We Have a Technical 238: Mary Alan Julian

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Miracle look suave even after forgetting where they parked.

As Year End coverage waits in the wings, your favourite post-industrial palookas are taking a look back at the year that was. Yes, it’s a Pick Five episode with the dead simple theme of tracks from 2018. Yep, tunes which represented this year’s broader trends as well as plain old earworms are being picked up and discussed, alongside recent live sets from SRSQ and HIDE on We Have A Technical! (And as for the stinger, it was Greta Van Fleet.) Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Black Tape For A Blue Girl, “To Touch The Milky Way”

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Black Tape For A Blue Girl - To Touch The Milky Way

Black Tape For A Blue Girl
To Touch The Milky Way
Projekt Records

Are Black Tape For A Blue Girl actually issuing work with renewed vigor, or is that just subjective bias creeping in? Sure, Sam Rosenthal’s legendary ethereal project has never been far from hand, but 2016’s These Fleeting Moments was a tour de force record which couldn’t help but wrest our attention away. That could just as easily have been a function of timing: something as timeless and elegant as Rosenthal’s string arrangements or Oscar Herrera’s vocals can be a comforting balm in troubled times. But that’s perhaps to do disservice to the quality of tracks featured on that record, not to mention its rich excursions into shoegaze. New LP To Touch The Milky Way might not be as varied as its precursor in terms of sonics (understandable, given an economical 43 minute run-time, 27 shorter than Milky Way), but it still offers the tranquility in meditation and upheaval in reflection.

The record’s overarching concept is certainly as heady as anything on These Fleeting Moments, with opening track “I Close My Eyes And Watch The Galaxy Turning (Part I + II)” and the closing title track acting as philosophical bookends, tackling questions of temporaneity and impermanence. As Rosenthal told us upon the record’s release, “I see the futility of trying to touch the milky way, but it’s a human attempt to grasp more than what is within our reach, grasping for all that might be attainable during our brief time under the existential glow of life”. The musical palette he opts for suits those grand ambitions. The slow burn of “I Close My Eyes”‘s strings and pads suit the theme of the Eternal Return, while the dead simple piano figure which begins the closing title track makes for a stark and bracing beginning to a final push into cosmic void and kosmische guitar.

Nestled between these ambitious buttresses are a set of the frail yet cozy sort of Black Tape tracks which seem to have been Platonically formed for Danielle Herrera’s voice. Drifting between organs, treated strings, and classic darkwave staging she weaves sad and incredibly proximal reflections on hope and loneliness. If pieces like “I Close My Eyes” stun us with stoic clarity and perspective, numbers like “Does Anything Remain? (Part III + IV)” wound us with their relatable angst. Lines like “I haven’t left the house in days, calling in sick with spirits watching over me / Drinking alone, I’m thinking you’ll abandon me when you keep finding me like this” have a photo-realistic bite, with the quiet and almost bashful tone of Herrera’s voice underscoring both the mundanity and intractability of such commonplace but devastating thoughts.

The group of collaborators to whom Rosenthal’s become attuned over the years, in concert with the moods he seeks to evoke, makes for a versatile (and well-sharpened) multi-tool this far into Black Tape’s career. The ideas of struggling to become the only person you can or would want to be, or to harmonize oneself with principles personal or universal, are the sort of high-concept drama which countless other bands would sound naff trying to broach, but which continue to come naturally to Black Tape For A Blue Girl.

To touch the milky way by Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Buy it.

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Neuroticfish, “Antidoron”

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Non Ordinary Records

The mid-decade return of Neuroticfish after a nearly decade long hiatus was a welcome one for fans of the German project’s brand of futurepop. The music on 2015’s A Sign of Life was an affirmation of the exact things that had helped Sascha Mario Klein’s material stay so close at hand for so many, namely Neuroticfish’s capacity for deep, emotional resonance. Where so many of NF’s futurepop contemporaries’ big songs have started to sound thin and insubstantial in the intervening years, the music on No Instruments, Les Chansons Neurotiques and has retained its potency, even minus the club environments where most audiences would have encountered it. New LP Antidoron highlights that, with Klein and bandmate Henning Verlage leaning in on the big feelings and melodrama on every song.

