Observer: Fractions & Meipr

Fractions - Scars Of Love
Fractions
Scars Of Love
Fleisch

The 2018 debut EP of Czech duo Fractions become a summer sensation not only at ID:UD HQ but at clubs with an interest in dark techno around the globe. Their follow-up release comes with heavy expectations of big, up to the moment techno-EBM production with a good amount of retro flair, and on the whole Scars Of Love meets them. As before, Fractions are adepts at working just enough polish and melody into their mix: check the demure but effective programming in the title track or the part Eurodance, part acid throwback fun of “Excess”. “Move Your Body (Dance With Me)” fares less better, with the titular sample from The Age Of Love overshadowing Fractions own more contemporary percussion (though it might fare well on floors laden with a certain vintage of aging ravers). A sharper retro homage comes in the EP’s final original number “We Speak In Tongues”, which pinches, warps and washes some Underworld-esque acid into almost wistful permutations. Weaving a real sense of fun into the often austere and clinical ethos of modern dark techno is a tricky task to pull off without seeming tasteless or gauche, but Fractions once again walk that fine line and club-goers should once again reap the corresponding rewards.
Scars of Love by FRACTIONS


Meipr
egalecto
Alvar

Meipr describe their LP egalecto as “he old days of dark ambient as well as a neo classical vibe”, although depending on what direction you approach the record from it reads equally as soundtrack and post-rock. The Swedish duo construct their songs out of rich layers of reverbed percussion and strings, building out long passages of mournful melody that are accented by modular synth sequences and textures. The band avoid making large gestures of arrangement, avoiding typical builds and climaxes for more gradually realized pleasures. See how the minor escalation of synth noise on “Schmerzlicher” dissipates to allow a single, warbling cello to carry the remainder of the song, or how the melody of “sanco” sounds submerged within the song, as though the track was built on the remains of another song entirely. It’s simple, meditative material that is best when given space to unfold: the rewards of “Senkulpa” lie in hearing subtle cosmic touches emerge behind it’s broader electronic passages, a counterpoint to the earthy “Lagaffe” where a detuned and breathy ghosts are grounded by the occasional thud of a plucked string and degraded oscillator. In forgoing excess, Meipr find more understated paths to tread.
egalecto by MEIPR

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We Have a Technical 274: Ding Dang Dong

Kite

A grounded Kite.

It’s an accidentally Swedish-heavy episode of WHaT this week, as the Senior Staff discuss Buried Again by Colony 5 and III by Kite. We’re kicking from post-futurepop to synthpop this week, along with some discussion of Odonis Odonis’ new festival venture in Toronto, and Al Jourgenson’s dalliances with David Hasselhoff. Bork bork bork! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Songs Played on This Episode:
Colony 5, “Absolute Religion”
Colony 5, “Ghosts”

Kite, “Jonny Boy”
Kite, “Hexx”

Lingua Ignota, “Do You Doubt Me Traitor”

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Lingua Ignota, “Caligula”

Lingua Ignota - Caligula

Lingua Ignota
Caligula
Profound Lore

It’s one thing to look at a 2xLP sized record from Lingua Ignota and know that it’s going to be a rough listen. It’s quite another to actually listen to Caligula on repeat for the purposes of a review, for the purpose of trying to get to the same place Kristen Hayter enters into and draws upon when she performs or records as Lingua Ignota. That’s somewhat difficult in my case: the themes of abuse, fear, and rape which Hayter tackled with headlong ferocity on 2017’s All Bitches Die will perhaps always be closer at hand for women than most men. But Hayter is an artist capable of drawing nearly everyone who comes into contact with her work into the shadow of her agonized and venemous persona. Once again, through a combination of noise, industrial, and now even more ambitious neo-classical elements, Lingua Ignota invokes the vengeance of the wronged, the retribution of the abused.

Caligula is a richer record in terms of sonic range and texture than its predecessor, though there’s little change in the purposes to which those elements are pressed. Naked piano and enveloping orchestral passages take up just as much of the work as overtly distorted noise. But through it all Hayter’s vocals, alternately wounded and furious, remain the focus. On another record, the doom metal-styled breakdown which comes through in the closing moments of “Spite Alone Holds Me Aloft” or the swooping, warmth of distorted orchestral storm “I Am The Beast” would offer some catharsis, but Hayter’s vocals and lyrics are so unremitting that no sense of closure or finality is ever reached or even seems possible. The quick burst of noise, of glass shattering close in the mix, which punctures the vocals and piano of “Sorrow! Sorrow! Sorrow!” for just an instant with no explanation or follow-up is actually more arresting and actually frightening than any of the more sustained musical aggression. Horror and violence can arrive out of nowhere and disappear just as fast.

As with All Bitches Die, the closest parallel to Caligula remains Diamanda Galas. It’s an imposing point of comparison to be sure, but one which Hayter doesn’t suffer from, even beyond the musical and biographical similarities: the classical training (I’m hearing some of Purcell’s “Funeral March” in “Butcher Of The World”, for whatever that’s worth), the impossibly commanding vocal strength, the fascination with the multifaceted possibilities of liturgy. Like Galas, Hayter is up to the challenge her subject matter sets for her as an artist, and even finds ways of injecting wry humour and personality into her invective. Alongside Hildegard of Bingen, the mystic from whom the project’s name is taken, Aileen Wuornos haunts Caligula as its other patron saint: victim and vengeful killer all in one, she’s an ideal icon for Lingua Ignota, especially when Hayter’s deftness with liturgical fire and brimstone is considered. As she moves between actual liturgy and her own reinvention of it, Hayter often switches voices between victim and abuser. Is God being invoked to provide succor to the abused, or to justify abuse?

