Tracks: July 16th, 2018

So, we sat down this weekend to prep the launch of the long-promised site redesign, and lo and behold, we still had some not inconsiderable work to do before we could cut over to the new site. Seeing as our highest priorities were not to have any ID:UD downtime, and to ensure that all of our old content was ported over, we find ourselves in the position of having to do some work between now and next Saturday to get things ready for prime time. Take this as our promise then; come next Monday, hell or high water you’ll be reading Tracks on a brand new site. In the meantime, why not indulge in the classic design by checking out this week’s selections?

Soft Riot
Soft Riot: punch in, punch out.

Weird Candle, “The Alchemist”
Been a while since we’ve heard new material from Vancouver’s Weird Candle, the weirdo synthpunk act that first introduced us to Robert Katerwol of Wire Spine and Body Break fame. If you’re not familiar with them, you could do much worse than to check out their two LPs Regeneration and Alter Ego, or just skip directly to squelchy goodness in the form of new single “The Alchemist”, where the spastic energy of the project’s past is remade with quirky focus. Does this mean a new release is on the horizon? You’ll be the first to know, dear reader.

Statiqbloom, “Thin Hidden Hand”
We’re very excited to check out Statiqbloom live in concert at Terminus Festival this year; despite having seen Fade Kainer numerous times in the past, the project’s mystique and uncomfortable energy remain very real and vital to us as time goes by. A large portion of that must stem from how measured each new music release is, showing an evolution of the band’s classic post-industrial sound with new elements. Newish track “Thin Hidden Hand” suggests dark electro and even some body music, while never straying far from the misty atmospheres that have defined the project’s sound thus far. New EP Infinite Spectre hits July 27th via Translation Loss Records.

“Soft Riot, “Waiting For Something Terrible To Happen”
Our old pal Jack Duckworth never half-steps anything, and he’s always happy to go the extra mile with video production. Such is the case with the “Waiting For Something Terrible To Happen” vid, taken from Soft Riot’s latest mash-up of vintage-synth jams and screwball new wave oddities, The Outsider In The Mirrors. Duckworth buffets a platter of warm, gurgling synths with regional TV befitting a tale of 4am anxiety, down to Milgram-esque experimentation and adverts which face the void head on. Lord knows it’s tough finding an honest TV pitchman, but Duckworth tells you no lies: nothing is going to be okay.

Wind Atlas, “En La Cruz (Blind Delon Remix)”
Attentive readers might recall that the people behind >Semiotics Department Of Heteronyms’ debut, one of 2018’s many great darkwave releases, also put in time as Wind Atlas. That longer running project is much more fluid in terms of sounds and genres, and a tune from this year’s An Edible Body, which already mashed up post-punk, EBM, and ethereal, is getting a vinyl-only maxi. We’re particularly fond of the dancefloor-attuned yet still ghostly take offered up by France’s always crisp yet thoughtful Blind Delon.

Thegn, “Mind Over Body”
Friend of the site Matthew Gunn just released a teaser for his new EP as Thegn Kani, and it embodies a lot of what makes the multi-disiciplanry musical project interesting. Where previous releases were a showcase for the experimentalism and improvisational elements of Gunn’s work, “Mind Over Body” speaks to the project’s rhythm and performance aspects, translating much of the live energy that fuels Thegn’s work into a digestible percussion led track with nervy vigor. If you didn’t know before, now you do: no excuses.

Dmitry Distant & Gestalt, “Victim”
As we’ve written about in these pages, Poland’s Mecanica label has been doing a great job of reissuing material by Lassigue Bendthaus, Dive, and Flash Zero, but they are also keeping well abreast of newer developments. The follow-up to their tasteful and well-curated Some Have To Dance.​.​.​Some Have To Kill comp is on deck, featuring plenty of familiar names – Blac Kolor, Rendered, Viktor Kalima – and some new. We have to cop to ignorance of both Russia’s Gestalt and Dmitry Distant from Latvia (by way of Russia), but this tune’s a nice melding of classically chirping minimal wave with newer and smoother techno motifs.

