Tracks: March 29th 2021

The Senior Staff did some podcast moonlighting this past weekend, recording an episode with our pals at History For Misanthropes. Tune in on Tuesday to hear us discuss the unlikely heroism of Stanislav Petrov, a tale we often mused about over a pint in the Before Times. We had a lot of fun with all of the apocalyptic twists and turns the conversation took, and we hope folks enjoy it. Like we said, the episode drops on Tuesday, but we heartily endorse checking out some of the arcane and morbid corners of history in the podcast’s archives until then…along with this week’s Tracks.
thewalkingicon

thewalkingicon

Ultra Sunn, “Night is Mine (New Beat mix)”
The SARIN remix of electro-darkwave act Ultra Sunn’s club banger “Night is Mine” has been a regular staple in streaming sets for a minute now, working a nice middle ground between evocative atmosphere and DJ friendly beats. Enter this brand new New Beat mix (dig the Belgian flag on the single artwork for extra authenticity), a slowed but equally hard hitting take on the track. Big orch hits, portentous spoken vox and the addition of glass bottle percussion are the big markers here, and for real, this kind of seems like the way the song was always meant to be.
Night Is Mine (New Beat Mix) by ULTRA SUNN

thewalkingicon, “Naïve”
We’ll admit to ignorance of the various projects the members of Russia’s thewalkingicon were previously involved in, but you don’t need much background to enjoy “Naive”, the first taste of the duo’s second LP and first on Negative Gain Productions. An immediate blend of darkwave and electro-pop sounds, “Naïve” is bringing to mind the bounce and melody of the likes of Parralox and Zeigeist.
Naive by thewalkingicon

Xibling, “Butterfly Curbstomp”
How do you even start to describe Portland based electro-oddballs Xibling to the uninitiated? You could start with some genre markers – darkwave, electroclash, maybe a splash of synthpunk – but that would only be describing the duo in a moment. They move fast and each release works as a refinement or stylistic shift, keeping them unpredictable. Enjoy “Butterfly Curbstomp” and the Maladjusted EP, and know that whatever Xibling get up to next it won’t sound exactly like it.
Maladjusted by Xibling

Semita Serpens, “A Voice Beyond”
In the “rather unexpected” category, here’s something from a new EP by Semita Serpens, the new side project of Denman Anderson of ID:UD mainstays Statiqbloom. While perhaps not as sunny as the album art might suggest, the style of techno Anderson’s working with here is far less grim and oppressive than his work on the past few Statiqbloom LPs might lead you to expect, though there’s certainly something of that project in the woozy and druggy drones weaving through this number.
NYH237 Semita Serpens – Indulging The Fever Dream by New York Haunted

Empusae, “The Wraiths And Strays Of Paris”
There’s an incredibly broad list of contributors to Coitus Interruptus’ new Coil tribute release, though that’s perhaps no surprise. Everyone from Snowbeasts to God Mod to Flint Glass to Michael Idehall does, in fact, owe some fealty to Coil. Here, Empusae lends a neo-classical ascent to one of Black Antlers‘ gnarly and knotted creations.
Channeling the Solar Lodge (A Coil Tribute) by Coitus Interruptus Productions

Second Skin, “Colder”
We’re probably stretching things a bit with the inclusion of this song from Los Angeles act Second Skin, their first single as a matter of fact. That said, in a world where some bizarre, cartoon version of “the 80s” propagated by hundreds of generic synthwave acts has taken hold, it’s great to hear something that actually sounds like it reflects the production and songwriting sensibility of the decade (Matia Simovich in the studio will help with that, natch). This is the music that plays in the movie while a montage of a band of teens makes their preparations to go fight vampires.
Colder by Second Skin

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Observer: Randolph & Mortimer and Den Sorte Død


Randolph & Mortimer
Born to Consume
self-released

We here at I Die: You Die are long time are long time proponents of Randolph & Mortimer; the Sheffield based industrial and body music powerhouses have been a regular part of our coverage since the release of their first proper EP $ocial £utures was released back in 2014. That said, we’ve never heard Randy & Mort’s initial forays into music before, which is what makes Born to Consume such a pleasure. Made up of 5 tracks from the 2012-2013 era, one much later free download and one wholly unreleased demo, you can hear influences and ideas that are not necessarily ones we associate with groovy, sample-laden EBM-adjacent tracks that R&M have made a meal of for the latter half of the last decade. Specifically, “The Markets” and “Debt is King” show a significant debt to vintage Ministry, with the former playing as an inversion of “N.W.O.”‘s sirens-and-chopped-up-riffs and the latter working a Barker-esque bassline and vocal sample to an explosive climax. 2017 era-track “Eastern Bloc” takes a Peter Hook bass riff and works it up into a massive, annihilating groove, ornamented by digital bleeps and crashing snare drums. The contemplative “War Game” is a pleasant enough bit of synth composition and jazzy drum programming, although it’s closer “Legacy of Orgreave (Demo)” that might be the most fascinating thing here; a post-punky synth number with a bit of lo-fi new wave sheen, it’s a lovely and unexpected track unlike anything you’ve ever heard from Randolph & Mortimer before. A really excellent document of one of our favourite acts that inhabits a space well outside our expectations from them, and is all the more interesting for it.
Born to Consume by Randolph & Mortimer

