Observer: March 29th, 2017

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Mortal Bodies
Embodiment
Chondritic Sound

Percolating up from the recesses of Los Angeles’ booming industrial and noise underground is the new release from Mortal Bodies, a duo comprised of Marc Gonya (Granite Mask) and Marfisia Bel. Embodiment is classically industrial in form, wedding squeals of controlled feedback, monstrous drones, and monotone vocals from Bel, all within cavernous reverbed spaces. It’s not an entirely unique sound on paper, although what becomes clear in listening to the release is how artfully structured each track is, and how careful Mortal Bodies are not to tip over into self-indulgence. There’s a discipline inherent in “Peeled Mirror”‘s flapping rhythm track, or the metallic percussion sounds that infest “Social Obligations”, each dialed in exactly to where they can define structure and provide texture without forcing themselves to the forefront. Those sorts of nigh-subconscious details are especially effective on “Light Solution”, a sort of minimal-synth-by-way-of-ultra-slow-motion exercise, in which minor changes in each rhythmic repetition are spaced apart to the point that they take on a seismic, continental quality. When the duo do loosen up on arhythmic closer “Needs” it feels like a structural release; its oddly blunt hammering drums knocking apart the tension built up over the proceeding seven tracks. It’s a relief that only exists in the context of Embodiment as a whole, and evidence of Mortal Bodies dedication to creating a vast, holistic experience beyond the immediate sum of their music’s parts.
Embodiment by Mortal Bodies


Various Artists
Strategies Against the Body vol. 2
DKA Records

Atlanta’s DKA are rapidly becoming a tastemaker label, with their comparatively small catalogue of releases already showing the earmarks of saavy curation. The second volume of their Strategies Against the Body compilation trades in the same robotic minimal and raw body music of the previous installment, and is notable for staying ahead of the curve even as those sounds garner more attention from the broader world of electronic music. The tense reverberating sequences of Passing’s “Sacrifice” hail from post-industrial climes, but its DIY production make it feel immediate and contemporary. Videograve invoke synthwave soundtrack sounds that have become increasingly common in 2017, differentiated by the deep groove of its strictly sequenced bassline. The DKA umbrella is further expanded by the funk-laden darkwave of Tifaret and the throwback electro of Xander Harris’ “Social Leather”, each distinct but not out of the place. That commonality is apparent even in the speed up then slow down chaos of Collin Gorman Weiland’s “Indenture and Stone”, a product of knowing what your label is about and working with the bands that fit that vision.
Strategies Against The Body Vol. 2 by DKA Records

Sleep Clinic, “Stray Light”

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Sleep Clinic - Stray Light

Sleep Clinic
Stray Light
Total Black

Jeff Swearengin’s work as a studio maven speaks for itself: credits on records by everyone from HexRx to Youth Code to The Present Moment have cemented his place amongst the current wave of post-industrial still strongly emanating from Los Angeles. His own primary project, Sleep Clinic, exhibits all of the sound design and sculpturing one would expect to find, but often eschews easy classification, even within the wide spread of noise and ambient-adjacent genres. The new Sleep Clinic release is a mammoth double cassette release which shifts between abrasive, squelching noise and deeply meditative drones, but never holds fast to any particular palette for long.

The lines and shapes which adorn Stray Light‘s cover provide some sense as to the aesthetics Swearengin’s working with, ie, generally abstract. The pinging squeals and waves which careen about a claustrophobic Faraday cage in the second of the record’s ten numerically-titled tracks have more in common with pre-industrial experimentalists than any recent noise stylings (or even classic power electronics, if we’re focusing on the cassette format). This isn’t to say that Swearengin (who’s dedicated previous Sleep Clinic releases to the memories of John Balance and Peter Christopherson) is consciously working in a retro mode. The shuddering digital stabs of the fourth piece aren’t too far from some of the deconstructed techno we’ve heard recently from acts like The Sprawl and Herd.

The lengthier pieces found on the second tape cleave towards the ambient end of things, but that’s more a product of how the pieces are constructed rather than their component sounds. A particular tone or timbre will emerge, and then seem to move through the low hums or ambiance which swaddles it, as if Swearengin’s cooked up new sonic organisms in petri dishes and then given them free run to explore themselves and their surroundings. While the second piece on this tape wouldn’t feel out of place on a soporific playlist you might find at a, well, Sleep Clinic, the tweaking waves that follow it certainly wouldn’t produce a good night’s rest. Again, the ambient nature of Sleep Clinic’s work rests in the way sounds seem to maintain but modulate for extended periods, occasionally adhering to meter or melody, but more often simply existing for their own sake.

