Observer: Controlled Process & Choke Chain

Controlled Process - Silence And Isolation
Controlled Process
Silence And Isolation
self-released

Montreal’s Controlled Process rep an explicitly anti-fash stance, though without checking the label it might be difficult to detect an ideological stance in their moody and abstract style of minimal synth. Deep and rich but often cold analog synth tones mournfully shift across Silence and Isolation‘s almost wholly instrumental seven tracks, communicating atmospheric early 80s experimentalism. The overall presentation lies somewhere between Lustmord and Carpenter, but also with a distinctly Canadian tang of the sort which is impossible to describe to non-Canucks. While the running titular themes of isolation and silence make it a record well-suited to the stresses of lockdown, the sparse beats of “Silence II (building walls)” carry just enough connective tissue to work on more austere floors. Cinematic and smooth without being slick, there’s some nice accompaniment to the winter of our discontent here.
Silence and isolation by Controlled Process


Choke Chain
Endless Death
self-released

Mark Trueman’s 2020 debut EP as Choke Chain Chain Tactics was one of 2020’s great EBM pleasures; the rawness of the production and the emphatic vocal delivery matched the tension of the worst year in recent memory to an almost paradoxically comforting degree. Trueman’s followup Endless Death builds on the foundation of the predecessor, and shows growth in terms of production and delivery without polishing off the rough edges that gave its predecessor such potency. The mechanized bassline of opener “Blood” is accented by serrated leads, clopping percussion and springy stereo effects that act as a perfect background for the project’s desperate, screeching vocals. “Fear” has Choke Chain slowing down somewhat and providing gaps in the bass and drums for surprisingly delicate whisps of melody to poke through before being annihilated by rapidfire claps and toms. Matters come to a head on “First Strike”, a song that spends far more time establishing it’s minimal groove, slowly introducing degraded pads and tiny bursts of synth and percussion to emerge. Never anything less than bellicose and rough, the four originals and two remixes on Endless Death display an emerging artist’s evolving toolkit and aesthetic in real time. Recommended.
Endless Death by Choke Chain

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We Have A Technical 348: Bombers Content

Kanga

Kanga. Photo by @kngwmn

From the perspective of your co-workers who really wish you’d turn your headphones down, industrial music seems as far removed from pop as is possible. But that ain’t the whole truth! This week’s episode finds the Senior Staff discussing the role pop has played in shaping the sound and delivery of industrial music, as well as contemporary artists who are borrowing more liberally from pop traditions. We’ve also got some talk about forthcoming releases we’re hyped for, in addition to Negative Gain Productions’ cool new digital magazine. 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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Nadragea, “Adat”

Nadragea - Adat

Nadragea
Adat
Aliens Production

Hailing from Hungary, Nadragea have been around in one form or another since the late 90s, keeping a relatively low-profile. Opting for self-releases, tapes on small death industrial labels, and Hungarian vocals may not have spelled instant success for the on-again, off-again sometimes-duo, sometimes-trio, but their approach has given them plenty of time to dial in their aesthetic. New LP Adat finds them putting a strong foot forward, with their grinding dark electro style likely finding some first time listeners on Aliens Production.

A tweaked and rearranged version of a cassette which saw release late last year, Adat‘s made up of eight originals and four remixes taken on in-house using the handles of the members’ various side and solo projects. On first glance, Adat‘s approach seems to be a minimalist and austere one. The spaced-out staccato kicks of opener “Halott Halozat” put a premium on distortion rather than sustained rhythm, and the slow, icily sterile programming behind the drums buttresses an impassive wall of noise. The similarly brusque “Adat Toredek” finds Balazs Varga’s heavily-warped vocals enumerating physical and spiritual encumberment between loping beats and briefly pinched harmonizations.

Over time, though, Nadragea reveal talents beyond brute severity. The fluid, slithering programming and polyrhythms of “Csendes Uzemmod” have a swampy subtlety, and “Logaritmus Protokoll” impresses with dense, mutating percussion emerging from and feinting into a blanket of fog. Much of the charm of these tracks lies in Nadragea breaking from the precision of martial metronomy, allowing them to assemble and deconstruct their own breaks as on the latter track, or explore the chaotic electro-funk of “Szetfagy Minden”.

While never quite reaching the same menacing depths as its most handy points of comparison (The Klinik, Severe Illusion), Adat certainly scratches the mean, unrelenting itch fans of those influences are likely to have at all times. And while the harshness of the presentation might seem unremitting, a closer examination reveals some percussive complexity which should also appeal to long-time dark electro heads.

Buy it.  

Adat by Nadragea

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Total Chroma, “Body Relics”

Total Chroma
Body Relics
Negative Gain Productions

Total Chroma is the solo project of Vancouver’s Robert Katerwol, who has been exploring synthpunk and body music sounds for close to a decade in Weird Candle and Wire Spine. The music on Body Relics is proximal to the sounds of those projects, but leans even further in on Katerwol’s penchant for tense, mutated rhythms and structures. The result is a speedy and sometimes thorny listen that speaks directly to the production and performance style the artist has been cultivating for years.

