This month’s Patreon-supported bonus podcast is about The Mission’s “God’s Own Medicine”, an important and dare we say controversial entry into the UK goth rock canon. What insights do Alex and Bruce have into the songwriting, arrangement and influences of Wayne Hussey and co’s debut? Listen and find out! Oh, and yes, we do talk about the Sisters a bunch. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.
Another Man Made Tragedy
DTH X CMP
The titles of Hex Wolves’ Another Man Made Tragedy and its tracks which refer to mining disasters seem well timed to the Don Blankenship campaign, and whether that’s intentional or not the LA producer’s techno compositions are as soiled as Blankenship’s soul. Though only three tracks long, Another Man Made Tragedy quickly establishes its own ethos and delivery. Alternately delivering rubbery bounce and high, insistent sine waves which at times connote the sensation of chewing tin foil, the rapid speed with with Hex Wolves’ tracks shuffle the focus of their component tracks adds another layer of disquiet to an already confrontational style. The breakish chaos of the first two tracks is brought to bear on closer “Survivor’s Remorse”, in which a robotic funk beat chugs through at a regimented pace, though it’s the tension of “Just An Insurance Write-Off” which remains after the EP ends. The contrast between its submerged beats and the far-off shrieks which could be emitting from a train derailment or the restless souls of dead miners is nothing short of unnerving.
Eric van Wonterghem’s Monolith has been a pretty constant fixture of the rhythmic noise scene for over two decades at this point, acting as a solo outlet for the producer between stints with Sonar, Absolute Body Control, and Insekt amongst others. Falling Dreams certainly speaks to van Wonterghem’s legacy in industrial circles via crunchy powernoise tracks like “Corpus” and “The Attack”, but also delves into some techno crossover sounds that fit very naturally within the project’s aesthetic. Numbers like “Sleeping Sun” and “High Carbon Steel” ease up on the saturation and distortion and focus more on big atmospheres and variations in rhythm programming, and even dashes of funk in their basslines. The two stylistic variations are kept distinct on a track by track basis, but occasionally come together in pleasing fashion: “Driving Blind” is built around techno minimalism and a a noisy soundset, and “Man Disconnected”‘s deep pulsing heart could hail easily hail from either genre. It’s not the first time Monolith has played with these ideas toghether, but in 2018 when more producers than ever are seeking to hybridize industrial and techno, it’s good to hear a practiced hand like van Wonterghem stir the mixture up.
The I Die: You Die podcast takes a somewhat epistemological bent this week, with the issues of the archiving and collecting of dark music being taken up. Has the Internet archived everything from Our Thing? What responsibilities, if any, do we have as collectors? If an obscure futurepop demo arpeggiates in the woods, does it make a sound? Alex and Bruce dig into these issues and recap recent live shows in the PNW on this week’s episode of We Have A Technical! Don’t forget to rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, or download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.
Ritual Body Music
One of the failings of the EBM revival of the mid-to-late aughts was certainly the narrow focus on a specific, eighties iteration of the sound. While certainly not universal, that adherence to the muscle n’ hate template had an air of the reactionary about it, a rejection of any stylistic developments, and specifically any that were seen as a dilution of pure, true school EBM. Consequently a lot of the colorful and interesting sounds of the genre’s early 90s period were overlooked by the neo-oldschool crowd, leaving them ripe to be picked up by enterprising acts seeking to expand the palette available to classically minded body music producers.
Enter Colombian act Struck 9, whose 2018 sophomore album Ritual Body Music certainly has some post-80s flair in terms of sound design and arrangement. While songs like the opening title track definitely rely on the classic punchy, syncopated basslines of trad-EBM, the energy and bounce with which they’re executed here is more reminiscent of early 90s output of acts like Orange Sector or Paranoid than say, DAF or Nitzer Ebb. At least some of that is also due to the sleek, digital texture of the programming, which emphasizes smoothly interlocked sequences of notes, allowing the uptempo synthlines of “Execute” and “Bodytemple” to push simple melodies along in tempo with the rhythm section.
It’s a formula that works well for Struck 9, but at times betrays some creative inertia. While no individual track has much of an issue in a vacuum, Ritual Body Music does suffer from some sameyness in style throughout, with songs that blur a bit in execution. This might be a function of the plain vocals, which while perfectly serviceable don’t offer many memorable hooks for the listener to latch onto. That said, when the band bring in some other stylistic elements the results are notable, as with the electro-industrial tropes that inform “Zero Day”, or the And One-esque electropop touches on political number “No Fracking U.S.A.”.
