Replicas: KODE IV, “Insane”

Kode IV
Insane
Ceiba Records

What Is It?
Decades before the Berlin school of techno-body music materialized, there was Kode IV. The San Francisco based project founded by Peter Ziegelmeier and Hans Schiller in 1989 put out three albums that bridged the sample-heavy sounds of nascent trance music (Ziegelmeier would go on to co-found the influential trance label Ceiba Records after Schiller’s untimely passing in 1994) and the mid-eighties EBM sound. The project’s extensive use of horror movie and guitar samples and gritty synths held a lot of appeal for industrial clubs and DJs of the era, with all three LPs and numerous singles seeing release via Belgium’s KK Records. Following last year’s digital remaster of the 1990 debut Possessed, their excellent sophomore release from 1992 Insane has had the same clean-up for a Bandcamp reissue.

What’s On It?
The 24-bit remaster of Insane is a barebones affair in terms of what’s on it; you get the original LP tracks, with a nice, beefed up mix that brings up the general volume as well as the weight of the kicks and synths to modern standards. That may be simply be a function of the scarcity of bonus material to add to the package; unlike Insane or the follow-up Silicon Civillization there isn’t much in the way of contemporary remixes or 12 inch edits to draw from.

Honestly though, the album is strong enough to warrant a look on its base merits. Tracks like “Accelerate” and “Disobey” still go hard, the former with its sampling of the THX intro sound and chopped up metal riffs, the latter with its horror movie sound track organ and choirs, all backed by robust bass synths and drum-machine programming that recalls new beat’s darker, speedier moments. Later in the decade Richie Hawtin would make techno’s debt to electronic body music with the inclusion of Nitzer Ebb on his iconic Decks EFX and 909 mix, but Kode IV was already mining that connection with “Fear into Power”‘s gang-chant vocals and “Success”‘s interpolation of the bassline from “Let Your Body Learn”.

Admittedly some of the songs show their age: the quaint early nineties flavour of the title track comes through in its hoover synths and mildly corny invocation of the theme from Psycho, and “Truth” signposts the project’s eventual drift towards goa via the tabla and sitar samples and breaks. That said, the programming on “Fight” has plenty in common with the emerging electro-industrial sound of the time, and could be spun in a set of comparably styled music today without raising an eyebrow.

Who should buy it?
At $7 US for the remaster, Insane is an easy buy to justify, either as a new listener, or a fan of the record who wouldn’t mind a little more juice in the mix for DJing or headphone listening. Especially recommended for those who may have heard a few tracks by the band on comps or mixes and are interested in finding out more about a surprisingly varied and in some ways prescient project.

Buy it.

Insane by Kode IV

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Tracks: June 27th, 2022

As we’ve mentioned on the podcast a couple of times, touring’s very much picking up again, at least in our corner of the world. We have Lebanon Hanover and HEALTH passing through Vancouver this coming week…as well as Weird Al Yankovic (though that’s more likely to be discussed on an upcoming episode of Bombers than in these pages). Things still definitely aren’t normal and all of the new variants are keeping us on edge, but damned if it doesn’t feel nice to have some choices for live music again.

Randal Collier-Ford

Randal Collier-Ford

Kollaps, “Relapse Theatre”
Aussie outfit Kollaps have always done a great job of linking the original noise and pure experimentalism of the earliest industrial acts with modern gear and influences. That side-stepping of many of the more codified forms of post-industrial ends up yielding refreshingly blunt and full-scope walls of industrial noise like this, the lead track from new LP Until The Day I Die. Expect a full review later on, but for now brace your ears.
Until The Day I Die (CSR309CD/LP) by Kollaps

Minuit Machine, “Lion in a Cage”
While Minuit Machine are by no means a new act, it feels like they’re gearing up to break a lot wider for international audiences this year. Their last two EPs (2020’s Don’t Run from the Fire and 2021’s Basic Needs have struck a fine balance between their minimal and darkwave origins and club-ready body music sounds, and the recent announcement of a vast North American tour has them poised to grab a lot of well-deserved attention. Witness “Lion in a Cage” the first single from the forthcoming 24 LP, due in the Fall, we daresay it’s the perfect opening volley for their new campaign.
Lion in a Cage by Minuit Machine

None of Your Concern, “Hard Heart”
Hot on the heels of the excellent SPECTRAL a few weeks back comes the latest from None Of Your Concern. If you were feeling that release’s buzzy electro flavour mixed with EBM, and queer club sounds, you’ll find it on “Hard Heart”, which percolates with analogue synth bloops and tense/teasing vocals. Put these cats on a tour with their fellow Chicagoans Pixel Grip, and send them EVERYWHERE, this stuff is blowing up at some point so it might as well be sooner rather than later.
HARD HEART by NONE OF YOUR CONCERN

Poison Point, “Fallen Hearts”
France’s Poison Point was quite active for a few years in the mid-to-late twenty-teens, but it’s been a full six years since their last LP release. That draught comes to an end in September with the release of Poisoned Gloves, with Timothée Gainet once again as the sole member after a few years of working as a duo. Of the two tracks on offer ahead of the release, we think “Fallen Hearts” best displays the project’s take on modern, electro-flavoured darkwave; you can detect touches of classic minimal and wave behind the club-ready beats, with some interesting layering of vocals and arrangement choices that provide depth and intrigue.
Poisoned Gloves by Poison Point

Randal Collier-Ford, “The Ominous”
The style of Randal Collier-Ford’s compositions has been pleasantly expanding in recent years, moving beyond the traditional pace and structures of dark ambient to take on all manner of neo-classical and cinematic elements. This new standalone single is a great example of the latter, with the intermittently ascending and descending keys and pads ably suggesting the Alien films which inspired it (getting real Prometheus vibes in particular).
The Ominous by Randal Collier-Ford

