In a recent interview with Bandcamp daily, Anders Karlsson noted that “I [Karlsson] like the sound of cheap hardware that many people would never use. I like bad-sounding digital effects, old spring reverbs that have a sound of their own, and semi-functional gear.” That preference has been pretty apparent to followers of his solo-project Celldöd, a name that has stood for rough, DIY-EBM since it first emerged in 2014. At the outset that emphasis on grittiness seemed like a reaction to the smoother direction his previous band The Pain Machinery had taken to body music on its final release, but with 2018’s Fragmenterade Minnen Celldöd sounds more fully realized as its own entity, complete with a distinct and recognizable production aesthetic.
While Celldöd’s hardware-based compositions – made via an array of classic drum machines and synths alongside cheap and salvaged gear – have always sounded somewhat lo-fi, the key to their success has been in how immediately Karlsson pinpoints a groove and then squeezes every ounce of energy out of it. Nearly every track on Fragmenterade Minnen introduces its bassline within seconds and then rides it out, ornamenting the framework with reverbs, delays and layers of recording dirt. Whether a down the pipe EBM number like “Vrider”, a double-time synthpunk workout like “Alla Har Fel” or a deliberately awkward minimalist composition like “Hotet Från Underjorden (Dub)”, it’s always the arrangement of synth bass and noisy hats and kicks that make up the body of the song. Karlsson knows how far to push each composition, and when to cut them off as their energy and momentum begins to flag, never letting anything become exhausted or played out.
The biggest departure apparent on the LP is the emphasis on Karlsson as vocalist. We know from his previous work that he’s more than a capable singer, but here he shrouds himself in effects and goes guttural with his delivery, grunting and yelping his way through each song. It’s a fitting style for him to take on for the material, and one that places his voice in the same category as the various acid squeaks and squelches and washes of static that make their way through the audio spectrum, a textural element rather than a melodic one. It speaks to Karlsson’s philosophy as a producer; as he slowly expands the palette of sounds available to Celldöd, he also takes care not to betray the sound he’s cultivated, aligning his new tools with his proven approach.
Presumably you spent your weekend like we did, packing to move, recording a bonus podcast, watching about a dozen hours of pro-wrestling, going to drag comedy shows, and seeing Boy Harsher and The Soft Moon to top it all off. In case you had better things (???) to do, here’s a recap: moving sucks, Bianca Del Rio remains the Don Rickles of drag, AJ vs Nakamura disappointed, and we had a good time at the show, which you’ll be able to hear about on We Have a Technical this week. We’re pretty exhausted, TBH, and with Verboden on the horizon it’s probably best that we just get to Tracks and then get back to it before we lose momentum and crumble into dust.
Visitor, “God Of All Flesh”
Edmonton’s Visitor have cropped up with a sound that’s about as far away from what comes to mind when we think of our prairie neighbours as we could conceive. Trading in a body-rocking and distinctly funky style of EBM, the duo’s demo release was quickly snapped up late last year, and is now being followed up with a full length LP on up and coming Berlin label Detriti. We’ll likely have some long form comments on Expat when it’s released in a month or so, but until then just enjoy the echoing, slap-heavy bass of this cut.
Celldöd, “Du Fick Som Du Ville” Hot on the heels of last week’s slice of brutish analogue body music, we get another taste of what Celldöd is up to. As with all of Anders’ work in this project, you genuinely get that this is the product of hardware production, with all that that entails from a sequencing and performance perspective, raw and real as it comes. You can find the cut on the Myth Machine compilation from NEN Records , a release that is “dedicated to myths as a ways of giving meaning to the suffocating meaningless reality”, natch. Check the Myrrman track that is streaming currently while you’re at it.
Fixmer, “The Wall” aufnahme + wiedergabe with a stealth release from ol’ Terrence Fixmer, aka one of the dudes who was exploring the techno-EBM sound for literal decades before it caught fire the other year. As such he understands perfectly how to work a bassline and add texture, separating the four cuts on The God from lesser productions by newjacks and trendhoppers. We’re def feeling the spastic, yelping vocals employed on “The Wall”, which has the feeling of being just slightly off-kilter, but in like, the good, kinda dangerous way.
The Gnome, “Flowing”
Here’s some ambient prettiness by way of Tony D’Oporto, AKA The Gnome. We’ve tracked his collaborative work quite regularly here on the website, be it his ambient records with Mark Spybey (now up to five LPs, if we don’t mistake ourselves), or his more dancefloor driven work with David Thrussell as Crisis Actor. His solo work’s always had a dreamy and languid pace, and his new full-length for ant-zen looks to continue that tradition.