Body Relics draws heavily from EBM and electro rhythms in places, spiking them with unusual choices in arrangement and discordant wedges of sound design. Opener “Mutation” encapsulates matters perfectly; a spritely synth intro gives way to a burbling bassline, that then ramps up into shouted atonal vocals before the entire track inverts into a dubby mix of bass drones and hall-of-mirrors reverb. Follow-up “I Dream of Fire” establishes a descending bass riff at the outset, driving the track through shimmering metallic pads towards its inevitable conclusion as the once rock solid rhythm programming disassembles itself and dissipates. Highlight “Lost in the Wild” takes an alternate approach, working an FM bass synth hard for the track’s first half before being joined by an array of brassy synths that add carriage and weight to the climax.

Interestingly the record has a number of instrumental interstitial tracks that diverge from their surroundings in intriguing ways. While its brevity might suggest that a song like “Solitude” is a sketch, its dreamy and saturated synth warble and tumbling drum programming serve to break the tension between “I Dream of Fire”‘s conclusion and “No Television”‘s forest of squelchy bass stabs. Late album cut “Metamorphosis” forgoes the body tropes for a speedy techno tempo that gradually drowns in massive waves of molasses-thick noise, with claps poking their head above the surface before being dragged back under.

For those who have been following Katerwol’s career, Body Relics should feel somewhat familiar, if not more confident and polished than ever before. Indeed, for an artist whose sound has relied on discomfit and frustration as drivers sonically, Total Chroma is the artist working in a state of assurance and composure we’ve not yet seen from them. It’s the sound of long-fermenting ideas and approaches resolving themselves, and the payoffs thereof.

Buy it.

Body Relics by Total Chroma

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Tracks: February 8th, 2021

Another Bandcamp Friday has come and gone, and pocketbooks the world over are no doubt a little lighter for it. We’ve been big proponents of the “we give our cut to the artists” practice that started in 2020, for the obvious emphasis on supporting musicians, but also for how it got people excited to buy music on the platform. Like a lot of folks we know, we plan out what new and classic releases we’re going to pick up on BC Friday (the first Friday of every month natch), but this is a quick reminder that it’s always a good day to buy a record by an artist you love or have been meaning to check out no matter when. Give something a spin, see what grabs you. You might even find something in this week’s Tracks!

Dame Area in your area

Veil of Light, “The Prayer Wheel”
Swiss wave act Veil of Light have always been something of a unique quantity, their hard-edged and crunchy production and automated rhythms contrasting nicely with classic post-punk songwriting. “The Prayer Wheel” is the new single from the forthcoming Landslide and is a touch more lowkey than some of their other jams, but a close listen will reveal plenty of distinctive features; FM bass and synths, some smoothly layered percussion and a warbly melody give the track a slightly alien feel. Keep an ear open for this one.
Landslide by VEIL OF LIGHT

Sonic Area, “Blowind”
The aggressive and fractious Chrysalide project may be over and done with, but we can still enjoy a very different side of Arco Trauma’s work. The first new Sonic Area LP in five years has just been released, and Ki comes with an ambitious conceit: exploring the titular Japanese metaphysical concept from a variety of perspectives. It’s tough to gauge exactly how that’ll be executed across a full record just based on this one pre-release track, but if nothing else this piece is reminding us of just how rich and evocative Trauma’s sound design chops can be.
ki by sonic area

Qual, “Life In The Mirror”
Qual’s 2019 Cybercare EP was pound-for-pound one of the strongest club releases of that year, and while we’ve enjoyed William Maybelline’s more broadly known work in Lebanon Hanover of late, we’re very glad that he’s continuing to forge ahead with his misanthropic dark EBM project. New record Tenebris In Lux drops at the beginning of March, and you’d best believe we’ll have some discussion of the full LP then, but until then we’re happy to be checking tense and fraught pieces like this, which perhaps point towards Maybelline’s desire to produce tracks which are “less songy and more textual journeys of cataclysmic doom”.
Tenebris In Lux by QUAL

Newboy, “Florida”
Despite copping the Din LP upon its release, somehow the other new project from Greg Vand (ex High-Functioning Flesh) slipped us by. No matter – the self-titled Newboy tape is on the horizon to get us caught up to speed. From the sounds of this track, we’re in for a tape of lo-fi, tropical-funk body music, which is Vand’s exact wheelhouse.
Newboy by Newboy

Dame Area, “La Danza Del Ferro”
Spanish act Dame Area have been around for a couple of years now, but the new record Ondas Tribales is their first for Mannequin Records. Easy to see why the label (who specialize in left of center wave releases) would be interested in them, as the duo make punky, percussion based tracks that make use of drum machines, live percussion and chatted vocals. It puts us in mind of classics from Crash Course in Science and Liaisons Dangereuses in its focus on awkward funk, a timeless sound that gets by specifically because it’s slightly off-kilter.
MNQ 141 Dame Area – Ondas Tribales by Dame Area