Stray Light ends with an abruptly cacophonic clatter of some previously languid pitched rhythmic samples, as if whatever experiments Swearengin’s been working on needed to be quickly shuttered. It’s a brusque finish to a record which, while rarely “comforting” in the way drone and ambient often are, is certainly enveloping. Stray Light offers a fully-realised dimension of sound design and reverberation to those who’d care to check easy genre markers at the door.

Stray Light I + II by Sleep Clinic

Buy it digitally or on double cassette.

A Selection of Questions and Answers

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Hello Snarklings! Please accept the Lady of the Manners' heartfelt apologies for the lack of posts the past few months; while she's been relatively active over on Tumblr and Instagram, the ongoing chaos of daily life has meant there's been precious little time for sitting down and answering letters. But! Gothic Charm School has returned, and will (one hopes) settle back into a routine of regular posts. However, enough with the explanations and apologies, it's time for letters!

Tracks: March 27th, 2017

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You’ll probably get a chance to hear about it a bunch on the podcast in a week or two, but golly are we excited for our road trip down to Seattle to catch Kite in a few days. It’s not so often that the Senior Staff can arrange a mid-week road trip to see a band, but there isn’t much that would keep us from heading down to Washington state, nighttime highway driving and sleep deprivation be damned. Real talk: mid-week shows are nobody’s favourite thing in terms of logistics, but this is one we daresay you can’t afford to miss. If you see us there, give a holler: we’ll have a drink!

Stockhaussen

Stockhaussen multitasks.

Comaduster, “Proxaema”
Did you know that the Senior Staff at I Die: You Die fucks with the Mass Effect franchise, like, heavily? We’re still getting a handle on the recently released Andromeda from a gameplay and story perspective, but one thing that has us excited is the inclusion of music by our friend Réal Cardinal, aka Comaduster, on the soundtrack. In addition to working as a sound designer on ME:A, Réal composed three pieces of music that are used diagetically within the game, a perfect match considering the futuristic science fiction vibe that has always played a part in Comaduster’s music. You can check out the new songs over on Soundcloud, or in your favourite drinking hole round Andromeda way. Take care, Ryder.

cut.rate.box, “Slip Away”
90s and very early 2000s electro-industrial act cut.rate.box return, sort of. Per the info on Bandcamp, these are songs that were started around 2006, but never completed. Most of the EP is instrumental in nature, and far less industrial that you might expect, although “Slip Away” (which gets a couple of remixes including a corker from Mangadrive) gets the melodic, clubby sound C.R.B plied on their two LPs. Unsure if this is a sign of a resurrected project or not, but nice to hear some new old material all the same.
Xenophobe by cut.rate.box

Ghost Twin, “Chymical Wedding”
Ghost Twin’s cozy but evocative pagan darkwave’s been a welcome addition to the run of things north of the border, and they were a treat to catch last year at Kinetik. We’re about to get a full length offering from the Winnipeg duo, which looks to contain re-worked versions of at least two tracks from their thoroughly enjoyable Here We Are In The Night EP, including this cut. Bouncy but haunting, it’s a solid representation of the sort of style Ghost Twin work so well.
Plastic Heart by Ghost Twin

Stockhaussen, “Efectos Minimos”
After a handful of self-releases, the first proper LP from Mexico’s Stockhaussen’s getting an official release via Infravox (dedicated readers might remember them giving Spatial Relation their first shine). The Mexican group’s quickly gathered interest for its classic and well executed style of coldwave, and there’s plenty of gothic panache to be found here. Can’t say for certain if Karlheinz himself would approve, but we imagine the cats from Fad Gadget certainly would.
Stockhaussen – Cold Lines – LP by Stockhaussen

Bombadier, “Hypnotic”
The title track from the latest release from LA’s Bombadier, the She EP, holds all of the “sledgehammer smashing into quicksand” murk and aggression we’ve come to expect from Jason Snell. Bur further into the tracks we’re getting a more impressionistic sense of Bombadier which we’ve rarely been exposed to. The shake and shuffle which accompany the simple harmonies on this track kinda makes one think of vintage Meat Beat at points, don’tcha think?
She EP by Bombardier

Leathers, “Missing Scene”
Leathers is Jason Corbett and collaborator Shannon Hemmett, also of local Vancouver post-punk new wave faves ACTORS. Citing a specific affinity for Curve (!!!) in their bio, it’s probably no surprise that the music on their debut single – available now on Northern Light records – has some classic 90s alternative flavours in the mix, along with a healthy dose of guitar feedback. The pop sensibility that has been a major part of ACTORS success is still in effect though, check the totally hummable chorus on “Missing Scene”, embedded below.

