Tracks: May 14th, 2018

The spate of shows rolling through our neck of the woods continues, with a bit of an emphasis on old legends recontextualizing their work. Peter Hook brought his band through town to play through both Joy Division and New Order’s Substance comps, but we were both too bushed to go (ask us sometime about dancing onstage to one of Hooky’s DJ sets years ago). And this coming weekend, after a couple of cancellations and reschedulings, Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash will be bringing their Poptone project to the stage. We’re keen to hear how the classic (yet always somehow obscure and underrated) Tones On Tail catalog sounds in this new incarnation. On with this week’s tracks!

Second Still
Second Still

Front Line Assembly, “Mechvirus”
The new track from Front Line Assembly is notable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a taste of the follow-up to Airmech, FLA’s lauded soundtrack to the game of the same name, which showed the project’s capacity for atmospherics as expressed through ultra-modern production. Secondly, it’s the first new music we’ve heard from the band since the untimely passing of Jeremy Inkel, and his influence as a writer, designer and arranger (along with Sasha Keevill, with whom he collaborated on recent Front Line material) is all over this. It’s a great track and a testament to Bill Leeb and company’s continued relevance in electronic music some 30 plus years since the band was founded.

Imperial Black Unit, “The White Rose”
Australia’s Imperial Black Unit just finished up some dates in their own backyard with Youth Code, and it’s through the latter that we were tipped off to this hotness. Their debut release on a + w, State Of Pressure, still doesn’t have a release date, but until then check out this hypnotic gem that owes more than a little to A Split Second but feels wholly fresh. Not sure if the title’s meant to honour die Weiße Rose or not, but it’s a nice thought.

Kollaps, “Heartworm”
Fellow Aussies Kollaps are also making waves beyond their home continent, though of a far more harsh variety. A new compilation tape from Italy’s excellent Infidel Bodies label finds Kollaps dishing out deep and gashed death industrial noise which makes an art out of procedural levels of distortion, but offsets things with some interestingly blunted drum programming. Nasty stuff to be sure.

Glass Apple Bonzai, “Fire in the Sky”
Your friend and ours Daniel X Belasco is back with a new single from Glass Apple Bonzai, Canada’s champions of charming neon retro-synthpop. As with many of GAB’s material this taps into the intersection of retro-futurism and good old pop music longing, hella melancholy while not being gloomy or turgid. And hey, the single also features a remix from likeminded artist Andy Deane’s The Rain Within and a wild-ass Jesus Jones-esque slice of sampledelia called “What’s Your Vector Victor”, so you’ll want to be picking that ASAP.

Second Still, “Ashes”
LA post-punk trio Second Still have a new EP out hot on the heels of their new Part Time Punks session being released. A quick first pass at Equals suggests that it contains the same lo-fi swagger that made their self-titled LP from last year one we felt stupid for having missed at its release. Some of the lighter points on the EP hint at Roxy or 10cc archness, but this churning number just grinds darkly.

Panic Priest, “Gaffer”
Chicago-based darkwavers Panic Priest are new signees to Negative Gain Productions, bringing some new American gloom to the label’s already impressive roster of dark music artists. Not much to go on yet beyond the tracks available on the Bandcamp pre-order, but we’re getting some hints of classic darkwave, some nice male vocal harmonies and a bit of the synthrock energy ported over from Jack Armando’s other project My Gold Mask. Good promising stuff, and only a few days ’til we get to hear the whole thing.

Tracks: January 8th, 2018

As we’re quick to mention, at the end of the day I Die: You Die is just made up of two people with day jobs, and despite our best efforts to seek out and discuss as much of the music we feel is relevant to the site’s purview, sometimes releases slip through the cracks, especially towards the end of the year. Plenty of readers and listeners (thank you!) have already pointed us towards a few of their favourites from last year which we missed out on, but even accounting for those we’ve made note of several releases by bands we normally do our due diligence to cover which slipped past us. All of this is to say that, in addition to the slate of forthcoming releases we noted on the podcast, we’ll likely be peppering in the next month or so of posting with a handful of late 2017 releases we wanted to say at least something about. On with this week’s new tunes!

