In Conversation: Rome, “Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro”

If you’ve never read one of our In Conversation pieces, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: the Senior Staff take a record or other piece of art from the spectrum of Our Thing, and give it a good chewing over. Less formal and more personal than our reviews, it’s usually a chance to compare notes and really dig in on something we have a lot to say about, while also allowing us a bit more latitude in how we discuss things. For our first In Conversation of 2019, we’re listening to a fraught new record by an artist we’ve spent a lot of time talking about in this series before…

Rome
Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro
Trisol

Bruce: A new Rome album almost always portends the two of us taking a pretty deep dive into headier waters than usual, but this time things feel a little different. Pre-release talk surrounding Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro initially focused on Rome’s apparent return to roots neo-folk (if such a contradictory term actually means anything), and as I imagine we’ll end up discussing, in many musical ways Jerome Reuter’s twelfth original LP is closer to the established sound of neo-folk than any other. However, with that musical shift came the clouds of political ambiguity (at best) which have always enshrouded neo-folk. The slogan on a new t-shirt (“Every act of beauty is a revolt against the modern world”) is commonly credited to Julius Evola, Rome’s social media reposted favourable comparisons of the record to the work of Gabriele D’Annunzio, and the slogan on yet another shirt (“Screw the rest – the West knows best”) seemed to be an overt endorsement of the sort of imperialism Rome’s work had always critiqued. Sure, the album’s title was interpreted by some as a nod to Pasolini’s “Le ceneri di Gramsci” – a peaen to a decidedly leftist figure – but it’s just this sort of political dog-whistling which has allowed neo-folk to become a musical form of Russian roulette (every sixth band has a fascist in the chamber), and which Rome has consistently taken action against in the past.

All of this is to say that by the time the album finally arrived at my door (in a characteristically deluxe vinyl edition), I had a hitherto unimaginable concern – that good old Republican-upping Jerome Reuter had taken a decidedly dodgy political return in recent years. After spending some time with the record I’m relieved to find those concerns abated, though I’m still a bit perplexed by some of the tactics taken in a record seeking to address the decline of European and American hegemony. I feel a bit bad jumping right into the political side of the record while barely discussing its musical dimensions, but because Rome is a band that I’ve loved for over ten years for reasons well beyond their music I felt it best to get our concerns out in the open as soon as possible. Knowing that your pre-release questions about Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro more or less mirrored mine, how did listening to the actual record answer them?

Alex: It was fraught to be honest, and it has taken a lot of listens to get where I’m at. The current climate demands a lot of rigor in examining quotes and allusions like the ones you mentioned and knowing going in that I was going to have be brutally honest about whether one of my favourite living songwriters had gone crypto-fascist (an idea that seemed insanely unlikely and yet had to be considered) was difficult and coloured the experience a lot. Jerome is a smart enough artist to understand what invoking Evola is going to entail in terms of how people perceive the record. He’s not a stranger to talking about problematic philosophers (see “Celine in Jerusalem” for a relatively recent example) but the rise of neo-fascism on a global scale makes it a dangerous game to play. And like, Jerome was living in Italy when he made the record, he’s not blind to what’s going on there and what it means more broadly for Europe.

All this is to say to that my biggest disappointment with Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro is how much Jerome plays to the middle on it, and how toothless a lot of its critique is. Like you, I feel like he set out to write an album about the death throes of Europe and the US as we’ve known them to exist and what that has fomented politically and culturally. It’s big stuff, worthy of examination, but given the weapons-grade provocative way he’s chosen to frame the album I’m left feeling unsatisfied. I trust him as an artist implicitly, he’s earned that level of respect from me, but when you’re making long-time fans question if you’ve made a heel-turn by virtue of your presentation and framework (lest the reader think it’s just Bruce and I, this has been an ongoing and heated topic of discussion on our Slack for months and we have received more than a few e-mails about it from folks asking that very question) I need more than the baseline level of irony that pervades a lot of the record. To wit, actual fascists flourish through presenting themselves ambiguously, and seeing an artist I genuinely love occupy that same space to the point people have mistaken it for an actual right-wing about face doesn’t feel good. Provocative is good and fine, but at a certain point the methods he’s chosen have eclipsed eveyrthing else.

Which is a shame because I think musically the record is really excellent, once I got past wondering about what exactly it was trying to say (or avoid saying openly). So Mrs. Lincoln, aside from that, how did you enjoy the album?

Bruce: As much as the album art and extended Roman metaphors obviously pointed to the origins of neo-folk, I was struck by just how folk – forget the prefix – this record is. The martial drumming certainly calls back to the first iteration of Rome, the clean yet echoing strumming on tracks like “A New Unfolding” reminds me of Flowers Of Exile, and the pained, tooth-gnashing vocals of “Who Only Europe Know” seem to be carried over from Hall Of Thatch. But the jaunty horns on “One Lion’s Roar”, paired with woodwinds on “Black Crane” (the latter’s guitar conjuring R.E.M. via Cult Of Youth) and plenty of other sounds are bringing me back to the folk festivals and records which were a formative part of my childhood. This very much jibes with Reuter’s overarching musical journey; even when he’s making conscious callbacks to the industrial sample pastiche of his earliest work or making detours into a particular theme, each of his albums speaks to a much more sublimated use of genre markers as he becomes more and more adept a singer-songwriter, whatever one might take that most nebulous of terms to mean.

Despite having grown up on Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie I’m hardly an adept theoretician of folk, but I think that one of its defining characteristics is a dynamic between specificity and universality. The roots of a particular piece of folk music, from its historical origins to the commonplace instruments people had at hand in that place and time, should be apparent to the listener from the outset (a vouchsafement of its ‘authenticity’, of course), and yet we imagine that its message and spirit is one that can be understood by any people in any time, even if the specifics of metaphor or proper names elude us. It’s through those mechanisms that we recognize, say, the biblical parables used in spirituals as having special resonance to those enslaved. So the idea of using the fall of Rome as a means of thinking about the current political climate certainly makes sense, even if I think the execution misses the mark at times. In a way it’s telling that Reuter has never engaged as fully with his project’s namesake as he does here. It really does seem like a “break glass in case of emergency” type option, but certainly one I can’t fault him for exercising now. What’s your take on how the music itself pairs with the lyrical themes?

Alex: Well, I think maybe the most obvious place that the record’s sonics and its themes meet is on “The West Knows Best”, which has some spaghetti western (which, note, is an Italian invention meant to evoke America) twang to accompany its lament for/contemptuous dismissal of America as cultural arbiter of the world. It’s also delivered vocally with a mixture of faux mourning and veiled disgust that’s actually kind of impressive from a performance standpoint. A bit less successful is “Fliegen Wie Voegel”, which is sort of an anthem to WWII fighter pilots, which can be deliberately read as being about The Allies or The Axis, but has a maudlin streak to its rising horns and strings that’s a little tough to manage. I suppose you can read it as a meta-commentary on how those sorts of paeans are only defensible in the eye of the beholder – Sabaton can release whole albums about the sacrifices of American GI’s, but a band doing the same about the Luftwaffe wouldn’t be welcome on most stages anywhere – but I don’t know if that’s much of a point to make. I’m trying my best not to assign bad centrist views to this record, but it kind of plays that way a lot of the time despite my efforts.

Which brings me to a point I wanted to ask you about: I’m not even sure how much of ANY of this stuff that’s sticking out to me is even new to Rome as a project. He’s always played with martial imagery, and specifically written about EUROPE as an idea in ways that could be pretty fraught. It never seemed like a problem in the past, maybe because his catalogue is so filled with albums that indicate a deep respect for anti-fascists (and on A Passage to Rhodesia an unsympathetic examination of the hubris of the colonialist) that there wasn’t a need to question his politics and what specifically he was saying, as his intentions could be assumed to be righteous. And I want to believe that they still are, and I guess I kind of do. But the world is different in 2019, and I think people like us have become so hyper-aware of how actual dyed-in-the-wool-piece-of-shit fascists get away with operating in the open that stuff we used to not blink at, or could shrug off troubles us now. I think Jerome is using a neo-folk genre playbook to make a point of some kind, but it’s a god damn weird time to be doing that. Is the problem that Rome didn’t change, but we did? And maybe a string of very personal records insulated us from making that realization sooner?

Bruce: Sure. And I’m very much willing to admit that the ways in which we’ve changed as listeners in the past few years has been changed by circumstance as well. It’s easy to lapse into comfortable and familiar aesthetic frameworks as consumers of culture. Bertolt Brecht, that most tactically savvy aesthetic revolutionary who receives shout-outs on Le Ceneri as he has on previous Rome records, recognized that it was the duty of the artist to disrupt those established habits. And it’s certainly possible to read the record’s close examination of reactionary populism as an attempt to point out the danger of its allure, yet as Blake pointed out, it’s very easy to be of the devil’s party without knowing it. I mean, I legitimately admire the subtlety and craft of “Who Only Europe Know”‘s refrain – how can you claim an essential identity when your own provincialism has kept you from reflecting on that identity from without – but sadly I feel it’s too clever an approach by half in 2019, and far too easy to misinterpret the “What do they know of Europe?” riposte as being directed towards the modern day versions of the immigrants targeted by Enoch Powell, who is of course also referenced in the song. I mean, some cursory digging on my part found alt-right goons celebrating the aforementioned “The West knows best” shirt as an indicator that an artist they’d always taken to be an ideological enemy as one of their own, and that’s heartbreaking.

