Tracks: June 1, 2020

With the ongoing protests and widespread incidences of police violence in the US, Canada and around the world still ongoing at the time of this writing, we would like to take this space to encourage you to donate money to various organizations who are providing bail and resources to protesters. There’s a good round-up here and a Google Doc of bail funds here if you are unsure where to send funds. Material support in the form of cash donations is needed, but you can also simply use whatever platform you have at your disposal to speak out. Black Lives Matter. Be safe out there.

Hello Moth

Hello Moth. Photo by Kenneth Locke.

IV Horsemen, “Human Crash (feat. Zanias)”
Via the good folks at The Brvtalist, new body act IV Horsemen has released a single and video to promote their forthcoming EP Human Crash on Fleisch. Less a straight ahead dancefloor cut and more deeply textured techno-industrial track, it mixes harsh singing with guest vocal from label-boss Zanias (who you may recall has released some killer EPs of her own this year). Excellent stuff that has us interested to see what the rest of the release sounds like when it drops in August.

Fractions, “Do You Believe”
Like we’ve said numerous times on this website and on the podcast, one of the benefits of the shift towards EPs is that some of our favourite artists never feel at a distance. Shortly after their sophomore Scars Of Love EP, the Czech duo have another short form release due out at the end of this month. This first sample has the high-gloss production we’ve come to expect, but the tempos cranked up a fair bit, carrying this one almost into ESA-like rhythmic noise territory.

Monnom Black · Fractions – Do You Believe

Hello Moth, “Times Like This”
An absolutely lovely streaming set from Calgary’s Hello Moth was a breath of fresh air during this painful past weekend. Hello Moth’s style has always been a bit distant from our usual beat, with a quirky yet vulnerable style that draws from synthpop, but also multiform pop history from the early 90s to the present, but we can’t help but be drawn in. This track from the project’s new double-sided single cinches everything that we love about Hello Moth: it’s unique, human, and not afraid to be honest.
Times Like This / Inside by Hello Moth

Blank, “Apophenia”
Italian club scene act Blank have been around for a long time – we first heard their Artoffact releases back at the beginning of the Millenium but haven’t kept close tabs on them. After a period of apparent inactivity, Davide Mazza Riccardo Mattioli return with new album Drifting Slowly, which features a distinctly chilled-out vibe from the tracks we previewed. One of them features Elena Alice Fossi of Kirlian Camera, which of course immediately piqued our interest. Nice thick production and slow evolving grooves match up with Elena’s voice in a pleasing way, well worth a listen if you’re catching up with Blank as we are.
Drifting Slowly by Blank feat. Elena Alice Fossi

Flesh x PEAKi, “Beyond Fear”
New stuff from German witchouse producer Flesh is always worth our attention, and this time they’ve released a split LP with kindred spirit PEAKi. Comprised of solo and collaborative joints, Double Helix points to how new icy darkness is still being mined from the initial witchouse boom. This track absolutely oozes atmosphere and dread, but has a calming crispness to the production that we’ve always enjoyed in Flesh’s work.
Double helix by FLESH

Syrian, “Return to Forever”
We’ve been idly speculating about a futurepop revival for a while now, and although that seems no closer to getting off the ground we’d love it if it took cues from the new single from Syrian. The Italian act’s “Return to Forever” has the trance markers that defined turn of the millenium club music in Our Thing, but digs deeper, invoking the classic euro dance nrg and italo sounds that were also woven into futurepop’s DNA.
Return to Forever (Single) by Spacetalk

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We Have a Commentary: Glass Apple Bonzai, “Night Maze”

Glass Apple Bonzai - Night Maze

For this month’s Patreon-backed commentary podcast, the Senior Staff are looking 2015’s Night Maze. Glass Apple Bonzai’s sophomore record simultaneously demonstrates Daniel Belasco’s talents for precise and minimal synthpop arrangements and melodies and his ability to flesh out and enlarge the scope of his music with his vocal talents. Add in a well-executed theme throughout the record and you have a modern Canadian synthpop classic. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Observer: Caustic Grip & Hyperlacrimae


Caustic Grip
Toxic Rift
Slice Records

Australia’s Caustic Grip make electro-industrial in a throwback style, complete with all the mechanized sound design, chaos and lo-fi aesthetics of the genre’s classic era. The evolution from their earlier recordings to Toxic Rift is pretty evident; while it maintains the rough and ready quality of their previous releases, there’s a new strain of melodics running through these tracks. Take for example the vocal line on “Got to Know”; where the track’s pounding percussion and heavily quantized bass provide a rhythmic foundation. Scud Viney plays with the timbre and phrasing of his delivery, from drawn out passages to full-on Nitzer homage. “Cold Hands” starts with some very rigid rhythms before breaking out into a rush of leads and pads that give the song a lovely down-at-the-heel lushness. Even the frenetic title track, while strict of tempo and murky of sound sneaks in some interesting tunefulness into the cycling bassline and background drones. It’s a welcome and interesting upgrade in the project’s sound, one that adds to their established style without losing the rough edge that sets the apart.
Toxic Rift by Caustic Grip

Hyperlacrimae - Yoga Darśana
Hyperlacrimae
Yoga Darśana
Infidel Bodies

The last time we heard from Hyperlacrimae, the Neapolitan duo were combining new techno/EBM styles with detuned, gauzy darkwave to produce an oddly noisy yet sensual tour through giallo territory. Follow-up LP Yoga Darśana is much more direct in its style, but no less compelling. A punishing barrage of heavy duty rhythmic industrial percussion, tilting towards the acoustic side of the sound, and murky programming guide the record. It’s body blow after body, from the erratic kicks amidst echoing samples of “Kobra (Endless)” and the chopped up percussive panning of “Kogawa No Gotsu”, with barely a moment’s breath between beats. Erminio Granata and Carmine Laurenza’s familiarity with industrial clatter new and old is detectable throughout – the sludgy, martial marrying of drones to beats should sound familiar to fans of everything from Test Dept to LORAH-era Ministry to Prurient – but it’s clear that leftfield techno as well as more ambient influences are just as important to Hyperlacrimae’s approach. The call is coming from inside the house, as we like to say at ID:UD, though Hyperlacrimae have clearly been spending some time in the attic on a tin-can telephone with the neighbors.
Yoga Darśana by hyperlacrimae

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We Have a Technical 312: Subreddits of the Brain

Brian Graupner

Keeping it industrial.