Glass Apple Bonzai photo courtesy of Jill Grant @Take it For Granted

Michael Idehall, “Six Six Sixties”
As we made brief mention of on last week’s podcast, there are several initiatives working to raise funds to aid Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s fight with cancer. One such endeavor is the pair of tribute releases assembled by Spanish label Unknown Pleasures (who should by now be familiar to fans of new and old coldwave and darkwave), with tracks spanning all of P-Orridge’s projects and featuring contributions by artists ranging from Black Egg to Peaches. Check in-house fave Michael Idehall’s take on “Six Six Sixties”, mastered by Nordvargr (not to go too off topic but that’s a duo we’d love to hear more collaboration from).

Glass Apple Bonzai, “A Million Foolish Hands (2008 Demo)”
Having been privy to some of the preamble to Glass Apple Bonzai’s debut, we got some sense of just how long Daniel Belasco had been working on the project, but the new Compendium release which unarchives dozens of demos and mixes from across GAB’s catalog is still gobsmacking. The solid songcraft which has always been the bedrock of the project is present throughout, but it’s fun to check out how Belasco workshopped specific synthpop shadings over the years.

11grams, “Give Me Death (Reincarnated mix by Dharmata 101 remix)”
US/Australia collaborative EBM project 11grams put out a solid debut project last year, one worthy of a chaser in the form of this compact remix single currenly available via Bandcamp. Featuring remixes by Am Tierpark and Dharmata 101 that take the project’s busy, beat-driven sound in distinct directions, the latter version especially which is very musical and groovy.

Klack, “Pump Up The Jam”
Giving Death in Rome a run for their money in the Technotronic tribute department, we’ve got Klack (that’s Eric Oehler of Null Device and Matt Fanale of Caustic so you know) with their take on this 90s eurodance classic. Given that Klack are explicitly an act who pay homage to the New Beat sound that laid some of the groundwork for classic eurodance, this one cover is extra appropriate. Can you guess who the super secret guest vocalist is?

Snog, “Corporate Slave (Seeming RMX)”
We snarked pretty hard on the idea of staunch capitalist critic David Thrussel reissuing his signature hit as a 25th anniversary remix single before we even knew it was gonna be a double, and were all set to let vol. 2 pass without comment. That said, we couldn’t resist hearing what Alex Reed of Seeming might do with the 90s club hit, and it turns out it’s very in line with some of the ideas he was playing with circa the Worldburners era. Who else but Reed would have translated the song’s instantly recognizable rhythm into a sixties soul-clap milieu, complete with twirling pianos, contemporary samples and choppy guitar accents?

Ari Mason, “Se Ignoras Te”
Lastly, something well out of our usual field, some early sacred music as recorded by Ari Mason. A sharp break from the club-friendly darkwave of Creatures, Mason’s new record Musica Lunae is wholly made up of the vocal sacred repertoire in which she was originally trained. We’re somewhat out of our element in evaluating sacred music, but the production and design touches Mason’s added somewhat remind us of Wendy Carlos’ pioneering Moogery. Also, it’s difficult to not enjoy Palestrina.

I Die: You Die’s Top 25 of 2016: 25-16

Here we go! This marks the sixth time we’ve offered up a totally subjective “best of” list here at I Die: You Die, and perhaps more than any other year we found ourselves throwing our hands up at the task of ordering our favourite records. Not out of a dearth of them, far from it, but rather out of the apparent proximity of so many of these releases in terms of quality. More than ever, the distinction between, say, a #22 record and a #13 record feels entirely arbitrary, and there were a lot of last minute shifts up and down the scale which reflected that. But also more than any year, we think 2016’s list showcases the strength of material being released in the full range and spectrum of the dark music we cover here at the site. (We think that’ll become especially apparent once the top ten releases are up, but no spoilers.) Exact rankings aside, we’re very excited by the ways in which sounds new and old flourished this year, and in which new bands forged their own paths and veterans found ways to evolve. As always, we’re keen to hear your thoughts on these records or other faves of yours that 2016 brought; holler at us in the comments or on Twitter or FB if you’re so inclined. Let’s get started!

