Tracks: May 22nd, 2018

You know, we keep saying to ourselves that some day we’ll make the trip to WGT, just to have the experience of seeing a bunch of Euro bands that never come to North America, and just to soak up the ambience of 10,000 goths in a city not much more populous than Edmonton. For now though we have to settle for scene reports from friends who made the trek including which bands got wreck (we hear Wulfband and ACTORS scored big unsurprisingly), and exactly how bananas the line-ups to get into the venues were. Were you there this year? Holler at us about what you saw that was good in the comments! On to Tracks!

Inhalt in their natural habitat

Body Break, “four”
Ask a Canadian of a certain age about Body Break and they’ll probably say something about Participaction or namedrop Hal Johnson or Joanne McLeod at you. We have no doubt that those TV ads served as the inspiration for the name of the new project from Wire Spine/Weird Candle’s Robert Katerwol and Robert Recluse of Void Mirror, which sits nicely in the new beat/italo/EBM pocket. Word is that these demos will be developed a bit more with some guest vocalists and then compiled into a full release at a later date, so here’s your chance to get ahead of the curve.

Rhys Fulber, “Limited Vision”
Few people native to Our Thing have as many decades of studio experience in as many genres as Rhys Fulber. While the man himself needs no introduction, the notion of him tossing his hat into the techno/industrial ring (with a release on no less notable a label than Sonic Groove, to boot) merits some extra consideration. Having had a large hand in forging the sort of sounds and textures many contemporary producers are currently reaching for, it’s likely that his Your Dystopia, My Utopia record will offer a new perspective on that oh-so happening nexus. Expect a full review on this site shortly, and notice the slowly unfolding cinematic pads Fulber uses to add grandeur to this track’s core tension.

Agent Side Grinder, “In From the Cold”
The second taste of the new incarnation of Agent Side Grinder is suiting us just fine, thanks for asking. When the video for “Doppelgänger” dropped last month we commended AGS for going in a new direction that seemed commensurate with the new line-up, leaner and more tense and hypnotic. “In From the Cold” isn’t quite so rangy but does make good use of angular sequencing and a pleasingly melodic chorus to compliment the cold war samples that adorn it. We’re ready to hear what these good Swedish cats have in store for their first full-length in the new configuration.

Roya, “Away”
Here’s some gauzy work which rides the border between darkwave and synthpop with plenty of personality. Hailing from – where else? – Sweden, Roya’s tracks are full to the brim with atmosphere, and despite using some rather left-field instrumentation choices, presents her work with sharp senses of timing and songcraft. Worth digging into at greater length, we think.

Inhalt, “Alles”
Why, just the other day we were having a conversation about San Francisco’s Inhalt, with the question being when we would next hear new material from them. Turns out that the next release Content will be coming direct from Dark Entries, and consist of four new tracks and their instrumental versions. Hard to tell what direction the act has gone in although from the instrumental version of “Alles” linked below they haven’t abandoned their knack for retro-synth, with some added body music and komische flavour. Very keen to hear the rest of the EP, as we’ve noted before the fact that Inhalt have garnered so many fans on the basis of such a small catalogue is a testament to just how good their stuff is.

Dame Area, “Sfingi”
Lastly, from Barcelona come Dame Area, a duo who cite Coil and TG alongside Italian pop auteur Franco Battiato as influences. The pair trade in what might be most easily recognizable as minimal wave, but often offset with metallic percussion and a flair for the dramatic which isn’t often found in a genre commonly taken to be recalcitrant. Murky yet strident, it’s an interesting spin on some familiar styles.

Tracks: April 24th, 2018

Hail friends, this is the very first post coming to you live from the new HQ, located in scenic East Vancouver. All things considered the move went tolerably well with a minimal amount of frustration (aside from last week’s podcast gaffe, our apologies), and with the new digs comes a little more dedicated space to bring you all the quality ID:UD content you’ve come to expect. Like the endless gushing about Front 242 we have on tap, having just seen them in Seattle this past weekend. Anyways, here’s Tracks: enjoy this new but largely indistinguishable to the reader era of I Die: You Die.

Horror Vacui
Horror Vacui: as crusty as they wanna be.

FIRES, “All My Dreams Are of This Place”
Nashville electro-rock act FIRES offers a one-off single highlighting the mix of guitar, synthwave and emotion that made their 2017 debut Red Goes Grey so notable. Interestingly, the guitar production on this number is a little more natural and twangy than we’ve heard from Eric Sochocki in the past, acting as a real contrast to the synth bass and vocal cut-ups that make up the rest of the track. A nice little variation on the sound the project has previously established, and another reason to get excited to see FIRES perform at Terminus this summer.

Feral Body, “Chain Ritual”
Here’s some dark and smokey darkwave which doesn’t come from the likes of Vienna or Naples, as its sound might suggest, but instead from Detroit. Having Jeff Swearengin in the booth certainly can’t detract from the atmosphere, but the combination of cold, static-heavy beats and ghostly wailing which is maintained throughout this three track release speak to a new act with a clear sense of what sounds and moods they’d like to evoke. Tip of the hat to our man in Detroit Marc Church for this one.