Speaking of double-edged metaphors, Caligula doesn’t just avail itself of religious ones. How does, say, a sample of Lars Ulrich discussing his anxiety over breaking from Metallica’s formula fit in? Is Hayter taking shots at artists like Ulrich who use signifiers of hatred and violence without substance beneath them? Or is she obliquely pointing to concerns about either straying from or being defined by the pain and hatred which lie at the heart of her own work?

Even by the standards of the theoretically “dark” aesthetic which unites the music we write about here, Caligula is violent, horrific, and disturbing. It’s not pretty, though it is, at times, beautiful. It’s not easy to listen to, though it is entirely compelling. But more than that, it’s important. Lingua Ignota is producing the sort of art and commentary which the various scenes and circles it’s connected to (metal, noise, industrial) are in sore need of, and Hayter has once again proven herself to be the excoriating voice we deserve.

Buy it.

CALIGULA by LINGUA IGNOTA

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Velvet Acid Christ, “Ora Oblivionis”

Velvet Acid Christ
Ora Oblivionis
Metropolis Records

Bryan Erickson has been making music as Velvet Acid Christ for more than 25 years. During that time VAC has embodied a kind of constancy; regardless of what subgenre has dominated the dark club scene, regardless of the state of industrial as a whole, VAC has released a new album of psychedelic, depressive electro-industrial every couple of years without fail. There have been changes in the project’s line-up and stylistic diversions to be certain, but ultimately Erickson’s sensibility as producer, writer and performer has remained at the core of Velvet Acid Christ’s music. New album Ora Oblivionis isn’t any kind of exception in that regard: its twelve songs act as something of a summary of the band’s oeuvre thus far.

At one end of the spectrum you have tightly sequenced uptempo numbers, delivered with a smattering of vocal samples. The record’s opening tracks “Conviction” and “Adventures in Babysitting the Antichrist” (possibly the most VAC song title possible) embody that style perfectly. The former spices things up with some cinematic drums and the latter uses some rather thick acid lines to accentuate the chorus, but both tracks conform to the template Erickson has been gradually refining since his first demo recordings. He’s good at it, and the particular way he executes it is so recognizably his he might as well have a patent on it. His knack for a catchy sequence or synth riff pays off in those cuts; see gritty club contender “The Bullet Wins” or “Cog” where Snog’s David Thrussell guests, doing his best impression of himself circa the early 90s.

Still recognizably in the project’s wheelhouse but not necessarily as consistent are some of the album’s other stylistic excursions. Erickson has applied guitar effectively many times in the past but it’s a mixed bag here: the chuggy industrial rock riffing on “Twist the Knife” is turgid and dull, the instrument is applied far better as an accent on “Wrack”. There’s also a contrast between the record’s downtempo instrumentals, with “Conjuro” succeeding on the strength of its eastern flavoured melody and “Not of this Earth” which goes for a similar vibe but comes off as a less successful version of the former song. The album’s best deep cut might be “The Colors of My Sadness”, where dreamy pianos build up to an electro bassline and a Ladytron-esque vocal that fit perfectly within the project’s small but enjoyable catalogue of darkwave numbers. The record is honestly somewhat uneven as a front-to-back listen, something it shares with more than a few releases in the band’s discography.

As an album of individual songs Ora Oblivionis‘ value lies less in bringing new things to the table, and more in whether it can tap into whatever affection the listener might have for Erickson’s work from various eras. It’s Velvet Acid Christ, warts and all, and there’s a level of comfort in that that shouldn’t be discounted or disregarded. Whatever happens in the broader spectrum of Our Thing, whatever style is ascendant, Bryan Erickson is wholly, sincerely himself.

Buy it.

Ora Oblivionis by Velvet Acid Christ

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Tracks: August 19th, 2019

Terminus might be over, but a host of live events are occupying our minds in the coming weeks. In addition to the looming beast of Cold Waves, shows from Drab Majesty, Wingtips, Nitzer Ebb, Pink Turns Blue, The Chameleons and a whole host of others are rolling through our burg. Despite the real estate market wreaking havoc on local venues and opportunities, a whole new wave of promoters have stepped up in Vancouver, putting on the sort of dark shows that would otherwise never visit Vancouver. A hearty toast to the folks all over the world working to bring bands to their towns, often at their own expense. Let’s get on with this week’s Tracks!

Blanck Mass and some sinister apples

Iris, “Third Strike”
Iris have spent the better part of two decades carving out their place in the synthpop landscape, amassing a fiercely loyal and enthusiastic fanbase in the process. A quick listen to the first track on the soon-to-be-released sixth LP Six should make it pretty clear why; like Reagan Jones and Andrew Sega’s best material “Third Strike” is melodic, lushly produced and melancholic, with Jones’ wonderfully expressive voice soaring over a rich arrangement of electronics. Reports from some recent live shows have it the rest of the new material is equally strong, which has us eagerly anticipating the album’s release on August 23.
Six by IRIS

Comaduster, “Riverbound feat. Mari Kattman”
Remember a couple of years ago when Réal Cardinal banged out a cover of Handsome Family’s “Far From Any Road”, marrying his unique blend of bass music, technoid and post-rock with the original’s dusty alt country? We’re getting similar feels from new jam “Riverbound”, a lovely, subtly folky number that plays up the doubled vocals of Cardinal and guest vocalist Mari Kattman (Helix). The series of releases that Comaduster has been putting out regularly that will eventually be compiled into full length are ultra-diverse in style and execution, and we’re extremely keen to hear how they all fit together.
Riverbound (Single) by Comaduster