Blac Kolor, “Awakening (feat. Jean-Luc De Meyer)”
We’ve been waiting for Blac Kolor’s debut for Hands for a minute, and now that it’s arrived we’re quite excited to dig into it. Hendrick Grothe’s growth as a producer has been notable, bringing in more complex ideas and structures into his atmospheric take on instrumental industrial dance music. Peep the rhythmic noise touches on this new one, shifting his sound just a bit closer to Hands’ house style, but also working a vocal from Front 242’s Jean-Luc De Meyer into the track as well. We have yet to give this whole LP a proper listen, but when we do you can bet we’ll be writing something up.
A few years back, just before the release of Blendwerk, there was talk of a forthcoming live Haujobb record which never materialized. A shame, as our favourite dynamically dour Deutsche duo have always reworked their classic catalog live to fit their current ethos. But finally, some official evidence of how Haujobb brings it to the stage has been offered up to the public, with versions of fourteen Haujobb classics (and one computer crash) appearing on Haujobb Alive. Peep this motorik reworking of mid-period classic “Penetration”.
The noise you heard last week was the industrial community exclaiming in unison and joy at the news of C-Tec’s return. Yes, high atop the list of bands playing at all three (!) versions of the Cold Waves festival this September was arguably the greatest industrial supergroup of all time (fight us in the comments, RevCo & Pigface purists). Cold Waves has earned a reputation as a venue where such groundshaking returns happen, and having C-Tec playing alongside other headliners like ohGr, Front Line Assembly, and Meat Beat Manifesto certainly qualifies. We’ll have further discussion of Cold Waves on this week’s episode of the podcast, but for now check this week’s Tracks as you start scoping flights to New York, Chicago, or LA: whatever’s your poison.
Mr.Kitty, “Disconnect Lover”
If you didn’t get the picture from us gushing over Mr.Kitty on the podcast the other week, we’re big fans of Forrest’s work. As we said in that segment, his brand of emotional, electro-inflected synthpop has absolutely changed Our Thing, altering the borders and opening doors for other artists following his lead. Check out this hot new banger (which has some especially interesting use of vocal manipulation we haven’t heard from MK before), another in a long line of instantly catchy dancefloor cuts. This dude doesn’t even know how to stop.
Chrome Corpse, “Corroded Sickness”
We tend not to put the same act in the Tracks hopper for back to back weeks, but Chrome Corpse are earning a double feature by releasing the second of two new EPs this week. The three originals from the Burning Chrome EP scratch the exact same classic EBM/dark electro itch the Washington outfit proved to be so suited to the first time out, but with a tighter focus and even more intensity. One of the most entertaining young acts going in North America, let alone the Pacific Northwest, Chrome Corpse are out for your attention by any means necessary, whether through barrages of Arthur memes on April Fool’s, or classic synth-bass driven ragers like this.
Celldöd, “Dansar (Inte För Dig)”
Hands across the sea, as hardware EBM maven Anders Karlsson hooks up with Atlanta’s DKA Records. It’s a team-up that makes perfect sense given the proclivities of each party: Celldöd has been knocking out release after release of funky body music whose strength is directly correlated to their rough and ready minimalism, where DKA has built their rep on finding dynamic new acts in the synth scene that have old school appeal but new school ideas. The album Fragmenterade Minnen comes out in less than two weeks, expect that we’ll be writing up post-haste.
Here’s something from off the beaten path by way of Cyclic Law. While we normally turn to that label for the latest in dark ambient, Norwegian duo Dødsmaskin are offering up a dense and brutal hybrid of death industrial and pure noise on their forthcoming Fiende LP. With so many layers jammed atop one another, it’s tempting to try to track individual sounds and rhythms in the full-bore onslaught of “Syndrom” but this inevitably proves impossible, and the oppressive wash of Dødsmaskin’s style takes over. Factor in some rather poignant thoughts on nihilistic metaphysics on the band’s profile, and you can colour us interested.
The Gothsicles, “Konami Code (Interface Remix)”
The longer we think about it, the more it seems like The Gothsicles’ “Konami Code” is a corollary of S.P.O.C.K.’s “Never Trust a Klingon” – both are songs that are cute and funny, but are also secretly actual bangers whose appeal remains no matter how many times you hear them at the club. It seems bonkers that “Konami Code” could be 20 years old at this point (presumably that dating refers to when the original and as yet unreleased versions were first commited to hard disk) but Brian Graupner has elected to celebrate the occasion with a remix single, including new takes from Pankow (!!!), Coldkill, Studio X, Go Fight, Sex Death Religion and this groovy edit from Interface. As an aside, if you want to hear one of the senior staff tell a gross story that pertains slightly to “Konami Code” go check our chat with Brian from episode 169 of We Have a Technical.
