Tracks: February 18th, 2020

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One advantage of doing this site is we generally get a pretty good idea of what’s coming out a little bit ahead of time, and can sort of draw maps of what interests us and how the meta of Our Thing’s music is developing over the course of a calendar year. It’s not always a very cut and dried process, especially with the ever shifting borders of our interests – what synthpop and post-punk (amongst other styles) falls within our purview is always a question we’re asking. That said we’ve already seen such wild and new ideas start to emerge in 2020 that we’re kind of wondering what Our Thing even looks like. Hold on folks, things are gonna get weird.

You pay the fee, you get the lion

Rotersand, “Silence”
A mid-tempo electro-rockers more in keeping with the likes of Agent Side Grinder wasn’t exactly what we were expecting as the next taste from Rotersand’s forthcoming How Do You Feel Today? LP. But then again, the oddball horns of first single “You Know Nothing” weren’t par for the course either. The slick production and ear for harmonies that we’ve long expected from the German duo are on full display, though, so here’s hoping that How Do You Feel Today? will push some boundaries without sacrificing hooks.
How Do You Feel Today? by Rotersand

Solo Ansamblis, “Baloje”
Every few years Jacek from Artoffact will drop us a line with something he thinks we’ll like. His track record in determining what will get our attention has been pretty solid (Seeming and Legend being two notable examples) so when he reached out to us about Solo Ansamblis, we were game to check it out. Surprise, it’s real good. But also quirky in a way where we’re having trouble finding accurate comparisons. It’s post-punkish, art-punkish, dubby and has references to broader alt music styles in its DNA, but that doesn’t come close to really capturing it. Tell you what, watch the video for “Baloje” (which our friend Mykx described as “… if Michael Haneke directed the video to the Bloodhound Gang´s Bad Touch”) and see what you think.

Fee Lion, “Baby”
We really liked what we heard from Chicago’s Fee Lion last year. Her dark sensual electro had more than enough substance in it rhythms and programming to keep it close at hand for DJ gigs and Spotify playlists through the end of 2019. New track “Baby” – the first since the announcement Fee Lion would be playing Cold Waves this year – is comparable but much more menacing and spooky than expected. If the project goes in this direction we won’t be dissapointed, unnerving dancefloor bops being of particular interest to us here at the HQ.
Baby by FEE LION

Clan Of Xymox, “She”
As we discussed recently, modern Xymox records are a mixed bag. The better tracks find Ronny & co. looking for a balance between dark synths and a smattering of the rock instrumentation that was introduced to the band some twenty-odd years ago. New single “She” manages just that, welding some classic goth bass to a dead simple programmed kick. Tapping relatively young acts like Antipole and Ash Code for remix duty is a savvy move, too.
She by Clan Of Xymox

Spacetalk, “Memory Stream”
Have you heard us rant about Syrian’s Death of a Sun? If not here’s a summary: the Italian futurepop act put out a space-disco/italo record in 2013, and the blend of styles was sublime. The last Syrian album moved away from the hybrid sounds, which is why we’re so excited by the new single from Spacetalk, the project the band has founded specifically to explore that territory. New single “Memory Stream” is hitting the spot directly, bolstered as it is by some decidedly New Order bass and guitar sounds. More of this please!
Memory Stream EP by Spacetalk

Starving Insect, “Stillborn Euphoria”
Swedish producer Alex Kassberg brings EBM, electro-industrial, and acid together for a big riotous stomp through post-apocalyptic landscapes on his new EP as Starving Insect. For something with such a grimy set of influences, Stillborn Euphoria is strikingly polished and grand, with echoing kicks and chilly pads fine-tuned for dancefloors. If the idea of Fractions and Dead When I Found Her coming together sounds intriguingly impossible, we implore you to dig in. Check out the Synapscape remix on the flip side, as well!
Stillborn Euphoria by Starving Insect

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Observer: Schwefelgelb & Matriarchy Roots