We Have a Technical 148: Publicize This

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In this week’s episode of We Have A Technical, we’re taking up the weighty question of technology: how has it guided the production and evolution of industrial music over the past decades? How has it been dealt with as a theme in this music? How well-equipped is post-industrial music to address future technological developments and dilemmas? Heady stuff, plus all of the usual fixin’s (and some Depeche Mode real talk) in the latest episode of the I Die: You Die podcast! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below.

Replicas: Severe Illusion, “Discipline Is Reward Enough”

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Replicas is the handle we use to write about reissues and archival releases, offering some thoughts on the original material, and whatever additional goodies or format shifts may have been appended. Today we’re cracking the reissued debut of one of our preferred (and very acerbic) Swedish acts…

Severe Illusion - Discipline Is Reward Enough

Severe Illusion
Discipline Is Reward Enough
Advoxya

What is it?
Severe Illusion was born out of Fredrik Djurfeldt and Ulf Lundblad’s mutual feeling that “the whole EBM scene had turned into cheap pop music“, and 2003′s Discipline Is Reward Enough was the first major product of that sense of dissatisfaction, after a couple of EPs and a self-released demo. In the fourteen years since Discipline‘s release, Severe Illusion have carved out a cult following in some of the more remote corners of Our Thing, both in terms of taste and geography.

Discipline contains all of the caustic cynicism which has become the duo’s trademark. Tracks like “Runner” and “Penalty” (and, hell, the album’s title alone) conjure images of a world in which we are made willing participants in our own oppression (the They Live samples which crop up at a couple of points are appropriate here). After enduring a round of the band’s brusque scouring of the veener of ‘polite society’, one might have trouble identifying a sense of self worth liberating. That’s the unnerving line of questioning Severe Illusion are capable of sending one down.

Musically, the balance between Djurfeldt’s vocals and the programming isn’t as synced in as it’d become in later releases, and the familiar Klinik-like vocal distortion which would be later whittled away sometimes runs the risk of obscuring the band’s thematics. That said, the synths, bass, and kicks are all thoroughly punchy and as biting, with bar after bar of staccato punishment. Severe Illusion have always communicated a sense of dispassionate confrontation to me, and Discipline Is Reward Enough shows that they had that eerie mood on lock from the get go.

What’s on it?
Advoxya’s 2-CD reissue is about as jam-packed with bonus content as could be hoped. The LP’s original ten tracks are complemented by a whopping sixteen additional pieces, with the whole affair crossing the two hour threshold. Rather than just bunging things up with relatively indistinguishable remixes and the like, the bonus material is predominantly previously unreleased versions, live collaborations, and outtakes which span the band’s entire career, from their first demos right up to last year. Trying to triangulate songs based on sound (does this come before or after the original Discipline release?) is a fun enough exercise, though I proved woefully inept at actually placing the tracks in the band’s chronology without checking the detailed liner notes.

Who should buy it?
Severe Illusion’s appeal should be immediately apparent to EBM purists who’ve yet to check them out, and this edition of Discipline Is Reward Enough offers, um, enough reward for those who like their stuff blunt and aggressive, but might also appreciate a break from the neo-trad strains of anhalt. But I’ve always thought that the band’s brand of social criticism, never quite reducible to a simple political platform or reactionary nihilism, deserves a larger audience in North America. If grinding EBM with some fresh takes on themes you’re well accustomed to sounds appealing, I heartily endorse Severe Illusion, and this exhaustive release gives you everything you need to get acquainted with them.

Buy it.