Opener “Colourblind” acts as something of a pace-setter for Antidoron, with a slowly building arrangement of synth bass drums supporting Klein’s vocals, delivered with his characteristic mix of vulnerability and confidence. It’s a song whose simple hook might have been put into service of something more uptempo, but instead acts as a signpost, lending the album structure and weight. It’s also an indicator of the duo’s commitment to letting the material breathe; a few tracks later “Fluchtreflex” delivers the expected upbeat dance beats, but not before spending a full two minutes selling the song’s bittersweet melody and lyrical focus. It’s a pattern that plays itself out a few times (“Fail to Disagree”, “Challenge You”) but purposefully. Neuroticfish want to let these songs establish themselves before the 4/4 kicks hit.

Interestingly, the record’s highlights are on the slower side tempo-wise. Pre-release single “Hysteria” has a syncopated rhythm that plays hard against its chattering synth arpeggios, supported by a deep subterranean bass growl, accentuated by clean modern production and a transparent mix that allows each element to stand out in the busy arrangement. “I Walk Alone” has a similar weight, with swirling pads and lengthy sections without any beats at all, making the drum hits all the more impactful when they do strike. “I Am Here” takes the approach to its extreme, with Klein delivering a memorable chorus with little to no rhythmic support, the song’s gently rolling momentum carried by shifts in bass and the swell of its string sounds.

For all its emphasis on growth and gentle progression, the album retains Neuroticfish’s immediacy, mostly through the force of Klein’s sincerity as a vocalist. Few artists could make a line like “Do the idiot’s dance for me” sound so agonized, or croon something as prosaic as “I walk alone/into darkness” without prompting an eye-roll, but his conviction sells every word. On a record that takes some potentially alienating chances, that means everything; for all it changes, Antidoron sounds and more importantly feels like Neuroticfish.

Buy it.

Antidoron by Neuroticfish

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Tracks: December 10th, 2018

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Last Tracks post of 2018! These always sneak up on us, as the last couple of weeks of any given calendar year tend to have us focused on making sure reviews happen for as many notable releases as possible. Still, it’s been one of the easiest years ever to do this feature, as the torrent of notable and interesting material to single out for a bit of a spotlight has been totally relentless. It’s something that feels integral to the site and to keeping us honest about digging for material and we’re happy to have another 12 months worth of these to peruse back through as we prep our Year End coverage. Thanks for reading ’em!

OHMElectronic are here, get ready for a fight.

OHMElectronic, “Everything Is Gone”
We first got wind of this new rager from the good brothers in OHMElectronic (formerly OHM) a few months back and it’s been a song we’ve returned to numerous times, waiting for the moment we could share it with y’all. Like on their first album, Chris Peterson and Craig Huxtable are leaning in hard on their extensive experience as sound designers and programmers but with an added touch of meanness that fits their aesthetic to a tee. Can’t wait for this new album to drop via Artoffact in February. In fact you might say we’re amped (that’s a little electricity humour for y’all).
OHMelectronic by OHMelectronic

A Covenant Of Thorns, “Torn In Two”
Tip of the hat to our boy and yours, Alex Reed, for letting us know that one-man dark synth act Covenant Of Thorns not only has a new album on deck, but has actually been active again for a couple of years. We first caught wind of Scott-David Allen’s work way, way back in the days of dial-ups and Listservs, but hadn’t heard of any Covenant Of Thorns news in well over a decade. Regardless of the downtime, the first track from the forthcoming Shadows & Serenades is both anthemic and nostalgic; we’ll be sure to check out the full record.
Shadows & Serenades by A Covenant of Thorns

Handful Of Snowdrops, “One Of Us”
Speaking of throwback dark synth, new-to-us Quebec act Handful of Snowdrops are preparing to release Noir, their fourth LP. The band identify as a “postwave” act, and while that prefix-suffix combo might look odd, we’re guessing you can fill in the blanks. While we’ve seen some comparisons to Xymox, the name which this tune more readily brings to mind is Ikon – though having originally formed in 1984 Handful of Snowdrops have the Aussies beat by nearly a full decade!
Noir by Handful of Snowdrops