Agent Side Grinder, “Doppelgänger”
Our first real taste of the new line-up of Agent Side Grinder is here, and yup, it’s different. New vocalist Emanuel Åström is pretty distinct from the departed Kristoffer Grip and the lack of bass guitar is a bit jarring, but ultimately those changes may be for the best: if this is to be a new incarnation of Agent Side Grinder, there should be a distinct break from what came before. And hey, if you were into ASG’s trippy, hypnotic loops and subtle nods to krautrock and acid, you’ll still find those here on “Doppelgänger”. A promising new beginning from these Swedes.

Horror Vacui, “Don’t Dance With Me”
Our favourite Italian gang of anarcho-crust goths are back. Horror Vacuii’s third LP New Wave Of Fear is out and looks to continue the able tradition of mopey yet muscular goth they’ve been lobbing about squats and crypts for a good while. We’ll likely have a full take on the record shortly, but in the meantime here’s a snotty and fatalistic missive from all of the wallflowers creeping about the corners of the dancefloor.

Low Factor, “Facedown”
Montreal act Low Factor’s new album being released on German label Young And Cold is as good a hint of their sound as any, at least to those familiar with Kas Product. Like their label’s namesake, Low Factor have a yen for tightly programmed synthwork which borders on the anxious while also riding a cocky sense of disaffection. Check out the mix of thudding beats, lithe synths, and too cool for school vocals on this number.

Nordstaat, “Linientreu”
Another taster from the upcoming X-IMG (the label curated by techno-ebm wizard SARIN) compilation Self-Aware III. Nordstaat are as far as we can tell a relatively new act, who refer to their style as “black techno”, due to the influence of black metal and power electronics on their work. Those characteristics may not be super apparent on the track embedded below, but it’s a techno-industrial banger nonetheless, all speedy sequences and kick-cymbal drums for maximum dancefloor impact.

Tracks: February 13th, 2018

The shortest month is almost half over, but it’s still very early in 2018 to start really trendspotting with any degree of accuracy. That said, we wrote a bunch of reviews of new darkwave recently, and you may find one or two songs tucked into Tracks this week as well. It may just be a fluke of release schedules, but it certainly feels like the union of goth aesthetics and gloomy synthesizer action is gearing up. If one or two more good albums hit in the next month or two we might even have a full-blown revival on our hands. Let’s all enjoy some piping-hot Tracks sampler plate while we wait to see how this one plays out.

Totem keeping goth shirt game real

Victor Kalima, “Operations & Interactions”
Finnish producer Victor Kalima is releasing his debut LP on Infidel Bodies in a week, and while the preview tracks feel very much at home in the current techno/EBM landscape, there are plenty of broader flourishes which hearken back to a time before Perc and Berghain were on everyone’s lips. The squared-away bounce of the bassline has a good deal in common with classic Black Strobe and some of Daniel Myer’s solo work, and the whole tune conveys a smoother and sexier feel than the grime and noise we’ve come to expect from this sort of work. We’ll be interested to see how Kalima’s style plays out over a full LP, and promise not to make a Temple of Doom crack if you don’t, either.

Totem, “A Night in Reverse”
The year in darkwave rolls on with another new one from emerging Berlin act Totem. We were impressed by their first demo song a few weeks back and are equally taken with new one “A Night In Reverse”; distant guitars, plaintive vocals and a synthesized rhythm section keep this one cooking. Christoffer Bagge has announced that a Totem EP will be forthcoming. If the tracks on it are on par with what we’ve already heard it’ll be a welcome release indeed.

Squalling stuff from Costa Rica, TVMVLVS TABIDVS (roughly translated as “rotting burial mound”) are serving up a murky brew which seems to borrow from the most scraping and wailing of deathrock depths as much as it does an equally rough incarnation of darkwave. Everything blends together in a mode which should be cacophonous but carries a musty dignity and immediacy, though. A more lo-fi revisting of The Vanishing, perhaps?

Agent Side Grinder, “Into the Wild (Kill Shelter remix)”
Longtime readers of the site will probably know about our affection for Stockholm-based synth wave band Agent Side Grinder. Though we were disappointed to hear that half the band (including singer Kristoffer Grip) had decided to split last year, we’re still cautiously hopeful for the new incarnation featuring Emanuel Åström on vocals. While we wait to heard how this new version of the band sounds, let’s all enjoy this new remix of “Into the Wild” from Alkimia by Kill Shelter, who take the song in a brusque electro direction.

Plack Blague, “Leather Life (Sweat Boys)”
Who doesn’t enjoy a lil’ blaguin’ off on the weekend? If you aren’t familiar with Nebraska’s finest leather-sex minimal EBM act, y’all could do worse than to check out last year’s terrific Night Trax, and some of the sweet merch too. This here remix from the appropriately named Sweat Boys certainly amps up the body music quotient. A tune to cruise the wasteland by indeed.

Body Snatchers, “Give Fuck No More”
Lastly, some German EBM which is about as raw and lo-fi as the project and track names would suggest. Coming to us via the still new but thus far excellent Smashing Tapes label, much of Body Snatchers’ EP is made up of clattering and somewhat deconstructed minimal synth brap-outs, but the bassline on this number can’t be mistaken for anything other than anhalt goodness. Adjust headphone volume accordingly; it’s brief but packs a punch.