Glass Apple Bonzai, “War Boys (Razorback Hollow remix)”
The always prolific Daniel Belasco has a new Glass Apple Bonzai remix LP out, and with a line-up of contributors that would have grabbed our attention even if we weren’t already devotees of the Canadian synthpop phenomenon. Sure, there are mixes by Grendel, The Rain Within, Nite, V▲LH▲LL and Esoterik, but we’re most taken with this cut “War Boys” remixed by DXB himself under his post-industrial/EBM guise Razorback Hollow, splitting the difference between Cabs and Portion Control, and GAB’s own sweet synth leanings. Oh what a lovely day!
Late Nite Menu by Glass Apple Bonzai

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Observer: Konstantin Unwohl & Baroque / Notausgang


Konstantin Unwohl
Im Institut Für Strömungstechnik
aufnahme + wiedergabe

Hamburg based producer and performer Konstantin Unwohl’s first release for aufnahme + wiedergabe builds nicely on the melodic wave sounds he has previously released. Located somewhere between the minimalism of classic synthpop and contemporary minimal sounds, the music on Im Institut Für Strömungstechnik uses straightforward melodies and arrangements to spotlight Unwohl’s own voice. Highlight “Ich Wollte Nie Museumsbauer Werden” shows the power of this approach, as a speedy double kick and pinchy bass sequence establish a mood of urgency, with Unwohl’s distinctive baritone playing out on top amongst emotional pads. That track’s emotion isn’t unique to the album, as on the slight and simple synth-ballad “Amarillo” Unwohl explores a similar feeling of loss and longing, ramping up his delivery when required to really drive home the mournful tone. Closing track “Auf Einem Hügel” splits the difference somewhat, layering in solid rhythm section bounce and a rich bed of reverbs, fluttering synths and synth strings for alternately desperate and despairing vocal passages. Unwohl’s successes stem from not playing the solemn affect this style of music is often given to, and instead performing with a sense of incisive sincerity.
Im Institut Für Strömungstechnik by Konstantin Unwohl

Baroque / Notausgang
Baroque / Notausgang
Body Resistance
FORKHA

For its latest split, new Brazilian tape label FORKHA has tapped a pair of acts well-suited to its celebration of the “rigid, untouchable body” as a site of rebellion. Having already drawn upon raw EBM and TBM acts from around the globe, Body Resistance keeps up the globetrotting with three tracks each from Japan’s Baroque (a new name to us, despite having a decade of credits), and France’s Notausgang (whose last tape impressed with its bounce and swing). Baroque’s pieces add hazy smoke and chilly ambiance to acid basslines, and though we’re hearing more modern Portion Control than early Revell in “SPK”, the hard metallic percussion keeps things nicely regimented. The quirky reverb and textures that are applied to Notausgang’s rhythms retain the disarming charm of previous tracks, but tunes like “The Night Rider” also know when to cede to simplicity and allow no-frills, grimy dark techno to hold sway. A nicely compact introduction to both acts, with some solid DJ options.
Body Resistance by Notausgang

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We Have A Technical 347: Like Last Week

Manuskript

Peep the Manuskript.

Deep genre records from Z Prochek and Manuskript have Alex and Bruce talking about the odd intersections of sounds and styles only possible at particular periods in industrial and goth history. The tragic passing of Sophie and the recent allegations made against Marilyn Manson are also discussed. 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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Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Fallacy of Fairness”

Girlfriends and Boyfriends
Fallacy of Fairness
Oráculo Records

Vancouver post-punk quartet Girlfriends and Boyfriends’ third LP shows some tremendous growth in terms of songwriting and delivery. While the jangly, bass-forward sound that defines the album flows nicely from their murky 2015 album Your Garden, Fallacy of Fairness is strictly a brighter and more accessible affair; the production is cleaner, the songs are hookier, and the grooves deeper. Part of the key to the record’s uplift is a general sense of liveliness and gloomy fun, with the band try on numerous stylistic hats over the course of its ten tracks.

At their core Girlfriends and Boyfriends write and play groovy, danceable dark rock tunes with easy to grasp melodies. It’s a style with no shortage of classic antecedents and modern adherents from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry through to G&F’s fellow Vancouverites ACTORS, and one that rewards memorable melodies and general songcraft. Thankfully Girlfriends and Boyfriends hold their own in that arena; whether going the anthemic route on the big chorused “Forever By My Side” or layering shimmery guitars over a busy rhythm section on “Memento Mori” the focus remains on getting the hook over.

Intriguingly, the record also features a few notable variations in execution that show Girlfriends and Boyfriends in a different light. The most obvious of these is “Colour Shining Bright”, where the band dive in hard on glammy British new wave, adorning the track with synth toms, orch hits and a disco bassline fit for John Taylor. Elsewhere “Dirty Words” has a Smiths-esque bounce and lyrical conceit – “You wouldn’t hate me so much if you didn’t care” is just the right side of hand-to-forehead melodrama to warrant the comparison. The band even touch on goth rock on “Heaven Help Me”, as sampled strings and the vamping from guest vocalist Lindsay Leigh Dakin offer up darkwave grandeur.

