is straight up EBM. That’s a-okay by us. We enjoyed the previous forays William Maybelline (of Lebanon Hanover fame) has made into body music, especially when he spikes it with a little atmosphere. And hey, pair it up with an aesthetic-ass video full of classical statuary and video-toaster effects and you’ve got a slam dunk for a Tracks inclusion. Definitely excited for this LP to drop on the 28th via Avant!

Miracle, “Light Mind”
The lavish and decadent style of Miracle’s debut EP Fluid Window grabbed us way back in 2011, and at first blush their brand new LP The Strife Of Love In A Dream is continuing everything about the duo we liked the first time around. The arch effeteness of Roxy Music, the bracing experimentalism of frequent collaborators Ulver, and the dark synth-rock chops of early White Lies are all in place on this number.

The Stricken, “Meet My Master”
Claus Larsen’s had a full slate of collaborative projects on the go for many years now, and despite the strife his family’s been going through of late (again, they could very much use your support), that schedule’s continuing unabated. His new project The Stricken is a collaborative effort with Bronski Beat’s Ian Donaldson. The first track finds Donaldson arranging a battery of industrial percussion which brings Test Dept. to mind, but makes for a fitting foundation for Larsen’s vocal spleen. The Stricken’s self-titled LP is out in a couple of weeks.

Street Sects, “Contempt”
Safe to say Street Sects are amongst the most confrontational bands we’ve seen in recent memory, musically, artistically and live: their performance at DB20 in 2016 legit scared us a little. Beyond the sheer antagonism, the band have been moving their sound in interesting directions, with recent 7″ Things Will Be Better In Hell embracing a punky angular sound and their side from a forthcoming split with Portrayal of Guilt going in on some screechy electro-industrial. They’re gonna be touring with 3 Teeth and Ho99o9 this year. It’ll be interesting to see how audiences take to them in that context.

SDH, “Tell Them”
2018′s rep for bringing us fresh and addictive darkwave continues. The latest entry is the first single for new AVANT! signees SDH, or Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms. The Barcelona duo might spend their days contemplating the death of Ricardo Reis, but by night they’re crafting some smooth and smokey tunes which don’t forsake drive for atmosphere, as the first taste of their forthcoming LP shows. We’ll be keeping an ear open for the full unveiling of their sound.

Person: A, “Higher Ground feat. Emmon”
Finally, this lovely slice of lush, eighties flavoured darkwave from Person A, featuring Emmon on vocals. You know when a song seems so immediate and familiar that you’re convinced it must be a cover of something you had on an unlabeled mixtape back in high school? Yeah, this is that, except it’s an original from the Swedish project helmed by Niklas Kärreskog. We’d do a whole album of this in a hot minute if Niklas was so obliged.
Higher Ground ft. Emmon by PERSON:A

Observer: EFF DST & Nova Guardia


EFF DST
Out of Body
Hymen Records

Belarusian producer Dmitry Stepnov’s work as EFF DST continues to draw from numerous different schools on his second LP for Hymen Records, Out of Body. Perhaps most obviously, the sound of the record fits squarely into the classic technoid style, using industrialized rhythms and sound design in conjunction with IDM structures and ideas. It’s well-trodden ground, but Stepnov proves adept at it, working a gradually evolving mechanical rhythm loop through big, breathy textures on “Punch Header”, and firing off tweaky synth sequences on “Silent Reflections” before a breezy melody takes the spotlight. There are also hints of breaksy soundtrack-ready work pioneered by classic Hymen act Beefcake on “Blind Faith” where synth-strings duck and dodge between complex percussion programming, on the dubby “First Sight”, and on the crunchy kicks and snares of the otherwise smooth “Ripped Rise”. Hints of of Stepnov’s work with Alfa Matrix signees Diffuzion are in the mix as well, with “Smash Them All” employing sequences and pads that could easily port over to electro-industrial. It’s all reasonably well-executed stuff in terms of production and atmosphere, and the record really benefits from just how easy to listen to it is. While Out of Body doesn’t have many moments that truly jump out at the listener, it finds a subtle and pleasingly listenable groove early on sticks with it.
out of body by eff dst