There’s a whole muddle of factors mitigating our reaction to Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro: Reuter’s decision to lift rhetoric from across the political spectrum with cagey ambiguity, the whole thorny history of neo-folk’s political leanings, our own subjective histories with Rome as a project, and perhaps most importantly, the resurgence of the far-right from America to Brazil to the Philippines to the UK. Obviously the latter three elements are well out of Reuter’s control, but to exercise the first given the last is, as you say, ill-timed at best and offering succor to the far-right at worst. I’m only banging on about this so loudly because of the respect Reuter and his work have earned from me over the years, and again, I can even respect what I can discern of Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro‘s aims, even if ultimately finds its methods unsound. Final thoughts?

Alex: I’m gonna be very, very interested to see how our perception of this one fares with time. Inasmuch as I think its ideological faults prevent me from being able to enjoy it as a listening experience now, it may well age into an interesting if flawed document of the time it was made and where Jerome Reuter was at creatively. Like I said, it’s musically pleasurable to listen to, and a more time spent with it may dampen some of the issues that have kept us from being able to get with it critically and emotionally. I’ve been a vocal fan and supporter of this project for ages, and that gives me a lot of reasons to want to find the good in it, while being absolutely unable to separate it from its faults. Le Ceneri Di Heliodoro is a complicated record to parse, and to be frank I’m kind of exhausted with it at this point. Time and distance (and I think whatever Jerome chooses to do next) will ultimately govern where my final stance is on it, but for now I’m filing it under “problematic”.

I’m not gonna call it a misstep because I’m not convinced it’s not exactly what it was envisioned to be, but I think for the first time ever Rome may have made an album whose philosophical and ideological foundations simply can’t support the weight of the ideas it engages with.

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We Have a Technical 247: It’s Always Changing

Phil Western

Like many folks in Vancouver and around the world, we were shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Phil Western last weekend. This week’s episode of We Have A Technical is meant to be a celebration and examination of his genre-bending electronic forays. 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: Unconscious & V▲LH▲LL

Unconscious - You Belong To Me Now
Unconscious
You Belong To Me Now
Area Z

The last time we checked in with Unconscious (AKA Italian producer Andrea Riberti), he’d released a split with KKPTR on long-time site fave Emad Dabiri’s X-IMG label. Now with a full LP out on Area Z, the sdfsd comes more sharply into focus. Rather than aiming for blunt, concrete percussive intensity, Riberti parses his basslines through filters which produce a half acid-house, half reclaimed aggrotech sound. The resulting aesthetic offers the sustained tension of classic EBM, sprinkled liberally with giallo excess (check the spacious, opening credits of a horror flick sound of “Cannibal”), and stretched across classic, no-frills techno structures. If You Belong To Me Now does have a failing it’s in the albumcraft department – the sense of each track living in its own world works perfectly fine for EPs and split 12″s, but over a 45 minute run-time it can be difficult not so much to distinguish one track from another, but to find anything which unites them beyond their most overt moods. That’s obviously not a problem if you’re approaching You Belong To Me Now as a robust set of club-ready tracks, which it most certainly is.
You Belong To Me Now by Unconscious


V▲LH▲LL
GRIM/MORE
Artoffact

Like many of the acts that sprang up in the wake of the implosion of original-school witch house, V▲LH▲LL have forged their own aesthetic path from that movement’s basic template. As fully realized on last year’s excellent Grimoire, the mysterious Swedish duo have found their niche deep in a creepy wood, where folk melodies, the esoteric, and murky electronics all co-mingle freely. It’s now their signature, which means that listening to remix collection GRIM/MORE is less about what figuring out what it says about V▲LH▲LL and more about what it says about each contributor. You can hear and see the neon reflection of synthwave in both The Rain Within and Glass Apple Bonzai’s reworks, but looking at the different approach is instructive: the former goes for chirping synths and popping the song’s melody with vocoder as a nod to the dancefloor, where the latter speaks to some of the brutal formalism that genre inherited from classic UK synthpop in it’s thudding metallic drums and strangled filters. SØLVE and Ritualz are both acts who know something about witch house, but both elect to depart from that genre, with thick, industrial takes that emphasize big drums and thrumming, distinct bass programming. What can we surmise about Seeming from the choice to make “Ormens Offer” a heartachingly beautiful folk track, complete with trilling dulcimer and sublimated pipes that recontextualize the original’s violins? Every track save for the sole new original “Hivemind” is something of a palimpsest, telling the story not only of the original but of where it led the remixer, and most intriguingly, why that path in particular.
GRIM/MORE by V▲LH▲LL

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Outland: On Promoting And Not Doing It Poorly

It’s been a few years since our boy Matt Nelson-Carroll dropped by to offer some editorial content, but he’s made up for lost time with a deep dive into the dos and don’ts of event promotion, with a particular slant towards events with the scope and clientele Our Thing tends to aim for. Lord knows we’ve put on a number of events which have involved a lot of white-knuckles and Pepto-Bismol, so let’s see what Matt has to say…

ESA at Terminus

How can you get a full house out for your show, like this crowd at Terminus during ESA’s set? Photo by Jill Grant of TakeItForGranted.ca

Is there any job more awful in the goth/industrial sphere than local event promotion? No way! Being a promoter is a thankless monstrosity of a job, but without promoters a scene will do nothing but suffer. If you’ve found yourself in a position to say to yourself, “I should become a promoter,” I both wish you well and pity you. The learning curve for promoting is so steep that even if you’re experienced, you’re probably going to make mistakes. I should know; over the course of nearly fourteen years toiling in the Chicago scene, I promoted a lot of events, and I screwed up on plenty of them before I started figuring out how to do things right. In the spirit of helping you, the aspiring journeyman or even well-traveled promoter, avoid some common mistakes, here is my wisdom, straight to you!

1. If you can’t afford to lose your shirt, don’t do the show

Promoting is rough, friends. Not only is it thankless, it’s also an expensive job whose rate of return is held hostage by many capricious variables, such as events you didn’t know you were competing with (or knew you were and chose to ignore), an event falling after people have just paid rent and are broke, bad weather, etc. Good, effective promoting is ultimately an effort to hedge the bet that you’re making by deciding to put an event on, but there is never a guarantee that you’re going to do well, and it’s certainly not always going to be your fault if your event does poorly. Because of this, never go into it with the assumption that it will do fine and you will at least break even. Tally up all the money you’re going to spend on this event, between tech rider rentals, venue costs, personnel fees, promoting expenses and band guarantees, and if you cannot afford to lose that entire sum, you need to take a moment to have a really good think about whether you want to do this event or not. One particularly poorly-timed rainstorm can mean all the difference between having a full house and the band members outnumbering attendees.

2. Never, ever try to weasel out of paying bands if you said you would

Consequent to rule 1, you might find yourself in a position where your cash-in-hand is in the low single digits. You may find yourself thinking of ways to cut your losses, and the dark road that thinking leads you down may bring you to the conclusion that you should stiff your bands. Phrase it however you want; ‘times are hard’, ‘the bands need to be understanding’, ‘but rent is due tomorrow’, whatever. It is what it is, and when you agree to a guarantee or promise bands they’ll get at least something for their trouble, you’re making a commitment, and trying to get out from under it is an attempt to stiff them. The reasons not to do such a thing are infinite, but it all comes down to trust. Bands are trusting you to do right by them when they sign on with you as a promoter, whether they’re local openers, touring bands or big headliners. They’re taking time out of their lives and committing that time to you in a show of good faith. When you stiff them, regardless of the motivations to do so and how good and reasonable they may seem to you, the result is a violation of trust on your part. That violation of trust will be something you carry with you, as bands talk amongst each other and your reputation as an unreliable promoter will precede you when it comes time to book tours. Do right by your bands and you’ll get a good rap; don’t do right by them and you’ll eventually be known as a promoter to avoid.

3. Read the riders, both tech and hospitality – If you don’t understand them, ask

Riders are a big part of the difference between a bad show and a good show. The tech rider is the document that the band provides that spells out their technical requirements; this is where the band spells out things like required stage size, equipment they need provided (this may range from DI boxes to full drumkits or synthesizers), PA expectations, projectors, lines out, etc. Read this closely and make sure you understand it and think it is something you can provide. If you don’t know what anything on a tech rider is or anticipate problems with fulfilling it, communicate with the band and see if explanations or compromises can be reached. Similarly, the hospitality rider is usually just the food expectations a band has. Normally this is simply where they’re going to tell you if they can subsist on a cheese pizza or not, but often bands will give you the option of a buyout (e.g. some cash amount you provide per member in lieu of a meal) or their dietary restrictions and/or expectations. Don’t ignore this, because a hungry band is an irritable band, and an irritable band is going to put on a bad show.