Soft Riot, “Windows To The Wild (Qual Remix)”
Longtime friend of the site JJD’s work as Soft Riot often enters our field of vision from the post perpendicular of angles. A recent track from a comp has been given a suite of remixes, including this version by William Maybelline. The laid back, Neue Deutsche Welle-inspired funk of the original (keep an eye for Maybelline himself in the video) is sent careening into Qual’s terrain of a manic EBM nightmare.
Windows To The Wild (Versions) by Soft Riot

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We Have a Commentary: Twin Tribes, “Shadows”

Twin Tribes - Shadows

Settle in for a lot of fast talk, as the Senior Staff power their way through the debut LP from Texas’ Twin Tribes. A modern darkwave classic through and through, be prepared for a lot of gushing about songwriting, albumcraft, and the beauty of simplicity on this I Die: You Die bonus podcast. 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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Observer: XLV & None Of Your Concern


XLV
Dobbelyou
Conapt

When we last checked in with Andrew Dobbels’ XLV the project had taken on some more classically industrial ideas in contrast to the more glitchy and cut-up material of its earliest releases. New LP Dobbelyou continues in that vein, working with noisy, minimal sequences of drums and synths that grind and crunch their way through a saturated audio environment. Interestingly, a renewed dedication to rhythm means a lot of the material takes on the textural quality of vintage powernoise; see how the arrangement of kicks rusted-spring sequences that make up the whole of “The Place”, or the way that the syncopated beats on “Are You Going With Us” hammer the surrounding buzzing and hissing into a machined arrangement. Like all of his work, Dobbels’ ear for texture is keenly applied – sounds with seemingly overlapping sonic footprints are mixed to remain distinct, allowing for the busy electro-style drum programming of “Bifurcate” to chug along without turning into a mess of noise, or the ultra-minimal “Tensor” to tickle the ear with minor variations and peculiarities to jump out. Degraded by sound design, but never ill-considered or shortcutted, it’s a nice modern take on a classic industrial sound, its harshness belying the exactness of its construction. Buy it.

None Of Your Concern - Spectral
None Of Your Concern
Spectral
self-released

Chicago’s None Of Your Concern have made a virtue of brevity since their emergence in 2020. Their total original output prior to the new Spectral EP might be able to fit on one side of an old Maxell 60 minute tape, but through quality control, an intriguing approach to visuals, and a beguiling musical approach, they’ve swiftly become one of the most distinctive new American acts trading in darker electronics. As with their debut Primer, Spectral brings together elements of darkwave, drag, EBM, and house, but as presaged by last year’s “Shut It Down” NOYC are pressing those sounds into tighter and more claustrophobic packets. A savvy trade-off is made in the super short run time of each of the EP’s four tracks – no sooner has the wormy and labyrinthine groove of “B Patrol” worked its way into your system than it flushes itself out. Even when there’s a more spacious and less frantic beat, as in “Midnight Preylude”‘s opening tics, manic programming quickly begins to spiderwalk atop the whole affair. Factor in equally pressed strings and you begin to feel you’re watching the opening sequence of a Michael Mann film at double speed. Dense, dark, dramatic.
SPECTRAL by NONE OF YOUR CONCERN

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We Have A Technical 411: Excoriate Me If You Must

Executioner's Mask

Executioner’s Mask: Much more cheery in person than on record, evidently.

One of our chin-stroking big topic episodes is coming your way this week, as we discuss the thorny question of the cost of digital releases within the culture of the darker music scenes. What shapes artists’ decisions regarding price points? What impact do people’s motivations with their music play in how they try to distribute it? And what goes through the head of the budget-conscious music purchaser as they’re browsing through slews of releases on Bandcamp? All these questions and more on the latest 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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Executioner’s Mask, “Winterlong”

Executioner’s Mask
Winterlong
Profound Lore

The 2020 debut LP from Executioner’s Mask, Despair Anthems, was post-punk of a type you don’t often hear. Completely forgoing the genre’s anxious energy and wistful melancholia it traded instead in full on, cavernous and all-encompassing depression. It was, in a word, bleak. While not exactly a sunny day at the beach, follow-up Winterlong forgoes some of the grim outlook of its predecessor which allows the Philly based project’s other qualities to peek out through the shroud of misery.

It should be stressed that any perceived “lightening up” by Executioner’s Mask is really only in relation to the sound of the debut record. The gritty, corroded guitars, ultra-deep vocals and echoing, tumbling percussion of “Sick in Heaven” are still about as dark and heavy as post-punk gets, and their are moments on the album (the plodding “Hart Island”, the slowly unraveling “Honey”) that border on the nihilism of mid-period Swans. Those numbers provide the contrast that makes other, less severe songs on the LP come across as such: the speedy drums and guest vocals from SRSQ’s Kennedy Ashlyn on “Contempt” wouldn’t seem quite as sprightly if they weren’t set against the morose, fatalistic ennui of “Two Vultures Fucking” for example.

There’s also some interesting smaller touches in production and presentation that help distinguish Winterlong. “Flaming Creatures” uses rapidfire synth bass to reinforce its rhythm and put over the swirling rusty guitar lines. Elsewhere “Last Fall” adds a bit of swagger and swing to its arrangement, working a classic deathrock riff to the bone and walking the borderline of camp with a sneer. Even the sparse and sad closing track “Wasting Away”‘s use of piano is offset by a ragged, blues-rock guitar solo that while unexpected is remarkably effective at keeping the song from getting mired in a swamp of cheerlessness.

Again, by any reasonable standard Winterlong is a fairly dour affair, although not an absolute downer to listen to, which is something of an achievement in and of itself. Executioner’s Mask certainly seem to have grasped how to retain the blighted and raw character of their earlier material, while spiking it with energy and even some tiny hints of light at the record’s shadowy edges.

Buy it.