Nova Guardia - Mirror
Nova Guardia
Mirror
Squall Recordings

Sevastopol’s Evgen Syprun pitches his Nova Guardia project as an “analog sound only” hybrid of coldwave, darkwave, and industrial. Each of those sounds (along with a healthy helping of minimal synth) are certainly present on the brisk and brief four tracks which make up his debut EP, but a sense of tension and anxiety is really what Mirror connotes rather than specific genres. Stripped down and plainly executed, each of the tunes are made up of clean and clear synths whose waveforms are practically visible as the EP ticks by, oscillating in stark red, orange, or black tones. They’re set against minimal and clicking percussion, but a more intriguing rhythmic wildcard is introduced in the vocal samples (and some original vocals) Syprun works in between the drums and synths. Rather than repeating a particular phrase over and over, Syprun’s opted for lengthier monologues and speeches in a variety of languages. They seem to play out chronologically (as far as can be determined from the outside), but are spaced out so words often start just at the beginning, or finish at the end of, individual measures. Incidental rhythms are thus ferreted out of speech which doesn’t seem to have been delivered in a specifically rhythmic cadence, and the overall effect is often uncanny. The success of sparse synth work like this often hinges on finding original ways of wringing tension from a minimal (and by now well-established) toolkit, and Mirror nicely fits that bill.
Mirror by Nova Guardia

We Have a Technical 195: Leather Sweater Weather

It was harder than it should have been to find a scan of this not-very-good Valiant team book from 25 years ago.

It’s another doozy of a Pick Five episode on We Have A Technical! This week, Bruce and Alex are picking “secret weapons” from their DJ arsenals. From swooning chill-outs to ferocious EBM bangers, the Senior Staff are highlighting left field tunes which never miss on the dancefloor. There’s also some discussion on the forthcoming Drew MacDowell show, plus an upcoming mailbag episode! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

V▲LH▲LL, “Grimoire”

V▲LH▲LL
Grimoire
Artoffact Records

The idea of “classic” witch house experiencing a revival might come as a shock to those who haven’t come to terms with the genre being nearly ten years old at this point. Whatever your experience with it might be, that hazy mix of swamped out percussion and sluggish vocals traipsing across a codeine dreamscape is long enough in the tooth to be looked at from a historical perspective. The belief we’ve upheld at ID:UD over the years is that acts like V▲LH▲LL were able to take the markers of the genre far further than its nihilistic origins by hybridizing them with swaths of other sounds and aesthetics. In V▲LH▲LL’s case, that meant heaps of Nordic folk tales and imagery and an even slower and more atmospheric sound. It’s ironic, then, that Grimoire, the Swedish duo’s second LP and, apart from one EP, only release in the past two years, draws upon recognizable witch house signifiers more than most of their extant work, yet somehow ends up yielding compositions which are more ambitious and far-reaching in style than anything they’d yet pursued.

It’s important to note that the sense of fairytale mystery and atmosphere which first drew us to V▲LH▲LL is still in full effect on Grimoire, and possibly even amplified; it’s the means by which they’re achieving it which feel somewhat stripped back. The component elements which make up much of Grimoire will be familiar to anyone who tracked the early waves of witch house releases: the quavering pads which shudder between beats and the squawking bleeps on “Lilies For Belial” or the slowly rolling claps of “Dead Waves” feel more raw and stripped down than V▲LH▲LL normally roll, but the compositions themselves, in addition to vocal and synth melodies, end up producing wildly varied experiences.

This isn’t to say that the band are consciously limiting themselves in terms of their approach on Grimoire. Closing number “Niðingrdans” draws upon synths from all over the map – some stark, some bright and squelching – and the end result feels just as much a tropical house jam as it does a Viking funeral dirge. And the grinding bass synths that circulate beneath the ghostly bells on opener “Bonetrees” might not feel out of place on some raunchy drum n’ bass number, but instead cut through the song’s production fog so its melody can take hold. You even get some rapidfire drum programming and detuned synths on the staccato “The Hunt”, a song where abnormally busy rhythms and monotone voices supplant the expected pads and string sounds, but still yield buckets of mood and ambience.

That diverse approach to instrumentation and production is equally reflected in the style of the songs. Traditionally V▲LH▲LL have positioned themselves between OG witch house’s draggy trap and a sort of giallo synthwave, as distinct a blend as any of the former genre’s other notable diaspora have managed. Grimoire indulges numerous further additions to that blend, some of them totally unexpected. “Ruins of Vanaland” sounds like it could have started life as a piano-led cabaret number, and “Aeons Unveiled”‘s vocoders and orchestral flourishes flirt with dark electro grandeur. The loom that weaves all the disparate stylistic and instrumental threads of the record into a complete tapestry are the project’s familar approach to vocals – pitched down male and clean, forceful female – and the project’s penchant for folky melodies.

Of course, none of this experimentalism should come as a surprise for anyone who has followed V▲LH▲LL for any length of time; it’s probably fair to say that any band that could effectively sample “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” isn’t afraid of trying new ideas. Grimoire‘s execution of concepts and sounds within the band’s established rubric is exceptional though, vastly expanding the scope of their sound without compromising their character. It’s their most accomplished release by a wide margin, and an early contender for end of year honours. Recommended.

