Sophrosyne, “Ecclesiastes”

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Sophrosyne - Ecclesiastes

Sophrosyne
Ecclesiastes
Avon Terror Corps

As has been reiterated several times, we don’t end up covering much industrial metal around here, though it’s not for a lack of interest. Rather, it’s that the glut of bands who seem to think that throwing some pads over warmed-over groove metal will yield them the next Demanufacture often feels too sizable to fight through in order to find anything of real interest. Factor in a lack of curiosity or ambition regarding what sort of industrial sounds can be hybridized with metal and it’s often just not worth the work. But every now and again a release like Ecclesiastes comes across the desk, not only sounding fresh and invigorated but so free and diverse in its use of styles that it ends up getting us thinking about the sub-genre in new ways.

From its almost purely drag opening, it’s apparent that Ecclesiastes isn’t going to be an exercise in purism or austerity. Witch house, gabber, dungeon synth, and lo-fi symphonic dark electro keys are all smashed up against metal foundations that lift just as much from 90s nu-metal as they do the 80s kvlt pioneers one might expect. That said, the not-so subtle nod to Bathory in the album art says more about Sophrosyne’s unapologetically lo-fi approach and general sense of manic fun than a desire to pit themselves against the hallowed giants of black metal – check the noodly organ breakdowns in “Original Sin”, which likely owes more to JRPG battle soundtracks than anything else.

Despite a short run-time it’d be easy for a record this loud and intense to start running into diminishing returns midway through, but thanks to its genre-omnivorous nature it’s able to find new ways to sound massive and imposing throughout. The martial pads which frame “Human Abbatoir” herald its stabby programming and foot-tapping chug with an extra sense of gravitas, while closer “The Damage Is Already Done” takes some early Fear Factory riffs into the gabber territory Raymond Herrera’s double kicks always neighboured upon and cross-hatches them with some red-lined bass drops (before the elegiac string bridge, natch).

Sashcloth and Axes’ digitally overdriven hijacking of metal noise might be the closest comparison for Sophrosyne which comes to mind, but while that project ultimately retained and electronic core, Sophrosyne is built upon metal. And by grabbing whatever noise might be closest at hand in order to recreate metal grooves and breakdowns from across the genre’s past few decades, it’s ended up reconstituting that most classic of beasts into a strange new technicolor chimera.

Buy it.

Ecclesiastes by Sophrosyne

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Tracks: April 11th, 2021

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As we talked about on the podcast last week, plans for actual, honest-to-god, in the flesh shows are starting to once again seem like real possibilities rather than unattainable mirages to be chased or cans to be kicked further down a neverending road. Rescheduled 242 and Dead Can Dance tours are set to come to our neck of the woods, and Vancouver’s own Actors are planning an album release show for the fall. It’s still a long ways off, but it does finally feel as though experiencing live music is something that will be happening again in the near future, and to be frank, that’s a whole lot to process. While we’re contemplating what a post-vax live scene might look like, here’s this week’s batch of Tracks.

Kirlian Camera

Null Split, “All The Things”
If the voice behind French industrial project Null Split sounds familiar, it’s because Antoine Kerbérénès is the vocalist for PNW EBM wunderkinds Chrome Corpse. That said, Antoine’s Null Split material is of a distinctly more industrial rock vibe; indeed, “All The Things” is the best 90s style industrial rock track we’ve heard in ages, bringing to mind classic Hate Dept, Chemlab and more contemporary adherents like Everything Goes Cold. Sometimes a band puts something out in a style you don’t realize you’ve been missing ’til you hear it.
All The Things by null split

Gnome & Spybey, “To Be The Sun In Flight”
After a lengthy hiatus, the collaboration between Mark Spybey of Dead Voices On Air and Tony D’Oporto, AKA Gnome, is back on. Their extant discography cross-bred a core ambient template with plenty of folk, industrial, ethereal, and dance sounds, but new record The Seventh Seal, being pitched as “largely song based”, digs into Spybey’s less-explored folk/singer-songwriter side of things. Getting a few wisps of Gavin Friday in this slightly pensive but still beautiful number.
the seventh seal by gnome & spybey

