Noise Unit, “Deviator”

Noise Unit
Deviator
Artoffact Records

Front Line Assembly side-project Noise Unit has taken on many forms and purposes over the years. Originally a collaboration between FLA’s Bill Leeb and The Klinik’s Marc Verhaeghen before the latter moved on in the early 90s, the project has largely been defined by its proximity to what was going on in Front Line. It has even acted as something of a try-out for collaborators, with names like Chris Peterson and Jeremy Inkel making credited appearances on Noise Unit releases before moving on to being Leeb’s creative partners in FLA in the 90s and 2000s.

New Noise Unit album Deviator, the first since 2005’s Voyeur, is still shaped by the current state of Front Line Assembly, coming hot on the heels of that band’s 2021 release Mechanical Soul and featuring the storied Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber partnership at its core. That’s a benefit in a lot of ways – we found the last several Front Line releases to be underwhelming, due in part to the expectations attached to that project’s broader legacy in industrial music. Freed from that, many of the criticisms you could level at those records (such as over reliance on guest musicians and the use of production to cover for underwritten songs) become moot. Simply put, Deviator is in line with contemporary Front Line Assembly musically, but without the baggage.

And by and large that works in its favor. Whether the material here started life as potential inclusions the last Front Line album or not, the way in which they’re being presented seems to make a lot of difference in the listening experience. There’s a pleasing sense that Leeb and Fulber are having fun with these songs, building them up from whirring mechanical grooves but then turned in different stylistic directions. Check out the similarity to the sequences at the heart of “Body Aktiv” and “Fargo Field” for example; both employ looping basslines but one is programmed into an effective EBM stomper, while the other one comes across as a smooth cyberpunk bit of electro-industrial. Similarly, the design of “Empath” and “Plight” have much in common in terms of tightly programmed sequences of squelchy beeps, but use space and stereo placement to vary their textures between big and spacey and tensely proximal. The feeling is that this is a more relaxed and exploratory mode for Leeb and Fulber to try out ideas, and that has a certain charm to it.

“Like recent Front Line, but with a lower bar to clear” isn’t much of a sales pitch, and to be clear the material here on Deviator isn’t better by leaps and bounds than that of Mechanical Soul. But this is genuinely a case where context matters; where I might balk at the goofy industrial rock guitar and vocal theatrics of Pig collaboration “Atrocity Exhibition” on an FLA album, it reads here as part of suite of stylistic variations and experiments. In the end its Noise Unit’s fluidity in terms of identity that ends up being their biggest strength.

Buy it.

Deviator by Noise Unit

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Crystal Geometry, “Distressing Visions”

Crystal Geometry - Distressing Visions

Crystal Geometry
Distressing Visions
Sonic Groove

For all the talk over the past few years about techno body music, it’s rarely a genre that crops up in relation to records. It’s not a style which seems to lend itself to the traditional LP format, and that’s been reflected in our traditional record write-ups here at I Die: You Die (and to a lesser degree in our Year End coverage). Crystal Geometry has proven to be one of the very few exceptions to this rule. Last year’s Sinestre earned heavy rotation on our DJ streams and headphones alike, and Distressing Visions handily reaches the high standard set by that record.

Few producers associated with the TBM tag have proven themselves to be as conversant and comfortable with as many different flavours of both techno and body music (in the broadest sense of both terms) as Maxime Fabre. Though it’s a little bit shorter than its predecessor, Distressing Visions reaches a wider spread of stylistic territory, and as a result (somewhat paradoxically) feels more unified as an LP rather than just a collection of one-off club bangers. Sure, just about any of the record’s ten tunes could slot into any DJ set with an interest in current dark electronics, but nothing ever feels rehashed or like it’s struggling to differentiate itself from its surrounding tracks or sounds.

Like I said, Fabre has a far-reaching understanding of the genres he’s plying, and isn’t content to just reiterate their most common signifiers. The EBM fundamentals of the bassline on “Praxis” are quickly adorned with decadent pads, programming, and clusters of hi-hats. The squelchy acid of “Guillotine” pinches itself into tight, aggressive workouts which should be familiar to anyone who spent any part of the late aughts in industrial clubs, while the stabby programming of opening track “The Seer” recalls the 90s with references to rave and dark electro alike.

Hell, even the use of sampled guitar varies wildly on the record. Compare how “The Threshold” uses a quick sample to add texture to bleepy and murky dark electro, with “Ideologies Ablaze”, where a scrapy riff is paired with indecipherable guttural vocals – the concrete austerity of the Berlin sound smashed into hermetic and exclusionary black metal.

Stylish and opinionated (the record’s rife with “state power cannot be justified” sloganeering and samples from cult mockumentary Punishment Park, which turns 50 this year), Distressing Visions makes some of the more rote TBM we’ve heard of late seem even more generic by dint of not having a tenth of its confidence and creativity. There’s really nothing not to love about a record as solid, aggressive, considered, and varied as this. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

Distressing Visions (SGLP09) by Crystal Geometry

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Tracks: September 20th, 2021

We thought last week’s podcast episode would be a fun enough lark, but it seems to have really resonated with folks. Thanks to everyone who chimed in and offered their own thoughts and reads on the industrial (or not) qualities of just about everything on god’s green earth. We might take up the mantle of Arbiters of Industrial again sometime in the future, but if that does happen and you come seeking our judgment, please remember that this is a very serious exercise. On with this week’s Tracks!