With the boom of retro-EBM in the rearview mirror, it’s pleasant to uncover an act like Struck 9 taking up the style in a way that doesn’t feel like the same old school ideas being regurgitated. When listened to in a single sitting not every second of Ritual Body Music will necessarily standout, but there are enough moments like the fist-pumping arrangement of “999mb” to mitigate those lulls. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the mood for some throwback sounds that aren’t just more of the same old.
L’Oiseau du Désespoir
Young And Cold Records
The line between coldwave and minimal wave is one often obscured by synth pads and frost, and the latest LP from Montreal’s Low Factor shows not only how vague that border is, but also how easily it can be traversed to make a stylistic point. While never straying too far from a tersely programmed toolkit set out from its beginning, L’Oiseau du Désespoir manages to wring a balanced and engaging set of tunes, alternately stringent and florid.
L’Oiseau du Désespoir makes a good amount of hay from its outset as a stripped-down and decidedly mean sounding release. The often sparse and fatalistic arranging of drums and synth-bass which accompany Rubin’s vocals convey a Saturnian dissatisfaction which seems to be begging for a more expressive and cathartic vehicle (see the pensive “Waste Island” which acts as a representative introduction to the record). That hesitation isn’t necessarily a weakness, but rather acts as a telling damper on the pop melodies Low Factor are alternately exuberant about exploring and hesitant to show off.
It’s in the moments where L’Oiseau du Désespoir moves away from its melancholy moods that the kinetic potential of Low Factor’s sound is made apparent. Dancefloor-driven numbers like “Facedown” and “Souffrance Castel” (which offers up an especially fun, tropical outro) don’t vary so much from their moodier brethren in sound – the same thudding yet muffled kicks and piched up synth bass hold sway – only arrangement. It’s tempting to imagine a version of the record chock a block full of immediate bangers like these, but in all honesty their impact would be lost within identical company: their quick and desperate gallops full of vitae feel lively mostly in comparison to the record’s more taciturn numbers.
This manic back and forth betwixt unimpressed and over-stimulated synth numbers carries with it enough froth and tension to sustain an enjoyable (?) coldwave record, but the album’s final move, a decadent mix of off-tune synth melodies and warbling rhythmic elements, explodes the whole dialectic. “Terminal” tosses a barrage of off-kilter horns and synths at the listener which are simultaneously more expressive yet also more hamstrung than anything else on L’Oiseau du Désespoir. Self-defeat or savvy triumph? It’s up to you.
Things are busy as always here at the ID:UD HQ as we gear up for festival season on top of the usual deluge of new releases that need listening and podcasts that need recording. Fortunately we’re feeling kind of high on life in Vancouver right now, what with the great run of recent shows, respite from the ceaseless rain and the general pleasant vibes that have been floating around the city this past week or so. Say what you will about this town, it’s expensive, it’s hostile to underground arts, it’s grey as fuck for like 8 months out of the year, all true but we love it and wouldn’t ever think of leaving. Enjoy some new Tracks with us won’t you?
Webdriver Torso, “Web_006”
Word trickling up from Seattle is that the city’s own relative newcomers Webdriver Torso impressed at Mechanismus Festival this past weekend. We weren’t able to verify that impression in person, of course, but the new EP from the duo is certainly an intriguing mission statement. Rhythmically sharp, the serially-titled “Web_006” shows good darkwave instincts as well as an interest in decidedly 90s industrial rock. Fans of fellow Seattleites Nightmare Fortress should lend an ear.
Missing Witness, “Try Harder”
Speaking of bands from down Seattle way, our pals in Missing Witness put out a head nodding EBM banger to go along with their appearance at Mechanismus Festival this past weekend. The band have dabbled with these sorts of basslines in the past, but this is the purest take on body music they’ve yet put out, coupled with a vocal experimentalism that reminds us Interlace a little. A great regional act who seem poised to break out on to some more prominent stages.