We Have A Commentary: Skinny Puppy, "Ain't It Dead Yet?"

Skinny Puppy - Ain't It Dead Yet?
It’s a different kind of commentary episode, as Bruce and Alex take a cue from The Satellite of Love and do a live video commentary! The Senior Staff are watching Skinny Puppy’s legendary live concert video “Ain’t It Dead Yet?” There’s plenty of oozing, gurgling live brappage to be discussed, with our beloved S’Puppies sitting at a transition point live in Toronto. So grab some snacks, crack a beer, and make a call to the Green Guy as you cue up and watch some classic electro-industrial madness alongside your pals Alex and Bruce! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.

Observer: Schwefelgelb & Fractions

Aus Den Falten
aufnahme + wiedegarbe

Schwefelgelb are leaders in the techno-body music movement that has emerged over the last few years, capable of appealing to both aficionados of trad-minded EBM and European techno without committing themselves to either camp. New EP (courtesy of aufnahme + wiedegarbe with whom the duo released last year’s excellent Dahinter Das Gesicht) Aus Den Falten doesn’t signal a major sea change for Sid Lamar and Jonas Förster’s sound, although there are some intriguing wrinkles to be found amongst its four tracks. Opener “Obwohl Es So Aussieht” is almost textbook Schwefelgelb in approach, with a rapidly cycling bassline and delayed vocals from Lamar and alternately metallic and thudding percussion. That lends contrast to what follows, as “Der Pool Schweigt” dials the tempo way way down, going for an awkward robotic groove and tweaky percussion sequences that bring to classic EBM without resorting to obvious tropes. “Wie Die Köpfe” turns the heat back up to a steady boil, interspersing its workmanlike arrangement with arrhythmic melodies and unexpected variations in the programming. “In Dem Laken” is the most techno track, which minus the vocals and the straining, tearing metal sounds that ornament it might almost be called minimal. It’s yet another strong release from a duo who can basically do no wrong at the moment, who understand the sound they ply perfectly, down to knowing when to depart from it and when to play it straight.

Fractions - Control

The terrain tread by Czech newcomer Fractions is well-worn, to be sure. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting someone looking to press their techno-EBM release into your hands, and while it’s all in good fun for the moment, the law of diminishing returns is bound to set in soon. Fractions, though, won’t be on the wrong side of that equation. Showing a preternatural flair not only for arrangement but for sound design which suits the current club climate perfectly, the six track Control EP doesn’t just hearken back to the EBM heyday, but shows off a real appreciation for decades of harder techno while still sounding fresh. The acid bass of “Welcome To 303 City” is a given from the title, but the mix of breaks and big beat rhythms against which the classic squelch is set is a welcome change, showing off an interest in classic sounds a few years younger than the more minimalist origins of acid house. It might get lost in shoddier club systems, but in addition to the nigh-perfect kicks each of Control‘s tunes have a heated, dusty atmosphere, setting the tightly shuddering bass of “I.D.M.” off well, and almost taking control of “Control” in the spaces between its strict and detuned builds. An instant club knockout, Control leads us to suspect that this isn’t the first rodeo for whoever happens to be behind the Fractions moniker, but regardless of resume they have more than enough chops to dominate today’s floors.

We Have a Technical 216: Soyrizo

Two Totems that are also Individual

A pair of true school post-industrial records are taken up in this week’s We Have A Technical! Individual Totem’s squelchy alien soundscapes on S.E.T.I. and the strangely approachable ambient industrial of Deutsch Nepal’s Benevolence are taken up in this episode. We also have the scoop on the Terminus pre-party, plus a dash of shade being thrown Marilyn Manson’s way on the 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.