It’d be backhanded to call Fallacy of Fairness unexpected in terms of quality, but to be totally frank it is something of an arrival for Girlfriends and Boyfriends. Moreso than any of their previous recorded material or live performances we’ve caught locally, it shows them as an act with honest to goodness tunes, and no shortage of ideas or energy in delivering them. A really pleasant surprise and a strong contender in the current North American post-punk landscape.

Buy it.

Fallacy of Fairness by GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS

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Tati Au Miel, “Solar Return”

Tati Au Miel, "Solar Return"

Tati au Miel
Solar Return
self-titled

Montreal producer Tati au Miel brings raw noise, field recordings, and moments of still beauty to their new record, Solar Return. Following up 2019 EP The Exorcism Of Tania Daniel, full of wet glitch and classic power electronics, plus a gabber-inspired remix for Special Interest last year, Solar Return‘s compositions are more austere than those previous works, but in short order conjure a range of experiences and emotions.

Solar Return‘s abrasive side matches up with its political and confessional themes – chopped and mutated field recordings from BLM protests and accounts of various people’s dreams and anecdotes are paired alongside slabs of slowly shifting pure noise and unparseable stacks of samples and feedback. It’s a technique which ends up amplifying the experiences the vocal samples point to, making them feel more tangible and present, rather than obscuring them with abstraction. That hyperreal saturation of mood and emotion also applies to the record’s serene elements, like the ascending chimes of “Sunset Village” which add resonance to the koan-like guest vocals of NY digipoet Yatta.

Even when they’re not directly referring to personal experience or recent events, au Miel provides space for heavy reflection: check the deep, classically industrial burbles and soupy reverb of “Only Textures”. “Fog ASMR” isn’t just a clever name, it’s a pretty apt description of the tingling effects of the drones and static which gradually envelop a more squalling initial noise, blanketing raw agitation in a mist of death, relief, or both.

Solar Return manages to be both a nerve-wracking listen and a deeply comforting one, no mean feat for a lean twenty-five minutes. au Miel’s technical ear for solid, engrossing noise is ably matched by their emotional instincts and disregard for limitations of genre or style. Solar Return is deep, soul-touching stuff.

Buy it.

Solar Return by Tati au Miel

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Tracks: February 1st, 2021

We just wanted to use this space to give a shout-out to all of the fine folks in our Telekon Slack community who’ve been helping to make it such a welcoming and constructive place of late. You don’t need us to tell you about how much pain, difficulty, and anxiety that *gestures vaguely* all of this is causing, and it’s been heartening to see our ad hoc community providing support and an open ear as we all deal with our own shit. You folks are the best.

King Yosef

King Yosef recreating the classic DSBM promo photos of yore.

Youth Code x King Yosef, “Burners”
The mighty Youth Code return, and they brought a friend with them: their forthcoming release is a collab with noted underground trap and hip-hop producer King Yosef. The collab honestly makes a lot of sense: Yosef’s production and vocal style is hard-edged and rough, and is sympatico with the direction of recent YC productions, emphasizing hardcore-style rhythms and breakdowns. Youth Code have consistently moved forward, and it’s good to hear them doing something not altogether different, but certainly unexpected with their return. Peep “Burner” below, and get ready for some talk about this one, should be major.

Total Chroma, “Mutation”
We’ve been waiting for the debut LP from Robert Katerwol’s Total Chroma for a couple years, basically since we first had the pleasure of catching the Wire Spine/Weird Candle/Verboden impressario debut the punky body project live. Come to find out that said debut Body Relics is dropping this Friday, February 5th on Negative Gain! Relish the mutated melodics and bent body music styles of lead track “Mutation” and be ready for the release: we have a feeling this one is gonna be a corker.
Body Relics by Total Chroma

Klack, “Rhythm Of The System (Nevada Hardware Remix)”
The slate of contributors found on Klack’s forthcoming remix comp, Deklacked, Vol 1 is impressive: mixes from Tom Shear, Susan Subtract, Alex Reed, and Patrick freakin’ Codenys are just some of the tracks we’re looking forward to checking out this Friday. But you don’t have to wait until then to get on board (all aboard, whoa) with Nevada Hardware’s stadium house rendering of “Rhythm Of The System”, which has enough juice to power even the most dedicated digital crate-digger through Bandcamp Friday’s impending madness.

klack · Rhythm Of The System (Nevada Hardware Remix)

Black Dahlia, “Last Night In Belgium”
Who loves synth-bass? We sure do, and we’re guessing if you read this site you might have an appetite for it as well. Australia’s Black Dahlia is gearing up for a tape on X-IMG, and tunes like this point to an immediate fusion of EBM and new beat, replete with a steady synth-bass slap that scratches a very particular itch. Little bit of giallo sneaking into the corners, and not just in the visual aesthetic, either.
Animasochist [X-IMG21] by Black Dahlia

