Observer: Trauma Phase & Karassimeon

Trauma Phase - II
Trauma Phase

With their early releases, Poland’s Trauma Phase did a wonderful job of bringing some classic dark electo moods and sounds into the present industrial-techno milieu which were often ignored by those looking to mine the earliest and roughest of EBM and industrial sounds for current club play. With this, the second in a series of EPs which have showcased a faster and more polished style of work, Trauma Phase is casting a wider net, picking up on the legacies of futurepop and even aggrotech, and finding fresh ways of presenting those now 20+ year old styles. Opener “Memory” connects the current brand of speedy EBM-techno favoured by the likes of Soft Crash and the X-IMG clique with the sort of galloping triplets we associate with the likes of Grendel’s Timewave Zero. The chilled out rave touches Trauma Phase puts on the body-jacking EBM of “Tailspin” give the sweaty track a sense of continental cool, while “Means” is effectively a Soft Moon-styled rhythmic post-punk track transposed over to EBM-cum Dutch hardcore instrumentation. II might not be the realization of the full-bore revival of millennial industrial sounds within the current techno aegis (which we and several others have been catching whiffs of here and there), but it’s definitely proof that there’s far more to be done with the techno-industrial crossover than many of its more austere practitioners might admit.
II by Trauma Phase

Discoteca Oscura
Ritmo Fatale

Coming from Ritmo Fatale, a global leader in the resurgence of italo-flavoured electro comes a 3-track EP from Parisian DJ and producer Karassimeon. Like the scant compilation tracks and DJ-edits we’ve heard from them previously, the tunes on Discoteca Oscura play up the disco half of italo-disco, while also touching on giallo and EBM sounds. It’s a collection of rich aesthetics to mine, although the danger is of course that stylistic trappings will become overpowering, a trap that Karassimeon bypasses through some solid arrangement touches. Opener “Cabaret Mortel” has a boatload of string stings, high pitched disco vocal samples and gated toms, but is achored by a 16th note bassline that keeps it moving forward through some dynamic shifts and percussion change-ups. Standout “Messa Nera” doubles down on that approach with a blood-drenched organ lead and a big chirpy synth-lead whose arrival is accompanied by horror movie screams, but the doubling between the melodic and shuffling rhythm programming lends the track an undeniably funky energy, and that’s before the Chic-esque muted synth-guitar sounds make their appearance. “Rendez-Vous” comes closest to toeing the line of tastefulness with its filtered and digitally tape-saturated intro, although its the closest of the three tracks to a straight horror soundtrack pastiche, and thus gets a little more leeway for working some schlockier production touches into it’s stew of twinkling synthlines and sampled orchestration. It’s just a tremendously fun EP to have on, one that nails the intersection at the hart of modern italo-body sounds.
Discoteca Oscura by Karassimeon

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We Have A Technical 451: Spy Vs. Spy

Swamp Terrorists

It’s a very 90s two-fer episode of the podcast, as we look at Swamp Terrorists’ Combat Shock and Perfume Tree’s A Lifetime Away this week. As we discuss, beyond being clear signifiers of their era, these end up having at least one thing in common despite their very real differences. We’re also offering some first impressions of the new Depeche Mode LP. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Randolph & Mortimer, “The Incomplete Truth”

Randolph & Mortimer
The Incomplete Truth
Surface Reality

The origins of Randolph & Mortimer’s second full-length LP The Incomplete Truth are surprisingly personal given the largely anonymous image the Sheffield-based project has cultivated, at least insofar as their recordings themselves. Born in the wake of depression resulting from a terrifying near-death experience in the workplace, R&M’s Sam Evans conceived of the LP as a live setlist from some alternate reality free of everyday working concerns, with the need for every song to “..lay waste to arenas”. Perhaps there’s something to the memento-mori aspect of the record and its immediacy, because it’s easily the most accomplished and crucial recording by the socially minded industrialized-body music project, bounding over the high bar set by the preceding 10 years of releases.

While Randolph & Mortimer have never been at a loss for a deep EBM bassline or impactful drum programming, there’s a renewed urgency to the style of largely instrumental tracks here. Opener “Self-Medicator” fits nicely into the mold of the project’s best dancefloor contenders with its escalating intensity, the bass and drum arrangement becoming ever denser and more knuckle-tightening with each repetition of the dehumanized vocoded voice and the upward rise of the shrill, anxiety-inducing synths. And here’s whats fascinating about the album; the wave of relief that comes as the follow-up title track loosens everything with a mid-tempo groove, snatches of strummed guitar, a yelled vocal refrain and nigh-mellow synth arpeggios, is no less vital. The record’s great trick is that regardless of what angle Evans approaches rhythm or composition the record, every song feels committed and alive with energy, from the Kraftwerkian-electro touches that ornament the stuttering samples of Black Dahlia collaboration “Resurrector” to the dreamy way that the voice of Dominique Slva’s voice floats through the druggy haze that envelops “Everything Was Forever”.

The breadth of styles touched upon, and the seeming do-or-die enthusiasm with which they’re executed is complemented by the same social themes that have always informed Randolph & Mortimer’s work. One has to imagine that the reality of almost losing one’s life for a paycheque that ends up going to rent and bills could only reify Evans’ deep capitalist critique that has always existed in his work, his contribution to the history of his home city’s intertwined labour and industrial music traditions. That personalization manifests through pure sonics, with the repeated clanging sound of hammers and air raid sirens sounding the warning on “Yuppies”, to the way the featured guest Andi’s vocal plays out its repeated mantra of subjection and subordination against rubberized EBM bass and synthlines, insistent and intractable from one another.