Kirlian Camera, “Lobotomine 5”
We weren’t that fussy about the last Kirlian Camera LP to be honest; despite both being long time fans of the Italian darkwave masters, we found it hard to hold onto anything on Hologram Moon. Perhaps it was a lack of the group’s trademark esoteric weirdness, a trait that has defined them through innumerable shifts in lineup and style over the decades Kirlian Camera has been active. Thankfully “Lobotomine 5”, the second single from the forthcoming 2LP Cold Pills (Scarlet Gate of Toxic Daybreak) is possessed of that special quality we look for from Bergamini and Fossi, landing between weird loungy electro and sleek electronic wave with some strange diversions along the way.
Lobotomine 5 by Kirlian Camera

Lola Kumtus, “The Shape Of Men”
We mostly know Finland’s Lola Kumtus for their early quirky minimal synth stylings which often abut upon NDW territory. But new LP Pharmakos looks to be steering in a more specifically EBM direction, albeit directed by the duo’s minimalist and at times flat out weird aesthetic. Nice amount of stripped-down house levity to this particular cut. Is the abrupt end a mastering error or closely considered artistic decision? We leave it to you.
Pharmakos by Lola Kumtus

Bad Wolf, “Hell”
Nein Records caught out attention with the name of their forthcoming compilation Brutalist Disco. Blocky, austere, monolithic dance music is surely something we all get a taste for now and again, and something the Berlin-based label has dealt in on occasion. That said, we’re getting much lighter vibes from one of the comp’s preview tracks, “Hell” by Bad Wolf. Slicked up, low-key electro-pop with a darker edge (and maybe a hint of 2000s blog house?), it’s a whole lot more free and easy than we anticipated, and all the better for it.
Brutalist Disco by Various Artists

E.L.I., “Freaks At Play”
Lastly, some promising new stuff coming to us by way of Tripalium Corp, the acid freaks who first brought Notausgang to our attention. Lo-fi EBM and dark electro styles on display on the first track from E.L.I., maybe akin to A Split Second heading in a more giallo direction. Deliberately murky and mid-tempo, this is avoiding a lot of the more overt moves we’ve seen a lot of tracks in this style make over the past couple of years, so there could be some more pleasant surprises on the forthcoming Misery Inc. tape.
DMS040 – E.L.I. – Misery Inc. by E.L.I.

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Potochkine, “Sortilèges”

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Potochkine - Sortilèges

Potochkine
Sortilèges
self-released

Potochkine have come by their sound honestly. The French duo ply a style that is certainly shaped by modern dancefloor standards, but has a clear throughline back to classic French coldwave, darkwave, and electro. New record Sortilèges adds some extra club polish and drama to an already developed sound, and acts as an excellent introduction to the band.

It’s easy enough to hear the slinky combination of darkwave and EBM production plied by Pauline Alcaïdé and Hugo Sempé and imagine them to be of a piece with a current wave of dark club music most notably championed by Boy Harsher. But pay closer attention and you’ll be able to find connections back to classic acts like Kas Product in the combination of spiky synths and metronomic beats in “Les Chevaux”. Alcaïdé’s vocals, alternately panicked and yelping then softly reflective (and willing to drop a Matisse reference at the drop of a hat) hearken back to plenty of French acts while also having more than enough of their own character.

Potochkine’s progression with Sortilèges has been marked by refinement rather than reinvention. Alcaïdé’s vocal charisma and talent was apparent from the duo’s first releases in 2016, and there was plenty of pulsing immediacy to that work, too. But the dramatic vocal strain added to the trills of “Possédée”‘s tale of envy and seduction (already one of our fave DJ numbers of the year) or the savvy paring of the manic “Pogo” down just to its incessant titular bounce feel like the finishing touches a band applies when they’ve really figured out how to fully deliver their chosen aesthetic. Factor in the oddities of the band’s extant discography (demos, theatrical scores, an EP reprising some of the demo material) and Sortilèges is exactly the sort of unified calling card Potochkine would hope to be putting forward.

Potochkine was brought to our attention by a friend of the site who was at the now-fabled Kalabalik Festival a couple of years ago. When we asked which acts she’d most enjoyed who we likely wouldn’t have heard of all the way back here in Canada, Potochkine was her immediate reply. It’s now readily apparent to us why that was, and based on the quick impact and appeal of Sortilèges, we imagine plenty of others will be pointing friends to the band just as swiftly. Recommended.

