Replicas: KODE IV, “Insane”

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Kode IV
Ceiba Records

What Is It?
Decades before the Berlin school of techno-body music materialized, there was Kode IV. The San Francisco based project founded by Peter Ziegelmeier and Hans Schiller in 1989 put out three albums that bridged the sample-heavy sounds of nascent trance music (Ziegelmeier would go on to co-found the influential trance label Ceiba Records after Schiller’s untimely passing in 1994) and the mid-eighties EBM sound. The project’s extensive use of horror movie and guitar samples and gritty synths held a lot of appeal for industrial clubs and DJs of the era, with all three LPs and numerous singles seeing release via Belgium’s KK Records. Following last year’s digital remaster of the 1990 debut Possessed, their excellent sophomore release from 1992 Insane has had the same clean-up for a Bandcamp reissue.

What’s On It?
The 24-bit remaster of Insane is a barebones affair in terms of what’s on it; you get the original LP tracks, with a nice, beefed up mix that brings up the general volume as well as the weight of the kicks and synths to modern standards. That may be simply be a function of the scarcity of bonus material to add to the package; unlike Insane or the follow-up Silicon Civillization there isn’t much in the way of contemporary remixes or 12 inch edits to draw from.

Honestly though, the album is strong enough to warrant a look on its base merits. Tracks like “Accelerate” and “Disobey” still go hard, the former with its sampling of the THX intro sound and chopped up metal riffs, the latter with its horror movie sound track organ and choirs, all backed by robust bass synths and drum-machine programming that recalls new beat’s darker, speedier moments. Later in the decade Richie Hawtin would make techno’s debt to electronic body music with the inclusion of Nitzer Ebb on his iconic Decks EFX and 909 mix, but Kode IV was already mining that connection with “Fear into Power”‘s gang-chant vocals and “Success”‘s interpolation of the bassline from “Let Your Body Learn”.

Admittedly some of the songs show their age: the quaint early nineties flavour of the title track comes through in its hoover synths and mildly corny invocation of the theme from Psycho, and “Truth” signposts the project’s eventual drift towards goa via the tabla and sitar samples and breaks. That said, the programming on “Fight” has plenty in common with the emerging electro-industrial sound of the time, and could be spun in a set of comparably styled music today without raising an eyebrow.

Who should buy it?
At $7 US for the remaster, Insane is an easy buy to justify, either as a new listener, or a fan of the record who wouldn’t mind a little more juice in the mix for DJing or headphone listening. Especially recommended for those who may have heard a few tracks by the band on comps or mixes and are interested in finding out more about a surprisingly varied and in some ways prescient project.

Buy it.

Insane by Kode IV

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Tracks: June 27th, 2022

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As we’ve mentioned on the podcast a couple of times, touring’s very much picking up again, at least in our corner of the world. We have Lebanon Hanover and HEALTH passing through Vancouver this coming week…as well as Weird Al Yankovic (though that’s more likely to be discussed on an upcoming episode of Bombers than in these pages). Things still definitely aren’t normal and all of the new variants are keeping us on edge, but damned if it doesn’t feel nice to have some choices for live music again.

Randal Collier-Ford

Randal Collier-Ford

Kollaps, “Relapse Theatre”
Aussie outfit Kollaps have always done a great job of linking the original noise and pure experimentalism of the earliest industrial acts with modern gear and influences. That side-stepping of many of the more codified forms of post-industrial ends up yielding refreshingly blunt and full-scope walls of industrial noise like this, the lead track from new LP Until The Day I Die. Expect a full review later on, but for now brace your ears.
Until The Day I Die (CSR309CD/LP) by Kollaps