4. Promote smart: Don’t just rely on Facebook events, particularly if you’re not spending money on them

Facebook is increasingly irrelevant to most age groups that are likely to actually go to a show, so relying on Facebook to promote your event is already a dodgy prospect. On the other hand, there’s no denying that Facebook is the biggest game in town, so it’s hard to argue that you should not promote on it at all. However, Facebook is notorious for limiting reach on events that do not give money to them. Starting years ago by disallowing the ability to invite a page’s audience to an event, Facebook has closed more and more doors to effective free promotion. This is never going to change and it behooves you the promoter to adapt. However, if you do go the route of paying for ads, know that Facebook is also notorious for a very bad return on investment, meaning that the amount you pay per interaction is likely to be very high. If you’re going to go this route, and you probably should, try to maximize your ROI by learning how to target ads effectively (which is a lot harder than it sounds, or than it should be). This will hopefully refine your ad targeting to the point where it will drive your ROI up, but don’t expect miracles. Responding to an event is highly noncommittal; expect 20-40% of the people who respond to your event as ‘Going’ to show up and count yourself lucky if anyone who responds with ‘Interested’ shows up at all.

Outside of Facebook is the age-old pain in the ass of flyering. Nobody enjoys doing this since it can be expensive and time-consuming, but it is still a relevant, complementary tactic to online promotion. At the absolute bare minimum, run some posters off to give to the venue so that people who show up at it for other events stand a better chance of becoming aware of your event. Putting posters up on electrical poles and walls is a dodgier prospect, since often they will get torn down by city cleanup workers or business owners, and might even get the cops called on you for vandalism if a business owner is particularly NIMBY, so do so at your own peril. As for flyers, it’s not a bad idea to at least do a small run and leave them at well-targeted locations that you think people who might be interested will go, such as boutique clothing stores, record shops, coffee shops, boardgame bars, etc. Often, clubs and other promoters will be open to promotion-sharing and will let you flyer there if they can flyer at your event, but discuss this with the venue you’re working with first to make sure they don’t feel it will interfere with their own bottom line and nix the idea.

It’s also worth noting that a good 95% of flyers and posters you print are going to end up in a landfill, and that’s if you’re lucky. I personally do not recommend going for full color glossy flyers and posters unless you really, really think it’s necessary. Old school Xerox flyers and posters will probably work just as well if they have striking design and/or imagery.

Street hustle: still necessary even in 2019.

5. If at all humanly possible, get your own sound person

There are very few small-to-medium sized venues that deal with electronic music exclusively or often enough to have a person running the sound board who won’t be taken off-guard by an electronics-heavy band, which I’m assuming most of the readers of this article would be interested in promoting. It is a tale as old as time: a promoter starts getting their bands ready to sound check, only to find that the sound person that the venue provided is confused and angry that it isn’t a four-piece rock band, and the sound suffers deeply due to this. Make sure you talk to the venue and/or their in-house sound person before the show goes on and that expectations are clearly set. If you are a little uncomfortable with how that expectation is received, try to bring your own sound person, if you have access to one. Having a sound person on speed dial is a very good card to have in your back pocket regardless, because there is always a non-zero chance that the venue-provided one will no-show the event anyway, throwing your event into chaos instantly. Oftentimes a dedicated musician or recording studio worker will either make a good sound person in a pinch, or at least be able to point you in the right direction, so do some asking around well beforehand and establish a relationship with someone who comes well-regarded. And make sure you pay them!

6. Think about problems with events you’ve gone to

There’s no better teacher than experience! Think of all the circumstances you’ve encountered at shows as an attendee that have spoiled your experience to some extent. This list could go on and on: bad sound, unfriendly bar staff, hyper-aggressive or needlessly confrontational security staff, bad ventilation, weird smells, unclean bathrooms, bad bar selection, shows that start and end way too late on weeknights, etc. All these things you’ve experienced on your own as a patron are a list of things to avoid as a promoter. These should inform your choices from the outset. If a venue smells bad, only serves well drinks or has security staff that may very well physically assault your patrons, it is probably best to keep looking. If it’s a weekday and you can safely predict that most of your attendees are nine-to-fivers, don’t put your headliner on at 1am. If your headliner is from out of town, don’t put them on super late and have them focus more on how late they’re going to load out than their performance. Figure out the set times ahead of time and post them so attendees aren’t flying blind. It doesn’t hurt to ask around and find out what valid pet peeves people have about shows. The more work you put into reducing the negatives ahead of time, the better chances you have of attendees having a good time and remembering your event fondly, meaning they’ll be more likely to come to the next one.

7. Never skip soundcheck

Just like in war, in promoting it is a bad plan that can’t be changed once things start rolling. A lot of things are going to happen that will eat into the time you have hopefully allotted before doors for sound check, hopefully for most or all of your bands. Bands are going to run late, someone is going to take too long checking their drum lines, the venue manager might just be a flake and not show up until ten minutes before doors, and all sorts of other random variables can, and probably will, spring up at the last minute. All of these things are going to make you want to cut soundcheck and either have bands check right before they go on, meaning they’re going to be noodling around in the background and talking over the PA to the sound person while background music plays and your attendees look on in confusion, or just do a line check and hope for the best. This cannot be a hard rule simply because of the sheer random chaos of life, but don’t get comfortable with skimping on soundcheck, especially for your headliners. Stay in constant contact with the venue and press them to hurry up if they’re lagging; the same goes for the sound person, whether it’s the in-house sound person or your own hire. Always try to sound check last-to-first, meaning headliner checks first, their direct support second, opener third, etc. so that loading equipment on or off stage makes more sense, and so that at the absolute worst, at least your headliner will sound good. Also, do not be afraid to put your foot down if a band is hogging soundcheck all to themselves. A good soundcheck means much improved sound, which means a better night. Do your best to provide this.

8. Show up!

Is this a no-brainer? Sadly, it is not. You as the promoter are the face of your event to all involved parties, including bands, venue staff and attendees. If you choose to no-show your own event, you’re sending a lot of bad signals. Bands can only interpret it to mean that you do not care about how organized your venture together is, the venue interprets it to mean you do not care about your event enough to manage it and expect them to do so, and attendees interpret it to mean that you are disorganized, sketchy and noncommittal. It’s a bad look all around and will earn you a bad reputation just as easily as not paying your bands will. Sometimes life gets in the way and you will have no choice but to be elsewhere, but it is still up to you to communicate this to all invested parties, plus to delegate your day-of duties to someone reliable. The venues you as a promoter in a small genre are likely to encounter almost certainly do not have an on-call stage manager, so it will probably fall to either someone in one of the bands or the sound person to stage manage, meaning double-duty for someone who already has a crucial job to do unless you plan ahead. Don’t leave the proper running of your venue up to chance. Plus, this thankless job is all work and no play until you’re doing the event! This is the fun part! Be there for it!

9. Do it for the right combination of reasons

Last but not least, make sure you are promoting for a good reason. If you’re reading this, you are probably not promoting in a genre that is going to provide a profit at the end of the night; disabuse yourself of the lucrative profits angle sooner than later, because you are probably going to lose money more often than you’re even going to break even, especially early on. Similarly, don’t do this because you want to hang out with bands and avoid the non-glamorous work; bands can smell someone who wants to be One of the Cool Kids a mile away and know that it means an unreliable promoter. Third, and most important of all, you must recognize that passion and enthusiasm are never a replacement for knowing what you’re doing. Promoting in a small scene and/or a niche genre means that a lot of pragmatic motivations are non-factors, so of course most people who do so are passionate about the music and, provided they aren’t in it for fame or fortune, are probably doing it because they want to see cool bands and feel that nobody else is going to make it happen. This is great! This is your heart in the right place! This also, unfortunately, does not grant you abilities beyond your ken. Make sure to complement your passion with experience by asking other promoters for tips and tricks, listening to your community’s expectations, and doing your homework by reading things like this very article! Promoting is definitely not rocket science, but a lot of promoters make a lot of avoidable mistakes because they don’t do their homework, don’t learn from their experiences, and believe that their passion and can-do plucky spirit should and does suffice. Being a good promoter and a passionate lover of music are far from contradictory traits, and with a little experience and know-how, you can make the two complimentary to each other!

That’s a lot of information, isn’t it? Trust me when I say that I would not set all of that down in writing if I didn’t believe that it touched upon a lot of common errors that promoters make, often without realizing they’re doing it. This is also not even remotely an encyclopedic list of all the things to get right or avoid, but I feel confident that it should help set a good baseline as to what is expected of you as a promoter. Hopefully this helps you put on some great events!

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Tracks: February 11th, 2019

As you may already be aware, the industrial music scene has lost one of its mad synth scientists with the passing of Phil Western. As a member of Download as well as an accomplished artist in his own right, Phil was a fixture in Vancouver’s music scene as a performer, recording artist and tech for innumerable shows. He leaves behind a staggeringly inventive discography that displays both his acumen as a technician, but also his sly sensibility and his inventive approach to electronic music. We will be dedicating this week’s episode of We Have a Technical to him this week, but wished to acknowledge his passing here, and send out sincerest condolences to his friends and family. His presence will be missed.