Hungry eyes, Creux Lies

Creux Lies, “Misunderstanding”
California darkwavers Creux Lies are on the cusp of a breakthrough. Their sound strikes a fine balance; enough classic post-punk to appeal to those who favour the old ways, with plenty of modern programming and production that lets them sit shoulder to shoulder with the current wave of dark-minded acts. New album Goodbye Divine seems poised to bring them to wider acclaim, with debut single “Misunderstanding” highlighting their club appeal and penchant for atmosphere.
Goodbye Divine (Pre-Order) by Creux Lies

Deine Lakaien, “Nightfall”
German darkwave legends Deine Lakaien impressed us earlier this year with Dual, a record made up of both covers and new tunes inspired by the covers’ source material. The supplementary record Dual + looks to be a clear-cut continuation of that formula, with R.E.M., Pink Floyd, and Devo covers on deck. But it’s tough to tell from where this original tune takes its cue – this is classic Deine Lakaien at their most weirdly elegant.
Dual + by Deine Lakaien

Curses feat. Cici, “Gina Lollobrigida”
Berlin producers Curses has a solid rep for producing italo and body-tinged new wave and post-punk tracks that don’t skimp on the funk. New single “Gina Lollobrigida” is perhaps a bit more wistful than we’ve come to expect from him, but that doesn’t make it less pleasant to listen to, with solid bass and ghostly melodies provided by guest vocalist Cici. Available now on a remix single with versions by Zero Call and Nabta, it’s a nice bit of shading in a rapidly expanding repertoire of originals and remixes.
Gina Lollobrigida by CURSES feat CICI, ZERO CALL, NABTA

World, Interrupted, “Twisted Tale”
Few labels’ batting averages are as high as Detriti’s, even when they get thrown a pitch well out of their wheelhouse. The high gloss, high drama darkwave of brand new Polish duo World, Interrupted is not at all what we’d expect Detriti, but damn if it isn’t immediately arresting and very tight for a band with no previous track record. Should appeal to fans of Black Nail Cabaret.
World, Interrupted – Deception, Follow Me by Detriti Records

Weird Candle, “The Oppressor”
In the wake of the success of Wire Spine and Total Chroma, the first project through which we became acquainted with Robert Katerwol, Weird Candle, has been put on the back burner. Still, with those former projects reaching audiences well beyond those of gray-market Vancouver shows, the timing is good for The Alchemist, an archival EP of hitherto unreleased Weird Candle material: tense but squishy numbers like this get across Katerwol and Caleb Blagdon’s mutant synthpunk approach to body music.
The Alchemist by Weird Candle

Null Device, “Color Me Once”
A few months ago we drew your attention to Draven’s Mixtape, Distortion Productions’ tribute to that 90’s alt CD collection staple The Crow soundtrack. With the full enchilada now released we thought we’d take another moment to highlight one of the project’s finer moments: Wisconsin synthpoppers Null Device taking on the Violent Femmes’ minimal “Color Me Once”. With a dollop of heavy drums and Eric Oehler and Jill Sheridan’s vocals, it’s a maximal makeover that doesn’t sacrifice the spooky feel of the original. While you’re checking that one out you should take few moments to peep Encephalon’s tribute to Nine Inch Nails’ tribute to Joy Division on “Dead Souls”. Fire it up!
Draven's Mixtape:1994 Revisited by Null Device

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We Have a Commentary: Choke Chain, “Invoking Shadows”

Choke Chain - Invoking Shadows

The latest bonus We Have A Commentary is one of those rare episodes where we’re joined by an artist to discuss their newest release, track by track. This time, Mark Trueman of one-man Milwaukee act Choke Chain walks us through each of the pieces on his new Invoking Shadows EP. It’s a conversation which touches upon the appeals of EBM and dark electro, the therapeutic effects of pouring one’s anxieties into music, and the broader community of artists working within the techno-EBM landscape. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Observer: Black Light Odyssey & Meta Meat


Black Light Odyssey
The Beat
Oraculo Records

There’s so much instrumental EBM of a techno bent these days, to the point that even the best producers can have a hard time standing out. Los Angeles’ Black Light Odyssey do a good job of making their numbers stand out from the throng with the tried and true repeated vocal sample as hook and dipping their toes into a few distinct stylistic pools. Opening title track on new EP The Beat hybridizes funky new beat bass and acid squelches with manipulated vocals, paring the track down to its rhythmic essentials for a nice break and build. “Breathing in Fumes” revolves around a more halting kick-snare pattern, its pulsing bassline and low buzzing synthlines propelling a menacing and nigh-unintelligible voice that dips in and out of the mix before lifting the outro to “Enjoy the Silence” whole. EP highlight and club contender “The System” brings Randolph & Mortimer to mind as it gallops along on tweaky bass and big pads, letting the groove established in its opening moments grind down to nothing. The funky italo-touched “No Future” caps off the EP, its distorted orch hits and snappy snares should make it stand side by side with similar recent cuts by Infravision. Black Light Odyssey zero in on their ideas quickly and let them play out without meddling with them excessively.
THE BEAT by BLACK LIGHT ODYSSEY

Meta Meat - Infrasupra
Meta Meat
Infrasupra
Ant-Zen

Experimental French duo Meta Meat’s style places them in rough proximity to the more ambient and rhythmically subtle area of Ant-Zen’s domain, though by inference one can make guesses as to their interests beyond the label’s rhythmic noise bread and butter: electro-acoustic composition, post-rock, maybe even some free jazz? New record Infrasupra itself is a simultaneously tasteful and disquieting listen which shifts from complex polyrhythms to heavy buzzing drones, yet retains a distinctly continental sense of polish and restraint. The rhythms, sometimes made up of layered hand drums, sometimes coming through sampled and measured gasps for air, ride a fine line between being propulsively insistent and slipping off one another into the margins of a spacious mix. Harmonic elements are woven in through agreeable pads, acoustic instrumentation (possibly sampled) and muffled vocal sampling which keeps the focus on the pitch and timbre of fractured syllables rather than full words or exclamations. A little bit off-kilter for Ant-Zen, but anyone with an ear for their smoother and more avant garde side should dig this.
infrasupra by meta meat

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We Have A Technical 375: The Arbiters of Industrial

Illusion is the ultimate weapon.