Razorback Hollow, “The Angel of Blood and Fire”
Did you peep that EP that our pal Daniel X Belasco (the mad synthpop magician behind Glass Apple Bonzai) released earlier this year as Razorback Hollow? That release was archival material being polished up for release, but the new two track single Into the Mouth of the Great Mutilator appears to be brand-spanking new stuff. While the programming and samples feel very much in the vein of the classic post-industrial that inspired the project, the vocals are unmistakably Belasco, which means, that they are smooth as hell.
Into the Mouth of the Great Mutilator by Razorback Hollow

Circa Tapes, “Pahn”
Btx3R/F01101/Exe might not be the easiest label name to recall, but the Spanish outfit’s done recent releases by Sarin, Wind Atlas, and Dame Area, not to mention a recent End Of Data reissue, so they make up in quality what they lack in brevity. Their new comp, Material Eléctrico III, features material by plenty of familiar acts like Klack, Celldöd, and Violet Poison, as well as two tunes from always moody ex-Kill Memory Crash act Circa Tapes. Digging how much the atmosphere adds to this otherwise dead simple track.
B​.​F​.​E​.​51 – MATERIAL ELÉCTRICO Vol III LP by Btx3R/F01101/Exe.

Leaether Strip, “Telephone Operator (Pete Shelley cover)”
Claus Larsen hasn’t ever been shy at all about paying homage to his influences in the world of synthpop and electronic music, with numerous recent digital releases dedicated to the folks who have informed his own legendary catalogue as Leaether Strip. The latest such release is a bittersweet one, as Claus released “Telephone Operator” as an homage to the song’s author Pete Shelley, who sadly passed this week. If you’re mostly familiar with Shelley’s unimpeachable work with The Buzzcocks, make a point of digging into this influential work as a solo artist, laying the foundations for electronic pop music as we understand it today. Claus delivers a fitting tribute to a true original. Rest in power.
Telephone Operator (Pete Shelley Cover) R.I.P by Leaether Strip

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Observer: Petrolio & Paralyze

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Like so many of the artists associated with the audiotrauma label, the music made by Italian experimentalist Enrico Cerrato as Petrolio is defined more by emotion than strict genre tags. On his latest EP L=ES Cerrato paints with broad strokes using drones, washes of synths, pianos, and percussion to build up varying moods and feelings. Mid-record track “FISH FET” is harsh, with shredding metallic drums as its focus, but it suggests resilience more than anger, as melody struggles up to be hear and recognized amid the destruction. “L’ETERNO NON E PER SEMPRE” starts with a stack of foreboding tones and pads but slowly parts at its direst moment to reveal a strident snare beat, marching upwards from the depths even as shrieking peels of noise go off above it. “LA MALADIE CONNUE” plumbs some uncomfortable places sonically, but offers catharsis; even through the walls of static and modulating synths that fill the mix, a simple piano figure offers succor. L+ES isn’t a comforting or hopeful release necessarily, but it does contain within in it the potential for that feeling to emerge, counterintuitively amplifying each grain of optimism by obscuring it.
L+ES by Petrolio

Paralyze - Dissociative Prosthetic
Dissociative Prosthetic

Most industrial sub-genres are now long enough in the tooth that to speak of them as being “retro” is becoming an increasingly vague descriptor. What period? What iteration? What country of origin? New on the scene one-man act Paralyze, hailing from Wisconsin, split the difference by taking a distinctly retro yet broad reaching approach to the post-industrial back catalog, creating a fresh blend of familiar styles by hybridizing stripped-down electro industrial programming with break-neck power electronics noise and yowling. It’s a combination that works well right from the gate (think of a more lo-fi version of Protectorate with more hardcore-style breakdowns), with simple but punishing programming delivering the goods across all five tracks of the project’s debut EP. The more extreme, endurance-test side of Paralyze is communicated through blast-beat drum fills rather than pure distortion, putting a unique stamp on Dissociative Prosthetic and again, speaking to an influence from extreme metal and punk. Paralyze is mean, forthright, and splashes just enough cold water on some familiar sounds to reinvigorate them.
Dissociative Prosthetic by Paralyze

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We Have a Technical 237: A Catharsis of Humpty Dumpty

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It’s a very English and very apocalyptic episode of We Have A Technical as recent records by Gazelle Twin and Current 93. Be it political, personal, or religious, endings and great changes are taken up in fraught and anxious ways on Pastoral and The Light Is Leaving Us All. Bruce and Alex also take a look at the just announced Mechanisms Fest and the website’s impending year end coverage on this week’s IDieYouDie.com podcast! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Black Nail Cabaret, “Pseudopop”