Phil Western

Larson / Gottestman, “Deniers”
We’re happy to offer an exclusive premiere of the newest collab you didn’t know you wanted ’til you heard about it. It’s no secret to anyone who’s talked to Eric Gottesman for more than a couple of minutes that the decidedly quirky approach he so often takes with his own music takes a big cue from the sardonic work of Information Society. If you’re familiar only with their respective catalogs, InSoc frontman Kurt Larson teaming up with Eric makes a heck of a lot of sense, and doubly so once you give lead single “Deniers” a spin. Climate change anxiety leaves one uncertain whether to laugh, cry, or rage, and the combination of Larson and Gottesman’s backgrounds in synthpop and coldwave offers an ideal soundtrack.
Deniers by Larson / Gottesman

SPC ECO, “The Heart and Soul”
If you’re unfamiliar with them, SPC ECO is the project of Dean Garcia, ex of 90s shoegaze faves Curve, and his daughter Rose Berlin. The band have put together a pretty large discography since their 2009 debut, and are now on the verge of releasing their latest LP, Fifteen, which despite the languid and ultra-chill vibe of “The Heart and Soul” is delivered with a hearty “FUCK YOU to the catastrophe of unaccountable, blatantly corrupt governing bodies that perch menacingly over us all like death itself.” We should really check in on these guys more often.
Fifteen by SPC ECO

Hatari, “Hatrið mun sigra”
So uh, Iceland is maybe sending Hatari to Eurovision? Yeah, we weren’t expecting that either. As of the time of this writing, Hatari’s “Hatrið mun sigra” is one of two finalists for Iceland’s entry to the long-running Europe-based musical institution that remains both a) a total fucking mystery to North Americans and b) usually pretty boring. We’re hoping the BDSM-Boys and Girls of Hatari get the nod, as their kind of straight-faced commentary by way of grimy sexy electro is the kind of thing that we’d love to see on a big televised stage.

Majestoluxe, “Cease & Desist”
We’ll admit to ignorance of the early work of Stockholm’s Conny Fornbäck (Sound Manufacturers, Seaweed), but the first taster of Majestoluxe, his first project in thirty (!) years, is promising. Pitch black and consciously degraded, the wormy bounce and grind of “Cease & Desist” reminds us of the grimy, caustic brand of EBM we came to expect from the sadly defunct Complete Control Productions label.
Septic Shock by Majestoluxe

CRT, “Bulls Have Ramsey By The Throat”
Speaking of labels with an aesthetic in our wheelhouse, here’s some cone-rattling meanness brought to us via those savvy kids at DKA. CRT is Michael Keenan’s one-man project, and looks to entering the contemporary noisy electronics rhizome from a decidedly punk perspective, with little flourishes of post-hardcore weirdness and abstraction dotting the rhythmic clatter. If Brainiac were still alive and somehow obtained residences in Berghain? That’s hacky, but you get the idea.
CRT "CS2" by CRT

Totem, “Figment”
A good new one from Totem, the solo darkwave project of Christopher Bagge. Like the previous tracks we’ve heard from Bagge, this one finds that darkwave sweet spot, hitting on both the genre’s tradition of steely empotion and forlorn isolation, all wrapped in a pretty catchy tune that makes good use of reverb overload in it’s final moments. And hey, the video was co-directed by and co-stars fellow Berlin-based darkwaver (and Vancouver transplant) Sally Dige. Keep tabs, this won’t be the last time you heard about this act on this site.

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Front Line Assembly, “Wake Up The Coma”

Front Line Assembly - Wake Up The Coma

Front Line Assembly
Wake Up The Coma
Metropolis Records

Front Line Assembly is a curious beast in 2019, one which has been retrofitted, hot-swapped, and rebuilt so many times that it’d be easy to mistake it for one of the hi-tech, low-life cyberpunk beings their songs so often examine. Yes, Bill Leeb still sits at the center of everything as he always has, but in the collaborator transitions from Michael Balch to the Rhys Fulber era, to the Chris Peterson years, to Jeremy Inkel’s tragically shortened tenure, and now into Fulber’s return, the band’s sounds and approaches on LP have cycled radically (and that’s not even taking into account their commendable forays into soundtracking). All of which is to say that one’s expectations for Wake Up The Coma could be so far flung as to include just about anything, which is why it’s rather disappointing to find a record of half measures.

From a sonic perspective, much of Wake Up the Coma exists in the same continuum as last proper LP Echogenetic and its remix companion Echoes, taking modern EDM production techniques with an emphasis on glitchy bass music tropes, and marrying them to classic FLA electro-industrial song structures. It’s a formula that has worked well in the past, but falls somewhat flat here; despite a high standard of sound design and uniformly excellent production, there just aren’t that many songs to latch onto as a listener. Numbers like “Tilt” and “Hatevol” feel like Front Line in terms of arrangement and ambition, but aren’t especially memorable in and of themselves, and quickly fade from memory even after multiple listens. Others have good components – “Arbeit” finds an interesting intersection of syncopated rhythm and orchestral flourish, “Mesmerized” has a killer bassline – but lack for hooks. There are some defensible moments, like “Eye on You” which features DAF’s Robert Görl and “Living a Lie” (despite having lyrics on the chorus so silly they made one of our reviewers burst into laughter), both of which ride hard grooves with snappy drums, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

Worryingly, the album is also plagued with ideas and collaborations that come off as half-baked in the context of an actual LP. The title track features Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes doing a melodic turn on vocals, but his cadence and delivery don’t sit well in the track’s thick wash of synth blips and pads. Chris Connelly gamely makes a go of “Spitting Wind” in his Bowie delivery, but the track lacks concentration and definition, with sections bleeding into each other without resolving. Worst of all, the cover of Falco’s “Amadeus” is as rote an imitation of the original as possible, with nary a hint of FLAvour, classic or modern. Jimmy Urine’s spot-on Falco imitation would likely be a smash at karaoke night, but with the instrumentation sounding so broad and indistinct, there’s little to distinguish it from the classic version. Say what you will about the very Delerium-esque FLA cover of Madge’s “Justify My Love”, but at least it did something new and distinct with the source material. “Amadeus” commits the worst crime a cover can: not of mutating a song beyond recognition, but of cleaving so close to the original that it seems utterly redundant. FLA have gambled on working outside of their comfort zone plenty of times, but the payoff has never sounded so bereft of individual personality.

Not quite a return to form, not exactly the breaking of new ground (with the regrettable exception of “Amadeus”, we suppose), Wake Up The Coma is a middling effort from a long-standing band who’ve proven they’re still capable of much more. Comprised of different ideas and approaches that don’t cohere as an album, its few high points simply don’t make up for a lack of creative focus. There’s no reason to think that this new incarnation of the band can’t either recapture former glories or continue to find new and fertile terrain, but for the time being, Wake Up The Coma has stymied both of those ambitions.

Wake Up The Coma by Front Line Assembly feat. Robert Görl

Buy it.

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We Have a Technical 246: How Much?

Myer got them shiny lights

An off the cuff conversation with none other than Daniel Myer is featured on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. Myer was passing through Vancouver to play a DJ set at a techno party, so we wanted to take the opportunity to discuss how his recent work in a myriad of projects relates to the ever broadening world of dark techno. Additionally, we have some discussion of ohGr’s PledgeMusic woes, changes in the Ashbury Heights camp, and the passing of Spatsz of Kas Product. If you so desire 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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Standalone, self-titled

Standalone
self-titled
Negative Gain Productions

Known for his long-running project Hate Dept. and his tenure in industrial rock supergroup Pigface, Steven Seibold is focusing on two new projects in 2019, speaking to separate (and perhaps equal) elements of his work as a musician. The other, Muet, is a four-piece rock band, while Standalone is a solo synth project as the name implies. The latter’s self-titled debut is a fun collection of electro-pop numbers with some organic touches that give it an earthy appeal.

The Standalone song construction tends to favour straightforward bass synths and melodic leads, with metallic percussion and other sounds added for embellishment. It’s a good and effective template, as evidenced on opener “Destroy Yourself” where a ticking arrangement of bells and a busy bassline are given some extra oomph by some trashy, Babyland-esque metal drumming and the whirring of a power tool. The rock style drum rolls and chiming toy piano used on “Take Over” set-off Seibold’s falsetto delivery well, as do the collection of rattles and shakers that give “Cliquebug” its Samba flavour. The songs themselves have strong melodies, and Seibold shows some range in how he sings them, with shades of Chino Moreno (“Abigale”) and even Elvis Costello (“Underground”) sneaking their way in.