Winterlong by EXECUTIONER'S MASK

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CIERŃ, “The Emperor Rx”

CIERŃ - The Emperor Rx

CIERŃ
The Emperor Rx
self-released

Berlin’s CIERŃ have had a very particular iteration of a classic sound in their sights since their first demo tracks appeared in early 2020 (In the interests of full disclosure: vocalist Devi is a longtime friend of the Senior Staff’s, though CIERŃ’s work was first covered on this site before we realised the connection). The quartet’s dedication to the proto-goth style often originally tagged as positive punk was apparent from the get-go, and Emperor Rx builds and maintains the sort of balance between direct intensity and a considered harmony needed to pull it off.

Whether you’d care to point to classic acts like Skeletal Family or more recent purveyors like Arctic Flowers (both fair touchstones for The Emperor Rx‘s sound), CIERŃ’s sound is one that requires a deft touch, despite its proximity to the rawest of crust punk. Take as an example the way the guitars on “Bloody Rites”, which have been held in restraint for most of the track, erupt into a thrash at the end while Devi calls for “ceasefire, ceasefire”. It would have been an easy enough move to redline the guitars to underscore the drama of the track, but by finding a harmony between them and the rhythm section even in the records noisiest moments, the overall mood and ethos of The Emperor Rx is maintained and has a larger cumulative effect.

That harmony and flexibility goes a long way towards making The Emperor Rx a satisfying back to front listen. Even in its few underwritten moments (“Glass Houses” rhythmic circling runs in place for a bit too long), the links from song to song in arrangement and production keep everything at an even keel.

Despite all this talk about harmony and mood, CIERŃ have ultimately delivered a very straightforward and direct record, both in its sonics and thematics, with human follies such as animal testing and imperial hubris as recurring lyrical touchstones. The Emperor Rx offers a hearfelt homage to an often overlooked sub-genre in a tight package.

Buy it.

The Emperor Rx by CIERŃ

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Tracks: June 20th, 2022

Hey friends, welcome to one of the last Tracks posts of the first half of 2022! That’s right, we’ve almost reached the point 5 point of the year, which naturally raises the question of what standout songs and releases have been released thus far, and what more do we have to look forward to. Well, you can take a quick perusal of our review section for thoughts on all manner of albums from Our Thing, and these here Tracks posts often serve as a good guide as to what individual songs have been most impactful. You probably already knew that, but just in case you’re parachuting in today for the first time have a look at the last six months for a quick refresher on 2022 from our standpoint.

Run Level Zero, “Bring Me Home”
There was more than a decade between Swaerm, the most recent LP from Swedish electro-industrialists Run Level Zero and their previous record, and given that we hadn’t expected to hear from them again so soon. New track “Bring Me Home” is a pleasant surprise, then, both in its sudden appearance as well as how it recontextualizes the familiar toolkit of electro sounds we’ve heard RLZ put to Vancouver-styled use over the years. This sort of downtempo and contemplative track is not at all what we might have expected, but it’s a welcome surprise.
Bring me home by Run Level Zero

Antigen Shift, “Lest You Be Witches”
Speaking of unexpected returns, we knew that Ottawa duo Antigen Shift had been starting to gig again here and there over the past few years, but we’d heard nothing about new material until the Talk EP popped up on Bandcamp this past weekend. The first new work from Nick Thériault and Jairus Khan since 2014’s Brotherhood, tracks like this feel both like a throwback to the turn of the millennium technoid/rhythmic noise traditions from which the project was originally forged, but with a good amount of influence from synth (and possibly post-rock?) styles well outside of industrial.
TALK by Antigen Shift

The Soft Moon, “Him feat. fish narc”
When we first started following The Soft Moon, the project felt-considerably different than it does today; at the time the largely instrumental act relied heavily on long, circular arrangements that had a hypnotic and urgent quality to them by virtue of their inevitability. Since the Luis Vasquez has emerged as more of a personality in the band’s work, their sound has changed to a more charged and volatile brand of electronic post-punk, still as fraught but far closer to the edge with each successive release. “Him” is the first taste of new LP Exister and keeps up with that trend; there’s just something invigorating and jaw-clenching in its tense arrangement of bass and vocals.
Exister by The Soft Moon

Front Line Assembly, “Purge (Black Asteroid mix)”
If we’re being honest, we weren’t that taken with the recently released FLA and Black Asteroid collab “Methane Rain”, it just felt a touch flat given the chops of the folks involved. Much better is this BA remix of Frontline’s “Purge”, one of the better tracks from last year’s Mechanical Soul; Bryan Black taps right into the song’s EBM roots and adds some oomph for the modern dancefloor. A solid cut for your body or techno-body flavoured DJ set.
Purge (Black Asteroid Remix) by Front Line Assembly

Black Magnet, “Floating in Nothing”
2020’s Hallucination Scene from Black Magnet was that rare industrial metal release that made us reconsider our prejudice against the subgenre. A lot of that came from Justin Hammontree’s canny ability to keep the industrial aspects of his compositions in balance with the chugging and churning guitars. We’re getting the same feeling from “Floating in Nothing”, the first cut to be released from the forthcoming Body Prophecy; synthetic textures and percussion are aligned with thrashing and swirling guitars that convey murk and menace with disintegrating into shapeless noise. One to keep an eye on when the LP drops.
Body Prophecy by Black Magnet

Randolph & Mortimer vs ROÜGE, “Sermon Three (David Carretta Remix)”
Two years after their collaborative EP Union Of The Faithful brought them in sync with a host of producers from across the techno and body music spectra, Randolph & Mortimer are bringing even more cooks into the kitchen by having each of those collaborative tracks mixed by outside producers. You can try to crunch the equation of the canny EBM of R&M in tandem with ROÜGE’s accidentally aggrotech techno being remixed through the Italo/electro lens of David Caretta, but we’d suggest putting down the slide rule and just let this one take over the party.
Union of the Faithful (Remixed) by Randolph & Mortimer vs ROÜGE