The Damned, “Devil In Disguise”
Lastly, stone legends The Damned certainly don’t need any signal boosting from the likes of us, but it’s been a full ten years since their most recent (and very enjoyable) LP So Who’s Paranoid?, so the news of the forthcoming Evil Spirits records is welcome, indeed. The return of Paul Gray to the fold after thirty-odd years also jibes with this first track: the psych-garage sound of “Devil In Disguise” fits in well with the band’s mid-80s style. The band were fantastic in concert last year, and it looks like we’ll be lucky enough to catch them on another west coast jaunt this summer.
ProtoU The Edge Of Architecture
Despite being released by Cryo Chamber, fine purveyors of dark ambient that’s as icy as their name implies, there isn’t a whole lot that’s cold or even, well, dark about the latest release from ProtoU. The one-woman Ukranian project crafts contemplative sonic landscapes on The Edge Of Architecture, but they rarely feel like the harsh or unyielding worlds into which dark ambient often casts the listener. Instead, the combination of pads and crackles which feels weather-worn and welcoming. Building upon the theme of cities connoted in the title and album art, the release feels akin to watching the urban flurry of life, activity, and machinery (or even children playing in “Falling Home”) from a slight distance, perhaps through the window of a bus or cafe. Despite not relying on melody as such, The Edge Of Architecture‘s recurring use of seemingly randomized notes in a particular scale producing an intriguing windchime effect, communicated through musicbox keys on “Quiet Sky” and quickly decaying sine waves on “Glass Fractals”. While never explicitly nostalgic, there’s something reflective and perhaps even cozy about the way the environs so many of us spend our lives within are rendered here.
While the music Anders Karlsson has been plying in his solo incarnation as Celldöd certainly holds appeal to those interested in the intersection of EBM and techno, the essence of his hardware based compositions is firmly in the former camp. What initially separated his work as Celldöd from previous projects like The Pain Machinery was the stripped down approach to production and presentation, beats and synths laid into sequence with an appealing severity. His most recent release KESS07 certainly demonstrates some of the project’s growth from that starting point, allowing some additional elements to infiltrate the suite of four body music tunes. Opener “Flodvåg” comes out of the gate hard with a tightly quantized bassline and a simple kick snare pattern, but it’s Ander’s distant vocal punctuation and the occasional smattering of slightly out time hi-hats that help accentuate the song’s groove. “Dom Kommer Aldrig” is a slower number the ups the funk quotient with a knurled, swinging synth arrangement that can’t decide if it wants to go full acid or balloon out into chunky electro. Side B goes even further afield, starting withe upbeat “Inom Dig” whose chipper and chirpy melody recalls the soundtrack to a vintage industrial education film. Closer “Alltid Vi” speaks most closely to Karlsson’s history, with a sinister, loping rhythm and buzzy texture that suggests Vomito Negro or even The Klinik. As resolute as ever, the 12″ release is an engaging into Celldöd’s increasingly sturdy catalogue.
We’re right on the cusp of festival season kicking off, but we’re also getting into the thick of some of the records we’ve been most looking forward to in 2017. The new Mr.Kitty dropped a week or so back, the new Statiqbloom is imminent, and it looks as though the sophomore record from Seeming’s in the closing stages as well. By pure coincidence, all three of those projects are ones we’ve been tracking more or less since their inception, and nearly six years into the game it’s pretty rewarding to be able to see the directions acts like these have headed in since. Also by pure coincidence, each of the six acts we’re talking about in this week’s Tracks post are all pretty well-established, but are still dishing out fire. Let’s get to it!
Seven Trees, “Azure”
We mentioned on last week’s podcast that Swedish dark electro act Seven Trees were gonna put out a new LP this year, but hadn’t realized that there was actually a song from the forthcoming release to listen to yet. As for the question we asked about how old school the project would be going after twenty years of inactivity, the answer is very, at least if the track “Azure” is anything to go by. Now that the retro-EBM thing has settled down a bit, maybe it’s time for a revival of Zoth Ommog style 90s dark electro? We wouldn’t complain.
QUAL, “Cupio Dissolvi”
The last time we checked in with William Maybelline (also of Lebanon Hanover) and his QUAL project, we were taken with the resolutely gloomy and fatalistic tack that seemed to hold over everything. On the new Cupio Dissolvi single, things certainly haven’t gotten any brighter, but the cavernously gothic sound of earlier tracks has been hard-swapped for a punishing set of rhythms straight out of the earliest of EBM playbooks. Very promising.