Replicas: The Cure, "Mixed Up / Torn Down"

Replicas is the handle we use to write about reissues and archival releases, offering some thoughts on the original material, and whatever additional goodies or format shifts may have been appended. This week, the reissue campaign of a band needing no introduction resumes in decadent fashion…
The Cure - Mixed Up
The Cure
Mixed Up / Torn Down
Rhino / Fiction

What is it?
Writing about the reissue of a release like Mixed Up by a band like The Cure is a bit tricky for me. Not only do I still identify The Cure as my favourite band, period, but writing about reissues often depends upon communicating context, and Mixed Up has always been something of a dog’s breakfast in terms of The Cure’s history. Coming in 1990, smack between the commercial peaks of Disintegration and Wish, it not only collected relatively recent extended 12″ mixes of singles, but also radically reworked far older tracks whose extended mixes hadn’t moved the needle much, and added a couple of new-from-scratch reconstructions of earlier hits. As fractured and ad-hoc a collection as that might be, it served to highlight the contradictions inherent in the band’s success at the end of the 80s: either championed or maligned as having brought gothic self-evisceration to stadium-rock horizons, while simultaneously indulging in under-sea hi-jinks too twee for children’s television.
Hopefully signalling the resumption of the band’s reissue campaign (things sputtered out for a while after the Disintegration reissue eight years back), Mixed Up is offered up here in a plethora of formats, including a 3CD, 217 minute (!) set featuring one bonus CD of extant rarities and another of wholly new remixes, Torn Down.

What’s on it?
The presentation of the original suite of remixes in this reissue is offered plainly enough. While I’m not going to the ends of comparing wavforms, the remastering job on the new version perhaps squeezes some mid-range out for the sake of extra bass. This isn’t ideal, but is frankly less bothersome than the flattening of Disintegration years back, especially considering that these were remixes to begin with. The second disc is packed with a suite of oddities, from earlier extended mixes to Mixed Up outtakes which didn’t make the cut: Chuck New’s tabla take on “Just Like Heaven” oddly presages Wish‘s dreamier moments, while the thinly compressed guitar which mucks up “Primary” was better left forgotten. As for the earlier fare, many of the mixes feel rote (“Inbetween Days”) in comparison to the new life lent them on the Mixed Up versions, while others are downright puzzling: the extended mix of “Pictures Of You” seems to have taken the single mix as its source material…and only ends up forty seconds longer than the already lengthy album version (and a third as dynamic). It’s really the third disc of tracks spanning the bands forty years and remixed by Smith himself which demands attention.
On the whole Smith plays things cautiously and tastefully on Torn Down. That it focuses far more on deep cuts and fan favourites rather than singles which had gone relatively unmodified since their release (“Like Cockatoos” gets the nod over “Catch”, “A Strange Day” over “The Hanging Garden”) is perhaps the first clue to the thinking behind Torn Down. Despite the sense of chaos its title points to, it’s much more of a retelling or curating of the band’s legacy as envisioned by its primary author, a track by track trek through the LPs plus Japanese Whispers, “Cut Here”, and a retread of “Never Enough” (which contradicts its own title, thanks). It’s an effort mirrored by the chronologically “there and back again” set the band just performed as part of their anniversary festivities.
With a couple of exceptions (the sweeps and backmasking of drums on “Shake Dog Shake” diminish the original’s rhythmic fury, and “Plainsong” is fuzzed and tripped out to sound like a Wild Mood Swings B-side) Smith doesn’t stray far from the core strengths which makes this selection of tunes a solid representation of their non-single catalog. The symbolist mystery of “Like Cockatoos” is retained via the whirling refrain of the song’s name, and the contrast between the processional piano of “The Drowning Man” and the smeared layers of vocals Smith weaves in nicely reprise the original’s despair. The martial drumming set beneath “Want” seems to connote the power the song has gained as a live staple since the release of the unfairly maligned Wild Mood Swings: signalling the difference between a properly epic tour date and an easy-going festival set, it signals The Cure going to war.
In the liner notes Smith recalls his desire for the original Mixed Up to sound “contemporary without being dated” and avoid banking on trends. The first record more or less accomplished that, as does its predecessor. While their are nods to modern production, namely in dusty and restrained drum programming, there’s no current-day equivalent of the jolly house excesses of the 1990 “Inbetween Days” mix, at least to today’s ears.