The Rorschach Garden, “Everything Must Burn”

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The Rorschach Garden
Everything Must Burn
Bazooka Joe

Philipp Münch’s The Rorschach Garden has been making minimal synth music since well before minimal synth was a commonly used genre descriptor. While the project’s output has bordered on synthpop and gritty industrial (despite never getting close to the sturm and drang of his work in power noise originals Synapscape), the core of TRG has generally consisted of an economic arrangement of synths, drum machines and Münch’s own semi-monotone vocal delivery. New album Everything Must Burn is amongst the most stripped down in the band’s expansive discography, an exercise in doing as much as possible with a pretty spare toolkit.

The press-release for Everything Must Burn makes a point of differentiating between classic and retro, and that’s as good a way as any to define the album’s arrangements. Like a lot of The Rorschach Garden’s most recent material, the specific use of analogue synths and uncluttered production gives a timeless feel that goes beyond aping early genre touchstones like The Normal or Fad Gadget. Songs like the instrumentals “Noël Melancholique” and “View Through Water” feel fresh and alive, solid enough musically to stand up without any nostalgic association. Münch will occasionally acknowledge the antecedents for his current material – witness the pointed Tuxedomoon shout-out on the lively “A Tear for a Funeral” – but by and large he plays it straight and focuses his energy on wringing as much as he can from his songs.

It is notable how much The Rorschach Garden gets out of some pretty spare songwriting. Opener “Happy Modern Humans” puts it all out there in the first twenty seconds, but by way of some clever layering and some occasional extra bits of programming the song seems far more broad than its simple melody and rhythm track would have you believe. Same with “The Plan Behind the Plan” and the proto-body music of the title track, where some judicious funk and extra percussion elements transform each song into a dancefloor contenders. True, at fifteen songs there are some moments when the record feels a touch thin (synth ballad “Truth” is a bit too sparse to carry its sentimental vocal for example) but its surprising variety and brief song lengths keep it moving, much to its benefit.

Everything Must Burn is a pleasant listen, but to speak truthfully it’s more about good choices and optimization than amazing songs. Despite the sincerity and obvious skill in Philipp Münch’s approach, the record lacks any real standouts, everything ultimately achieving a mean level of “nice”. The Rorschach Garden have recorded more than their share of cracking tunes in the past couple years, and the inclusion of a few on here would help lift the album up above the affable median it ultimately rests at.

Buy it.

everything must burn by the rorschach garden

Tracks: March 20th, 2017

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We’re right on the cusp of festival season kicking off, but we’re also getting into the thick of some of the records we’ve been most looking forward to in 2017. The new Mr.Kitty dropped a week or so back, the new Statiqbloom is imminent, and it looks as though the sophomore record from Seeming’s in the closing stages as well. By pure coincidence, all three of those projects are ones we’ve been tracking more or less since their inception, and nearly six years into the game it’s pretty rewarding to be able to see the directions acts like these have headed in since. Also by pure coincidence, each of the six acts we’re talking about in this week’s Tracks post are all pretty well-established, but are still dishing out fire. Let’s get to it!

Bestial Mouths

How's the tour in support of "Heartless" going thus far? Bestial Mouths' lips are sealed.

Seven Trees, “Azure”
We mentioned on last week’s podcast that Swedish dark electro act Seven Trees were gonna put out a new LP this year, but hadn’t realized that there was actually a song from the forthcoming release to listen to yet. As for the question we asked about how old school the project would be going after twenty years of inactivity, the answer is very, at least if the track “Azure” is anything to go by. Now that the retro-EBM thing has settled down a bit, maybe it’s time for a revival of Zoth Ommog style 90s dark electro? We wouldn’t complain.

QUAL, “Cupio Dissolvi”
The last time we checked in with William Maybelline (also of Lebanon Hanover) and his QUAL project, we were taken with the resolutely gloomy and fatalistic tack that seemed to hold over everything. On the new Cupio Dissolvi single, things certainly haven’t gotten any brighter, but the cavernously gothic sound of earlier tracks has been hard-swapped for a punishing set of rhythms straight out of the earliest of EBM playbooks. Very promising.
QUAL – Cupio Dissolvi by QUAL

Vargdöd, “Starved To Death”
Our boy Anders of The Pain Machinery and Celldöd has a new project in the works with Jonas Rönnberg of Varg (no, not that Varg). Murky, lo-fi, and menacing, the Brutal Disciplin release should appeal to fans of Muslimgauze, Silent Servant and the like. The stripped down techno both men have been working with in their primary projects is still there, but is nearly smothered under blankets of smoke and ambiance.
Vargdöd – Brutal Disciplin by Vargdöd

