We Have A Technical 338: Still Jacked

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Abscess. Yes, we just tweeted this pic. We don’t care. Here it is again. It is objectively awesome.

This week’s classic two-albums podcast format brings discussion of the sole record by the enigmatic industrial/black metal project The Bleeding Light and some late 90s envelope-pushing dark electro from Abscess, with Bruce and Alex by happenstance each picking records the other had never heard. They’re quite different in terms of style and development, but both resulted in some extended discussion of genre markers and development. We’ve also got some (politely worded) ranting about the importance of metadata in digital downloads on this week’s episode of the I Die: You Die podcast. 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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Pig, “Pain is God”

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Pain is God
Metropolis Records

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to assess an album like Pain is God. I think in many ways the key lies in your personal relationship with Raymond Watts’ work as Pig: as a record it indulges and highlights those things that have made him such a cult figure in the broader history of industrial rock. I don’t think it’s really a stretch to say that Watts is aware of that niche standing – his current persona is a sort of figurative evil preacher character addressing his flock – and whether or not he was consciously attempting to cater to that audience, it’s an album that both and lives and dies by how interested you are in the artist making all his signature moves.

The bulk of Pain is God is squarely in the mid-tempo industrial rock realm, with big guitar riffs, straightforward synth and rhythm programming and Watts holding court vocally. It’s a familiar formula for Pig, and one that has yielded many of his biggest and most memorable songs. So although the title track, “Rock N Roll Refugee”, and “Drugged, Dangerous & Damned” don’t bring much to the table in terms of innovation, they fit nicely into the Watts songbook. There are even some nice touches of some of Pig’s further afield musical adventures, like the loungey organ and horns that adorn the bridge of “Cursed”, the evil beatnik funk that runs through “Badland” and the eastern orchestral motifs on “Confession (The Sacrificial Mix)”.

Still, taken as a whole it’s hard not to feel like this is Pig-by-numbers with few chances taken. It could be that many of the cuts have been out in the wild in alternate forms on various EPs and singles over the last few years, but the album is often just a reminder of other more bracing moments from Pig’s catalogue. Witness the massive faux-gospel closer “Suffer No More” which feels like a pretty broad and uninspired extension of the Diamond Sinner material, or how he covers KMFDM’s “Kickin’ Ass” (a song he provided the original vocals for more than 30 years ago) but offers nothing in the way of insight or variation in execution. Watts’ charisma and swagger as a performer helps wallpaper the record’s conservatism to a degree, but given his longstanding image as a prophet of perversion, it’s weird to hear him play it safe.

Pig doing Pig is fine and good if that’s what you want, and you can’t really fault the record for delivering on what a hardcore fan of the project would be presumably be interested in hearing in 2020. Still, one can’t help but feel like some of Pig’s unsavoury and unexpected sensibility has been washed away in service of delivering a record that trades more on familiarity than anything else.

Buy it.

Pain is God by PIG

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Randal Collier-Ford, “Advent”

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Randal Collier-Ford - Advent

Randal Collier-Ford
Cryo Chamber

Longtime readers will know that, in this writer’s humble opinion, Randal Collier-Ford has quietly risen to be one of the most consistent dark ambient producers in the field today. A measured release schedule has allowed him to maintain quality control, and has put focus on developments in his style and the distinctions between each record. That sense of pace well serves Advent, Collier-Ford’s first full length since 2017’s Promethean, and one which showcases his recently honed talents for integrating acoustic elements into dark ambient structures.

Having experimented with working strings and woodwinds into his approach over his past few releases, on Advent Collier-Ford marshals them to suit a range of purposes. The solitary strings which quaver beneath the slow, chiming beat of the first section of “Beckoning Absurd Shapes” move and shift in tone so as to push the composition forward, but are given just enough time and space in isolation to allow their velvety timbre to be fully appreciated. Conversely, the subtle pitch-bending applied to the piano which threads through “The Second Wound” estranges what should be a plainly familiar tone.

As with many of Collier-Ford’s releases, there’s a strong thematic unity meant to underline the whole release. The liner notes refer to a traveler being strangely drawn towards some ancient ur-culture, only to be horrified and driven mad by the ancient beings and rituals they uncover – Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned With The Pharaohs”, “At The Mountains Of Madness”, and possibly even “The Horror At Red Hook” seem to be direct inspirations. While this context isn’t necessarily required to enjoy Advent, it adds some dramatic payoff to the record’s culmination in a storm of drums, signalling either the return or the endurance of ancient atrocity.

While its forty minute run-time is hardly lengthy by the standards of dark ambient records, Advent has surprised me by always seeming to end far earlier than anticipated…and not in an “I got so lost in the drones I forgot what month it was” manner. No passage overstays its welcome or drifts into background drone, and there’s always enough tension and movement to keep the listener drawn in. Now firmly capable of wielding both acoustics and electronics with equal aplomb, Collier-Ford shows off cinematic mastery of musical drama and economy on Advent.

Buy it.