For too long we have been delinquent in our duties as supreme judges of the nature of industrial music and culture. For too long we have hidden behind mealy-mouthed equivocation out of a desire to keep the peace. No more. On this episode of We Have A Technical we at last embrace our destinies as the Arbiters of Industrial and pass judgement on the rivetness of all things great and small. Should you deign to dispute our rulings you may do so on social media or in the comments below, but remember that your petitions will be to us as the flitting of gnats is to an intractable basalt column. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Stendeck, “Carnage”

Stendeck - Carnage

Stendeck
Carnage
Hymen Records

Okay, we don’t really call it IDM anymore, but should we even still call it technoid at this point? The sometimes glitchy, sometimes ambient style plied by producers like Switzerland’s Alessandro Zampieri (AKA Stendeck) is often politely hermetic to a fault. Eschewing much of the social dimension of music (both IRL and virtually), technoid’s charms and substance are often left unsaid, with producers often preferring to ‘let the music speak for itself’ and its listeners prioritizing solitary, headphone listening. While that might not stir up as much hype for the style as other genres, it’s also left it almost bereft of gatekeeping and hair-splitting genre debate (the likes of which you’ll find all over this particular site), and given artists like Stendeck the liberty to pick up, drop, move on from, and revisit its theoretical core elements as they see fit.

Coming a few years after the attention-grabbing Scintilla, Stendeck’s 2015 LP Folgor was an absolute masterpiece, with Zampieri taking on orchestral ambitions while at the same time making tasteful use of then-new outrun melodies. New LP Carnage may not quite equal its predecessor in scope or affect, but it’s damned close. As on Folgor, Zampieri pushes into plenty of lush soundtrack-like vistas which have far more in common with modern art music and kosmische traditions than the noisy foundations from which the genre theoretically extends. However, Carnage is a record where those same glitch and breaks roots are revisited and reconsidered with almost quaint affection. “Streams Of Oblivion” buttresses the clockwork kicks and programming which gave Scintilla so much warmth and drive with some classically distorted breaks and noise. Rather than serving as a chilly counterpoint to the track’s warmth, those theoretically austere elements are brought into the welcoming circle the piece builds.

Sure, there are other junctures where percussive intensity holds sway, as on the trembling sidechained compression of “Red Neon” or the slithering glitch of “Queen Of Beauty Tragic Obsession”. But more often than not those are used to underscore dynamic, rhapsodic shifts over the course of a piece (despite generally lengthy run times, none of Carnage‘s individual pieces ever stay pat for too long). The war between the tightly sequenced percussion and pastoral planes in “On The Shore Of The Dying Sun We Will Find Temporary Peace” eventually reaches detente via the Debussy-like piano refrain which closes the record.

Thematically, Carnage feels much more open and florid than its title or brutalist cover art might suggest. The titles of tracks have something of a Magnetic Poetry cut-up vibe (“Eyeless Creatures Gently Stifle The Ivy Lady”), but strangely their excess allows the mind to freely wander as one listens, juxtaposing scenes or images without a larger narrative. Similarly, Kristi Lyn Scaccia’s vocals on “Somewhere Nobody Knows” and “The Downstairs Room” point to fleeting snapshots of emotion or imagery (“So many hopes falling / Nothing is left but bats on the ceiling / A souvenir of the narrow stairs”).

Between Scintilla, Folgor, and Carnage, Stendeck has released a trilogy of albums which have stood astride a lengthy period of technoid history. In those ten years labels and projects have emerged and disappeared, and plenty of sounds which originated in technoid circles have migrated into broader media scoring, and vice versa. And yet without drastically changing his approach in that same decade, Zampieri has always sounded ahead of the game. Recommended.

Buy it.

carnage by stendeck

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Zanias, “Unearthed”


Zanias
Unearthed
Fleisch Records

There’s a marked distance between Alison Lewis’ 2021 Zanias LP and her other recent releases. Where her two 2020 EPs Extinction and Harmaline were thematically defined by climate anxiety (to the point that the art for each suggested Lewis being submerged and immolated respectively), the lead off track for Unearthed sets the tone for what follows with a simple but incredibly suggestive refrain: “Things are about to change”. It’s a statement that hinges on the same immediacy as last year’s releases but adds a layer of fatalistic determination, driven home by Lewis’ intense and controlled delivery, pumping side-chained bass and enveloping textures, and serves as an introduction to the places Unearthed wants to visit across its ten tracks.

It should probably be acknowledged that this is very much the album many were expecting from Zanias back in 2018 when she released the exceptional Into the All. That record went deeper into much stranger sound design and song structure, reveling in instrumental influences that had been at the periphery of her work for years. Conversely this album focuses on the majestic, intimate electronic darkwave that Lewis has proven herself a keen student of since the massively influential first Linea Aspera LP. With that said, these are some of the most rich and full sounding productions in that style we’ve ever heard from Lewis across her many projects and guest appearances. Listen to the way that manipulated voices and ethereal pads float through the mix on single “Untethered”, contrasting with the thudding electronic percussion and setting up layers of synth strings and vocal harmonies, the track growing more ornate with each passing moment. She uses a comparable palette on the striking ballad “Unsaid” and the buzzy thudding “Unseen” different effects; the former draws each sound out to match the longing in the lyrics while the former uses them to add warmth and texture to the track’s cracking rhythms.

That increase in the grandeur of Zanias’ instrumentals is accompanied by some of her most straightforward lyrics to date. Lewis has never been afraid of being obscure in her references and imagery, and while Unearthed still has many of her memorable turns of phrase – the line “I think I might be everything you’re running from” hits hard in context on “Unraveled” – there’s a seeming clarity to the meanings of these songs. There’s no ambiguity in the bass guitar-led “Undreamt”: you don’t need a decoder ring to figure out “Always second best to the emptiness”. Hell, one of the album’s best tracks is the slowly building “Unturned” in which Lewis asks with “Won’t you turn and face me?”, over and over with increasing emphasis. That sort of directness has a special intimacy to it, a meaningful trade for the intrigue of her more shrouded style.