Den Sorte Død
Den Sorte Død
self-titled
Cyclic Law

Don’t let the name (“The Black Death” in Swedish) or the cover art fool you – Den Sorte Død ain’t a death industrial project, nor is it really dark ambient in any traditional sense despite the project’s new LP being released by Cyclic Law. Instead, the collaboration between Denmark’s Offermose and Sweden’s Angst Sessions offers a delicate and elegant take on moody analog synth composition. Too earthy to be kosmische, too willowy to be dungeon synth, simple but affecting melodies are woven in shimmering and wintry fashion. Spiritual connections could perhaps be found with Witch Root and Pod Cast, but the slow, processional feel of just about every track on this new LP creates a unique and sustained mood. Further afield, Wendy Carlos’ arrangements for “A Clockwork Orange” are brought to mind by the title track’s elegiac march, with shimmering synth pad laments punctuated by deep space echoes. Calming, meditative stuff which manages to be enveloping but not anodyne.
Den Sorte Død by DEN SORTE DØD

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We Have A Technical 354: Two Chew Toys

Absurd Minds

Absurd Minds

The mean and gritty retro-futurism of Pure Ground’s brand of minimal synth and Absurd Minds’ uncanny obsession with a particular era of Project Pitchfork’s work inspires this episode of We Have A Technical, in the classic two albums format. The Senior Staff are also talking about the recent reporting on and revelations about abuse and harassment at LA’s Cloak & Dagger club, and on a lighter note, teeing off on that forthcoming Smiths movie which is just gonna be total dogshit, y’all. 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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Cygnets, “Swansongs”

Cygnets - Swansongs

Cygnets
Swansongs
self-released

The charms of Edmonton’s Cygnets were as palpable on their varied LPs as they were on the festival stages where we first caught them. The trio’s combo of glam, new wave, britpop, and goth sounds could have come across as being far too hammy or excessive for its own good were Chris Bruce and Dan Snow not so adept at honing their influences down into tightly paced and instantly memorable tunes, or if Logan Turner didn’t have the perfect combo of pipes and charisma a band of their ilk needs in a frontman. After a few years of inactivity, Swansongs arrives, confirming the band’s end and bringing together their last recorded work – two 2017 sessions dedicated to revisiting some of the band’s earliest and unreleased songs.

There was precious little that was subtle about Cygnets on most days, and Swansongs doesn’t play anything coy. The New Order-isms of the furiously anthemic opener “My Dead Self Again” are overt and unabashed, but Turner’s Rimbaud-like, sensory-overload reverie ensures you don’t forget who you’re actually listening to. “Herself Is But A Voice” (previously released in a handful of remix iterations, now here in its unaltered form) serves as a great reminder of how easily Cygnets could command the brighter sides of synthpop and new wave while still delivering all of the emotion and pathos that a song referencing Persephone and Lawrence requires.

Given that the songs which have been reprised for Swansongs are among the band’s oldest, it’s perhaps not surprising that there’s less of the over gloom the trio would. Oh, there’s drama and intensity aplenty, as the raging “Inferno” shows off, but mid-period darkwave cuts like “Gallows” or the morbid elegance of final original LP Alone/Togehter are nowhere to be found. Instead, much the material on Swansongs is shot through with a distinctly disco flair, cropping up in the compressed piano thump of “Venus And The Wraiths” and the Moroder pulse of “Call It A Night”, a charming, Pulp-esque tale of a hook-up turned awkward.

Parting may or may not be such sweet sorrow, but Cygnets’ apothocary is true and their drugs quick. Swansongs shows off both the band’s polished final era and their earliest, most heart-on-sleeve ambitions. We won’t lie – we’d love to see the band back on festival stages someday, but if this is indeed the last word from Cygnets we’re glad they gave us the chance to wish them a proper farewell.

Buy it.

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Absolute Body Control, “A New Dawn”

Absolute Body Control
A New Dawn
Mecanica

Absolute Body Control’s 2007 reformation came in the form of two-releases: Vinyl-On-Demands’ comprehensive Tapes 81-89 and Wind:Rewind, the latter of which found the duo of Dirk Ivens and Eric Van Wonterghem revisiting and rerecording selections from their influential but still somewhat obscure catalogue. That they chose to do so is probably not a coincidence; while minimal synth was having a moment in the mid-to-late aughts, Ivens and Von Wonterghem who (who went on to work together numerous times after ABC’s dissolution in the mid-eighties) have always had an interest in adding to that group’s legacy. A New Dawn is their first release since 2010’s excellent revival LP Shattered Illusion, and like that record shows the duo exploring their classic sound without modern stylistic concessions.

Instrumentally, the six song EP makes use of the traditional Absolute Body Control toolset; buzzing analogue synths, simple patterns programmed on vintage drum machines, and Ivens singing in a more melodic style removed from the forceful desperation and anger of his work in The Klinik and Dive. Opening songs “Waving Goodbye” and “Earth Takes a Break” show some of the variety that can be drawn from that simple template – the former is almost all kick-snare, a simple two-note synth bassline and a distant lead on the chorus, while for latter speeds things up and adds loads of springy synth lines to the proceedings. Both tracks sound as though they could have been classic ABC numbers, albeit with a bit more clarity in the recording and mix.

Interestingly the EP shows some of Absolute Body Control’s rarely heard sentimental side. “Empty Cities” has Ivens sounding positively wistful as he sings about waiting for something new to happen in the titular barren world, a simple arrangement of synths and a rattling rhythm pattern filling out the plaintive arrangement. Follow-up “Seven” is an instrumental that touches on light Kraftwerkian electro-pop, complete with robotic melancholy baked into its hopeful melody. When the band revert to their more sinister and plodding sound on “Invisible Touch” (not a cover sadly), and finish on the noisy, Klinik-esque paranoia of “Thundering Silence”, one really does feel like the EP is sequenced to comment on the band’s character and evolution. Now close to 40 years removed from their original run and recognized as a formative act in their genre, Ivens and Van Wonterghem show that they can still inhabit this particular instance of their musical partnership.

Buy it.