New Fabrik, “Chupa Pico”
Frankfurt’s Smashing Tape Records have gained a rep for latching on to some of the hottest and rawest throwback EBM well before the rest of the world catches on, and their latest find is no exception. One-man Chilean act New Fabrik have made a couple of comp appearances over the past few years, but debut tape First Hammer is full of straight-up, DAF-influenced slammers like this one, which add just enough synth quirkiness to avoid rote imitation.
First Hammer by New Fabrik

Geist & Codenys, “Minor v2”
If you were paying attention you may have noticed that the debut track from Geist and Codenys (aka Alex K/Digital Geist and Patrick Codenys of Front 242) dropped last year on our Telekompilation digital comp. The duo have expanded on that track adding alternate versions and a remix by Marcos Cabral for a special 12″ release, available now via Bandcamp. Recommended for fans of complex, layered electronics with a bit of classic body and techno edge in it’s deep grooves.
Geist + Codenys – Minor by Digital Geist

Penelope’s Fiancé, “Those Who Are Left Behind”
Some interesting lo-fi murk and rubbery beats which come to us via Greece. Part martial industrial, part dark ambient, part ethereal, we like how pieces like these conjure both a sense of otherworldly regality, but also nuts and bolts bedroom tape experimentation. Should appeal to fans of early 23 Skidoo or Axon Neuron / Vagwa.
Psychopompos by Penelope's Fiancé

Blanck Mass, “Death Drop”
Lastly, former Fuck Buttons member Benjamin John Power’s work as Blanck Mass isn’t something we ever expected to feature on ID:UD. We’ve been big fans of Power’s blend of experimental, anthemic, and noisy electronics but it’s never been directly salient to the post-industrial landscape…until now. While we’d guess that the harsh vocal distortion and galloping synth bass of numbers like “Death Drop” and “Love Is A Parasite” is Power’s attempt to work some black metal into his sound, it’s impossible to listen to a number of tracks on new LP Animated Violence Mild and not think of aggrotech. Does this mean that legions of hiterto uninitiated Blank Mass fans will suddenly discover Hocico? Well, no, but we’d recommend deep genre heads at least check a tune or two out just to see how oddly proximal it is to something very familiar.
Animated Violence Mild by Blanck Mass

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Observer: ∆AIMON & Sweat Boys

∆AIMON - Devote//Devour
∆AIMON
DEVOTE​/​/​DEVOUR
self-released

Truth be told, it’s been so long since we had a proper release from ∆AIMON that Brant Showers’ solo work as Sølve had perhaps begun to blur in our minds with the metaphysically-minded duo who first grabbed our attention nearly a decade back. We needn’t have worried. Just a minute into this new four-track single, everything that made Brant and Nancy Showers’ work as ∆AIMON so special to us came rushing back. Compressed, noisy beats are inlaid with clear and sober piano, while orchestral atmospheres harry above it all. “Devote//Devour” rides a threshold between coarseness and transcendence with the sort of fin de siècle decadence and rumination that ∆AIMON have long since earned. “A Snake Of June”, while more laid back, feels like a more rough and tumble rock track in terms of instrumentation; its rolling hi hats are the only hint of ∆AIMON’s sequenced origins. Nancy’s vocals take on an almost bluesy swing, even as they point to the sort of otherworldly gaze that tracks like “Current” had on lock. A pair of slightly augmented instrumental reworkings flesh things out, offering both club flexibility and a reframing of the crushing beats ∆AIMON still deliver. ∆AIMON may have been dormant for a spell, but there’s no dust on them.

Buy it.


Sweat Boys
Nervous Prayers
GIVE/TAKE

Wisconsin’s Sweat Boys ply a sweet, sincere form of unreconstructed synthpop on their 2019 Nervous Prayers EP. Hearkening back to North American purveyors of the genre like Men Without Hats and Rational Youth, it’s music with spritely energy that establishes big melodies, and pushes them hard via synthesized arrangements that are mixed for clarity and impact. Opener “I Don’t Love You” particularly feels like it could have been plucked directly from 1982, the chiming lead and simple 16th note bass and kick-snare drum pattern giving Benny Sweat room to sell the song’s upbeat and melancholic lyrics. Sweat’s choices as vocalist are solid, shifting registers and sliding coy variations in to emphasize a specific lyric or mood; see the tenderness with which “Never Be You” is delivered even as Sweat laments that his current, more attentive partner can’t replace the lost love the song is addressed to. Even when placed next to the distinctive quaver of Kite’s Nicklas Stenemo on “Endlessly” he acquits himself, playing it back so that Stenemo can deliver some quirkiness. At five tracks deep the EP doesn’t lack for hooks or singalongs, and demonstrates an understanding of form that eludes many comparable acts mining throwback synthpop for its simple pleasures.
Nervous Prayers by Sweat Boys

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We Have a Technical 273: No Happy Time

Neuroticfish in action

It’s still Terminus catch-up season here at the HQ, as we offer interviews with Neuroticfish and Pictureplane garnered from our weekend in Calgary. There’s plenty on the table from artists who might be working in different styles but are brought together by Industrial Summer Camp. All that, plus some talk about a recent trad goth bonanza here in Vancouver 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.