Advent by Randal Collier-Ford

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Tracks: November 30th, 2020

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With less than a month to go, we’re starting to pull out our slide rules and calculate how we might go about fitting 2020’s best music into our classic Year End list and coverage. On the whole we’d like to think that we’re covering a wider range of music and genres today than we were when we started ID:UD, and while that can make for more work for us, we hope the end result is people checking out some styles and sounds that might have otherwise passed them by when everyone uses the winter break to fill in gaps in the year’s listening. On with one of the last Tracks posts of the year…


We blame the patriarchy, not Patriarchy. Photo by @mike.d.romero.

Patriarchy, “Hell Was Full (Bon Harris remix)”
We could spend a few hundred words trying to sum up LA’s Patriarchy and not come close to really capturing them musically or aesthetically. They’re kind of a darkwave project, kind of a pop project, kind of an industrial project and they’re either taking the piss or deadly serious about everything they do, we can’t tell and are pretty sure we aren’t supposed to be able to tell. Anyways, they’re following up their 2019 release Asking For It with some hot remix action, in this case from Nitzer Ebb’s Bon Harris, a dude who might know a thing or two about club bangers. Peep the NSFW video for further insight into what these cats are about.
Hell Was Full (Bon Harris/Nitzer Ebb Remix) by Patriarchy

Soft Crash, “Haute Surveillance”
A team-up between Phase Fatale and half of Imperial Black Unit is a combo that sounds great on paper, and while this tune absolute delivers in execution, we have to admit it’s not what we were expecting. Much more lithe than the sounds we’ve come to expect from the respective sources, “Haute Surveillance” brings balearic brightness to the already melodic EBM/techno stylings of the Spritzkrieg EP. Perfect for when you’re ready to climb up out of the bunker and freshen up.
Spritzkrieg by Soft Crash

Missing Witness, “Skinwalker”
Always nice to hear a new track from Seattle’s Missing Witness. For the past 5 years the project has been serving up some serious electro-industrial vibes, nice and gritty just how we like ’em. Definitely getting some hints of Interlace and maybe Individual Totem on this one, both in the vocals and in the obscurity of the mix, making a virtue out of that muddy psychedelia. Check out their previous releases while you’re over at Bandcamp, all quality.
Skinwalker by Missing Witness

Living Room Project, “Cell”
Featuring a revolving-door cast of Vancouver folk about town, the new record from Living Room Project sounds as eclectic as you’d expect given the crew involved. Centered around Chris and Kerry Peterson, current and former members of Stiff Valentine, Unit:187, Left Spine Down, Landscape Body Machine and plenty more jump on board new LP Collecting Dust. In addition to the churning industrial rock some of those names connote, you’re getting some blues rock and trip hop tossed into the stone soup, maybe bringing 12 Rounds or Collide to mind.
Collecting Dust by Living Room Project

Magnum Opus, “Demon’s Kiss”
Faceless is a São Paulo based promotion agency, specializing in EBM, industrial, noise and related genres of music. If you’re paying attention, you know that even though Berlin is still getting the attention, South American has been a hotbed of interesting new acts over the last few years. That said, 2020 has been total garbage for everyone the years round, hence Faceless putting together a compilation to help benefit the artists they work with. Check out the sample track from Magnum Opus, and add it to your wishlist so you can pick it up when it drops December 7th.
Let Me In by Magnum Opus

Element, “Simpler Days”
We’ve heard through the grapevine that the long OOP back catalog of Cali darkwavers Element is in the midst of being prepared for digital re-release, and it looks as though things are starting off with a dive into the archives. Two releases totaling seventeen demos have just made their way onto Bandcamp, most of much look to have been hitherto unreleased. A tune like this does a good job of introducing the band’s aesthetic, standing astride the band’s electronic side (David Skott and Shane Talada had previously served time in Screaming To God) and the smeary gothic haze they’d also conjure.
Impossible Romance (Early Demos) by Element

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Observer: Operation Blue Eyes – Aarktica & Black Tape For A Blue Girl

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Operation Blue Eyes
New Totalitarians

Jonas Hedberg’s post-The Pain Machinery work as Operation Blue Eyes has largely favoured more low-key sounds; as with last year’s Poison Arrows you can definitely hear some classic body music under the surface of New Totalarians, but the songwriting and arrangements keep things laidback and melodic. It’s a mode that works for Hedberg, providing his distinctive voice space to get across and some room to play with genre. “March in Step” starts with a thrumming bit of bass that could belong to a big club stomper, but is rapidly put in service of a slick slice of electro-pop, with distant chimes and fuzzy leads that serve as a backdrop for Hedberg to croon over. “Regime” does a similar trick, putting a snarly bass guitar line and delayed synthline out in front like it’s going to be a darkwave overture, but ends up expanding outwards via big but subtle pads that rise up dynamically when required. When the EP does focus in on a particular sound as on electro-industrial number “The Price of Dreaming” Hedberg still resists going hard, focusing in variations of rhythm programming and subtle modulation to build up the song’s considerable groove. As with previous Operation Blue Eyes Releases, it’s an EP that plays things close to the vest, forgoing big gestures for subtler charms.
New Totalitarians by Operation Blue Eyes