25. Ari Mason
Creatures
Negative Gain Productions

Few labels explored the expanded boundaries of Our Thing more than Negative Gain Productions in 2016, introducing us to exciting new voices like Ari Mason in the process. You can certainly liken Mason’s synthwave-tinged stylings to similarly minded electronic singer-songwriters like Bat for Lashes or labelmate Mr.Kitty, but the most engaging moments of Creatures – like the astonishing “Beasts Tonight”, an ID:UD staff favourite since we first heard it – defy any serious comparison. Moody, fatalistic, and somehow hopeful in spite of it, it’s an LP of myriad virtues, not the least of which is the potential we hear in the artist who made it. Read our full review.

Winter Severity Index - Human Taxonomy

24. Winter Severity Index
Human Taxonomy
Manic Depression

Italian duo Winter Severity Index didn’t change up their approach that much for second full-length Human Taxonomy, but the cumulative effects of their adjustments to a dour yet atmospheric sound were massive. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, Human Taxonomy delivers crushingly heavy, bass-driven miserablism (“Athlete”) and metronomic oppression (“Drums Of Affliction”), but also adorn their tracks in a gorgeous lattice of synths and echoes (check the classic darkwave feel of “Waiting Room”). Equally hypnotic and merciless, this record showcases a mastery of the seeming contradictions that are so often found in the spaces between goth rock, post-punk, and darkwave. Read our full review.

Weird Candle - Alter Ego

23. Weird Candle
Alter Ego
self-released

Vancouver’s synthpunk heroes keep charging forward. Even shorter than 2015’s Regeneration, Alter Ego spasms through another suite of stuttering, yowling tracks dealing with the sleazy charms of low-tech low-life. It’s a slightly tighter delivery mechanism than its predecessor, though: Alter Ego shuffles through a wider range of bleepy sounds and moods (with even some Silicon Teens type camp cropping up at the end in “Midi Club”) without ever straying from the manic and strange desperation which has turned them into such an engaging live act over the past few years. Read our full review.

Kangarot - Wholly Hex

22. Kangarot
Wholly Hex
Underground Industrial Records

After concocting an intriguing psychedelic brew of raw electro-industrial and kosmische synth on his excellent Nursery Of New Stars and Rejecting Mammalian Humanism releases, Kangarot’s Josh Reed flash-fried his sound in a vat of lo-fi chrome. Still tripped-out to Mars but now more abrasive than ever before, the vision of electro-industrial laid down on Wholly Hex was viciously fun, ran deep, and sat outside of the traditional timeline of the genre’s evolution. Adjust your dosage for zero-gravity conditions before taking off. Read our full review.

21. M‡яc▲ll▲
self-titled
self-released

With more than a half decade in the rearview, we can confidently say that the most important thing about witch house’s ever so brief moment in the sun was what came after it. M‡яc▲ll▲ has long been a standard bearer for that diaspora, holding tight to some of the triangle scene’s aesthetic markers as they leave the structural and production limitations of the half-genre behind them. Their 2016 self-titled LP dips heavily into the giallo electro sounds of the project’s most recent releases, with side-forays into minimal synth, industrial, and even plays with some *gasp* vocals. M‡яc▲ll▲ is restlessly exploring new ground with each cut, never resting, never settling for long enough to lose their mercurial power. Read our full review.