One aspect of keeping these songs nice and lean in mix and arrangement is they occasionally feel like they could have benefited from being pushed a little harder in their delivery. “Ready to Kill” has a stone hook and bouncy tempo that settles for winsome charm when it could have gone for the jugular. Similarly the torchy “Love is Invisible” plays it way back to its detriment, with Seibold never breaking from a murmur despite the song’s being ripe for a big climax. They’re still good tracks in practice, and the album never goes the way of cloying chillness, but a little more applied forcefulness in spots would have been welcome.

With Standalone Steven Seibold shows off some real chops as a songwriter and some good instincts as an arranger of them. It’s a sinewy record by design, dressing itself up with unexpected sounds that tease the ear and give its pleasing melodies a chance to make their mark. Solid work from a scene veteran showing off some new moves.

Buy it.

Standalone by Standalone

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Acretongue, “Ghost Nocturne”

Acretongue - Ghost Nocturne

Acretongue
Ghost Nocturne
Dependent

It’s been more than seven years since Strange Cargo, the debut proper of Nico Janse van Rensburg’s moody synth project. That’s a healthy amount of time in which all manner of artistic interests and pursuits might have changed, but those familiar with Strange Cargo know that van Rensburg’s something of a perfectionist. That record’s combination of subdued futurepop, the mellowest sides of dark electro, and lush synthpop bore all the markings of having been slaved over for years, and thus the wait for Ghost Nocturne may just be part and parcel of van Rensburg’s project. That suspicion is supported by the record itself, which doesn’t break from the sounds and style which made Strange Cargo so appealing.

Moody and evocative throughout, Ghost Nocturne sublimates the aforementioned sounds into an echoing (and, well, ghostly) space where the timbre of sound becomes the focus. Regardless of tempo or rhythm, each of the record’s tracks invites close listening, to the point that any other context seems to do it a disservice. Sure, a lithe yet thumping number like “Requiem” might go off in the club, but it’s almost a shame to risk losing any of its galloping programming by hearing it through anything other than headphones.

It’s odd to say about a project with such a sculpted sense of sound design, but two album’s in van Rensburg’s vocals really have become the calling card of Acretongue. The simple, resigned melodies he intones are relatively limited in range but have a deep resonance, a fixed and stable point amidst the misty swirl of pads and percussion which will likely be the first thing new listeners latch onto. When the instrumentation ceases to harmonize with and instead replicates van Rensburg’s vocal melodies the result is surprisingly affecting. Mid-album highlight “Contra” hits just such an accord on its chorus (in spite of its title) , countering the failures of which its words speak with bright and resonant tones.

As mentioned above, Ghost Nocturne‘s title reflects its sound, but also hints at the larger poetics behind Acretongue as a project. A line like “A ghost alone / I’ll stay unknown” from closing track “Haven” could be read as a meta-commentary on the often indistinct nature of van Rensburg’s lyrics. There’s a sense of transience and fleeting circumstances running throughout Ghost Nocturne in both its mood and lyrics. Again, as was the case on Strange Cargo, van Rensburg holds something in common with Frank Spinath both as a lyricist and vocalist in this sense, but whereas Spinath seems bent on getting into the nitty gritty particulars of his subjects’ psyches, van Rensburg seems to hover above the places and people he surveys. An indirect geist of the zeit, perhaps, more than a meddlesome poltergeist.

Ghost Nocturne by Acretongue

Buy it.

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Tracks: February 4th, 2019

On last week’s podcast the subject of differing DJ styles and expectations thereof between the traditional club ethos and that of more liminal party spaces. We had an object lesson in that dynamic this past weekend, while checking out a DJ set from none other than Daniel Myer. The mixture of folks who were there out of interest in Myer’s work itself and those who were just there because it promised to be a fun night of techno was interesting to observe, and seemed to speak not only to a new blurring of aesthetic expectations, but also to the current musical intersections between electronic styles. Stay tuned for a conversation with Myer about those topics and plenty more.

Fortune favours the bold…the Seibold, that is.

Test Dept, “Speak Truth to Power”
We aren’t big fans of being prescriptive about what is or isn’t industrial. It’s a long, fruitless conversation that doesn’t actually hold a lot of value in the grand scheme of things, inevitably degenerating into mostly subjective value judgments. That said if you wanted us to talk about who the best examples of what industrial can be at its best – political, impassioned, energizing – it wouldn’t be long before Test Dept. came up. With the forthcoming album Disturbance just over the horizon and the sounds of previous single “Landlord” still ringing in our ears, we couldn’t be happier to see them still making music that speaks truth to power at a time when it’s sorely needed.

Mr.Kitty, “Empty Phases”
We’ve been tracking Mr.Kitty almost as long as I Die: You Die has existed, and watching the development of his artistry has been a really rewarding experience. A byproduct of that experience has been that we now have numerous associations with his work, from dancing to “Insects” in Vancouver clubs shortly after it first dropped, to seeing his first vulnerable performance at Terminus followed by his remarkable, furious and emotional return to that stage a few years later. Given that you can imagine are excitement about his upcoming double (!!) album from Negative Gain featuring no less than 30 songs of his own distinct brand of electro-pop. First single “Empty Phases” got listened to in our HQ about 25 times in the last few days, if even half the songs are just as good it should be an album of the year contender.
Empty Phases by Mr.Kitty

Artificial Monuments, “Succumb”
Danish coldwave act Artificial Moments sound as though they spent a good amount of time mulling the balancing act inherent in their genre. Some degree of pop ease and craft must be maintained even as gloomy atmospheres are conjured, and the tunes from Illusions Of Identity look to be doing just that. Artificial Monuments’ debut (the band is now defunct) will be getting a physical release in about a month and we’ll likely check back in then, but for now enjoy this fretful yet undeniably hooky track.
Illusions of Identity by Artificial Monuments

Designer Violence, “Psychoanalytic”
Here’s some raw electro-industrial from the Netherlands which still manages to communicate the spacy, otherworldly vibe of the original masters. Through the murkiness a certain youthful joie de vivre comes across – not unlike that we first caught from By Any Means Necessary and Kangarot years back. The influences are right up front, but interesting things could be on the horizon.
Unplanned Madness! by Designer Violence

Standalone, “Take Over”
Steven Seibold is coming back strong in 2019, with the debuts of two new projects, Standalone and Muet (the latter featuring friends of the site Mike Love, Dan Evans and Vince McAley). While Muet heads in a rock direction, Standalone finds the Hate Dept. mastermind indulging in some melodic synthpop, complete with charming falsetto and some live percussion elements. Certainly nothing to complain about with the first couple tracks we’ve heard, reminding us a little of Continues and some of the current wave of confessional electro.
Standalone by Standalone

Lusco e Fusco 13, “The Bright Aseptic Room”
Lastly, some incredibly lo-fi and disquieting fare from Spain. Brais Remeseiro releases noisy and morbid stuff under the Lusco e Fusco 13 handle, and while it ranges from pure noise to death industrial to this comparatively bouncy dark electro track, it’s all delivered with a rotting and bereft spirit seemingly taken from black metal. Two of his 2018 EPs (of which we can find no trace) are just now receiving a comparatively wider reissue (read: sixteen CDs) from Toronto outfit Arachnidiscs. Obscure, difficult, yet surprisingly affecting. “Skinny Puppy playing on a boombox while being buried alive,” reads the promo copy, and for once we agree.
Harsh Treatment + 4 Dead Tracks by LUSCO E FUSCO 13

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Boy Harsher, “Careful”

Boy Harsher
Careful
Nude Club Records

A lot has changed for Boy Harsher in a short space of time. Whether you got on board with Lesser Man, Your Body Is Nothing, or Country Girl, by the time the duo headed out in support of a record let alone released another one, it felt as though their fan-base had doubled, the buzz grown more intense, the anticipation of whatever was to come next built to an unobtainable scale. Now, with the release of Careful (accompanied by raves from RA, Noisey, and the normally staid NPR) it’s tempting to look for ways in which the ever-intensifying spotlight has transformed their sound, their ethos, their spirit. And admittedly, at points Careful makes feints towards accessibility and simplicity, yet just as quickly as it offers those entryways it ensnares the listener in the smothering nearness of their work: secretive and sensual but also treacherous and paranoid. Rather than conceding anything, it underlines the qualities which presaged their rise.

The smokey mystery with which Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller have always treated their stripped down, soulful electro still pervades Careful, though at times the record seems to have ambitions towards brighter and easier sounds. Check the simple, bubbling synth lead which opens “Face The Fire”, or the restless, Yazoo-ish keys of “Tears”; these or any other moments on Careful might trick the average clubgoer into thinking that they’re in for a splash of sunny synthpop, but the script is quickly flipped. Matthews’ breathy, suspicious, and impossibly weary voice begins to weave through things (“What’s this version of my life…Who am I?”) while drones and pads estrange melodies even as they harmonize with them. Orch hits, commonly deployed as exuberant punctuation, are again presented by Boy Harsher as wispy snippets carried over in the wind from a party happening half a block away from whatever intense matter is at hand. Mitch Hedberg once joked that “it’s hard to dance if you just lost your wallet: ‘Whoa! Where’s my wallet? But, hey this song is funky…'” Careful takes up a grimmer challenge – driving the listener to dance while reminding them that their bodies and minds are the incidental byproducts of drives they can’t perceive let alone confront – and succeeds with uncanny ease.