When the slow lope of closer “Becoming Inoperative” finally gives way to inertia, its bass guitar and organ fading into detuned echoes in its final moments, its tempered euphoria feels like less of a resolution than it is a call for reflection and action, whether political or personal. Through The Incomplete Truth Sam Evans has remade Randolph & Mortimer as the best version of itself, rounding up the politics, musical motifs and energy that have informed the band and distilling them into their most essential, purposeful form before directing them outwards into the world. A person with no conception of the geographical or personal history it speaks to should be no less moved – emotionally or physically – by the journey it undertakes, and the accomplishment it embodies. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

The Incomplete Truth by Randolph & Mortimer

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Snowbeasts & Solypsis, “Firelands”

Snowbeasts & Solypsis - Firelands

Snowbeasts & Solypsis
Ohm Resistance

A collaboration linking artists, labels, and genres which have run through underground American electronics for more than two decades, Firelands exists well outside of whichever of the moment trends you’d care to point to in industrial-adjacent music. Long known for his downtempo and drum and bass work as Codec, Rob Galbraith’s been working as Snowbeasts alongside Elizabeth Virosa (whose own solo work tilts towards the ethereal and neoclassical) for nearly a decade, bringing a deeply moody and textured approach to downtempo rhythms. They’re once again joined here by James Miller, aka Solypsis, whose more agitated work abuts breakcore and glitch, and as with their 2020 collaboration, despite the ostensible differences in the two projects, Firelands finds them meeting halfway with a record delving into bass, techno, and rhythmic noise.

It’s rare that a collaborative record like this immediately gets across the respective interests of all involved and finds a harmony between them, but that’s just the case with opener “Topaz”, where redlined and bitcrushed blasts of noise are juxtaposed with the sort of smokey atmospherics one might expect given the project’s title, and Virosa’s wordless vocals swooping back and forth in the mix. Drawing back to whichever periods of IDM, breakcore, and downtempo one might care to name as well as acknowledging the more woozy style of cinematic ambience which has shaped recent periods of post-industrial production, Firelands ably touches upon just about every style at which its creators have tried their hands (and sounds distinctly American – the work of the Death Camp Audio clique feels cut from the same cloth).

One of Firelands‘ more subtle charms is its ability to make a virtue of the unrelenting and repetitive nature of its sounds; the harsh bluntness that often comes with rhythmic noise and breakcore will be offset with a flourish or two, but never to the extent that the mechanical grit at the heart of the pieces is occluded by overproduction. Odd bits of inspired and singular sound design can be found amidst the monochromia of the beats and drones; the bleating warbles which adorn the concrete beats and metal staircase arpeggios of “Collapsing Overhead” carry an organic sense of panic, and the wet squeaks on “Apogee and Nadir” have clocklike quirkiness. Elsewhere, decidedly wet and organic percussion on “Approaching Fire” connotes the heyday of drum and bass without ever cashing in on its most overt markers, while a synthesized sax takes over the droning.

Hovering around Firelands is Galbraith and Virosa’s work with Component Records. Plenty of Miller’s solo work has seen release under the label as well as Galbraith’s, but the larger legacy of Component is just as instructive. From the turn of the millennium onward, it was an entity which linked a range of producers from multiple styles who were perhaps beginning to realise how much they had in common and how they could cross-pollinate in the wake of the arrival of powernoise. In revisiting some of those same overlaps, Firelands feels like a fitting homage to that larger nexus of work.

Buy it.

Firelands by Snowbeasts & Solypsis

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Tracks: March 27th, 2023

Without wanting to sound pompous, we’re feeling pretty damn good about the latest run of material we’ve posted on the site. Between an interview with Paul Barker, a deep dive into the beauty of Them Are Us Too, and some detailed thoughts on a fantastic breakthrough record by Lana Del Rabies, we’d like to think that this last week or so is a pretty great showcase for the sort of stuff we want to do here at ID:UD. But hey, no time to rest on one’s laurels when there’s a week’s worth of fresh tunes with which to start your week…

Sixth June, “Dance With Me”
The last time we heard from Sixth June the duo was releasing the minimalist and perplexing 1984, made up of one single forty-one minute, slowly changing piece. New single “Dance With Me” is much more in line with their preceding work, with smooth bass and elegant darkwave vocals riding a rolling beat. While there’s not been any formal announcement of a record, the band’s said “more to come”…
Dance with me by SIXTH JUNE

Cult of Alia, “Pattern Beats Emotion”
A new one from David Wright of Creux Lies in their solo incarnation Cult of Alia. If you checked out the project’s debut LP from a few years ago you would have been struck both by the similarities to Creux Lies in the emphasis on melody, while also noting the electronic darkwave leanings that make CoA distinct. New single “Patterns Beats Emotion” leans even further into the latter sound, and is certainly the most aggressive track by the project to date, with stabby FM bass and cracking percussion to match its antagonistic mood.
Patterns Beat Emotion by Cult Of Alia

Red Deviil, “Cadejo Negro”
One thing about our gradual loss of interest in the world of samey techo-body sounds is that the acts who stand out from the pack really stand out. Such is the case with Mexico’s Red Deviil, who have a new EP en route via Filmmaker’s Body Musick label. The stuff we dug about their previous work is still here in full force – gritty synths, tense atmospheres and some rhythmic noise adjacent rhythm programming. It’s just solid full-force dancefloor ready crossover EBM with enough of an edge to keep it from getting lost in the genre’s morass of soundalikes. GOD OF KHAOS by RED DEVIIL 

Black Nail Cabaret and Friends, “Sister Sister”
If you’ve spent any amount of time with Hungarian synthpop act Black Nail Cabaret, you may have had the thought at some point that the distinctive voice of Emese Arvai-Illes would be very well-suited to smokey jazz noir. The band themselves seem to have harboured the same idea some time and thus the forthcoming LP from Black Nail Cabaret and Friends, in which the duo are joined by guest musicians providing guitar, saxophone and drums to re-record a host of BNC songs in a completely different, but strangely totally natural style for Woodland Memoirs. Almost devoid of anything that would tie it to the world of Our Thing beyond the principles involved, it’s still a pretty interesting experiment in recontextualization.
Black Nail Cabaret & Friends – Woodland Memoirs by Black Nail Cabaret

Dague de Marbre, “Each Ring that Devours Us”
When he’s not busy handling vocals for those absolutely uncontrolled clinical maniacs in Chrome Corps, Antoine Kerbérénès has his own solo work on the go as Dague de Marbre. While the project’s first EP took a somewhat atmospheric and austere approach to the spaces between EBM and rhythmic industrial, this new track is far more frothy and dramatic with cinematic flurries, almost like “Tragedy For You” rewritten for some climactic battle scene.