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Die Stimme Drängt

Since Schwefelgelb transitioned away from buzzy electro in favour of body-music influenced techno around the end of the 2010s, their music has relied equally on dancefloor ready bounce and rusty metallic textural sound design. Latest EP Die Stimme Drängt is a pretty pure expression of that formula; no track present lacks for Sid and Eddy’s now familiar rubbery bass and syncopated rhythm tracks, but the mix is fuller than ever before with detuned synths, degraded samples and distant vocal snippets. “Auf Die Erbe” is the duo at their most frantic, the song’s high-tempo drum track adorned with a hellish analogue synth pattern that spits out seemingly random notes while still conforming perfectly to the groove and tempo of the song. It’s a marriage of melodic and rhythmic elements that suits the band well, as on opener “Die Dünne Hand” where a hollow bell sound serves double duty as lead instrument and percussion element and counterpoint to the tracks stuttering bass. “Die Augen Gehen” does a similar trick with an ascending sequence that ports back and forth between various synth instruments, anchoring the song while its thudding kicks and crushed snares are gradually saturated into oblivion. In pushing density and atonal synths to the fore, Schwefelgelb’s demonstrate their capacity to make a release unique via slight alterations to their familiar sound.

Matriarchy Roots - Changing Habits
Matriarchy Roots
Changing Habits
Strange Theraphy

The third release from longstanding Greek dark techno producer Dimitris Doukas’ Matriarchy Roots side-project is an abrasive, enthralling, and harrowing combination of power electronics, sound collage, and first-gen industrial distortion. While rhythms sit beneath the majority of Changing Habits‘ five tracks, it’s likely to be the nightmarish tics, cut-ups, and swarming drones which make the first and sharpest impression. The slow grinding bumps of “More More More More (Courting Insanity)” are dead simple, but have an utterly hypnotic delivery which recalls prime era Die Form or Mlada Fronta…though the hair-raising mesh of diced and rearranged vocal samples is something entirely new and utterly creepy. A loping groove gains weight and presence over time, acting like undertow as the surface noise begins to rise above your head. “Breasts In Sight (Demand A Choice)” similarly adorns a furnace-kicking foundation with pins-and-needles synths causing shivers. That the project revolves around anti-patriarchal themes prompts extra free association about the possible origins of the obscured samples, though no easy answers appear. Should definitely appeal to fans of classic Klinik as well as Hospital Productions releases, strongly recommended.
Changing Habits by Matriarchy Roots

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We Have a Technical 298: Gendered Products

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The millenial (and curiously continental) stylings of US electro act are discussed on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. We also have a healthy helping of our mailbag to work through, and loads of live news. Tell your friends in the Stonecutters: this is a real royal sampler of an episode of the podcast! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Anders Manga, “Andromeda”

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Anders Manga

Anders Manga is a true darkwave lifer. For more than two decades he’s been releasing independent albums that show his dedication to dark synth music, albeit shot through with some of the rock sensibility that informs his other projects like Blood Hammers. New album Andromeda is testament to his skillset as a producer and writer, showing off his knack for hooks and his assurance in his own personality as a performer.

Weirdly one of the best comparisons I can come up with for the feel if not the specifics of Andromeda is Daniel Belasco’s work in Glass Apple Bonzai. While the latter acts operates is lighter synthpop climes, there’s a kinship in the ease with which Manga can croon a hook and program a nice rich arrangement of synths. Listen to the way he eases his way into the groovy electro beat of “Rosaries and Requiems”, coming in to the simple arrangement of drums bass synth, slowly lifting the track up to the chorus with the way he ramps up his delivery. Or how charming ballad “Atomic Sky” introduces some strummed guitar to the arrangement of gentle keys, allowing him to summon some gentle and summery tones appropriate to the song.

Manga’s choices in delivery show confidence, and perhaps even more importantly comfort in his chosen milieu. When he goes more upbeat on “Night of the Witch” it works because he sounds totally at ease delivering some arch-goth vocals as drum machines and descending keys provide an appropriately dramatic backdrop. Which is not to say Anders is laidback, just that he knows where and when to let his arrangements and vocals ride and when to kick them up a notch: that’s how “Serpentine” can work a sweet and slightly campy groove but never seem too over the top or underdelivered.