It’s not exactly a dour record, but there’s certainly a restless disquiet across these ten tracks. Because everything on the album feels so immediate, the listening experience is coloured with that vague anxiety, a longing for something lost you can’t quite put your finger on. “Fate” expresses that through warbling washes of sound, and off-key stabs as Jae muses about forces beyond her control, asking “what you think you’re trying to prove” even as she surrenders herself to their whims. The one-note bassline of “The Look You Gave (Jerry)” digs in deeply with a one-note bassline and tense arrangement of drums and synth washes that feels like neon synthwave rendered through a mirror darkly, stripped of exuberance and filled with a deep sense of desolation. Even the album’s closest thing to succor can’t escape the melancholic pull, as “LA”‘s sweet melody and bouncy rhythm arrangement are informed by doubt; Matthews’ vulnerable confession of how badly she wants to see some unknown lover contrasts with how plainly she confesses “I will hurt you / It’s a matter of our time”.

Far from making the album a downer, it’s that feeling of commiseration that makes Careful so irresistible. Boy Harsher practice a kind of hypnotic intimacy that brings you ever-nearer until the sense of proximity is intoxicating. That compulsion, that musical embrace without relief or release is exhilarating to experience. “Come closer” they beckon, and we do. Highly recommended.

Buy it.

Careful by BOY HARSHER

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We Have a Technical 245: Industrial Standup

JD from Grendel is a brother of distinction

How – if at all – does the craft of DJing fit into Our Thing in 2019? In a loose (read: boozy) revisitation of an older topic from a more personal perspective. Get ready for hot takes, side eye, and plenty of polemical ranting in the first episode of We Have A Technical recorded in the new HQ! If you so desire 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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IDK, “IDK One”

IDK - IDK One

IDK
IDK One
self-released

It’s shocking to think that someone with as many irons in the fire as Daniel Myer still has hitherto unrevealed side projects and aliases. Even leaving aside his current primary outlets – from an outsider’s perspective I’d name Haujobb, Architect, and Rendered as the most active – there are at least three other handles under which his music’s been released in the past year alone (DSTR, Radioaktivists, Liebknecht), and that doesn’t even factor in his moonlighting with Covenant. With that byzantine discography established, it’s interesting to consider how Myer’s chosen to identify IDK One, an archival set of tracks which precede, yet don’t quite fit into the continuity of Rendered.

In Myer’s own words, “Before there was Rendered, there was this. Some of these tracks are very old, some were done right before I met Clement [Perez] and we started Rendered together.” Obviously, given Perez’s absence by definition the material collected under the IDK name is different from the rumbling and disquieting techno 12″s the duo have released since 2017. And even though these thirteen tracks don’t have the unified aesthetic of that project – the decayed, high pitched drones with thread through powernoise clatter on “siBeRia” is a far cry from the slinky robo-funk of “pOweR” – it’s clear that they spoke to a desire to stake a new claim Myer had recently located.

Despite the dark techno mood that loosely connects the IDK tracks, they do feel of a different cast than Myer’s existing work. Although “tHirD waTcH” (replete with disturbing torture samples, presumably from the TV show of the same name) gets traction from placing plaintive, simple keyboard lines above swarming percussion, it feels far removed from the deployment of similar instrumentation in Architect. Even the relentless EBM/techno thudding of the Liebknecht project doesn’t quite jibe with these pieces either; sparse tunes like “kS 1” have a restless hunger without parallel in Myer’s back catalog, while “wiLlenbeRg”‘s pairing of icy blasts with acoustic scrapes and plucks recalls the proto-dubstep extravagance of Various Production.

Not quite a simple house cleaning exercise, not entirely a side project with its own identity – it’s perhaps easy to understand why Myer opted for the IDK moniker for this release. If he’s uncertain of exactly how it fits within his oeuvre, then it’s perhaps easy to understand why trainspotters like ourselves might be similarly flummoxed. You can approach IDK One as potential club fodder or a preamble to the more formally arranged Rendered bangers, but we’d like to think of it as a peak at the sketchpad of one of the post-industrial world’s most prolific and accomplished producers.

IDK – IDK ONE by IDK

Buy it.

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Caustic, “Hustle and Mate”

Caustic
Hustle and Mate
self-released

Matt Fanale’s evolution as an artist has been fascinating to watch. From chaotic, raucous and raunchy rhythmic noise, through to produced club industrial and then back towards DIY as an aesthetic, the Wisconsin based artist continues to craft his own vision of what modern industrial can be. As implied by the extended “punk itself isn’t inherently rock” sample that opens his latest release Hustle and Mate (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Bomb), Caustic’s appeal lies in his attitude, and his dedication to doing it himself with whatever means he has at his disposal.

That’s a long way of saying that the music on Hustle and Mate is pretty raw, but that’s a feature, not a bug. Significantly, a large portion of the release was originally released on a per-song-basis for Patreon supporters, and the Bandcamp release is pay-what-you-want, both of which factor into its casual DIY nature. As an interstitial release between major Caustic albums, its aims are different than, say, a release like American Carrion. Namely, it’s a way to for Fanale to do Caustic without attaching the conceptual expectations of his recent major releases, again a luxury afforded by the digital marketplace.

So what does the music on Hustle and Mate sound like? A bit of a mixed bag to be completely honest. There’s a few throwbacks to earlier iterations of Caustic with the rhythic noise of “Industrial Still Owes Hypnoskull $38.50”, and a new version of “Incendiary” titled “Protest Monk”, and a new-beat styled track (complete with orch hits), “Chubby Bunny”. As a release its most compelling moments are the ones that match its remit, such as “Boredom Bedlam”, a two minute blast of synthesized hardcore, a lurching chug complimented by a layer of production grit shoveled onto it. Similarly appealing is a cover of Suicide’s “Rocket USA” and “Whatever”, the latter of which finds Fanale channeling The Jesus & Mary Chain. Specifically referencing those artists (along with Nailbomb on a cover of “The Sum of Your Achievements”) is no accident; they’re bands who refracted the purported values of rock music – rebellion, freedom, youth – in ways that were dangerous and bracing. It’s a clever bit of positioning that speaks not only to Fanale’s influences, but what he’s bringing from them to his own music.

Buy it.

Hustle and Mate by Caustic

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Tracks: January 28th, 2019

Ensconced in the new HQ, it’s another edition of Tracks, our longest-running regular I Die: You Die feature. You know moving houses is generally fucking garbage and a massive pain, but it does give you opportunities to reflect on the topic of physical media and what you hold onto. Whether it’s going through boxes of CDs and tapes and being reminded of gems you’ve held onto for personal reasons, or opportunities to reconsider your vinyl filing system, one of the few silver linings of packing and unpacking everything you own is the opportunity to interact with your stuff. Does that justify holding on to physical media in the digital age? Maybe not for everyone, but if the recent unearthing of a bunch of Pretty Hate Machine longboxes this past week taught us anything, it’s that some folks are still on the hunt.

Crossparty

Crossparty throwing hex in Moscow.

Grendel, “Something Real”
We’ve talked a lot about modern Grendel in these parts, with specific focus on how the project has evolved from best-in-class aggrotech to a lusher, larger song-based approach to industrial. New track “Something Real” (which appears on Infacted’s new Infacted 7 compilation) highlights that gradual change while also speaking to some of the project’s legacy: to our ears the piano and guitar tinged track actually has a shades of some of JD’s classic melodic numbers, think “One Eight Zero” but with enhanced songcraft and production.
Infacted Compilation 7 by Various Artists

Klack, “Le Car”
We’ve been singing the praises of Eric Oehler (Null Device) and Matt Fanale (Caustic)’s Klack for a minute now, but it really should be highlighted how fast and effectively the new beat styled project has made it’s mark. Take the title track from new EP Le Car for example; while the eighties sound design from vocoder to bass sounds is put together just so, the song has an identifiable sensibility about it, it feels like Klack even without vocals from either member. 2019 is the year the planet gets Klacked apparently: happy to be along for the ride.
Introducing The 1984 Renault LeCar by klack

Night Terrors, “Down”
Those Night Terrors problem children just don’t stop, and have been grinding out lo-fi, genre-hopping electro-industrial at a steady clip for a couple of years now. Overman is a collection of early demos and outtakes, plus some new work, though in the absence of further documentation it’s tough to tell what’s what. Old or new, we’re digging the submerged engine rave of this number.
OVERMAN by NIGHT TERRORS

Headless Nameless, “Wild Fire”
The newly minted Encephalon side-project Headless Nameless is certainly a change of pace from our Ottawan friends. Where the influence of rock music (and specifically big, operatic excesses therein, shouts out to Jim Steinman) is certainly no secret, HN has a more doomy blues vibe to it, albeit shot through with deep grinding electronics. Very pleased to here Alis Keller’s voice taking the lead on debut track “Wild Fire”, her distinctive delivery matching up perfectly to the song’s slinky mood. More unexpected goodness from a crew that specialize in the same.
Wild Fire by Headless Nameless