20. Glass Apple Bonzai
In The Dark
Artoffact Records

Glass Apple Bonzai’s satan-themed synthpop is so much deeper than the elevator pitch might suggest, chiefly due to Daniel Belasco’s unerring production prowess. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, In the Dark is unafraid to evoke the classic synthpop era (and even dip into some electro-funk as on the addictive title track), and its hooks, production and songwriting shield it from the potentially damaging comparisons that can come from invoking the genre’s masters. If Belasco has moments of doubt about what he’s doing you’ll never hear a note of it in his sly vocals, or in the confident dark magic he summons on each of the LP’s twinkling neon cuts. Read our full review.

lié - Truth Or Consequences

19. lié
Truth Or Consequences
Monofonus Press

Capturing the full-bore speed and violence which we saw lié dishing out at shows throughout 2015 and into this year seemed like a tall order, but the Vancouver trio’s sophomore record ably lived up to it. The tension and simmering anger of Consent morphs into unbridled rage (at oppression, at the self) on Truth Or Consequences. That the record bumps into early deathrock as it compresses the darker side of post-punk into a claustrophobic twenty-three minutes might be accidental, but however it’s categorized, Truth Or Consequences stands as one the most intense and punishing rock records of the year. Read our full review.

18. Covenant
The Blinding Dark
Dependent/Metropolis Records

Divisive, quixotic, and imperfect, you can’t deny that Covenant’s The Blinding Dark generated reactions. And why not? In a year marked by hardship, uncertainty, and heartache on a global scale how dishonest would it have been for the Swedish masters to deliver something pat and easy? You can hear it in Eskil Simonsson’s voice on “Sound Mirrors”, a search for some hope lost amongst “burning homes, crashing down on shattered ground”. And we’ll be damned if they don’t manage to find some, ever the utopian optimists working their way through the gloom in search of some cracks in the shadow through which to shine their singular light. Read our full review.

Boy Harsher - Yr Body Is Nothing

17. Boy Harsher
Yr Body Is Nothing
DKA Records

Plenty of the appeal of Boy Harsher’s debut lies in its throwback moves, but the record’s charm isn’t limited to its savvy references the suaver sounds of original cold wave. The Massachusetts by way of Georgia duo pick up the promise of plenty of bands from the early aughts who made moves towards classic darkness while gliding onto Kitsuné Maison dancefloors. Unlike so many also-rans, though, Boy Harsher have both style and tunes aplenty on offer. Elegantly silky throughout and underpinned by one of the year’s best vocal performances from Jae Matthews, Yr Body Is Nothing made the darm smoother and more enticing than any other record this year.

16. Cygnets
Alone/Together
Negative Gain Productions

Alone/Together is as good a summation of Cygnets as the Edmonton trio have yet released. Just like Cygnets themselves the LP is easy to enjoy, but possessed of surprising depth and imagination, finding new ways to interpret and combine timeworn genres like like new wave, post-punk, synthpop and even britpop. Our initial review found the album dipped in the middle, but repeated listens have put that concern to rest; although the record still starts and ends as strongly as any other we heard this year (go listen to “A Dark Chapter in Our History” and “Living in a Coma” right now if you need proof) there are no duds to be found here. Cygnets greatest skill is in making music that you stay in love with, gaining in appreciation even as the first blush fades. Read our full review.

Come back tomorrow for numbers 16-5, and Thursday for the Top 5!

Glass Apple Bonzai, “In The Dark”

Glass Apple Bonzai
In The Dark
Artoffact Records

Daniel X Belasco’s first album for Artoffact is (like his previous two LPs as Glass Apple Bonzai) an effective bridge between classic synthpop and neon synthwave sounds. Oh, and its primary theme is devil worship. It’s a mildly incongruous blend of elements but it works, primarily because Belasco commits to it fully, coupling VHS-era satanic panic samples with some of the strongest songwriting and production yet heard from the Ontario based artist.

In The Dark puts its cards on the table at the outset with “Light in the Darkness (Overture)”, with sinister church bells and distant weeping slowly giving away to a galloping bassline and giant synth leads. Like any good overture it serves to introduce us to the rest of the work, its bombast flowing easily in the low-key “Holy War” and on into the blasphemous synth-funk of the title track. Indeed “In The Dark” is as close as Glass Apple Bonzai has ever sounded to The Gap Band or Zapp, complete with the vocoders and a more-bounce-to-the-ounce bassline. The LP features a few similarly interesting stylistic excursions, like the Art of Noise sampledelica of “Unholy” and the dreamy new wave of “Modern Light”, the latter of which comes complete with a solemn monologue by labelmate Alex Reed of Seeming.