Who should buy it?
Cure die-hards have obviously already nabbed the whole mess up in multiple formats, but for the casual fan things are a bit trickier. The second disc certainly helps to collate some relatively obscure pieces – if I don’t miss my guess this is the first time the 12″ version of “A Japanese Dream” has officially appeared on CD in over thirty years, and the first time that the still-controversial ’86 version of “Boys Don’t Cry” has gone digital – but those are likely to be of little interest to most punters. Torn Down, as mentioned above, does a nice job of putting a specific editorial spin on back catalog deep cuts, but the alternate history it tells only really tracks once you’re well versed in the canonical story and are looking for a fresh perspective.
It seems fitting that this version of Mixed Up should be the compilation to contain more of The Cure’s hits than any of their compilations (including 2001’s perfunctory Greatest Hits) but in forms far removed from their familiar guises, whether they were first encountered on goth club floors or summer vacation radio. For all of the post-punk/new wave/goth/psych triangulation one might care to make, The Cure are nothing if not a pop band. A very messy and excessive pop band. And Mixed Up, both in 1990 and 2018, is nothing if not a messy and excessive pop record.

lié, "Hounds"

Mint Records/Monotonous Press

lié’s third album continues the arc they’ve been tracing for the entirety of their existence: bleaker, faster, more ferocious. Considering they weren’t exactly deficient in any of those categories at the outset, it’s both bracing and a little scary to hear the Vancouver dark punk trio triple down on Hounds. Recorded earlier this year in Austin by Ian Rundell, the record captures their desperate, livid sound ably, rendering the band in detail without sacrificing the dangerous energy of their live performances.
There’s almost no “post” left in Hounds‘ punk, and while lié’s songwriting still shows concern for dynamics and interesting angles in arrangement, it’s all delivered with such speed and fierce precision that catching your breath long enough to take note of the changes from their previous recordings can be a challenge. In particular Kati J’s drumming feels punchier and more dimensional than it ever has before, with effective pattern and cymbal work enlivening songs like “Ethics” and “It’s Really Nice”. Her rolling transitions between the verse and chorus of opener “Better Sex” are the song’s secret weapon, finding effective moments to add fills and remove hits for added tension.
The main event however is still the cold fury of Ash Luk and Brittany West’s guitar, bass, and vocal attack. Album highlights like “Birthday Party” hinge on the interplay between their instruments, with Luk’s spiky melodies served in exacting bursts and West’s lean basslines acting as backbone. The band have used ‘cold punk’ to describe their sound and you can really hear why in songs like “Fill It Up” and “Can’t Get Enough”, the palette of each song monochromatic and bleak in contrast to the vitality and fervor of their composition. lié have become absolute experts at making music that sounds austere and severe without sounding detached, grim but never somber.
At a little over 23 minutes and 9 tracks Hounds is the right kind of economical, bowing out with the absolutely smashing climax of “Weaponized” before the album’s intensity can overtake the listener. Even then it can be an exhausting experience between the complex issues of agency, force and pain that inform its lyrics, and the claustrophobic nature of hearing these dense songs one after the other. The results are still remarkable however, and no matter how many times we think lié may have reached some theoretical limit for their approach, they manage to go deeper, and somehow, darker. Recommended.
Buy it.

Tracks: July 9th, 2018

Happy Monday, pals. As we’ve talked about countless times on the podcast, the role that the traditional club night plays in the post-industrial diaspora has gone through a tremendous number of changes in the past five or so years. Sure, that’s a phenomenon happening well outside of dark culture, but as a niche scene we’re likely to be more susceptible to larger cultural sea changes than most. This is all preamble to the fact that we here in Vancouver are in the process of saying farewell to The Hindenburg, a club which has operated under countless names since its heyday as a gay disco in the 70s through its role as a home for goths, rivetheads, and the like over the past twenty years. We’ll likely be talking about the mix of emotions and thoughts this is prompting in the weeks to come, but for now we’re doing the best we can to send the old digs off in style. On to this week’s Tracks!