Vargdöd, “Starved To Death”
Our boy Anders of The Pain Machinery and Celldöd has a new project in the works with Jonas Rönnberg of Varg (no, not that Varg). Murky, lo-fi, and menacing, the Brutal Disciplin release should appeal to fans of Muslimgauze, Silent Servant and the like. The stripped down techno both men have been working with in their primary projects is still there, but is nearly smothered under blankets of smoke and ambiance.
Bestial Mouths, “Greyness (FORCES Iridescent remix)” New Bestial Mouths remix joint came out the other week, with a particularly strong line-up of remixers. Included on Still Heartless are versions by The Horrorist, Die Krupps, Danny Saber, CX KIDTRONIX, Ludovico Technique, Zanias and Australia’s FORCES (who we desperately want some new material from). We loved BM’s LP from last year, and are very keen to see them at this year’s VERBODEN festival right here in Vancouver. Bonus tip: listen to new track “Witchdance” to hear some of the most chilling vocalizations this side of a Diamanda Galas record.
Manufactura, “Subterfuge: Face To Face”
The word “infamous” gets tossed around so much it’s lost all meaning, but we’re pretty sure Karloz of Manufactura’s earned that adjective (ask the old-timer at the bar in the Noisex shirt if you don’t believe us). After a significant hiatus, Carloz is back in action with Absence: Into The Ether and The Void. The slightly more harmonic elements which had begun to creep into Carloz’s last releases seem to still be present on early passes, but don’t let that fool you: this is still mean and misanthropic stuff.
∆AIMON, “dissolvte (JeRm La Haine remix)”
Has it really been five years since ∆AIMON’s Flatliner (a record that really helped define this very site and what we were interested in covering) came out? Gosh, how the time flies. Of course Brant and Nancy Showers have done all kinds of stuff between then and now, but we can’t help feel a little nostalgic. I guess we’ll throw on this new remix of “Dissolvte” (a song which actually appears on the project’s self-titled LP from 2013) by JeRm La Haine and wistfully recount all the memories that have been made with ∆AIMON as the soundtrack. If you’ve never heard what these guys do, get on it, nowish.
Well, it looks like Bandcamp’s ACLU fundraiser was a big success! Thanks so much to everyone who shared our list of albums around; hopefully you were able to find some unexpected gems while browsing around Friday as well as filling in some known gaps in your collection. While Alex played it relatively safe and fiscally responsible, ticking off a reasonable number of items on his want list, Bruce went off the deep end and soon found himself gorging on Brazilian post-punk, seemingly clicking the “Buy Now” link on impulse. But a single shopping spree isn’t going to turn the never-ending tide of new music: let’s get to this week’s Tracks!
Digital Poodle, “Soul Crush (Adam X Revision)”
Digital Poodle’s “Soul Crush” forever earned a soft spot in our hearts, and not just because of the video featuring the Toronto act fucking about in an abandoned warehouse in one of the most classically rivethead displays of all time. The track is the second of the band’s (after “Work Terminal“) to enjoy a re-release through a modern lens, with tasty yellow vinyl featuring a trio of new remixes, including this one from techno impresario Adam X.
Celldöd, “Hemliga Rum”
Always a pleasure to see something new from the homeyboy Anders Karlsson, especially when it’s with a label we fuck with. In this case it’s a new jam from Karlsson’s all-analogue minimal EBM project Celldöd that will be included on DKA Records’ hotly anticipated Strategies Against The Body vol II, due in early March. Where Celldöd has been an instrumental project by and large, this track features some yelps and chanting from Anders, reminding us of the old-school direction his previous project The Pain Machinery had taken on their last (super underrated!) LP.
Multiple Man, “Power Fantasy”
Speaking of DKA, they have the debut LP from Australia’s Multiple Man, a record we are hotly anticipating. The duo describe their sound as “CROSS CONTINENTAL HI-NRG, FIRM HANDSHAKE ELECTRONIC BODY MUSIC” (!!!), and impressed us with their firm grasp of how to integrate strict-tempo 80s funk into their EBM on their singles. Can’t wait to hear how they bring that energy to the canvass of a full length album. Recommended for fans of High-Functioning Flesh.
For All The Emptiness, “Seduced By A Disease”
Speaking of Toronto, it’s been about five years since we’ve had any new material from For All The Emptiness, but their five-track mt ep (check the artwork to catch the pun) is set to release in a couple of weeks. The first taste is a piece of classic futurepop and might be the best tune we’ve ever heard from the outfit. As always, Jonathan Kaplan’s impassioned vocals are a cut above.