Buy it.

Grimoire by V▲LH▲LL

Tracks: February 13th, 2018

The shortest month is almost half over, but it’s still very early in 2018 to start really trendspotting with any degree of accuracy. That said, we wrote a bunch of reviews of new darkwave recently, and you may find one or two songs tucked into Tracks this week as well. It may just be a fluke of release schedules, but it certainly feels like the union of goth aesthetics and gloomy synthesizer action is gearing up. If one or two more good albums hit in the next month or two we might even have a full-blown revival on our hands. Let’s all enjoy some piping-hot Tracks sampler plate while we wait to see how this one plays out.

Totem keeping goth shirt game real

Victor Kalima, “Operations & Interactions”
Finnish producer Victor Kalima is releasing his debut LP on Infidel Bodies in a week, and while the preview tracks feel very much at home in the current techno/EBM landscape, there are plenty of broader flourishes which hearken back to a time before Perc and Berghain were on everyone’s lips. The squared-away bounce of the bassline has a good deal in common with classic Black Strobe and some of Daniel Myer’s solo work, and the whole tune conveys a smoother and sexier feel than the grime and noise we’ve come to expect from this sort of work. We’ll be interested to see how Kalima’s style plays out over a full LP, and promise not to make a Temple of Doom crack if you don’t, either.
Club Muscle by Viktor Kalima

Totem, “A Night in Reverse”
The year in darkwave rolls on with another new one from emerging Berlin act Totem. We were impressed by their first demo song a few weeks back and are equally taken with new one “A Night In Reverse”; distant guitars, plaintive vocals and a synthesized rhythm section keep this one cooking. Christoffer Bagge has announced that a Totem EP will be forthcoming, if the tracks on it are on par with what we’ve already heard it’ll be a welcome release indeed.
Totem by Totem

TVMVLVS TABIDVS, “DO VT DES”
Squalling stuff from Costa Rica, TVMVLVS TABIDVS (roughly translated as “rotting burial mound”) are serving up a murky brew which seems to borrow from the most scraping and wailing of deathrock depths as much as it does an equally rough incarnation of darkwave. Everything blends together in a mode which should be cacophonous but carries a musty dignity and immediacy, though. A more lo-fi revisting of The Vanishing, perhaps?
Sex by TVMVLVS TABIDVS

Agent Side Grinder, “Into the Wild (Kill Shelter remix)”
Longtime readers of the site will probably know about our affection for Stockholm-based synth wave band Agent Side Grinder. Though we were disappointed to hear that half the band (including singer Kristoffer Grip) had decided to split last year, we’re still cautiously hopeful for the new incarnation featuring Emanuel Åström on vocals. While we wait to heard how this new version of the band sounds, let’s all enjoy this new remix of “Into the Wild” from Alkimia by Kill Shelter, who take the song in a brusque electro direction.
Into The Wild – Agent Side Grinder [Kill Shelter Remix]  by Kill Shelter

Plack Blague, “Leather Life (Sweat Boys)”
Who doesn’t enjoy a lil’ blaguin’ off on the weekend? If you aren’t familiar with Nebraska’s finest leather-sex minimal EBM act, y’all could do worse than to check out last year’s terrific Night Trax, and some of the sweet merch too. This here remix from the appropriately named Sweat Boys certainly amps up the body music quotient. A tune to cruise the wasteland by indeed.

Body Snatchers, “Give Fuck No More”
Lastly, some German EBM which is about as raw and lo-fi as the project and track names would suggest. Coming to us via the still new but thus far excellent Smashing Tapes label, much of Body Snatchers’ EP is made up of clattering and somewhat deconstructed minimal synth brap-outs, but the bassline on this number can’t be mistaken for anything other than anhalt goodness. Adjust headphone volume accordingly; it’s brief but packs a punch.
" Die Jugend " by Body Snatchers

We Have a Commentary: The Tear Garden, “Tired Eyes Slowly Burning”

The first LP in the storied and long-standing collaboration between cEvin Key and Edward Ka-Spel gets the blow by blow treatment on this month’s episode of We Have A Commentary! Yes, we’re talking about The Tear Garden’s “Tired Eyes Slowly Burning”, and all of the psychedelic ephemera which accompanies it. How did Skinny Puppy’s famed brap ethos manifest in Mushroom Studios? Who was wandering in and out of the sessions? What narrative forms does Edward keep returning to and why? All these questions and more are taken up in the latest edition of our Patreon supported commentary podcast series! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Observer: raison d’être & Brien Hindman