Long-time pal and frequent guest Brian Graupner is dropping by ID:UD HQ this week…although he’s not here to talk about The Gothsicles. Nope, the man behind the scene’s premiere industrial comedy act has a lot of other irons in the fire, including his Gasoline Invertebrate project, the eerily prescient Space Couch streaming show, and his label endeavors via Tigersquawk Records. We’re talking about all of those projects along with all of the horseplay and grab-assery which occurs whenever we’re hanging with Graups, plus the past weekend’s Terminus Isolation streams on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. 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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She Hates Emotions, “Melancholic Maniac”

She Hates Emotions
Melancholic Maniac
Out of Line

Somehow Chris Pohl has found time in his busy Blutengel schedule to found synthpop project She Hates Emotions and record its debut album Melancholic Maniac. In theory this isn’t the worst idea; his main project’s ridiculous release schedule (seriously, they released two full LPs last year alone) has seen diminishing returns in terms of quality, and it stands to reason that doing something a bit different might help Pohl shake off some of his creative inertia.

In practice, though, Melancholic Maniac is pretty half-baked. While the synthpop flavour is played up in spots – check the vintage drum programming and octave bass on standout “The Final Dance” and the classic arps that lead “City Lights” – a lot of these songs don’t feel fully realized. A track like “Edge of the Night” starts promisingly enough with a big synth lead and snappy drum machine programming, but never really lives up to the drama of Pohl’s vocal delivery, losing momentum and eventually rolling to a stop. “Cry Wolf” suffers a similar fate: despite its meaty bassline and a fun new wave hook it meanders around in circles from an arrangement standpoint, never quite settling into a pop groove.

Part of the issue might be conceptual; Chris Pohl is a reasonably good producer and has a fair amount of vocal charisma, and his best work both in Blutengel and the defunct Terminal Choice has always involved going way, way over the top. Synthpop is hardly the subtlest genre of music, but it does generally favour minimalism in terms of arrangement, relying on big hooks or distinctive vocals and arrangement to carry a tune. Pohl just isn’t that kind of artist, and attempts to wed the style to his distinctive brand of vampire fromage never quite come together. “Leaving” might have been a good Blutengel ballad in another incarnation but in the actual version is anemic, with a too thin arrangement and mix. To highlight the issue, the best moment on the record is certainly the track “Ghosttown”, whose tacky choral pads and theremin sounds are less tasteful but more charming than the production on the surrounding tracks.

In fairness there’s nothing offensively poor on Melancholic Maniac, but neither is there much worth giving more than a casual listen. It has the air of something tossed off, perhaps an attempt at a proof of concept or Pohl feeling out different styles of music (bonus track “LIEBEN” being a weird hybrid old-school EBM track would seem to support those theories). Whatever the motivation was, the album mostly plays as competent but forgettable modern European synthpop with occasional 80s production touches. Pohl’s fanbase might find more to enjoy, but casual listeners are unlikely to give it too many listens beyond the first.

Buy it.

Melancholic Maniac by She Hates Emotions

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Horror Vacui, “Living For Nothing”

Horror Vacui - Living For Nothing

Horror Vacui
Living For Nothing
Agipunk

Horror Vacui have always had a swagger and attitude which lent classic goth rock atmosphere to their otherwise blistering crossover/deathrock sound. On paper it shouldn’t be hard to add some heavy pathos to the sorts of themes and issues anarcho/crustpunk has been dealing with for decades (I’ve always taken the band’s name to be a subtle nod to the art of Nick Blinko), but in execution maintaining gothic panache and drama within hardscrabble punk anthems is a tricky balancing act. For their fourth LP, Horror Vacui have stripped away some of the bluster and reverb, yielding an incredibly powerful and memorable goth-punk record.

Living For Nothing finds the Italian act putting melody and message up front right from the start. “Consolation Prize” gallops forward with chiming, instantly memorable drive and a combination of rage and riotous freedom in its anti-religious lyrics. It’s the first of many tracks to harmonize the band’s goth and punk interests via peace punk, much in the same way Spectres have of late.

This isn’t to say that the band’s undergone a total sea change: “Lost” and “Living In Tension” deliver plenty of classic churning deathrock, though the reverb and echo of Return Of The Empire and New Wave Of Fear is dialed back, allowing the simple melodic strengths of the tracks to shine through, and they’re all the more memorable for it. Koppa’s also begun to modulate his vocals a bit, at times moving away from his characteristic baritone bellow to find plaintive and strained tones that suit the more nuanced tracks. The album works best when all of these elements are brought together in tracks the band wouldn’t have tried to construct a couple of records ago, like closer “Unreachable” with its majestic and desperate build towards existential crisis.

Like a deathrock version of Amebix’s immortal Monolith, Living For Nothing brushes away some of the band’s noise in order to offer a clearer yet more ornate delivery, and the strength of the material backs up the potential risk of ‘going soft’. I enjoyed New Wave Of Fear well enough for its continuation of the band’s well-established brand of deathrock, but Living For Nothing far outstrips it, or any other release in the band’s catalog. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

Living For Nothing by Horror Vacui

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Tracks: May 25th, 2020

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times at Terminus Isolation this past weekend. While Saturday night’s installment of the virtual fest featured some incredible acts from some of our favourite acts across the scene, it also featured more than a fair share of tech gremlins. Bandwidth issues are the blown-out monitors of 2020, we guess. In any case, it sounds like a lot of the sets were recorded for posterity’s sake and will be making their way online in smoother forms soon enough, and one already has! In case you missed it, we cannot recommend watching Seeming’s set strongly enough. It’s a tight and bracing distillation about everything that makes Alex Reed one of our favourite living musicians, regardless of style.