Minuit Machine, “Lion in a Cage”
While Minuit Machine are by no means a new act, it feels like they’re gearing up to break a lot wider for international audiences this year. Their last two EPs (2020’s Don’t Run from the Fire and 2021’s Basic Needs have struck a fine balance between their minimal and darkwave origins and club-ready body music sounds, and the recent announcement of a vast North American tour has them poised to grab a lot of well-deserved attention. Witness “Lion in a Cage” the first single from the forthcoming 24 LP, due in the Fall, we daresay it’s the perfect opening volley for their new campaign.
Lion in a Cage by Minuit Machine

None of Your Concern, “Hard Heart”
Hot on the heels of the excellent SPECTRAL a few weeks back comes the latest from None Of Your Concern. If you were feeling that release’s buzzy electro flavour mixed with EBM, and queer club sounds, you’ll find it on “Hard Heart”, which percolates with analogue synth bloops and tense/teasing vocals. Put these cats on a tour with their fellow Chicagoans Pixel Grip, and send them EVERYWHERE, this stuff is blowing up at some point so it might as well be sooner rather than later.

Poison Point, “Fallen Hearts”
France’s Poison Point was quite active for a few years in the mid-to-late twenty-teens, but it’s been a full six years since their last LP release. That draught comes to an end in September with the release of Poisoned Gloves, with Timothée Gainet once again as the sole member after a few years of working as a duo. Of the two tracks on offer ahead of the release, we think “Fallen Hearts” best displays the project’s take on modern, electro-flavoured darkwave; you can detect touches of classic minimal and wave behind the club-ready beats, with some interesting layering of vocals and arrangement choices that provide depth and intrigue.
Poisoned Gloves by Poison Point

Randal Collier-Ford, “The Ominous”
The style of Randal Collier-Ford’s compositions has been pleasantly expanding in recent years, moving beyond the traditional pace and structures of dark ambient to take on all manner of neo-classical and cinematic elements. This new standalone single is a great example of the latter, with the intermittently ascending and descending keys and pads ably suggesting the Alien films which inspired it (getting real Prometheus vibes in particular).
The Ominous by Randal Collier-Ford

Soft Riot, “Windows To The Wild (Qual Remix)”
Longtime friend of the site JJD’s work as Soft Riot often enters our field of vision from the post perpendicular of angles. A recent track from a comp has been given a suite of remixes, including this version by William Maybelline. The laid back, Neue Deutsche Welle-inspired funk of the original (keep an eye for Maybelline himself in the video) is sent careening into Qual’s terrain of a manic EBM nightmare.
Windows To The Wild (Versions) by Soft Riot

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We Have a Commentary: Twin Tribes, “Shadows”

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Twin Tribes - Shadows

Settle in for a lot of fast talk, as the Senior Staff power their way through the debut LP from Texas’ Twin Tribes. A modern darkwave classic through and through, be prepared for a lot of gushing about songwriting, albumcraft, and the beauty of simplicity on this I Die: You Die bonus podcast. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below.

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Observer: XLV & None Of Your Concern

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When we last checked in with Andrew Dobbels’ XLV the project had taken on some more classically industrial ideas in contrast to the more glitchy and cut-up material of its earliest releases. New LP Dobbelyou continues in that vein, working with noisy, minimal sequences of drums and synths that grind and crunch their way through a saturated audio environment. Interestingly, a renewed dedication to rhythm means a lot of the material takes on the textural quality of vintage powernoise; see how the arrangement of kicks rusted-spring sequences that make up the whole of “The Place”, or the way that the syncopated beats on “Are You Going With Us” hammer the surrounding buzzing and hissing into a machined arrangement. Like all of his work, Dobbels’ ear for texture is keenly applied – sounds with seemingly overlapping sonic footprints are mixed to remain distinct, allowing for the busy electro-style drum programming of “Bifurcate” to chug along without turning into a mess of noise, or the ultra-minimal “Tensor” to tickle the ear with minor variations and peculiarities to jump out. Degraded by sound design, but never ill-considered or shortcutted, it’s a nice modern take on a classic industrial sound, its harshness belying the exactness of its construction. Buy it.