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Observer: Cold Showers & Phase Fatale


Cold Showers
Strength in Numbers
Dais Records

The press materials accompanying the new EP from Los Angeles’ Cold Showers make a point of drawing the line between their pensive indie-dance and the baggy era of Manchester music, where post-punk gave way to chilled out psychedelia and ecstasy-fueled dancefloors. It’s an appropriate comparison to make, the 5 tracks present on Strength in Numbers maintain the same knack for pensive and longing that made their 2019 LP Motionless so compulsively listenable, but with the electronics and grooves given more prominence behind Jonathan Wells’ wistful vocals. Opener “How Do You Know This is Love” makes the most of a guest appearance by now venerable internet hip-hop personality Lil’ B (!!), who solemnly intones a monologue about love over a dusty funky drummer breakbeat, chorused-up bass and washes of noisy guitar flow by languidly. The following tracks “Lock and Key” and “Sliver” spike that formula with their own unique touches – the former with switch-ups between angular and funky chick-a-chick guitar work and the latter with its greater emphasis on electronic rhythm programming and more intensely dour outlook. It’s the penultimate track “Nighttime” that feels most impactful; there’s something about the chanted gang vocals, fuzzy bass guitar and synth-orchestration that rises up behind it all to set the stage for waves of guitar squall. It’s a big uncharacteristic for the band, but speaks to some more dramatic ambitions hidden behind the laidback melancholy that marks the EP.
Strength in Numbers by Cold Showers

Phase Fatale - Burning The Rural District
Phase Fatale
Burning The Rural District
Hospital Productions

NY-to-Berlin transplant Hayden Payne has been at it as Phase Fatale since well before the idea of TBM blew up with long-time rivetheads, let alone the broader mainstream audience who’ve managed to turn Berghain (where Payne’s held a residency for years) into late-night talk show fodder. Despite his comparative youth, you get the sense that the surface ebbs and flows of such trends don’t really impinge upon Phase Fatale’s interests and aesthetics, which have drawn upon 80s industrial sounds from the get-go. Payne’s commented that new LP Burning The Rural District is a response to experiences with homophobia in Tbilisi (where he also holds a residency), though such a subtle but off-putting theme will likely be difficult for outside listeners to ferret out across the LP’s eight tracks of engaging and flowing beats. More than ever, Payne’s productions feel as though they’re eschewing traditional markers of aggression and intensity here. The fluid and groove-driven programming of “White Line Nightmare” and “Autoworship” feel more shaped by the likes of Lassigue Bendthaus than they do any of the current forerunners of TBM extremity. Factor in some classic spacey IDM/breaks in “Hazer” and you have a record that feels like an organic and well-thought out result of longstanding influence rather than fleeting trends.
Burning The Rural District by Phase Fatale

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We Have A Technical 410: Destrucity

Contagion

Two rather different records in terms of era, sound, and (presumably) audience make up this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. We’re talking about Ashbury Heights’ debut Three Cheers For The Newlydeads and Contagion’s Contaminant PCB. We also have some words about the passing of our friend Bryan Hughes, and Minuit Machine’s upcoming North American tour. 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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Silver Walks, “Various Positions”

Silver Walks - Various Positions

Silver Walks
Various Positions
Distortion Productions

There was a lot about Silver Walks that had us flagging them as a long-term prospect with a lot of upside as far back as 2015. There was sole member Dan McCullough himself, whose considered positions on industrial would certainly bode well to anyone who’d ended up talking shop with the unassuming Philadelphian at festivals. But more importantly there were the early Silver Walks tracks themselves, which showed off a canny sense for what works in terms of electro melodies and structures, but also brought some distinctly American flavour to sounds commonly associated with Europe. But even with those things in place, first LP Various Positions still exceeds expectations, namely by finding the ideal spots for its various contributors, and for its deft interpretations of a whole range of post-industrial sounds and styles.

Given that Marc Heal’s storming turn on “In Consequence” has already been drawing acclaim for a couple of weeks, it’s worth just taking the bull by the horns: the sheer number of guest contributors making their presence felt on Various Positions will likely be its calling card for those just cottoning on to Silver Walks. McCullough seems to have had a keen sense of what each collaborator would be able to bring, and sets the table perfectly for each of them, from the millennial breaks which electropop chanteuse Stella Soleil cruises atop to the deconstructed symphonic post-rock which tags in James Francis, Eva X, John Jacobus, and Ryan Mast in short order. And hell, having John Fryer mixing exactly the sort of lush, electro and production driven joint the legendary producer has been creating himself for the past few years is just the icing on the cake.

But even beyond the smoothly revolving door of contributors, Various Positions‘ ability to change-up the core sounds and influences of its compositions is what really puts McCullough’s talents into sharp relief. He’s just as handy with “Tear Me Down”, a sultry mid-tempo darkwave kiss-off, as he is with “Lantern” and “Mirrortowne”, the American-styled industrial rockers which bookend the record are half late period Wax Trax!, half Imperative Reaction, but more satisfying than either generally is. The clattering percussion, bleeps, and rhythmic samples of “Eyes Of Caligula” are a whirlwind tour of industrial sound design from the past forty years.

It’s with that comfort and capability with all of the sounds and sub-genres which Silver Walks draws upon in mind that the real strength of a track like “In Consequence” comes into relief in the context of the record. Sure, it’s got Marc Heal doing Marc Heal things and it should absolutely go off in a club. But in the context of Various Positions as a whole, it can be recognized as a a piece which sounds intense without being needlessly loud or aggressive, which gives the wounded vulnerability which is so often just barely present in the corners of Heal’s vocals the full spotlight. These are all approaches which can get even the most jaded of listeners approaching some familiar sounds from a refreshed perspective, and on Various Positions they’ll be ably rewarded. Recommended.