Songs played in this episode:
Neuroticfish, “Fluchtreflex”Neuroticfish, “Walk Alone”
Pictureplane, “Pit Viper”
Silent EM, “Wraith”

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Silent EM, “The Absence”

Silent EM
The Absence
Disko Obscura

Jean Lorenzo’s Silent EM is an NYC based darkwave act, albeit one that cleaves to the aggressive, electronic end of that genre’s spectrum. Indeed, Lorenzo’s background in punk and post-punk bands isn’t hard to divine from the the music on his debut LP The Absence, a suite of dancefloor ready songs that emphasize wiry programming and snappy, hard hitting drums. The leanness of the production and recording (provided by 2019 studio MVP Matia Simovich of Inhalt) conveys equal parts disaffection and cynical antipathy: a potent cocktail of sentiments to fuel the proceedings.

Silent EM is at their best when they go for the throat. “Don’t Crash So Fast” introduces its repeating synth figure at the jump, quickly layering on muscly drums and a straightforward bassline while Lorenzo delivers the song’s title as chorus with sneering nihilism. The track’s minimalism recollects elements of European coldwave, as filtered through the grit and economy of synthpunk. Album highlights “Last Rites” and “Wraith” tap into the same speed and dourness to excellent effect, especially on the latter where plaintive synths descend over the track like sheets of freezing rain. Silent EM’s songs are universally pretty somber, but skip past mopey to a kind of grim defiance. It’s a posture that suits the project well.

Silent EM do stretch their wings in terms of songwriting and arrangement to varying effects over the course of The Absence. The most interesting variations come hand in hand with the album’s overall pace and temperament: “No Rest” makes good use of pads and blasts of warbling synth noise over high velocity drums and Lorenzo’s most energetic vocal performance, and closing track “No God’s Land” adds in a fairly complex layer of synth strings that serve up potency and finality. Less notable is the album’s longest track “Virtues of Our Age”, a fine enough song out of context but one that feels dampened by breakdowns and atmospherics as compared to the numbers that surround it. Similarly “Return of Yesterday” is a sober enough slice of modern darkwave which suffers mostly by being nestled between the record’s more vital entries.

The Absence has an effective meanness and alacrity in delivery and attitude, and with a runtime of a bit more than half an hour it finishes up before those traits become cloying or tiresome. As a debut it does exactly what it should, establishing an identity for Silent EM and suggesting myriad ways that musical persona might develop going forward. Fans of gaunt, baleful synth music take notice.

Buy it.

The Absence /// DSK 016 by Silent EM

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Cryounit, “Paradox”

Cryounit - Paradox

Cryounit
Paradox
self-released

With the absolute dog days of summer well upon us, it’s nice to find something on the less aggressive side to mull over. Don’t worry, this isn’t a hacky attempt at working a “chill out with Cryounit” line in, but there’s no denying that the ethos of Kolton Holbrook’s second LP as Cryounit brings some melodic and downtempo calm in these hot and harried days. The combination of electro-industrial and classic synth programming on Paradox works well both as intellectual stimulant and mood stabilizer, and shows off a sculpted and tasteful sense for production and arrangement.

In truth, the simple pleasure of letting pieces like “Kardashev IV” and “Artificial Universe” roll over you risks obscuring just how intricately Holbrook has jointed his compositions and influences. The clean and elegant delivery of major synth scales and chords sliding over one another might suggest synthwave to the casual listener, but both the execution interplay of these sounds points to something else. The consciously throwback elements of mind.in.a.box are a handy reference point, along with just about any early space synth pioneers one might care to name (and perhaps also the similarly cinematic electro of Zentriert Ins Antlitz).

While it’s certainly not a concept record by any stretch (the thorny question of whether instrumental LPs can be concept records is an issue for another day), by introducing Fermi’s Paradox at the outset, Cryo Unit allow the listener to try (or not) to connect the sounds to the absence of extra-terrestrial contact at their leisure. Like Access To Arasaka’s more ambient work, Paradox finds a way of generating a musical unity (soft and wet synth textures, low attack) that obviously points to Holbrook’s own thoughts regarding the theme, but this isn’t a record which insists on its own point of view. It’d be easy enough to take the slow, loping unfolding of “Signals In The Aether” or “First Born” nearly any way one might please.

A record as relaxed as Paradox perhaps runs the risk of not cashing in on all its promise. Apart from the odd breakbeat here and there it’s never driving or aggressive, and for a record with a very visually evocative side there’s none of the bombast commonly associated with widescreen soundtrack appeal. But all that ends up working out in the long run – Paradox‘s approachable palette (and short run time) means that the softer subtleties of Holbrook’s work soon emerge out of the void.

Paradox by Cryounit

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Tracks: August 12th, 2019

What’s up friends? Settling back into Vancouver life would probably be a lot easier if not for the massive number of shows and club events popping off in the dog days of the PNE summer. No complaints, but we’re barely caught up on new releases right now without taking into account brand new artists coming to our attention with each passing day. As always, we welcome your suggestions for new, notable and overlooked records we should be checking. Give us a comment below or fire us something via the contact page. On to new Tracks!

Debby Friday has a headstart, you better catch up quick.