Girlfriends and Boyfriends, “Colour Shining Bright”
Hell of vintage new wave styles from Vancouver post-punkers Girlfriends and Boyfriends on their sophomore LP out now on Spain’s Oráculo Records (who have been on absolute fire for the last half a year or so). Shiny, uplifting post-punk has been a constant in our listening for the last while, and we’re happy to hear a band tap into some of the style’s more funky aspects. Dig the orch hits, the Duran Duran bassline and the synth toms on cut “Colour Shining Bright”, and look out for a review to drop this week here on I Die: You Die.
Fallacy of Fairness by GIRLFRIENDS AND BOYFRIENDS

Manticore Kiss, “Aboulia”
Also from Vancouver but decidedly less upbeat is the first single from new duo Manticore Kiss. Classic goth in every sense of the word, they’re bringing a mix of cello, drum machine, and operatic vocals to a swirly number that’s both immediate and miserablist. Reminds us of drifting around the Purple Onion’s dancefloor to Lady Maleficent’s sets lo those many years ago…
Aboulia by Manticore Kiss

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We Have A Commentary: Spark!, “Hela Din Värld”

Spark! - Hela din värld

The Senior Staff are discussing a modern EBM classic in Spark!’s Hela Din Värld in this month’s Patreon-supported commentary podcast! In 2012 Mattias Ziessow and Stefan Brorsson added ambitious pop instrumentation and melody to their established anhalt EBM template, and produced one of the most enjoyable records it’s been our pleasure to write about and discuss on I Die: You Die. We’re discussing themes of conspiracy and humanism, breaking down the percussive structures which propel the record, and even working in some Nabokov and Mega Man! 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: Bacon Grease & Zona Utopica Garantita

Bacon Grease - The Slow Burn
Bacon Grease
The Slow Burn
Popnihil

Florida’s Bacon Grease, AKA Andrea Knight, wields a lo-fi array of synths which, at a component level, will be familiar to regular denizens of experimental shows. But on 70+ minute tape The Slow Burn, Knight uses those elements to tap into an uncommonly wistful mood. Drawn out and spacious, kicks and phases which might sound confrontational or claustrophobic in another context feel warm and dreamy. Despite the improvisational and impressionistic vibe of these pieces, they never feel repetitive or aimless (or, on the flip side, “hypnotic”). Instead, like Debussy pieces, they seem to flow in accord with unseen poles and forces. For every pinched or squared-off synth line which ambles along jovially, there’ll be Knight’s vocals flitting phantasmagoric in the background, speaking to everyday life, love, and struggle. It’s an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ record in terms of style and construction, but retains a tasteful minimalism throughout, and has a gentle, thoughtful, and at times joyous spirit.
The Slow Burn by Bacon Grease


Zona Utopica Garantita
ZUG! ZUG! ZUG!
Oráculo Records

Spain’s Orácula Records has been on a roll lately, identifying interesting artists from the industrial and darkwave spectrum and getting them on board for not only original releases, but vinyl and cassette compilations of their previously released material. One such release is ZUG! ZUG! ZUG! by Italian quartet Zona Utopica Garantita, which draws tracks from their 2020 LP Sexy Garage. ZUG draw from a few arenas, specifically the proto-body music sounds of DAF as well as punk and no wave influences, mushed together with artful weirdness. “Afro Musik” combines a simple FM bassline with vocalist Jules’ warble and chintzy keys for a charmingly bouncy bit outré death disco. “Volkswagon Punk” leans a little further into the synthpunk side of their sound, attaching rolling toms and random bits of percussion to the proceedings. Stranger is “Vortice”, an organ adorned bit of ascending synth noodling and seemingly random poetics formed around a rapidfire kickdrum. The highlight is “Sexy Garage”, an effectively send up of body music’s mechanical obsession, delivered with campy aplomb. It’s strange music no doubt, but in ways that display a specific and intentional sense of humour that translates well – the tossed off energy of the EP makes Zona Utopica Garantita sound like they’d be a lot of fun to see on stage.
ZUG! ZUG! ZUG! by ZONA UTOPICA GARANTITA

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We Have A Technical 346: What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse

V. Vale

V.Vale of RE/Search. By jm3, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Pick Five format returns, with Alex and Bruce each highlighting some behind the scenes folks. Be they engineers, writers, label heads, or DJs, there are countless people who’ve helped to shape the music and culture we discuss who aren’t as front-facing as the musicians themselves. We’re discussing them, plus some Neubauten business on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Kurs, “Muter”

Kurs - Muter

Kurs
Muter
Swiss Dark Nights

New Italian act Kurs approaches their debut LP with rare confidence: a cyberpunk concept record complete with its own graphic novel isn’t a typical opening gambit. But thankfully the execution of the music itself more than meets that ambition, and in Muter yields a satisfying and varied record which shows a canny knack for rich and weighty electro-industrial.