Aarktica & Black Tape For A Blue Girl - Eating Rose Petals
Aarktica & Black Tape For A Blue Girl
Eating Rose Petals

Feeling spread a bit thin or wound too tight under lockdown? If so, Sam Rosenthal has you covered, offering warm, comforting succor in the form of a new collaboration with Jon DeRosa’s (Dead Leaves Rising, Pale Horse and Rider) solo Aarktica project. The backstory is a bit involved, but what this three-track, near-forty minute PWYW release has on offer is an original Aarktica track from last year, a reconstitution of the track by Rosenthal featuring both back-masked vocals Rosenthal extracted from the original and DeRosa doing a phonetic recreation of said back-masking (!), plus a coda/reprise of the latter. That sounds far more conceptually convoluted than the experience of listening to Eating Rose Petals could ever be, as what Rosenthal and DeRosa offer up, both alone and together, is a beautiful, languid reverie resting upon the dynamics between sustained tones (Rosenthal’s shimmering pads, DeRosa’s lightly plucked acoustics) and the rich but vulnerable timbre of DeRosa’s voice. The shifts between DeRosa’s original (already dreamy) lyrics, his non-lexical recreations, and the slightly unearthly backmasking tap into the mind’s desire to tease out syntactic meaning even when there is none (the effect is not unlike Bowie’s “Subterraneans” or the Guthrie/Foxx Mirrorball collaboration). Ultimately, though, you’ll find yourself abandoning such efforts: giving in the warm, slow slipstream of image and memory Rosenthal and DeRosa conjure is far more rewarding than any semantic pursuit.
Eating Rose Petals (name-your-price) by Aarktica & Black Tape For A Blue Girl

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We Have A Technical 337: Wendytaker

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Spit Mask

Spit Mask: wholesome family values.

For genres with a lot of clearly recognizable visual markers, industrial and goth can live and die by how they finesse them. In a high-concept episode of We Have A Technical, Alex and Bruce are examining a plethora of themes and types of imagery common to Our Thing, and discussing how they can function successfully…and how they often don’t. All that plus some discussion of a recent Quietus article on industrial metal and the beautiful new live Kite video. 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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Cabaret Voltaire, “Shadow of Fear”

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Cabaret Voltaire
Shadow of Fear
Mute Records

The announcement of a new Cabaret Voltaire album for 2020 was heralded with a lot of fanfare; Cabs are after all one of the original school industrial acts who are widely respected and beloved by the broader music world for their contributions to the modern history of electronic music. The first LP of new material since 1994 comes with a caveat however, namely that Cabaret Voltaire in this instance is only Richard H Kirk with other founders Chris Watson and Stephen Mallinder (currently working together as Wrangler) nowhere to be heard. That begs another pertinent question: what makes this solo Kirk endeavour any more Cabaret Voltaire than any of his various other projects?

I’m not sure there’s a satisfying answer to that question to be found on Shadow of Fear, although we can make a few justifications if we want to: much of the material was originally composed for Kirk’s live performances billed as Cabaret Voltaire, and the sound of the album has a distinctly analogue edge to it. That last bit is important, while Kirk has been on board with digital production techniques for decades at this point, one does get a first principles vibe from the rough edges of these songs. While album closer “What’s Goin’ On” is the closest in sound to vintage Cabs with its squealing horn samples, a mangled sample of a voice repeating the title and a rattling rhythm track, you can also hear some of their classic dub and kosmiche influence in the cavernous reverb of “The Power (Of their Knowledge)” and the chintzy percussion that adorns opener “Be Free”.

If we accept then that this a Cabs record by way of mindset, it opens up a lot of interesting angles from which to examine it. The proto-techno bump of the bleepy “Night of The Jackal” feels like it could be a lookback to the Groovy, Laidback, and Nasty era, albeit with the formal nods to acid house and nrg excised. And the massive eleven minute epic “Universal Energy” has some serious cosmic disco built into it, a sound that was never Cabaret Voltaire’s stock in trade, but can be inferred on any number of their classic industrial jams, through their post-industrial period and into their techno work. The record genuinely does feel like Kirk looking back to the band’s history and drawing lines from the classic recordings to present. It’s certainly a more noodly record than most of the band’s most celebrated material, but you can find precedents for much of its sounds and ideas in the catalogue if you take the time.

The main obstacle in hearing Shadow of Fear as a complete successor to the Cabs legacy is the absence of vocals. While Kirk’s decision not to replace Stephen Mallinder’s distinctive voice with a stand-in is a legit one, it does make it harder to distinguish the record from much of Kirk’s solo output in all its various forms. That makes the enjoyment of this record as the return of a legendary band somewhat contextual: if you can accept this as a philosophical successor to the Cabaret Voltaire ethos in all its various forms you should find something to enjoy – if you can’t you may be left wondering how this perfectly acceptable Kirk solo record fits into the legacy of the band it’s credited to.