A New Dawn by Absolute Body Control

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Tracks: March 22nd, 2021

We hope by the time you’re reading this some of you will have checked out this month’s We Have a Commentary, dedicated to Cabaret Voltaire’s classic Micro-Phonies. By some strange kismet, it dropped the same day as this excellent round-up of Cabs’ career, which seems as good a time as any to give our endorsement of Bandcamp Daily. With the collapse of most of the traditional venues for music crit, it’s good to see BC using their platform as a venue for people to write about music, under the watchful eye of senior editor (and scene vet) Jes Skolnik. Much love to them!

Awwful

Awwful

Vomito Negro, “In Strikt Tempo”
The kings of unpleasant, gritty body music are back! It’s been about 4 years since the Belgian act led by Gin Devo released their last full length Black Plague and from the sounds of “In Strikt Tempo” the band hasn’t gotten any less cantankerous in the interim; we fully expect that when Entitled drops later this week we’ll be swimming in nasty EBM bass, rough electronic textures and Devo’s distinctive growl. A legacy act that has never lost their edge, we’re always happy(?!?) to hear more of their particular brand of bile.
Entitled by Vomito Negro

Leaether Strip, “No Place Like Home
Speaking of dark electro legends, through all of his personal upheaval and tragedy, Claus Larsen isn’t just releasing another collection of Mode covers, but has also been prepping a brand-new seventeen track LP. Back To Industry drops today and based on this and a couple of other preview tracks, looks to be a back to basics, aggressive return to the early furious style with which Claus carved his rep. Always a workhorse, always an inspiration.
Back To Industry by Leaether Strip

Menthüll, “Maude”
Québec duo Menthüll impressed us greatly in the last days of 2020 with “Corian”, a billowing and enveloping coldwave tour de force. New track “Maude” is a bit more forthright in its thumping dancefloor ambitions, but the art and elegance with which the vocals and other elements are woven in speaks to their delicate hand. Single track by single track, Menthüll have built an impressive track record for themselves and positioned themselves to be a sought after act once Canadian touring is feasible.
Maude by Menthüll

Awwful, “Architecture”
Speaking of Québec, Montreal’s Awwful offers up a take on hyperpop which perhaps accidentally ends up backing into some industrial-adjace territory by way of HEALTH or TRST. A little bit lighter and poppier than we generally go around these parts (with some unexpected grunge overdrive), but a hook’s a hook. And hey: anyone who can combine classic NYC club kid aesthetics with an appreciation for Crow-era Sting is aces with us. Tip o’ the hat to our boy BP Hughes for the heads-up on this one!
Architecture EP by Awwful

Pixel Grip, “ALPHAPUSSY”
Midwest trip-hoppers Pixel Grip have been at it for a minute now, putting out tracks and albums that dip into synthpop, electro and other styles. The first tracks we’re hearing from their forthcoming record Arena have a bit of EBM thrown in on the bassline and we’re feeling it; check “ALPHAPUSSY” for a sampling of how they’re integrating 16th note bass and cymbal programming into their mix. Definitely eager to hear more of this mix, or whatever the genre-agnostic trio have cooked up.
ARENA by Pixel Grip

Tronik Youth, “U R A Slave (Mundo D remix)”
UK based producer Tronik Youth has been active for about a decade or so, working in areas that border Our Thing without necessarily crossing over into it; you know the fertile neutral zone between techno, acid, EBM that has been so explored for the last few years. That said, forthcoming release on Berlin’s NEIN sure perked up our ears, specifically the Mundo D remix that goes full post-industrial dance with all the delayed and chopped vox samples, cracking drums and sinister synths you could want. DJs take note of this one.
U R A SLAVE by Tronik Youth

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We Have A Commentary: Cabaret Voltaire, “Micro-Phonies”

Cabaret Voltaire - Micro-Phonies

This month’s bonus commentary podcast finds us discussing the charming confidence of Cabaret Voltaire’s overt push into funk and pop territory, 1983’s Micro-Phonies. A band whose evolution in some ways mirrors that of industrial as a genre, Cabs don’t get nearly enough love and discussion around these parts as they perhaps should, so we’re atoning with some discussion of Cold War paranoia, the free-flows of influence from dub, electro, funk, industrial, and post-punk, plus the band’s johnny-on-the-spot conversance with the emerging cyberpunk aesthetic. You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Observer: Some Ember & Dead Voices On Air


Some Ember
Held a Fragment of the Moon
self-released

Some Ember have been active and releasing music for nearly a decade now, transitioning through various styles and lineups while the willfully rough edges of their earliest material gradually gave way to a smooth and velvety take on the modern darkwave. You can hear the evolution in Dylan Travis’ work on new EP Held a Fragment of the Moon, especially in terms of his programming and production which have a clarity that sets it apart from even his most recent efforts. That means that the synth bassline and snappy drums of “Excavate” have a pleasing weight to them, but allow plenty of space for Travis’ dramatic vocal delivery on the song’s hook to embed itself in the listener’s ear. Similarly, “Fragment” works a post-punk rhythm section against synthesized choirs and a vocal lament that conveys emotion with carriage and impact in spite of the track’s mournfulness. Travis’ voice is especially important to the mood of the EP, his tenor delivery somewhere in the neighbourhood of latter-era Scott Walker, creating pockets of lament in the bouncy electro of “Wellspring”, and doubled-up for dimensionality during the the half-time swing of “Rift”. It’s a brief but potent dose of an act who are forvever zeroing in on what makes them stand out from comparable acts in their style.
Held a Fragment of the Moon by Some Ember

Dead Voices On Air - The Piss Frond Tapes Volume One
Dead Voices On Air
The Piss Frond Tapes Volume One
self-released