raison d’être - Alchymeia
raison d’être
Alchymeia
Cyclic Law

Never let it be said that Peter Andersson doesn’t aim high with his work for venerable dark ambient project raison d’être. Taking inspiration from Jung’s use of alchemical metaphor for personal transformation, Alchymeia‘s four pieces are meant to signify the achievement of a magnum opus. Whether or not it lives up to that hefty goal is for history to decide, but in the moment it’s an excellent showcase of Andersson’s now-classic but still idiosyncratic dark ambient chops. Never content to rely too heavily on drones or pads, Andersson builds much of the foundation of Alchymia with an assortments of chimes, bells, and other metallic tones clanging about. It’s an approach which puts an emphasis on timbre and texture rather than pitch, and gives him latitude to change the shape and focus of the pieces slowly and subtly, without overt shifts in tone. The other standout element of the record are oddly warped, possibly liturgical Latin vocals which sound part Eyes Wide Shut orgy, part Gavin Friday after a bottle of wine. While oblique in their meaning, they make for a strong and oddly melodic (in the context of dark ambient) contrast to the metallic ebb and flow of Alchymia.
Alchymeia by raison d’être


Brien Hindman
Cognitive Buffer Hypothesis
Ant-Zen

Brien Hindman’s background is in video production, which may account for the cinematic nature of his debut for Ant-Zen Cognitive Buffer Hypothesis. Focused on vast, slow moving waves of noise and rich timbral sounds, the record suggests large shapes shifting in proximity to one another, sometimes passing without incident, and sometimes scraping or colliding. The impassive and droney passages of opener “Holocene” have variation and modulation aplenty, but remain smooth and glacier-like until the track’s climax some seven minutes in when they start to shake and splinter under pressure. “The Veil” relies on sweeping, Vangelis-like pads that are constantly cresting just above the waves of reverb that threaten to engulf them, and the short bursts of notes that accompany them. Some shorter tracks like “Trophic Cascade” and “Shinrin Yoku” play with more traditional rhythmic elements and structures, but by and large Hindman keeps matters abstract, as on the sprawling “Heterodoxies (parts 1-7)” where micro-scenes transition via gradual shifts in texture. While there are hints of rhythmic noise and more traditional dark ambient that occasionally make an appearance, part of the strength of Cognitive Buffer Hypothesis is certainly in how fluid and variable it is, rarely settling in one place for long before sliding gradually into another configuration.
cognitive buffer hypothesis by brien hindman

We Have a Technical 194: Between Alt Metal and a Hard Place

Vintage Fear Factory with the old "promo pic in an abandoned factory" gambit.

The classic We Have A Technical format gets a nostalgic twist, as we’re each picking gateway records which helped usher them into darker music…even if Fear Factory’s Demanufacture and The Tea Party’s Splendor Solis had more in common with metal and blues-rock. How do these tentative first steps into industrial and goth rock hold up more than two decades on? Find out, plus get the latest on live show announcements! Also, is one of our favourite out of print records getting a supplemental release of outtakes which could possibly upend our understanding of 90s European electro-industrial? All that and plenty more on this week’s episode of the I Die: You Die podcast! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

Egoprisme, “Among Noise”

Egoprisme
Among Noise
Manic Depression Records

Darkwave seems to be having a bit of a surge at the outset of 2018, with bands new and old making their presence known. One act belonging to the emerging wave of artists is France’s Egoprisme, the solo project of Jean-Marc Le Droff. The project’s debut LP Among Noise finds a healthy balance between the genre’s various stylistic modes, including full-on dancefloor stompers and post-punk flavoured offerings.

Despite being fifteen tracks long, Among Noise makes a real asset of brevity, honing in on mood and form on each song extremely quickly. The excellent “Call of Duty” establishes its programmed rhythm section right at the jump, allowing for an extended build towards its instantly memorable vocal hook, a complete journey in just a little over three minutes. Cheeky electro number “Fast Fashion” – while not an explicit reference to that band – jumps out of the gate with a snide lyrical turn from Le Droff, paired with a plucky bassline and chirping synths. Even when engaging in more sinister moods as on the bendy “À Tour de Rôle” the pace remains sprightly, with a simple two note synthline and a kick-snare laying the groundwork for creepy wood block sounds and a surprisingly thick chorus.

Despite the presence of guitar on many songs, Egoprisme’s primary focus is electronics with the former instrument used to accent or add filigree to a song. The italo-esque “I Am the Sun” sets up a whole arrangement of keys, pads, and pianos with a simple chorused out guitar line added for seasoning once the shape of the track has already been established. Despite his obvious proficiency with the guitar Le Droff rarely pushes it to the front of his arrangements, allowing it to sit back in the mix on songs where it might have otherwise been the star, like on the emotional New Order-esque “The Dark One” or moody place-setter “En Secret” that opens the record.