The real pleasure of Andromeda lies in how Manga can make music that sounds authentic to himself and his now considerable catalogue even for the uninitiated. Having never spent much time with his work previous to this, I was taken by how easily I understood who he was and what he was trying to convey as a darkwave artist. That kind of intangible is hard to pin down, but Anders Manga shows an expertise that makes his work graspable and enjoyable from the jump.

Buy it.

Andromeda by Anders Manga

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ESA, “Burial 10”

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ESA - Burial 10

Burial 10
Negative Gain Productions

Jamie Blacker’s now long-tenured ESA has held a particular tension for at least as long as Blacker’s imposing growl has been a central part of the power noise project. Those vocals, glass throated and generally unhinged, exemplify the primal rage and unrest which often sits at the heart of ESA’s releases (as a quick glance at earlier cover art and track titles can attest). But at the same time as Blacker’s been putting more of his wildman persona into ESA, his technical chops as a producer have improved, resulting in an increasingly crisp and granular execution of power noise that would seem to be at odds with the former. But time and again Blacker’s shown himself capable of walking that line, as new LP Burial 10 continues to demonstrate.

Opener “Relapse” puts across this combination of controlled production and unbridled rage. Far-off vocal howls which sound like they’re coming from the other side of a mountain sit in sharp contrast to Blacker’s primary vocals sitting just an inch away from the ear as they read off a litany of failings. Sharp kicks thread through grimy bass which flips between staccato stabs and worming sustained passages. ESA’s rep as dancefloor catnip often belies just how much consideration goes into arrangement: time and again, even on the most seemingly straightforward four on the floor numbers, Blacker knows exactly when and how to throw rhythmic variations into the mix to keep the dancefloor fresh, as on the satisfying builds and drops on the title track, or the midtempo grind of “Hold Your Tongue”.

Guest spots remain another way ESA keeps things moving, and on the whole Burial 10 finds the right spots for the talent assembled. Jo Hysteria of Massenhysterie flits between English and German and trades off with Blacker on “Cloak & Dagger”, bringing extra colour and mystery to an already busy arrangement of tumbling clockwork and roughly textured pads. Caitlyn of UK electro rock outfit Corlyx wails through “You Are Safe Here”, ensuring that the anxiety sitting beneath the comparatively approachable club bounce of the track doesn’t go unnoticed. The MCing of Lecture on “Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown” doesn’t fare as well: its monarchical braggadocio is technically sound but feels a tad dated.

At 76 minutes Burial 10 is a bit of an endurance test, but given the baptism by fire feel of most of the tracks that’s not exactly a drawback. As much as club-friendly material like this is often talked about in terms of release or catharsis, I think the real power of ESA lies in its ability to get under one’s skin and stay there. High-def production and skillful arrangements are the instruments through which Blacker injects the bile and venom that is his stock and trade, and it can’t be worked out in just one listen.

Buy it.


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Tracks: February 10th, 2020

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Another fun weekend of Vancouver nightlife, with plenty of DJing and live gigs on the Senior Staff’s dance card. We sound like broken records, we know, but we’re continually impressed by how people in our neck of the woods are working to make sure that new dark music comes together in real meatspace rather than consigning us to only being able to interact with it online. But hey, that’s not to knock listening to new music online. In fact, we may just have six new pieces for you to check out right now…

Riki within Riki

Eyes Without a Face, “The Grift”
The debut single from Vancouver’s Eyes Without a Face is just the kind of darkwave-tinged synthpop we’re suckers for. The specific sound they ply on “The Grift” makes a lot of sense when you look at the band’s component members: EWAF is made up of half of metal-act Seer and half of electro-pop combo Blonde Diamond. It’s always a pleasure to find a new act whose sound falls right into our wheelhouse right in our own backyard, and judging by how polished the songwriting, production and presentation of their very first single is, we’ll be hearing more from these cats soon.
The Grift by Eyes Without A Face

Riki, “Earth Song”
Dais signees Riki drop one final single on the road to the self-titled debut LP on Valentine’s Day. Where first single “Napoleon” was italo-tinged synthpop, and second offering “Bose Lugen (Body Mix)” had the Neue Deutsche Welle markers, “Earth Song” brings some upbeat new wave and post-punk sounds to the fore. We’re pretty intrigued by the variety and quality of what we’ve heard. Dais Records’ track record isn’t anything to scoff at either, and the involvement of super-producer Matia Simovich pretty much puts a bow on the pre-release hype. We’re here for it.