The Harrow, “Kaleidoscope (Automelodi’s Sonnambula Mix)”
The Harrow’s Silhouetteswon us over with its canny deployment of goth and post-punk moods. A year on, they’re returning to that release with a series of “remixes & interpretations…by various friends, collaborators, co-conspirators and the like,” which look as though they’ll be released one at a time rather than in a fell swoop. A novel approach (almost an inversion of 3TEETH’s ground-game), and one which is already paying off in the form of a gorgeous rework from Montreal synthpop savants Automelodi.
Distorted Retrospect, “Future”
Finally, a little something from friend of the site Krztov, late of Velvet Acid Christ, who has reactivated his long-dormant Distorted Retrospect project. The style of the Fragment 1 single varies a bit, with elements of futurepop, electro-industrial and EBM all represented handily. Weirdly it reminds us a bit of the melodic stuff Lost Signal was doing way back when, if you remember that particular project. Apparently there’s another single on the horizon in 2017, we’ll keep you posted.
We already gave it a holler on the Twitter, but we’d strongly recommend giving a listen to the brief listen to S. Alexander Reed’s quick chat with NPR show “The Best Of Our Knowledge” concerning industrial’s origins and its connections to social and political protest in the broadest possible senses. I’m not sure about you, but I’m pretty dog tired of fumbling for a more accurate description than “really aggressive and discordant electronic music” or “do you know Nine Inch Nails?” when a well-meaning relative or service-person asks me about the Statiqbloom shirt I’m wearing or what sort of music festival I’m flying to City X for. In addition to having an encyclopedic knowledge of industrial, Alex has honed the skill of being able to summarize and triangulate the genre in an accessible manner. Hold on to that link and keep it ready at hand for the next time a co-worker wonders what the deal is with the death disco music you’re always listening to. On to this week’s tracks!
Rotersand, “Torn Realities”
A couple of years after re-working and re-creating their debut LP as Truth Is Fanatic Again, Rotersand are finally releasing entirely new material. It’s not clear at the moment whether the Torn Realities single portends an entirely full-length, but we’re getting a sense of where the act’s collective heads are at with this glossy slice of anthemic synthpop (with an oddly glaring Depeche Mode sample). Recent releases by Beborn Beton, Neuroticfish, and others have shown how European synth acts who were smashing clubs at the turn of the millennium can mature with grace, and Rotersand certainly have the pedigree to do the same.
A Vengeance, “Entity”
Intriguing soundscapes abound on the debut EP from shadowy UK duo A Vengeance. Sound design is completely on point, at times grimy and at others utterly austere. Should appeal to fans of Perc and Vatican Shadow, as well as the strictest of industrial purists. Don’t sleep.
Blush Response, “Scalebound”
A similar metallic thump n’ grind can be found on the latest tune from our boy Blush Response. He’s taken to Berlin like a fish to water, as the Silent Servant-like snap of this tune well proves. The comp it’s featured on also includes Phase Fatale and SΛRIN amongst others, so you’re getting the new techno/EBM crossover summed up quite well.
Celldöd, “Övergångsrit III (First Version)”
Well, this is something very different. We’d noticed that Anders Karlsson had recently played a co-headlining Celldöd set with Trepaneringsritualen, but didn’t think too much of it. But if this demo is any indication, Karlsson’s steering his project away from the pure and dry techno/EBM which won us over and is cracking open the blast furnace of straight-up death industrial. Whether this is a momentary itch that needed to be scratched or a sign of things to come, we’ll let you know.
Folks who heard our recent discussion of the Nexus Kenosis LP may have been a tad befuddled by the far-reaching genre tags we were applying to the various projects of Henrik Nordvargr Björkk. If it all seemed a tad difficult to suss out by inference, not to worry: Björkk’s just dropped a by-donation sampler of eleven tracks from a slew of his incarnations, dating back to the early 90s. Find out which expression of distorted Swedish noise best suits your disposition!
Neon Shudder, “Cargo Occult”
Philadelphia synthwave outfit Neon Shudder take things down a notch with their new EP. Not just using downtempo as a means of cooling their heels, some interesting percussive fills and almost darkwave motifs begin to work their way in.
It’s that time of year again friends. We could give you a whole spiel about the subjective nature and dubious empirical value of Top X Albums lists (and that topic just might crop up on the Year End podcast), but we imagine you already have your own thoughts on the merits and limitations of exercises like these. For our part, we’ve come to regard them not just as a nice way of rounding off a year’s writing here at I Die: You Die (the Internet’s #1 resource for industrial music exegeses written by guys who probably spend too much time thinking about pro wrestling), but also as a curatorial reflection on the state and shape of Our Thing. Which trends or styles are starting to produce truly solid work? Whose comebacks after long absences paid off? Which enduring artists have found new ways of forging ahead? Which angry young upstarts are truly coming into their own? At the end of the day, all this list represents are our opinions (albeit opinions borne out of rather focused study and consideration of all this stuff), but we hope that it can also serve as a jumping off point for continued conversation and debate about this music. Holler at us in the comments about your own picks or thoughts on ours, and thanks for joining us as we send 2015 out with our favourite records of the year.