Buy it.

various positions by silver walks

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A Perfect Error, “Midnight Wire”

A Perfect Error
Midnight Wire
Re:Mission Entertainment

Cory Gorski’s work has always been anomalous, even when it was at its most familiar. From the outset his most well-known project Volt 9000 used an 16-bit sound FM sound design palette at a time when few other electro-industrial scene acts were using them, with each successive release straying further from easy-touchstones and comparables. That uniqueness in approach has been both Gorski’s blessing and his curse; while it made V9K and his other musical outings uniquely and identifiably his own, it also made the work a much harder sell to those who were already initiated into his pensive, thoughtful bio-punk soundscapes.

It’s with that in mind that a listen of the first LP Midnight Wire from Gorski’s A Perfect Error should be undertaken. Per Gorski, the record has “[the] direct intention to bridge the gap between broody industrial and mainstream pop”, from a songwriting perspective. Lest that statement bring thoughts of club-flavoured industrial pop a la Faderhead or Aesthetic Perfection to mind, the LP is more about exploring pop structures through glitchy and gloomy production, largely on a very low-key bent. It’s an interesting but not entirely successful approach – while Gorski has always had a good ear for a hook, many of the compositions on Midnight Wire lack the energy and drive to sell them.

From a positive standpoint the record has some streamlined cuts that invoke all of Gorski’s most interesting production techniques; “Straightline” uses funky, crushed out bass and clacky percussion sounds arranged in elastic fashion to get its melody over, and “Bad Channels” uses a slow, loping rhythm and sparse piano to create syncopation between it’s lead sound and Gorski’s vocals. On that last element, it should be noted that Cory has largely jetisonned the ohGr-isms that used to inform his delivery, going for a cleaner and more low-key style of delivery well suited to this material. There are a few moments where he mumbles away from the melodies he charges his own voice with carrying, but it’s nice to hear the moments where he stretches himself in terms of emotion and range (“Dead Battery”).

The issue with the record ends up being that its contemplative and occasionally languid pacing feels like it’s at odds with the “pop crossed with industrial” remit. The title track ends up spending a significant a while getting to its chorus, by which time the song is already mired in lengthy noodly verse sections. “Hold On, Hang Up” invokes some saxaphone in promising fashion, but never really ends up coalescing a song around it, despite clearly having some idea of how it wants the interplay between it and the electronics to go. Closer “The Math Between Us” has the makings of something good between it’s use of some orchestral sounds and one of the albums most graspable vocals, but it never changes dynamically enough to make those elements stand apart from the rest of the instrumental. That’s a problem that becomes more clear on consecutive listens, as foundational verses and rhythms don’t vary enough between tracks, causing songs to bleed into one another.

Where enjoyment is best found on Midnight Wire is in hearing the moments where Gorski successfully threads his own literal and figurative voice as a performer with the material, a chorus here, an atonal but song-appropriate synth bridge there. While not a grand statement on how pop and industrial might be more deeply hybridized, it still offers some interesting variations on a familiar producer/performer’s ever-expanding oeuvre.

Buy it.

Midnight Wire by A Perfect Error

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Tracks: June 13th, 2022

The Canadian musical underground lost one of its most dedicated champions on Thursday, with the passing of Peterborough’s B.P. Hughes. For many years through numerous initiatives like Dark Ware Events and Other Music, B.P. selflessly dedicated himself to bringing established bands to audiences who never would have otherwise had the chance to see them perform, and to giving new experimental artists their first tastes of the spotlight. In addition to being a personal friend, he was a true kindred spirit in the eternal quest to discover new music, and these weekly Tracks posts often benefited from the new material he was constantly directing us to. We can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to him than to do what we do every Monday, and send some new music your way.

BP

Starving Insect, “Perfect Nails For Satan”
Hot on the heels of a decidedly aggressive EP, Sweden’s Starving Insect has a collaborative release in the works of an entirely different cast. The forthcoming split with Crystal Geometry is being introduced by this body jacking acid EBM banger which feels very much of a piece with Tripalium Corp’s remit. Big, rubbery, and decidedly fun, if you can’t find a spot for this in your sets we don’t know what to tell you.
AAR023 – Starving Insect / Crystal Geometry – Acid Avengers 023 by Starving Insect / Crystal Geometry

Cold Showers, “Lock and Key”
Dais Records secret weapon Cold Showers return with new EP Strength in Number the bulk of which was actually recorded in late 2020 while the band isolated from the pandemic. You may recall we were very into the band’s 2019 release Motionless for its canny take on the mopey end of the Madchester sound – pensive New Order is a sound a lot of bands aspire to, but few pull off as well. Check out “Lock and Key” for a nice example of how they’re continuing in that vein, and check back here later in the week for a little more on the topic.
Strength in Numbers by Cold Showers

Cyberplasm, “Mutilated Systems”
By happenstance we were listening to Cyberplasm’s The Psychic Hologram for the first time in a while this past weekend, only to learn (thanks, Avi!) that the self-described cyber acid punk act had just dropped their first music since that 2019 LP. The title track from the forthcoming Mutilated Systems EP has much more Atari Teenage Riot than d-beat to it, but consider our appetites whetted one way or the other.