Bastet, “Instar”
This standalone track shows off a very different side of Oakland deathrock quintet Bastet. “Instar” swaps out their garage rock-influenced sound for a dreamier post-punk base and then builds unexpected synth spires which create a far more romantic and darkwave-tinged mood than anything on either of their previous EPs. A larger release of stuff in this ilk would be great to hear, though we’re not exactly sure why this standalone track’s priced at $4 on Bandcamp…
Instar by BASTET

Image Of Life, “The World Is Ended”
We caught a snippet of low-fi LA synthpop act Image Of Life on a Chondritic Sound comp years back but haven’t checked in since. A first pass of recent LP Attended By Silence proves that to be our mistake. The one-man project of Jesse Short (Pure Ground) shows off a canny knack for wounded but catchy and well-honed tunes pared down to the barest elements. Should appeal to fans of Absolute Body Control and very early LPD.
Attended By Silence by Image Of Life

Nailbreaker, “@nailbreaker_”
The Washington state based Vertex clique continue with plans for world mutant noise domination, now reaching neon tendrils across the pond to bring digital hardcore newcomers Nailbreaker into the fold. Self-titled songs usually function as introductory manifestos, and if that’s the case here the young UK producer has a yen for constantly shifting manic kicks and breaks, not to mention a darkly satirical sense of humour. A cassette run (presumably rather limited) of the Spectrum Songs EP will be out towards the end of March.

Phase Fatale, “Binding By Oath”
Phase Fatale has always stood out amongst the techno-industrial crossover acts, largely because producer Hayden Payne understands the latter half of the equation and implements it for atmosphere as well as dancefloor impact. It’s a mode of operation evidenced on tune “Binding By Oath” from new LP Scanning Backwards, a slow-roll of drums and synths that uses an EBM bassline and some seriously heavy percusion sounds to get steamroll its way through your speakers.
Scanning Backwards by Phase Fatale

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Observer: Be My Enemy & NNHMN

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Be My Enemy - Wardance
Be My Enemy
Armalyte Industries

It’s been three years since we last heard from Phil Barry of Cubanate’s Be My Enemy project (though the last track released, “Let Your Body Die”, had enough juice to last a long while), but this three track EP does a crackerjack reintroduction job. The metallic thrash of “Wardance” feels wholly different from Cubanate (not to mention that other band with a track of the same name) in both spirit and tone – Barry’s done a good job of making Be My Enemy distinct from his main gig, and having Keith Baker on board for programming is a good choice. The gabber base of “Feedback Loop” allows both delicate pads and bings as well as abrasive guitar to ebb and flow hypnotically. Similar tension is wrung from the semi-motorik pulse and slow boil of “Nobody Is Listening”, which brings recent NIN to mind before exploding into squelching, blast-beat chaos. Bracing and economical, these three tracks cinch what makes Be My Enemy feel like a distinct and captivating entity.
Be My Enemy – 'Wardance' by Be My Enemy

Shadows in the Dark
Oraculo Records

Berlin-based duo NNHM (pronounced “non-human”) operate in the middle ground between darkwave and minimal synth, making hypnotic synth tunes that emphasize atmosphere. Like many comparable acts, the team of Lee & Laudarg lean on atmosphere and attitude to carry their compositions. Songs like “Scars” and the title track drip with gauzy textures that fill the spaces around their slight arrangements of drums, synths and vocals. The EP is dancefloor ready across the board, although the tempos tend towards the more low-key end of the spectrum; the most overtly techno flavoured track “Vampire” melds acid-touched synthlines to kicks and claps stands out due to being more conventionally DJ-ready. As much as NNHMN’s brand of late-night menace recalls other acts (specifically Boy Harsher and Lebanon Hanover), it’s notable how the six tracks on Shadows in the Dark don’t feel repetitive. The songs’ unity of sound and posture doesn’t make them interchangeable: when the duo go minimal on closer “Black Sun”, it does seem like a retread of the thudding preceding track “Special”. NNHMN don’t reinvent the sounds they’re working with, but have songs and execution enough to make their work an enjoyable listen.
Shadow In The Dark by NNHMN

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We Have a Technical 296: Sports D-Bag

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Hello Moth

Listen to Hello Moth. He doesn’t bite.