Mala Herba
Mala Herba

Mala Herba, “Wszystko Marność”
Mala Herba’s demo was one of the best we heard in 2017, combining Zosia Hołubowska’s powerful vocals with mysterious but familiar darkwave sounds. We’ve been anxiously awaiting new material from the project, and while there’s no news on an LP, you can hear a new song included on Transformer records’ 5 Year Anniversary compilation, available now on cassette and digitally via Bandcamp. It’s a good reminder of what captivated us so immediately, but also has whetted our appetite even further for new material. You’ll hear about it as soon as we do, reader.

SARIN, “World Condition”
Emad Dabiri has been prolific as fuck since relocating from Toronto to Berlin, releasing tracks aplenty as SARIN via aufnahme + wiedergabe, his own X-IMG label and countless others. That’s not to even mention his extensive stable of side-projects and work as a remixer, keeping him firmly at the forefront of the techno-EBM crossover sound. New EP Kuleshov Effect comes to us via Phase Fatale’s BITE Records, and if preview track “World Condition” is anything to go by will be amping up the body quotient somewhat. Unh!

Fractions, “Control”
Info about new Czech project Fractions is scant right now, but if the fact that their debut EP’s getting the go-ahead from the crew at Fleisch wasn’t enough to prick up your ears, then either the dramatic sweeps of this teaser’s ebbs and flows or just the echoing force of its kicks will. Impressively timed and doling out a bracing mix of EBM both new and old with a healthy side of acid, this should appeal to Blac Kolor fans.

Caustic, “Fuck That Fascist Beat (Divider Mix)”
Matt Fanale’s offloaded a fresh slate of mixes from his American Carrion LP, and as with the first installment of Dead Meat this collection of reworkings speaks as much to Fanale’s savvy sense of the contemporary dark electronic terrain as it does the grooves of the original material. Check the tightly wound, nervous EBM style stalwart technoBM favourite Divider wends around “Fuck That Fascist Beat”.

Deutsch Nepal, “Ich Steh’ im Regen (Room 506 Edit)”
Peter Andersson’s work as Deutsch Nepal remains singular remains a singular quantity. Able to hop between the most stoic and turgid of death industrial sounds and an irreverent sense of chaotic play which seems to be borrowed from old slaptick cartoons as much as early power electronics, Deutsch Nepal has had its cake and eaten it too. Fitting, then, that Andersson’s recent excavation of his archives has been punted forward into a new context via a thumping mix courtesy of Michael Wollenhaupt of Ancient Methods.

Individual Totem, “Perfect”
Good news this week, as Individual Totem announced a brand new record Electrostatic arriving in September courtesy of Artoffact Records. We have a lot of affection for the project, both for their classic 90’s dark electro albums and for their contemporary material (you may recall we thought sci-fi concept album Kyria 13 was one of the best of 2013). First songs are promising, as “Perfect” jumps with both feet into the synthpop sounds that the group have flirted with in the past, while “Fire” goes for syncopated retro-EBM sounds. Very excited to hear these veterans come around again.

Matter, "Primitive Forms"

Primitive Forms

Producer Fabrizio Matrone’s first album for Ant-Zen digs deep into the label’s penchant for rhythmic noise and analogue soundscapes, with an appropriate archaeological concept. Inspired by fossil catalogues that act as a window into the pre-human era of Earth’s ecology, the music on Primitive Forms is made up of crunchy percussion and deep, grinding drones that suggest a hostile environment, and the life that might have flourished in it.
Stepping away from the record’s conceptual underpinnings, Matrone proves himself to be adept at delivering the sort of music that has defined Ant-Zen’s catalogue for over 20 years. The dense, claustrophobic beats of “Range” are accented by rusty cymbal programming and chattery synth patterns that prevent the rising tide of overdrive from dissolving the entire track into fuzz, creating space for dynamics in an otherwise busy spectrum of sound. “Extinction” stretches out the same template for a different effect, allowing brittle crests of noise to buzzsaw their way between each drum hit, before overtaking the entirety of the song. It’s a traditional playbook for rhythmic noise, but one invigorated by attention to detail and careful ear to sound design.
Interestingly, Matrone also finds space to explore techno and body music ideas on the record. It’s most obvious on the jarringly clean and precise closing track “Facies”, whose grooving drum track, gated snare and stabby synths wouldn’t feel out of place in a dark techno set, but also on “Trace” where an EBM bassline emerges from the murk, disguised though it is by a layer of grit. You can even detect it on the seemingly trad power noise of “Hierarchy”, especially when a crisp hi-hat highlights the song’s analogue synth sequences, otherwise masked by the song’s tectonic grind.
Primitive Forms works reasonably well on a thematic level, and tapping into the evergreen rawness of power noise to convey an adverse setting to life as we understand it. Free from that context, it plays out as a good trad genre effort with some interesting nods to contemporary trends in industrial. The ideas it hints at are intriguing, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Matter follows up on them in future releases.
Buy it.