Raw Ambassador, “Rivolta”
On a split with Boris Barksdale, Frankfurt’s Raw Ambassador point to the ways in which EBM and new beat are being explored by a wider variety of electronic producers these days, but with the sort of distinctly old-school and minimal approach to body music we’ve come to expect from Smashing Tapes. Imagine the likes of Bodystyler on a night out at Berghain, perhaps.
Zero Gravity by Raw Ambassador

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We Have A Commentary: Them Are Us Too, “Remain”

Them Are Us Too - Remain

This month’s commentary podcast revisits 2015’s Remain, the central work of Them Are Us Too. It’s a beautiful record which ably fits into darkwave and dreampop traditions, but more importantly showcases the incredible talents and special personalities of Kennedy Ashlyn and Cash Askew. From its alternately delicate and crushing sounds to its radical demands for a peaceful existence, it was a pleasure to revisit this masterpiece. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Lana Del Rabies, “Strega Beata”

Lana Del Rabies - Strega Beata

Lana Del Rabies
Strega Beata
Gilgongo Records

Strega Beata, the third LP from performer and producer Sam An as Lana Del Rabies, is the project’s most advanced album sonically, while paradoxically also being its most harrowing and difficult. Where the Phoenix-based artist’s preceding releases have been in the tradition of noise and power electronics based DIY recording, the new LP renders the same static and drones as previous efforts, as well as An’s own defiantly wounded voice, in high definition. The effect is as effective as it is startling, taking the brutish force and sorrow that has always dwelled within Del Rabies’ work and making it inescapably tangible to the listener. To wit, Lana Del Rabies has never sounded so full-bodied and present as on Strega Beata, but that tangibility serves to make things ever so much more difficult to ignore or escape.

While the divebomb drones and bitcrushed feedback which shaped Shadow World are still a major part of Lana Del Rabies’ sound, Strega Beata frames them within a much broader canvas. From the processional, monastic pace of opener “Prayers Of Consequence” onward, Am establishes wide, smokey soundscapes which bring to mind gothic cathedrals and medieval liturgy much more than the cramped, agoraphobic chaos of noise shows. The presentation of Am’s vocals plays a huge part in these ornate and solemn proceedings, with tracks like “Grace The Teacher” and “A Plague” giving as much time to mournful, sustained (yet still slightly distorted) vocals as to their martial beats and deep bass frequencies. When we heard the latter as a pre-album single we wondered if it would be indicative of an overall shift and development in Lana Del Rabies’ sound, and in the context of the full album “A Plague” very much appears to be a keystone.

The complimentary nature of the sonics and subject matter proves to the album’s strength, with every burst of degraded sound or crushing synth acting as an organic extension of the LP’s themes. “Master”‘s mournful outro of piano and choral synths is the natural response to the bludgeoning rhythmics of its climax, which in turn are an outgrowth of the lyrics’ examination of the intersection of authority and maternal succor. Matching design to thematics is of course nothing new, but it is striking how much nuance can be contained in the washes of reverbed static and thudding percussion; “Apocalypse Fatigue” serves as an affecting penultimate statement because the pure exhaustion of Am’s delivery sounds like a response to the blasted soundscape it inhabits, whipping itself into one final frenzy before being dragged under for good under the weight of guilt and anguish. The tiny moments of simple musical grace that manage to manifest between volleys of fraught noise aren’t just earned, they’re fought for and won in the face of what seems like insurmountable and inevitable collapse.

Like we said when we discussed Shadow World, presuming Lana Del Rabies to be yet another noise project using a clever name as a hook is a crucial mistake; the project originated with Am taking a critical perspective on the representation and exploitation of women within the pop world (naming an early pure noise track “It Felt Like A Kiss” is a grim example, and recent covers of both Britney and Tori Amos continue this work). Strega Beata is far less overt in this regard, though plenty of its lyrics hinge upon the same power dynamics and questions of control and identity. On 9 minute mid-album showstopper “Mourning”, Am subtly shifts from itemizing individual failures to meditating on the sum total of murder and cruelty in human history. When she settles on the sentiment that “Death makes all things right”, delivered in a resigned yet strangely comforted voice, it no longer seems to matter whether the song is a prayer for self-annihilation or a coming to terms with the temporality of all things. Impressively, in being a more cryptic and possibly personal work than previous LDR releases, Strega Beata feels far more universal. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

STREGA BEATA by Lana Del Rabies

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We Have A Technical 450: Crossing the Street

 Jeannot Quenson

Lead Into Gold. Photo: Jeannot Quenson

We try to make these landmark numbered episodes of the podcast something special, and we think we’ve come through on that account. This week, we’re happy to be joined by bass player, Wax Trax legend, and all around thoughtful guy Paul Barker as the release of The Eternal Present, the new Lead Into Gold album, draws close. Paul spoke with us about the particular mood and sound of the new record, how his approaches to LIG and other projects have shifted over the years, and plenty of other topics both musical and philosophical. We’re also talking a bit off the top about the recent Ticketmaster vs. The Cure business, and catching The Residents live. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Hem Netjer, “The Song Of Trees”

Hem Netjer - The Song Of Trees

Hem Netjer
The Song Of Trees

Between a handful of live performances and some brief releases, Hem Netjer’s emergence on the North American scene has been an incremental one. That slower pace has helped to build a receptive audience for The Song Of Trees, the Vancouver trio’s debut proper, and that’s possibly for the best given the idiosyncratic but subtle charms the band (and the record) trade in.