We Have a Technical 139: A Ten Out of Ten're a killer.

It’s an opposites attract episode of We Have A Technical, as we discuss the softer side of the avant garde with some discussion of mid-period Controlled Bleeding, and the industrial big beat stylings of The Retrosic’s Nightcrawler. We’re also discussing the recent departures from the Agent Side Grinder camp, plus some impending reissues on this week’s episode of We Have a Technical, the official I Die: You Die podcast! As always, you can rate and subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher, download directly, or stream from the widget down below.

Tracks: October 11th, 2016

We hope folks dug yesterday’s look back at a classic record, but it’s time for this week’s batch of brand-spankin’ new cuts from around the globe’s darker corners. This week and next’s posting schedule are gonna be a bit topsy turvy between Canuckistan Thanksgiving and our trip to LA for DB20 this coming weekend, but between the return of our So Fragile mixtape series, and the imminent arrival of The Great Debate II, we’re pretty excited about everything that’s going on around the HQ of late. Enjoy these tracks, and don’t forget to say hi if you’re at DB20! We’ll be the tall guys crying and yelling along with Dan Gatto’s Continues set.

Agent Side Grinder? I heard they like synthesizers.

The Gothsicles, “4 Fat Guys”
You’d think as Canadians we’d be able to offer a bit of insight into the art of min-maxing one’s team on NES classic Ice Hockey, but we’re as derelict in our knowledge of our national winter sport as Brian seems to be in thinking out concepts for new ‘Sicles tracks. Hey-o! We kid. It’s always a treat to have The Gothsicles’ special brand of grab-assery back in the mix, and we’re looking forward to whatever pop culture minutiae I Feel Sicle dredges up from our collective unconscious like Dagon.

Coldkill, “Leave It All Behind (ADR Mix) (Demo)”
We’ve already received two excellent maxi-singles from Rexx Arkana’s moody synthpop project Coldkill, but we’re now getting the first taste of the project’s debut…sort of. This looks to be a demo take on a tune which’ll appear on the Distance By Design LP, remixed by Mike Jenney of Alter Der Ruine. It’s tempting to try to pick out which of the reverbed synth sounds are the work of Jenney’s hand and which are native to the tune, but we suppose all will be revealed in due time, and until Distance By Design is out we can nod along with bits like this which confirm the downcast yet slinky mode Coldkill seems to be thriving in.

Alter Der Ruine, “Bottom Feeder part 2”
For those of you who slept on the ultra-limited CD version of Alter Der Ruine’s Gravity Hunts Us All, this is the super secret bonus track that capped off that version of the fabulous EP. Now that ADR are getting an Indiegogo ramped up to help support their upcoming tour, they’ve re-released the track as a reward for anyone who wants to throw them a buck or two to help them on their way. The band are high on our list of must-sees at DB20, and we’re always keen to highlight the thoughtful, melancholic direction their work has taken over the last few years.

Fires, “Counting Walls”
Here’s the first track from the new project by Eric Sochocki of Becoming The Devourer (and late of Cryogen Second). Becoming The Devourer’s EP signaled a shift into more atmospheric territory, and for the first minute of “Counting Walls” you’d think the same of Fires, until its dense programming slams into a relentless electro-stormer. An auspicious beginning to be sure, and the sort of fare that Imperative Reaction used to dabble in on occasion.

Agent Side Grinder, “A Question of Time”
You know, a Depeche Mode cover has to be pretty special for us to take notice of it. We’ve just heard so many of them, you know? That said, the fellas at Agent Side Grinder have managed to put their stamp on one of the Mode’s most classic mid-era tunes, transferring some of the original’s urgency into even more sinister territory. Also, where few vocalists can sub-in for Dave Gahan without coming off weak, Kristoffer Grip acquits himself more than adequately.

Prothese, “Music For Muted TV 3a”
Prothese is a project by Daniel B. of Front 242 fame, an outlet for the storied sound designer and programmer’s more outré cinematic sounds that actually predates his similar work as Nothing But Noise. The songs released thus far from the project were all recorded between 2006-2010 and are just now seeing release thanks to the folks at Wool-E Tapes. For those of you who don’t fuck with cassettes (or who missed out on the limited run), there’s always good ol’ Bandcamp, where each side of the tape has been mastered as a single MP3 for your immersive pleasure. Dig that classic synth style from a master in his element.

The ID:UD Dozen: Terminus Gravity

The posting schedule continues to be a bit erratic around the ID:UD HQ; I’m back from Terminus but Alex is still out in the Maritimes (doing lots of boating and wine drinking, as I’m given to understand), and so this week’s forthcoming episode of the podcast is actually one we recorded a week back. Next week’s episode will be a bit more up to date, with plenty of random thoughts and anecdotes from our respective travels, plus some news on a cool upcoming Terminus-related project we’ll be having a hand in, but in the interest of getting some thoughts down while they’re still fresh, here’s a (utterly subjective and personal) collage of themes, performances, and highlights which stood out to me over the course of three days of Industrial Summer Camp in Calgary.