Buy it.

Shadow of Fear by Cabaret Voltaire

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Kite, “At The Royal Opera”

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Kite - Kite At The Royal Opera

Kite At The Royal Opera
Astronaut Recordings

For years we’ve celebrated Kite for, amongst other things, the incredible quality control their ‘EPs and singles only’ mandate has allowed them to maintain. To date, Nicklas Stenemo and Christian Berg have released just 34 original Kite songs since 2008, and just about all of them are killers. From the bubbling dancefloor immediacy of their early pop tunes to the grand majesty of their recent lush laments, Kite’s discography has to be considered to be, pound-for-pound, one of the best in synthpop history at this point. The irony of this 80 minute live document, then, is that it’s technically their first LP, though one that brings the enduring power of their existing work into a grand and sustained context.

Recorded just over a year ago at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, this performance features, amongst other additional contributors, a sixteen-piece orchestra augmenting Stenemo and Berg’s well-established array of sweeping, contemplative synths. Even before addressing the presence of the orchestra itself, it should be noted that this recording does a solid job of capturing the scope of a live Kite show: the space of the opera hall brings out the “Plainsong”-strength weight and impact of “Tranås/Stenslanda”‘s rich and brassy pads, and gives Stenemo’s voice plenty of room on the sparse “My Girl And I”, underscoring the song’s wistfully keening and lovestruck tone.

Pop history is rife with collaborations between orchestral groups and artists generally removed from art music traditions and presentations. Many of these often trade on the supposed novelty of such team-ups or are bent on underscoring the ‘serious’ nature of bands who, frankly, doth protest too much. Kite avoid both of these pitfalls. Whether it’s due to the subtlety of the arrangements of film composer Jukka Rintamäki (who adds keys and lap steel guitar onstage) or the mix itself, the orchestral instrumentation never oversteps. The strings on “Nocturne” which sway beneath Stenemo’s vocals (which are given some interesting new auto-tune in moments on the track) nicely replicate the synthesized orchestral and percussive passages of the VI original, lending resonance but not reinvention. The same could be said for “True Colours”, with its stoic march buoyed up by strings and percussion. A notable exception is “Hills”, a track which well predates those more recent and audacious compositions: the bedroom synth of the original is replaced by a massive “Solsbury Hill”-cum-Arvo Pärt gospel arrangement.

Kite’s records, especially their last couple, are likely best listened to alone, in times of emotional frailty. But coming together with others around their music now and again – hearing it out at a club or experiencing it live – is all the more powerful for that. Something held and felt privately is given license to open up and try to connect (the same tentative experience to which “Up For Life” speaks), and is generally reciprocated and amplified. Not being able to experience that – with Kite’s music or anyone else’s – is painful right now, and as a bittersweet compromise Kite At The Royal Opera gives us all the chance to reflect on the power and beauty of their catalog, and hopefully points towards what we can look forward to sharing again someday.

Buy it.

Kite at the Royal Opera (live) by Kite

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Tracks: November 23rd, 2020

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We don’t take a lot of time to push our Patreon here on the website: aside from the banner on the front page and the weekly shoutouts on the podcast it’s something we’ve been comfortable with growing organically. As we’ve said many times, even if our Patreon died tomorrow we wouldn’t stop doing I Die: You Die, or We Have a Technical. That said we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge our patrons for their support, and let you all know that it has recently allowed us to make a gear purchase that will theoretically open some new content avenues for us here in 2021. You’ll have to be patient while we get the details worked out, but it’s coming and it’s going to be a lot of fun. In the meantime why not enjoy the regular Tracks post, an I Die: You Die tradition?

Panther Modern

Panther Modern, or should we say T’Panther Modern?

Panther Modern, “Kick It Out”
Panther Modern’s visual and aesthetic presentation is so overwhelming that you can sometimes forget how good his tunes are. We admit that “Kick It Out” is some of the first PM material we’ve listened to without direct visual accompaniment in a while, and it was a healthy reminder that the master of virtual reality concerts is making some wild and advanced tunes. The simple bassline augmented with distant pulsing synths, awkwardly real hand claps and Brady Keen’s distinctive vocals is basically catnip to us, definite dancefloor contender and a reminder that Panther Modern is substance and sizzle in one.
Kick It Out by Panther Modern

Affet Robot, “Budala”
The last time we checked in with Turkey’s Affet Robot they were working with a smooth hybrid of new wave and darkwave sounds. The first taste of forthcoming LP Fiyasko colours in some of the spaces between those styles, with big and bright synthpop leads being added, bringing some uptempo, anthemic drive to what is already a catchy and and rich sound. Super promising, and a nice addition to living room dance party for one mixes.
Fiyasko by Affet Robot