As we’ve discussed in the past, Piss Frond is a landmark achievement in Mark Spybey’s distinguished career, and so an archival trawl through the demos which spawned that drone/experimental masterpiece comes as a welcome exercise. That this marks the first of two such releases, with the second to come in April, speaks to the creative run Dead Voices On Air was on at the close of the millennium, as is spelled out in the detailed notes which accompany the release and contain revelations that are eye-popping to experimental music fans and Vancouverites alike (Dadaist free association with Holger Czukay? Oh right, that Alexander Varty!). The early versions compiled here are arranged with the same sequencing as their final counterparts, allowing for the experience of listening to the record through a glass darkly. Some, like “The First Swan Flax” are almost indiscernible from the originals, while the roots version of Piss Frond centerpiece “Sulphur” is so radically minimal in comparison to its lush later execution that Spybey’s valorization of the contributors who worked to flesh it out into what it would become begins to make sense. Piss Frond is a record of moods and textures, and so there’s something of the uncanny about listening to an early version of “Red Kerre” which has its proportions and frequencies just tilted a bit differently here and there – akin to putting on a favourite sweater and finding it to be a shade bluer than you remember and just one of the arms half an inch longer. A couple of unreleased tracks plus thirty-odd minutes of live improv from a 1999 show add some extra value. An absolute must-purchase release for any fan of the original record.
The Piss Frond Tapes Volume One by Dead Voices On Air

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We Have A Technical 353: Bonobos

Cygnets

We didn’t even talk about Cygnets’ fantastic cover of the unofficial Canadian National Anthem, “Run With Us”.

Scene-rooted cover tracks are the subject du jour in this episode of We Have A Technical. The expressive, the rote, and the crassly commercial versions of other artists’ work which we’ve been drawn to and repulsed by over our years in the goth/industrial trenches are all up for discussion, along with new release news concerning Hide, Clock DVA, and Cygnets. 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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Louisahhh, “The Practice of Freedom”

Louisahhh
The Practice of Freedom
HE.SHE.THEY

Louisahhh has been a noted quantity in the techno scene for a decade, both via her wide-ranging DJ sets and her numerous productions, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with notables like Dave Clarke and Brodinski. If you checked her 2017 EP A Trap I’ve Built or her recent singles in collaboration with producer Maelstrom you might have an inkling of the industrial direction of her new LP The Practice of Freedom, although it’s striking how hard the Paris-by-way-of-New York artist goes in on the style, exploring harder and more mechanized sounds than at any previous point in her catalogue.

Lest you imagine that the sound of the record arrived on industrial shores by coincidence, a recent and entertaining chat about the record on Twitch featured Louisahhh commenting on her favourite KMFDM remix, examining Skinny Puppy performances and seeing Ministry with 3Teeth. You can hear traces of those influences in various spots; in the churning riffs that boil underneath programmed bass and drums on “No Pressure”, the chopped up guitar that forms the basis of “Chaos”, and the thudding percussion that drives “A Hard No”. That those elements are put in service of tracks that maintain some of Louisahhh’s pedigree in techno while (and DJ accessibility) speaks to her aims as a producer and performer – bridging and finding commonalities. A song like the uncompromising “Ferocious – Unchained” would feel as home at annihilating your ears at Berghain as it would coming through the PA between bands at your industrial scene fest of choice.

Beyond that exploration of sounds and common grounds, the record finds much of its personality in Louisahhh’s vocals. Although the icy monotone delivery she’s used in the past isn’t entirely absent, you can clearly hear her efforts to expand her range as a singer, both emotionally and technically. Sometimes it’s via how she approaches a track – the punky and off the cuff delivery she adopts on “Love is a Punk” drives home the song’s role as album opener and mood setter for example. But when she really pushes herself it yields the records finest moments: “Master” has her doing soulful and vulnerable over a crunchy slow groove, hints of struggle and triumph landing between each word, where “Numb/Undone” has her passionately shredding her vocal chords over what amounts to a hot rhythmic noise instrumental.

The Practice of Freedom ends up being a kind of dual showcase for Louisahhh as producer and performer. Her work in the former (along with producer and instrumentalist Vice Cooler) eschews standard techno-industrial tropes in favour of a more philosophical exploration of the neutral zone that borders the genres, while her exploration in the latter shines a new light on her as a personality. As a record it’s messy, impassioned, and doesn’t fit easily into any specific genre divider, and you can’t help but feel that’s exactly how Louisahhh envisioned it. Recommended.

Buy it.

The Practice of Freedom by Louisahhh

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Affet Robot, “Fiyasko”

Affet Robot - Fiyasko

Affet Robot
Fiyasko
self-released

You might think that Affet Robot might be well-positioned to capitalize on recent interest in Turkish post-punk, but the one-man project of Eren Günsan has remained true to a brighter and more melodic strain of darkwave and synth sounds than those plied by many of its countrymen. With a solid pair of releases already on the board, Günsan isn’t setting out to radically rework Affet Robot’s sound on new LP Fiyasko. But in sticking to a style that prioritizes catchy melodies and sophisticated atmosphere, he’s perhaps challenging himself even more by needing to maintain interest in a familiar template, of which Fiyasko does an admirable job.

Aficionados of smoother European acts from the beginning of the cold and darkwave eras will have a field day influence spotting Fiyasko. The high drama new wave of B-Movie or End Of Data, the glowing jangle of The Wake (the Factory one, not Cleopatra’s), and the emotive coldwave of Norma Loy or Asylum Party can all be found in its big synth sweeps and the more insular corners of its restrained guitar work. Affet Robot’s compositions hold up on their own outside of genre exercise, though. The loping synthpop of “Saplantıların Kölesiyim” has an immediate and sweet charm (that one of its lyrics phonetically sounds like “candy candy” to English ears seems like kismet), while “Çelişki” does a good job of switching focus between vocals, synth and guitar while maintaining the same smeared, pastel melodies across all instruments.