Agent Side Grinder
Agent Side Grinder. Photo by Onsendesigns Photography.

Agent Side Grinder
Sweden’s brooding post-punk act was the slow burn of the festival for me. Not in terms of their performance – from word go the band was crackingly tight – but in terms of their catalogue. Time and again they’d align walls of bass and synths and I’d remember how much I’d enjoyed tunes like “Giants Fall” and “This Is Us” from their most recent effort, Alkimia. Closing off with “Die To Live” (dedicated to Bowie) brought some of their earlier Suicide-like fire to an audience which I’d guess wasn’t wholly familiar with them, but throughout the whole set their deep-scrolling catalog spoke for itself.
Lotsa Canadian Representation, Eh?
The local side did pretty well for themselves at this year’s Terminus, from the pagan darkwave of Ghost Twin to the moody rhythmic noise of Wychdoktor to the candy-coated bounce of Ayria. Hell, on the last night of the festival, all of the bands save Kite were from the Great White North, with at least four different provinces being represented. Organizer Chris Hewitt also indicated that this year’s fest saw more people than ever coming into Alberta from BC, Ontario, and the rest of the country, so give yourselves a pat on the back, fellow hosers.
Them Are Us Too
The last time I caught TAUT they were playing for about a dozen of us gathered in a hushed semicircle around their gear in an East Van gallery on a Thursday night. It was an intimate and nigh perfect introduction to the beautiful yet elusive worlds their music conjures, but they were able to transpose their ethos over to a larger stage flawlessly. Their citing of Spivak’s understanding of deconstruction as “a radical acceptance of vulnerability” seemed especially relevant given the new, as yet unreleased pieces which dotted their set; far less reliant on traditional song structure yet still shot through with star-stuff.
Them Are Us Too
Them Are Us Too. Photo by Onsendesigns Photography.

A New Breadth of Sound
If you weren’t familiar with the very particular network (or diaspora) of sub-genres which make up the topography of Our Thing, you might be hard-pressed to identify how a plurality, let alone all, of the bands on the bill at Terminus Gravity were related to one another. What does a project like Venetian Snares have in common with the energetic new wave of Cygnets? How do you get from the solo, sober synthpop of Kindest/Cuts to the absolute shit-show (in the best way possible) that is a live Caustic set? Chin-strokers like Alex and I can opine endlessly about such matters, but the fact of the matter is that Terminus offers North American fans of dark electronics a wider range of sounds and flavours than any other festival experience, and that’s something to be applauded.
As our conversation with Brant Showers showed, there’s a whole lot of conceptual, philosophical, and theological thought underpinning his new solo project. I can’t speak to the degree to which those themes are communicated via the live SØLVE experience to those unfamiliar with the project, but I can say that Brant landed things just about perfectly with his first SØLVE show. Concise, blunt, and perfectly suited for sound systems far larger than the monitors I’ve been listening to The Negative through, it’s become a perfect perpendicular counterpart to ∆AIMON.
Dead When I Found Her
Although last year’s masterpiece All The Way Down didn’t feature especially prominently in their set at Gravity (though the version of the delicate “Expiring Time” which was included was marvelous), DWIFH felt like a band that had been substantively changed by the huge step forward that album heralded. While the core elements of their live show hadn’t radically changed (though thanks to the backing video I now definitely have to watch 1988’s schlockfest Dead Heat), they felt like a much more assured act than the one that played Terminus in 2013. Word is that their fourth album is just about completed, and we’ve locked Michael Arthur Holloway down to dish on it on this very website in the near future.
The Present Moment
Did you know that The Present Moment’s Scott Milton was the very first person ever interviewed for this site? It’s true! It seemed fitting that just a month after our five year anniversary, I was finally able to see The Present Moment onstage. Scott and co. were urbane and witty as hell, and the tunes struck that great balance of immediacy and shadowy suggestion that’s marked each TPM release. After getting an incredible amount of club mileage from spinning “The High Road”, getting to hear it played live was a treat.
The Present Moment
The Present Moment. Photo by Onsendesigns Photography.