Mary, “Devouring Me”
Here’s some manic and often poppy goth/post-punk out of Toronto. Tunes like this one from one-man act Mary’s recent Die Before Death LP do a nice job of adorning pretty straight-forward, driving tunes with a whole mess of feedback and jagged overlays. That can be a difficult balance to strike, but Mary manages it in a way not dissimilar to Veil Veil Vanish.
Die Before Death by MARY

Gasoline Invertebrate, “Scarlet Slip feat. Chris Connelly (iVardensphere remix)”
This right here is a hell of a meeting of the minds: Head Gothsicle in Charge Brian Graupner’s wild Gasoline Invertebrate project did a track with Chris Connelly that has now been remixed by our pal Scott Fox of iVardensphere. And it sounds…kind of how you would expect: the beats are zippy and fun, Connelly does his half-sleazebag, half-Scots poet delivery and Fox brings the mastery of deep grooves and percussion to the party. The EP is out now, featuring remixes by Grasp Logic, Snowbeasts, Affect Effect and more, hit it up!
The Hurtmore EP by Gasoline Invertebrate

DJ VST, “jsr 060420”
From Brazil’s Buraco label – the same folks who brought us that solid MVQX EP – comes a set of improvisations from Russia’s DJ VST (good luck googling that). It’s raw and sharp hardware pings and kicks here, punching out a cold and spiky sound on this and the other three tracks on the tape. Should appeal to vintage powernoise fans or folks currently missing the experience of standing two feet in front of blown out club speakers.

Kite, “Hexx (Live at the Royal Opera”
It’s not often we throw a live version of a song into one of these here posts, but you know we make a lot of exceptions when Kite is involved. The Swedish synthpop gods’ absolutely stunning Live at the Royal Opera sold out twice when solicited on vinyl the other month, which should be a testament to exactly how much faith everyone has in the band, faith that has been fully rewarded by the simultaneous release of the 2019 recording streaming on video and via Bandcamp. If you have any doubts, this stirring and mournful version of relative deep cut “Hexx” from III should erase ’em.
Kite at the Royal Opera (live) by Kite

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“Not Pretty Enough” to be Goth

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This is going to be a somewhat multi-topic post, Snarklings; well, not multi-topic, but two facets of one larger topic. Part the First: Over on the Gothic Charm School Tumblr (yes, the Lady of the Manners is still on Tumblr, she’s curated her feed into a reliable stream of eye candy, but thank goodness for […]

We Have A Commentary: Love Like Blood: “Chronology Of A Love Affair”

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Love Like Blood - Chronology Of A Love-Affair

It’s a pretty left-field choice for this month’s track-by-track commentary podcast, with the Senior Staff discussing the final record by German goth rock/gothic metal act Love Like Blood. Made up entirely of covers of goth classics, Chronology Of A Love-Affair offers the opportunity to discuss the place of plenty of bands in the goth canon, the distinctions between goth trends in Europe and in North America, and the connection (if any) between gothic metal and the broader goth rock tradition. 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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Observer: ANIHILA & Dusty Idols

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ANIHILA - Kosmobushir

Duncan Ritchie’s dark ambient work as Flowers For Bodysnatchers trades in high concept releases with heavy medical and historical themes, and so his ANIHILA side project comes by its “future USSR space hegemony” pitch honestly. This trip into deep space isn’t perfectly smooth and meditative in the way cosmic dark ambient commonly is, and Kosmobushir is actually far more rooted in looped samples and noise than it is sustained and chilly pads. Clatter and squalls – while not “noisy” in terms of dynamics – fill up a large amount of the record. Some of these, like the fluttering sine waves and crashing bulkheads of “Metastasis” trickle through the grimy drones with the apparent randomness of chaotic space detritus, while others, like the rising and falling static pulses of “Akademgorodo”, fall into the trackable rhythm of astral bodies drawn into orbit. It’s a solid compositional approach which maintains consistency in the record’s theme without ever drifting too far off or becoming repetitive.
Kosmobushir by ANIHILA

Dusty Idols
Pars Destruens Et Oriens
Detriti Records

Berlin by way of Italy, Dusty Idols are an act with some history with Detriti Records, having released three previous mini-albums on the label. New release Pars Destruens Et Oriens is actually split between new tracks and a remaster of 2018’s Pars Oriens, although the difference of a few years isn’t necessarily audible. Dusty Idols trades in a classic Belgian new beat/body sound, familiar in that it evokes any number of expected (A Split Second) and unexpected (And One??) acts in the process. The new tracks have a bit more EBM in their DNA, “I Love You” and “Stomper” specifically working their oompah basslines against brassy synth leads and rhythmic samples. The newer versions of “Arcana Fortum” and “Persia” highlight the connection to original new beat’s fascination with cod-Eastern melodies and rhythms. The remaster of those tracks keeps the dustiness and throwback mix sensibility but lets the beat and bass hit harder. Neo-old school Belgian hard beat sounds have been far less explored than more generalist body music over the last few years, which helps Dusty Idols’ very specific genre exploration remain impactful and fun in equal measures.
Dusty Idols – Pars Destruens Et Oriens by Detriti Records

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We Have A Technical 336: Kill Hellektro

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The Shroud

The Shroud. Photo by Rebecca Caraveo.