Celldöd

Celldöd

Hallowed Hearts, “Shatter”
Another teaser for the forthcoming LP Into the Fire by Hallowed Hearts, a collab of Andrew Sega (Iris) and Alex Virlios (Blue Images). Like the previous songs we’ve heard, this fits nicely into the strain of new goth-influenced darkwave that includes acts like Drab Majesty, Cold Showers and She Past Away. Deep baritone vocals, subtle electronics and some very tastefully deployed electric guitar come together on “Shatter” to deliver some smooth late night darkwave of the tragic romance variety.

Maenad Veyl, “Moving Heat”
Maenad Veyl’s Onto Duat EP was a slamming year-end treat, with Thomas Feriero grafting some classic industrial rock grind overtop his already well-hewn rhythms. New LP Reassessment looks to cast a wider net, perhaps like his debut LP Body Count. In any case, this tune in particular’s jumping out at us at a first pass, adding some spastic EBM-adjace bass to bricked out yet undeniably funky kicks.
Reassessment by Maenad Veyl

T_ERROR 404, “Higher Source”
New beats from Moscow, given a signal boost by Emad Dabiri’s X_IMG label. Despite having released material for over a decade T_ERROR 404 is a new name to us, but X-IMG’s curation has been such that just about every tape or 12″ the label puts out merits an automatic buy from us at this point. This number sounds like it might be heading in the techno-body-music-by-numbers route but takes a sojourn into surprisingly warm and melodic territory which recalls classic dark electro more than anything else.
HOLOGRAPHIC SKULL [X-IMG12] by T_ERROR 404

Dreams Burn Down, “The Way Back”
Did you check out the Caustic Grip track we posted last week? Hope so, because this week we’re featuring something from CG’s Scud Viney, specifically the new darkwave project Dreams Burn Down. If you dig Caustic Grip’s take on EBM, then hold on because DBD welds that rhythmic approach to minimal melodies, big atmospheric reverbs and clean vocals with a few compositional curveballs. It’s a very developed aesthetic for a brand new endeavour and has us intrigued to hear what else the project will have in store.

Celldöd, Infamia (feat. RADKO)
If you’re familiar with Celldöd, than you know that despite making this project’s bones in the world of techno industrial, Anders Karlsson has a lengthy history in EBM and dark electro circles. You can hear a lot of that influence on this new track – pulled from the excellent looking Drøne M3 7LW compilation – a collaboration with Italian act RADKO. Scathing textures, wounded vocals and rusty percussion add up to big atmosphere, and is the perfect antidote to the sterility of so many modern tracks in the crossover style.
M3 7LW by Celldod feat RADKO

Entre Mentiras, “Ultima Noche”
From Mexico, here’s a quick flurry of minimal synth instrumentation crossed over with EBM and synthpunk energy and aggression. The result? Surprisingly close to Welle:Erdball, though likely entirely by accident. Peru’s Infravox Records continues to earn their rep for not only ferreting out hitherto unknown promising acts from around the globe, but also finding acts approaching classic synth sounds from legitimately new perspectives.
E N T R E M E N T I R A S – EP by Infravox Records

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Replicas: Shinjuku Thief, “The Witch Trilogy”

Shinjuku Thief - The Witch Trilogy

Shinkjuku Thief
The Witch Hammer, The Witch Hunter, & The Witch Haven
Projekt

What is it?
Shinjuku Thief began its existence as a trio but the Australian project was quickly whittled down to the sole purview of Darrin Verhagen, who has for nearly thirty years used the ST handle to release an unnerving combination of neo-classical, martial industrial, dark ambient, and noise. Between 1993 and 2002, Verhagen released three LPs under his own Dorobo label which were thematically linked by folklore and myths surrounding witches. After being out of print for years, The Witch Hammer, The Witch Hunter, and The Witch Haven have received their first digital release via Projekt.

What’s on it?
Normally we at I Die: You Die like to use these Replicas pieces to highlight deluxe or expanded reissues of crucial works. While these digital releases offer only the original tracks of all three releases – no more, no less – the reintroduction of such a rich yet uncompromising suite of records is worth celebrating. Verhagen offers a fully-realised wealth of sound design, harmonics, and at times brazen confrontation.

Tracks like “Wolfzahn” get The Witch Hammer‘s ethos across: brisk and tense string and drum sections are given counterpoint via placeless rattling and guttural groans. The result is not unlike an uneasy marriage between classic In The Nursery bombast and the grand guignol excess of early In Slaughter Natives, but undercut with a restless and sardonic delivery. A recurring effect across the records is that of snapping out of a particularly resonant or groove-driven track to abruptly begin a new one with a wholly different approach, sending the listener whiplashing through what could have otherwise been a more smoothly delivered experience. While a three-album cycle about witches would seem to promise a dark but unified delivery, Verhagen goes out of his way to disrupt his own flow, making sure that each track on The Witch Hunter, an ostensibly less noisy and more orchestral release than its predecessor, arrives fresh. The Witch Haven is perhaps a more restrained and hermetic release, anticipating Verhagen’s move into pure soundtracking for both film and theatre: “The Gestation Of Elben” offsets its forlorn oboes with someone pounding on a door, and all of its sixteen tracks segue past in a comparatively brief 48 minutes.

Who should buy it?
Heads from back in the day will certainly remember the Shinjuku Thief name and possibly their 23 Skidoo-styled approach to world and breaks, Bloody Tourist, which fit in well with other early 1990s releases on the Extreme label. But the later ST catalog has been sadly overlooked, in no small part due to the relative obscurity of the original releases (to be fair, The Witch Hammer was given a state-side boost via Relic, Projekt’s early iteration of their Archive imprint). Whether you’re a fan of Dom Fernow’s merging of dark ambiance and folk traditions, the longstanding intersection of post-industrial and soundtrack work a la Graeme Ravell, or of classic Cold Meat Industry sturm und drang, you’ll find a wealth of inspiration and enjoyment here.