None Of Your Concern - Spectral
None Of Your Concern

Chicago’s None Of Your Concern have made a virtue of brevity since their emergence in 2020. Their total original output prior to the new Spectral EP might be able to fit on one side of an old Maxell 60 minute tape, but through quality control, an intriguing approach to visuals, and a beguiling musical approach, they’ve swiftly become one of the most distinctive new American acts trading in darker electronics. As with their debut Primer, Spectral brings together elements of darkwave, drag, EBM, and house, but as presaged by last year’s “Shut It Down” NOYC are pressing those sounds into tighter and more claustrophobic packets. A savvy trade-off is made in the super short run time of each of the EP’s four tracks – no sooner has the wormy and labyrinthine groove of “B Patrol” worked its way into your system than it flushes itself out. Even when there’s a more spacious and less frantic beat, as in “Midnight Preylude”‘s opening tics, manic programming quickly begins to spiderwalk atop the whole affair. Factor in equally pressed strings and you begin to feel you’re watching the opening sequence of a Michael Mann film at double speed. Dense, dark, dramatic.

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We Have A Technical 411: Excoriate Me If You Must

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Executioner's Mask

Executioner’s Mask: Much more cheery in person than on record, evidently.

One of our chin-stroking big topic episodes is coming your way this week, as we discuss the thorny question of the cost of digital releases within the culture of the darker music scenes. What shapes artists’ decisions regarding price points? What impact do people’s motivations with their music play in how they try to distribute it? And what goes through the head of the budget-conscious music purchaser as they’re browsing through slews of releases on Bandcamp? All these questions and more on the latest episode of We Have A Technical. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below.

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Executioner’s Mask, “Winterlong”

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Executioner’s Mask
Profound Lore

The 2020 debut LP from Executioner’s Mask, Despair Anthems, was post-punk of a type you don’t often hear. Completely forgoing the genre’s anxious energy and wistful melancholia it traded instead in full on, cavernous and all-encompassing depression. It was, in a word, bleak. While not exactly a sunny day at the beach, follow-up Winterlong forgoes some of the grim outlook of its predecessor which allows the Philly based project’s other qualities to peek out through the shroud of misery.

It should be stressed that any perceived “lightening up” by Executioner’s Mask is really only in relation to the sound of the debut record. The gritty, corroded guitars, ultra-deep vocals and echoing, tumbling percussion of “Sick in Heaven” are still about as dark and heavy as post-punk gets, and their are moments on the album (the plodding “Hart Island”, the slowly unraveling “Honey”) that border on the nihilism of mid-period Swans. Those numbers provide the contrast that makes other, less severe songs on the LP come across as such: the speedy drums and guest vocals from SRSQ’s Kennedy Ashlyn on “Contempt” wouldn’t seem quite as sprightly if they weren’t set against the morose, fatalistic ennui of “Two Vultures Fucking” for example.

There’s also some interesting smaller touches in production and presentation that help distinguish Winterlong. “Flaming Creatures” uses rapidfire synth bass to reinforce its rhythm and put over the swirling rusty guitar lines. Elsewhere “Last Fall” adds a bit of swagger and swing to its arrangement, working a classic deathrock riff to the bone and walking the borderline of camp with a sneer. Even the sparse and sad closing track “Wasting Away”‘s use of piano is offset by a ragged, blues-rock guitar solo that while unexpected is remarkably effective at keeping the song from getting mired in a swamp of cheerlessness.

Again, by any reasonable standard Winterlong is a fairly dour affair, although not an absolute downer to listen to, which is something of an achievement in and of itself. Executioner’s Mask certainly seem to have grasped how to retain the blighted and raw character of their earlier material, while spiking it with energy and even some tiny hints of light at the record’s shadowy edges.

Buy it.