Hem Netjer’s sound could perhaps be pitched as sitting equidistant between darkwave and rhythmic industrial, with a heavy emphasis on pagan and ritual themes. Compositions like “Elemental City” and “Connect” strike a nice balance between a weighty heft and immediate swing. In a sense, Hem Netjer fit in quite nicely with a number of other acts with roots in the Canadian prairies; Scott Fox of iVardensphere holds a projection credit on the record, and fans of Winnipeg’s Ghost Twin might hear some resonance between the two acts on pieces like “Salt And Tears”.

But more than the pieces themselves or the programming, what’s likely to be the band’s lasting impression upon newcomers is the incredible contrast between its two vocalists, Raven Rissy and Jesse Ellyt. Rissy’s history in folk metal act The Wyrding Way is instructive, as she maintains a high and even register above the low-end percussion and programming which makes up the bedrock of Hem Netjer’s sound. Speaking of bedrock, voices don’t get much stonier than Elytt’s striking throat singing. At times Elytt’s voice functions the way bass might, as on tracks like “Void” where the line between programmed drones and Elytt’s voice can be almost impossible to detect. On “Freedom” it modulates upwards, weaving around Rissy’s voice in as close an approximation to a traditional harmonic duet as such diametrically opposed voices can evoke.

Between the leveraging of their vocal instruments and their dedication to ancient folk and myth traditions (the band’s name is a nod to Rissy’s academic study of Egyptology), Hem Netjer do an excellent job of creating their own space and ethos on The Song Of Trees and distinguishing themselves from their immediate musical peers. If music of this sort rests on guiding the listener to another world or time, Hem Netjer are proving themselves to be apt envoys.

Buy it.

The Song Of Trees by Hem Netjer

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Beborn Beton, “Darkness Falls Again”

Beborn Beton
Darkness Falls Again

Remembered largely by North American audiences for their inescapable 1997 club hit “Another World”, German synthpop act Beborn Beton have spent most of the last two decades on hiatus. Emerging briefly in the the middle of the 2010s when they released comeback LP A Worthy Compensation, it’s another eight years to release new follow-up Darkness Falls Again. Those extended absences create a double-edged sword of expectations – on the one hand the promise of a new record is sure to intrigue those who internalized their unique persona via their dense, song-rich 90s catalogue beyond the basic hits, while on the other hand the expectation to live up to those highs can be a no-win situation.

That makes it hard to really gauge the quality of the new LP in objective terms. It features many of the things that made Beborn Beton interesting; vocalist Stefan Netschio’s croon is as smooth as ever, the band still makes interesting choices with regards to sound design and instrumentation, and their signature slightly-wry emotional sensibility shines through across the eight tracks. A cut like idiosyncratic opener “My Monstrosity” with its unpredictable vocal melody, detuned guitar strums and string plucks and layering of contrasting synths just sounds like Beborn Beton in a way that should resonate with devotees. Their identity as a band has proven distinct and resilient and is undimmed by the years between records.

Where the LP falls short is the songs. For all their other qualities, Beborn Beton always had a way with a tune, and from their most well-known anthems to their deep album cuts, they’ve never lacked for hooks before. Darkness Falls Again is almost the inverse of the preceding A Worthy Compensation in that way; where that record felt notably dated in terms of production, it had a host of excellent and memorable songs, many of which were apparently stockpiled during their years out of the spotlight. Darkness Falls Again sounds quite good from a recording and technical standpoint, with a nice clear mix and lots of room for the arrangements to unfold in interesting ways, but only a few memorable numbers. Second single “I Watch My Life on TV” has a nice mid-tempo groove but the melody feels like a paint-by-numbers retread of other songs from the catalogue, a problem it shares with “Last Chance”, which starts promisingly enough with some distorted synth guitar chug, but loses momentum as it meanders through a few dynamic shifts.

Which is not to say there’s nothing to recommend the record; single “Dancer in the Dark” is pretty much a perfect Beborn Beton song, from its bouncy verse, instantly hummable chorus accented with nice applications of keys and a tasteful guitar solo, and “Burning Gasoline” hearkens back to some of the group’s industrial-adjacent 90s numbers with distorted vocal samples, thudding kicks and Netschio leaning into a grave delivery appropriate for the theme of impending environmental disaster. And as noted, Beborn Beton have enough honest-to-god charm and personality that you can overlook an anemic chorus or dry melody; I don’t remember much about “Trockenfallen Lassen” or “Electricity” after they’re over, but they’re recorded and performed with enough style to carry them through multiple listens without difficulty. It’s a matter of expectations then; those seeking a perfectly fine record with a few highlights so long as it sounds and more importantly feels like a proper Beborn Beton record will be more than satisfied. An okay Beborn Beton record is still a better than average listening experience, a testament to their singular and enduring character.

Buy it.

Darkness Falls Again (Deluxe Edition) by Beborn Beton

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Tracks: March 20th, 2023

The 450th episode of the official I Die: You Die podcast We Have a Technical is coming out this week, and while it’s actually not the 450th podcast we’ve recorded (there are many things not included in the official numbering like We Have A Commentary and other special series), we are making a big deal out of it. How big a deal? Well, we’ve got an interview with someone who is a genuine bucket list subject for us, a person whose work is all through both of our record collections, not to mention yours, and who has a lot of interesting things to say about their soon to be released record. Who is it? Guess you’ll have to come back on Thursday to find out! Don’t fret, we’ve still got lots of stuff to keep you occupied until then, like this Tracks post for example.