So much of Zanias as a project has been the exploration of Lewis’ magnetic persona as a vocalist, and now as producer – where much of her catalogue has been collaborative, Unearthed is solely credited to her. To that end, she is absolutely inescapable here, whether in her narratives of personal connection and reflection, her evolving but distinctive production sensibility, or in the wordless vocalizations that pervade every track. An engaging portrait of one of the most notable figures in modern dark music at their most unambiguous.

Buy it.

Unearthed by Zanias

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Tracks: September 13th, 2021

Well, no sooner do we make a post last week about the weird Schrödinger’s cat scenario in which shows are both happening and not happening, but the cancellation of a number of tours and appearances are announced. We’ve discussed this a fair bit on the podcast, but thought it worthwhile to reiterate here; this is a rough, garbage time to be a promoter or a touring act. Many of these people rely on show income to pay the bills and have already been through a year and a half of COVID hell with regards to their livelihood. Regardless of how you may feel about shows going ahead/being canned, remember that there are people struggling every day in the live entertainment industry, trying to make sense of this very difficult to grasp situation and its implications, and being a jerk online doesn’t make that easier. With any luck we can still lick this thing and be back to live music sooner rather than later.

89s† & Petra Flurr

89s† & Petra Flurr

Riki, “Marigold”
Hot on the heels of last year’s tremendous self-titled debut Los Angeles synthpop artist Riki returns with the first single from her forthcoming LP Gold. Sure, there are some changes: Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv/Black Queen is behind the boards, and the sound of the track goes even deeper on early eighties new wave styles a la Berlin. Then again, if you were one of the folks like us who was immensely charmed by Riki’s vocal presence and musical persona, this should precisely hit the spot. Album is up for pre-order now and drops via Dais on November 26.
Gold by Riki

89s† & Petra Flurr, “Sandkorn”
Tracing out all of the lineages and origins combined in Oraculo’s release of Trübe Stadt, the new LP by 89s† and performance artist Petra Flurr, would take far too long (Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Germany are all in the mix). Suffice it to say it’s an international effort we’re looking forward to spinning out. While Petra Flurr first landed on our radar via a more modern, techno-influenced team-up with Unconscious, we’re looking at pure DAF-styled trad-EBM on this one.
Trübe Stadt by 89s† & Petra Flurr

Maenad Veyl & The Sarcasm Ensemble, “Suntrails”
We’ve really enjoyed the industrial club bangers Thomas Feriero, aka Maenad Veyl, has handed us over the past few years (seriously, that Onto Duat EP was murderous – cop it if you still haven’t). But Feriero has other styles at hand and it looks as though the new Comfort In Misery LP will be digging into some murky and stoned territory, touching upon drone and dark ambient. Don’t let the crediting twist you up – The Sarcasm Ensemble is simply another of his aliases.
Comfort in Misery by Maenad Veyl & The Sarcasm Ensemble

Stendeck, “Red Neon (Hypnoskull remix)”
We still haven’t reviewed the new Stendeck LP from June, but we promise we will – given that their LP Folgor is a modern technoid classic in our eyes, we can’t let it pass without comment. Shit, it’s been out long enough now that there’s a remix companion to it out on Hymen, featuring acts like Sonic Area, Synapscape, Blac Kolor and even ol’ Stefan Alt himself. We selected this remix by Hypnoskull for your listening pleasure – a worthy follow-up to that bonkers mix they did for Ancient Methods the other month – make sure you put it on a system with some real bass.
somewhere nobody knows by stendeck

Memorex, “Black Watch”
Some classic throwback synth styles from Toronto, in the form of the new Memorex EP. David Lush’s work is clearly rooted in a combo of nostalgia and hardware fetishism, but the smooth way in which he combines kosmische, synthpop, minimal wave, and even some early electro-industrial with a real sense of melody and coherence makes numbers like this one from new EP The Staircase much more than an exercise in nostalgia for its own sake.
The Staircase e.p. by Memorex

Soft Crash, “Dressed to Kill”
We admit we’ve been pretty nonplussed with a lot of the EBM-techno crossover stuff of late, although that scene has still got some shining moments. In particular there have been a number of good compilations providing interesting stuff to spin, not the least of which are the Georgian (as in the country) label Murder’s eponymous comps. Their forthcoming comp happens to feature this number from Pablo Bozzi and Phase Fatale, aka Soft Crash, highlighting the techno, body and italo sounds they ply individually and together. Tasty stuff, and the rest of the tracklist features Restive Plagonna, Puritan and Silent Servant amongst others if you needed more reasons to check it out.
MURDER 03 | VARIOUS ARTISTS by Soft Crash

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Wingtips, “Cutting Room Floor”

Wingtips
Cross the Line
Artoffact Records

Wingtips’ breakout release Exposure Therapy was one of the best records of 2019; a bracing mixture of electronics and dreamy guitars that read as classic darkwave in spots and pensive post-punk in others. The follow-up LP Cutting Room Floor finds the duo of Vincent Segretario and Hannah Avalon pushing harder into a more explicitly pop direction, a move that makes sense given their penchant for big hooks and melodies. The result is a record that feels like something of a departure from their previous material without abandoning their key strengths.

When we say that Wingtips flirt with full-on pop numbers, we’re not kidding; their 2020 cover of Australian popsters Savage Garden’s “Tears of Pearls” presages much of the sound of Cutting Room Floor. It’s a sound that they prove themselves fairly adept at pulling off; lead single “Cross the Line” jumps out of the gate with peppy synth programming, makes a dash to its buzzy chorus, and then introduces a chiming guitar-line that accents Segretario’s lead vocals and Avalon’s backups. The band play with that template in various ways: closer “Wish U the Best” slows it down for a sentimental mid-tempo ballad, “Crystal Clear” goes for a more sparse arrangement that highlights the melody, but it’s ultimately just the songcraft and canny arrangement choices that makes these songs work.