Oliver, “Distinguished She Said”
WIE EIN GOTT is the new label from XTR HUMAN’s Johannes Stabel, presumably focusing on the same mix of coldwave and body sounds he explores in his own work. The label’s first release is the appropriately named GOTT01 and features dancefloor ready cuts from the likes of Unconscious, Alpha Sect, XTR HUMAN himself and numerous others. Check out the contribution from Oliver (who released a really solid EP in January this year on Oraculo) below, and follow on Bandcamp for more news as the label takes shape.
GOTT01 – VA#01 by WIE EIN GOTT

MeLLLo, “Fireworks”
We’ve enjoyed a good number of tracks over the past few years from MeLLLo, the solo project of Marianthi Melitsi of Marsheaux, but this one seems a cut above. Sure, there’s the savvy sense of gauzy electro/synthpop arrangement you’d want in a tune like this, but the clincher is that head in the clouds vocal delivery that sends a burst of pure summer bliss sparkling through your head.
Fireworks by MeLLLo

modebionics, “OVERMIND”
Finally, some new to us sounds from Los Angeles’ modebionics. While we missed out on the two releases last year, we’re glad to be hearing the new four-track demo that just hit Bandcamp at the beginning of the month. Musically the project resembles late eighties EBM pre-dark electro (think super early FLA or X Marks for a point of comparison), a classic sound that has seen some recent action via acts like Choke Chain. Happy to add this project to our watchlist, and hoping the demo leads to a full release in the nearish future.
OVERMIND demo by modebionics

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Encephalon, “Echoes”

Encephalon - Echoes

Encephalon
Echoes
Artoffact Records

More than a decade into their career, Echoes finds Ottawa’s progressive electro-industrialists Encephalon casting an eye back to their own history. While we certainly wouldn’t begrudge them a moment of nostalgia for its own sake (their previous three LPs have been structural and thematic masterworks, pushing their native genres to their limits), Matt Gifford and Alis Alias are instead using this return to the project’s musical roots as an opportunity to interrogate and even explode them, all while working that journey into one of their most ambitious conceits to date.

Much of Echoes‘ first half is comprised of tunes which seem almost disarming in their direct delivery of sounds and structures which should be familiar to anyone who’s spent any modicum of time in an industrial club from about 2000 to the present day. In comparison to the grandiose instrumentation and complex time signatures of, say, Psychogenesis, the melodic bounce and mid-tempo swing of opener “The Trial”, with its pinging melodies and charming harmonies, is positively inviting. Note that none of this is to say that the stylistic clarity or the simplicity of arrangement of these tracks means that Encephalon is phoning it in. Crafting a tune like “Someone Else’s Dream” which goes toe to toe with Asbury Heights on their electropop hometurf, or “The War”‘s deft homage to millennial Pitchfork, takes a preternatural sense for what works (and what doesn’t) within these milieus. But again, this is Encephalon we’re talking about, and look beneath the surface of the seemingly affable club jams and you’ll see that there’s something much more complex in play.

Thematically, Echoes uses lyrics which explore simulation theory to touch upon a range of philosophical and religious ideas (reincarnation, the eternal return, deism’s non-interventionist god), with the same tensions between allure and repulsion, and credulity and skepticism with which Encephalon have approached earlier records’ themes (transhumanism, nanotech, celebrity). This on its own would make for an engaging enough framework for any electro-industrial record worth its salt, but given Echoes‘s fixation on restarting and reliving lives within a simulation (possibly in a loop, possibly taking different paths), its canny nods to the band’s musical roots take on metaphysical significance. Shout outs to Ministry and Puppy, not to mention allusions to titles and lyrics from their own debut LP The Transhuman Condition make the band’s own early work a meta-textual presence within the record’s constantly reiterated/rebooted universe (it’s not by happenstance that Echoes‘ bonus disc reissues their 2009 Drowner demo). Are they recasting their own musical journey as a predetermined course set for them by a demiurge or malevolent alien race? Are they seeking to course correct missteps only apparent in hindsight? Or are they commenting on the deja vu of the write/record/release cycle?

The record’s penultimate track provides something of a rosetta stone for understanding the grander scope and scale of Echoes in the form of “Braindead in VR”, which finds Matt Gifford reciting a fairly complete map of the project’s philosophy, quoting himself from the entirety of the Encephalon catalogue with new connective lyrical tissue – a grafting that certainly resonates with the band’s long-standing fascination with enhancement, evolution and iteration. The entire final third of the record snaps into sharper focus via the track, with formal connections made between “Beyond my Circuitry” and Psychogenesis‘s examination of post-human consciousness, and “Slime Never Dies”‘ invocation of We Only Love You When You’re Dead‘s drippy, bio-punk examination of self-determination and autonomy. It’s not even Encephalon taking their older concepts and musical motifs for a spin; moreso it’s an attempt to reconcile every iteration of the band’s journey into a multi-faceted, meta-commentary on the band itself. The closing title track’s orchestral vamping over speedy bass programming and reinterpretation of the melody and vocal’s of the title track from The Transhuman Condition is a möbius strip-like act of albumcraft: a return to the beginning, inverted and made new again.

That’s a lot of weight to carry, and any album could be in potential danger of collapsing entirely under threat of terminal solipsism. And yes, if you haven’t spent the last decade examining and enjoying Encephalon’s LPs, it’s fair to ask how much you’ll take away from Echoes. Fortunately, the individual tracks are possessed of the same combination of melody and electro-industrial classicism that have been the project’s hallmarks since the jump. A key to Encephalon’s success has always been in their ability to reconstruct their home genre’s recognizable forms and integrate them with bigger ideas, and that’s especially true here. A clubgoer doesn’t need to ask themselves any questions about the significance of the placement of “Emulations” dead in the center of the LP, or what significance Alias’ rarely deployed (and always drop-dead fantastic) vocal is, they’ll be too busy dancing to the deceptively complex drum programming and pulsing bass. Yes, an examination of the conceptual framework of the album isn’t necessary to enjoy listening to it, and in fact that accessibility is crucial to the whole endeavour; you can’t build a hyper-narrative about your electro-industrial project if there aren’t easy to grok and enjoy electro-industrial songs. It’s a record of expansion, not one of replacement, with no right or wrong way to experience its panoply. And how you end up doing so listen to listen is all part of its fascinating, mutiplex nature. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

Echoes by Encephalon

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We Have a Technical 409: Whither Roc

Clock DVA

We’re back to our venerable Pick Five format this week as we (in one take!) select some idiosyncratic tracks which stand apart from their company on a particular record or in the contemporary style of the artists in question. 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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SØLVE, “EARTH INFERNO”

SØLVE
EARTH INFERNO
Re:Mission Entertainment

Brant Showers’ solo project SØLVE stands in subtle contrast to his collaborative efforts; while sharing textural and structural similarities to his intimate work with partner Nancy Showers in ∆AIMON or his contributions to recent Bestial Mouths, SØLVE has proven to be an outlet for very personal thematics and stylistic exploration. Where the project’s 2016 debut LP the negative found Showers using ritual practice as a foundation for songwriting, sophomore album EARTH INFERNO sees Showers pushing further at the boundaries of the post-witch house sounds that have defined his work, and his own abilities as a performer and composer.