Bara Hari

Bara Hari

Body of Light, “Never Ever”
Arizona’s great synth hope Body of Light are back, and perhaps not entirely unexpectedly given the arc of their discography thus far, the brothers Jarson are dipping into the dreamy end of things on new single “Never Ever” from their upcoming album Bitter Reflection. A couple of quick notes on the incredibly smooth single – this might be the best Body of Light have ever sounded vocally, and the midnight vibes saxophone cements their saxgoth credentials. Put this one on your late night drive playlist for maximum effect. Welcome back fellas, it’s great to see you.
Bitter Reflection by Body of Light

Bara Hari, “House of the Devil”
Los Angeles based artist Bara Hari has been feeding us a slowdrip of darkwave pop for a few years now, with each taste slowly filling out her baroque musical aesthetic. New single “House of the Devil” is the best example of that vision yet, with extensive use of strings and rock-flavoured percussion deployed in tasteful fashion. Bara Hari is as always a notable presence on vocals, infusing the song with the poised emotion she’s been developing since we firts heard her. Still one to keep your eye on in 2023 we’re happy to report.
House of the Devil by BARA HARI

Restive Plaggona, “Enemy”
We’ve been fans of Dimitris Doukas’ work as Restive Plaggona (not to mention that excellent Matriarchy Roots EP from a while back) for its ability to find lesser-explored links between industrial textures and techno beats which have a rhythmic variety beyond most of what can be found in that crossover. But the new Ennemi record takes things in an entirely different direction, aiming at broad and deep soundscapes which have concerns far more astral and cinematic than club-minded.
Restive Plaggona – Ennemi by Several Minor Promises

Years of Denial, “Dance With Demons”
Years of Denial have tried on a lot of different hats in their catalogue; the French duo have dipped their toes in post-punk and darkwave, techno-body sounds and various points between since they first emerged in the late 2010s. New single “Dance With Demons” from the forthcoming Suicide Disco Vol. 2 splits the difference somewhat – the instrumental track goes deep on electro-darkwave stomp and analogue crunch, while the vocal has a disaffected, coldwave delivery. Absolutely one to put on your Bandcamp wishlist now so you can be ready to snap it up when the LP is available March 31st.
Dancing with Demons by Years of Denial

Kurs, “Archivist (single mix)”
Italy’s Kurs quickly won us over with the thoughtful and brooding blend of electro-industrial and dark electro shown on their 2021 debut, and we’re keen to check out a second suite of high-concept cyberpunk nightmares when sophomore record Dreamer is released. The lurking dread and bounce of this first single reminds us that we don’t hear nearly as much quality work in this style as we might hope these days, and rarely anything so evocative and subtle.
Archive_Omen by Kurs

Ruby Lustre, “Hex Box”
Portland’s Ruby Lustre are working within the current dancefloor focused milieu on their new Hex Box EP. But the title track sets itself apart by adding some overdriven, 90s goth styled guitar which adds a whole other level of haze and atmosphere to their sound. Hat tip to friend of the site Dani Ashes for pointing us to this one.
Hex Box EP by Ruby Lustre

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Observer: WLDV & Nightsister

The Fourth Kind
Aspecto Humano

Spanish producer WLDV was first brought to our attention via his excellent edits of classic dark alternative club tracks, from artists as diverse as Psychic TV, Linea Aspera, Armageddon Dildos and Switchblade Symphone amongst many others. His original productions often fall into the giallo disco category, plying the darker, horror soundtrack oriented side of electronic dance music. New EP The Fourth Kind for Aspecto Humano still has those earmarks but falls closer to the body music and electro-darkwave sounds of his DJ edits. “Master of Disguise” makes good use of a thudding kick-snare pattern and gated pad to back up a simple repeating synthline; it’s still cinematic, but reads more as a vintage low budget science fiction a la Cyborg than say, a classic Mario Bava joint. “La Herencia” comes out strong with a big new beat bassline, working it to the bone before bringing in more layers of synthesized orchestration and samples for the track’s latter half. The final two tracks show some subtle shading in approach with “Rigor Mortis” taking the route of big arpeggios and pulsing bass akin to the more tasteful side of retro-synthwave, while “Vomit and Vibrations” has the more atmospheric side of the sound down via its spookier sound design, although the rhythm track never strays far from the heart of the composition. Its solid instrumental synth music that shows some understanding of the ways that specific forms and genres can be played off one another.
[AH011] WLDV – The Fourth Kind by Aspecto Humano

Nightsister - Send Angels Here
Send Angels Here
Isolation Club
The world is awash in lo-fi goth bands who call back to the first wave of goth rock, perhaps at least in part to make a virtue of some of their technical shortcomings. And while Portland’s Nightsister certainly fit the lo-fi goth bill, there’s far less hoary nostalgia in the sort of sounds they’re mining on new EP Send Angels Here. A good portion of this brief, 13-minute release smears itself in pastel dream-pop, finding a suspension between colour and shadow which isn’t too far off from Drab Majesty. But elsewhere, as on the spiky “28” and “Rust”, it’s a bouncy and frothy mix of darkwave and synthpop which swishes about the more stoic and dark pillars of the tunes. In those tracks, and really the EP as a whole, Nightsister do a great job of recognizing which elements are best suited to a muffled and cryptic register, and which deserve a clear and bright spotlight being shone upon them. The shuffling up of that interplay from track to track means that the band’s aesthetic stays fresh throughout (okay, that’s not so hard when we’re talking about something this short), and both the ambience and the hooks stick with the listener well after Send Angels Here finishes.
Send Angels Here by NIGHTSISTER

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We Have A Technical 449: We’ll Use It, Whatever

Ghost & Writer

Ghost & Writer

After a week missed due to scheduling mishaps, we’re back with another instalment of our ever popular Pick Five format on this week’s podcast. This time, we’re each picking tracks from our respective 20+ year DJing careers which we just could not turn into dancefloor hits, despite our best efforts. Rather than pointing out “failures” in the songs themselves, we’re using this as an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learned from our mistakes as DJs over the years. All that plus the announcement of the Cold Waves lineup plus some Cure chat on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Ultra Sunn, “Kill Your Idols”

Ultra Sunn
Kill Your Idols

Belgian darkwave duo Ultra Sunn broke through in 2021 with two EPs; Night is Mine, a collection of a few previously tracks that showcased a traditional electro-darkwave sound with some body music and new beat leanings, and Body Electric which saw them working in the more au courant wave of the style led by the likes of Boy Harsher. While 2022’s double A-side single Summer 22 saw Gaelle Souflet and Sam Huge favouring the latter sound to the point of losing some of their more distinctive elements, new EP Kill Your Idols redresses the balance somewhat, with the project finding small ways to tangibly assert their own identity.