Apoptygma Berzerk, “Atom & Eve”
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that Apoptygma Berzerk hasn’t exactly been inactive over the last couple years, although their output has been pretty unexpected to say the least. Last LP Exit Popularity Contest was a collection of spacey analogue synth instrumentals with basically no connection to either El Grotho’s 90’s futurepop heyday or the band’s alt rock rebranding from the 2000s. Appropriate then that new single “Atom & Eve” would be another left turn, albeit one that makes sense: apparently Apoptygma Berzerk make Kraftwerk-tinged electropop now. We weren’t expecting it, but ain’t mad at it either. New EP Nein Danke! should be a fun listen, if only to hear what direction the good ship Apop gets steered in next.
Nein Danke! (2-Track Teaser) by Apoptygma Berzerk

Spit Mask, “Force Fed”
Lo-fi bondage body music act Spit Mask have been having it both ways for the past few years. There’s been no new music since their 2016 debut EP, but they’ve been gigging and touring a good deal. Whether by accident or by strategy, that’s yielded them a good deal of back-burner buzz of late, and they’re now about to cash in on it with their first full-length, being released by aufnahme + wiedergabe, no less. The big kicks and incessant programming on this number are perhaps drawn a bit more clearly than on their previous tape, but still have all the bounce and energy which first drew us to them.
You May Feel Some Pressure by Spit Mask

Debby Friday, “Fatal”
Scorching hot new single from Vancouver’s Debby Fatal, taken from the upcoming Death Drive, due this week on Deathbomb Arc. Composed of ethereal vocal samples, a low-key body moving bassline and some hard hitting drums, it’s a dancefloor mover that burrows itself into your mind with each listen. Part of that has to be Friday herself, whose voice is forceful and incredibly present, slicing through the track like a garrote with each syllable. Get on the train now or get left behind.

Null Device, “The Smallest Thing”
October still seems a good ways off, but it’s nice to know that we’ll have a new record from Madison’s Null Device come the autumn. The combination of emotional honesty, considered arrangements, and vocal strength that Eric Oehler & co always deliver – as on this track – can feel like a big cozy sweater in bracing times. We’re keen to check out what else Line Of Sight has to offer, and you can anticipate a full review sometime after the leaves turn.
Line Of Sight by Null Device

Wingtips, “Here and Now”
Hotly tipped Chicago goth-popsters Wingtips show off their dreamier side on new track “Here and Now”, the last taster for their forthcoming LP Exposure Therapy. We’re getting hints of The Cure, some tasty new romantic sounds and pleasingly chill Summer vibes. Given the variety we’ve heard from the songs that have been teased from the debut we’re eager to get a more complete picture of this promising act. Not long now, the record drops August 23rd on Artoffact.
Exposure Therapy by WINGTIPS

Thegn, “Depression Is A Routine”
Omnivorously witchy producer Matthew Gunn has a new LP on deck from his Thegn project. Judging from this track, it looks to continue Gunn’s shift away from the dark techno of his previous releases and projects, and expanding on his interests in classic dark electro and trap. It might be an odd recipe on paper, but it comes together well with some weighty and cloudy presence here.
Loss [AT-011] by Thegn

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Body Of Light, “Time To Kill”

Body Of Light - Time To Kill

Body Of Light
Time To Kill
Dais Records

It’s still strange to think of Body Of Light as a pure synthpop act, let alone such a smooth one. Although they’ve had a clear interest in yearning melodies going back to their first full length (2013’s Volantà Di Amore) if not further, the lo-fi murk of their earliest singles and EPs, along with their associations with labels like Chondritic Sound and Ascetic House made it plausible to imagine the Jarson brothers as simply building synthpop edifices atop noisier and harsher foundations. That all changed with 2016’s undeniable Let Me Go, a synthpop tour de force which found Body Of Light careening through all of the hedonistic pleasures the genre’s history, both old and recent, could offer. With Time To Kill they’ve settled into one particular synthpop mode, and while they sound more sober and focused here, it’s no less accomplished a record than its predecessor.

The lead title track quickly showcases which parts of Let Me Go‘s breakthrough remains, and what’s been added to Body Of Lights’s presentation. The synth hook is deceptively simple and catchy, but everything builds to Alexander Jarson’s wounded but commanding vocals. Time and again Time To Kill‘s arrangements cede the floor to the vocals with preternatural timing and effect, and invariably Jarson drives the point home. Whether this is all the product of Matia Simovich’s expert production or just Jarson finding a new set of inflections for his voice is beyond my ken, but for the first time in their career Body Of Light come across as ace songwriters rather than synth-savvy pastiche artists.

Despite a short run time, Time To Kill impresses by more or less sticking to a wary and soulful style without ever running out of ideas or hooks. The half apologia, half enticement of “Fear” has a classically seductive Masses-era Mode feel, but by pinning the tune to an even earlier house swing, Body Of Light find a cool new ease around the well-worn hyper-confessional synthpop motif. From Yaz to InSoc, music of this sort is often best when there’s a naked vulnerability to it, and that’s here in spades, whether in the sour angst of “Heart Of Shame” or in the reflective haze of “Stormy”.

Body Of Light themselves have been hesitant to describe themselves as a synthpop act in the past, and there was certainly a risk in being pigeonholed in their earlier and noisier days. But whether by conscious choice or accidental organic growth, a record like Time To Kill speaks for itself: it’s clear and focused synthpop through and through, and ranks with the best of today’s field, whether the Jarsons will accept the plaudit or not. Recommended.

Buy it.