Acid Vatican, “Repent Motherfucker”
We’ve been tracking Antoni Maiovvi’s work for years at ID:UD, though the dark space disco producer has enjoyed acclaim in fields quite a distance from our native post-industrial climes. We were somewhat surprised to see his new Acid Vatican collaboration with fellow Giallo Disco founder Vercetti Technicolor being issued by aufnahme + wirdergabe; the bright, garish splashes of horror disco colour we’ve come to expect from Maiovvi are still present, and the duo aren’t jumping aboard the techno-industrial bandwagon. But the dark, pulsing drive of tunes like “Repent Motherfucker” certainly isn’t too far askance from a + w’s style.
C/A/T, “Retire Theory”
Brand new music from Ben Arp’s C/A/T project, the first new stuff he’s released under that moniker since 2009. We were keen to hear what Ben would do musically since he reactivated the name at last year’s Das Bunker anniversary in Los Angeles, and now we know: the sound of new EP Complex Client is both new and familiar, with the distorted beats that defined much of C/A/T’s history, but layered with the atmospherics that seem more in line with the post-witch house sounds he was exploring in interim project Corvx de Timor. You can check out the whole EP over on Bandcamp and we’ll keep you in the loop as a clearer picture of C/A/T 2018 emerges.
Not since Myspace has there been a platform as good as Bandcamp for randomly discovering new music. True, there’s a lot to sort through, but it’s worth it when you uncover an act like Iver right at the first blush of their career. Their two track demo release is on some classic darkwave styles, complete with automated drums, strummy bass guitar, frosty pads and a mix of sombre male and female vocals. It’s the sort of style we’re always happy to hear from a new act, and is execute with enough aplomb to add the band to our considerable list of new acts to keep tabs on.
The Causticles, “Bad Coworker”
Lastly, Matt Fanale and Brian Graupner’s orbits have once again come into harmonious alignment. However, unlike natural events of uncanny beauty like solar eclipses, they’re just here to fart around and kvetch about officemates. Is this just a one-off or are we just getting the first glimpses of what a follow-up to their far too meta for their own good Eric Gottesman LP? Only time will tell, but until then, enjoy “Bad Coworker”: truly music of the spheres (the spheres are Matt and Brian’s butts in this analogy).
While the description “antifascist industrial music for the coming dark ages” might lead you to believe Montreal’s RadioVoid were a chaotic and violent band, the sound on their recent 3-track Violence Acts is of a pretty subdued nature. Situated at the minimal end of the European coldwave spectrum, the duo keep things simple in their compositions, with sparse arrangements and limited building blocks. The results are monochromatic in nature, relying on rhythm and repetition more than bombast to engage with listeners. “Stones” opens with a bold synthline, but when a thudding kick and gated snares come into the mix it settles into a straight groove, with delayed vocals layered affectlessly over top. Late in the song a feedback drone is introduced, slowly growing until the already familiar drum hits have to carve themselves a place in the mix, changing the dynamic of the track considerably. “Secluded Sunset” plays it a bit more straight, feeling like a classic Mute records number a la the Normal or Fad Gadget, albeit with less manic energy and a more disinterested outlook. The title track departs considerably from the preceding songs, starting with a distant percussion loop that is slowly dragged underwater and lost by massive drones and reverbed pads, with only the occasional cymbal breaking through to the surface to remind you of the song’s origins. It’s interesting stuff, if not necessarily the most urgent or attention grabbing, dealing in implication more than immediacy.
Visions & Phurpa
Dark music aficionados will likely be most familiar with Frederic Arbour as the man behind Cyclic Law, but he has dark ambient work of his own in addition to promoting that of others. Arbour’s taken up his Visions project for the first time in a number of years, and is doing so in order to collaborate with Phurpa, a Buddhist liturgical collective based out of Moscow who focus on ritual chants (never let it be said that you don’t meet life’s more outré travelers in dark ambient). The end result is a slow and weighty listen which seems to press in upon the chest and the soul, simultaneously crushing and liberating both. While never sounding either “stygian” or “cosmic”, Monad does conjure a sense of the otherworldly if only by pressing in on the senses to the point that one’s own self begins to feel alien and unfamiliar. Sonically, while there are slow moving harmonic shifts to be teased out of Monad‘s pads, much of its traction comes from the textural tension between its buzzing drones and the slow, gutteral timbre of Phurpa’s chants. Without ever reaching catharsis or release, the glacial back and forth of Monad‘s four pieces build patterns which aren’t so much rhythmic as cyclical, matching the processes of bodies adjusting to move, breathe, and function in keeping with the tones resonating from Phurpa’s throats without beginning or end.