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CIERŃ, “The Emperor Rx”

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CIERŃ - The Emperor Rx

The Emperor Rx

Berlin’s CIERŃ have had a very particular iteration of a classic sound in their sights since their first demo tracks appeared in early 2020 (In the interests of full disclosure: vocalist Devi is a longtime friend of the Senior Staff’s, though CIERŃ’s work was first covered on this site before we realised the connection). The quartet’s dedication to the proto-goth style often originally tagged as positive punk was apparent from the get-go, and Emperor Rx builds and maintains the sort of balance between direct intensity and a considered harmony needed to pull it off.

Whether you’d care to point to classic acts like Skeletal Family or more recent purveyors like Arctic Flowers (both fair touchstones for The Emperor Rx‘s sound), CIERŃ’s sound is one that requires a deft touch, despite its proximity to the rawest of crust punk. Take as an example the way the guitars on “Bloody Rites”, which have been held in restraint for most of the track, erupt into a thrash at the end while Devi calls for “ceasefire, ceasefire”. It would have been an easy enough move to redline the guitars to underscore the drama of the track, but by finding a harmony between them and the rhythm section even in the records noisiest moments, the overall mood and ethos of The Emperor Rx is maintained and has a larger cumulative effect.

That harmony and flexibility goes a long way towards making The Emperor Rx a satisfying back to front listen. Even in its few underwritten moments (“Glass Houses” rhythmic circling runs in place for a bit too long), the links from song to song in arrangement and production keep everything at an even keel.

Despite all this talk about harmony and mood, CIERŃ have ultimately delivered a very straightforward and direct record, both in its sonics and thematics, with human follies such as animal testing and imperial hubris as recurring lyrical touchstones. The Emperor Rx offers a hearfelt homage to an often overlooked sub-genre in a tight package.

Buy it.

The Emperor Rx by CIERŃ

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Tracks: June 20th, 2022

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Hey friends, welcome to one of the last Tracks posts of the first half of 2022! That’s right, we’ve almost reached the point 5 point of the year, which naturally raises the question of what standout songs and releases have been released thus far, and what more do we have to look forward to. Well, you can take a quick perusal of our review section for thoughts on all manner of albums from Our Thing, and these here Tracks posts often serve as a good guide as to what individual songs have been most impactful. You probably already knew that, but just in case you’re parachuting in today for the first time have a look at the last six months for a quick refresher on 2022 from our standpoint.

Run Level Zero, “Bring Me Home”
There was more than a decade between Swaerm, the most recent LP from Swedish electro-industrialists Run Level Zero and their previous record, and given that we hadn’t expected to hear from them again so soon. New track “Bring Me Home” is a pleasant surprise, then, both in its sudden appearance as well as how it recontextualizes the familiar toolkit of electro sounds we’ve heard RLZ put to Vancouver-styled use over the years. This sort of downtempo and contemplative track is not at all what we might have expected, but it’s a welcome surprise.
Bring me home by Run Level Zero

Antigen Shift, “Lest You Be Witches”
Speaking of unexpected returns, we knew that Ottawa duo Antigen Shift had been starting to gig again here and there over the past few years, but we’d heard nothing about new material until the Talk EP popped up on Bandcamp this past weekend. The first new work from Nick Thériault and Jairus Khan since 2014’s Brotherhood, tracks like this feel both like a throwback to the turn of the millennium technoid/rhythmic noise traditions from which the project was originally forged, but with a good amount of influence from synth (and possibly post-rock?) styles well outside of industrial.
TALK by Antigen Shift

The Soft Moon, “Him feat. fish narc”
When we first started following The Soft Moon, the project felt-considerably different than it does today; at the time the largely instrumental act relied heavily on long, circular arrangements that had a hypnotic and urgent quality to them by virtue of their inevitability. Since the Luis Vasquez has emerged as more of a personality in the band’s work, their sound has changed to a more charged and volatile brand of electronic post-punk, still as fraught but far closer to the edge with each successive release. “Him” is the first taste of new LP Exister and keeps up with that trend; there’s just something invigorating and jaw-clenching in its tense arrangement of bass and vocals.
Exister by The Soft Moon