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We Have a Technical 272: Terminus Travelogue 2019

Terminauts enjoy OhmElectronic

Terminus is in the can and we’ve got the ingredients list…or some such other terrible metaphor. The Senior Staff is breaking down all of the highlights from this year’s installment of Industrial Summer Camp, with more than a little help from various friends of the site along the way. Buckle up for an extra-sized edition 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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Grendel, “Ascending the Abyss”

Grendel
Ascending the Abyss
Infacted Recordings

It’s probably time to stop talking about Grendel in terms of their evolution away from their aggrotech roots and start thinking about where their current sound situates them in the broader spectrum of Our Thing. While new album Ascending the Abyss does feel in some ways like JD Tucker sloughing off the last remnants of his project’s mid-aughts sound, it’s more interesting to look at it as a continuation of the fierce and political Age of the Disposable Body. Where that record introduced Tucker’s hybrid of melodic songwriting, varied instrumentation and classic electro-industrial rhythm and bass programming, the new LP goes one step further in solidifying the industrial rock element of the band’s sound, somehow feeling like both a departure and an arrival.

Moreso than any individual stylistic or genre marker you might care to identify it with, Ascending the Abyss is defined by its emphasis on melody and rich, full-bodied arrangements. A track like “Fire & Light” is made up of a tapestry of synth bass, guitars, orch hits and smooth vocals, with each element helping to build the uplifting verse and drive the chorus home. It’s just one example of many that shows how good Tucker’s songcraft has gotten; witness how the downright funky mechanical samples that introduce “Bitter Tide” set the table for the bemused vocal hook, or how lonesome strings and guitar lines break through at the climax of “Brace the Storm” to provide an emotional release from the song’s thrashy mid-tempo rhythm. These are the sorts of tricks pop and rock songwriters have been using for decades to make songs stick in the listener’s ear, and hearing them applied expertly here gets across what a student of music JD Tucker is, and how the lessons he’s learned have been applied to his own work.

The other characteristic that should be apparent to listeners on Ascending the Abyss is how very personal the record seems. Much in the same way that he assembles choruses and verses to set each other up from a musical standpoint, his lyrics tend to operate on an axis of questions and answers or doubts vs. affirmations. See how determined he sounds on the wonderful “Caught in the Middle” enumerating his dedication to advancement (“Screw the state of perfection/All I can do is progress”) before hitting the huge chorus where he laments feeling trapped between the better angels of his nature and his self-defeating urges. It works because Tucker sings it all with a relatable conviction, where even his apprehension seems confident. It’s a stance that suits him well, and smooths over the album’s occasional dip – the tunes to “Cloak & Dagger” and “Falling Back” feel somewhat rehashed, but are carried by both some interesting musical touches (the latter featuring unexpected but not unwelcome record scratches) and above-all the certainty of their delivery.

It’s a little odd to approach an act as established as Grendel as an emerging voice, although it’s also indicative of how dedicated to change and growth JD Tucker is; in every aspect from recorded output to live performance this feels like a new and different band. If Ascending the Abyss is the culmination of everything the project has been working towards since the first glimmer of their new incarnation on 2009’s Chemicals & Circuitry, it’s bracing to consider where the journey might take them in the decade ahead. Whether an ends in and of itself or the beginning of something new, it’s a record that reflects the dedication, labour and personal investment that went into making it.

Buy it.

Ascending The Abyss by Grendel

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Tracks: August 6th, 2019

Boy howdy, between Terminus, post-festival recoup, some personal time, AND a stat holiday it feels like an eternity since things were back to normal here at the ID:UD HQ, but this is the week where we try to get them just so, starting with a fresh batch of tracks. We’ll have a full run-down of all the goings on at Terminus in this week’s episode of the podcast: which veterans acquitted themselves admirably, and which young upstarts made a lasting impression? Wait ’til Thursday to find out, and check these tunes out in the meantime.

Twin Tribes

Twin Tribes get ready to sail the dark waves again.

Numb, “Redact”
The unexpected but very welcome news that Don Gordon was bringing Numb out of retirement came with a host of questions, chiefly what would the legendary Vancouver post-industrial project sound like in 2019. The first track we’ve heard from the soon to drop Mortal Geometry gives a strong hint at the answer: located more in the project’s industrial rock-tinged era, the song marries guitar leads, nice clean synth lines and busy bass into a dark, seething whole. No telling what the rest of the record will sound like (the Bandcamp copy promises trance elements and ambient interludes), but consider our appetite whetted.
Mortal Geometry by Numb

Twin Tribes, “Heart & Feather”
With a handful of repressings and re-presentations, Twin Tribes’ debut Shadows has certainly made the rounds and left a sizable impression over the last year or so, but we’re keen to hear what the Texas duo have on deck for their sophomore LP. Ceremony will be released by our friends at Negative Gain, and the first track from it to flitter its way online has all of the chiming guitars and ambiance we’ve come to love about Twin Tribes, albeit with a slightly more strident tone. Can’t wait to finally catch them live at Cold Waves.
Heart & Feather by Twin Tribes

Klack, “Layover”
Literally recorded on a Layover at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport during Klack’s voyage home from their triumphant set at Terminus festival, here’s “Layover”. Wisconsin’s hottest new beat act have made retro-fun their calling card and this track is no exception; despite its brief gestation of only a few hours the song’s airport samples and catchy synth leads have our toes tapping and heads nodding. Grab the song and keep your eyes peeled for something special with Klack here on I Die: You Die in the near future.
Layover by klack

Analfabetism, “Kråkeld”
We’ve come to expect an especially cold and misnthropic blend of noise and death industrial from Fredrik Djurfeldt’s Analfabetism project, and so when new LP Sjön där hon dränkte sina djur (that’s “The Lake Where She Drowned Her Animals”, for those scoring at home) identifies itself as “Unusually depressing Scandinavian music,” well, we’re guessing we’re in for a rough ride, even by Djurfeldt’s standards. The ritual loops and groans on this piece do nothing to assuage that premonition.
Sjön där hon dränkte sina djur by Analfabetism