In a recent interview with Russian webzine Rockult Le Droff noted that his creative process was equally focused on studio and live performance. That makes sense given the upbeat tempo of Among Noise, in spite of their largely programmed foundations these songs have a spontaneity that has the air of a club or concert hall. That certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t be enjoyed in your home on on your headphones, moreso that Egoprisme’s compositions have a tangible life and energy that in turn lends them a distinct charms all their own.

Buy it.

Among noise by Egoprisme

Twin Tribes, “Shadows”

Twin Tribes - Shadows

Twin Shadows
Shadows
self-released

As we’ve discussed in the past, the importance of pop immediacy in darkwave, regardless of its particular style, can’t be overstated. As with post-punk, a measure of hooks and melodies goes a long way to amplify a sense of melancholy, alienation or estrangement. Lucky for Twin Tribes, then, that the just-arrived Texas twosome seem to have a preternatural gift for melody and engaging sounds.

Like stepping out into a winter’s night and catching a first breath of cold, crisp air, Twin Tribes present their brand of chilly romanticism with rare clarity. While they’re perfectly capable of conjuring a sense of wistful melancholy, there’s a hasty sense of need and immediacy to “Tower Of Glass”, and even the doomed fatalism of “Portal To The Void” has a refreshing sobriety to it. It sounds contradictory to describe songs about secrets, spires, and seances (or as the band themselves put it, “the undead and parallel universes”) as earnest or guileless, but the apparent innocence with which Twin Tribes depict their nocturnal wonderland is charming and disarming.

The instrumentation on Shadows is as straight-forward as its tunes. Balancing clean, chiming guitar with just the right amount of echo, restless bass, and gauzy synths, it brings to mind Alberta’s criminally underrated The Floor, Drab Majesty, and especially Seventeen Seconds-era Cure. And hey, brevity is another of the lessons they’ve taken from that sophomore release; running in at under half an hour Shadows never has time to sound short on ideas or fall victim to repetition. Further listens bring out slight differences in vocal delivery or guitar sounds, but the songwriting stays firmly in focus, with each number leaving an impression.

Twin Tribes’ music is so immediate and engaging that one could be forgiven for thinking that this makes it somehow “simple”. That’s true to a point; there aren’t any cagey tricks or disturbing key changes designed to lend an air of the uncanny on Shadows, nor does its production ever override its composition. In spite of the name, what’s on the record is clear and plain, and so there’s no place to hide any faults. That there aren’t any could be owing to a lengthy preparation period, with the band cutting out the chaff and not releasing any demos or tentative baby steps to ensure a good first impression…or it could just be dumb luck. Or, as is my hope, writing material this damn charming and enjoyable might just come naturally to Twin Tribes. Strongly recommended.

Buy it.

Shadows by Twin Tribes

Tracks: February 5th, 2018

We talked a bit about it on the podcast last week, but efforts to help out Claus Larsen of Leæther Strip and his husband Kurt with their ongoing medical bills are underway here in North America. Since Thursday, plenty has happened. Tom Shear of Assemblage 23 and longtime friend of Claus & Kurt Michelle Molitor have been leading the charge, organizing a GoFundMe drive and a Facebook group for information on all the benefit gigs and other fundraising endeavors currently in the works. Please go check those out, fill out your Leæther Strip collection at Bandcamp, and let one of the undisputed gods of industrial know that you have his and Kurt’s backs. On to this week’s Tracks!

Qual

Qual: Either a gossamer vampire or about to be sprinkled with lime and dumped in an abandoned mineshaft.

Qual, “Black Crown”
William Maybelline may be most associated with minimal sounds via his work as half of Lebanon Hanover, but the latest from his solo project Qual is anything but. Massive reverbs, shouted power electronics vocals, and crashing percussion are the order of the day, creating a profoundly unsettling atmosphere. The Ultimate Climax may be still a few weeks away but “Black Crown” (and the LP’s cover) have us good and spooked already. As an aside, Avant! might be the best label going for these sounds at the moment: don’t sleep.
The Ultimate Climax by QUAL

Snowbeasts, “War Cry”
The folks behind New England’s shadowy (and furry) Snowbeasts have deep roots in the downtempo diaspora, having released plenty of crucial releases through their Component Records label at the turn of the millennium (shout outs to Xyn and Codec, what). Despite having reactivated that label and using it to foist Snowbeasts’ style of grinding and smokey atmospheres and beats, their appetite can’t be sated. Heading across the Atlantic they’re now preparing forthcoming LP Survival for release on M-Tronic. Check how much menace and oomph they can conjure with a relatively minimal track like this, and check back in for the full LP in April.
Survival 12" Ltd vinyl + Digital (Hi-Res 24bit) by Snowbeasts