The album’s bread and butter is in synthpop hooks though, and there are more than enough of them to keep the record moving. “Suicide You and I” and closer “A Wicked Fire (Finale)” are sticky sweet, their trilling synths and gated drums a perfect vehicle for Belasco’s smooth radio-voice vocals. It’s a hell of a voice indeed, and a goodly portion of what makes the record successful is how it gets used. Belasco goes all in on his songs, even when he’s singing about midnight rituals to invoke El Diablo or hellfire as metaphor for burnin’ love he sounds deadly sincere.

And that might be one of In The Dark and Glass Apple Bonzai’s greatest strengths. The temptation with retro-themed synth music is often to wink to the listener, using irony to preemptively head off any criticism. In refusing to cling to detachment as a safety net GAB never undercuts the impact of their songs. Indeed, a Satanic synthpop record might not sound like the number one candidate for a superlative like “genuine”, but Belasco earns it; truly a case where you have to give the devil his due.

Buy it.

Tracks: November 14th, 2016

Well, here we are. We don’t know what we can say after the week that was, other than our heart goes out to our friends in the US, especially those facing down the stretch of the next four to god knows how many years. The best thing we can do now is to lend a hand, either literally or financially to whatever community efforts are going on to help protect the folks at risk, and to fight the inevitable tide looming in the distance. For our part, I Die: You Die will be contributing a portion of our Patreon donations to various charities every month, starting with the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and on to others as the need becomes apparent. We love you, and we will do what we can to help.

Ritualz

Glass Apple Bonzai, “Holy War”
After a number of fun one-offs and collaborations, Canadian synthpop guru (and Great Debate emcee) Daniel X Belasco is ready to release the follow-up to sophomore effort Night Maze. Don’t let the Diablo-esque artwork fool you: the first taster from In The Dark has all of the smooth, melodic swing we’ve come to expect from one of the purest expressions of vocally-minded synthpop you’ll find in this or any other nation.

Cellar Graves, “Cognitive Dissonance (Instrumental Demo)”
Some of you may know Chase Dobson from his IDM work (under c.db.sn and his own name), or for his guitar and bass on the most recent Black Tape for a Blue Girl EP. Chase has also founded Cellar Graves, an outlet for his love for 80s electro-industrial music. There are a bunch of demos up on his Soundcloud that showcase the same capacity for complexity and melody we’ve come to expect from his as producer/performer. Recommended for fans of Doubting Thomas, Cyberaktif and other classic Vancouver sounds.

Mr.Kitty, “Birds of Prey”
We follow Mr.Kitty like winter follows fall, so you know the moment a demo like “Birds of Prey” hits Soundcloud we’ll be there trying to figure out what Forrest is up to. The far off, shouted vox on this one aren’t a totally new tool in MK’s kit, although we like how they signal that this is gonna be one of the darker more fraught songs in the catalogue. No word on when his next one will drop for Negative Gain (some time in 2017 we hope), but this should hold us down until the next drop.

Ritualz/†‡†, “Transilvanian Hunger”
It feels like an epoch since we last heard from Juan Carlos Lobo Garcia’s Ritualz (or †‡†) outfit. One of the earlier and more enjoyable artists to be tagged with the now impossibly fraught witch house tag, Garcia’s played it relatively low key since that particular hubbub. The sound showcased here, on a cover of Norwegian black metal gods Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger”, is an intriguing one for the act’s re-emergence, with a downcast darkwave feel perhaps not so different from the territory Mt. Sims was tracing out about a decade back.