Musically, the tracks maintain the duo’s emphasis on dancefloor oriented arrangements, and vaguely sinister atmospherics. Without overly changing their approach, Ultra Sunn have found lots of little touches that give the songs some intrigue beyond their standard-issue rubbery basslines and gated reverb snares. Sometimes it’s something subtle such as the funky cymbal and clap pattern that inject “The Great Escape” with some disco swing, and sometimes it’s glaring, such as the atonal and feedback laden guitar that takes over “Kill Your Idols”, slicing through the fog machine ambience for a coldwave makeover. Pre-release single “Can You Believe It” shows some additional growth in terms of programming and design, filling out the simple bass-led cut with tasteful drum fills, synthlines that reinforce and signal shifts in the arrangement, and some of Huge’s best vocals to date.

On that topic, Huge remains one Ultra Sunn’s best tools for setting themselves apart. He consistently goes for a bold and transparent style of delivery, as opposed to the low-key whispered singing currently in-vogue with darkwave vocalists. Hear how he punches in his syllables in rapid fashion on “Speed”, beefing up a song whose detuned lead and syncopated bassline are fairly stock. Similarly, “Set Yourself on Fire” isn’t the most inspired cut instrumentally, but he adds some gusto in each lead-up to the half-yelled chorus for some welcome punk energy.

While limited in terms of variety, the EP format of Kill Your Idols gets Ultra Sunn a pass in this instance. That said, now that Huge and Souflet have shown the capacity to play with their established template, it’ll be interesting to see if they expand further stylistically, with more varied tempos and song structures. Their trajectory over the last two years suggests they have the capacity to rise further above the darkwave soundalikes, provided they keep exploring their own strengths and unique qualities.

Buy it.

Kill Your Idols by ULTRA SUNN

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Gorgonn, “Six Paths”

Gorgonn - Six Paths

Six Paths

Self-described “Japalien exile” Goh Nakada has been lurking the darker corners of bass music for years, both as an engineer and as part of the G36 duo alongside The Bug. With a body of work scattered across multiple projects over the past two decades, Nakada is certainly no newcomer, but the full-length debut of his solo work under the Gorgonn moniker feels well-timed. Linking Nakada’s roots in bass to the most scraping of industrial techno sounds, Six Paths succeeds by finding fresh ways to examine the same extremities as recent waves of dark techno.

From the grinding lope of opening track “Greed” onward, one gets a sense of how Six Paths works to take the sounds (if not the monotonous rhythms) of the current techno-industrial sound in abstract directions, enlivened by deep and hypnotic bass frequencies as well as classic industrial distortion and squall. Alternately clattering and retreating, Nakada’s polyrhythms disorient in the hothouse haze of “Invisible”, and create a powerful sense of undertow on the determined and punishing “Not Yet Surrendered”.

Despite its explorations of decidedly industrial and noise-driven textures, Six Paths is equally a showcase for Nakada’s long-developed chops within bass and dub circles, especially the deeper into the record one pushes. Detuned drones dive and flange across the stereo spectrum on “When Can I Come Back?”, while stabbing bass zaps on “Acid Body” ably offset snappy backbeat percussion. Bringing both Lee Perry’s commandment to “dub it up blacker than dread” and William Gibson’s casting of dub as the soundtrack to a future perpetually around the corner, Gorgonn hits upon dub’s deep warmth as well as its uncanny dimensions.

Much in the same way that black metal and dark ambient ended up merging in their more extreme incarnations a couple of decades back, Gorgonn’s work ends up finding woozy harmonies between a whole handful of sounds and subgenres as they push further and further into darkness and abstraction. The slowly amplifying drones on closer “There Is Nothing On The Other Side” could be claimed by disciples of dark ambient, dub, or first wave industrial, but those distinctions end up being washed away by Gorgonn’s obliterating resonance.
Buy it.

Six Paths by Gorgonn

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Tracks: March 13th, 2023

The upcoming festival season is coming into clearer focus, with this year’s Cold Waves line-up having been announced a few days ago. Once again, it’s a roster which links classic North American industrial to plenty of contemporary acts and sounds, with some splashes of European flavour for good measure. We’ll be discussing the line-up in closer detail on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical, but for now let’s start the week off with six new tracks.

Zohra, a vision

Zohra, “Look for Love”
Zohra is the new solo endeavour of Zohra Atash, whose work in apocalyptic darkwave project Azar Swan should be familiar to readers of this site. While we aren’t 100% sure what to expect from the forthcoming debut Murder in the Temple, the single “Look for Love” provides some intriguing clues. Firstly, Zohra’s distinctive delivery is paired with slamming electronic percussion and bass with little additional melodic content beyond some washes of feedback and processed noise, a minimal approach that centers the artist’s own personality as a pillar. Conversely the title track features a guest vocal from none other than Lydia Lunch, a contrasting presence and foil for Zohra’s writing and programming to take the spotlight.
Murder in the Temple by Zohra

genCAB, “Perish the Thought (2023)”
We’re on record as having enjoyed David Dutton’s return LP as genCAB immensely; after a hiatus of some years the project’s vision for melodic electro-industrial feels very much of the moment. The recent release of “Perish The Thought (2023)” acts as something of a retrospective on the project’s evolution – in taking on a remake of one of his older tracks more than a decade later, you can hear all the ways that Dutton’s vocals, production and design skills have evolved. Like many of our favourites (we’d compare genCAB favorably with Encephalon and Comaduster) it shows both an understanding of songcraft, as well as a deep complexity of production that informs rather than distracts from the tune’s strength.