Bestial Mouths, “Greyness (FORCES Iridescent remix)”
New Bestial Mouths remix joint came out the other week, with a particularly strong line-up of remixers. Included on Still Heartless are versions by The Horrorist, Die Krupps, Danny Saber, CX KIDTRONIX, Ludovico Technique, Zanias and Australia’s FORCES (who we desperately want some new material from). We loved BM’s LP from last year, and are very keen to see them at this year’s VERBODEN festival right here in Vancouver. Bonus tip: listen to new track “Witchdance” to hear some of the most chilling vocalizations this side of a Diamanda Galas record.
(STILL) Heartless by Bestial Mouths

Manufactura, “Subterfuge: Face To Face”
The word “infamous” gets tossed around so much it’s lost all meaning, but we’re pretty sure Karloz of Manufactura’s earned that adjective (ask the old-timer at the bar in the Noisex shirt if you don’t believe us). After a significant hiatus, Carloz is back in action with Absence: Into The Ether and The Void. The slightly more harmonic elements which had begun to creep into Carloz’s last releases seem to still be present on early passes, but don’t let that fool you: this is still mean and misanthropic stuff.
Absence: Into The Ether and The Void by Manufactura

∆AIMON, “dissolvte (JeRm La Haine remix)”
Has it really been five years since ∆AIMON’s Flatliner (a record that really helped define this very site and what we were interested in covering) came out? Gosh, how the time flies. Of course Brant and Nancy Showers have done all kinds of stuff between then and now, but we can’t help feel a little nostalgic. I guess we’ll throw on this new remix of “Dissolvte” (a song which actually appears on the project’s self-titled LP from 2013) by JeRm La Haine and wistfully recount all the memories that have been made with ∆AIMON as the soundtrack. If you’ve never heard what these guys do, get on it, nowish.
∆AIMON [JeRm La Haine remixes] by ∆AIMON

We Have A Commentary: The Gothsicles, “NESferatu”

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The Gothsicles - NESferatu

On this Patreon-supported podcast we do a commentary track for The Gothsicles 2006 scene-skewering classic “Nesferatu”. We run down the nature of parody, the substance of satire and big up everyone we ever met from Madison Wisconsin with some basic video game knowledge to boot. All on this month’s episode of We Have a Commentary! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below.

We Have a Technical 147: Overjacked

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Maria from Ivoux and Battery, you are rad.

On this episode of We Have a Technical the Senior Staff plays the Pick Five game, selecting projects that only had one release! Side projects? New beginnings that never really got off the ground? One-off concept records? We got ‘em all. Plus we chat about the big final Terminus announcements, the upcoming Canadian Severed Heads dates, and toss in a remarkable amount of caffeinated off-topic nonsense on this week’s We Have a Technical! Accept no substitutes. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below.

Mr.Kitty, “A.I.”

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Mr.Kitty
A.I.
Negative Gain Productions

Where Mr.Kitty’s 2015 LP Fragments felt like a victory lap, and a nice cap to the astonishing run of LPs that preceded it, Forrest Avery Carney’s latest is a distinct statement all its own. The Austin based artist still trades in distinctive melancholy synthpop, but A.I. feels more crafted and considered than perhaps any record in the project’s discography. Synthesizing electro, synthpop and darkwave sounds, and paring them down to sticky hooks and heartfelt choruses, the album highlights Carney’s gift for melody and pop songwriting.

From a purely instrumental standpoint it’s some of MK’s best work, forgoing ornamentation for nigh minimal arrangements of synthetic drums, buzzing basses and crystalline lead synths. A far cry from the pastel and neon sounds creeping out of synthwave into so much contemporary electronic pop, Kitty keeps things monochrome, allowing form and arrangement to the work distinguishing the songs instrumentally from one another. There’s nothing especially different in the components of touching ballad “Healing Waters” and the speedily aggressive “Crisis Point”, but they couldn’t feel any more different.

So many of Mr.Kitty’s songs revolve around sentiments of distress, anxiety and heartache, and while those emotions appear frequently here, the way they’re dealt with is entirely new. Take mid-album highlight “No Heart”, where Kitty intones “I’ve seen the light/I hide my face for fear of being found/I’m not myself when you’re around”. It’s about as Mr.Kitty a couplet as any on this record or any other, but the confident rhythmic delivery transposes it from being desperate to cool and aloof, as squared off and tidy as the quantized arpeggio that carries the song. See also closer “I Hope You Fall Apart” where the certainty of performance turns what could be construed as a bitter sentiment into a heartfelt affirmation. The feels are real, but there’s a sense that by rendering and processing them through song Forrest has found ways to resolve and repurpose them.