Leæther Strip, “Filling The Graves”
A new one from the forthcoming album by Claus Larsen, the godfather (or is that the daddy?) of dark electro. His first for Rustblade, the sound of the track favours Uncle Claus’ melodic side (as heard on his explicitly synthpop side-project AM Tierpark), while still featuring a strong foundation of bass and drums it keeps the emphasis on a ringing, clarion synth lead. It’s a sprightly number for the dancefloor from one of Our Thing’s living treasures, all the more precious because he’s still building his legacy one record at a time.

Frozen Rabbit, “Idle Minds”
26,000, the debut record from drone project Frozen Rabbit, has become something of a quiet favourite of the Senior Staff’s since its release over a decade ago. A collaboration between Phil Western (a man who needs no introduction on these pages) and his frequent visual collaborated Tim Hill, Frozen Rabbit delivered the same spaced-out moods we’ve come to expect from related projects like Plateau and Floatpoint, albeit under a far more calm aegis. We’d assumed the endeavor was completely kaput, but here’s a brand-spankin’ new LP in the form of Real Lower Unti. It’s not apparent from the PR copy when the live studio performances which make up the record were laid down, but we’re just happy to have more somnabulent beauty from the duo.

Tracks: September 6th, 2016

Sometimes we gotta dig deep for the Tracks posts, and sometimes the music basically falls into our laps. This is one of the latter weeks, where we actually had more than enough content to fill out the post and some leftover besides. This is of course an augur of the late year rush of albums that inevitably snows us under right up ’til we start drafting our year end lists. Go check out the podcast last week for a rundown of a couple of the albums we are anticipating, and then give these here tracks a listen, why not.

Photo courtesy of Jill Grant @takeitforgranted

SØLVE, “emptyset”
A belated happy birthday to Brant Showers of SØLVE and ∆AIMON! This new standalone track from the former incorporates nearly everything that comes to mind when we think of the two projects in a surprisingly tight package: brapping scrapes accompany huge crepuscular strings, and cryptic vocals are submerged in the sort of giant sonic space Brant is so capable of constructing via studio wizardry.

IAMX, “Northstar (Mr.Kitty remix)”
A meeting of one of the artists most pertinent to Our Thing that we never cover, and one we cover obsessively. It’s not that we dislike IAMX at all, it’s just that the senior staff hasn’t ever put in the effort to parse Chris Corner’s catalogue with the care it deserves. We might have to get on rectifying that, but in the meantime what better reason to check in on IAMX than to see what Mr.Kitty has done with one of their tracks? Taken from the new Everything is Burning release (an addendum to the last LP Metanoia), Forrest Carney brings the energy and pathos that have marked his impressive remix work in 2016.

Volt 9000 vs. Glass Apple Bonzai, “Mask (Theme Cover)”
Maybe the shortest entry in the history of this Tracks feature, but not one we could possibly overlook. As children of the 80s, we of course have a great deal of affection for the toyline cartoons of the era, and the music that accompanied them. So when we heard local favourites Volt 9000 and Glass Apple Bonzai had teamed up to cover the theme from Mask, we were reasonably excited. We’d actually shell out for a whole LP of these guys covering kids TV theme songs, no question. May we suggest “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors” for inclusion?

Statiqbloom, “Talons Teeth”
Fade Kainer carved out a niche for his Statiqbloom project so quickly and effectively that he’s given us an itch absolutely nothing else can scratch. After the Mask Visions Poison EP and a split with Zex Model, we know exactly what we’re getting from Statiqbloom: brutal, punchy dark electro which conjures the spirits of the old masters of the genre without ever lifting too heavily from them. This taster of impending first full-length Blue Moon Blood is a strong warning shot and comes packed with three remixes.


Delerium, “Ritual (Architect remix)”

We’ll cop to not being super interested in much of the contemporary Delirium material. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it, but the intersection of the long-running Bill Leeb electronica project and Our Thing is more or less non-existent beyond the personnel involved. Still, we had to give the new single a spin, especially when we heard it had mixes from Blush Response and Architect on it. Jumping off from the bass music influence of the original version, Daniel Myer’s take on Ritual softens the edges and lends the track a loose, gauzy feel. The pitched down vocal also puts us in mind of classic Burial. Night bus vibes abound, not at all expected but certainly welcome.