An Audience Willing To Listen
As mentioned above, Terminus took plenty of gambles with its line-up this year, and if the audiences’ reactions were any indication, the majority of them paid off well. Whether it was Agent Side Grinder’s first North American show, the hypnotic build from soupy drone to analogue acid Borys crafted in his brief opening set, or a brand new project like Kanga, folks were ready to get on board with a whole panoply of new sounds. If there’s one cautionary point to be made here, it’s that this openness to new music doesn’t do us any good if we aren’t actually there to listen to the music; more often than not my favourite performances at festivals are from acts I’ve never seen before, and I do wish more people were willing to take a chance on a lineup with more than a few new names.
I was joking about which of the unsigned acts playing Terminus would be picked up by Negative Gain Productions after the label nabbed Mr.Kitty and Cygnets immediately after their Terminus sets in previous years, but it turns out that I was beaten to the punch with relative unknowns Strvngers having agreed to release their debut LP through NGP in the coming months. It was quickly apparent why the NGP clique and various Albertans who’d caught the Edmontonian act were impressed. Dishing out plenty of theatrics, samples, and general party vibes there was something of a scuzzier, more nu-goth reincarnation of Sigue Sigue or Information Society to the duo’s presentation, but the core tracks underneath the trashy glitz were solid, anthemic, and fresh. Looking forward to that LP.
It seems ridiculous to say that we sometimes overlook a band whose two LPs have cinched #1 and #2 spots in our Year End lists, but Encephalon’s deep cut heavy set reminded me of how many of their densely packed, conceptual wig-out songs I’ve grown to love over the years since the Ottawa group’s debut. Starting with “The Descent”, one of the most out-there tunes both musically and thematically from last year’s Pyschogenesis, Matt Gifford and Alis Alias toured through the trippier side of Encephalon, with only quick stop-offs at the club for “Rise” and “Illuminate”. Was also very cool to hear Alis take more pronounced turns on vocals to boot.
While the buffet-style “something for everyone” approach to curation is one of the great things about Terminus and we’re normally loathe to single out one set as the best, I’m just not being honest if I don’t come out and say it point blank: Kite’s performance was my undisputed highlight of the weekend, and probably the best performance I’ve seen at any edition of Terminus. We’ve written for years about the emotional depths Niklas Stenemo and Christian Berg’s grandiose, melancholy synthpop can reach, and they were only magnified by the staging, lights, and vocal power which Kite brought to their first tour through North America. The last time a concert brought me to tears so readily was when I saw Kate Bush, so…yeah. As of today they still have West Coast shows in Portland, San Francisco, LA, and San Diego: if you live within driving distance of any of those towns, I categorically implore you to see this band play.
Kite. Photo by Onsendesigns Photography.

A Sense of Community
If there’s one thing that Terminus die-hards like yours truly and first-timers agree on, it’s that there’s no other festival like it in terms of the open friendliness the organization and layout of the festival promotes. No one’s in the area reserved for bands for more than half an hour, and that’s usually just to wolf down some dinner before performing. Artists mingle with fans mingle with staff mingle with DJs mingle with vendors, and it’s nigh impossible not to leave Calgary with a host of new friends. Despite its musical health, the community of Our Thing is still a relatively small one, but Terminus is the one place where that size is a strength, not a weakness. There’s nothing else quite like it, and it’s a pilgrimage I look forward to making again next year.

Agent Side Grinder, “Alkimia”

Agent Side Grinder - Alkimia

Agent Side Grinder
Progress Productions

Most modern post-punk is deadly boring, largely because the new bands that take up its banner are more concerned with slavish recreation of the genre’s most notable acts then staking their own claim to a given sound or interpretation. That’s never been Agent Side Grinder’s problem; the Swedish five piece led by the gravelly voiced Kristoffer Gripp have been doing their own thing all along, from their early industrial influenced material through 2012’s exceptional classic-modern synth record Hardware. Where that LP really showcased the group’s capacity for smooth Kraftwerkian electropop, their latest Alkimia swings back in a grittier direction, emphasizing tension and release dynamics and coarser analogue textures above all else.

While they have their share of upbeat dance cuts, the personality of ASG has always come through in their mid-tempo numbers, especially where the programmed drums and bass guitar act as underpinnings for Gripp’s baritone delivery and the tapestry of synths and tape loops that carry their airier melodies. That works especially well when record leans towards the melancholy; this band is no stranger to wistfulness, but Alkimia‘s best moments fall into that emotional spectrum. “Giants Fall” uses its rhythmic assets perfectly, keeping the song’s emotional choral sounds and distant chorused leads out in front without succumbing to soppiness or the excessively dramatic. Similarly lead single “This Is Us” is as affecting as any number they’ve ever written but uses a spritely beat to offset the heaviness of its emotional content from dragging it down. The latter is also one of the few times that the dreaded Joy Division comparison every post-punk band has to endure is accurate for Agent Side Grinder, although certainly not to its detriment.

Another contrast with Hardware lies in how Alkimia‘s mix and instrumentation communicate its mood. The latter’s cleanly delineated sound, with each instrument taking its own spot in the mix pushed the clean synth melodies to the front of much of the record. Alkimia, with its oozing atmospherics and instruments bubbling into each other’s comfort zones, couldn’t be much further from that. At first, the sheer doomy heaviness of the dead-simple bass riff of “New Dance” is allowed to sit straight in the middle for most of the track, with weezing synths only cropping up around the edges to provide some nervous tics. Synths do take the place of the bass on the choruses, but the instrumentation sits so tightly packed that it’s almost impossible to tell who’s at the wheel at any given moment. Oddly this feels like a technique that holds more in common with the likes of newer acts like Soft Moon than the classic post-punk acts the record ostensibly holds closer to. Even a more traditional tune, like the riffy opener “Into the Wild” has a blurry wooziness which just wasn’t in the playbooks of The Comsat Angels or The Danse Society.

Sinister, although not uniformly so, Alkimia benefits from an abbreviated run-time (less than forty minutes), and an arresting aesthetic which should grab newcomers for its cohesion as much as it does long-time ASG listeners for its break with tradition. Naming it as their best release to date feels somewhat premature, but there’s no question that Agent Side Grinder have raised the stakes of their own game in both sound and dramatics. Strongly recommended.