Fractions, “Millenials”
Fractions’ debut EP Control was one of the best things to come out of the techno-EBM explosion of the last few years. The Prague based duo’s style was certainly influenced by classic body music sounds and ideas, but far from simply aping classic basslines and drum patterns, they dipped deep into the style’s alternately austere and aggressive energy. New EP Scars of Love visits many of the same places, with a similarly dark and atmospheric outlook, perfect music for discerning DJs and dancefloors worldwide.
Scars of Love by FRACTIONS

Black Dresses, “Static”
The profile of Toronto’s Black Dresses seems to have grown exponentially every time we check in and see what the radically queer, hopelessly anxious, and uncannily creative pair have whipped up. New LP Love And Affection For Stupid Little Bitches is a full-blown Bandcamp phenomenon at this point, which is nothing short of inspiring. As before, we invite you (especially our older readers) to check them out and see just how gonzo the youngsters of today are.
LOVE AND AFFECTION FOR STUPID LITTLE BITCHES by Black Dresses

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We Have a Technical 271: Seventy Three

Blood of Others bathed in the whitest of white lights

Okay we’re gonna level with you: we recorded this episode with our pals from Talking to Ghosts and The Blood of Others like three weeks ago and don’t remember a god damn thing about it. We might have talked about podcast stuff, but also about Michael and Wes have feelings about gallery shows and other alternate ways to present their music? Yes, that sounds right. Also, some talk re: the Severed Heads. It was pretty good probably, why not listen to it now? 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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We Have a Technical 270: Sadnesse

Drab Majesty - Modern Mirror

The new record from Drab Majesty makes brings some interesting new sounds and moods to the dreamy gloom which was so finely honed on The Demonstration. And as it happens, the Senior Staff have some varying opinions as to what new LP Modern Mirror portends, and they’re hashing it out on the latest episode of We Have A Technical. We’ve also got last minute Terminus talk and news regarding the release of material from the infamous Nurse With Wound list. 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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The Devil & The Universe, “Endgame 69”

The Devil & The Universe
:Endgame 69:
Solar Lodge/aufnahme + wiedegarbe

Austrian darkwave act The Devil & The Universe operate in a lot of different musical genres, dipping in and out of soundtrack, ambient, world and techno as the individual release dictates. As a band that allows them a lot of leeway to follow their muse, and they’ve become quite expert at using aesthetics and thematics to tie together the various sounds explored across numerous LPs and EPs. New album Endgame 69 attaches an overarching additional theme to the mix, broadly referencing The Summer of Love and the Manson Family in addition to their camp pagan and occult imagery. The result is a sometimes successful record that works and doesn’t work in roughly equal measures.

Musically, The Devil & The Universe lean in on Dead Can Dance-style exoticism and world music instrumentation for Endgame 69. Opener “Orange Sunshine” and “Kali’s Tongue” show how adept they’ve become at those rich arrangements of strings, percussion and light synthwork, accented with samples, vocals and bits of electric guitar as needed. As on previous albums they hybridize their style to differing effects: “Altamond Apocalypse” marries dulcimer to a synth bassline and kickdrum with results that approximate Enigma, where electric bass and snarling rock vocals are brought in for middling industrial rock number “1969”.

While the Manson Family theme is a reasonable one for TD&TU to explore in their music – their brand of darkwave is after all an extension of the darker side of the folk tradition and by extension the darker side of hippiedom – it largely serves as window dressing on Endgame 69. One doesn’t get the impression the band have much to say on the topic; news report samples and the occasional whisper of the words “piggy” and “helter skelter” just don’t add a lot to the proceedings in terms of atmosphere. They’re far from the first band to invoke Charlie and company, and won’t be the last, but the banality of how it gets integrated here stands in stark contrast to how well The Devil & The Universe normally handle the pop macabre. See for example how fun and menacing the banging “Satanic (Don’t) Panic” or the snakey “Revelation 69” are for examples of how they can make tongue-in-cheek work for them.

Endgame 69 is a fine enough record, although the band responsible for it have the tools and the capacity to deliver more. It has enough quality material to justify a few listens, although you may find yourself thinking they have bigger and better things ahead while you do.

Buy it.

: ENDGAME 69: by The Devil & The Universe

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Kangarot, “The Demon-Haunted World”

Kangarot - The Demon-Haunted World

Kangarot
The Demon-Haunted World
Hand Of Death

As we were just discussing last week, Josh Reed’s Kangarot project has been a favourite at the HQ for years, in part for his ability to communicate both psychedelic voyages and gritty aggression in an economical electro-industrial package. His previous LP, Wholly Hex, was his most stripped down to date, offering the sort of throwback synth brutality vintage rivetheads crave. Follow-up record The Demon-Haunted World keeps things sparsely executed, but doesn’t try to outdo its predecessor in terms of density or violence.

If it weren’t for the extant catalog and some deft arrangement choices, it’d be easy to mistake The Demon-Haunted World for the debut release from an analogue synth newcomer who might not even be familiar with Mentallo & The Fixer. There’s a freshness to the compositions here, with just a handful of carefully sculpted synth figures crawling across simple enough drum programming for the majority of the record. But that simplicity shouldn’t be mistaken for naivete – Reed’s sculpted each of those tones to build miniature worlds and journeys in each of the tracks, and knows how to get the most from them.