Which is not to say that the band have abandoned their previous sound in its entirety. “Repetitive” works the same kind of twinned tremolo guitar and vocal line and stabby synths that were the band’s darkwave bread and butter on the previous record, and the melancholy “Four Walls” is exactly the sort of nod-to-The-Cure anthem they’ve always excelled at. That those songs can sit comfortably with their more sunny neighbours mostly has to do withex how good Wingtips are at using their toolset in the differing contexts; regardless of the style of the song, you’ll never mistake Segretario’s vocals or the tasteful use of guitar and synths. It’s how the bombast of opener “Minimalistic” and the funky techno-tinged “Shrinking” are quite different in isolation, but of a piece in the context of the LP.

That kind of excellence in execution is probably Wingtips’ greatest asset at this point. The songs are good, and the performances and programming are excellent, but it’s Wingtips’ understanding of how to put all those things together that makes Cutting Room Floor a fun and engaging listen. Whether this is the destination they’ve always been heading towards or just a stop in a much longer journey, the speed and surety of their evolution leaves little doubt that they’ll sound good no matter what they put their hand to. Recommended.

Buy it.

Cutting Room Floor by WINGTIPS

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We Have A Technical 374: John Senile

Diva Destruction

A classic two albums episode has us kicking between darkwave and industrial metal. Diva Destruction’s debut Passion’s Price, with its synth strings and high-goth aesthetic, is considered alongside Unit 187’s Loaded, balancing programming and Vancouver metal. Some recent tour cancellations and postponements, plus the dissolution of Iris are also discussed. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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V▲LH▲LL, “Neversleep”

V▲LH▲LL - Neversleep

V▲LH▲LL
Neversleep
Artoffact Records

Sweden’s V▲LH▲LL have now existed for an exponentially longer period of time than the original witch house explosion from which they drew inspiration. The further we get from the Summer of Salem, the more the trap beats and giant, scraping and doomy pads around which the duo built their early tracks get cooked down to be just one flavour in an increasingly aromatic stew of darkwave and synthpop elements. More than any of its predecessors, Neversleep hones in on that broader sound, and even liberally borrows from broader contemporary pop sounds.

Opening track “Eversleep” has the grandiose, orchestral arrangements of squelches and detuned strings that longtime listeners have come to expect from the group, but there’s a whiff of something smoother in the vocals – as if they’re being drawn into our universe from a parallel one’s radio waves, the gloss and hi-def production still detectable despite bombardment by cosmic rays. Similarly, at its core “Down By The Gallows” is a classic (and rather minimal) electropop tune which just happens to have been left out in the elements of Kilsbergen forest for a winter. That’s not to say that the band’s use of more polished sounds always carries them in a softer or peppier direction – the submerged drones and lilting harmonies of “Plague Ship” are half classically-influenced darkwave, half mid-period :wumpscut:.

That opening up of sound has allowed the band to convey a broader range of moods, to boot. As much as we like to continue to crack wise about V▲LH▲LL being Swedish Mystery Vikings, it’s impossible to even feign a practiced austerity or severity in relation to the band when Neversleep feels so homey, organic, and downright personable at times. While the vocals and thematics of a track like “For The Crows” match with the ice-blasted, desolate landscapes and mythological undead V▲LH▲LL used to keep their focus limited to, there’s a warmth and bounce to the clockwork programming pushing the track along. And trust me, when a band names their record’s last track “Detention At Miskatonic” they’re up for a good time (I hear the titular university has a killer swim team but a hopelessly out of date library).

V▲LH▲LL have long since been more than the sum of their genre influences. While Neversleep adds a couple more arrows to their ancient and weathered quiver, they remain true to their original aims and purposes. If they seem a bit cozier and more affable here, well, it’s just because we’ve gotten to know them better over the years. Recommended.

Buy it.

NEVERSLEEP by V▲LH▲LL

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Tracks: September 7th, 2021

As we alluded to on last week’s podcast, we’re in a very tenuous position in North America as far as live shows are concerned. Rather than the broad, sweeping cancellations of all shows we experienced a year and a half ago, or the flick-of-a-switch return to Roaring ’20s excess and partying many of us were hoping for once a vax was out, we seem to be in a strange limbo in which some local shows are happening, often with new capacity limits and vaccine passports. We have tickets for a handful of shows in the next couple of months, and while it seems likely that some might be cancelled, we have a feeling that we’ll at least be able to see a local gig sometime soon. Here’s hoping that wherever you are, you’re able to safely enjoy some live gigs in the near future. On to this week’s Tracks…

Salute the Blague

SØLVE, “Acid Rain”
Every year Brant Showers of SØLVE and ∆AIMON puts out a track on his birthday, and this year’s is an interpolation of Lorn’s modern classic “Acid Rain”. If you’re not familiar with the original, let us assure you that this makes a lot of sense; the original’s hazy, saturated atmosphere and dreamy melody is a sort spiritual relative of the esoteric dark electronics that Showers creates as SØLVE, making the cover feel like a meeting of two distinct but related aesthetics. Crank this one up in a dark room for maximum effect.
ACID RAIN by SØLVE

Forma Tadre, “Once Upon A Time There Were Cities”
A hitherto unheard Forma Tadre record laid down twenty years ago? This is the sort of news which keeps us running this site. Based on the two preview tracks up on Bandcamp, Geiger’s Day very much sounds like an apocalyptic companion piece to the ambient cityscapes of Automate – post-nuclear skylines still and quiet save for the echoing pings of the Geiger counters tallying the radiation.
Geiger's Day by FORMA TADRE