This classic two albums format episode of the podcast couldn’t more clearly convey the range of sounds we like to talk about on We Have A Technical if we’d planned it that way. The field testing of powernoise’s sonic extremes on Asche’s Distorted Disco and the dreamy, autumnal and ethereal goth of The Shroud’s A Dark Moon Night represent the archetypal “stomp and swoon”, industrial & goth dichotomy ID:UD was founded upon. We’re talking about the ins and outs of both records, as well as gassing on about a stellar new Springsteen cover from Deine Lakaien. 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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ABU NEIN, “Secular Psalms”

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Secular Psalms
Progress Productions

Swedish trio ABU NEIN work a classic vision of European darkwave on their debut LP Secular Psalms, made up of tracks originally released on 2019’s I Will Rise EP and some new songs. All the hallmarks of the sound are here in full effect: sombre female vocals, straightforward drum programming, twangy guitars,brittle synth leads and muted mpads are all put in the service of tastefully minimal songs. It’s all quite measured and reserved, and that’s both good and bad; while ABU NEIN forgo big emotional moves and climaxes for steadiness and poise.

ABU NEIN’s constancy is expressed right at the outset of the record with track 1 side 1 pace-setter “Dying Into a Dance”, where a simple pattern of kicks and snares and a bubbling 16th note synth bassline propels vocalist Erica Li Lundqvist’s magisterial voice alongside uncomplicated guitar lines that serve as rhythmic accompaniment. This is ABU NEIN at their best, grasping on the essential appeal of a song and then doing their best to present it without excessive ornamentation. Follow-up “Love in Vein” swaps in electric bass and throws in some monotone french vocal punch-ins for flavour, but never loses sight of the simple melody that carries the tune. That spartan mood is so pervasive that even mild deviations stand out, as on the synthpop and electro excursions “Chamber” and “Sin”. Both are modest style exercises when taken in isolation, but seem like massive departures from the uniformity of their surroundings during an album listen.

It’s hard then to call the evenness of Secular Psalms a problem: the record’s dedication to consonance is a feature, not a bug. Still, once you settle into the groove it becomes difficult to get invested in individual songs, in spite of any specific merit they may possess. “I Will Rise” has the makings of a distinctive dancefloor filler in its ghostly pads and guitar hook, but seems content to let those elements sit in relative stasis with the rest of the track’s elements. Similarly “God in Me” has a bit of the sinister in the the bassline, but the arrangement pulls it back so that it never breaks from the album’s established form.

It might be unfair to dock points from ABU NEIN for their consistency in disposition and presentation, but it’s hard to deny how it impacts the listening experience. I’m not convinced that the album’s early standouts are especially better than the album’s later tracks – it might just be that by the time the final third of the record gets underway I’ve become accustomed to the timbre of the proceedings and have a harder time focusing on individual moments. Still, this mode of darkwave is evergreen specifically because of its steadfastness, and ABU NEIN deliver on it right down the pipe. For fans of of the style, the record offers some definite pleasures.

Buy it.

Secular Psalms by ABU NEIN

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Chrome Corpse, “Helmet Mounted Display”

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Chrome Corpse - Helmet Mounted Display

Chrome Corpse
Helmet Mounted Display

The appeal of Chrome Corpse was apparent from the project’s earliest incarnation: Michael F9000 reverse engineering classic EBM and dark electro tropes with youthful rage and a wry sense of humour, always directed at the self or subject matter, never the music. As the project evolved into a fully fledged band capable of trading in a wider range of styles, the attitude remained while the sounds and compositions evolved, eventually resulting in our hands-down favourite EBM record of 2019. Following up on Anything That Moves, a six-track EP adds some new dance flourishes to the mix, but retains Chrome Corpse’s sardonic charm and talent for rhythm.

From the sharp, metallic tang of the bassline on opener “Failsafe” it’s clear that the frantic delivery of roots EBM upon which the band was founded is still in play, but the yelpy tone of Antoine Kerbérénès and Enrique Otanez’s vocals (with some near Rn’B-harmonization towards the end) indicates that the band are looking for new ways to have fun, too. The pitch-bent, stabby samples and wetter bass tones which pepper the EP point to a strong influence taken from just down the I5, courtesy of Susan Subtract’s recent Physical Wash work. Things get even nuttier by the time some classic piano house gets woven into “Dance Or Die”, infusing the grimy track with some jacked-up sugar-high levity.

Thematically the crew are just as happy to experiment. There’s still a lot of time given to the ‘tactical’ aesthetic of military vaguery which 242 put on lock decades back, but it’s often cut with CC’s own brand of zaniness (Anything That Moves‘ attempt at fusing aerobics with covert-ops wetwork was evidently a sign of things to come). The casual tacking on of “baby” to the line “You exist in the shadows of dropships” doesn’t so much undercut the militaristic pantomime as it does reframe EBM’s obsession with it as a metaphor for relationships. But you don’t need to take such a critical look to be able to enjoy the club scene kiss-off of “The Feeling Is Mutual” or the band getting so hyped up by their own track that they bark “I’m gonna start cutting coke to this!” in the middle of “Dance Or Die”.