Sole Kurs member Valerio Rivieccio isn’t a total newcomer, having cut his teeth in darkwave act The Coventry, but the grinding and dense programming which makes up the lion’s share of Muter is a far cry from the former project’s sleekly accessible sound. Dark, burbling programming, clanging percussive fills, and the odd well-timed stab of processed guitar finds Kurs shifting from the slinky yet utterly cruel “Shatter”, and the speedy, raging storm of “Wayout”. Tracks like these are ably linked by introductory and segue pieces which actually do the work of linking separate pieces and priming the ear for forthcoming sounds. It’s a bit difficult to piece together the whole thread of Muter‘s concept without the accompanying liner notes, but even without it carries the classic ebb, flow, and unity which rewards repeat full listens.

Muter is up-front about its debt to formative electro-industrial as well as more recent acts. At different points it’s easy to catch hints of classic FLA, Haujobb, Statiqbloom, Sequencer-era Covenant, and the menacing mystique of that most beguiling of the bands who got away, Interlace. Those are some pretty heavy-hitters to mention in comparison to a debuting project, but Muter never sounds derivative, and a combination of Rivieccio’s confident vocals and relatively complex arrangements keeps the record driving forward through its own momentum.

Muter is the sort of record we at I Die: You Die wake up each day hoping we’ll discover – something fully realized and developed (rather than just promising future returns) from an artist who’s brand new to us. Kurs is using familiar genre styles and sounds to produce an album with its own distinct flavour and character, and with some killer tracks to boot: no mean feat. Recommended.

Buy it.

Muter by Kurs

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Balvanera, “Courses of Action”

Balvanera
Courses of Action
DKA Records

While the electro-darkwave sound that Balvanera work in is very of the moment, it’s also one the Argentinian duo have been plying for half a decade. While comparisons to the undisputed leaders of the style Boy Harsher and Zanias are warranted, the music on the duo’s sophomore LP Courses of Action shows a nervier and more anxious edge that pushes up against the borders of synthpunk in energizing ways.

Balvanera’s modus operandi is pretty easy to discern; muscly pared down electro and body basslines matched against straight kick-snare patterns, with ghostly synth leads and desperate vocals. Opener “Medium” is about as good as a primer for the project as you could ask for – the thudding percussion and hypnotic melody suggest smoke machines and strobe lights, shot through with a tension that punches through the track’s aloof veneer. Songs like “Gleams” and “My Mind Against Me” hammer home that sense of dread and impending collapse with their use of atonal leads whirring and buzzing through the stereo spectrum.

While the sound design of the LP is consistent and at points somewhat samey, Balvanera do vary up their delivery in some intriguing ways. “New Ways” has the funk and forboding of a Belgian-styled EBM track of the variety that would birth new beat when played at the wrong RPM. “Disarray” skeletonizes the approach of the surrounding tracks down to a simple assemblage of keening pads, one simple bass figure, suggesting minimal and cold wave vibes. For my money the most notable moment on the LP is speedy closing track “¿Cuánto resiste el cuerpo?”, an upbeat EBM cut that makes the most of delayed claps and a tightly sequenced bassline to invoke funky menace.

Courses of Action does a lot of things right as an LP; it keeps things moving, explores bordering styles without losing its own sensibility and identity. With it, Balvanera have zeroed in handily on their specific approach to modern, dancefloor-appropriate darkwave.

Buy it.

Courses of Action by Balvanera

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Tracks: January 25th, 2021

It’s been real busy times for Bandcamp lately; the runaway success of BC Fridays was a huge deal for artists using the platform in 2020, and it looks like we’ve seen a corresponding increase in bands adding massive amounts of catalogue material to the platform. That’s great news, as it’s meant that suddenly pre-millennial Canadian rhythmic noise, good singles from futurepop also-rans and a ton of out of print stuff from labels like Celtic Circle have made the platform in recent weeks. Of course, there’s also been an uptick in very sketchy profiles uploading material that they definitely don’t have the rights to, so take a moment when you’re hovering over that buy button to check and see if the release looks legit. Believe us, it’s usually pretty obvious when it isn’t.

Balvanera

Balvanera

Continues, “Marauders”
A new track from Dan Gatto’s Continues? Have our ears bewitched us with sweet whispers of Xanadu? We’re not shy about professing our love for this project (on the real, wanting to interview Dan was the event that sparked the founding of this website), so getting something from them is always cause for celebration, especially in the context of a really cool compilation: Das Bunker 5: The Lost Comp was originally being put together for release by the legendary LA club event in 2013, before being cancelled. Now some eight years later it’s being released and is a time capsule of some of the coolest acts of the era: VALIS, //TENSE//, High-Functioning Flesh and 3Teeth are all represented, many with previously unreleased numbers. A real treasure trove/time capsule sort of release you’ll want to peep for yourself.
Das Bunker 5 (The Lost Comp) by Continues

Kirlian Camera, “The 8th President”
We weren’t especially taken with the last LP from Kirlian Camera, though Angelo and Elena on an off-day is still better than 90% of darkwave acts out there. Still, we’re happy that the first single from upcoming album Cold Pills is not only a return to high form, but also shows off the band’s more experimental and indulgent side. Rich, rolling, and downright weird, “The 8th President” hearkens back to the more dramatic sounds from their Black Summer Choirs LP, and perhaps even further to the misty depths of Still Air.
The 8th President by Kirlian Camera