Buy it.

Sortilèges by POTOCHKINE

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We Have A Technical 356: Was That Too Gross?

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Marsheaux

Get your life back with Marsheaux.

As much as we’d like to convey the image of austere, stoic hermits who only listen to music when we’re giving it our full attention in a darkened room with top-of-the-line stereo equipment, like everyone else we throw records on while we’re doing other stuff. It’s with that in mind that we’re each picking five task-driven records this week – what do we listen to while we’re driving, cleaning, working, and whatnot? Listen to this episode and find out! All that plus some talk about the slow reemergence of live shows in the US and (*sigh*) the new :wumpscut: record. 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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This Morn’ Omina, “The Roots of Saraswati”

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This Morn’ Omina
The Roots of Saraswati
Dependent

This Morn’ Omina’s 2021 album is a rebirth of sorts for the long running Belgian project. The basis of founder Mika Goedrijk’s vision for “ritual musik” are still here in quantity; dark synthetic atmospheres, extensive use of Hindustani, Middle Eastern, Northern and Western African percussion instruments and extensive references to buddhism and Hinduism in track titles and samples have long been TMO’s calling cards. Where The Roots of Saraswati departs from the band’s most recent catalogue is in the de-emphasis of electronic dance music tropes – gone are most of the overt rhythmic noise and trance markers they often dabbled with – in favour of a more ornate, cinematic orchestral sound.

Which is not to say that the album abandons danceability, more that its structures and ideas seem less beholden to those of DJ friendly dance music. Listen to the construction of “Naoús”; distant drums and bass drones provide a foundation for an arrangement of hand percussion which after an extensive two and a half minute build eventually coalesces into synthetic 4/4 beat, which itself breaks down into a swarm of analogue synth tones that cut apart the track’s ominous vocal sample. It’s a song that contains no end of rhythm and movement, but whose arrangement has a complexity and intent that separates it from many comparable compositions from TMO’s past.

Some of this change must be due to the influence of Scott Fox, the Canadian producer who has long cited TMO as a major influence on his work as iVardensphere. He and Goedrijk are the credited writer-producers on the record, and Fox is also credited with the mix and master, meaning that his touch is felt in basically every moment of The Roots of Saraswati. You can hear the sort of delicate sampled instrumentation that has informed contemporary iVs releases on the string-laden “Vadavigni (The All Consuming Fire)”, or in the deep synth tones that form the basis of “Nepenthe”. That latter number might be the most instructive in understanding Goedrijk and Fox’s approach to making the record; in withholding big payoffs and concentrating instead on slow builds towards melodies which it then deconstructs, it has a remarkable subtlety that belies its bursts of percussive bombast.

Truthfully, it’s those moments of vast, soundtrack like construction that offer the best and most interesting ideas that This Morn’ Omina have to offer on The Roots of Saraswati. While technically perfectly executed and designed, the albums major concessions to giving the listener a traditional banging TMO tribal industrial experience – “The Mongoose King” and “Blood Oath” – are simply less interesting than songs like “1000 Cuts (Lingh Chi)” which takes their kick-drum-first approach and creates vast, organic waves of accompaniment and counterpoint using it as a foundation. The record’s sound is less of reinvention than expansion, taking what we know and understand of This Morn’ Omina and building it out to sometimes meditative, sometimes awesome proportions.

Buy it.

The Roots Of Saraswati by This Morn' Omina

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Tracks: April 6th, 2021

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Now that there’s some light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel of Covid, we’re starting to see some tentative show announcements for the fall, a time when projections say most of the folks in North America will be vaccinated (if they’re smart enough to get the fucking shot, but that’s another story). Regardless, it’s been a pleasure to see our pals in LA Das Bunker announce a slate of new shows , partially because it includes so many acts we love like Mr.Kitty, Twin Tribes, Riki and Wingtips amongst others, but also for the hope it brings regarding the return of live music as a thing we can all enjoy communally, something we’ve been missing for so long now. More shows will pop up shortly we’re sure, many to be discussed herabouts we’re sure.