That acuity with instrumentation leads to another of Affet Robot’s skills – rendering sounds most listeners are most accustomed to hearing on old vinyl or dodgy mp3 blog rips with modern clarity. If filtering the gloom of 80s darkwave through a modern pop sheen sounds a bit like Drab Majesty to you, well, you’re not entirely wrong. There’s definitely something of Deb & co. in the synth-toms and slowly building drama of “Tutsak”, but Günsan’s relatively strong presence as a vocalist and the slightly sinister turn of the melody gives the track its own appeal.

Fiyasko is, by definition, an exercise in nostalgia; as Günsan notes in the promo, Affet Robot aims to gather “influences from the obscure side of the 80’s”. Fiyasko is certainly the product of someone who’s spent a large portion of their life crate-digging for evocative gems from a time gone by, but thankfully it isn’t just limited to that sort of formal appeal, and does right by its influences with an enjoyably melodic set of tunes.

Buy it.

Fiyasko by Affet Robot

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Tracks: March 15th, 2021

We’ve been spending a lot of time discussing the forthcoming Love’s Secret Domain reissues (and will continue to do so!), but the quiet announcement of a massive CD box compiling the earliest work of Clock DVA reminded us of the fantastic work done by Vinyl On Demand in compiling, collating, and reissuing hopelessly out of print work by early electronic pioneers. VOD’s boxes have brought crucial works by Snowy Red, Portion Control, Crash Course In Science, Absolute Body Control, Esplendor Geometrico, Muslimgauze, and so many more back into the spotlight. But they also deserve kudos for keeping the secondary market at heel by doubling back on their existing vinyl boxes to create economical CD reissues (contrary to their name) like this one.

Red light go with Odonis Odonis

SØLVE, “NEVER + ENOUGH”
Brand new single from Brant Showers (∆AIMON)’s SØLVE and it’s a somewhat different affair. If you’ve been following the project (or heard the split with The Blood of Others we helped put out), you’ll associate it with atmospheric ritual music informed by post-witchhouse sounds. “NEVER + ENOUGH” shoots that through with some hard industrial rock drumming, translating Shower’s ever more confident vocals from pensive to commanding. The single comes in a package with remixes from artists like Sidewalks and Skeletons, Bara Hari, Null Device, V▲LH▲LL, and FIRES amongst others, and you can nab it on Bandcamp in digital or as a limited CD right now.
NEVER + ENOUGH by SØLVE

XTR Human, “Leben Ohne Licht (feat. Luca Gillian)”
An absolute stormer from German wave act XTR Human, one that splits the difference between cold wave and EBM with precision. The springy bass-driven verse and hard-edged vocal from Johannes Stabels sets up the lovely, melodic chorus featuring Die Selektion’s Luca Gillian, recontextualizing what we’ve heard in the track up ’til that point. Addictive and eminently relistenable, you’re gonna wanna snap this one up ASAP.
LEBEN OHNE LICHT by XTR HUMAN

Potochkine, “Possédée”

Some friends in Europe put us on to French act Potochkine after catching them at Kalabalik (thanks, Lindsey!), and even without seeing them live their elegant darkwave charm still comes across. New LP Sortilèges is out in a week and we’ve been getting pretty hyped for it on the basic of numbers like this which combine the classic rough minimalism of Kas Product with the modern sheen of Black Nail Cabaret (and maybe a bit of the smokey intensity of our beloved Animal Bodies).
Sortilèges by POTOCHKINE

Aurat, “¿Can You Hear Me?”
LA’s Aurat impressed us late last year with an LP combining classic darkwave and post-punk sounds with Urdu vocals. While the latter aren’t present on new stand-alone track “¿Can You Hear Me?”, it’s still a nice demonstration of Aurat’s ability to hold their own even while working in some more broader and more accessible territory. Nice hint of italo in this poppy darkwave number.
Khaar by Aurat

Odonis Odonis, “Salesmen”
Toronto industrialists Odonis Odonis return with some tracks from their forthcoming LP Spectrums and they are not screwing around. “Get Out” is of the sort of noise-rock crossover sound that has informed a lot their previous releases, but it’s “Salesmen” that makes the big impression: livewire rhythm programming and blasts of distorted synth collide with massive force, unrelenting and undeniable. The band has always had a streak of the sardonic to them, but for the first time they sound downright mean, and we are very much on board with it.
Spectrums by Odonis Odonis

Donna Haringwey, “No Life”
Abrasive synthpunk wipeouts await on Feral, the new EP from mutant noise artist Donna Haringwey. It’s a difficult but immediately viscerally rewarding listen, without a second being wasted. Tracks like this one are shot through with a manic yobbishness that’s quite different from the deconstructed EBM which guided the debut The Child Of God EP.
Venal by Donna Haringwey

SPÆCIALISTA, “Muerde y Huye”
Another banger from Colombia’s SPÆCIALISTA, a producer whose tracks have rapidly become secret weapons in the crates of sharp-eared DJs the world over. It’s something about the combination of classic new beat/body flavour with funky electronic percussion (those bongos and congas!) that makes his small but potent catalogue so instantaneous. Like basically all of SPÆCIALISTA’s stuff, this one comes to us via a compilation, in this case the massive Universidad de Vampiros from Georgia’s SHISHI, you might wanna go and put it on your Bandcamp wishlist.
Universidad de Vampiros by Various Artists

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Youth Code / King Yosef, “A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression”

Youth Code / King Yosef - A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression
Youth Code / King Yosef
A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression
self-released

To those who’ve been tracking them since their demo days, A Skeleton Key In The Doors Of Depression feels like the logical progression of where Youth Code have come from and where they’ve been heading, but that doesn’t make it any less bracing. In 28 minutes their collab with producer/vocalist King Yosef circumscribes the grimy empire of EBM and electro-industrial Sara Taylor and Ryan George have established, and strikes out for the metal and hardcore territories from which all three contributors to Skeleton Key claim descent.