The Witch Hammer by Shinjuku Thief
The Witch Hunter by Shinjuku Thief
The Witch Haven by Shinjuku Thief

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We Have a Technical 311: Brewery Spit

Einsturzende Neubauten

A new record by Einsturzende Neubauten is always cause for celebration and discussion, and so the Senior Staff are using this week’s podcast to examine Alles In Allem. A record that’s approachable even by the standards of contemporary Neubauten releases, it has its pros and cons but ultimately reminds us of why the German godfathers of industrial remain so compelling to us. 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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Snog, “Lullabies for the Lithium Age”

Snog
Lullabies for the Lithium Age
Metropolis Records

2020 should be a time for David Thrussell’s Snog to shine. The capitalist critique and conspiracy examination that has been the Australian project’s purview for almost 30 years is white hot relevant in the Covid-era; indeed many of Snog’s older tunes like “Corporate Slave”, “Empires” and “The Last Days of Rome” are as resonant today as they’ve ever been if not moreso. So why does Thrussell’s new Snog record Lullabies for the Lithium Age feel so out of step with the world around us?

At least a part of the problem has to do with the general tone and tenor of the record. The template of prettyyet sardonic and deeply cynical examinations of politics and humanity’s endless self-sabotage has been a dominant part of Snog’s modus operandi since 97’s Buy Me… I’ll Change Your Life, and yet when listening to Lullabies it’s incredibly difficult to connect with Thrussell’s message. Maybe it’s a function of how downtempo everything on the record is: with the exception of the plodding electro of “Spätzle Machine” everything is musically quite chilled out and relaxed. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, although the effect of having minimally arranged songs with gently reverbed electro basslines, breathy leads and pads and Thrussell whisper-singing on almost every track is, well, kind of sleepy (as suggested the LP’s title for whatever that’s worth). There are some good moments – closer “Death is Only a Dream” is legit one of the loveliest songs Snog has ever released – but in practice it’s hard to remember much about “The Sweet, Sweet, Treacle (Of Surrender)” or “Saving Seeds” or “Ball and Chain”.

But what feels like a bigger issue is how lifeless the album is lyrically. It would be foolish to expect a record that was probably completed months and months before Covid-19 exacerbated the fundamentally broken systems of ideology that govern us to address the exact struggles of the moment. That said, you would think that the last decade’s worth of culture wars would provide more creative fuel than they seem to here. Thrussell is someone who has openly engaged with anti-capitalist sentiment and the sorts of classic conspiracy theory that feed entities like Q Anon, both of which are both incredibly germane to any kind of commentary on the state of things in 2020. And yet what we get from Lullabies is rewrites of “Corporate Slave” like “Cog” and puzzling odes to the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald (?!). There’s nothing especially incisive here, and the sentiments being expressed are basically identical to the themes and ideas Snog has been regurgitating since forever. That many of David Thrussell’s views have become part of mainstream discourse doesn’t make his nth iteration of them any more musically engaging.

I suppose there’s some meta examination of Lullabies of the Lithium Age you could make that gives it a certain poignancy; the troubadour of the people laid low by the demands of production, once fiery invective xeroxed into safe and easily ignored cynicism. As poetic as that might be, it doesn’t make the record any more interesting to listen to. What could have been a vindication for Thrussell as a prophet of the now mostly ends up feeling like rote repetition.

Buy it.

Lullabies for the Lithium Age by Snog

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Tracks: May 19th, 2020

You’d think it’d be hard to find stuff to write in this space every week with the world basically being shut down, but it turns out that there’s no shortage of music being released and streamed and collabed on during the plague months. So much so in fact that we’re probably not keeping up with all of it (although thankfully Twitch and other platforms afford us opportunities to catch up on them livestreams after the fact), despite our best efforts. Usual advice goes here: if you have the means to support by donating to artists or buying their releases, do so generously. If you don’t, share and get the stuff you like out there as much as possible. Keepin’ on in the weird world of today, every day.

Bedless Bones bedhead

Artillery Nightspace, “Burning The Vein”
Hey, we thought we had a pretty good handle on all of Shane Talada’s aliases and projects, but apparently not. Even when you divide the LA artist’s work into his contributions to classic California goth rock and broader rhythmic noise movements, there are a lot of bases to cover. Emerging out of the latter muse is Artillery Nightspace, Talada’s latest project seeing a new LP released on Ant-Zen. Although there’s a fair amount of funky electro breaks on Devoveo, there are also pure blast of classic noise like this one.
devoveo by artillery nightspace

Harsh R, “I Should Have Known Better”
Our friend Avi comes through with a nasty synthpunk cover of Wire’s “I Should Have Known Better”, a tribute to as he puts it “the best rock band not named Black Sabbath”. We’re still in love with Harsh R’s excellent 2020 release The Burden, which we found to be bracing and melodic while also being mean and unabashed. This cover comes packaged with remixes for the latter, by the likes of spankthenun, Terror Apart, Atlea and others, available now!
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER by HARSH R

Caustic Grip, “Got to Know”
Some fresh hotness from Melbourne’s Caustic Grip, a decidedly big step forward from their previous releases. New EP Toxic Rift distinguishes itself through a mix of trad EBM and industrial sounds with some interesting melodics for a more unique and distinctive take on the style. Check out the track embedded below and the EP’s title track for some of the most promising stuff from the Oceanic region.
Toxic Rift by Caustic Grip

Bedless Bones, “Sad and Alone (Wychdoktor Remix)”
Bedless Bones’ 2019 debut LP was a bracing and refreshing set of blunt but well executed darkwave tunes. Given that, a remix comp like After Malaise seems like a savvy move after the fact: Kadri Sammel’s style is one that we imagine would offer inspiration to a wide range of producers, and we’re happy to see a Canadian who’s done well in Wychdoktor take the reins on “Sad And Alone”. Nice mix of well-paced beats and vocal harmonics on display here.
After Malaise by Bedless Bones