Still very much a one man band from a production standpoint, it’s in the way that voices are treated on A.I. that it finds its identity. Only two guest vocalists are credited (and one of those is a Japanese vocaloid synth persona), but the stable of different deliveries from Kitty himself gives the proceedings multiplicity. He does the demure lovestruck thing on “Undo” and “Earthstone”, processed anguish on “Lamentation” and “Birds of Prey” and robotic detachment on “Malformed” and “Greater than Us”, each song’s emotional tenor informed by his choice in how to deliver it.

The capper for the transition from emotional producer/performer to pop auteur comes late in the record on the wonderful “Dream Diver”. On it Forrest delivers a somber and distant verse, before giving the over the top emotional release of a chorus to a piece of vocal software, Megurine Luka. It’s a masterful bit of pop artifice that mirrors his own feelings of detachment with a voice from deep in the uncanny valley, a contrast made all the more clear in the song’s nods to hi-nrg and Japanese pop. In it Mr.Kitty is both subject, artist, and prime mover, conducting an orchestra made up of himself. If A.I. is the first step in the next phase of Forrest Avery Carney’s work, than it’s surefooted and true.

Buy it.

A.I. by Mr.Kitty

The Prids, “Do I Look Like I’m In Love?”

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The Prids - Do I Look Like I'm In Love?

The Prids
Do I Look Like I’m In Love?
self-released

It’s tough for me to keep a critical distance from a Prids record being released in 2017. I suppose from the outside The Prids sound like a band fusing post-punk with shoegaze, appealing to goths plus a broader indie-listening demographic (whatever that means today), and in that regard Do I Look Like I’m In Love? fits the bill ably. But The Prids were instrumental in my growth as a music fan. They were the act that made me realise that the sounds I associated with a bygone era could be found at the shows I was attending and records I’d start ferreting out. I could guess that their record collections probably looked a lot like mine, but their own records were free of cloying nostalgia and instead were smudged with real, here and now existence. Do I Look Like I’m In Love?‘s wearied but ultimately indefatigable tone, then, is something which is hitting close to the chest.

Much more so than most of their peers, The Prids have a way with building straight-forward, hushed tracks with nodding basslines towards grandiose flourishes at the end, replete with cinematic washes of keys and truckloads of feedback. That classic mode’s certainly on display through much of Do I Look Like I’m In Love?, as on “Lie Here”. That a song about indolence, institutionalization, and denial builds to such a riotous climax is exactly the sort of paradox The Prids’ music – built on the grammar of bedroom sulking but ready to explode into the heavens – rests upon. The interstitial noises, hums, and production tics which crop up through the record have their own vitality, too, and shade it with an earthy but immediate sense of possibility.

Over the years I’ve heard the band name-checked by plenty of people and bands within and without their native Portland. Any act who can be loved by the more dour and black-clad of us as well as by twee popsters The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (who are paid back here with the peppy “Elizabeth Ann”) are doing something right, but the secret ingredient that The Prids have had at least since first proper LP Love Zero is difficult to place. Maybe it’s that the usual “recommended if you like” comparisons don’t tell the full story. I could say that opener “Summer Cult” has Slowdive’s haze or that the title cut feels like a classic Moz number, but the fact that something about the laid-back clip of “Mangled Hearts” connotes a twilight summer car ride feels more important.

I first heard The Prids nearly fifteen years ago when they played in Vancouver. I wrote about their set on my Livejournal. I evidently described them as “tight, frantic, synthy-new wave” and entreated whoever the hell was reading a mopey kid’s proto-social media nattering to check their mp3.com page. The Picadilly Pub, where that show happened, was the first place I ever ran a club night, and is now a gyoza place the last I checked. A few years later, when I left town for a brief academic sojourn, their then new album, …Until The World Is Beautiful was a lifeline. Do I Look Like I’m Love?, as I’ve been listening to it for the past week, is oddly familiar. I’m wondering if it’s been waiting for me, ready to guide me through whatever’s next.

Buy it.