We Have a Technical 215: A Monocle

Jared Louche: Rivethead

It’s a free form discussion episode of We Have A Technical this week, with the subject of rivethead culture being taken up. Is it distinct from industrial culture (whatever that might be)? Is it still relevant? How does it pertain to its long suffering cousin, goth? All these questions and so many more (along with countless shoutouts to Reconstruction bands) will be taken up in the latest episode of the 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.

Them Are Us Too, "Amends"

Them Are Us Too - Amends
Them Are Us Too
Dais Records

It is impossible to listen to, let alone write about, the new Them Are Us Too record without taking the tragic passing of Cash Askew into account. Plenty of records have gone on to gain mythic status due to their proximity to the death of one of their core contributors, but Amends itself is a direct response to such a loss. Built upon a foundation of demos and songwriting done by Kennedy Ashlyn and Cash Askew before the death of the latter in the Ghost Ship fire, Amends represents a collaboration between Ashlyn and Cash’s stepfather (Sunny Haire) and partner (Anya Dross), along with Inhalt’s Matia Somovich to bring those first steps to full realization. That the record is produced by regular collaborator Joshua Eustis, who himself lost a creative partner far too early, only adds to Amends‘s pathos. But Them Are Us Too were never strangers to grief, nor to the paradoxes inherent in inaugurating temporary beauty by virtue of its transience, and so as difficult as it might be to listen to, Amends is as much an organic continuation of Askew and Ashlyn’s partnership as it is a monument to it.
Musically, Amends at times breaks from Remain in ways which are somewhat unexpected but not wholly incommensurate with the modes Askew and Ashlyn had already set forth in their extant work. The desperate darkwave gallop of “Floor” speaks to TAUT’s all-embracing approach to the 4AD catalog, while “No One” switches back and forth between a contemporary ‘Jan Hammer revisited through synthwave’ pulse and Disintegration-style guitar lines.
Other pieces feel like the realisation of the dreamy otherspace TAUT strove to create and inhabit with their music. “Angelene”, initially released on a benefit compilation shortly after the Ghost Ship fire, gains regal majesty as an opening track here, underscoring Banshees and Cocteaus comparisons with the richness of Ashlyn’s vocals. Later, “Could Deepen” becomes a tour de force exhibition for those vocals, with Ashlyn suddenly undercutting her always impressive range and control by leaning into words with a pained sting hitherto unheard. The song was written (and even released in a side session) before Cash’s passing, but one can’t hear Ashlyn’s expressions of anguish – “I’ve been told the melody lingers on / How can I?” – and not be shaken to the core by their import.
Between these similarities and differences, it’s impossible to gauge whether Amends is approximate to the sophomore record Them Are Us Too would have made had things gone differently. On one hand, obviously it’s a record shot through with grief and remembrance and love and pain. On the other, the harmony between Ashlyn’s vocals and Askew’s silky waves of guitar tremolo which marked their work together still defines Amends. Ultimately, the question of which materials or passages on Amends were recorded or written by Askew herself and which by her family and loved ones is, to my mind, academic and wholly irrelevant to the musical and emotional weight of the record. Cash Askew doesn’t haunt Amends: she illuminates it. Them Are Us Too believed their music to be a radical response to a world which would deny, silence, and snuff out femme and trans voices and lives. Them Are Us Too believed that their very existence, their sheer revelry in their own improbable endurance, was itself a victory, an exultance. With Amends that spirit rings out. Triumphant, defiant, eternal.
Buy it.