Crossparty, “Heavenlygarden”
Moscow duo Crossparty hadn’t passed our way before, but we’re always keen to hear how younger acts are latching onto and further mutating the witch house genome. Crossparty seem to be speeding up the normally sluggish BPMs on their new Loud Love release, but more than the tempo it’s the off-kilter vocal melodies of Varvara Shueva which lends tracks like “Heavenlygarden” some left-field appeal, and aids the project’s crossing dreampop and techno streams.
LOUD LOVE by CROSSPARTY

Rendered & Black Egg, “Armenia Redux”
Even on their own, Rendered and Black Egg are projects featuring members with accomplished discographies from across the industrial, noise, and techno realms. Factor in trying to track their recent singles released via Unknown Pleasures, a + w, and Fleisch and the question of what to expect from a collab between the two projects becomes very open. The No Compromise 12″ smoothly brings together those diverse sounds and styles, though, with tracks like this shifting from foggy atmospheres to tightly grooved EBM with aplomb.
TRPLM004 – No Compromise by Black Egg & Rendered

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Outland: Hypnoskull at Maschinenfest

We’re happy to feature a full report from Martin Eigengrau on “Die Zukunft findet nicht mehr statt”, Hypnoskull’s performance piece at the final Maschinenfest. We talked a bit about Hypnoskull’s longer legacy a couple of months back, and were intrigued by the video and photos we saw of the performance trickling out of Maschinenfest. Let’s get to Martin’s take on Hypnoskull’s audacious performance.

Hypnoskull at Maschinenfest

I.

At the moment the performance is supposed to start, the stage is empty: No artist, no equipment. It is Sunday night at the final Maschinenfest which has been throwing an incredible lineup at the audience for two and a half days now with machine-like precision and flawless organization. Hypnoskull is the 27th artist supposed to play, and the irritation as the rhythm of the festival is interrupted is immediate.

But then, suddenly, projected on a screen that fills the entire stage, is a man wearing a business suit and a balaclava, standing somewhere outside, facing the camera, starting to talk into a microphone. Even in the first moments of confusion, we register that this seems to be a live broadcast, not something prerecorded. He addresses the audience, reading some kind of manifesto in an urgent tone. All this is happening very fast, and amidst the general confusion, it is hard to follow his speech – something about how we don’t have a clue what is going on, about this period of change, about the angel of history, about fascism happening in the name of progress, and Die Zukunft findet nicht statt, as he briefly switches to German.

In the meantime, some of us have figured out that he must be outside the back of the hall, so we start to run there – just in time to see a big door open, the guy walking in, accompanied by the camera crew (still streaming everything to the big screen), some security folks and people pushing in a goddamn car. That car looks like something out of Mad Max, with the hood full of sound equipment, a mess of gold and silver foil on the roof and yes, there is a skull.

The strange little convoy makes its way through the bewildered audience, stopping somewhere in the middle of the hall. Hypnoskull (Patrick Stevens himself, supported by Dutch producer Kubus) jumps out and start playing, right there, with all the stuff on the car.

We are still trying to take in all the details, turning heads between the spectacle in front of us and its larger-than-life reproduction on the giant screen – when the mess of metallic foil on the cars roof suddenly starts to move, unfolds like a pair of wings, and there he stands on the roof of the car: the angel (Raachid Lachir), pale and nude except for some foil around his waist. His arms outstretched, his foil-wings shaking and flattering in an invisible wind, weak and ecstatic.

II.

At this moment, what is happening at the Turbinenhalle has already been transformed from the ritualized concert experience into something far less predictable. But this has only been the prelude, and the whole thing takes another unexpected and violent turn as a couple of security guards (performers Audrey Apers and Jan Deboom) start to attack the angel, beating him down from the car, tearing at his wings. He neither fights back nor tries to escape, just endures it. As he loses his first wing, he manages to climb up on the car again, once more spreading his remaining wing to the cheers of the audience. But that doesn’t last for long, as the assault continues. During the following twenty minutes, the angle is beaten down again and again, pushed to the ground, his wings completely torn away. Sometimes, it seems like the attackers are almost embracing him, maybe nursing him back to just enough strength so that they can further degrade him. At one point, a bottle of champagne is opened and forcefully poured into his mouth, and some audience members also get their share. At another point, the female attackers leads audience members to the almost unconscious angel, instructing them to kiss his hands, in a gesture that seems like a twisted version of religious devotion.

At least once, someone from the audience tries to intervene and protect the angel and is forced back.

And during all the time, Hypnoskull is operating their sound equipment, that dangerous looking mess of knobs and cables on the hood of the car, providing a soundtrack of distorted beats and deafening noise.

When the angel finally stops moving all together and is carried out of the hall by the security guards, the whole tension that has built up during the performance is released. We dance and rave around the fucked-up car, in the puddle of champagne, in the half-dark of the Turbinenhalle. It feels completely wild and anarchic, there is not separation between audience and stage, just the pagan horde around the industrial shamans and their totemic car.

III.

On a pure visceral level, what Hypnoskull did was an incredible success. It was completely unexpected and unpredictable, it felt urgent and dangerous, it built up and released immense tension in the audience, it was a performance that I am sure will be talked about for years. However, when trying to figure out what they were actually trying to communicate, what the message was (if there was one), we felt pretty lost.

A valuable hint was given on Hypnoskull’s Facebook page, where Patrick calls it “A performance based upon the ‘Angelus Novus’ monoprint by Paul Klee and the essay that was written about it by Walter Benjamin.” The essay in question is part of Benjamins Theses on the Philosophy of History – the last major work of the German Jewish philosopher which he wrote shortly before his suicide in 1940, on his flight from the Nazis. The passage in question reads as follows:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

Trying to use this as a key to decipher the performance, however, leaves me scratching my head once more: If it was the Angel of History we saw beaten, who were the attackers? Fascists? Did the forceful removal of his wings mean he is no longer blown away by the storm that we call progress? Would it allow him to stay in the present and start his healing work? I clearly recognize the motives, but can’t get the symbols and metaphors to match up.

The initial manifesto that may have provided some context was dropped at us fast and without warning, so nobody was really able to follow it. In the meantime however, the new Hypnoskull album The Manichaean Consciousness has been released, and a text that comes with it is probably the manifesto from the performance – I can’t say for sure if it is exactly identical, but I recognize enough passages to know that it is at least a variation of it.

this is not an apology. this is a statement. an attempt to not suffer in these times of violent dualism. the era of the false glorification of the so called reason and the well thought over argument. the era where some of us believe we can fight opponents by using the pen, the argument, the thought. how i wish i could agree with them. how i wish the opponents would have the exact same spirit. yet they don’t.

This initial statement is clearly a taking the stance on a question that has become more urgent during the last two years: How do you deal with rising fascism, and with the fascists using the rights provided to them by an open society to attack this very openness?

I’ll leave it to the reader check out the rest and dive deeper into it. There is a desperate struggle to communicate that which can’t be put into words – I have no idea how to use all the words in such a manner they don’t end up being distorted by connotations – in these thoughts about fascism and dissidents and internalized oppression. It reminds me that the human impulse to reduce complex experiences to a single clear message is often a trap. “Die Zukunft findet nicht statt” as performed at Maschinenfest was maybe a better manifestation of a struggle that is both internal and external, both historical and personal, than any text by Hypnoskull or some random witness’ account could ever be.

Hypnoskull at Maschinenfest

IV.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing for its lack of clear message. It would be easy to criticize it for flaws in execution or conception. It would be easy to make fun of it, because it is always easy to make fun of people who do something strange, like standing on a car and pretending to be an angel.

But to me, none of that matters. Patrick Stevens and his co-conspirators went all in on this. There was nothing half-hearted, no holding back or playing it safe. Raachid Lachir was there, a vulnerable and almost naked angel. Audrey Apers and Jan Deboom where there, playing the bad guys, face to face with a crowd whose reaction to their performance was uncertain. Hypnoskull was there, playing a kick-ass set, with all the equipment on that car, right in the middle of the audience which, at some point, stopped being a mere audience. There was no safety net, no distance, no fear of making a fool of themselves. It was in many regards the most fearless performance I have witnessed in a long time, and it delivered a hopeful glimpse into the potential for disruption that still exists within a genre that in many regards has become ‘just another style of music’.

And it was the perfect high note on which to end the Maschinenfest tradition.

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We Have a Technical 244: Sonny Bono’s Corpse

Human Performance Lab in a hallway of some sort

Whether it’s a matter of strangers getting on the same elevator, twins separated at birth, or just two great tastes which taste great together, Our Thing has plenty of collaborations across its history and styles worthy of consideration and discussion…including the ol’ Pick Five treatment. From power noise to drone, the Senior Staff have a clutch of collaborative projects and releases to discuss, along with Peter Murphy and David J’s recent Vancouver stop celebrating 40 years of Bauhaus. It’s We Have A Technical, babies! If you so desire 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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Hante., “Fierce”

Hante.
Fierce
Metropolis Records/Synth Religion

The appeal of Hélène de Thoury’s work as Hante. isn’t hard to twig. The sound of her first three LPs was situated in the sweet spot (or grey area perhaps) between coldwave and darkwave; cool, european and poised, but delivered with enthusiasm and emotion to keep it relatable. Fourth album Fierce, her first for the US’ Metropolis Records, doesn’t stray far from that formula, but also shows off some of de Thoury’s best work as a producer to date, reinforcing her melancholic compositions with nice, clean studiocraft.