Blac Kolor, “We Are the Darkness”
We’re long time followers of DJ turned producer Hendrick Grothe are were very interested to hear he’d be doing work with venerable rhythmic noise and industrial label Hands. The first sampling is actually a bit different from his techno-body productions, centering around a distinctly political sample and rich ambient textures with a production style that puts us in mind of Kode 9 and other early dubstep artists. Check the single for remixes from Klangbild and The_Empath, further hinting at the possibilties for the project in 2018.
We Are the Darkness by Blac Kolor

FireWinde[r], “6 Eye”
If we’re putting the pieces together properly, FireWinde[r] was a two-man Salt Lake City project which never released any material before the passing of one member, Michael Gibson. Sole member Kevin Tolman’s now assembled the group’s extant work from the past few years in a single Bandcamp release. It’s a thick and contemplative brand of instrumental electro-industrial, bringing hints of rhythmic noise, breaks, and vintage Haujobb into a solid foundation.
Thought into FLesH by FireWinde[R]

Harsh R, “Bad Person (demo)”
A new one from friend of the site Harsh R, whose sound is developing at a monumental pace. If you liked the incredibly harsh and lo-fi synth punk feel of the first EP you won’t be disappointed, but we’re definitely feeling some of the electro-industrial feel making it’s way in via the vocal processing and springy bassline. As an aside did you ever check out the monstrous mixtape Avi made for us back in December? If you dig hardcore and industrial and those things coming together, you’re gonna want to make a point of it.

Gary Marx, “Black Eyed Faith”
Lastly, a piece of a somewhat obscure bit of goth rock history which is being unearthed for the first time in a decade. Way back in 1995 when the possibility of a follow-up to Vision Thing didn’t seem like a cosmic joke, Gary Marx penned some tunes at the behest of Andrew Eldritch, only to have the latter call the whole thing off. Marx dusted the backing tracks off, recorded vocals and released Nineteen Ninety Five And Nowhere back in 2007, and after being out of print ever since it’s getting a vinyl reissue on D-Monic. The tracks are fascinating for avid scholars of goth rock; the record’s lengthy gestation period allows them to check what has changed and what hasn’t about Marx’s style since the 1985 OG iteration.
Nineteen Ninety Five And Nowhere by Gary Marx (Limited & remastered 12" Vinyl) by Gary MARX

Cardinal Noire, “Deluge”

Cardinal Noire - Deluge

Cardinal Noire
Deluge
audiotrauma

Finnish duo Carnial Noire came onto our radar with all the subtlety of an elephant trampling a bagpipe band with their self-titled 2015 debut. A clear and sustained homage to the classic electro-industrial which is still indelibly tied to Vancouver to this day, it demonstrated a deep and wide appreciation for all eras of Skinny Puppy’s work and plenty of other related acts. The core ethos of Cardinal Noire hasn’t changed with follow-up LP Deluge, but its force and the fury has focused on creating pummeling barrages of post-industrial percussion which level up the act’s already punishing sound.

Without ever breaking from the most studied and straightforward forms of electro-industrial, Kalle Lindberg and Lasse Alander add weight and gravity to familiar sounds and textures by stacking up walls of programming and opting for a raw and bludgeoning mix. The chord progression used in “Controlled Addiction” is dead simple but communicates a huge impact owing to the sheer force and weight behind it. “Community Collapse” tucks deft sequences in the pockets between drum patterns which seem to be constantly changing iteration but holding beat. Even when things are slowed down, as on the somewhat spacier “Plague Evacuation” the kicks themselves are so pronounced that the broad pads or subtle changes in Lindberg’s vocals are at constant risk of being blasted out of the mix. While their debut moved back and forth (sorry) between the more outré and freeform moments in Puppy’s catalog and their more straightforward tunes, Deluge often opts for the form of the latter but uses the excess of the former.

The payoff for that creative decision is considerable, as the album’s constant drive forward lends it both energy and dynamics. The breakdown late in the game on the cyclic horror-movie-on-fast-forward banger “Useful Idiot” only serves to make its metallic percussion bang harder, its warped synths bend further and its thudding conclusion all the more final. Similarly, “No Reformation”‘s slabs of guitar are arranged around the blasts of rolling percussion, pushing the tempo up ’til it burns itself out at the song’s climax. The moody mid-tempo title track or the ringing dirge of closer “Bury My Heart in a Landfill” are still imbued with a distinct sense of movement, as the sparser use of kicks and longer gates on the reverbed snares only adds to the inevitability of each hit.