Another quick housekeeping note (and another possible thread of discussion on this week’s podcast): as with last year, we have excluded a few albums that are pertinent to Our Thing, but which have received plenty of attention from larger publications than this one. If’n you’re curious whether we think you should check out 2015’s releases from Killing Joke, and Prurient, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Onwards to glory!
25. Minuit Machine Violent Rains
No Emb Blanc Records
Minuit Machine are swimming in the densely populated confluence where darkwave, post-punk, and synthwave meet. It’s easy for a young band to get lost in the plethora of acts of that ilk, especially in Europe, but the strength and range of songs the Parisian duo has brought to their sophomore LP makes them a versatile and invigorated force in that hotly contested area. It’s not just the fiery defiance of “Battles”, the doomed romanticism of “Everlasting”, or the big sky dreaminess of “Honey” which cinches Violent Rains as one of the year’s best listens, but Amandine Stioui’s preternatural confidence in switching between those moods in a tightly packed storm of a record. Read our full review.
24. Beborn Beton A Worthy Compensation
German synthpop act Beborn Beton’s first album of the new millenium has its faults, no doubt. Some dodgy production choices and a couple of puzzling nods to current electronic music aren’t enough to detract from Beborn’s greatest strength, namely their keen ear for sticky hooks and rock solid songwriting. “Daisy Cutter”, “Last Day On Earth”, and the title track stand with the band’s best tracks from the nineties, speaking to a much deeper catalogue than the group is usually credited with. In many ways this is the perfect comeback record in that it does not deviate or try to reinvent the band, sixteen year absence be damned. At a time when we find ourselves reassessing the value of millennial synthpop, it’s nice to have one of one that era’s best and brightest back in the fold. Read our full review.
23. Glass Apple Bonzai Night Maze
A Giant Robot Ate My Drum Machine
The problem with so much retro-fetishism synthpop is that it reduces the complex range of styles and emotions to a neon blur, forgoing much of the genre’s emotional and structural complexity for easy signifiers that say “EIGHTIES!”, but not much beyond. Daniel X Belasco’s Glass Apple Bonzai avoids that trap by diving headlong into longing, desire, and uncertainty on sophomore effort Night Maze. Nodding to the melancholic moments of the genre’s forebearers on tracks like “The Stars” and “Dancing on the Moon”, GAB side-steps total sad-bastardism by keeping the bright production sheen and classic analogue synthtones right out in front. “I Can’t Feel” is as catchy and upbeat a song about emotional betrayal as we’ve heard this year, and is a good example of what Bonzai does well: invoking the character of the popular synth music of yesteryear and imbuing it with a wide range of relatable feelings and ideas. Read our full review.
22. Ashbury Heights The Looking Glass Society
Out Of Line
No one quite blends glamour and regret like Anders Hagström. Three albums in, the dynamic between Ashbury Heights’ impeccable electro/synthpop presentation which screams mass appeal and the resolutely insular and personal lyrics Hagström delivers is starting to look less like an irresolvable paradox and more like an absolutely necessary tension. Would “Ghost Spirit Mother” feel less like a stinging statement of personal defiance if it wasn’t carried by clouds of harmonies and a thumping beat? Would the ennui-heavy reveries of “Phantasmagoria” seem rote if it wasn’t framed in an elaborately sprawling club tune? These are questions we thankfully need not answer as one of Sweden’s most compelling songwriters continues to chart a course guided only by his conscience and muse. Read our full conversation about the record.
21. Kammarheit The Nest
Cyclic Law The Nest came across our desk heavy with expectation. in the ten years since The Starwheel was released, plenty of folks were inspired by that record to try their hand at dark ambient, and would go on to develop and elaborate upon their own sounds, all while Pär Boström stayed mum, with only the odd assurance filtering out that, yes, new material was being worked on. In a genre often describe as expansive and dream-like, which often attempts to assimilate itself with the listener’s consciousness, The Nest stands out. Resolutely devoted to its own architecture, The Nest is rife with recurring passages and themes seemingly rife with internal meaning and logic beyond the ken of outsiders. Boström spent that decade well, crafting an insectoid labyrinth we perhaps simply lack the physiognomy to fully enter. Read our full review.