Spectres, “Tell Me”
After a decidedly mellower turn towards Factory-styled post-punk with last year’s Nostalgia, Vancouver’s own Spectres look to be raising their pop quotient even further with the forthcoming Hindsight (shouldn’t that have been the name of the 2020 record?). There’s a healthy amount of synthpop (possibly Kon Kan-esque?) added to the chorus pedaled bass sound the band have been trading in for a few years on this first taster.
Hindsight by SPECTRES

Plack Blague, “Dangerous”
America’s leather band is back, baby! Taken from a forthcoming split 7″ with COCK E.S.P., “Dangerous” has all the hallmarks of a PB joint; sweaty synthwork, banging drum programming and raw vocals. Speaking of the vocals, we’re feeling the slightly growlier delivery Raws is using here, perhaps hearkening back to his history in punk and metal pre-Blague. And those “Head like a Hole” cymbals on the intro? Dang. Next album when???
Plack Blague – Dangerous by Plack Blague

MeLLLo, “Crown”
It’s been a few years since we’ve had a new LP from normally prolific synthpop act Marsheaux, but at least one half of the Greek duo is keeping their hand in. Marianthi Melitsi’s solo project, MeLLLo, has had a steady stream of tracks coming down the pipe for the past year. A good amount of the bounce and charm of Marsheaux is present in MeLLLo, as can be heard on this brassy electropop number.
Crown by MeLLLo

Sexual Purity, “Don’t Touch”
Okay look, we’ve joked plenty about the prevailing influence of Boy Harsher on modern darkwave, but the fact remains we like that sound and are more then happy to have more tracks in it to fill out our various playlists. Such is the case with Sexual Purity and their new single “Don’t Touch”, which like their other material pays fealty to the aforementioned, but has some bounce and appeal of its own. Dig the slower tempo on this one, a moody tablesetter for your DJ set or spooky mixtape.
Don't touch by Sexual Purity

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Observer: The Hearses & Cruel Diagonals


Thee Hearses
self-titled
Detriti Records

How and where synthpunk intersects with the broader sounds of Our Thing is usually something you have to parse on a case by cases basis. A release like Thee Hearses’ self-titled EP (one of two self-released by the mysterious act this summer, now re-released on Detriti) fits without too much effort; the manic drum and synth programming and sardonic vocal delivery has a certain dark edge to it. That said, these are still songs that emphasize the punk part of synthpunk with all songs clocking in at two and a half minutes in length and deliberately rough-edged production. Hear how the “It Came From Planet X” puts its Roger Corman lyrical premise over the top with snare accents on the chorus and an unhinged synth lead and how that contrasts with the more sinister “Insects in my Brain” where a ghostly melody floats over the tense analogue synth bass. Then again there’s very little spookiness to “Septum Ring Rock”, a stinging rebuke of “coffee shop indie bands” and “ironic t-shirts” as the vocalist demands to be beaten and put out of their misery. By the time you’ve clocked the tiny bit of desperation behind the chorus of “American Dreaming in the Apocalypse” the track has already ended, all part of Thee Hearses hit n’ run appeal.
Thee Hearses – "S/t" by Detriti Records

Cruel Diagonals - A Dormant Vigor
Cruel Diagonals
A Dormant Vigor
self-released

Originally commissioned by Seattle’s Wayward In Limbo Series, offering experimental musicians an online platform during lockdown, Megan Mitchell’s new record functions as an engaging jumping-on point for her Cruel Diagonals project. A Dormant Vigor places Mitchell’s considerable vocal talents right up front – see the elegant and delicate arrangement of wordless tones, emerging and descending, which open the record – but also just as quickly showcases the sculpting of field recordings which make up the other half of Cruel Diagonals’ approach. Tuned, rounded, shaved, and stretched into permutations entirely separate from their source from an outsider’s perspective, the samples which make up A Dormant Vigor fall into micro-breaks or bob and weave like sine wave bass for brief periods. More minimal and fleeting than on the Pulse of Indignation EP from 2019, these sounds might seem at odds with the vocals in isolation from one another, yet that’s never actually the case in practice. The simple tonal beauty of the vocals on “Subterranean Accretion” seems to come from another planet than the stygian murk of “Conduit” and its scuttering drones, but both pieces are united by the fluid but uncanny way in which pitches shift in each. Immediately accessible and enveloping yet also firmly disquieting stuff.
A Dormant Vigor by Cruel Diagonals

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We Have A Technical 373: Furnas and LaFon

Lingua Ignota - Sinner Get Ready

After four weeks of our New Canon series, the regular We Have A Technical podcast is back! This week we’re discussing Sinner Get Ready, the new album from Lingua Ignota. Its rural mood and shift towards acoustic/folk instrumentation while maintaining the harrowing tones and themes for which Kristen Hayter’s work has gained acclaim are just some of the topics we’re discussing. Also, we try to catch up with a full month’s worth of news bites. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Aurat, “Khaar”

Aurat - Khaar

Aurat
Khaar
self-released

California act Aurat had a breakthrough 2020, with a lot of attention being given to their use of Urdu vocals. But invariably it was the band’s fuzzy but hypnotic presentation of goth and darkwave sounds which gave 2020’s Zeher its legs. Follow-up release Khaar retains the warmth and emotional immediacy of that record, but takes a sharp turn into pure electronics.

As with the band’s preceding work, lead track “¿Can You Hear Me?” hinges on the vocal charisma and delivery of singer Azeka, but the interplay between stuttering rhythmic programming, monotone sampling, and dreamy key washes is a mission statement on Khaar, presaging the rest of the record. Positioning a blocky, classic electro remix thereof immediately after the original is something of an odd choice, breaking up the presentation of original compositions, but if nothing else underlines how committed the band are to focusing on the electronic dimension of their work. These sounds and grooves were certainly a part of Zeher, but were always shot through with distorted goth guitar that’s wholly absent here.