For an album defined by sonic aggression and and a relentless drive forward, it’s pretty remarkable how compulsively listenable Deluge is. Without seeming too brief or leaving anything on the table in terms of song sequencing, Cardinal Noire have crafted a record which can be listened to on repeat without becoming wearying. Some of that quality comes from the general brevity of the songs (most clock in at well under four minutes), but a lot of it comes from how well the duo zero-in on their best ideas, play them out with gusto, and then move on to the next ones. That canniness pays off for them, as they blast rote imitation to bring a new and welcome energy and excitement to a well-worn template. Recommended.

Buy it.

Deluge by Cardinal Noire

We Have a Technical 193: The Mania Within

The Exploding Boy, oi oi oi

The broad and gloomy realm of post-punk is the subject of the day on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical! From its origins shared with goth and industrial, through the mainstream revival of it in the early aughts, up to the present groundswell in underground post-punk, the Senior Staff are hailing the best and jeering the worst of a nebulous, but often sombre style. You can and rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from the widget down below.

So Fragile: Klack

Klack

Even as fans and followers of Eric Oehler (Null Device) and Matt Fanale (Caustic), we weren’t ready for Klack. Born out of a mutual love for classic EBM, new beat, and eurodance, the two long time friends and collaborators founded their new project as a means to explore those sounds and ended up producing one of 2017′s most unexpectedly catchy and fun EPs. With more new material coming in 2018, we asked the duo to put together a mixtape highlighting the sounds that influenced their latest collaboration. When asked about those influences they had this to say:

“Klack is very much of an aesthetic. We went into this project with a very particular set of influences and reference points; we wanted to, at least for the time being, limit ourselves to the sort of music that got us interested in the genre in the first place. This meant a lot of the classic “big names” of EBM, New Beat, and Eurodance. Half the inspiration for any given Klack song can be traced back to the synth-tom fills in [Microchip League's] “New York.” Stream their mix from the widget below, and be on the lookout for more Klack in the not-so-distant future!

Tracklist:

Microchip League, “New York”
Body Party, “Terminator One”
Voyou, “Houseman”
Nitzer Ebb, “Without Belief”
Meat Beat Manifesto, “Mars Needs Women”
Snap!, “Rhythm is a Dancer”
Front 242, “U-Men”
Depeche Mode, “Something To Do”
Peter Gabriel, “I Have the Touch”
Eric B. and Rakim, “Paid in Full (Coldcut Remix)”
Art of Noise, “Beat Box”
Confetti, ” The Sound of C”
A Split Second, “Rigor Mortis”
808 State, “Empire”
Empirion, “Narcotic Influence One”

Kirlian Camera, “Hologram Moon”

Kirlian Camera - Hologram Moon

Kirlian Camera
Hologram Moon
Dependent Records

The post-2000 era has been a fruitful one for long-running darkwave project Kirlian Camera. The songwriting and performance partnership of project founder Angelo Bergamini and Elena Alice Fossi is so definitive at this point that it seems strange to consider that their new LP Hologram Moon is only their fifth since Fossi joined the band. Partially that’s a function of how Kirlian Camera have consistently revisited and reinterpreted their early and mid-period catalogue in the last decade and a half, but largely a result of the tremendous power, drama and majesty that Kirlian Camera has come to represent in their field. Odd then that Hologram Moon feels somewhat underwhelming; despite having some wonderful moments worthy of their considerable reputation, there are still more that feel off-kilter or undercooked.

Oftentimes the problem seems to be a lack of new ideas rather than the execution of them. “Kryostar” starts off with a nice thump and a busy sequence of synths, with Elena doing the sort of coy underdelivery that usually presages a big climax. In this case though it never comes, as the song just keeps rolling onwards hampered by a melody that doesn’t ever really take hold. “The Storm” does the torchy synth ballad thing well enough, but never hits the high highs of emotion and release that you might expect. Same for “Traveler’s Testament”, the piano-led closer that seems to be aiming for calm self-reflection, but hasn’t been preceded by anything that might necessitate such deep catharsis. They’re all good plays in theory, but just lacking the oomph that would put them over the top. While hearing a band do what they’re known for doing can be satisfying, a familiarity with the catalogue in this case leaves you wanting for earlier songs that do the same things better.

There are glimpses of Kirlian Camera at their best to be found though. “Polar-IHS” uses the softer strings and other orchestral touches which have held sway on much of the record in tandem with a solidly somber but stomping darkwave foundation. It’s tempting to liken it to Ashbury Heights, but that only underscores how much work Bergamini and Fossi had done in this vein well before Anders got started. The high drama and fury that the best moments of the duo’s last records, Black Summer Choirs and Nightglory are in full effect on “Haunted River”, and it points to just what a powerful project Kirlian Camera is still capable of being. Another of the band’s classic motifs, if not sounds, appears on “I Don’t Sing”. A prime example of the odd hybrid of confession and invective Bergamini often uses to vent spleen, it’s a kiss-off to critics and fair-weather fans set to a simple and oddly sentimental tune. Bewildering and direct to an unsettling degree, “I Don’t Sing” underscores just how damn strange Kirlian can be at points, and that their longstanding reputation owes more than a little to that strangeness.