20. Weird Candle Regeneration
Weird Candle (and much of Vancouver’s new dark stuff in general) are akin to William Gibson’s famous description of his Night City: “a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button.” Mutant punk which actually mutates, Weird Candle are changing through synth, punk, and EBM sounds the way most of us change our socks. As a result, their releases feel more like snapshots or newsletters than consolidated statements. In that sense, Regeneration is a necessary missive for those who don’t have the luxury of observing the experiment in real time. Weird Candle were already off and running in a far more violent direction by the time this LP came back from the pressers, but like a still frame from a melt flick, sometimes a frozen gesture speaks to a larger transformation. Read our full review.
19. Celldöd Mekaniskt Gransland
Anders Karlsson’s Celldöd makes a decidedly menacing breed of hardware-based EBM. The chirping, reverberating sound of Mekaniskt Gransland references the stripped down style of Detroit and Berlin electronics, shooting them through with a genuine toughness native to body music, all muscle and minimalism. The unreliability of vintage equipment and the lurching, stomping nature of these songs lends them strength, with considerable energy and effort expended to keep them from shaking apart with each drum hit or bass stab. It’s been ages since this particular musical hybrid has felt quite so underground and gritty, or as relentlessly driven and ruthlessly pared down to its absolute core.
18. Mr.Kitty Fragments
Negative Gain Productions Fragments is Forrest Avery Carney’s well-deserved victory lap, a record that speaks to the synthwave-inflected electropop gems he’s been releasing on an annual basis. Post-exorcism might actually be a more apt metaphor for the sound of the record. While still fraught with the universal malaise that made his previous four LPs so affecting and relatable, Kitty sounds more self-assured than ever before here, his confident stance a match for the high-level of production and songwriting he’s achieved. When Forrest directly faces down sorrow on “I Lost You” and anger on “Cycle of Violence” there is no despair in his voice, only determination to persevere and escape the grasp of that which would drag him down. If Mr.Kitty’s journey thus far has been one long night of the soul, Fragments is the promise of oncoming dawn and a demonstration of the strength he has to get there. Read out full review.
17. Seeming Worldburners
To hear Alex Reed and Aaron Fuleki tell it, Worldburners is intended as a tossed-off placeholder before 2016’s ambitious follow-up to 2014’s Madness & Extinction (our album of that year – see issue #207, True Believers!). House-cleaning EPs are all well and good, but very few of them are full-blown concept pieces or ably continue from albums of the year with tantalizing markers of expansion. Genre markers are conscripted and exploded across seven tracks of fire-happy ranting and clatter which comes together for some of the year’s happiest would-be accidents (though all fires in this neighbourhood should be regarded as suspicious). Following up the unexpected digital apotheosis of the sobering “Holy Fire” with a spoken word MC 900 Foot Jesus cover, and then rounding things off with a Cole Porter goes tropical torch song? The defendants are released on their own recognizance and are allowed (and encouraged) to renew the purchase of gasoline and other accelerants. Read our full review.
The name Molasar is a reference to the demonic entity in Michael Mann’s The Keep, and presumably a nod to the film’s electronic soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. It’s as good a touchstone as any for the horror-inflected and highly addictive mix of new beat, EBM, italo disco, and synthwave Chris Gilbert (Mild Peril, Body Party) invokes on Talismans, deploying orch hits and FM pads in the service of a surprisingly breezy and compulsively listenable clutch of songs. It’s the sort of thing that Gilbert has demonstrated a great capacity for in the past, but not often distilled down to tracks as easy on the ears and plain fun to listen to as this. Bubbling underneath the album’s dark trappings is perfect instrumental electronic pop craftsmanship, blessed with just the right mix of camp and transmitted from the soundtrack to some nonexistent outrun monster movie soundtrack direct to your ears. Read our full review.
Celldöd’s debut release Pulsdisco came from the exact spot where techno and EBM meet and become entwined to the point of inseparability. Anders Karlsson’s all hardware productions approach that fertile intersection of styles with a specific kind of rigorous minimalism, focused in spite of the deliberate roughness in their construction. That quality is enhanced by Karlsson’s deliberate use of cheap and unreliable vintage equipment, exploring the boundaries of control with a limited and sometimes fickle set of tools. Sophomore release Mekaniskt Gränsland arrives less than a year after its predecessor, already bearing the fruits of a disciplined push for refinement.
“Tough” might be the best descriptor for Celldöd’s music, at least in the abstract. Piston-pumping tracks like “Forortsangest” and “Antimateria” have physical quality to them that suggest weight and carriage, as though their spartan arrangement of synth bass and drums are designed to push against some barrier or restraint. When Anders dips into funk, it’s of the angular and mechanical variety, injecting groove between the otherwise bare loops of “Under Press” until it starts to bounce with each heavily reverbed snap of the drum machine snare.