Once the great young hope for EBM in Cascadia, Chrome Corpse have more than enough notches in their belt and proper club bangers on their resume to have moved beyond rookie status. But Helmet Mounted Display shows that they’re far from settling down or repeating themselves, and likely still have plenty of more mutation ahead of them. Recommended.

Buy it.


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Tracks: November 16th, 2020

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As we begin thinking about how we might construct our Year End lists (still about a month’s worth of coverage to go, of course), it’s odd to think about how lockdown will affect our view of these records. We haven’t heard them in clubs (most of them at least), we haven’t seen artists play their material live, we haven’t had halfway normal conversations about them with friends as they play in the background of a party. How much will our own emotional and mental states towards the end of a very trying year factor into aesthetic judgments? Tricky questions to keep in mind as we take a look at this week’s Tracks.

Bastet, in what we presume is their natural environment

Mala Herba, “Wszystko Marność”
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but it looks as though we already have to start thinking about records from the far off, likely still-dystopian year 2021. Austria’s Mala Herba has been an act whose ascent we’ve been tracking with quiet anticipation – their work to date has been shot through with an emotive fury rarely found in darkwave so immediate and dancefloor friendly. First official LP Demonologia will be out on a + w mid-January, and if the rest of it has the heavy-duty vocal power and hookiness of this cut, the year’ll be off to a good (or at least better) start.
Demonologia by Mala Herba

Bastet, “Reign of Chaos”
Oakland dark punk act Bastet are back with a one-off digital single, a handy showcase for their speedy next generation deathrock. “Reign of Chaos” is appropriately titled, channeling some very tumultuous and anarchic energy into the tracks structure and its atmosphere. Maybe it’s just because of the year that this has been, but this sound is almost comforting right now. Great act, always happy to hear new stuff from them.
Reign of Chaos by Bastet

Ashbury Heights, “Wild Eyes (feat. Madil Hardis)”
Ashbury Heights roll through with another track from their forthcoming Ghost House Sessions anthology, a collection of tracks written during the band’s hiatus between Take Cair Paramour and Looking Glass Society. As these were largely demos that are now being finished up, and so far as we know the band haven’t officially replaced departed vocalist Tea Time, Anders has tapped into numerous guests to finish these up for release. Damn though if Madil Hardis’ soaring voice doesn’t fit right in on this big spooky club track, almost like she’s making case for herself.
Wild Eyes (feat. Madil Hardis) by Ashbury Heights

Group Rhoda, “This Flame”
The self-described “soft industrial” and “tropical darkwave” of the deceptively-named one-woman project Group Rhoda left a subtle but lasting impression on us when we saw Mara Barenbaum opening for The Soft Moon years back. Group Rhoda’s hypnotic brand of minimal synth perfectly suited the kitschy tiki-themed club the show was happening in (fuck, now we’re getting nostalgic for venues in addition to live shows in the abstract), and this number from fourth LP Passing Shades, due this Friday, does a nice job of recalling that slow, eerie charm.
Passing Shades by Group Rhoda

Bob Data, “Derranged Private World”
Some discussion of Latvia on our Slack channel (no, really) prompted some digging into that corner of the world’s scene, and the discovery of the Sturm label which has been releasing dark electronic out of Riga for a full quarter of a century. We’re digging the chill and spacey approach Bob Data takes on his The Stars Are Fire LP, pointing to Cryo and Kraftwerk’s darkly symphonic and cinematic momemnts.
The Stars Are Fire by Bob Data

Dive, “Death Machine”
Oh Dirk, never change. Dirk Ivens, the godfather of rhythmic noise and dark electro (and like half-a-dozen other genres) is back with more original Dive material, his first since 2017’s Underneath. In case you’re wondering if Ivens has chilled out at all in the last couple of years, the answer is a distinct no; “Death Machine” is the exact kind of intense, unnerving buzzy number that has been the project’s calling card since the early 90s. New album Where Do We Go From Here? drops soon, we’ll be giving it a good and proper once over when it does.

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Kindest Cuts, “Keeping Distance”

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Kindest Cuts
Keeping Distance
Oraculo Records

No one would ever accuse Canadian synthpop project Kindest Cuts of being too prolific; despite having released material as far back as 2013 Patrick Short has only put a handful of tracks over the course of the intervening years. That said, Kindest Cuts’ material has always been of such high quality that you’d be hard-pressed to complain – the project’s small discography is all-killer-no-filler with replayability that has kept it in rotation well after each morsel was released. Oraculo Records has tapped into that existing material to produce Keeping Distance, a nearly complete survey of the project’s work in an easy to digest package.