Buy it.

Tracks: December 1st, 2014

Hey pals. We normally like to keep things pretty upbeat at the beginning of the week, but we thought we’d take a moment here to acknowledge a couple of really important fundraisers that are going on right now. Don Hill of Industrial/IDM project Millipede is currently battling stage 4 renal cancer, and several entities within the community have taken up arms to help him and his family out in whatever way they can. Aside from straight donations via GoFundme, there’s also a benefit show with a killer line-up happening in Chicago in January, and a massive digital compilation being assembled by CRL Studios to be released on December 15th. Whether you know Don and his music or not, we encourage you to give some thought to helping out in whatever way you can. Even small donations can have a big impact if enough people come together as a community. Thanks for checking it out friends.

Agent Side Grinder, “This is Us”
We were big ol’ fans of Swedish post-punk/analogue synth outfit Agent Side Grinder’s last album Hardware back in 2012, their songwriting chops and hypnotic rhythms easily raising them above the mess of similarly minded genre acts cluttering up your local record store. Their new EP’s two originals indicate they haven’t strayed too far from that template, while maybe amping up the melancholy a bit; Kite collaboration “Beloved Fool” is long on that smiling sadness, while the title track embedded below is all about that pensive feeling that maybe things aren’t really going the way they should be. Great stuff from an excellent project you should be familiarizing yourself with if you haven’t already had the pleasure.

D/SIR, “Blink”
Moody nighttime drag reigns on new EP This Begins In The Dark from LA’s D/SIR. The use and manipulation of vocals, sampled and original (we think) gives this stuff plenty of drama and character. The band’s intimated that these are in fact older tunes, but if you enjoyed their last single or their solid remix work you’ll dig this release.

Thyx, “Waiting For You (2nd Civillization remix)”
Stefan Poiss’s Thyx project has been dropping albums left and right over the last couple of years, the most recent being this year’s Super Vision. Nominally a side-thing to Poiss’ main gig, Thyx has allowed the electro maestro some room to expand his ideas and really follow through on some of the quirkier and more bouncy elements that have been peppering his work for a while. Apparently he’s collecting remixes for a possible future release. Kits are available at their website if’n you’re interested. Here’s a nice upbeat one from Belgian EBM act 2nd Civillization.

M‡яc▲ll▲, “A Nighŧ Øf Crүsŧal Masks”
Nothin’ but love for bloodwavers M‡яc▲ll▲ in the ID:UD HQ. Along with other local favourites ∆AIMON and V▲LH▲LL, the New York based project has been one of the best touchstones for cool music to come out of the great witch house implosion. Those expecting WH’s loagy beats and fog machine aesthetics may be a little surprised to find that M‡яc▲ll▲ is making giallo music with a bit of electro and italo flavour, especially on new EP Diviŋaŧiøns, which you can peep on Bandcamp right now. It’s their third EP of the year: make a point of checking out the rest of their stuff if this appeals to you, as it’s all of a similarly spooky grain.

Cosmic Angst, “Chess”
A week after we mentioned the newest Mild Peril single, and Chris Gilbert’s already dropped two new releases…sort of. Cosmic Angst and Stratus are collections of material written over the past two years (some of which under the Mild Peril name), but are now being reissued to match Gilber shifting focus away from Mild Peril and the pop/italo direction it’s been moving in, and returning to his kosmische roots under the Cosmic Angst moniker…we think. Regardless of its name or release date, Gilbert’s stuff is always great for getting lost in, so cop both of these releases, whydoncha.

Weeping Rat, “Coil”
Finally, some intriguing stuff from the oddball side of deathrock via Australia. Weeping Rat are definitely not entirely removed from the new dark stuff we’ve been getting from, say, Night Sins or Soft Kill, but they have a far looser and formally experimental feel than most of what’s been coming down the pipe. Maybe a less manic iteration of Turn Pale is a fair point of reference? Regardless, we’ll be giving Tar, their first full length, a close listen.

Tracks: May 5th, 2014

Morning, gang! Amidst the usual events of the week (Aftermath prep, DJing, video games, pro wrestling jibber-jabber), half of the Senior Staff managed to bracket some time to check out the Vancouver Noise Festival on the weekend. Twenty acts from around Canada and the northwest were jammed into a sweltering gallery on the 100 block of East Hastings, and proceeded to generally Fuck Shit Up. While we were only able to catch about half of the line-up, there was a great range of sounds on display, from pure squalling waves of feedback to sparsely minimal stuff. For our money, the best sets we caught were both by Vancouver acts, Rusalka (churning builds and falls with some rhythmic stabs) and Sistrenatus (a more droney and noisy side project of Harlow MacFarlane of Funerary Call). Perhaps tellingly, there was a real dearth of folks from the industrial club scene here in Van, apart from our boy Big Mike (not to be confused with Regular-Sized Mike or Big Paul). Obviously this sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for all of the times people gripe about “real industrial”, you’d hope some would come out to enjoy stuff at the Noise Fest that regularly crosses over into power electronics and dark ambient. Cool new music isn’t always going to leap out at you from club speaker or from the writing of dangerously sexy industrial bloggers; sometimes you have to hit the pavement and do some digging yourself. Speaking of which, it’s time to fork over the results of our own week’s forays into the wild and woolly world of new tunes.