Those familiar with Yosef only through his hip-hop beatmaking may be surprised at how how easily his aesthetic integrates with Youth Code’s (the clarion chimes and minimal kicks of “The World Stage”‘s chorus being one of the few moments where that pedigree is apparent). His own digital hardcore beatdowns like “Pity Case” may not have the same origins in post-industrial as Youth Code’s discography, but the similarities in terms of sonics in the here and now can’t be denied, and are ported over to Skeleton Key with punishing ease. Halftime breakdowns like those of “A Mother’s Love” and “Head Underwater” are perfectly suited to grainy industrial programming (as YC have been proving since “Consuming Guilt”, at least). It’s not clear who’s responsible for bringing some black metal-styled picking to closing epic “Finally Docked” (hell, the album title would fit a DSBM release well) but it pairs well with the melancholy lament of the keys descending beneath clatter and Yosef and Taylor’s traded invective.

Intriguingly, Yosef’s hardcore vocals act as something of an anchor on the record and allow Taylor room to explore different approaches in her own distinctive style. The doubled up and growled melody of “Looking Down”‘s chorus is arresting, especially in the context of the syncopated delivery both Yosef and Taylor employ on the verses where each vocalist hammerss syllables into the track’s cracking snare. Pre-release single “Burner” has the duo trading off desperate verses, doubling one another before splitting off into a soaring chorus and a brutal breakdown, each singer informed by the other’s approach. It’s a tactic that defines the record’s hybridized sound; in particular many tracks seem to coalesce around the vocals. Hear how the shapeless intro of “Deathsafe” eventually conforms to Taylor’s anguished howl, then structurally parts to allow Yosef a moment of half-spoken menace before lifting Taylor aloft for her cathartic outro, her repeated “I’ve had enough/I’m drowning” sounding less like a cry for help than a steel-eyed warning.

It’s been clear since well before A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression that Youth Code have an interest in taking apart industrial, metal, and hardcore sounds and reconfiguring them into something new and different. In working with King Yosef they’ve found a collaborator who not only contributes to that continued growth, but whose own genre explorations inform and elevate their evolution. King Yosef and Youth Code meet on some blasted, barren common ground, and from it build something bracing and new. Recommended.

Buy it.

A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression by Youth Code / King Yosef

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We Have A Technical 352: Dunks on The Office

Necro Facility

A striking pair of electro-industrial and EBM debuts are the focus of this week’s podcast, as we turn our attention to Necro Facility’s The Black Paintings and NTRSN’s People Like Gods. How bands adhere to and break from their formative influences is always something we’re interested in, and we have two very different approaches to that issue at hand. All that in addition to the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Love’s Secret Domain anniversary reissues on the latest 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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Sonic Area, “ki”

Sonic Area - ki

Sonic Area
ki
Ant-Zen

Arco Trauma’s longstanding Sonic Area solo project stands in stark contrast to the noise and fury of Chrysalide, especially to those of us who discovered the latter first. Releases like the collaborative record between Trauma, Architect, and Hologram_ and 2016’s Eyes In The Sky have brought together downtempo, dark ambient, and classic analog synth arrangements all while placing a premium on atmosphere, timbre and sound design. But new record ki takes that principle to an extreme, paring compositions down to the barest of elements.

Taking inspiration from the titular energy believed to unite and power all life in Taoist and Buddhist practice, Trauma’s honed in on a sparse but exquisitely designed set of samples and field recordings from which ki‘s compositions emerge. Lightly clicking and echoing chimes and percussion slowly come together, forming stuttering but hypnotic grooves connote microhouse and clicks & cuts tracks as much as they do the Japanese folk traditions from which much of the instrumentation is taken. Arguable centerpiece “Lotus” shows off the potential of ki‘s minimalist ethos, building drama by pressing a drone that modulates between a classic Ant-Zen sweep and a wooden door creaking against rolling clicks and light harmonization.

However, for every track like “Lotus” on ki there are others which simply don’t carry enough movement to sustain the record. It’s not that any of the tracks are weak or even underwritten on their own (the rainy garden connoted by wooden taps and hammered yangqin on “Blowind” would function perfectly as a bridge between or denouement after more dynamic pieces), but that it’s too easy to lose what makes the track enjoyable when it’s placed between tracks of even more subtle construction. ki is perhaps tasteful to a fault – the old joke about “too much minimalism” comes to mind.

ki‘s success or failure with individual listeners will likely hinge upon how far they can be carried by pure atmosphere and sound design. It’s finely crafted, well-considered stuff which might pair well with reading or gaming (or even meditation on the themes and concepts by which it’s been inspired), but perhaps needs to advocate for itself more strongly.

Buy it.

ki by sonic area

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Fïx8:Sëd8, “The Inevitable Relapse”

Fïx8:Sëd8
The Inevitable Relapse
Dependent

Fïx8:Sëd8’s fifth album is something of a stylistic consolidation for the one-man German project helmed by Martin Sane. While the band has been exploring a rich mixture of post-industrial and dark electro for the better part of the last fifteen years, The Inevitable Relapse is founded on a rich production sensibility that suits its atmospheric compositions, reminding the listener of both classic records in the style by Mentallo & the Fixer, and contemporary acts exploring the same sensibility, like Dead When I Found Her.