It’s not hard to understand why Patrick Short’s material is so strong; with their combination of instantaneous melodies and effective programming Kindest Cuts songs have a real immediacy to them. Take 2020’s “Public Hell”, where a sinister ascending bassline sets up a chorus that integrates processed doot-doot background vocals and bubbling synths that feel unexpectedly natural in spite of the tonal shift. Or how “Villains” ups the tempo and cuts down on the run time, with the synth bass and leads do quick-change transformations to create new sections without breaking up the flow of the track. Even when Short stretches out on the excellent “Handsome Killer” adding cello, sampled dialogue and metallic percussion it only serves to highlight how strong the song’s vocal melody is.

Add to that the fact that Patrick Short is an ideal classic synthpop vocalist. His delivery has drama, familiarity and warmth to it, sounding smooth and sincere in ways that get his songs over. On the sardonic “All You Need is Money” he comes across as both earnest and disappointed, riding the song’s peppy rhythm programming and summoning a little “Everything Counts” meets “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way’?” magic. He’s especially effective on the title track, a song about staying removed emotionally that has a genuine intimacy to it, controlled but candid. Short has a deep understanding of how to use his voice effectively in his songs, inhabiting them in ways that are both simple and effective.

While we wouldn’t have minded hearing a few new numbers on Keeping Distance, the quality of the material is pretty impeccable. Despite being assembled from multiple sources it feels cohesive, and should serve as a excellent calling card for Kindest Cuts, hopefully expanding the project’s small but loyal cult following amongst synthpop fans. Recommended.

Buy it.

KINDEST CUTS – Keeping Distance by Oráculo Records

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We Have A Technical 335: Something About Gangrel

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Portion Control

Portion Control: A Portrait of the Artists as Young Men with Portraits.

The lasting impact and intensity of groundbreaking UK act Portion Control is discussed on this week’s podcast, with a specific focus on their first and most recent LPs: 1982’s I Staggered Mentally and 2020’s Head Buried. From emerging out of the industrial primordial soup and laying the groundwork for ’80s electro-industrial to maintaining a bitter yet highly developed EBM style into the present day, we have lots to say about one of Our Things most enduring yet still underrated acts. All that plus some hot takes on the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame inductions of Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode on the latest installment 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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Visitor, “Technofossil”

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Visitor - Technofossil

Braid Records

Visitor being tapped for their debut by Detriti Records, a label on the other side of the planet from their home base of Edmonton, before us punters next door in BC had even caught wind of them should have let us know something was up. Sure, there was healthy amount of classically catchy EBM and grimy dark electo on Expat, but the way that new beat and throwback techno sounds were used to make lateral stylistic moves rather than just repeat industrial tropes indicated that Visitor were likely to break from the lo-fi throwback playbook. Second LP Technofossil puts those idiosyncrasies front and center, offering a fresh take on industrial, funk, and pop sounds.

At a cursory glance, Phil Traikovski and Veronica Stefanuik aren’t shifting too far from the construction and core elements of the style showcased on Expat, but Technofossil buffs out the lo-fi crackle, adds percussive fills, keeps the high-end in check, and sweetens the low. These changes to arrangement and production make a huge difference – the rattles, klaxons, and orch hits of lead single “Hand To Man” turn what could be an EBM by numbers tune into an Art Of Noise-esque bricolage with a far richer and, yes, brighter style. The dark electro programming of “Moss Covered Ruin” is given a smooth and florid execution connoting the “hi-def” of a now long-past age, in much the same way as latter-era Gatekeeper. The record’s design – part Armani, part Dune throwback (or hell, maybe even the Macintosh port of Prince Of Persia) has a similar aesthetic.

Look further into the artistic decisions shaping Technofossil and the instrumentation matches the LP’s overarching design. Dig the combo of swampy horns and programmed tabla which ushers listeners in via “Chipping Away At The Technofossil”, for instance: factor in the almost comically low backing vocals and it’s akin to a funky combo of Foetus and Oingo Boingo. It’s ironic that a record so outlandish in its sounds ends up cinching the experiences of alienation in post-industrial consumer society far better than plenty of records with similar aims but more commonly ‘industrial’ instrumentation. The slap-bass funk of “Digital Game” somehow manages to perfectly sell the sense of wasting your life farting around online (“you’ve had nothing to eat today,” Traikovski laughs with leering mockery).

There are few contemporary acts pushing EBM and industrial into the same quirky territory Visitor are exploring on Technofossil. Multiple Man will likely be the handiest point of comparison for many listeners, but Visitor’s deep dives into wobbling bass and uncanny vocal distortion go far beyond the dignified restraint for which the former have been celebrated. Instead, it’s the nearly entirely unblazed trail pointed to by the defunct and nearly forgotten White Car which seems the sole precedent for Traikovski and Stefanuik’s weird journey. There aren’t any clear maps for these terrains, but Visitor seem to be growing more powerful and more comfortable the further they roam into the strange. Recommended.

Buy it.

Technofossil by Visitor

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