Total Chroma, “Mutation”
We’ve been waiting for the debut LP from Robert Katerwol’s Total Chroma for a couple years, basically since we first had the pleasure of catching the Wire Spine/Weird Candle/Verboden impressario debut the punky body project live. Come to find out that said debut Body Relics is dropping February 5th on Negative Gain! Relish the mutated melodics and bent body music styles of lead track “Mutation” and be ready for the release: we have a feeling this one is gonna be a corker.
Body Relics by Total Chroma

Balvanera, “New Ways”
The South American body music explosion continues apace, with the second LP from Argentina’s Balvanera just seeing release courtesy of the fine folks at DKA. The band’s new to us, but a quick skim at tracks like this points to some savvy use of a suite of sounds similar to Boy Harsher’s, albeit with some additional rubbery new beat flavour.
Courses of Action by Balvanera

A Projection, “Darwin’s Eden”
Metropolis Records has a spotty history with post-punk and wave acts; while they’ve put out music by indisputedly great acts like Agent Side Grinder, they’ve also released out a lot of pretty forgettable dross in the genre. Happy to report that the latest single from Sweden’s A Projection falls squarely in the win category: tasteful synthwave production matches some austere Scandinavian pop sensibility with dancefloor appeal. Definitely not what we were expecting, and has got us inclined to check in with this act going forward. More of this please!
Darwin's Eden by A Projection

Jackal Mask, “On The Shore Of The Dream Sea”
Lastly, some trippy and metaphysically minded dark ambient from Jackal Mask, the new project from the artist behind Vancouver’s Inexora project. Murky and drippy (aided by mastering from Brant Showers), the three pieces from the new Somnolent Metamorphosis release do an nice job of communicating the feel of the Lovecraftian dream pieces they take inspiration from. Should appeal if you dig the dronier and trippier side of Controlled Bleeding.
Somnolent Metamorphosis by Jackal Mask

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Front Line Assembly, “Mechanical Soul”

Front Line Assembly
Mechanical Soul
Metropolis Records

Bill Leeb’s Front Line Assembly is a band that exists broadly in eras, from the earliest demos and explorations of their electro-industrial sound, through their golden era in the early to mid nineties and then through numerous stylistic experiments with electronica and modern EDM production styles up to the present. Mechanical Soul is the second LP of the current incarnation of the band, an era defined by the return of the Rhys Fulber to the FLA fold, and the application of his considerable production skill to the band’s current melange of industrial and electronic sounds. Unlike its predecessor Wake Up the Coma, which felt like it was trying out numerous ideas and styles with mixed results, Mechanical Soul feels unified and refined in approach. That unanimity across the record’s ten originals is both a blessing and a curse; it’s an excellently produced LP with plenty of grooves, but infrequently shifts out of first gear.

Leeb and Fulber have had a decades long on and off working relationship, which might account for the generally comfortable and smooth feel of the record. Check out lead single “Unknown”: a classic Front Line bassline is supplemented by deep rolling synths and Leeb’s processed vocal delivery, breaking out into a shockingly lush chorus accented with string pads and layers of synth programming. While not mellow, it has a calm and reflective spirit that ends up feeling surprisingly reassuring. That’s a unique tone in the FLA catalogue, and one the album approaches not entirely successfully a few more times: see the buzzing, spacey tones on “New World” that never quite coalesce into a full song, or the slow rolling ending track “Time Lapse” that is perhaps just a bit too laid back in arrangement for its massive crashing synth textures.

Indeed, the issue with Mechanical Soul is often the songwriting. While the return to basics often starts promisingly – see the DAF-like bass sequence that opens the record on “Purge” – too many songs lack memorable choruses or hooks and pass by in a haze of admittedly excellent production and tasteful sequencing. Leeb’s characteristic vocals certainly lend traditional flavour to the record, but never rise to the level of his work on classic anthems.

This isn’t to say that the record is bereft of charms – they’re just far more subtle than we’re used to hearing on a FLA record. The reprisal of Jean-Luc De Meyer’s vocals for “Future Fail” on 2006’s Artificial Soldier, now here applied to a wholly original musical composition in “Barbarians”, is unexpected but works well. The grand elegy for a falling empire the lyrics demand is delivered by Fulber’s rich and regally rolling downtempo programming. The stripped-down EBM minimalism of “Komm, Stirbt Mit Mir” perhaps borrows a page from the industrial spaciousness of Fulber’s forays into contemporary techno, and sprinkles in just a whiff of classic electro-industrial programming to adorn its rubbery rhythm with some smokey miasma.

There’s no question that Mechanical Soul represents a leaner iteration of FLA than those we’ve had at hand for many, many years. While at times that does sound like a return to the project’s roots, at others it sounds like an attempt to harmonize the band with the current electronic milieu. The question of whether individual tracks sound more like Caustic Grip or Berghain may rest in the ear of the listener, but those judgments may take a while to settle – to be frank we’re still finding our opinions on individual tracks shifting. That’s not the worst thing: the place of individual records within a legacy as long as FLA’s isn’t something to be rushed.