Sistrenatus casting sinister shadows.

Ashbury Heights, “Starlight”
We’ve written very little about Ashbury Heights on ID:UD, largely due to the group’s hiatus (originally purported to be a retirement from music) following the release of the exceptional Take Care Paramour in 2010. That record and the preceding LP were mutual favourites of the senior staff, full of smart, hooky electropop songs that still make appearances in our DJ sets today; naturally we were excited to hear that Anders Hagström was back in the studio with new collaborator Tea Time. The first track from those sessions “Starlight” feels like a throwback to the Morningstar In a Black Car style of production, simple melodies attached to mid-tempo beats, with a less-is-more production sensibility. You can stream the track below and purchase it from iTunes, we’ll be waiting for word on that new album and pass it along as soon as we know something.

In Slaughter Natives, “Cannula Coma Legio”
A full decade’s passed since the last new LP from legendary martial/dark ambient act In Slaughter Natives. There’s something so regal and eventful about Jouni Havukainen’s music that a good layover between releases feels appropriate, but ten years is more than enough of a wait. It’s perhaps fitting that the band, who released so much of their work on the equally storied Cold Meat Industries, will be working with Cyclic Law for their new LP, perhaps representing a passing of the obsidian torch from the now-defunct CMI to one of the most reliable names currently releasing material of ISN’s ilk. Here’s the title track.

Encephalon, “Disintegrators Trench”
We’ve already discussed one track initially meant for the Kinetik 7.0 compilation which has been released independently in the wake of the cancellation of the festival (and ergo compilation as well), and like The Gothsicles, Encephalon have put up their contribution to that effort on Bandcamp. Regardless of origin, we’re always excited to hear a preview of what we might hear on the Ottawa band’s follow-up to their 2011 debut (again, our album of that year), and mayhaps we’ll get to hear this stomper in person when, like The Gothsicles, Matt Gifford and co rep onstage at Aftermath!

Glass Apple Bonzai, “My Alliance (to Science!)”
Hey, speaking of Kinetik exiles who are putting out their comp tracks, we’ve got this new bit of business from Glass Apple Bonzai. Happily, like The Gothsicles and Encephalon, Daniel X Belasco’s going to be at Aftermath as well, exposing heads Canadian and international alike to the more melodic side of his work. We guess given that it’s a classic synthpop jam which throws religion under the bus we can call this Daniel’s own “Blasphemous Rumours” moment?

Agent Side Grinder feat. Dirk Ivens, “Go (Bring It) Back”
A fun record treat finds Sweden’s exceptional punky electro outfit Agent Side Grinder teaming up with Dirk Ivens to record a mash-up of their track “Bring It Back” with The Klinik’s “Go Back”. It’s a simple idea that serves to highlight a few things, namely that the connection to EBM we’ve always heard in ASG’s music isn’t wholly unfounded, especially when you compare Ivens’ vocals to those of Side Grinder’s Kristoffer Grip. This one was a Record Store Day special from our pals at Kollaps records in Stockholm, and can be ordered directly from them.

[product], “To the Wind”
A little something from Portland’s Michael Kurt, who has been taking his project [product] into a lot of interesting directions of late. This number finds the electro-industrial project experimenting with some slower tempo sounds (presaged by last year’s witchhaus EP Awaken the Alchemist) and even some neo-folk and dark ambient feels. The new EP Her Ghost will be out mid-May, and features remixes from Wychdoktor and SALT. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something to listen to while you wait you should check out Kurt’s new podcast Talking to Ghosts, the first two episodes of which we enjoyed immensely.

End to End: Agent Side Grinder, “SFTWR”

End to End is our track-by-track take on non-album and compilation releases, in which we try to give thumbnail first impressions of each song and point to particular numbers to be cherry-picked via the consumer’s online retailer of choice. This time we’re scanning a collection of remixes from one of our favourite Swedish groups, fresh to our ears from a new domestic pressing….

Agent Side Grinder

Folks who have been following ID:UD for a while will no doubt be aware of our affection for Sweden’s Agent Side Grinder. While we carry water for all kinds of EBM and synthpop from Mother Svea, there isn’t really any bands anywhere like ASG; their brief discography has rapidly evolved through post-punk, early body music and tape based experimentation, culminating in the astoundingly good Hardware, a record that rests somewhere at the nexus of Kraftwerk, the Cabs and Joy Division with a little nordic flavour of its own devising. Following up their acclaimed 2012 album Hardware (read about it here) came the remix release SFTWR, a collection of remakes from across their career, the whole of which is generously included in the Artoffact reissue of the former album. So how do the 15 tracks on the SFTWR fare? Let’s give it a spin.