A great deal of the music on EARTH INFERNO, especially in the first half of its runtime, uses percussion as a driving force. Using drums as cornerstone isn’t new for Showers (his most recognizable influence on Bestial Mouths has been in the rhythm programming and production department), but the way kicks and snares hit on “NEVER + ENOUGH (INFERNO)” and instrumental “RELEASE” lend the tracks a chugging, threshing energy that compliments their use of buzzing synth bass and muted guitar chords. The resulting sound is more akin to say, The Body’s more electronic moments or the heavy darkwave of All Your Sisters than anything else and Showers works it for impact; see the piston-triggered hits that cut their way through the hazy mix of “LOST IN THE DARK” or the slow-motion headbanging tempo of “HARM // HEAL”, the closest to industrial rock we’ve yet heard from him.

The album still dips into Showers’ classic style in spots, although there seems to be a concerted effort to roughen up the sound design and mix – where the previously released version of “SVNT LACRIMÆ RERVM (INFERNO)” played as smothering, lo-fi electronics, the LP edit roughly slices and chops, the edges of its pads and and synths deliberately given a lacerating edge. Indeed, you could hear “FOUR SWORDS”‘ plodding beat and emotional strings on any Showers penned release of the last decade, but probably not with the same crackle and spikes of sound mixed in, never allowing the listener to be lulled into comfort.

That lack of safe harbour certainly plays into the notable evolution in Showers’ vocal delivery. Historically Brant has worked to his own limits as a vocalist by writing to his own strengths, reserving himself through the use of using monotone and simple melodies. To match the often fraught, stormy nature of the record Showers allows himself to sound rougher, and more exposed. On “NEVER + ENOUGH (INFERNO)” he spits “I’m digging my way down” in a panicked snarl, a contrast to the wounded admission of failure he chants and mutters on “BLACK SILK STONE”. And while that raw-nerve quality is noticeable for its honesty, you can hear how much looser Showers sounds in general on the straight rock delivery of “VOID-OF-COURSE (INFERNO)”, the loosening of control allowing for a more naturalistic cadence and intonation. It’s that abandonment of security and safety, and willingness to expose himself that best defines EARTH INFERNO, its coarser grain and desperation in performance exposing emotion and uncertainty that Showers has traditionally kept masked.

Buy it.

EARTH INFERNO by SØLVE

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Filmmaker, “Fictional Portrayals”

Filmmaker - Fictional Portrayals

Filmmaker
Fictional Portrayals
VEYL

The sheer volume of Fauntes Efe’s work as Filmmaker might have become its defining feature were it not so consistently satisfying. After all, since we checked in with Filmmaker last, two compilations and a whole other LP were released before new(est) LP Fictional Portrayals. But as both Screening Plexus and Fictional Portrayals show, its ultimately Efe’s sharp sense for rhythms which has made the Columbian producer such a regular presence in discerning DJs’ sets over the past few years.

Efe’s approach to EBM remains charmingly lo-fi, but much like his rate of output that’s not its key strength. Instead, Fictional Portrayals finds Filmmaker continuing its uncanny ability to synthesize familiar EBM elements with a wide range of other electronic genres and traditions with such craft that you’ll find yourself wondering if they’ve always been part and parcel of EBM itself. After a rubbery gallop which feels very of the techno-body moment, the half time snare programming which emerges towards the end of the title track underlines the funk that’s been riding through the track all along. The woozy swagger of “All About That Pyramid” suggests the spirit of after-hours acid, if not ticking off its common squelchy signifiers.

Fictional Portrayals isn’t just focused on the minutiae of dancefloor genres, though. “Orphic Eggs” trades out the EBM thump for a skittering shuffle which plays second fiddle to some deep space rock noodling and flanged synth. The downtempo noir of “Far From Prospect” which closes the record out has far more to do with Filmmaker’s eponymous interest in soundtracking than it does body music, but feels earned after all of the other roaming programming which has guided the record.

That variety could perhaps be interpreted as as close a thing to a weakness as Filmmaker has – the sheer volume and range of material turned out by Efe means that it can sometimes be difficult to keep a clear sense of individual tracks, let alone whole albums. If you’re like me you’ll find yourself skimming through your collection asking ‘Where’s the one that has that bassline that’s stuck in my head?’ or ‘I know there was one that’d nicely fit this technoid mix…’. But these are the sorts of issues most producers would love to hand over to their listeners, and whether you’re a DJ or just someone looking to set a cyberpunk mood around your own apartment, Filmmaker’s continuing to offer you a bevvy of choices.

Buy it.

Fictional Portrayals by Filmmaker

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Tracks: June 6th, 2022

Thanks for all the well-wishes and get-well-soons folks, we are happy to report that the Senior Staff have largely recovered and will be hopefully able to check out the upcoming Nuovo Testamento/Ritual Veil/Spectres show here in Vancouver this week. We absolutely promise that this space will not wholly dedicated to reminders to mask up at shows and large social gatherings for the next six months, but given our recent experience we would like to reiterate the point here for everyone’s sake. Shows are great, festivals are cool, we’d like to continue to have them and a little extra safety can help ensure that. On to this week’s Tracks!