How Green is My Toupee, “Shakti”
How Green Is My Toupee with another track in the project’s inimitably quirky post-industrial style, equal parts Severed Heads weirdness and catchy synthpop. As always it’s a fun and unexpected mix of sounds, working in some exotic vocal samples and sped up sounds. This one comes from HGimT’s label She Lost Kontrol’s forthcoming Surviving In Europe compilation, which comes with a zine on cassette or t-shirt and features new songs from a huge list of contributors including Silent EM, Kris Baha, Celldöd, Savage Grounds and many, many more.
Surviving in Europe 17-20 by How Green Is My Toupee

The Weep, “Don’t Fall”
Oh, boy. Covers of goth classics are always going to be fraught affairs, but few bands out there will have as much reverence for the original source material and contempt for common forms of tribute as Doc Hammer’s Weep. Doc’s goth credentials are above reproach, but as we’ve detailed many times on this site, Weep is a band trying to approach its ur-roots from unexpected angles, and a simultaneously sludgy-alt and harmonic-indie take on a work as shimmering and timeless as The Chameleons’ “Don’t Fall” certainly fits the bill.
Songs Nobody Wanted Us To Cover by the Weep

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Observer: Majestoluxe & Null Command


Majestoluxe
Secondary Sanctions
Kess Kill

Kess Kill is rapidly becoming one of the most vital labels for new left of center minimal body music and industrial. Majestoluxe’s debut LP for KK fits nicely into that oeuvre: its eight tracks are simultaneously sparse, rhythmic and above all gritty. “Hedonic Treadmill” plays out like a skeletonized version of EBM, its central looping synthline and thudding percussion evolving through numerous configurations in service of a filthy good groove. Elsewhere “A Distinction Without a Difference” summons up keening drones and hissy snares to create an old school industrial vibe abetted by alien vocal treatments. Instrumental “Geosmin” takes a similar tool-set but builds it around a rolling tempo and distant squeals that sound for all the world like a ghost train chugging across a blasted landscape. Hell, the excellent “The Great Great Rift Rift” approximates early dark electro, the loose assemblage of synth patterns and drifting reverbs summoning the Klinik to mind as producer/performer Conny Fornbäck archly intones “Continental drift will tear us apart again”. It’s solid stuff all the way through, as diverse and surprising as it is consistent.
KESS13 'Secondary Sanctions' by Majestoluxe

Null Command - Lexical Analysis
Null Command
Lexical Analysis
self-released
Do you miss your office job yet? Without going off on a rant about late-stage capitalism and Stockholm Syndrome, Victoria’s Null Command are here to remind you of what untangling Cat 5 cable and waiting for servers to reboot feels like. The analog synth duo’s latest release is comprised of “live improvised development culled from several Twitch broadcasts”, so it’s very much the product of recent events, but it’s still rooted in a throwback world of mainframes and itchy upholstered swivel chairs from decades before open-floor plans or “code ninjas”. The space and time given to the quivering timbre of their analogs of choice puts the core sounds of Null Command in close proximity to Solvent, but while Jason Amm’s brand of nostalgia points to a dreamy, pixelated wonderland, Null Command’s tracks yield no transcendence, musically or thematically. The low, furtive pulses of “Token Exchange” and “Use After Exception” skirt about with sprained nerves, falling into methodical rhythm but never becoming comfortable or soothing. To paraphrase Achewood, Lexical Analysis smells of copier toner and rye poorly masked by afternoon coffee. Null Command’s mission may, in part, be to render alien the quotidian and banal office landscape, but as luck would have it their ethos now feels twice removed from the present day to day grind.
Lexical Analysis by Null Command

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We Have a Technical 309: Calypso Fantastique

Veil Veil Vanish

There’s very little that binds the two albums we’re discussing on the latest podcast. The downtempo dark ambient slash rhythmic industrial of Tzolk’in’s Haab and Cure-indebted post-punk act Veil Veil Vanish’s sole LP Change In The Neon Light have likely never been mentioned in the same breath, but the Senior Staff are noting some of the subtle shading that comes with deep genre work in both records. All that plus some discussion of recent drama related to a certain German synthpop band on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. 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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Panic Priest, “Second Seduction”

Panic Priest
Second Seduction
Negative Gain Productions

It’s about halfway through Panic Priest’s sophomore album, specifically during the track “We’ve Got the Cause”, that the project’s shift in approach really starts to sink in. The big chorus, the baritone vocals, the textural synths and gated snares aren’t new to Jack Armondo’s work by any means; the band’s 2018 debut revolved around those elements. But nothing on that album rocked in the way “We’ve Got the Cause” does either in terms of energy or execution. To wit, this LP seems a full-on arrival into proper goth rock territory, a move that suits Panic Priest well.

To be clear, it’s not like Armondo has fully changed his MO. The intricacy of his productions is still apparent, and his distinctive vocal delivery feels very of a piece with the project’s previous output. That said, numbers like opener “In All Severity” have been arranged around propulsive mid-tempo rock rhythms, with twinkling synths accenting it’s wiry verse and chorus structure. The deeper you get into the album, the more clear the shift in posture becomes: “Lonely City” is an absolute corker of a club number with a simple guitar lead and sneaky use of synths for texture, the songcraft emboldened by just the right amount of looseness in its performance.

That’s probably a function of confidence; where the self-titled debut often felt constrained by how exacting everything was, Armondo allows a lot more leeway here. There’s still obviously a strong hand on the rudder of a song like the upbeat and hooky “Shiver and Crawl”, but with drums, synths and chunky guitars sitting in a syncopated pocket giving it some elasticity and movement. Similarly “Night Hunter” thrives because Armondo’s studied vocals show emotion, the track’s automated drums and pads allowing him room to croon in a poised but flexible fashion. Panic Priest’s production and studiocraft is still impressive, but is second to the songs, which are catchy and memorable.