We don’t always get a good sense of a band’s ethos and sound at first blush, but what about the cases when we do? This episode of the podcast has us picking five bands who gave us lasting and evocative first impressions from the moment we encountered them. From the purest strains of goth rock to mid aughts club bangers, we’re talking about tunes which tell you everything you need to know about the artists who made them! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, download directly or stream from Spotify or the widget down below.
New Wave Of Fear
True-schoolers need not fear: the title of Horror Vacui’s third record doesn’t portend a pivot to softer synth melodies and pastel croon vocals. Nope, Italy’s crusty deathrock troops are keeping things right in their wheelhouse (wheelcrypt?) with New Wave Of Fear: smoky guitars still hang above churning drums while Koppa bellows like a wounded animal. It’s a formula which has worked well for the five piece since 2012, and having reached the near Platonic ideal of the intersection of goth and punk, there’s no reason to alter it drastically.
The few distinctions between their latest effort and In Darkness You Will Feel Alright and Return Of The Empire are subtle: there’s perhaps a bit more reverb on the guitar lines and vocals, and the second wave goth rock genome the group have always kept in the mix is perhaps somewhat sublimated, taking a secondary role to the more blustery and swaggering brand of deathrock with which Horror Vacui ally themselves. Perhaps more significant is the shift away from explicitly political lyrics to a more insular and lamenting tone; the social realities giving rise to the anguish spelled out literally could perhaps be inferred, but that seems a stretch. A rare exception to the bleak mood is “Forward”, which takes a page from peace punk revivalists like Spectres both melodically and philosophically.
Musically, deathrock is sometimes torn betwixt its desire for atmosphere and the lure of speedy punk breakdowns. It’s a tension bands have been toying with since at least TSOL, and at times Horror Vacui’s reach exceeds their grasp: the abrupt tempo changes in “Behind” are (I think) meant to underscore the tune’s pathos but just end up causing havoc. Thankfully, things finish off with a great one two punch which cinches that aforementioned binary. Penultimate number “Don’t Dance With Me” is an insistent groover set with caustic solipsism, which segues perfectly into the miserable waltz of “Upside Down”.
Three albums in, Horror Vacui know their audience, know their sound, and know how to deliver the latter to the former. Deathrock may be something of a formalist exercise so many years after its inception, but with craftspeople as skilled as Horror Vacui taking it up it’s very hard to complain about that.
Would you believe that a collaboration between Tony Young of orchestral IDM project Autoclav1.1 and Andreas Davids of industrial/rhythmic noise act Xotox would result in an ambient record? Both acts are students of structure in their own way, with Young specializing in heady composition and Davids in sandpaper rough textural beats, so the idea of them entering the liquid realm of atmosphere and sound design devoid of traditional structures is a little odd. Then again, some of the fun of Natura Est’s debut is in hearing these two distinct artists subsume their individual artistic personalities in each imposing glacier of sound.
Given that Autoclav1.1 is already given to some level of abstraction, Natura Est is probably a bit closer to Young’s standard modus operandi than it is Davids’. That said, the album forgoes much of the semi-formalism of the former producer’s work, and wades into murkier waters. Massive washes of ambiance and slowly evolving shapes make up much of the sound design of the record, as individual tones emerge briefly only to be washed away in slow moving rivers of reverb and delay. Some of the glitches and long waves of of static that resolve on “Grey Skies” and “Black Town” come across as Davids’ work, although the latter track’s very distant drums suggest traditional dark ambient’s ritualism. That esoteric feeling is furthered on “Causatum”, where barely defined rhythms can be made out underneath the layers of deep rumbling bass, suggesting some hidden mechanism moving beyond our ability to perceive it.
That said, trying to figure out where each producer might have made their mark on these songs is a difficult proposition – the songs are so monolithic in nature that zooming in on any individual element loses perspective on the broader picture being painted. It’s more satisfying to turn up the volume and enjoy the subconscious and meditative aspects of the listening experience. In practice it’s good fodder for mental exercises, maintaining a focus and intensity that keep it from becoming background noise, but not intruding overly or being demanding of attention. Natura Est might not be what you expect from this particular meeting of the minds, but its an entrancing result nonetheless.