While it might seem easy to lament the exclusion of certain sounds that comes with Khaar‘s focusing in on electronics, it’s difficult to be mad when you’re getting a tight and aggressive set of tunes which still have plenty of variety between them. Compare the metallic speedrun of “Waqt/Saach”, connoting Kas Product or Animal Bodies with the wind tunnel noise of “Takleef”, closing things out on a decidedly ambient note. And the band are becoming more precise, too: the sharp arrangement of “333” neatly doles out noise, samples, and beats and pulls them back with just as much sagacity.

Between Zeher and a handful of streaming performances, Aurat sizably raised their profile beyond California during lockdown. Khaar‘s club-ready sound and tight presentation serves as an excellent calling card as they continue their ascent.

Khaar by Aurat

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Nox Novacula, “Ascension”

Nox Novacula
Ascension
Bat-Cave Productions/Manic Depression Records

In contrast with their previous releases (handily collected on the The Beginning compilation) Seattle four-piece Nox Novacula’s first proper LP Ascension is a less deathrock and more post-punk affair. That kind of change can be a risky one; in broadening their sound and appeal many bands lose a piece of their identity in the process. Nox Novacula avoid that pitfall by keeping the spotlight on tremendous vocalist Charlotte Blythe.

While their music is still appropriately atmospheric and dramatic, a big part of the change is certainly in the recording and production of the LP. The band find a nice middle ground between the rawness of their debut EP and the slicker sound of many current acts working in their style. It’s a choice that allows for guitars to either slice or roar in the mix as required, and for the tight rhythm section to push the tracks forward. Listen to the title track for a great example of how tense and edgy the band can sound while keeping the mix nice and balanced.

Blythe’s voice is certainly a big part of what keeps Ascension feeling appropriately gothic in practice, especially on the bouncier dancefloor tracks like “Last Will and Testament” where she imparts a regal posture to the track’s tremolo guitars and bubbling synths. While she sounds perfectly at home paired with a more traditional goth rock arrangement like the desperate, organ-inflected “Against the Wall” or the sinister “Victim”, her capacity for big theatrical climaxes gives weight to the speedy “Drug (Bitter Pill)” and understated dignity to the solemn closer “Shattered World”. While some of the album’s tracks feel a bit samey in composition, it’s her voice that teases the ear and holds listener interest.

On Ascension Nox Novacula have fit themselves neatly into the category of goth rock that holds appeal for both scene folks and wider rock audiences: think Concrete Blonde or the more contemporary Rosegarden Funeral Party. That’s tougher then you might think, as it requires a specific balance of personality and atmosphere that can easily tip over into blander alternative fare. Nox Novacula thread the needle by putting their best attributes at the forefront and keeping the energy and melodrama in focus.

Buy it.

MD135 – NOX NOVACULA "Ascension" by Nox Novacula

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Tracks: August 30th, 2021

Howdy friends. As you may have noticed, we’ve been operating at half capacity for a few weeks now, but with Alex’s return to Vancouver we are back at full power for the ever-busy fall season. We hope your August was as relaxing as our own, and that you’re as ready for the inevitable deluge of fourth quarter releases as we are. We have our eye on a few big ones (Artoffact in particular has a packed schedule for the next few months), but who knows what the final leg of 2021 might bring?

Contrary to their name, Headless Nameless have both names and heads.

Headless Nameless, “Ash Palace”
Headless Nameless is the newish project of Alis Device and Matt Ghostorm of I Die: You Die faves Encephalon. If you checked out their previous EP Flash in the Dark (which has disappeared from Bandcamp) you’ll have an idea of what the Ottawa duo are up to here; in contrast with the electro-industrial stylings of their main project Headless Nameless revolves around a more dirgey, atmospheric rock sound, and Alis’ powerful vocals. Have a listen to first sampler from the forthcoming album Ominus Spiritus “Ash Palace” for a taste.
Ominus Spiritus by Headless Nameless

Choke Chain, “Losing The Way”
A pair of EPs released in close succession has rapidly made Milwaukee’s Choke Chain one of the most exciting emerging stateside acts. Third EP Invoking Shadows will be out in a couple of weeks and with this number looks to continue the project’s track record of grimy, low-fi EBM scrapers rife with panic and sledgehammer-weighted bass programming. Stay tuned for more detailed coverage of the EP…

The Forgotten · Choke Chain – Losing The Way [Self-Release]

Menthüll, “Crypto Love”
Don’t worry, you don’t need to give a fig about blockchain to enjoy this new number from Quebecois cold/darkwavers Menthüll. A fair bit more bass and club oriented than most of the numbers we’ve heard from them, this expands our understanding of what they’re capable of, and continues to raise the stakes for their proper debut. A modern update of “Computer Love”, perhaps?
Crypto Love by Menthüll

Noise Unit, “Atrocity Obsession”
When we heard “Body Aktiv”, the first track from the forthcoming Noise Unit LP, we presumed Deviator would be drawing heavily from Rhys Fulber’s recent TBM work, but this new number upends all that. Featuring no less a charismatic vocal presence than Raymond Watts, this careens between modern bass programming, classic industrial rock, and maybe even some hints of goth rock. Noise Unit’s always been a kitchen sink project, and we’re happy that its next phase looks to be just as open-ended as any of its previous ones.
Deviator by Noise Unit