Hologram Moon could only be said to under-deliver when graded on the very steep curve latter era Kirlian releases have established for the band. It’s well-designed and articulated (the guest vocal spot from Eskil Simonsson of Covenant us nothing if not tasteful), and quite often very pretty. The tunes which feel rote and not quite grandiose enough are ones most darkwave acts would give their eyeteeth for. But, as we’ve tried to communicate in writing and talking about them over the years, Kirlian Camera aren’t most darkwave acts. When glints of their true power come poking through the clouds, Hologram Moon is something to behold, but all too often that glory is obscured.

Buy it.

Hologram Moon by Kirlian Camera

Tracks: January 29th, 2018

Normally we don’t feel any review crunch until late in the year, but 2018 has had the start for new releases pertinent to this site since we founded it back in 2011. That’s a blessing and a curse, as normally our January is spent checking out the notable music we missed from the previous year but didn’t get around to reviewing. Consequently you might be seeing some 2017 releases getting some attention from us well into 2018. Unless of course things keep up at the current pace, in which case we might have to get creative. Either way, why not check out some new tracks with us?

Actors look the way they sound: cool.

Actors, “Slave”
Another new one from Vancouver’s Actors, whose debut LP for Artoffact It Will Come To You is one of our most anticipated records of 2018. New track “Slaves” should provide you with ample evidence of why: sticky well-performed post-punk hooks that avoid genre cliches and recall the sort of catchy, danceable gloom of Echo & the Bunnymen or Sad Lovers & Giants. Did we mention that we’ll be DJing and co-presenting the record release party in March? If you’re in YVR you should come down to the Rickshaw, it’s gonna be large.
It Will Come To You by ACTORS

VOWWS, “ESSEFF”
VOWWS have had their combination of surf-rock swagger and jagged electronic rhythms on lock for good while, and have been gearing up over the past few months with a couple of stand-alone tracks, hopefully presaging a follow-up to 2015′s The Great Sun. There’s plenty of bombast and rollick in this new cut, and we’d certainly be in the mood for a full LP of tunes in this ilk…especially if having the ever-reclusive Kevin McMahon at the boards doesn’t prove to just be a one-off collaboration.

Word Made Flesh, “The Forest (Entering the Void mix)”
We rather enjoyed the debut release from Word Made Flesh, the collaboration between Keef Baker and Phil Barry. That record’s mixture of massive guitars and stringent electronics was abetted by a goodly amount of the dub influence apparent in much of Baker’s work, and that sound is especially present in this new remix of album track “The Forest”. The big slabs of guitar are still here, but presented in a more nebulous and sinister context. Perhaps a whole dub-style remix record is warranted?
The Forest-Entering The Void Mix by Word Made Flesh

Night Terrors, “Watching Over You”
A still young act from Seattle, Night Terrors draw an intriguing line between Bites-era Puppy and synthwave which has caught a slight case of the vapors (if you get our meaning) with this preview of their forthcoming LP, Now, Here. A far step from their raw-as-death early demos, there’s perhaps an affinity with M‡яc▲ll▲ to be found on “Watching Over You”, but regardless of comparisons we’ll be interested to see how the act’s found their sea legs when we catch them at Verboden in April.
Black Moon by Night Terrors

Totem, “Lifelines”
Terrific darkwave from brand new act Totem, aka Christoffer Bagge. While this is literally the first song available to sample from the new project, it’s got a good classic genre vibe, placing it firmly in the crop of new acts exploring the possibilities of the sound. Unsurprisingly Bagge is based in Berlin, which always seems to be the place where these movements really take root and flourish. Keep an eye on this one, we’re guessing you’ll be hearing a lot more from them sooner rather than later.

Neon Insect, “Thoughtcrimes”
Nils Sinatsch’s one man project trades in a lot of video game soundtracking, and even on standalone Neon Insect releases, like the forthcoming Glitches, there’s a whiff of old Doom .wads. Regardless, Sinatsch is able to strike a nice balance between stormy metal guitars and synthwave programming while maintaining a solid electro-industrial groove. Claus Larsen’s tapped for a guest spot on Glitches, but Sinatsch can carry things off just fine by himself, as this paranoid chugger proves.
Glitches by Neon Insect

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