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Black Nail Cabaret
Dichronaut Records

Black Nail Cabaret has always been a project that lives and dies by the charisma of vocalist Emese Arvai-Illes. Her smokey voice is an astonishing instrument, providing continuity to the project through changes in style and line-up (notably the departure of founding member Sophie Tarr, who was replaced by producer and instrumentalist Krisztian Arvai). New album Pseudopop is far afield of the electro-pop of Black Nail Cabaret’s past, mostly trading in moody electronics of varying degrees of effectiveness.

In the record’s favour, Arvai-Illes is never far from the forefront of its ten songs, her powerful and sultry voice bringing gravitas and theatrical intensity to everything it touches. Songs like opener “Icarus” really highlight exactly what she can do: a skeletal arrangement of synths and drums that builds the barest of structures for her to ride upon, which she does with expertise and confidence born from control. “Techicolor” and “Verge on the Creepy” hit similar notes despite having a fuller sound. Rich string pads and echoing keys perfectly set up Emese to deliver performances rich with emotion, with her distinctive alto cutting through the mix like a knife. When the tempo does pick up, as on single “Bête Noire” she displays a nimbleness in enunciation, forcefully vamping the song’s slightly Tori Amos-referencing chorus (“I think I want to kill you/But I believe in peace, bitch”) with verve.

Sadly, the album too often fails at delivering notable material. In spite of Arvai-Illes’ best efforts, many of the tracks are too slight or give her too little to work with from a songwriting standpoint. Some, like “90s”, a musical homage to the titular decade’s chiller electronic sounds, have decent concepts but don’t coalesce into anything tangible. Others like “Trigger Happy” and “Rhythm X” pick interesting palettes from a sonic perspective but meander too much and lack tangible hooks. They’re not bad, just not memorable, easily sliding out of the mind of the listener moments after they end.

Appreciation for Pseudopop will ultimately come down to exactly how much appetite one has for Emese Arvai-Illes’ voice. She’s there to enliven its lesser moments, and elevate its better than average ones to quite nice, but without her it just wouldn’t have much at all to offer. As a delivery mechanism for her wonderful presence, it serves its purpose and can be enjoyed in that context.

Buy it.

Pseudopop by Black Nail Cabaret

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Zanias, “Into The All”

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Zanias - Into The All

Into The All
Candela Rising

The musical trail Zanias has blazed for herself in the past few years feels just as wide-ranging as her relocations from Australia to Malaysia to England to Germany. Between Linea Aspera, Keluar, and her own solo career she’s worked within all manner of dark styles new and classic, and in curating the stellar releases from Berlin’s Fleisch cliq she’s earned a rep as a modern techno maven of no small stature. But even with that resume Into The All feels like an audacious leap forward. A sharp departure from the dark techno heavy To The Core 2016 EP, Zanias’ first solo LP circles back to plenty of the sounds she’s managed to explore in a comparatively brief spate of releases, but also finds her pushing forward with vocally and compositionally ambitious material.

Into The All begins with a suite of three sweeping tracks both ethereal and bombastic: “Uroboros”, “Division”, and “Syzygy”. The shifting gossamer pads, sublimated techno beats, and poly-rhythmic acoustic percussion which make up these tracks – part Dead Can Dance, part Berghain, part Graeme Revell – would be enough to mark a sea change in Zanias’ work on their own. But it’s in her soaring vocal delivery, emerging out of sample beds and whipping about between rhythmic barrages that Zanias ushers in a new understanding of her work. Yes, her vocals were always highlights of her past releases, but those performances were often in keeping with the diktats of coldwave and minimal synth, and didn’t afford the free reign exploited here.

Those grandiose pieces only make the earthy tracks which follow them feel more direct in context. The warm electro-synth bounce of “Atrophy” connotes a cozy nostalgia, while the consciously lo-fi and compressed synths of “Idoru” directly recall Keluar. But even there, the track is shot through with murky darkwave grinds (perhaps bringing to mind the tensions between technique and discord similarly tested out by fellow Berlin expat Lynette Cerezo of Bestial Mouths).