Hante, “Living In A French Movie”
We were saddened by the dissolution of Minuit Machine just as we were beginning to fall hard for their dreamy combination of shoegaze and darkwave, but thankfully Hélène de Thoury is soldiering on with her Hante. project at a seemingly increased clip. New EP No Hard Feelings drops today, and lead cut “Living In A French Movie” brings the densely packed drama and synths we’ve come to love from both bands.

Tracks: February 15th, 2016

Hey, gang! We mentioned it on the podcast last week, but given that it’s a relatively short run ’til it’s upon us (or in case you missed it), we thought we’d lay out the skinny on the Verboden fest happening here in Vancouver this April. Thirty bands running the gamut from EBM to post-punk to synthpop are gonna be converging on The Astoria and The Red Gate on April 9th and 10th. While there are plenty of local heroes in the form of OHM, Animal Bodies, Koban, and plenty of others, out of towners like Rhythm of Cruelty, Technotron, and Vandalaze will also be trekking up. Hell, we’ll even be DJing between bands. It promises to be an excellent consolidation of all the New Dark Things blooming and festering up here in the Pacific Northwest, and if you’re nearby we’d love to play host. On with this week’s new tunes!

High-Functioning Flesh
Photo Courtesy of Jill Grant @Take it for Granted

High-Functioning Flesh, “Human Remains”
In case you missed it, the A-side of HFF’s new 7″ dropped last Wednesday. If we’re being honest, this new jam sounds like the missing link between 2014’s A Misery Of Unities – A Unity Of Miseries and last year’s Definite Structures (our fave of 2015, as folks might recall). This comes just as Susan and Greg are set to hit the road with dark-synthpop all-stars Body Of Light. With well over thirty North American dates there’s no excuse; make sure you catch one of the greatest body music bands in the game right now.

Glass Apple Bonzai (feat. Hello Moth), “What They Say”
Calgary’s Hello Moth was one of the most pleasing and left-field surprises at last year’s Terminus festival, and we had a feeling that we weren’t the only ones impressed by his cut-up style approach to art-house synthpop. The proof’s in the pudding now, as friend of the site Daniel X. Belasco’s tapped him for this tune, a preview of the third Glass Apple Bonzai album, In the Dark. Both artists place a huge premium on vocals in their work, and Belasco’s clean synth style is a perfect base for their harmonizations.

Blac Kolor, “Spirits (Square7 Remix)”
Hendrick Grothe is setting out to shred 2016. He’s already got one EP out in the new year, and in the three weeks since then he’s already dropped two teaser singles to prime the pump for his second Blac Kolor LP, Born In Ruins. A far cry from the hugely apocalyptic title track, “Spirits” is a tense and shadowy shuffle of pensive techno programming and deep bass cycles. The Square7 remix appended to this single boxes things into a tight garage mode and speckles some grain on things.

Coldkill, “I’m Yours (Album version)”
Folks with more than a passing familiarity with Rexx Arkana know that the FGFC820 singer and DJ is also an expert on synthpop and melodic synth music outside the aggressive remit of his main project. The debut release of his new endeavour with Eric Eldredge (Interface) reflects his knowledge of and experience with those sounds, coming in somewhere in the neighbourhood of some of the excellent melancholy synthpop we were hearing in the early days of the millennium. “I’m Yours” is available as a pay-what-you-want download on Bandcamp, including a club mix and remixes from Covenant’s Eskil Simonsson and Mondtraume. Good stuff.

HEALTH, “Drugs Exist (Mr.Kitty remix)”
Mr.Kitty turns his incredible ear for the essence of a song on his new remix for HEALTH, taking on the exceptionally lovely final track from the LA band’s terrific 2015 LP Death Magic. Where the original is a sad coda for an emotionally intense album, the Kitty version is amplified into a beacon of hope, rising up out of despair and morphing into a gloriously cathartic dancefloor smasher. Available free via Soundcloud, we can only hope this will help raise Mr.Kitty’s profile with HEALTH’s legions of followers.