Tracks: March 13th, 2017

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We usually keep the plus for our Patreon limited to the podcast (you subscribe to We Have a Technical right?), but it behooves us having just passed the $200 a month mark to drop some thanks hear on the site proper. Patreon has enabled us to make huge improvements to our recording set-up, as well as finance our upcoming (hopefully) site redesign and allowed us to make some charitable donations, all thanks to the generous support of our readers and listeners. We appreciate it kindly, and hope that we can continue to merit your kind support in everything we do. Speaking of which, lets get to the weekly Tracks post, yeah?

Principe Valiente

Principe Valiente, catching some Z's in Kevin Shields' darkroom.

Fixmer / McCarthy, “Chemicals”
While techno/EBM crossover has been a hot flavour for a minute now, you could easily argue that Terrence Fixmer and Douglas McCarthy have been plying it for over a decade at this point. The follow up to their “So Many Lies” single for Planet Rouge last year, “Chemicals” comes to us courtesy of Adam X’s Sonic Groove, the same label that helped bring us that incredible Orphx record last year. Crank it up and get those sweaty body music vibes where they meet ruffcity techno between shifts at the steel mill.
Chemicals (SG1777) by FIXMER / MCCARTHY

Sex Park, “Bather”
We’ve been talking a lot about Terminus and the like on the podcast lately, but there’s festival fun happening in our own backyard! Verboden, that Vancouver celebration of all things dark in the Pacific Northwest (and sometimes further afield) is just around the corner, and a comp’s been released to get the word out and give folks a heads-up about the bands’ sounds. Here are the winners of the Band With Whom We Were Previously Unfamiliar With The Best Name award for the 2017 iteration of the fest, Sex Park, with some propulsive post-punk.
Verboden 2017 Compilation of Artists by Verboden

Hide, “91 Lashes”
Based on our experiences with some of their previous singles, we had expected Hide to be a lot more darkwave and a lot less grinding post-industrial when we caught them live last year. Imagine our surprise at the enveloping, harsh and political performance we ended up on the receiving end of. The material on their new Black Flame EP is much more in line with what we saw from them in concert, all echoing desperation from somewhere between the TG’s more beat-driven numbers and Dirk Iven’s earliest Dive material.
Black Flame EP by HIDE

Principe Valiente, “Strangers In The Night”
It’s been a while since we checked in with Sweden’s elegantly dark Principe Valiente. It looks as though their sophomore effort passed us by, but we dug their smoothly moody debut, and are digging this lush lead single from forthcoming third LP Oceans. Almost makes us think of what might have happened if Interpol had doubled down on gothier elements in their early records.

horskh, “Strayed Away”
A couple years back when grindy dubstep-influenced stadium EDM was a thing a few acts in Our Thing made overtures towards it in their material. Most of them were (to put it charitably) not very good. A few years on horskh seem to be giving us a real blueprint for how those sounds can be boiled down and integrated into a hard electro-industrial milieu. You won’t mistake “Strayed Away” for a track by Swedish House Mafia or deadmau5, but gosh it makes good use of those enormous leads and that glitchy bass without falling into any “wait for the drop” clichés. Very keen on this record, which comes out on April 10th courtesy of the good forward thinking folks at audiotrauma.
Gate by horskh

Dead Voices On Air, “Drie O Indiase”
Mark Spybey digging into his archives is always welcome news. This time, he’s put together a set of tracks which’d go on to form the Frankie Pett plays the Happy Submarines LP. So few people can strike the perfect balance between drone and harmony, but Spybey’s a master of that particular skill at this dreamy cut shows. Also, check the bonus live take on classic Piss Frond jam “Red Kerre”!
Frankie Pett en de Onderzeer Boten by Dead Voices On Air

We Have a Technical 146: The Smoothening

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Every picture of Don Gordon ever taken right here.

We return to the venerable two album discussion format of We Have a Technical this week, with some chit chat about Numb and Liquid Divine. We also get real excited about forthcoming albums from some acts we like a great deal! Yup, it’s another episode of the official I Die: You Die podcast, direct from our beer-lubed mouths to your ears, no filter. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below.

Multiple Man, “New Metal”

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Multiple Man
New Metal
DKA Records

The first LP from Australia’s Multiple Man is far more than the sum of its parts. Sure, classic EBM and post industrial sounds carried by a of funky bassline is a standard operating procedure for every song on New Metal, but what makes the record really pop are the subtle and overt nods to all manner of synthesized dance music from the eighties onward.