Interestingly, Mekaniskt Gränsland also makes good use of an entirely new element in its treatment of the human voice. “Svart Magi” starts with some stock body music grunts and yelps, but before long the track’s splashy reverbs and chirpy bassline are joined by a half-spoken vocal, emerging from what sounds like some long metallic pipe. “Allting Faller” is almost uncharacteristically on the nose in its approximation of D.A.F.’s interplay between rigid rhythm and desperate vocalizing, one of the few moments on the release that distinctly favours its EBM building blocks. These diversions from the established Celldöd blueprint work because they feel like natural retrofits, complimentary new ideas that neither distract nor divert from what the project has already established as its remit.
Whether or not Celldöd’s blows land with any given listener is probably a function of their appetite for music this relentlessly distilled. There’s a distinct unease in how infrequently these songs change course once they get going, and power in how much steam they build up imperceptibly over their run time. Deliberately rough and often exaggeratedly spare, it’s music that emphasizes form and execution over all other concerns.
A little less than a week since the hated Conservatives got the boot here in Canadia, and we’re still exhaling the deep sigh of relief that started last Monday evening. No idea whether our new government and PM will come through on everything they promised in the lead up to the election, but until we really get a feel for Trudeau Junior, we’ll be over here quietly recounting the humiliation of Harper and his goon squad, chuckling to ourselves as we do. We may not always be the most political blog (okay fine, we rarely discuss any politics that don’t directly intersect with the music we cover), but never let it be said we don’t crack a smile when a scumbag neo-fascist gets their comeuppance from the public. Have a listen to some new tracks with us as we enjoy a marginally better True North Strong and Free, won’t you?
Forma Tadre, “Ne Peuvent Pas”
Oh man, oh man, oh man. It’s tough to think of an act from the 90s onward who’ve maintained as much of a mystique for us as Forma Tadre. The three LPs released by Andreas Meyer under that handle are separated by a number of years and significant aesthetic distinctions, but each has won us over for a variety of reasons. The promise of a new Forma Tadre release, even an archival one, is indeed cause for celebration at the HQ. The forthcoming record consists of material that predates classic debut LP Navigator, and apparently this cut represents the more on the nose end of things, with the cagey and subtle side of Meyer’s work making up the rest of these early cuts. One way or t’other, we’ll be sure to fill you in on the details once this is out.
Celldöd, “Svart Magi”
All hardware, all hardcore Swedish techno-EBM act Celldöd is gearing up for the release of their debut LP on Suction Records with some of the regulation hotness we’ve come to expect. In the time since the project first emerged, The Pain Machinery’s Anders Karlsson has been working like a fiend to establish both an aesthetic and a reputation for his instrumental project, the culmination of which arrives in the form of Svart Magi this November. This is pure realness from a producer who is deeply embedded in the modern history of body music, don’t sleep.
Kaspar Hauser, “The Man With No Name (Demo)”
Some low-fi, moody, and grinding as hell post-punk from all the way up in Glasgow. When we popped by there last year the art school had caught fire and we ended up spending most of our time in cemeteries and pubs. Not sure what the significance of all that is, but we dig the sound that this brand new act is mining out.
Glass Apple Bonzai, “Suicide, You, and I”
We have no idea when Daniel X Belasco finds time to sleep, eat, use that bathroom or any of the other things us mere mortals do while he’s composing amazing 80s synthpop tracks. In the 10 or so days since this number first hit our inbox DXB has gone ahead and leaked two other songs (including the terrific “Holy War”, which you can hear over at Bandcamp) and started to hint around about the next LP, following hot on the heels of this year’s excellent Night Maze. Enjoy this slightly darker, but no less catchy and upbeat number from one of the best artists mining the me decade’s extensive synthpop history.
Minuit Machine, “Everlasting”
A recent roll call of what readers were digging pointed us to the second full-length by French act Minuit Machine (tip of the hat to Ville!). They’re pitching themselves as part of the increasingly disparate and indefinite synthwave tag, but this track scans as pure, classic darkwave in the Kirlian Camera ilk. This stuff’s absolutely drenched in an atmosphere that’s very much up our alley, and points to a niche the band should be able to carve out for themselves if they hone in on things.
Displacer, “Crossing the Threshold LCF”
If you’ve been reading ID:UD for any length of time you’re probably used to seeing us talk up Toronto IDM boss Michael Morton, aka Displacer. One of the reasons we always check for Double M drops has been his consistent drive to do new and interesting stuff within his established milieu, with new single “Crossing The Threshold” as case in point, all Carpenter-esque horror synths and sticky atmosphere that play off his already well-established penchant for ambiance and mood. Nice seasonal stuff to be certain!