Mailbag time! Yep, we’re crowdsourcing this week’s episode of We Have A Technical, having asked folks to fire in queries both glib and philosophical dealing with the past and future of Our Thing. Which bands are being overlooked? Which side projects do we miss? And which pro wrestlers are fake goths? All that plus Cold Waves news on the new episode of the podcast! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Hatari, “Neyslutrans”

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Hatari - Neyslutrans

Svikamylla ehf.

We talk and write about the potential for industrial crossover within the mainstream a great deal on this website. While on paper an Icelandic anti-capitalist BDSM act with aggrotech influences wouldn’t have been a smart bet, even the most cursory of contact with Hatari over the past couple of years communicated their polish and charisma (as we discussed extensively last year). There’s no question that Hatari’s Eurovision antics and social-media savvy have given plenty of younger listeners their first taste of aggressive electronics: a quick search yielded a YouTuber trying to compare Hatari to their regular diet of k-pop, god bless. And so now, after a string of videos kept their name in circulation, Hatari have released their first full LP.

Neyslutrans feels oddly familiar on a first pass, owing in no small part to just how long some of its component parts have been floating about (“Spillingardans” was just starting to heat up industrial dancefloors in the last days of 2018). New video release and opening track “Engin Miskunn” is certainly enjoyable, with a stompy lead and woozy bass, but it does feel like something of a repetition of existing work by the band. “Hatrið Mun Sigra” has lost none of its impact since its late capitalist crucible ran amok on the Eurovision stage, but its presence makes similarly uptempo tracks on the first half of the record feel not as fully realized. To their credit, Hatari get out of that rut as Neyslutrans progresses, with their fusion of industrial stomp and modern EDM production yielding to slower and more experimental tracks.

It’s a record replete with guest spots, with mixed results. Punch ins from Cyber (Jóhanna Rakel and Salka Valsdóttir) and verses from Icelandic MC Svarti Laxness add some new shine here and there, but at times those differences only bring into sharp relief how similar some of the core productions are beneath those featured appearances. Somewhat paradoxically, the off-the-cuff feel of those collaborations underscores a sense of Neyslutrans being less of an LP in the traditional sense and more of a collection of one-offs Hatari have been recording as their star has risen over the past year.

Closing track “Niðurlút” is, however, the real hidden gem. Recalling the circular lament of “Ódýr” from the Neysluvara EP, it forsakes any crossover appeal or amped up dance aggression for shimmering pads and some classic electro-industrial programming which brings VivisectVI to mind. Stately and mournful, it alights upon just the right tone and pace for the band’s doomed and fatalistic side. Neyslutrans is far from a perfect record (and may in fact be evidence that Hatari’s ethos and style just don’t translate to the traditional LP format), but it contains a few indicators that their very strange moment hasn’t yet passed, and may still take on new forms and mutations.

Buy it.


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Sonsombre, “One Thousand Graves”

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One Thousand Graves
Cleopatra Records

Northern Virginia’s Sonsombre are about as perfect an example of second wave goth rock fetishism as you could ask for. Sole band member Brandon Pybus drinks deeply from the well dug by acts like Nosferatu and Children on Stun on third album One Thousand Graves, his first for Cleopatra Records. Big rock guitars, a prominent bass plus drum machine rhythm section and arch-dramatic vocals are a proven formula in the genre and Pybus goes all in on them across the album’s eleven tracks.