Brixx, “Double Axe (Forces Remix)”
Aussie producer Brixx had a sleeper hit around ID:UD HQ in 2021 with her Conversion Therapy EP, showcasing a subtle and chilly approach to new beat and body music. Now remixed by the sorely missed Forced, some Cabs-esque flourishes have been added to the excellent “Double Axe”, though the core mood which made the original so evocative hasn’t been messed with.
Conversion Therapy Remixed by Brixx

Chrome Corps, “The Michael Zone”
It’s been a while since we heard new material from Chrome Corpse, so long in fact that they lost their terminating vowel along the way. Now officially rechristened Chrome Corps, their contribution to the 62-track diabetes charity comp Insulin Shocks finds them veering far deeper into acid and classic electro territory than they ever have in their explorations of EBM. A one-off of something indicative of a new style to match the name change? We’ll have to wait to find out.
INSULIN SHOCKS by Chrome Corps

NNHMN, “Lush Longing”
“Lush Longing” from the soon to be released LP Circle of Doom is the kind of track we’ve been waiting for from Berlin-based duo NNHMN. Like many acts that debuted during the electro-darkwave renaissance of the last five or so years, the band had atmosphere aplenty but was harder to pin down in terms of identity; the smokey texture of their tracks often obscuring their individuality. More recent cuts have priortized a clearer, more graspable sound that has tangible substance and edge via its detuned lead and throbbing rhythm track.
Circle of Doom by NNHMN

Trauma Phase, “Means”
We noted that the I EP released last December by Trauma Phase showed off a whole new side of the Polish producer’s work. Speedier, more polished, and much more shaped by turn of the millennium electro sounds, II picks up right where its predecessor left off, delivering tight, sparkling dancefloor stormers like this one which bring some scintillating cyber aesthetics into the mix.
II by Trauma Phase

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A Game Called Echo: March 10th, 2023

Hey folks, and welcome to the second instalment of our new A Game Called Echo column. Like we said last month, it’s an attempt to provide a simple enough guide to good newer records based on a simple premise: “If you like classic record x, you might like record y”. That being said, in one of the cases below it might be the newer record pointing people to an overlooked older one. In any case, the response to the first column was very positive, and we’re aiming to keep this as a regular feature here at ID:UD.

The Cure’s Japanese Whispers (1983) and Wingtips’ Exposure Therapy (2019)

The Cure’s Japanese Whispers isn’t a proper LP, but still occupies an interesting spot in the ur-goth act’s discography. Comprised of the songs found on the band’s “Let’s Go to Bed”, “The Walk” and “The Lovecats” singles, it represents a transitional era for the band, who for the former releases were just a duo comprised of Robert Smith and newly minted keyboardist Lol Tolhurst. Consequently the sound of the compilation finds Smith moving forward from the dirgey grandeur of Pornography (and the accompanying tour so fraught that it resulted in the *ahem* disintegration of the band’s lineup), and towards to eclectic, psychedelic and pop-friendly sound of The Top that would characterize The Cure’s mid-eighties period. Japanese Whispers is also the first Cure longplay to break into the Billboard 200, and the beginnings of their rise to absolute ubiquity. And while those fresh devotees were perhaps drawn in by the funhouse-twee bounce of “Lovecats” or the new wave synths of “The Walk”, they also got a taste of the band’s gloomy guitar driven side via the excellent “Lament”, “The Upstairs Room”, and fan favourite “Just One Kiss”. 

Wingtips’ second LP Exposure Therapy embodies many of the same characteristics as Japanese Whispers, not in terms of the latter’s makeshift nature, but in how it approaches guitar-led hooks, rhythm programming, and a mixture of both driving and dreamy song structures. The Chicago duo of Vincent Segretario and Hannah Avalon have obviously drunk deeply from the Cure’s catalogue, but transcend mere imitation through their bold arrangements and big melodies. “After the Storm” splits the difference between big dancefloor drums and spidery guitar lines that build out the track’s atmosphere, “The Eye that Follows Suit” evokes wistful abandon via Segretario’s emotional vocal delivery and “Innocent Blood” is a melancholy 7-minute epic at mid-tempo that never drags or gives way under the weight of its ennui. It’s goth-pop of the highest order, serving both genres equally well through songcraft and production.

Exposure Therapy by WINGTIPS

Molasar’s Talismans (2015) and Pablo Bozzi’s Street Reign (2022)

Chris Paladin has always been just ahead of the curve or a couple of decades behind it, depending on your perspective. His Body Party releases anticipated a renewed interest in early yet broadly accessible EBM just before a whole US scene with the same focus emerged, while his Mild Peril project hopped back and forth between the most classic of kosmische and proto-synthwave. It’s his lesser known Molasar project which seems most prescient to our current era, though, now almost eight years on from its sole LP Talismans. Linking funk-focused EBM to dark electro atmospheres but shooting the whole affair through with a spritely sense of fun which seemed to lift from acid house as much as synthpop, there was nothing else which sounded like Molasar did in 2015, though it was utterly compelling and strangely familiar.
Talismans by Molasar

Between the excellent Soft Crash LP and no less than three solo EPs, Pablo Bozzi had 2022 on lock. The balancing act that Street Reign in particular pulls off is impressive, collecting Bozzi’s interests in EBM, roots techno, and italo melodicism together much like the rest of his work, but this time with a slightly brooding, morose cast that only emerges in listening to the EP in total. While menacing, tunes like “Tornado Alley” aren’t specifically aggressive, instead occupying a compelling middle territory between a generalized and indefinable nostalgia and current dark clubbing mores. Much like Molasar, Street Reign draws on dance traditions from the past and brings them into the present via an uncanny sleight of hand, blurring lines between genres and eras to such an extent that you can’t tell what sort of club night you’re at, or even what year it is while you’re dancing to it.
Street Reign by Pablo Bozzi

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We Have a Technical 448: The :Wumpscast: Revisited

wumpscut - Bunkertor 7

Is there a more fitting artist to be involved in a reissued podcast?