While the LP’s compositions are varied and often complex, the basic stylistic markers are easy to identify; songs are composed of bouncy analogue basslines, vocal samples, layers of overlapping pads and crunchy drums. The playbook is well-established, and yields a host of fine deep genre tunes, especially the opening stretch of the album which explores the atmospheric (“Enigma”, “Human Harvest”) and more propulsive sides of the style (“Unknown to Virtue”, “Prognosis”). The programming is rock solid, but it’s Sane’s arrangement chops that make the biggest impression, with his breakdowns and subtle shifts in structure matching creating additional complexity that teases and intrigues the ear.

The long and winding construction of these tracks is certainly part of their appeal, although there are moments where one wishes we got to hear certain ideas expanded upon further. The relatively minimal opening segments of record closer “Metabolite” invokes dreamy psychedelia and hard-edged electro-industrial before transitioning to moody instrumental synth for its latter half, leaving you wondering whether a whole track could have been spun from each of the component parts. It’s probably not a coincidence that one of the album’s most memorable moments is “Tremors”; both for the excellent guest spot from Black Nail Cabaret’s Emese Arvai-Illes who stands in for Sane’s workmanlike processed vocalizations and for the emphasis on its central melody and theme, which still allows for numerous builds and variations throughout.

In listening to The Inevitable Relapse you can hear exactly how Fïx8:Sëd8 have managed to accumulate something of a cult following at a time when their particular brand of industrial is more niche. By bridging the more complex aspects of his approach with a clean, crisp production sensibility and mix, Martin Sane has put his best qualities as a producer out in front, unobscured for genre purists and casual followers alike.

Buy it.

The Inevitable Relapse by FIX8:SED8

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Tracks: March 8th, 2021

And so another Bandcamp Friday has come and gone, and we find ourselves gorged to bursting on new music, much of which has been put online to coincide with the recurring event. As much as we’ve come to enjoy the thrill of seeing all kinds of new odds and ends show up on the day of, it’s important to remember that BCF applies to all sales on the site, which means there’s lots of catalogue releases for you to snap up along with the fresh stuff. Check out some of the great deals on Full Digital Discographies bands and labels have offered: many of them offer up a tremendous opportunity to check out a lot of music for much less than picking away at releases individually can yield.

Ghost Twin

Ghost Twin. Winnipeg is a frozen dessert hole.

Ghost Twin, “Strobe Light”
Winnipeg darkwavers Ghost Twin took their time in releasing their first LP, 2017’s Plastic Heart, but this made for solid quality control and allowed the duo to put forward a set of deep and substantive but also hooky and dancefloor friendly tracks. Taking four years to craft follow-up record Love Songs For End Times looks to have been a savvy strategy, at least on the basis of “Strobe Light”‘s catchy immediacy but deceptively proggy composition. Definitely a record you’ll be hearing more about here (and elsewhere, we’re sure!) when it’s released in June.
Love Songs for End Times by Ghost Twin

Ganser, “Told You So (Algiers remix)”
Nervy Chicago post-punk act Ganser turned a lot of heads with their 2020 LP Just Look at that Sky, with well-earned plaudits from The Quietus amongst others. 2021 brings remix EP Look at the Sun, featuring GLOK (Andy Bell of Ride) and cult singer-songwriter Sad13, not to mention some yet to be announced names. We’re very very into the classic 12″ mix feel of the Algiers mix of “Told You So”, really emphasizing the bassline and stabs of guitar. It’s disco danger for the brave at heart.
Look At The Sun by Ganser

Endless Nothing, “Hate Filled Heart”
As always, Detriti Records can be counted on to flag and release exciting new acts before anyone’s even caught a whiff of them, as well as to separate the chaff from the wheat in the now very overcrowded world of TBM. This time around it’s Italian newcomer Endless Nothing who are being brought forward with their debut Fragments. There’s a bit of repetition across the four tracks on the EP, but any one of them on their own is a proper banger with some serious EBM DNA.
Endless Nothing – Fragments by Detriti Records

Sigsaly, “Inherent Limitations”
Vancouver’s Sigsaly have been on something of a stylistic journey since their formation. A reconfiguration of darkwave two-piece Koban, the duo dabbled in more electro stylings before digging into left-field techno for a few releases. Their latest tracks, released on a split with Lower Tar suggest that they’re splitting the difference in approaches, harnessing the gritty warehouse vibes and the dark dancefloor approach for each cut. “Inherent Limitations” should be of interest to DJs and dancefloors of the (hopefully near) future.
L.A.U.R.A. 002: SEVERE BREAKAWAY by Sigsaly

Child Of Night, “Dirtworld”
Here’s some solid darkwave out of Columbus that has just enough bounce and melody to balance out a stern and stoic approach. Popnihil are pressing a cassette single featuring remixes from the likes of Profit Prison (more on them below) and 6th Circle, who’d both be good fits for a number like this. Not sure if a seven-track release is pushing past the limits of the term cassingle, but hell, we get so few chances to use it these days…
Reduced To Ash by Child Of Night

Nox Novacula & Profit Prison, “Moment of Pleasure”
It’s a PNW darkwave rave-up as two Seattle based acts Nox Novacula and Profit Prison team-up for a BC day single, “Moment of Pleasure”. We’re familiar with the slightly left of center darkwave that Profit Prison has been plying for a few years now, and gosh if it doesn’t match up nicely with the archly dramatic vocals from Nox Novacula who normally work in a more explicitly rock setting. Download this one now and tuck it away for future club sets.
NOX NOVACULA & PROFIT PRISON by Profit Prison