Echoberyl, “Mother Solitude (La Sorciere remix)”
The French scene is absolutely on fire in 2021, with releases spanning the synthpop, minimal wave and body sounds especially. While Echoberyl aren’t a new act per se (the duo have been collaborating since 2018), they definitely seem to be riding the same wave of atmospheric continental electronics as such notables as Hante. and Hammershoi. Check out this tremendous remix of their moody synthpop jam “Mother Solitude”, and be on the lookout for the album dropping soon.
Mother Solitude – Special Edition by Echoberyl

daddybear feat. grabyourface, “Science Fiction”
“Sultry” isn’t generally a word we associate with any of Matt Fanale’s various works, but damn if his new daddybear single “Science Fiction” doesn’t demand that descriptor. Of course a healthy portion of that belongs to guest vocalist grabyourface, whose own work has the dark n’ intimate sound sewed up. But we’re also hearing some interesting moves towards the popular electro-darkwave sound in this production, an interesting move for Fanale, and distinct from his more EBM leaning projects.
Science Fiction by daddybear

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The New Canon In Review

As our New Canon series draws to a close, we’ve collated a list of all forty of the records from the past ten years which we profiled over the past month. While we were at pains to stress that we don’t think these are necessarily top forty records of the past decade (again, please consult our annual Year End coverage for lists of that ilk), we firmly believe that each of these records is a must-listen for any fan of the respective genres we’ve classified them within. Thanks for listening to the series, and we hope you’ve found a few new favourites which get you thinking about EBM, goth, industrial, and darkwave music in new ways.

Plack Blague

Plack Blague keep the “body” in Electronic Body Music.

EBM

SPARK! – Hela Din Varld (2012, Progress Productions)
Hela din värld by Spark!

Wulfband – self-titled (2014, Progress Productions)
Wulfband by Wulfband

Sturm Cafe – Europa! (2015, SCR)
Europa! by Sturm Café

High-Functioning Flesh – Definite Structures (2015, Dais Records)
Definite Structures by High-Functioning Flesh

Plack Blague – Nite Trax (2017, Ormolycka)
Night Trax by Plack Blague

Multiple Man – New Metal (2017, DKA Records)
New Metal by Multiple Man

Schwefelgelb – Dahinter Das Gesicht (2017, aufnahme + wiedegarbe)
Dahinter Das Gesicht by Schwefelgelb

Chrome Corpse – Anything that Moves (2019, Area Z)
[AREA Z T006] Anything That Moves by Chrome Corpse

REIN – Reincarnated (2020, Rein Records)
REINCARNATED by REIN

Visitor – Technofossil (2020, Braid Records)
Technofossil by Visitor

Goth

Seeming – Madness & Extinction (2014, Artoffact Records)
Madness & Extinction by Seeming

Angels Of Liberty – Telepathine (2015, Gothic Music Records)
Telepathine by Angels of Liberty

Terminal Gods – Outlaw Love: Five Years Outside The Law (2016, Heavy Leather Sex)
Outlaw Love: Five Years Outside The Law by Terminal Gods

Drab Majesty – The Demonstration (2017, Dais Records)
The Demonstration by DRAB MAJESTY

Rosegarden Funeral Party – Martyr (2019, Moon Sounds Records)
MARTYR by Rosegarden Funeral Party

Twin Tribes – Ceremony (2019, Negative Gain Productions)
Ceremony by Twin Tribes

Hapax – Monade (2019, Swiss Dark Nights)
Monade by Hapax

Horror Vacui – Living For Nothing (2020, Agipunk)
Living For Nothing by Horror Vacui

Panic Priest – Second Seduction (2020, Negative Gain Productions)
Second Seduction by Panic Priest

Cygnets – A Dark Chapter In Our History (2021, self-released)
A Dark Chapter In Our History : The Singles by Cygnets

Industrial

Encephalon – The Transhuman Condition (2011, Artoffact Records)
The Transhuman Condition by Encephalon

Necro Facility – Wintermute (2011, Progress Productions)
Wintermute by Necro Facility

Chrysalide – Don’t Be Scared, It’s About Life (2011, Audiotrauma)
Don't Be Scared, It's About Life by Chrysalide

Distorted Memory – The Eternal Return (2014, Disciples Of The Watch)
The Eternal Return by Distorted Memory

Youth Code – An Overture (2014, Dais Records)

3Teeth – self-titled (2014, Artoffact Records)
3TEETH by 3TEETH

iVardensphere – Fable (2015, Metropolis Records)
Fable by iVardensphere

Dead When I Found Her – All The Way Down (2015, Artoffact Records)
All The Way Down by Dead When I Found Her

Hide – Castration Anxiety (2017, Dais Records)
CASTRATION ANXIETY by HIDE

Statiqbloom – Asphyxia (2019, Metropolis Records)
Asphyxia by STATIQBLOOM

Darkwave

Linea Aspera – self-titled (2012, Dark Entries)
Linea Aspera LP by Linea Aspera

Animal Bodies – The Killing Scene (2014, Hard Beat Records)
The Killing Scene by Animal Bodies

V▲LH▲LL – Leaning On Shadows (2014, Artoffact Records)
Leaning on Shadows by V▲LH▲LL

Minuit Machine – Violent Rains (2015, No Emb Blanc)
Violent Rains by Minuit Machine

Bestial Mouths – Heartless (2016, Cleopatra Records)
Heartless by Bestial Mouths

Boy Harsher – Country Girl (2017, Ascetic House)
Country Girl EP by Boy Harsher

Ghost Twin – Plastic Heart (2017, Artoffact Records)
Plastic Heart by Ghost Twin

Sixth June – Virgo Rising (2017, aufnahme + wiedegarbe)
Virgo Rising by Sixth June

SRSQ – Unreality (2018, Dais Records)
Unreality by SRSQ

Double Echo – Burning In Blue (2019, Icy Cold Records)
Burning In Blue by Double Echo

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The New Canon: Darkwave

Bestial Mouths

Bestial Mouths

The fourth and final installment of The New Canon is here! This week we’re discussing darkwave and how its role has shifted from a somewhat marginal one in the long-established European scene to enjoying crossover success in North America and the rest of the world. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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