Aside from the slight sheen of digital production, you’d be hard pressed to find anything on One Thousand Graves that sounds like it couldn’t have come straight from 1993. That’s not a dig; Sonsombre’s throwback mission statement can be found side 1 track 1 with “Fire”, a classic goth club rock stomper complete with guitar arpeggios, rolling toms and Pybus harmonizing with himself in tenor and falsetto all delivered straight without a trace of irony. It’s on the nose to be sure, but all executed with enough verve and conviction that it’s difficult not to be charmed by pentatonic scale workouts like “Highgate”, “Until the Sun Goes Down” and “This Procession”.

It feels a little strange to call music this affected straightforward, but it’s a word that kept popping into my head while listening. Right down to the instrumentation and production choices, Pybus rolls down the center of the lane, never wavering. Sure you get some filigree in the form of the occasional synth choir or organ (the intro to “Rats”) and one full on spooky toy piano ballad in “Slumber”, but by and large Sonsombre sticks to what works. That constancy sometimes detracts from individual numbers – the bass guitar-led “Darker Skies” is fun but gets lost in the middle of the record – but by and large it works as a package.

One Thousand Graves is not especially innovative in terms of mood, structure or execution but in a case like this that’s a feature, not a bug. Fans of the second wave of gothic rock have a strong understanding of the genre and its foibles (one droll comment from Bandcamp draws a direct correlation between Sonsombre’s relevance to goth music and the size of the brim on Pybus’ hat); reinvention is less valued than skillfully working the classic template. Hard to see how any stalwart fans of the style could not find some enjoyment in this pleasingly listenable LP.

Buy it.

One Thousand Graves by Sonsombre

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Tracks: February 3rd, 2020

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Sad news this past weekend, as we learned of the passing of Gang of Four’s Andy Gill. His work’s relevance to and influence on the broader world of alternative music is unquestionable, but for our part we’ve always viewed Gill and Gang of Four as one of the best acts to fuse funk and dance rhythms with punk sounds and politics. Genre considerations aside, it should be obvious why that legacy is pertinent to Our Thing and to us personally. Godspeed Mr. Gill, and thank you.

Sally Dige

Sally Dige

Pouppée Fabrikk, “I Am Here to Stay”
The message when Henrikk Nordvargr Björkk and his compatriots in Swedish EBM legends Pouppée Fabrikk reactivated in 2013 was “Bring Back the Ways of Old”, a rallying cry for OG body music heads seeking the grit and sweat of PF’s classic sound. Some seven years later the message is “I Am Here to Stay”, the most recent taste of their forthcoming LP Armén. As you might expect it’s some dirty, thick and angry stuff that conjures the sounds of days gone, its bassline hitting with the impact of a kick drum. Album is due in March, we dare you to ask Henrikk if he’s sticking around after hearing this.

Sally Dige, “It’s You I’m Thinking Of”
Danish-Canadian artist Sally Dige’s 2017 LP Holding On remains a favourite around the HQ and in our DJ sets. Dige’s lush presentation of pop-touched darkwave and synthwave gets into your soul with ease and stays there. New single “It’s You I’m Thinking Of” brings classic AM polish and breeziness into the mix, with an Echo-esque guitar line which weaves alongside Dige’s vocals and has us looking forward to spring.
It's You I'm Thinking Of by Sally Dige

Viva Non, “Disorder”
Winnipeg’s Viva Non come through with a track that sort of splits the difference between minimal synth and sweet synthpop, and could be read as either. The duo are an act who have shown a lot of fluidity in how they approach their sound, which is to their benefit; being hard to peg, but broadly appealing is a blessing that lets them cross scene boundaries with ease. New two track release Play Forwards to Hear Satanic Messages is available now, new LP this year perhaps?
Play Forwards To Hear Satanic Messages by Viva Non

Nootropic, “Consuming Voltage 1”
Here’s a nice splash of icy and stripped-down electro-industrial from Seattle’s Nootropic. Carrying on from last year’s enjoyable Blood Vapor EP, the first half of an instrumental two-fer does a great job of putting forward roots programming as a base, and then adorning it with wispy and disquieting pings and pads. A full LP of stuff in this style would be great to check out, just saying…
Consuming Voltage by Nootropic

New Risen Throne, “The Outside (I)”
It’s been a long hiatus for Italy’s normally prolific and now longstanding dark ambient act New Risen Throne. Gabriele Panci hasn’t released an LP since 2011, but the first piece of forthcoming release The Outside shows how he’s been keeping his skills sharp. Submerged orchestral passages gradually morph into harshly textured grind. Heavy but immediately rewarding stuff.