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Observer: HARSH R & Paladin


HARSH R
Dark Tymes
self-released

While the idea of Avi Roig recasting his paint-peeling harsh electronic HARSH R compositions as dark country songs might not seem all that obvious, there’s no denying how well they port over. New EP Dark Tymes features Roig performing three of his own tracks as dirgey country numbers, and due to some combination of minimalism, acerbic sentiment and conviction in performance, they translate eerily well. The tense electronic drumbeats of “Queen of Trash” are swapped for ghostly strumming and sinister tremolo guitar, with Roig trading is signature sneering growl for distant vocals, revealing the song that’s always been present behind the distortion. “Dog People” is even more unnerving in its new form than in the grinding mechanical original; the mantra-link lyrics are delivered with a sorrowful gravity that matches its scratchy distortion. “I See You” is comparatively lighter, although the contrast between the original style vocals and nimbler singing in spots, although the universally dark mood still clouds over all. Capping things off by giving the HARSH R treatment to outlaw country classic “It’s Nothing to Me”, it’s an EP that finds a strange commonality that goes beyond style and drinks from a shared well of misanthropy.
DARK TYMES by HARSH R

Paladin - Mytheme
Paladin
Mytheme
Mild Peril Recordings

Chris Paladin’s constant revision and reformulating of his own tracks and releases is part and parcel of the Mild Peril, Paladin, and Molasar projects. Hell, the uncanny sense of being uncertain if you’ve heard a particular melody from one of his self-termed wizard disco tracks previously interpolated on synth harp rather than orch hits only adds to the disorienting mystique of mythic Albion which remains Paladin’s muse. Mytheme is one more such revision, albeit a very substantial one – the collation and reworking of the more traditionally kosmische dimension of his work since the Unknown Zones release, as opposed to the more peppy and dancefloor direction struck on the Matter record, still a perennial favourite at ID:UD HQ. Despite the fluid and lyrical approach to classic synth experimentation tracks like “Monad” and “Chess” tap into, Paladin keeps things moving along at a brisk pace here, with the A-side of the tape finding connections between Tangerine Dream’s more spritely soundtrack work and his own inimitable fusion of throwback synths and space-truckin’ folk-funk (again, the term ‘wizard disco’ perhaps says more than we ever could). The flip side is made up of the titular rhapsody, which ebbs and flows between grandiose and quietly minimal passages while preserving an example of the sort of classically simple but evocative phrasing upon which kosmische was built.
Mytheme by Paladin

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We Have a Technical 351: John Ramgo

Stereopolina

Stereopolina

After going ham with some rather abrasive rants on last week’s episode, we’re taking the backseat this week and welcoming on some Patreon backers who are keen to talk about records from a bands ranging from Russian synthpop (Stereopolina) to German darkwave (Diary Of Dreams) to American synthpunk (Six Finger Satellite) to Swedish neo-classical (Sanctum)! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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The Gothsicles, “Animal Songs”

The Gothsicles
Animal Songs
Tigersquawk Records

The Gothsicles are a difficult band to parse for those not already familiar with their oeuvre. Musically the ‘Sicles have always been identifiably part of the EBM and synthpop legacy of Our Thing, with the bedroom charm of their earliest compositions giving away to slicker production over time, but it’s Brian Graupner’s lyrical concerns that have often been their most defining feature, his squawking vocal delivery notwithstanding. The literally-titled new album Animal Songs is a bit different though, dropping the dense goth-scene-and-video-games meta-commentary in favour of songs about, well, animals.

The shift in subject matter isn’t entirely surprising; one of the most enduring Gothsicles songs from the last LP was “Straight Up Otter Time” and it was more than a decade ago that Graupner named an instrumental track “It Could Definitely At Least Be Argued That The Whole Video Game Thing Is Getting Kind Of Old”. Still, Graupner sounds particularly enthused here, busting out dense, pun-filled verses packed with animal facts on “Vampire Squid”, “Gila Monster” and “Red Panda Jamboree”. Graupner’s set-up and punchline approach is particularly suited to the slightly left-of-centre creatures addressed; “Never quite authentic / Bodily eccentric” summarizes the titular “Lungfish” about as well as you could expect a couplet to, while “A Coterie of Goats in Trees” offers a wry explanation for the unusual phenomenon it describes.

Musically, Grauper is reaching father than ever before here, and it’s a gambit that pays off. Having founded the more purely industrial Gasoline Invertebrate in the last half-decade, The Gothsicles are now free to explore some of the sounds they’ve been flirting with through their releases in the 2010s. Opener “Rock the Quokka” is instantaneously one of the best Gothsicles songs ever, while scarcely resembling anything in the catalogue – ,

the instrumental is essentially bright, soundtrack ready non-scene electro-pop, and catchy as all get out to boot. For anyone who doesn’t already kind of understand what the project is about it might be a little weird to hear that track or the similarly pop-minded “Go-Away-Bird” given they both feature Graupner’s manic vocalizing (although the latter has a straight pop chorus courtesy of Ellie J), but for fans they’re just extensions of the hooks-and-jokes approach the band has been honing since their debut. Not coincidentally these more varied tracks are the record’s standouts – see the crossover bop of “Axolotl Super Powers” featuring nerdcore icon MC Lars, or the tweaky hyperpop vocal manipulations on the FIRES feature “Naked Mole-Rat (Pink and Furtive)”.

Given the synergy with a lot of modern pop sounds, Animal Songs might be the easiest entry point to The Gothsicles yet released. It still has enough of what endeared the band to us (minus their tremendously energetic live show, although we do look forward to hearing these tracks at your finer scene festivals some time in the future) but shot through with some refreshing shifts in approach. The band aren’t any easier to describe to the uninitiated, but their unique appeal has rarely been so easy to pinpoint.

Buy it.

Animal Songs by The Gothsicles

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