Front Line Assembly, “Purge (Black Asteroid mix)”
If we’re being honest, we weren’t that taken with the recently released FLA and Black Asteroid collab “Methane Rain”, it just felt a touch flat given the chops of the folks involved. Much better is this BA remix of Frontline’s “Purge”, one of the better tracks from last year’s Mechanical Soul; Bryan Black taps right into the song’s EBM roots and adds some oomph for the modern dancefloor. A solid cut for your body or techno-body flavoured DJ set.
Purge (Black Asteroid Remix) by Front Line Assembly

Black Magnet, “Floating in Nothing”
2020’s Hallucination Scene from Black Magnet was that rare industrial metal release that made us reconsider our prejudice against the subgenre. A lot of that came from Justin Hammontree’s canny ability to keep the industrial aspects of his compositions in balance with the chugging and churning guitars. We’re getting the same feeling from “Floating in Nothing”, the first cut to be released from the forthcoming Body Prophecy; synthetic textures and percussion are aligned with thrashing and swirling guitars that convey murk and menace with disintegrating into shapeless noise. One to keep an eye on when the LP drops.
Body Prophecy by Black Magnet

Randolph & Mortimer vs ROÜGE, “Sermon Three (David Carretta Remix)”
Two years after their collaborative EP Union Of The Faithful brought them in sync with a host of producers from across the techno and body music spectra, Randolph & Mortimer are bringing even more cooks into the kitchen by having each of those collaborative tracks mixed by outside producers. You can try to crunch the equation of the canny EBM of R&M in tandem with ROÜGE’s accidentally aggrotech techno being remixed through the Italo/electro lens of David Caretta, but we’d suggest putting down the slide rule and just let this one take over the party.
Union of the Faithful (Remixed) by Randolph & Mortimer vs ROÜGE

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Observer: Cold Showers & Phase Fatale

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Cold Showers
Strength in Numbers
Dais Records

The press materials accompanying the new EP from Los Angeles’ Cold Showers make a point of drawing the line between their pensive indie-dance and the baggy era of Manchester music, where post-punk gave way to chilled out psychedelia and ecstasy-fueled dancefloors. It’s an appropriate comparison to make, the 5 tracks present on Strength in Numbers maintain the same knack for pensive and longing that made their 2019 LP Motionless so compulsively listenable, but with the electronics and grooves given more prominence behind Jonathan Wells’ wistful vocals. Opener “How Do You Know This is Love” makes the most of a guest appearance by now venerable internet hip-hop personality Lil’ B (!!), who solemnly intones a monologue about love over a dusty funky drummer breakbeat, chorused-up bass and washes of noisy guitar flow by languidly. The following tracks “Lock and Key” and “Sliver” spike that formula with their own unique touches – the former with switch-ups between angular and funky chick-a-chick guitar work and the latter with its greater emphasis on electronic rhythm programming and more intensely dour outlook. It’s the penultimate track “Nighttime” that feels most impactful; there’s something about the chanted gang vocals, fuzzy bass guitar and synth-orchestration that rises up behind it all to set the stage for waves of guitar squall. It’s a big uncharacteristic for the band, but speaks to some more dramatic ambitions hidden behind the laidback melancholy that marks the EP.
Strength in Numbers by Cold Showers

Phase Fatale - Burning The Rural District
Phase Fatale
Burning The Rural District
Hospital Productions