Xotox, “UFO”
Look, neither of us is gonna front like we’re the biggest Xotox fans that ever lived. Most of our memories of the group are actually of their live performances at Festival Kinetik more than a decade ago, which were generally quite lively and positioned in the schedule as dance breaks for the attendees. Now at the time we interpreted them as a slightly more palatable off-shoot of rhythmic noise geared for the clubs, and new single “UFO” sort of scans that way, but couldn’t you also point to Xotox as kind of a sneaky progenitor of the current wave of industrialized techno? Have a listen and decide for yourself!
UFO by Xotox

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Observer: Stabbing Westward & Affet Robot

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Stabbing Westward
Dead and Gone
Drugstore Records

For better or worse, Stabbing Westward are synonymous with the boom and bust of mainstream interest in industrial rock in North America during the 1990s. That association fails to take into account the band (anchored by singer Christopher Hall and keyboarist and programmer Walter Flakus)’s deep roots in the verdant Illinois scene of the era; Stabbing Westward were pertinent to Our Thing before MTV, as exemplified by their cult favourite 1992 LP Ungod. New EP Dead and Gone, the first new material since their reformation in 2015 feels like a nod to those roots, with an emphasis on club-ready beats mixed with Hall’s distinctive vocals. The title track starts with a 4/4 pattern of kicks and processed guitars that summon contemporary Numan to mind, a fine and danceable song that switches up to a doubletime chorus for oomph. “Cold” goes harder with thicker bass synths and a sticky hook of the type they’ve always excelled at. Closing out the new songs ballad “Crawl” works a toy piano melody against slowly escalating arrangement of bass and drums, more straightforward as a rock number, but not unwelcome. Packaged with remixes of the club songs, Dead and Gone satisfies the question of whether Hall and Flakus could recapture the feeling of Stabbing Westward in 2020; it plies nostalgia while offering something new and worthwhile to listen and dance to.
Dead and Gone by Stabbing Westward

Affet Robot - Huzursuz Seyirler
Affet Robot
Huzursuz Seyirler

Turkish act Affet Robot brings classic moody atmosphere and clean melodies together in its iteration of darkwave. On new EP Huzursuz Seyirler, Eren Günsan manages to move through a quick series of charming homages to varied influences, though with only three original tracks there’s not much space for repetition. Comparisons to Seventeen Seconds-era Cure are easy enough to make, but in contrast to the dour foundation of “Firtina” sit spritely synth melodies and spirited vocals. Bringing the new wave energy of acts like Fatidic Seconde and Spoons to mind while maintaining darkwave cred isn’t easy, but Affet Robot pull off that balancing act well. Similarly, It’d be very easy for a slow and submerged track like “Hala Rüya” to become gloomy and stifling, but some plaintive arpeggios and dreamy pings bring about a pleasant sense of nostalgic reverie (and possibly even memories of 8 and 16 bit gaming scores). Enjoyable stuff with a deft and light approach to styles which are often heavy-handed.
Huzursuz Seyirler by Affet Robot

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We Have a Technical 295: You Think You Know Me

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Two classic 90s records on deck in this week’s episode of the official podcast, in the form of Cubanate’s Cyberia and Clan Of Xymox’s Hidden Faces. State of the art rage and finely crafted darkwave from a few decades on as we look backward on  each act and where the albums fit into their legacy. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Pod Blotz, “Transdimensional System”

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Pod Blotz
Transdimensional System
Dais Records

Suzy Poling’s Pod Blotz has been forging a defiant path through electronic music since 2002, forgoing popular trends and styles for broad experimentalism. New record Transdimensional System (her first for Dais) speaks to that personal legacy, as well as a more general view of the history of synth music: the record’s foundation is built on samples and recordings Poling made at Oakland’s Vintage Synthesizer Museum. As an album it has the wormy, discomfiting and starkly curious sounds we associate with Pod Blotz, but also has moments of surprising and unearthly beauty.