“Wolf Hour (Red Idiot RMX)”
A none too shabby remix of the single and Henric de la Cour collaboration layers some heavy reverb and synth pads onto the sparse original for a pleasingly large effect. The original is pretty bare and relies mostly on the vocal interplay between De La Cour and Kristoffer Grip, so beefing up the instrumental without taking focus away from the two distinctive voices makes for an engagingly different take without massive renovation of the song.

“Bring It Back (/MF/MB RMX)”
Rhythmic elements are kept central to the track although I’m also getting some notes of shoegaze in the hazy guitars that appear midway through. Decent, although perhaps a touch unfocused structurally, it builds up, breaks back down and then builds up again without seeming to really move forward very much.

“Life In Advance (Jacques C RMX)”
I’ve actually been playing this one for a minute now, ever since it appeared on the second label comp from DEATH # DISCO last year. “Life in Advance” is an amazing song to begin with, and this clubbed out version doesn’t detract from its charms, mostly pumping up the bass and adding some DJ friendly changes. Solid gold any way you wanna slice it.

“Die To Live (Container 90 RMX)”
“Die to Live” is one of ASG’s punkiest songs, so I guess it makes sense that reigning kings of Swedish OiBM Container 90 take it on. It actually plays like a cover more than a remix, as C90’s Jon and Ron add plenty of chantalong singing and their rock-styled drum programming for that neo-oldschool sound. It’s cute and especially fun if you’re on a kick with the remixing artist (as I currently find myself).

“Voice Of Your Noise (FOLD RMX)”
A song that probably embodies ASG’s similarities to early Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA more than any other in it’s wild and unfocused squiggles and flat rhythm track gets a deep techno makeover that puts me in mind of Josh Wink a little. Not bad, although not really my cup of tea.

“String Strikes (CVRD by Styx Tyger)”
The Neubauten-by-way-of-Tangiers original gets remade as something of a twee-indie number, complete with plinky guitars and falsetto vocals. I’m not a huge fan of original songs in this vein, although I’ll admit it’s well executed for what it is.

“Stranger Stranger (Dödens Lammungar RMX)”
This actually sounds like what the lovely, mellow “Stranger Stranger” would have sounded like if it had been recorded by Agent Side Grinder around the time of their debut album, with a grittier and more dubbed sensibility. It’s pretty okay, and I like the idea of another band remaking one of ASG’s songs in another of ASG’s own preceding styles.

“Sleeping Fury (Mighty Thor RMX)”
Sadly not a remix by the Canadian bodybuilder/rockstar Thor, although the mechanized zip and vocoder action applied here is still kinda neat. Alright, although not a patch on the amazingly good original by any stretch of the imagination.

“Look Within (Du Pacque RMX)”
A slow build into a straight up rocker of a remix, this is giving me a similar vibe as that Dödens Lammungar mix a few tracks back, that ASG could have recorded the song in a similar manner themselves a few years ago. I dig it alright.

“010-195 (Th. Tot MX)”
The Transatlantic Tape Project is an interesting experiment from Side Grinder, although its lengthy collaged songs don’t seem like prime remix bait. I honestly feel like this has more value as a pointer to certain elements in ASG’s own sound (namely their tendency to mess with sonic texture in unusual ways) than as a song in its own right. Not bad, but kind of out of place on this release.

“Black Vein (Rude 66 RMX)”
Like so many of these songs, this one keeps the synth bass and drums as constants while layering bits of guitar noise and keyboard grind on top. I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged this as a key song for remixing, but it works well enough and fits in with many of the other remixes for an added bit of listening continuity.

“Rip Me (Sunbringer RMX)”
If “Rip Me” was a 12″, this would be the “Dub” mix on the b-side, stripping out most of the vocals and the mid-period Kraftwerk moves of the original while leaving it instrumentally intact for the most part. I’m okay with it, although it doesn’t jump out especially.

“Die To Live (Blackstrap RMX)”
A deliberate synth crawl with some scraping and distorted sounds escaping from beneath the hood, this is pretty dark and different than the manic pace of the original cut. Another one that suggests a lack of attention to direction, I like how it establishes itself, while wishing it would do a bit more as a complete song from an arragement standpoint.

“Life In Advance (CCIS Dub MX)”
Just what it says on the tin, this is all deep bass and ringing guitar accents. You can feel this mix coming out of your subwoofer, and like so many dub mixes it seems more suited for a selector’s playlist than anywhere else.

“Mag 7 (Jasper TX RMX)”
A gargantuan take on the noodly Hardware highlight, this takes its sweet time growing from a lo-fi pulse into a lumbering and indistinct collection of crashing reverbs. Almost a bit of post-rock in its spare and eventually overpowering build, it’s an appropriately stately way to finish off this collection in all its seedy majesty.

The Takeaway: I’d have no issue suggesting a CD purchase of this disk for fans of Agent Side Grinder; unlike a lot of extended collections of stylistic reinterpretations the number of tracks worth listening to more than once is quite high. For real though, with this included as a pack in on the Artoffact re-release of Hardware – which can be had digitally for $7.99 on iTunes, incidentally – you’d be a fool not to take advantage: a bargain is a bargain. If you’re still not sold and want a taster check the Jacques C and Red Idiot mixes, although their purchase would put you a quarter of the way towards the whole thing. Happily recommended.

Buy it.