NY-to-Berlin transplant Hayden Payne has been at it as Phase Fatale since well before the idea of TBM blew up with long-time rivetheads, let alone the broader mainstream audience who’ve managed to turn Berghain (where Payne’s held a residency for years) into late-night talk show fodder. Despite his comparative youth, you get the sense that the surface ebbs and flows of such trends don’t really impinge upon Phase Fatale’s interests and aesthetics, which have drawn upon 80s industrial sounds from the get-go. Payne’s commented that new LP Burning The Rural District is a response to experiences with homophobia in Tbilisi (where he also holds a residency), though such a subtle but off-putting theme will likely be difficult for outside listeners to ferret out across the LP’s eight tracks of engaging and flowing beats. More than ever, Payne’s productions feel as though they’re eschewing traditional markers of aggression and intensity here. The fluid and groove-driven programming of “White Line Nightmare” and “Autoworship” feel more shaped by the likes of Lassigue Bendthaus than they do any of the current forerunners of TBM extremity. Factor in some classic spacey IDM/breaks in “Hazer” and you have a record that feels like an organic and well-thought out result of longstanding influence rather than fleeting trends.
Burning The Rural District by Phase Fatale

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We Have A Technical 410: Destrucity

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Two rather different records in terms of era, sound, and (presumably) audience make up this week’s episode of We Have A Technical. We’re talking about Ashbury Heights’ debut Three Cheers For The Newlydeads and Contagion’s Contaminant PCB. We also have some words about the passing of our friend Bryan Hughes, and Minuit Machine’s upcoming North American tour. As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or listen through the widget down below.

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Silver Walks, “Various Positions”

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Silver Walks - Various Positions

Silver Walks
Various Positions
Distortion Productions

There was a lot about Silver Walks that had us flagging them as a long-term prospect with a lot of upside as far back as 2015. There was sole member Dan McCullough himself, whose considered positions on industrial would certainly bode well to anyone who’d ended up talking shop with the unassuming Philadelphian at festivals. But more importantly there were the early Silver Walks tracks themselves, which showed off a canny sense for what works in terms of electro melodies and structures, but also brought some distinctly American flavour to sounds commonly associated with Europe. But even with those things in place, first LP Various Positions still exceeds expectations, namely by finding the ideal spots for its various contributors, and for its deft interpretations of a whole range of post-industrial sounds and styles.

Given that Marc Heal’s storming turn on “In Consequence” has already been drawing acclaim for a couple of weeks, it’s worth just taking the bull by the horns: the sheer number of guest contributors making their presence felt on Various Positions will likely be its calling card for those just cottoning on to Silver Walks. McCullough seems to have had a keen sense of what each collaborator would be able to bring, and sets the table perfectly for each of them, from the millennial breaks which electropop chanteuse Stella Soleil cruises atop to the deconstructed symphonic post-rock which tags in James Francis, Eva X, John Jacobus, and Ryan Mast in short order. And hell, having John Fryer mixing exactly the sort of lush, electro and production driven joint the legendary producer has been creating himself for the past few years is just the icing on the cake.

But even beyond the smoothly revolving door of contributors, Various Positions‘ ability to change-up the core sounds and influences of its compositions is what really puts McCullough’s talents into sharp relief. He’s just as handy with “Tear Me Down”, a sultry mid-tempo darkwave kiss-off, as he is with “Lantern” and “Mirrortowne”, the American-styled industrial rockers which bookend the record are half late period Wax Trax!, half Imperative Reaction, but more satisfying than either generally is. The clattering percussion, bleeps, and rhythmic samples of “Eyes Of Caligula” are a whirlwind tour of industrial sound design from the past forty years.

It’s with that comfort and capability with all of the sounds and sub-genres which Silver Walks draws upon in mind that the real strength of a track like “In Consequence” comes into relief in the context of the record. Sure, it’s got Marc Heal doing Marc Heal things and it should absolutely go off in a club. But in the context of Various Positions as a whole, it can be recognized as a a piece which sounds intense without being needlessly loud or aggressive, which gives the wounded vulnerability which is so often just barely present in the corners of Heal’s vocals the full spotlight. These are all approaches which can get even the most jaded of listeners approaching some familiar sounds from a refreshed perspective, and on Various Positions they’ll be ably rewarded. Recommended.

Buy it.

various positions by silver walks

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