We Have a Commentary: Haujobb, “Solutions for a Small Planet”

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An ahead of its time, genre-busting classic is the subject of this month’s Patreon supported We Have A Commentary podcast! Haujobb’s 1996 LP “Solutions For A Small Planet” was a landmark release not only for the German duo but for all of post-industrial music. How can we read the record’s engagement with then still nascent net culture? How do its forays into electronic genres well beyond industrial hold up? There’s so much to discuss with a record this rich and beloved, so join us, won’t you?
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Rosetta Stone, “Seems Like Forever”

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Rosetta Stone - Seems Like Forever

Rosetta Stone
Seems Like Forever

The title of the new Rosetta Stone album says it all, at least historically. Porl King’s landmark second wave goth rock project has lain fallow for nearly twenty years, and in the interim King’s distanced himself so completely from the musical and cultural world which both birthed and was shaped by Rosetta Stone that the question of new material from the band was effectively moot. The title and cover of Seems Like Forever seems, at first glance, to rewrite that whole history. Porl looks to be making a prodigal return to the romantic and propulsive sound he’d long ago forsaken. Everything will be forgiven, winklepickers and crimpers will be passed about, and we’ll have a whole new album of second wave goth perfection. But…it’s not that simple.

Despite his self-imposed exile from the trad UK goth scene, King’s spent the past ten or so years crafting and releasing music as miserylab and In Death It Ends, solo projects whose output is perhaps adjacent to but not wholly of that world. That both projects have managed to conjure gloomier, more depressive, and more claustrophobic moods than Rosetta Stone ever did points to the idea that King didn’t need to be goth. As it happens, Seems Like Forever is in fact effectively a revisitation of miserylab highlights, comprised of rerecordings of tunes originally released between 2008 and 2011. So: is the record a new Rosetta Stone LP? Certainly: it’s been released as such by the one consistent bearer of that venerable moniker, who clearly sees some salience or merit in it for the first time in what seems, yes, like forever. Is it a miserylab compilation? Also yes: the political drive and stoic instrumentation which defined that project is entirely retained, and the spirit of these new versions is true to that of their predecessors. This is a taxonomically tricky record, to say the least – let’s dig into the actual music.

Those unfamiliar with miserylab may be struck by how direct Seems Like Forever is, both musically and lyrically. Sure, Porl had already moved away from the pentatonic, pedal-driver swirls of early RS material by the time the project was winding down, but tunes like “Making A Bomb” and “Children Of The Poor” are another thing entirely. Built around thudding bass loops underscored by the repetition of lyrical refrains, they’re unyielding and resolved slabs of post-punk. And if that sounds oppressive, check the lyrics. “Fuck the children of the poor / Severing the vein / The cremation of care / You’ll never understand / You’ve never been there / We’re not all so well connected” That so much time has elapsed and new effort has gone into these songs only makes their pertinence seem more bitterly ironic. miserylab marked an abruptly political turn in King’s songwriting, and a good portion of those tunes were directly tied to the news of the day: post-meltdown austerity, the 2011 riots, and even the hoody panic. The UK’s social, political, and economic fortunes certainly don’t seem any brighter nearly ten years on from this sound of the pond, and I’d hazard that King’s decision to let the lyrics stand unchanged indicates he feels the same.

This isn’t to say that Seems Like Forever is an indulgence in retrospect for its own sake – new colour and depth has been added in the rerecordings, moving away from the sparse minimalism of many of the originals. A large part of the original miserylab ethos were King’s self-imposed restrictions on what gear and how much time could be used to record a track. It’s clear from the range of sounds on Seems Like Forever that this rule’s been (understandably) suspended for the Rosetta iteration of these songs, and it’s interesting to revisit them from a slightly lusher perspective. A track like “What Is The Point” was certainly catchy enough from the get-go, with its sing-song synths on the chorus offering a pithy counter to the song’s lyrics about futility, but on Seems Like Forever it feels like it’s finally been given space to allow its melodic side to rise and expand, while King’s vocals take on a richer and more reflective croon. The furtive and punchy “Tomorrow For Us”, on the other hand, has the freedom to sharpen its fangs and claws, allowing drums and vocals to strike harder as they emerge from a more textured bed of synths and guitars.

Anyone who’s listened to as much of King’s work over the years as yours truly could go around the bend trying to figure out what Seems Like Forever portends. A permanent merging of the miserylab and Rosetta Stone catalogs? New material under the RS banner which avails itself of King’s more recent stylings? It’s anyone’s guess, and both King and his fanbase seem more than happy to just allow this moment to breathe. I’ll admit that I was a bit taken aback by the nature of the first Rosetta Stone LP since The Tyranny Of Inaction (recently discussed on this site’s podcast), but the execution of this material, representing the best of an overlooked period in King’s career, can’t be argued with. In any guise, under any name, King remains a singular composer of dark rock and it’s a boon to have him reclaiming the spotlight.

Seems Like Forever by Rosetta Stone

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We Have a Technical 261: Sax Guy

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Out here lookin’ like they rock supersaws, it’s Hatari!

On this week’s podcast we’re striking while the iron’s hot and talking about Hatari, the Icelandic BDSM-themed industrial band whose Eurovision run took the world by storm. How are they connected to Our Thing? Do their aesthetics relate to their politics? And how is mainstream media still so easy to hijack? All these questions and more are taken up in this week’s episode of We Have A Technical! You can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

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Romy, “Celluloid Self”

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Celluloid Self

When we first saw Los Angeles’ Romy perform at Das Bunker’s 20th Anniversary Festival some years back, we were struck by exactly how much territory her material visited. The songs played at that event showed both a grasp of hooks and pop structure, but were filtered through industrial and wave sensibilities. The producer-performer’s debut album Celluloid Self delivers that same mixture of sounds and ideas with a kind of restless energy, never settling for too long in one mode or tone.