Ashbury Heights

If you’ve gotten through a year of lockdown and maintained half the sartorial dignity of Anders from Ashbury Heights, you’re doing better than us.

Ashbury Heights, “One Trick Pony (feat. Massive Ego)”
Ashbury Heights are amongst our favourite acts here at I Die: You Die for a few reasons. Firstly, they’re an electro-synthpop scene act who have genuine songwriting chops, it’s the rare AB track that doesn’t have a sticky hook or a memorable chorus. Secondly, Ashbury Heights songs are always about something, and expressed in a relatable way. Such is the case with new single “One Trick Pony”, a collab with Massive Ego which takes on the idea of balance between the person you need to be for professional or “adulting” and reasons and the person you feel like you actually are, or want to be. It’s a theme that resonates with us as aging scenesters, and might strike a chord with you as well.
One Trick Pony (feat. Massive Ego) by Ashbury Heights

Flint Glass, “teyolia”
Folks might remember us gassing on a while back about Tzolk’in, a collaborative project from Flint Glass and Empusae. Looks as though Gwenn Trémorin is taking that project’s interest in ancient South American myth and practice as a guiding light for psychopomps, the forthcoming Flint Glass EP and by our measure the first new non-collaborative work we’ll have from Trémorin since 2006’s incredibley Nyarlarthotep. Deep, watery, but still entirely rhythmic, stuff like this is always going to scratch a very particular itch of ours that little else can.
psychopomps by flint glass

HEALTH, “Slaves of Fear (Comaduster remix)”
The homie Réal Cardinal roars back this week with two very separate musical excursions. The first is a deep, subtly designed but of ambient dark folk, subtle, gentle and a triumph of minimalism in design and performance. The second is this outsized remix for Los Angeles electro-rock giants HEALTH, taking the title track of Slaves of Fear and transforming the thrashy original into a monolithic slab of bass and syncopated rhythms. The two sides of one of Our Thing’s modern originals.
DISCO4+ by HEALTH

Wet Skin, “Sex Negative”
The debut record from Wet Skin offers something very different from the rubbery TBM we’ve come to count on X-IMG for. Slow and seething, tracks like “Sex Negative” into the same fusion of classic industrial textures and moody pop songwriting as NIN, while tackling “a meta-thematic confrontation with the proto-incel themes of some industrial music”. Ugly, difficult stuff to be sure, but likely necessary to examine.
Animal God [X-IMG23] by Wet Skin

Slighter, “Complicit (Innocence is Dangerous)”
Slighter is a project we have a lot of respect for. The strong quality of his productions aside, Colin Cameron just steadily keeps working on and releasing music, building himself a small world of releases under the Confusion Inc. banner. If you aren’t familiar yet, “Complicit (Innocence is Dangerous)” is a good jumping on point; brooding downtempo production meets a hypnotic groove that works in headphones, in the DJ set, and on the last train home.
Complicit (Single) by Slighter

Sophrosyne, “Human Abbatoir”
We’re not entirely sure what to make of Ecclesiastes, the neck-snapping debut from the mysterious Sophrosyne project. Ostensibly a metal release but shot through with a range of unexpected industrial and electonic sounds, it’s not quite like any other industrial metal record we’ve heard before. The combination of black and nu metal markers being delivered alongside post-witch house and broader hardcore programming sort of ends up being a neighbour to aggrotech (sort of), but one with an entirely different evolutionary background.
Ecclesiastes by Sophrosyne

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We Have A Technical 355: A Good Point

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Sturm Café

Sturm Café straight flexin’.

The gents from Sturm Café are our guests on the podcast this week, and we had a blast chatting with them about their changing relationships with EBM, the importance of a catchy melody, and the nation-wide rewards of investing in music education (no, really!). Sturm Café are a band that has long been a favourite of the Senior Staff and we were very pleased to finally have them on the show. On a less upbeat tip, we’re also discussing recent discoveries about goth rock band Sonsombre. 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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Kill Shelter & Antipole, “A Haunted Place”

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Kill Shelter & Antipole
A Haunted Place
Manic Depression Records

Kill Shelter and Antipole’s team-up effort A Haunted Place does quite a lot to highlight each post-punk act’s own character over the course of its eight tracks. Where Karl Morten Dahl’s work as Antipole has often favoured open song structures that unfold in at their own pace, Pete Burns’ largely collaborative catalogue as Kill Shelter is generally tightly focused on individual sounds and ideas as the song requires. The two meet in places that contrast and compliment one another, sometimes finding common ground, and sometimes supporting the other act’s approach.