Second records aren’t easy, and often either lack the energy of debuts or simply have worse material. Panic Priest sticks the landing here, with a stylistic shift that puts the projects songs in a good light and lets them really breathe and feel alive. It’s a big step forward and a direction we’re both impressed and pleased by.

Buy it.

Second Seduction by Panic Priest

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Black Nail Cabaret, “Gods Verging On Sanity”

Black Nail Cabaret - Gods Verging On Sanity

Black Nail Cabaret
Gods Verging On Sanity
Dependent

Tasteful. Polished. Smooth. Urbane. Plenty of writers (ourselves included) have consistently turned to these sorts of terms to describe the sound of London by-way-of Hungary duo Black Nail Cabaret, and with good reason: Krisztian Arvai’s sculpted productions and the always rich and sultry vocals of Emese Arvai-Illes invite those adjectives. But while speaking to the consideration which clearly goes into the delivery of the duo’s work, that sort of language often ignores the immediate pop appeal of their fusion of electro and synthpop. New LP Gods Verging On Sanity puts the latter up front in the form of an economical and hooky record which gets the duo’s strengths and charms across in a sleek and memorable set of tunes.

The LP swiftly moves through a range of moods and modes with a sense of pace rarely found in the sort of lushly produced records which earn plaudits for sound design but rarely get across via club play. Melodic hooks, noisy beats, and downtempo ballads are all juggled in rapid succession. The frantic opening outrun dash of “Black Lava” gives way to the electropop bounce of “Spheres” before the strict and steely programming of “No Gold” takes hold. Arvai-Illes controlling vocals are more than enough to hold things together, but the range in sounds underlines the memorable refrains and melodies in each of the tracks. By the time things finish with the subdued screwball diva disco of “Children At Play” (with a possible recreation of the famed ESG “Moody” sample in the background?) you’ve been carried through a plethora of styles that belies Gods Verging On Sanity‘s relatively brief 37 minutes.

Gods Verging On Sanity is the rare album that invites comparisons to modern Depeche Mode but finds Black Nail Cabaret ahead on points. While DM have now released three consecutive LPs of ‘tasteful’, ‘well-conceived’, but ultimately forgettable ‘mature’ synthpop, Black Nail Cabaret have found a way to tap into the same sounds without losing the soul or hooks. Mid-album show-stopper “My Casual God” has Arvai-Illes pleading, desperate and naked, for some control and leverage overtop a claustrophobic repeating synth figure. It’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard in 2020, and shows off just how focused and potent an act Black Nail Cabaret have become. Recommended.

Buy it.

Gods Verging On Sanity by Black Nail Cabaret

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Tracks: May 11th, 2020

Working on ID:UD has, as we’ve regularly mentioned of late, been a pleasant means of preserving some form of normalcy for the two of us these days. But we’re also trying, as much as possible, to acknowledge the strangeness and adapt. Folks may have noticed our discussion of live streams on the podcast, something that’s likely to continue alongside discussion of what sorts of experiments in that new field folks are trying on. It was with that in mind that we sought out last week’s discussion with Panther Modern dealing with augmented reality performance. We’ve also been tapping trusted outside voices to bring in research and perspectives unavailable to us, like the deep delve Andi Harriman took into the history of new beat for us last week. We’re hoping moves like this will acknowledge and try to work with the situation while still preserving the spirit of I Die: You Die.

Portion Control

Portion Control: Still angry.

Portion Control, “Head Buried”
UK electro-punk/EBM legends Portion Control are celebrating their fortieth anniversary this year, and have a PWYW release in the wings to mark the release. In case you weren’t keeping up to date with how Dean Piavanni and John Whybrew spent their third decade of activity, new title track “Head Buried” is a fantastic primer that’ll get you up to speed. If this blast of bile and spleen is any indication, Head Buiried should carry on the undiluted strength the band showcased on Violently Alive and Pure Form.

Robert Görl & DAF, “Ich Denk An Dich”
Speaking of EBM legends, it looks as though Robert Görl has been dealing with the passing of Gabi Delgado, the other half of DAF, by excavating the band’s archives. Görl’s indicated that he and Delgado were working both on new tracks and unearthing some never-completed tracks from the band’s early 80s breakout days. The first result of this project puts a bit of a different light on the Alles Ist Gut/Gold Und Liebe days, with a stuttering and modulating beat trading space with a very hushed and introspective vocal from Gabi. It looks as though Görl is working towards a full length release, and you can be assured that there’ll be discussion of that here.

She Past Away, “Durdu Dünya (Boy Harsher Remix)”
A few weeks ago we wrote about the absolutely killer line-up for She Past Away’s upcoming remix LP X, due May 22nd. Naturally we’re gonna pay attention whenever Boy Harsher remixes a band, but the broader line-up of the album suggests a lot of the past and present of Our Thing, and the relevance of its well-known and more niche acts. It’s appropriate, seeing as She Past Away are without a doubt one of the most successful acts to emerge in recent years, with an appeal that extends to scene folks, casual post-punk and synth fans and hardcore gothic types alike.
X by She Past Away

Kindest Cuts, “All You Need is Money (feat. New Haunts)”
Are you as excited as we are about their being new Kindest Cuts material to listen to? It’s been about four years since the Canadian synthpop and darkwave project’s last release Factotum hit Bandcamp and full seven years since the self-titled release that first caught our ear hit the internet. Now residing in Montreal, single All You Need is Money is apparently the first release from Patrick Short’s new label Dioptra record. As for the song itself, it’s a timely (and danceable) treatise on greed and power that certainly resonated with us. Glad to have this act back.
All You Need Is Money B/W Public Hell by Kindest Cuts

Horror Vacui, “Consolation Prize”
Amidst all of the recent chaos, the release of Italian deathrock act Horror Vacui’s fourth LP somehow slipped past us. We’re picking up on a bit of March Violets on this one, but also some pointers towards a more melodic peace-punk style. Regardless, this definitely has that swing and anthemic drive that drew us to the band a decade back
Living For Nothing by Horror Vacui