Due to circumstances beyond our control, a new episode of We Have a Technical was not possible this week. In place of the planned episode (which we still hope to record), we are re-presenting episode 40, “The :Wumpscast:”, our commentary on :Wumpscut:’s seminal Bunkertor 7. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below. 

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Ner\ogris, “I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light”

ner.ogris - I Am The Shadow - I Am The Light

I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light

German duo Ner\ogris’ LP I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light might be the project’s first release, but both members have a number of credits dating back to the 90s, with Tino Claus’ work as one half of Amnistia likely being the most familiar to readers. But more important than their literal resumes are the range of tastes and moods Claus and Kai Neugebauer bring to bear, refreshing familiar European electro and North American electro-industrial templates with some smooth understatement.

At first glance, I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light fits handily into the longstanding electro mold, though plenty of subtle differences will begin to emerge after paying it any real degree of attention. While it’s easy enough to draw lines between tracks like “Deepest Fear” or “Reality & Fiction” and any number of club-driven European acts from the past two decades, Ner\ogris have found ways of swapping out some of that sound’s most dated elements while still retaining its melodic and accessible charm. The echoing, hypnotic percussion of opener “Inicio” recalls the recent dark techno of Blac Kolor more than it does any release by any of their Dependent labelmates. Later, the expansive and warming instrumental “Sombra de Palomas” feels like a link between Neu!, Art Of Noise, and the more psychedelic side of Project Pitchfork.

But more than in revamping the sounds of their peers, it’s in wrestling with the much longer-standing legacy of Skinny Puppy where Ner\ogris truly test themselves. There are a few moments which feel like pure homage to the original Puppy sound – the “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” styled “Down” even uses “nature’s revenge” as a lyric, for pete’s sake – but things are more sotto voce elsewhere. From the slo-mo waltz of “Silent Anguish” to the bright fanfares of “Shadowlight”, Ner\ogris have found a number of ways to spin vintage electro industrial into other musical orbits.

In tracing the lineage of a good portion of I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light I don’t mean to suggest that it’s too beholden to its influences, far from it. Rather, Claus and Neugebauer’s ability to jump from the winsome and hooky as all get-out chorus of “Reality & Fiction” to the downtempo groove and smokey ambiance of “Cuervo nada más” while keeping the record’s larger personality in place speaks to a well-deserved confidence that’s rarely found in the modern Euro scene. Recommended.

Buy it.

I Am The Shadow – I Am The Light by ner.ogris

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Nuovo Testamento, “Love Lines”

Nuovo Testamento
Love Lines
Discoteca Italia

The rise of Nu-Italo over the last several years is a natural extension of the broader reassessment of various niche electronic dance music forms and their influence on what has come since. American-Italian trio Nuovo Testamento have been a touchstone act for the movement for timing and context as much as the quality of their music; the backgrounds of Andrea Mantione, Chelsey Crowley, and Giacomo Zatti are all in hardcore and deathrock bands, and yet there’s nary a trace of that heritage in the music on sophomore record Love Lines. The whole-hearted and unironic adoption of this particular style of electronic pop by musicians with that pedigree says something about its universal appeal, as well as the not-so-secret connections between the bright, accessible genre and dark alternative music of all stripes.

That’s of course not to suggest that you’ll be able to throw the LP on and immediately draw lines from its eight cuts to deathrock revivalism or the last five years of techno-body club sounds. As noted, this is an unironic and faithful invocation of the classic italo-disco sound, complete with all the orch hits, octave basslines and chirpy synths you could ask for. A cut like the peppy “Perfect Storm” where vocalist Crowley belts our her best oooohs between bursts of vintage drum machine toms and claps could be likened to early Pet Shop Boys or the electronic side of New Order’s Brotherhood, although Madonna’s “Get into the Groove” would be just as apt, if not better a comparison. The connections come through in more subtle ways – hear the rhythmically sampled grunts and exclamations that adds a tiny taste of EBM to chiming single “Heartbeat”, the title tracks’ minor key lead, or closer “Heaven”‘s vague allusions to the dreamier end of post-punk.

Leaving aside the meta-analysis of the record, Nuovo Testamento have settled into a healthy groove in their songwriting and production. There’s little variety in these songs in terms of arrangement, performance or sound design, but that’s not really a detriment to its enjoyment: they can write solid slices of dance pop that place the right emphasis on choruses and melodies, and keep the momentum moving from cut to cut so the album flies by in a blur of disco lights and tart vocal hooks. There’s nothing revolutionary in hearing Crowley deliver simple couplets like “Starry night/shining bright/Is it a dream or another life?” from “In my Dreams”, but she nails every syllable, keeping her expressive delivery firmly in a comfortable and pleasing range without excessive shifts. Her work is just the easiest aspect of Nuovo Testamento’s down-the-pipe approach to identify, but is reflected in every aspect of their productions. The band has figured out what works, and is doing it as hard as they can throughout.

Perhaps as a result of that philosophy Love Lines isn’t terribly diverse as a listening experience. Every song is geared for the dancefloor with nary a ballad or lower BPM cut to be found, and synth and drum sounds are fairly interchangeable. It’s an excusable flaw for the simple fact that it doesn’t detract from enjoying the record’s half-hour runtime; even if “Wildlife”‘s outro and “Heartbeats” intro feel a little too comparable, that feeling is quickly forgotten as the tempo picks up and the bassline kicks in. It’s simply a well-executed record in an easily digestible style by musicians who show an aptitude for that genre’s tropes and quirks.

Buy it.


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