Earlier tracks on the record certainly have the Kill Shelter flair to them. Goth-rock club bid “Raise the Skies” and the bass-driven reverb-riffage of “Burn Bright” are weighty but spry, with well-paced drum machine grooves and deep-voiced vocals from Burns, easy choices for those seeking playlist or dancefloor fodder. Later in the record “Of Roses and Thorns” hits the same mood but with even more grandeur via its swelling dual-guitar attack, establishing a filligreed lattice of notes that sounds both steady and ornate.

Interestingly, closer reads of the album start to reveal the influence of Antipole, specifically in some of the more delicate touches. While the Norwegian act has many of the same darkwave markers as their UK compatriot, their application is often looser and more open to letting songs form around a simple bass groove. You can identify it in the sparseness of the skeletal “A Kiss In the Rain”, or in the breathy atmospherics of closer “Every Waking Hour”, where reversed reverb and slow rolling rhythm push onward with glacial certainty.

Truthfully though, the Antipole and Kill Shelter are like-minded enough that trying to identify which songs originated with each act is largely guesswork. An ethereal number like “Into the Fire” or a groovy head-nodder like “All For Nothing” could hail just as easily from one catalogue as the other, which only serves to highlight the nature of A Haunted Place as a collaborative effort. It’s strengths – good hooks, solid production and healthy dollops of atmosphere – feel like the product of partnership. The quality of the record certainly suggests that the team-up is a fertile one.

Buy it.

MD132 – Kill Shelter & Antipole "A Haunted Place" by Kill Shelter + Antipole

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Kanga, “You And I Will Never Die”

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Kanga - You And I Will Never Die

Kanga
You And I Will Never Die
Artoffact

In a recent discussion of the intersections between pop and industrial, we put Kanga forward as an artist capable of lifting from both traditions with a certain sense of ease and comfort. With only a couple of tracks from You And I Will Never Die out at the time, we had no idea how pursuant to that subject the record would prove to be, nor how subtle its appeal would be.

First-time listeners will likely be struck by a pair of seemingly incongruous characteristics – You And I Will Never Die pushes further into smooth electro-pop territory than we ever could have imagined after seeing Kanga’s confrontational performance at DB20 back in 2016, and yet at the same time demands more of its listener than any of her previous work. The overt Nails-isms of the first record are nowhere to be found, nor is the bombastic approach to percussion which guided the Eternal Daughter EP. Instead, Kanga’s vocals are placed front and center, cycling between hazy self-doubt on “Say Goodbye” and wistful loneliness on “Home”.

Each of these tracks slides along a spectrum of darkwave and electro-pop which perhaps brings Black Nail Cabaret or Noblesse Oblige to mind. Icy electro-industrial and nicely timed EBM programming is worked into the corners of tracks like “Brother” and “Violence”, but are finessed to sit alongside the friendlier pads and melodies to the point that someone hitherto unfamiliar with the project would likely never spot them. And more than any particular genre allegiance or bid for club play, it’s the hypnotic allure, mood, and je ne sais quoi of the entire record which cinches things. I mean, I could pitch “Moscow” as motorik dream-pop or make comparisons between “Ritual City” and a handful more recent darkwave acts, but both songs have a richness which only emerges after attuning oneself to the LP’s smoggy yet hopeful vibe and Kanga’s own vocal decisions.

It perhaps sounds contradictory to describe the release of a record so smooth and at times pretty as a risky or controversial move. But, without totally forsaking her roots in industrial, Kanga’s showing just how much range and talent she has beyond those sounds. A finely calculated and effective move towards the big-time, we hope You And I Will Never Die finds Kanga some listeners who’d likely never find themselves perusing this site. Recommended.

Buy it.

You and I Will Never Die by KANGA

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Tracks: March 29th 2021

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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

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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

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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”

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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

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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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