SARIN, “Repression (Privacy Remix)”
Okay so obviously we’re gonna check out anything new from SARIN; Canadian ex-pat Emad Dabiri currently residing in Berlin and producing some of the best techno-body music going has been a regular in our posts since we first heard his stuff. That aside, we’re especially feeling this version of his track “Repression” courtesy of Privacy. A couple of weeks ago we were listening to that dope remix of Statiqbloom’s “Silver Face” by Star Eyes and thinking how good it would be to have more breakdancing electro style industrial mixes. Low and behold, our wish is granted. Can this be a thing in 2020 please?
Moral Cleansing Remixed [BITE012] by SARIN

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Outland: Liaisons Dangereuses and the AB Sound by Andi Harriman

Our Outland series of guest posts continues with a contribution from Andi Harriman. As the head DJ and label boss of NYC’s Synthicide and the author of 1980s goth compendium ‘Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace’ Andi has been a staunch chronicler of scene history as well as its ever-developing present. Her writing can be found at Bandcamp Daily and Post-Punk.com.

Sven Van Hees & Paul Ward

Sven Van Hees & Paul Ward, Photo by Gert-Jan De Baets.

Taken from the lascivious book of the same name, Liaisons Dangereuses was meant to be a total Welcome to the Pleasuredome experience. “The whole atmosphere of the radio show was this dark, moody club where decadent stuff happened,” says Paul Ward, the host of the influential program that spurred the new beat movement. Ward, who went on to form the group Liaisons D. in the late 1980s (and sampled The KLF’s “What Time is Love?” for their most famous hit, “Heartbeat”), produced the radio show in Antwerp, Belgium alongside a then-unknown, seventeen year old Sven Van Hees in 1985.

Liaisons Dangereuses was a direct extension of the experience at the Ancienne Belgique nightclub in Brussels. The DJs, notably Dikke Ronny, developed a particular atmosphere that thrived on a lazy, fat beat. Their cacophonous, yet cohesive DJ sets became known as the AB sound: punk songs, movie soundtracks, and industrial music which somehow fit together in one coherent stream. “In the beginning DJs would play Carlos Peron’s ‘Die Schwarze Spinne’ — which is a weird track, it’s actually film music — then play something like ‘Burundi Black’ [by Burundi Black], which is an African track from 1971. But all have a similar slower beat. In the pre-days of new beat, we would pick up electro tracks that were much too fast and start messing with the speed to create that slower, heavier, more atmospheric beat,” says Ward. “And that’s what happened with tracks like A Split-Second’s ‘Flesh’, which was the most famous.”

Ancienne Belgique

“Flesh” was slowed down from the 45 rpm speed to 33 ⅓ +8 on the turntable, which Ward claims initially upset A Split-Second: “The first time the band heard it, they cried because their masterpiece was raped by disrespectful DJs. But it was the new beat track. It was good, it worked in the club, and it sounded real.” Certain AB staples became so popularized by DJs that the song was unrecognizable when played at the correct bpm. “There were several tracks by Nitzer Ebb we slowed down, which was crazy because after a few years, no one in Belgium knew the real Nitzer Ebb,” says Ward. “They did a show in one of the small theatres and a lot of the public was really surprised that their music was so uptempo.”

The DJs at Ancienne Belgique were protective over the tracks played in the club, and often blacked out their records’ labels to maintain their elusive playlists. Half out of spite, Van Hees and Ward sought to reproduce the AB sets on Liaisons Dangereuses and spent six months scouring second hand shops in cities such as London, Düsseldorf, Paris, and Barcelona to find the dancefloor gems. “Once we had a nice bag of records, we started playing all their big hits and obscure tracks on the radio. In one week we had an open war with Ancienne Belgique,” laughs Ward. As Liaisons Dangereuses grew in popularity, the club DJs became frustrated that the radio show was exposing and, in turn, popularizing their treasured tracks. “We would decide if we gave the artist and title on air. So we did a lot of it and some we held back,” says Ward.

Not long after, Van Hees began incorporating his own flair to the mix. “From the first moment I heard [a track] I knew it would fit the show,” he says. This mish-mash of styles – usually between, but not limited to, 100 and 110 BPM – made the AB sound unique. “You couldn’t tell if it was a new wave band or a hip hop band,” says Van Hees. The lack of structure also seemed to work for the duo: “Paul always gave me total freedom, he put his ass on the line by using me,” Van Hees reminisces. “At the beginning of each show he never knew what I was going to play. That was the great thing about the show — there was not a lot of preparation.”

For the thirtieth anniversary of the show in 2015, Universal released a double CD of AB music curated by Ward and Van Hees titled Liaisons Dangereuses: Cult Radio Classics – The Early Years. It was the first time these influential songs came together outside of fuzzy bootleg recordings of the show from decades ago. Killing Joke’s “Turn to Red” and the quirky “We Have Come to Bless This House” by Severed Heads found a place beside Ministry’s “The Angel” and the moody synths of Chris & Cosey’s “Walking Through Heaven”. While there are well-loved industrial and EBM artists on the compilation, they are balanced out with surprising additions such as the Brooklyn hip-hop group Newcleus’ track “Automan” and the 1977 guitar-based “Cumbia del los Pajaritos” by Los Aragón.

The Liaisons Dangereuses structure was successful: play long, non-stop megamixes (inspired by New York City radio DJs) and reveal a little — but not too much — to maintain an air of mystery. “People would jump in the car from other cities in Belgium with their ghettoblaster and drive to a parking lot somewhere in Antwerp and tape the program, then drive back home and start making cassette copies for their friends,” says Ward of the show, whose signal reached a mere five mile radius.

Liaisons Dangereuses flyer

Liaisons Dangereuses flyer.

With the growing movement around Belgium — even top ten lists of obscure music were making the rounds —people started using the term new beat. Along with the name change, the underground aspect of the movement began to expand beyond cassette tapes: “We understood why people said new beat, because it sounded different. But at a certain moment, the wrong people started noting this success — especially with the club Boccaccio [outside of Ghent] opening up and they started making tracks that sounded like [our style of] new beat,” says Ward. “The only reason they did this was to make money and sell lots of records. And you know once that starts, it will implode.”