The minimal presentation means that the subtle but learned developments Reed tosses in have an exaggerated effect. The stereo depth and colour which suddenly emerges in the middle of “The Dragons Of Eden” communicates a sense of weight and vertigo which wouldn’t have been there save for the more squared off sounds which begin the track. Similarly, the sudden phasing quaver at the end of “Pioneer Plaque I” throws the almost mathematical formulation of the track into abrupt chaos and uncertainty.

Strangers to Kangarot might find some similarity between the lithe and funky leads of the title track and High Functioning Flesh, though I’d suggest that’s just the natural result of a shared interest in analog hardware and brighter influences than most comparable acts will cop to. Though he started Kangarot with clear nods to some of the most entrenched electro-industrial acts, Reed’s expanded his reach, casting an eye back to even earlier synth acts, but hasn’t forgotten the lessons he’s learned in the interim. A canny and rewarding exercise in synth minimalism.

Buy it digitally or on tape.

The Demon-Haunted World by Kangarot

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Tracks: July 22nd, 2019

Is it really Terminus time already? Seems like just last year we were banging around Calgary, watching hella bands from Our Thing and enjoying the community that has risen around the now venerable Canadian festival. Will you be there? If so, come and join the Senior Staff at our annual beer get together on Sunday the 28th. We’d love to say hello, share a brew and a chat with y’all. With days left on the countdown clock, lets check in on this edition of Tracks.

Sixth June in July

Sixth June, “In Dreams
The last LP proper from Berlin’s Sixth June was a slow-burn masterpiece – Virgo Rising‘s twilight darkwave and impeccably tasteful grooves proved irresistible to us at the HQ and on club floors. After some side and archival work, Laslo Antal and Lidija Andonov are returning with Virgo Rising‘s follow-up, Trust this fall, and have a video up for the first taste of it, “In Dreams”. An elegant and slowly emerging piece, it frames Andonov’s vocals in lush darkwave pads and summery beats and seems to carry the duo’s urbane elegance forward.

Hello Moth & Glass Apple Bonzai, “Lucid Dream (Mothmix)”
One of our absolute favourite songs from last year was Hello Moth & Glass Apple Bonzai’s electro-pop anthem “Lucid Dream”, an inspirational bit of make-out fodder (seriously, check the video) that highlighted the strengths of each artist. Turns out there’s a new remix EP on the horizon, featuring the original, and new mixes like this one from Hello Moth themselves. Adding some funky synth soul touches to the original’s melancholic melody works beautifully and reminds us just how many times we listened to the original cut. Hint: it was a lot of times, and we’re happy to have new versions to binge on.
Lucid Dream (Remixes) – EP by Hello Moth

Silent EM, “Wraith”
New York’s Silent EM (aka Jean Lorenzo) have been around for a couple of years, popping up with both self-releases and working with labels like Detriti. New record The Absence comes to us courtesy of New Orleans’ Disko Obscura, and the record fits perfectly into that label’s dark underground synth music mandate: pulsing synths and drums, menacing vocals and shimmering leads in a modern darkwave style that touches the 80s without being a boring retread. Nice full-bodied production work from Inhalt’s Matia Simovich and an impressive video for “Wraith” that highlights the rare sight of an empty New York are just the icing on this particularly cake.

Night Sins, “Annihilator”
Night Sins’ third LP was a textbook exercise in pure goth rock, taking the moody post-punk of their early work to its most formalist and fog-laden conclusion. But if “Annihilator” is representative of it, forthcoming LP Portrait In Silver will be a radical departure. Guitars (Gary Marx-like or otherwise) are scuttled for the sake of pure body music grooves, straddling the EBM/dark synthpop boundary. Will we get a full record of club-styled numbers like this, or some combination of dancefloor concerns and classic goth rock? We’ll keep you posted.

Krate, “Confidence Man (feat. Cardinal Noire)”
Scene stalwart Chris Shortt returns to original music with new collaborative project Krate, whose debut Swarm of Voices is available now via audiotrauma. Produced in collaboration with Roland Zwaga (Acidrodent, Construct), the record was originally intended to be a more ambient and textured affair; the addition of rhythms and electro touches in the programming led the duo to seek further collaborators, including Cardinal Noire, Corlyx, Monolog and Ectasphere amongst others. Check the embedded track below for a taste of pitch black dark electro in a pleasantly modern style.
Swarm Of Voices by KRATE

Angels Of Liberty, “Son Of The Serpent”
Speaking of pure goth rock, it simply doesn’t get any purer than Angels Of Liberty. The duo of hardcore UK traditionalists cleaved to an unapologetically classic style of goth rock for the duration of their tenure, which was sadly cut short by the passing of Voe Saint-Clare two years ago. A posthumous release of music Saint-Clare and partner Scarlet Powers were working on before his passing’s just come out on Secret Sin Records, and tunes like this show just how committed to his native aesthetic Saint-Clare remained until death.
Servant Of The Grail by Angels Of Liberty

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We Have a Commentary: Virgin Prunes, “…If I Die, I Die”

The Virgin Prunes - "...If I Die, I Die"

An ur-source for goth music and thematics, The Virgin Prunes’ …If I Die I Die is the subject of this month’s We Have A Commentary. The secrecy, world-building, and religious/mythic imagery of the record have made it a classic for a reason, and the Senior Staff are here to discuss all that and more! Crack a Guiness or pour yourself an absinthe and traipse through the stranger lands of The Virgin Prunes.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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