That variety really proves to be the LP’s strong points. Opener “Flux” goes for a strictly sequenced bass and drum hits and hard monotone vocals, which makes it all the more impactful when second track “Broken Halo” breaks out into a huge, instantly memorable chorus, transforming the bubbling tempo from stern and mechanical to exuberant and vital. It’s not even that the particular set of sounds Romy uses changes dramatically; the synths and drum programming on “Bow” and “Eros” are closely related, but the bounce of the former gives it an italo flavour while the choppy programming of the latter almost reads like classic dark electro.

That invoking and switching up of signifiers on Celluloid Self also works as a complement to Romy’s performance as a vocalist, allowing her the opportunity to develop her personality for the listener. The appropriately titled “Normal Day” reads as an homage to “Warm Leatherette”‘s take on sex through the post-industrial lens, but its frankness with regards to self-pleasuring is both unexpected and audacious. It sits directly next to the electro-punk of “Mothers Child” where she examines inherited personality traits with a mixture of clinical detachment and anxious worry, and dancefloor rave-up “Abduct Me”, an arch bit of seductive disco candy.

While not everything Romy attempts necessarily lands (the druggy “Twin Peaks” and the minimal wave of “Linear Motion” feel less singular than the tracks that surround them) it’s genuinely remarkable how much ground gets covered effectively on Celluloid Self. Sliding a darkwave track like the enchanting “Parasols” in, and capping the record with the bracing body-music of “No Audience” are moves that could have fallen flat, but the personality and commitment on display make them work. Constantly shifting but staying focused and present, Romy’s dedication to herself and her material pays dividends.

Buy it.

Celluloid Self by Romy

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Tracks: May 21st, 2019

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Morning, friends! Hope everyone was as glued to the edge of their seats watching representatives from far reaching lands and kingdoms in extravagant costumes battle for supremacy while viewers made snide comments on Twitter about how naff the whole thing is. We are, of course, talking about Eurovision. And wouldn’t you know, it was surprisingly pertinent to Our Thing this year, thanks to Iceland’s entry which stood out like a sore thumb in Europe’s annual celebration of pageantry and needless glissando. Stay tuned for more on that, while we get things rolling with this week’s Tracks.

Moaan Exis with the Rakdos realness

Comaduster, “Monolith”
Hot on the heels of “Fever Rift” comes the latest single from Real Cardinal. Real spoke with us recently about the new series of Comaduster singles he’s working on releasing at a steady clip, but you don’t need to delve deep into process and compositional theory to appreciate the impossible heavy pillars of bass built on this track, which never push melodies or the vocals of Mari Kattman (of Helix) out of the frame. Great stuff, as we’ve of course come to expect.
Monolith (Single) by Comaduster

Moaan Exis, “Witness”
Absolutely savage new cut from France’s Moaan Exis, lifted from new album Postmodern Therapy due next month from Audiotrauma. Like a lot of their labelmates, the duo of Mathieu Caudron and Xavier Guionie aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, layering in gritty distortion over their atmospheric soundscapes for impact. Y’all should probably check out the unsettling video for the track while you’re at it, it’s as hypnotic and captivating as it is profoundly unnerving. Officially adding this record to the “we’re excited to check this out” docket.

Lingua Ignota, “Butcher of the World”
If you didn’t hear us talking about it on the podcast last year, Kristin Hayter, aka Lingua Ignota’s All Bitches Die and the performances we saw from it were amongst the most difficult and beautiful musical experiences we’ve had in recent memory. New album Caligula doesn’t sound like it’s backing down from that, with “Butcher of the World”‘s orchestral backing, waves of distortion and static and Hayter’s stunning vocals, which range from full-on screams to beautiful, operatic anguish. Striking, heart-rending music from one of the most singular artists we’ve heard in years.

Second Still, “New Violet”
We enjoyed California trio Second Still’s 2018 Equals EP for its ability to throw some light and deft touches into the dour post-punk template. New LP Violent Phase looks to be carrying that canny integration of outside sources further, if this and other lead track “Double Negative” are any indication. Unpredictable and exciting instrumentation tics keep you guessing while the groove remains.
FP026 Violet Phase by Second Still

Hex Wolves, “Cautious At First Sight”
Another solid EP of moody techno/IDM/EBM comes our way from LA’s Hex Wolves. Return To The Shadow Realm is true to its title, with plenty of smudgy atmospherics woven between beats, or as on this number, baked into them. The scrapy textures which make up the loping rhythm of this number have an unnerving but still catchy gurgling sense of harmony to them. Solid, effecting stuff from a producer who’s sound design always yields rewards.
Return to the Shadow Realm by Hex Wolves

Nostromo, “Terrain Ahead”
Do y’all remember Nostromo, the collab between techno-EBM experts SARIN and Unhuman? Turns out they’re back and fixing to release some new fire on aufnahme + wiedergabe in a few short weeks. We’ll admit that the glut of generic techno-body tracks over the last two years has taken some of the shine off the genre for us, but hearing two artists who are genuinely good at it and can bring the dancefloor muscle and energy to get over with us remains a pleasure. Be fixing to drop this one in a few DJ sets in all likelihood.
Extreme Manifestations by Nostromo

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