The Confettis’ elementary hit, “The Sound of C”, and the comical “Tanzen” by Tragic Error are prime examples of what many consider to be new beat today. However, according to Ward and Van Hees, new beat ended in 1987 when others caught on to the seductive, chugging tempo of the movement and repackaged it for mainstream consumption. Ward is adamant that they took no part in the popular genre. “We prepared the ground with our eclectic choice but the moment people started calling Nitzer Ebb new beat…well, it’s [a track] where we changed the speed a little bit. It’s body music, not new beat,” he argues.

By 1988, discouraged by its commercialization, Liaisons Dangereuses had abandoned their own style and moved largely to American house, acid, and early techno. What’s left from those two short years of AB music are found on Mixcloud uploads from original recordings of the radio show. Fans still attempt to put together the tracklists of Van Hees’ obscure offerings in the comments section. Even to this day, some track titles remain unknown — just as they were 35 years ago. Liaisons Dangereuses probably wanted it that way, anyhow.

Quotes in this piece are taken from interviews conducted by Andi Harriman in 2014/2015.

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We Have a Technical 309: Good Legs

Panther Modern

Few acts have been as aesthetically or technologically prepared for the weird new era of streaming concerts as Panther Modern. After an incredibly immersive and groundbreaking livestream performance, we got on the line with Brady of Panther Modern to discuss the future of altered reality performances, the project’s roots in cyberpunk, and how to make a virtue of virtuality. 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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K.I. Companion, “Music For Cars”

K.I. Companion - Music For Cars

K.I. Companion
Music For Cars
Mellow Jet Records

Plenty of artists, from Blixa Bargeld to Men Without Hats to our site’s patron saint Gary Numan, have explored the tension between travel and isolation which is captured in the experience of driving. Forma Tadre’s Andreas Meyer is the latest to attend to this theme with the debut of his new K.I. Companion project, Music For Cars, but the record is most clearly indebted to that other act who took up the theme of driving as a form of solitary meditation: Kraftwerk. Across ten tracks of warm, contemplative, and ultimately relaxing instrumental electronics, Meyer combines the inescapable influence of Hütter and Schneider with the rich, symphonic approach to synths he’s showcased on recent soundtracking work and the most recent Forma Tadre album to date.

Although the infamous motorik beat is nowhere to be found on Music For Cars, there can be no doubt of the spiritual influence of Autobahn on Music For Cars. While that record’s dreamy approach to the subject of automotive travel threads through the album, the actual sounds and structures of the record point towards later Kraftwerk releases, as well as Meyer’s broader interests in all things kosmische and krautrock. Bubbling pulses are framed by restrained, clicking percussion (the latter perhaps an amplified version of the micro-beats which dusted Forma Tadre’s ambient Automate LP. The whole affair speaks to the classic ideal of electronic music as complement to various experiences rather than as the object of focus itself.

If Music For Cars is meant to be something of a guided tour, it’s one that moves through varied climes, though provides the listener with enough distance to enjoy the scenery without becoming lost in it (or taking their eyes off the road for too long). The dreamy clockwork lope of “Kreisverkehr” allows the listener to track each calculated component’s traipse even as it lulls them. The robo-funk groove of “Nebel” gets under the skin, but never loses control of its tight sequences. Even when the beats are turned up, with kicks becoming more prominent in the album’s second half, the warmth, harmony, and timbre of Meyer’s synth selections remains fresh and charming.

The senses of alienation, observation, and transience communicated by Music For Cars makes it an unexpected ‘commuting’ companion during these strange times. With many of us stuck in our own individual pods whilst still traveling to work, to parties, to concerts, all by proxy, the feeling of watching the world pass us by at a distance through glass (the windshield, the monitor, who can tell?) is a resonant one. Although an incidental happenstance, this connection underscores Meyer’s talents for creating rich emotional soundscapes without a word.

Buy it.

Music for Cars by K.I. Companion

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Houses of Heaven, “Silent Places”

Houses of Heaven
Silent Places
Felte Records

Californian 3-piece Houses of Heaven make make dour post-punk of a decidedly atmospheric stripe. While never lacking rhythmic drive and variety, the music on their debut LP Silent Places has an appeal rooted in the full-bodied nature of its sonic palette and its sense of texture.

Especially at louder volumes the sound of the record has a specific richness to it, born from the very specific blend of automated percussion, synth design, guitar tone and webs of delays and reverbs. Thick without sounding soupy, you can distinctly make out each element in the mix with absolute clarity – a trademark of the work of producer Matia Simovich. Check out a busy track like “Time Apart”, where an aggressive bass synth drives the track, drawing momentum from the drum programming and allowing the pads, vocals and guitar parts to take float dreamily without becoming unmoored. Similarly the driving “All Possible Obstacles are Present” has a vast amount of space contained within its boundaries; percussion and waves of feedback peel off into the darkness at its edges but never derail the song’s bug rhythm.

The songcraft on Silent Places tends to emphasize rhythm and the composition of instrumentation over big singalong choruses. A song like the shoegazy “A Place Between” is all about the gradual swell of guitar sound and the crispness of the drum programming, a formula that also works for the speedy “In Soft Confusion” with rapidly cycling synths swapped in for the track’s climactic outburst. Even on their most immediate tracks like opener “Sleep” or the heavy rolling late album cut “Pathwork” you get the sense that Houses of Heaven construct their songs holistically, packing plenty of movement and sound into each segment of the arrangement, always building and releasing. The decision to keep most tracks under four minutes is an interesting one: despite the record’s maximal production sensibility, the shorter run times keep things moving and fresh.

Despite its tense and gloomy ambience Silent Places is a very pretty record, and one whose production and recording are nicely in sync with its songs and performances. Big in scope, but economic in execution it has plenty to explore and a significant amount of replayability for those looking to plumb its cavernous depths.

Buy it.

Silent Places by Houses of Heaven

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