In its most accessible moments the LP deals in fuzzy minimalism and rhythm. “Extrasensory” almost feels like a nod towards minimal synth with its delayed drum track and droning bassline, plus a soupy texture that hypnotically crawls back and forth across the stereo spectrum, while Poling’s voice gradually dissolves from words to processed synth textures. Less drum-focused but with an added dose of eerie atmosphere is opener “Pain is a Door”, where a thrumming synth sequence is foundation to decayed drones and ghostly vocalizations that never quite coalesce fully. The appropriately titled “Industrialized Living Effects” feeds that formula through a mechanical filter; it maintains the spookiness of the preceding track but adds a clicking and chugging sequence that sounds like an engine with bad timing shaking itself apart.

The album’s back half is host to some more meditative turns. “Lights in the Middle of Nowhere” abandons structure for dueling patterns of blunted synth patches that shuffle and deconstruct themselves into lo-fi noise. There’s something calming in listening to the track slowly evolve and devolve, and it acts as a companion piece to the languid “Double Helix”, a soundscape of alien beauty that achieves a similarly anodyne listening experience through wet, burbling sequences and drawn out tones that modulate impassively across its length.

It’s on “Unified Totality”, a track square in the center of Transdimensional System‘s tracklist that Pod Blotz sounds simultaneously the most abstract and the most characteristic. Minus any of the album’s most obvious drum elements, it layers thick waves of noise and synthesizers atop one another until the whole becomes monolithic and finely detailed in equal measure. Depending on the angle you come at it from as a listener it’s either sanguine or perturbing, an abstraction of sound and music that invites gut level reaction and interpretation. That sort of basal feedback is Pod Blotz’ wheelhouse, and can be experienced in abundance across the brief but paradoxically vast LP.

Buy it.

Transdimensional System by Pod Blotz

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Nordvargr, “Daath”

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Nordvargr, "Daath"

Cyclic Law

Henrik Nordvargr Björkk should need no introduction to regular ID:UD readers, regardless of which project’s rubric he’s working under at any given moment. Committed fans of the Swedish maestro are likely aware, however, that his eponymous work has been delving into metaphysical and kabbalistic subjects with increasing depth and complexity. Regardless of subject matter, though, Nordvargr isn’t straying far from the clattering dread he’s always able to conjure musically, and new LP Daath finds new ways of continuing that mood.

It’s easy enough to recognize Daath as a continuation of the style staked out on preceding LP Metempyschosis. Percussion which oscillates from the solemnly ritualistic to the martially bombastic is given plenty of room to echo amidst pads and field recordings, while Björkk himself rages and holds court amidst clanging spasms of noise. It still falls clearly within the death industrial milieu, but Daath pushes the boundaries of the genre (which Björkk himself helped to establish) even further than Metempsychosis. There’s an earthy texture to the record that disavows impassive mechanics, and stresses living, breathing instrumentation and concerns. This can take the form of steady but fully human bass on “The Horsemen Ride Out On Foaming Steeds” which points to doom metal, or gurgling subterranean voices on “Where There Is Word There Is Enlightenment”.

Images of dynasties, conquest, and lineages run through the larger kabbalistic theme of Daath, sometimes literally and historically, sometimes far more subtly. The examinations of truth and loyalty (be it military or religious) on “The Light Of The Lord And The Black Sun Behind The Sun” hold power regardless of your familiarity with the texts and traditions in which the record is invested. Elsewhere, Björkk attempts to metaphysically square the sexual circle on “As King, As Queen – When Kingdom Collide”, where Luciferian logic is used to justify ungodly hanky-panky in a rhetorical move that’d make John Donne proud.

It’s perhaps not surprising that the distinctions between Björkk’s innumerable projects are becoming more and more difficult to make. Beyond the sheer volume of work he’s releasing of late, records like Daath show just how omnivorous Björkk is, taking in influence from a wide range of fields, but invariably mastering and shaping them into his own focused blasts of rage and rumination.

Buy it.


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