NONE OF YOUR CONCERN

Sturm Café, “Hymne für die Ewigkeit”
After the sprawling and florid funk of last year’s excellent Fernes Land, it’s nice to hear Sweden’s Sturm Café still hanging with what brought them to the dance: minimal melodic bangers which hybridize their roots approach to EBM with classic synthpop. “Hymne für die Ewigkeit” presages a record which won’t be released until much later in 2022, but there’s plenty of fun and bounce to be had here to keep you going until then.
Hymne für die Ewigkeit by Sturm Café

NONE OF YOUR CONCERN, “HEXED”
You may recall we were quite high on the 2020 release Primerfrom Chicago’s NONE OF YOUR CONCERN; the darkwave by way of modern club sounds (similar in some ways to Pixel Grip, also from Chicago) topped off by mysterious and artful presentation was very much something we were interested in more of. New EP SPECTRAL delivers on that, but with perhaps some more electro flavour in the mix, check out “HEXED” for a sampling, but each of the four tracks has plenty of club potential and the same edge and intrigue that drew us in at first blush.
SPECTRAL by NONE OF YOUR CONCERN

Flint Glass, “The Blackness From The Stars”
2006’s Nyarlathotep was our introduction to French ambient/electro project Flint Glass, and now after all those years Gwenn Trémorin is returning to the well of Lovecraftian influence with the forthcoming Azathoth LP. If we’re taking Trémorin’s commitment to paying tribute to the blind idiot god, we can perhaps look forward to the “maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes” alongside slick, rubbery grooves like this.
azathoth by Flint Glass

Pablo Bozzi, “Magnetisma”
2022 is shaping up to be the year of Pablo Bozzi: between multiple releases on labels like Pinkman and Dischi Autunno, and a slew of remixes for the likes of SDH and Rein & Djedjotronic, not to mention his frequent bootleg DJ edits, he’s undeniably at the forefront of the emerging italo-body sound. While we only have the title track from the forthcoming Magnetisma to judge the EP by, we’re guessing it works some of the same acid and NRG ideas into the mix as April’s Street Reign, a record we liked a lot and would be happy to have another upbeat, DJ-friendly serving of.
Magnetisma by Pablo Bozzi

Comfort Cure, “Rain on the Bar”
Comfort Cure’s March EP CUTS THE LINE came to us via the excellent single “Dreaming Tarmac”, an addictive bit of modern body music that speaks both to some current sounds in the American midwest and Detroit’s very specific electronic music history. “Rain on the Bar” is very much in that same vein – you can hear a little classic electro in the bass and drums, worked into the EBM styled vocals to good effect. One to keep an eye on for sure.
Rain On The Bar (Single) by COMFORT CURE

Vlimmer, “Kronzeuge (Single Edit)”
Last year’s Nebenkörper was an excellent point of entry for the prolific yet often obscurantist Vlimmer. While that record showcased Alexander Leonard Donat’s talents for a claustrophobic, aggressive style of post-punk, this new single finds the project in its leftfield coldwave mode. Stick around for a German language rendition of “It’s No Good” on the B-side.
Kronzeuge b/w It's No Good by Vlimmer

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Observer: Red Deviil & Hello Moth


Red Deviil
Monster Reborn
Detriti Records

Mexican electro-industrialists Red Deviil did good work on their late 2021 release for OSM Tapes Inframundo; while certainly containing enough techno crossover elements to satisfy those seeking DJ mix cuts, the duo’s sound emphasized the atmosphere and rough texture of dark electro in satisfying fashion. Their recent tape for Detriti Records Monster Reborn is similarly balanced – opener “Occulus Infernum” has a slow rolling rhythm and distant and distorted vocals that call to mind some of the grittier sounds of early Zoth Ommog, but is immediately followed by the comparatively nimble and fast moving “K L I G VL A”, where 4/4 kicks and sizzling cymbals hold down fast-moving bass sequences. Closer “Adagio Madness” hypes that template up with a bump in the BPM and some additional acid touches on the synth programming, while the EP’s highlight is “Pentagrama Ivertido”, a cut whose simple oscillating bassline and sublimated kicks play host to ominous pads that gradually and subtly raise the track’s sense of tension and menace. Solid cuts from an act who aren’t afraid to keep things coarse and stormy in pursuit of the dancefloor.
Red Deviil – Monster Reborn by Detriti Records

Hello Moth - Birds On Wires
Hello Moth
Birds On Wires
self-released

As much as we’ve been at pains to praise Alberta’s Hello Moth for the project’s savvy, down to earth engagement with pop sounds and stylings ranging from the broadest contemporary vocal pop back to 90s folk work, Hello Moth’s decidedly experimental and art pop approach to vocal layering and arrangement has been just as much a part of what’s drawn us to it. New EP Birds On Wires, made up of twelve micro-tracks, puts those elements up front while maintaining Hello Moth’s ambient charms. The piano which runs through the record will likely conjure any number of impressionist minimalists to mind (David Sylvian, Akira Kosemura), but as with Hello Moth’s more traditional work, it’s in the vocal arrangements that the real illuminating light the project comes into focus. Witness “Coors Light”, in which Simon’s slow crooning of the name of one of America’s most successful adjunct lager takes the form of a pianist’s left hand while they reckon with heartbreak and absence in the track’s foreground. It’s an arrangement characteristic of what makes Hello Moth so unassuming yet intriguing, both dead simple and entirely left field.
birds on wires by Hello Moth

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We Have A Technical 408: You Know Who I’m Talking About

Fear Cult

It’s a slightly spicy episode of We Have A Technical this week, as we find ourselves sharing an appreciation for the thoughtful dark ambient of Blink Twice…and debating the foibles of the nominal deathrock of Fear Cult. We’re also talking Andy Fletcher, Front 242, and the Manufactured In Los Angeles fest. 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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