A lot of those tropes are going to be fairly easy to spot, especially over multiple listening sessions. “Ideal Self” invokes The Art of Noise’s choppy funk and Yello’s synthetic vocal work, while the bleepy pitched up toms on the terrific “Power Fantasy” can’t help but bring M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume” to mind. There’s a healthy amount of electro and pre-sampling hip hop to be found between the cracks of “Luxury Boys”, filling out the growling bass synth groove. Of course the songs don’t begin or end with the aforementioned sounds, and kind of like High-Functioning Flesh (a modern act with whom Multiple Man share some DNA) the canny listener can make a game of triangulating influences and see where and how they’re morphed into new forms.

A goodly portion of what makes New Metal work so effectively is in the composition and construction of these songs. There’s an adeptness in the way a track like “Hotter than Hell” uses percussion to create a sunny and tropical feeling, and in the spacey echoes that transform the bassline from body music to dub and back depending on how they’re situated in the mix. Same with the buzzy synth that pops up midway through “Skin”, adding some serration to the track without ever upsetting the upbeat bounce of its rhythm programming. Multiple Man prove to be real students of structure in electronic dance music, knowing exactly when things need to be perfectly quantized, and when they need to be allowed some latitude and unpredictability.

It might be strange to praise such a wide-reaching and high-spirited record for its efficiency, but it might just be the most important part of Chris and Sean Campion’s approach. For an eight track LP New Metal has remarkable depth and broad appeal, all without repeating itself or falling victim to overreach in its approach. It’s a hell of a feat, and is one of the most enjoyable and compulsively listenable records of 2017 thus far. Recommended.

Buy it.

New Metal by Multiple Man

Various Artists, “Inferno”

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Wychdoktor - Inferno

Various Artists
Inferno
self-released

Concept records always seem a tricky pitch, especially when they’re themed around particularly abstract concepts. We’ve seen ESA tackle such a task with the three part Themes Of Carnal Empowerment series, but the instrumental Inferno release curated by Wychdoktor is perhaps even more ambitious. Wheeler’s assembled a crew of artists to plumb the depths of hell and produce dark ambient tracks for each of its circles, at least those mapped out by Dante in The Divine Comedy. The result’s a surprisingly varied (though understandably grim) listen, with a range of thematic and sonic takes on the subject matter.

The specific circles of Dante’s hell are named for the sins of those punished within, which leaves the artists with an interesting choice: address the sin for which one is being being punished, the punishment itself (often very ironically fitting), or some combination thereof. It’s impossible to guess how each artist was specifically inspired by the compilation’s conceit, but plenty of the resulting tracks show some interesting approaches. Oddly, Toronto breakcore act The Rain Kills Quietly’s vision of “Wrath” contains the record’s most serene and pretty sounds…for the first half of the track. Lush and calming choral pads are abruptly pulled away mid-track to be replaced with a galloping barrage of static-flecked beats. V▲LH▲LL’s take on “Treachery” is one of the more clever approaches, using shuddering and pitched vocals samples to communicate the idea of half-heard lies and betrayals.

Just as diverse as the interpretations of the hellish theme are the approaches to dark ambient found on Inferno. While perhaps only a handful of the tracks here would pass muster with purists as “true” dark ambient, it’s cool to hear some familiar names try on a new style. ѦPѺLLYѺN’S ▼ISѦGE layer a hellfire and brimstone sermon on desires for “strange flesh” overtop oozing pads on “Lust”. Matt Gifford of Encephalon (appearing here under his old TerraHurts moniker), on the other hand, is miles away from his established bombast with a smudged and smokey composition for “Fraud” which combines metallic ambiance and deep grinds that connote tectonic shifts.

The exact metaphysical arrangement of Dante’s circles of hell (not to mention their inhabitants as encountered by Dante and Virgil) are, of course, tied to the philosophy and politics of fourteenth century Italy: something not exactly on the docket of most of the contemporary artists working here, I’d presume (nor on those of most listeners, yours truly included). But, like the Bible, the The Divine Comedy‘s proven to be a text which carries resonance well beyond its original intentions and context. Here, in getting a solid group of producers to wrestle with sounds and issues they might have otherwise passed over, its continuing influence is welcome.

Buy it.

Inferno by V▲LH▲LL

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