Buy it.

Mechanical Soul by Front Line Assembly

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We Have A Technical 345: What Would You Have Me Do?

Minuit Machine

Minuit Machine

The classic two albums format brings discussion of Minuit Machine’s Violent Rains – an early example of the current wave of European darkwave we’re continuing to enjoy – and Moskwa TV’s Dynamics & Discipline – less an LP than a field testing of mid-80s electronic dancefloor sounds from Talla 2XLC & co. All that plus playing catch-up with the latest batch of (conflicting?) Coil reissues in this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Fractions, “Violent Eyes”

Fractions
Violent Eyes
Fleisch

We may have hit the point of diminishing returns in the realm of techno/EBM crossover music; as the style has risen in popularity over the last decade, we’ve also seen a preponderance of producers jumping on the bandwagon without bringing anything new to the table. Prague-based duo Fractions have bucked that trend in a big way since their debut EP in 2018, utilizing a direct formula. Simply put, Fractions understand the power of a big body music bassline, and how to center it in their tracks to create the grooviness that so many of their peers forgo.

Their debut LP for Berlin’s Fleisch Violent Eyes has Fractions leading with their strengths. The title track and opener should tell you most of what you need to know about their work; a straightforward but insistent bass sequence feeds into some swinging drum machine programming, enhanced by thudding toms, funky cymbal patterns, and murky synth textures. It’s a straightforward example of the project’s style but an effective one, establishing a template that Fractions can iterate on in ways both subtle and overt.

Big departures are easy to spot: check the breakbeat breakdown on “Loneliness (is the Killer)” (a style they experimented with heavily on 2019’s Constellations), or the acid inflections on “Body Limit” that pull the track in a more explicitly techno direction. Less obviously, you can hear nods to the sort of 90s soundtrack electronica Fractions have acknowledged as an influence on the thick blurry synths that inform the groove on “Neuromediator”, and a slight de-emphasis on bass and drums “Pleasure Frequency” to align with the guest vocal from Fleisch boss and patron saint of body-influenced darkwave Zanias. They’re variations that are clever and intriguing, and don’t read as major departures from the core sound of the LP.

With all that said, Violent Eyes can be a bit exhausting to listen to in a single sitting. The tempos are high and every track seems geared for potential dancefloor action – less of an issue when the band were doing exclusively EPs, but the long play format means some of each track’s individual charms can be lost in a single 47 minute sitting. Still, given the quality of its component parts it’s a record that earns replays and deeper examination. Fractions know what makes them unique in a sea of similarly minded producers, and that clarity of vision and focus shows.

Buy it.

Violent Eyes by FRACTIONS

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Mala Herba, “Demonologia”

Mala Herba - Demonologia
Mala Herba
Demonologia
aufnahme + wiedergabe

Tracking Zosia Hołubowska’s work as Mala Herba over the past several years has been a treat. Demos and one-offs have allowed Hołubowska to hone their style, while also steadily assembling a rep for deep, emotive darkwave that’s paid off in recent profiles on The Quietus and Bandcamp Daily. That Demonologia has landed on aufnahme + wiedergabe has likely helped draw some new ears to Hołubowska’s work, and deservedly so. But newcomers may be surprised to find that Mala Herba has far more in common with the label’s roots in darkwave and minimal synth than its recent TBM dominance. Demonologia arrives as the full realization of the project’s potential, alternately raging and beautiful, and all hinging on captivating vocals.

Demonologia brings together just about all of the sounds and moods Mala Herba has previously field tested (a pair of tracks from the demos appear here in radically reworked iterations), often bringing them together in the same track. Just one track in and the trade offs between chunky synth rhythms, ethereal ambiance and expressive vocals falling somewhere between those of Anneli Drecker of Bel Canto and Kristin Hayter are established. It’s a record with plenty of rhythmic immediacy but isn’t placating the dancefloor – experimental vocal detours, and off-kilter synth funk are just as commonplace as groovy nodders like “Wszystko Marność”.

Power is also found in the contrast between the lo-fi, unapologetically grimy keys which push tracks like “Dawaj” and “Lament” along and the subtlety with which Hołubowska’s voice is recorded and mixed, wavering in the background at times before swooping to the fore, ornamented by gossamer pads. That approach gives Demonologia a varied delivery while still lending its electronic elements a raw, organic weight.

The political specifics of the lyrics may go over the heads of non-Polish speakers like yours truly, but between Hołubowska’s activism and the witchy cover art (personally, I’m reminded of Kate Beaton’s straw feminists), the focus on marginalized bodies reclaiming power is clear. Hołubowska has a clear ear for what makes rhythmic synths work, but obviously has just as much interest in keeping the thematics up front. Whether you’re approaching it as the long-awaited breakthrough for one of dark synth’s most promising artists, or as an out-of-nowhere debut, Demonologia is a work of real substance and power. Recommended.

Buy it.

Demonologia by Mala Herba

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