Unified by mood, the record’s 11 tracks (supplemented by two bonus numbers on the CD and digital version) paint the portrait of Hélène de Thoury as tragic figure, constantly reconciling herself to some unnamed ennui. It’s a bit arch and dramatic, but that’s kind of the appeal: a song like “Waiting for a Hurricane” is sold by how fully she commits to the mournful melody, over a bed of tasteful arpeggiation, stringy pads, and a simple 8th note bassline. It’s a mode she makes sound effortless and acts as something of a template for Fierce‘s best numbers; adding in some steely resolve and a slight bump in tempo to make the addictive “Wild Animal” or slowing it down to a near dirge that barely hints at hope on “Silence the Voices”.

With her persona well and truly established throughout, the album possesses some nice collaborative moments to add variety. Foremost is “Nobody’s Watching”, where guests Marble Slave and Fragrance. add contrasting male vocals to what ends up being one of the brighter (if still elegiac) and synthpoppier numbers. “The Moon Song”, which features Box von Düe of Box and the Twins has a pleasing dark cabaret angle, albeit one braced with notes of contempt. Sólveig Matthildur’s contribution to “Unknown” is one of the most striking moments on the whole LP, a Nico-by-way-of Lebanon Hanover deal that underlines Hante.’s connection as a project to the continental synth acts of yesteryear.

While it could use a bit more variety in instrumentation – some late album cuts that are otherwise lovely like “Never Over” suffer a bit from the use of a samey palette of sounds – Fierce is perhaps the most approachable Hante. has been. Both for her own distinctive character, and the ability to convey it, even when sharing or ceding the spotlight to others, it shows an artist who has a full grasp of who they are, and how to best deliver themselves to the world.

Buy it.

FIERCE by Hante.

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Replicas: Worms Of The Earth, “Anāgāmi Redux”

Replicas is the handle we use to write about reissues and archival releases, offering some thoughts on the original material, and whatever additional goodies or format shifts may have been appended. This week, a not-so-old rhythmic noise release receives a radical revision…

Worms Of The Earth - Anāgāmi Redux

Worms Of The Earth
Anāgāmi Redux
self-released

What is it?
Worms Of The Earth’s 2012 LP Anāgāmi marked a change for Dan Barrett’s rhythmic industrial project. Not only were its compositions more ambitious and considered, but thematically the record was aimed at decidedly spiritual themes, a move aided by the implementation of acoustic drums and chimes. With the dissolution of Tympanik, Anāgāmi‘s original label of release, it’s not surprising that Barrett would want to reissue it on his own terms. But those terms turned out to be far, far more drastic than a simple remaster and reupload. Instead, Barrett has reworked and rewritten each and every song to various degrees, to the point that some (as outlined in the painstaking liner notes) are functionally new tracks.

What’s on it?
The renovations undertaken on Anāgāmi Redux are apparent from the get go, though they don’t always rebuild the song in the same style. Sometimes they’re grounded in ceding rhythmic arrangements to club concerns (“Enshrined In The Sacred Stones”), sometimes they’re taken as an opportunity to correct structural flaws Barrett was never content with (“Ceaseless Suffering”). The album’s blending of subgenres is correspondingly refreshed; the IDM ambitions of Barrett’s oft-overlooked Ghosts Of The Clocktower side-project come into closer view via some pinched and wet programming on “1st Jhāna” and “2nd Jhāna”, for instance.

As if a complete revamping of the original LP wasn’t enough, Barrett’s tacked on a trio of hitherto unreleased dark ambient tracks in the mood of Anāgāmi, along with a slew of edits, remixes, and collaborative tracks. Hell, there’s even a good old fashioned hidden track (an extended collaboration with Gydja) which has to be ferreted out of the download via some simple ciphering. Factor in the aforementioned liner notes and there’s a wealth of new music and insight spread across nearly two and a half hours.

Who should buy it?
Fans of either rhythmic noise or tribal industrial are likely to enjoy the core tracks whether they’ve heard the original Anāgāmi or not, and there’s certainly no question of value for money. But above and beyond the music itself, I’d strongly recommend the record to electronic artists interested in process. In the liner notes, Barrett offers invaluable insight not just about what he changed about the record, but also why. He’s not afraid to look critically at his own work and ask tough questions, whether those are are somewhat abstract questions regarding mood or goals, or very tactile ones concerning the processes and gear involved. There’s a lot to be taken from those inquiries, and in comparing the original record with this redux, there’s also an excellent object lesson in what they can yield.

Anāgāmi Redux by Worms of the Earth

Buy it.

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Tracks: January 21st, 2019

It looks as though our We Have A Commentary podcast on Chemlab’s Burnout At The Hydrogen Bar did pretty well for itself; evidently we weren’t the only ones keen to cast an eye back to Jared Louche’s sleazy cyberpunk beginnings. In case anyone’s unaware, commentary podcasts like that are produced once a month thanks to our Patreon backers. In a perfect world, they’re an opportunity to both remind ourselves of why we first became fascinated with a particular record, and in researching it perhaps find some new reasons to keep listening. We’d like to think this last one fit the bill, so thanks for checking it out! On with this week’s Tracks.

Herr Myer

Body Beat Ritual, “Crash Report”
Another body music act from the simmering Oceanic region, Body Beat Ritual tap into the rawer, less overtly dance oriented aspect of EBM for their forthcoming double-A side single. Listen to the way the drums are programmed and the bubbling bass sequence, along with the pitchy lead sounds and degraded samples. This is still groovy, body-moving stuff, but removed from the easy style markers that have rapidly been used up in the recent resurgence of the genre. It’s weapons-grade stuff, and arriving right at the time when a sterner outlook on the style is totally welcome.
Instinct Primitive/Crash Report [HVN004] by Body Beat Ritual

Die Selektion, “Kalter Atem (Tommy Four Seven Remix)”
A full year and a half seems like a bit of a wait for a remix release, especially when we’re only looking at four tracks, but given that the record in question is Die Selektion’s coldwave tour de force Deine Stimme Ist Der Ursprung Jeglicher Gewalt, and we’re looking at some a + w approved remixes, we’ll overlook the statute of limitations. The nimble electro of the original’s swapped out for a frantic kick-fest courtesy of Tommy Four Seven. Few bands saw the shape of things to come as early and as clearly as Die Selektion, and they’re still yet to reap all the rewards of their prescience.
Deine Stimme Ist Der Ursprung Jeglicher Gewalt Remixed by Die Selektion

DSTR, “What Else is There?”
We got to hear Daniel Myer (performing as DSTR) perform this cover of Royksopp’s contemporary classic “What Else is There?” at Terminus Festival last year, just one aspect of a typically memorable performance from the man of many projects. Where the original was at the vanguard of the mid-2000s shift in contemporary dance music, this version has something of a late 90s synth pop feel, like if Wolfsheim had cut the song in their prime. Delightful to have access to this previously live-only gem.
DSTR – What Else Is There (Version) by DSTR

Fractured Transmission, “Operator”
LA’s Nick Viola always comes correct as Fractured Transmission, whether he’s dishing out old school powernoise or taking a cue from contemporary techno sounds. On this, one of three tracks on the latest Fractured Transmission release, we’re getting a little bit of both, with a stormy but sculpted bit of bluster being smoothed out by the mildest hints of bouncing harmonics. A spoonful of sequencing makes the concrete go down.
Clandestine Operator Abroad by Fractured Transmission

Flint Glass, “Deep Phylogeny (Broken Fabiola Edit)”
We would have thought it difficult for Crunch Pod to outdo their previous The Future Of Dreaming comp, but at 47 tracks the second edition thereof is a bandwidth choking beast. Thankfully, on a quick skim the quality control looks solid, with tracks from site friends and faves including Sleep Clinic, 80KV, W.A.S.T.E., Alexandra Atnif, and The Present Moment. It’s always a treat to check in on France’s all too often elusive Flint Glass, who’s pushing further into downtempo territory on this track.
Various: The Future Of Dreaming Vo. 2 by Crunch Pod

IV Horsemenm, “Judex”
While disappointingly not a coldwave tribute to the classic wrestling stable, IV Horsemen’s forthcoming EP on aufnahme + wiedergabe doesn’t lack for a high concept hook. While musically the sound is somewhere between body music and the new wave of European darkwave, the chanted Latin vocals give the whole affair a more ornate and portentous feel. Seems like a perfect fit for a + w, the label that best exemplifies fresh takes on familiar ideas.
Dies Irae by IV Horsemen

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