That Into The All contains samples taken from the natural environs of Zanias’ former homelands seems appropriate. Just as the record borrows from and hybridizes her musical past, so too does it borrow from her personal past. But these return voyages are shaped by difference, not repetition, and synthesis only opens new dialectics. Zanias has made an impressive foray into uncanny territory with Into The All, both familiar and alien. Recommended.

Into The All by Zanias

Buy it.

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Tracks: December 3, 2018

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At least two of the acts featured in this week’s batch of Tracks haven’t been featured on I Die: You Die in a good number of years, which has us thinking about just how much time has passed since we first started this here enterprise. We’ve learned a lot in that time, but one piece of wisdom which still eludes us is finding a way to try to cover as much of the end of the year backlog of records which invariably appears in time for our now well-established Year End coverage. Will we get all of our bases covered before we get down to the brass tacks of ranking our favourite releases of 2018? The only way to tell is to stay tuned, dear reader.

No you don’t need to clean your glasses, it’s just Poison Point.

Acretongue, “Requiem”
It’s been over seven years since the debut from South Africa’s Acretongue brought us some immaculately sculpted modern electro. Sophomore record Ghost Nocturne will be arriving in February, and from the sound of “Requiem” we can gather that Nico Janse van Rensburg hasn’t been slacking in the intermittent time, but rather has been honing simple but evocative compositions like this to post-futurepop perfection. Building upon the more tasteful elements of millennial club sounds, “Requiem” has us hoping for another suite of elegant and enveloping Acretongue works.
Ghost Nocturne by Acretongue

Radioaktivists, “Raider”
Speaking of long-awaited releases (and also on Dependent, no less), after years in limbo the debut LP from Radioaktivists has finally seen the light of day. The supergroup (featuring members of Seabound, Haujobb, and Rotersand) has been the subject of much online speculation since 2012, and with Radioakt One now out it’s time to check the results (we tried to make some sort of Geiger counter pun to no avail). You could do worse than to start with this track, featuring a classic Spinath vocal and the sort of incessant beat we’d expect from this crew.
Radioakt One by Radioaktivists

Test Dept, “Landlord”
Of course, Acretongue and Radioaktivists’ hiatuses are mere coffee breaks compared to Test Dept’s, who’ve not been heard from in twenty years. “Landlord”, the first piece from the forthcoming Disturbance LP, seems to be somewhat picking up where these elder gods left off, with a heavy influence from 90s rave sounds, though the DIY percussive instrumentation which made them legends can still be heard. Between Brexit and London’s rental crisis, it’s no wonder they’re angry again.

Poison Point, “Resigned Commander”
Where Poison Point’s previously released material was more on the drum machine-driven post-punk tip, their new EP on aufnahme + wiedergabe dips into body music with a purely synthetic sound. Take “Resigned Commander” for example: the track has a 16th note bassline and simple kick-snare pattern to push it forward, ornamented with some coldwave textures and distant vocals. Interesting stuff from these Parisians.
Bestiensäule by Poison Point

How Green is My Toupee, “Certainly Not II”
It feels like every time we write about Domagoj Krsic we have start with how genuinely, delightfully weird his stuff is. New track “Certainly Not II” (lifted from the Anywave Wavecore 6) should serve as an example of why: in spite of starting with an easy electro-pop groove the song quickly starts to diverge with off-kilter pitches, deliberately unquantized drum hits and layers of processed samples. It could have been an okay song played straight, but what makes it (and all of How Green is My Toupee’s material) so interesting is that it never goes where you think it will. Good stuff from of Our Thing’s modern originals.
Wavecore 6 by How Green is my Toupee

Blutengel, “Vampire”
Hi everyone, Alex here. Normally these Tracks posts are co-written in first-person plural, but Bruce insisted I take ownership of this particular entry. The reason? Because he’s a philistine who fuckin’ hates Blutengel, whereas I, a connoisseur, enjoy their particular brand of Dracula-themed nonsense. New single “Vampire” might be a lil’ on the nose, but how you gonna front like you don’t like hearing Chris Pohl sing “wamp-wampire” repeatedly? This is that distilled euro-cheddar, so potent it could land dude a residency at Chuck E Cheese’s and I am all in on it. Fly me away Pohl man.

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