Rona Geffen, “My Girls are a Fire”
Finally, something special from female:pressure, an electronic compilation made up of songs by female artists, released in solidarity with the revolutionaries of Rojava. 30 tracks of techno, noise and other forms of electronic music, dedicated to the women who are literally on the frontlines, working and fighting to build a better world for the people of Kurdistan. Have a listen to the entire set, do some reading about what is happening in Rojava and consider a donation to a worthy charity lending assistance in the struggle.

I DIE: YOU DIE’S TOP 25 OF 2015: 25-16

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!

Minuit Machine - Violent Rains
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
Dependent Records

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.

Ashbury Heights - The Looking Glass Society
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.

Kammarheit - The Nest
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
Weyrd Son

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
Suction Records

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
Artoffact Records

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.


Molasar
Talismans
Telefuture

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.

We’ll be back tomorrow with albums 15-6!

Tracks: October 26th, 2015

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?

Minuit Machine

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!

Glass Apple Bonzai, “Night Maze”

Glass Apple Bonzai - Night Maze

Glass Apple Bonzai
Night Maze
self-released

Daniel X Belasco’s never had any problems communicating the more overt charms of his classic synthpop project Glass Apple Bonzai. Strong vocals, clear harmonies and a rich, clean palette of synth sounds made the project’s debut a hit here at ID:UD HQ and with fans of forthright synthpop. And yet for a genre so praised and derided for the immediacy of its appeal, a cooler and more austere vein of synthpop runs in parallel to its more melodic side, and it’s the former that Belasco taps into for Night Maze, a sophomore LP built for deeply committed synthpop heads.

On the surface, much of the first album’s style is carried forward on Night Maze. “An Astrophysicist Love Song I” has a winsome questioning, “Dancing On The Moon” and “I Don’t Mind” have immediate bounce, and there’s even a smooth jazz sax bridge on closer “Blue Satellite”. Yet if that’s as far as one looks – easy 80s style fun – it might be said to be lacking in comparison to its predecessor. Night Maze rarely gives itself over to the big lyrical sweeps of “A Million Foolish Hands” or the thumping slink of “The Freeze”. But what Night Maze lacks in immediate thrills it makes up for in masterful instrumentation and mood which reflects a near complete knowledge of a particular vein of restrained, almost dour sounds drawn from records just as crucial to synthpop’s history as its glammy and grandiose moments.

The minimalist sense of instrumentation which was part of the charm of GAB’s debut is brought to bear on Night Maze, and the resulting changes in tone and effect are striking. John Foxx, early Simple Minds, Organisation-era OMD, and even some of the more approachable ends of minimal wave are far better touchstones for this album than the lusher sides of Depeche Mode or the delirious melodies of Yaz. “The Edge Of Morrow”‘s slow, brooding lope comes across as an apprehensive iteration of italo disco, while the solitary synth figures of “The Stars” feel separated from the larger world by sheer panes of glass.

That sparse tone’s measured approach is mirrored in lyrical themes of apprehension, caution, and alienation. Belasco’s always had a yen for science fiction, but Night Maze casts its speculative eye towards quieter, grimmer futures than the whizz-bang ray gun fun of his earlier project, Defense Mechanism. Much more La Jetée or Subway than Planet Of The Apes or even Blade Runner.

Between outrun and plenty of other throwback aesthetics, it often feels as though artifice and surface have come to be the defining characteristics of 80s music. Given the “style over substance” philosophy this seems to impart, it’s perhaps not surprising that plenty of people have thought that replicating the charm of that era is as simple as rehashing its most obvious outer markers. But Belasco knows the period and its music better than that, and pays tribute to the deep cut side of synthpop via Night Maze‘s moody and measured feel.