Rhys Fulber, “Your Dystopia, My Utopia”

Rhys Fulber
Your Dystopia, My Utopia
Sonic Groove

As a member of Front Line Assembly (and its various off-shoots including successful world-beat/electronica act Delerium) during that project’s most well regarded and commercially successful era – not to mention his solo project Conjure One and studio work with Paradise Lost, Fear Factory and more recently Youth Code and Kanga – Rhys Fulber’s influence and profile amongst those who know can’t be overstated. Perhaps the most interesting thing then about his debut LP under his own name for Sonic Groove records is hearing the veteran artist/producer explore territory that hints at his broad catalogue of work without being specifically beholden to any one piece of it.

Broadly speaking the music on Your Dystopia, My Utopia falls into the rubric of industrialized-techno, although the album emphasizes texture and structure over dancefloor bangers. While rhythms and tempos are kept central to each composition, it’s Fulber’s sensibility as a programmer and articulate production style that define the record. “Limited Vision” has a straight 4/4 beat underneath most of it, but the essence of the track is in how grinding synths interact with the the vast, open reverbs that obscure the track’s sonic boundaries, hiding some sounds until they jump to the fore, and covering them as they retreat to the edges of the stereo spectrum again. Album highlight “My Church” invokes a technoid rhythm as its backbone before building a massive cathedral of organ and synth patches and portentous samples for a cinematic feel. Neither track feels like anything we’ve heard from Fulber before, but definitely bear his steady hand from the building blocks of sound design (some of which is contributed by Los Angeles synth guru Jeff Swearengin) through to final mix.

That’s not to say that the album suffers when it makes overt dancefloor bids though. Songs like “Truncheon” or “Anhedonia” have plenty of DJ appeal with their rapidly cycling basslines and tough, crunchy drums, but feature the same fine attention to detail as the rest of the record. The latter number is especially notable in how maximal it feels while working with a more limited structure, injecting a Gessafelstein-esque arrangement with a heft and coarseness that move it towards classic rhythmic noise.

Beyond the strong appeal it holds for simple repeat listening, Your Dystopia, My Utopia also acts as both evidence of Rhys Fulber’s technical proficiency, but also his oft overlooked skill as composer. For those who mostly know him via his extensive work as a remixer, collaborator or studio hand, it should go a ways to illuminating his auteurship; in presenting himself in a largely new way Fulber has made us appreciate him as an individual artist all the more. Recommended.

Buy it.

Tracks: May 22nd, 2018

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

Inhalt in their natural habitat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends of ID:UD Year End Round Up

As has become a welcome tradition here at the ID:UD HQ, we’re starting our Year End coverage by slacking off. Well, not really. We’re hard at work putting the finishing touches on our write-ups of our favourite releases of 2017, but to get the ball rolling we’ve asked a plethora of the site’s friends to say a few words about releases which left a mark on them this year. Not necessarily their favourite record of the year, and certainly not limited by the range of music we regularly cover here, but simply music that they couldn’t leave aside over the course of 2017. The DJs, promoters, musicians, and writers we’ve asked to contribute have put forward a feast of vintage synths, noise, shoegaze, EBM, pop, and plenty more to get the Year End festivities started, so sample some delicacies and then come back tomorrow for the beginning of our countdown of 2017’s best records!

Diary of Dreams - Hell In Eden
Valtteri Hyvärinen of Desert Monolith on Diary of Dreams, Hell in Eden
After the forgettable Grau im Licht I was expecting just another DoD album – competent but more of the same. “hell in Eden”, however, easily ranks amongst the veteran band’s finest offerings. It adds an orchestral touch to the DoD formula and is just a monstrously epic-sounding, bleak album with tons of memorable moments.

Slowdive - self-titled
Eric Oehler of Null Device on Slowdive, self-titled
Of the original generation of shoegazer acts, Slowdive was the shoegaziest. Their 2017 comeback is everything I wanted – lush washes of sound, chiming lead lines, languid vocals, and subdued drums and bass. It’s alternately summer’s-day upbeat and gray-November cold. It’s also what finally convinced me to buy a guitar.

Zola Jesus - Okovi
Gillywoo, formerly of Mutate, guesting at Bunker 13 on Zola Jesus, Okovi
I’ve chosen Zola Jesus’s 5th studio album, Okovi. It’s a deeply powerful and personal piece work, full of bleak layered soundscapes and Jesus’s trademark soaring vocals. The subject matter of some of the songs (suicide, serial killers and depression) can make difficult listening in parts, but it’s an ultimately beautiful, empowering and cathartic experience.”

Emptiness - Not For Music
Michael Kurt of Talking To Ghosts and The Blood of Others on Emptiness, Not For Music
There is a grossness to Emptiness. Tracks like “Your Skin Won’t Hide You” blend so many different styles of music, but each one stands on its own atmospherically in the creepy, meandering way the album comes together. It’s looming and distant, powerful and unique. It’s unsettling. “Digging the Sky” is a good example of this.

Android Lust - Berlin // Crater V2
Rodney Anonymous of The Dead Milkmen on Android Lust, Berlin // Crater V2
This year, I’m using a simple criterion to determine which 2017 album I’ll be highlighting: What do I play most often when friends (imaginary or otherwise) drop by? More often than not, it’s Android Lust’s Berlin // Crater V2.

The only term I’ve been able to find to truly describe this album is “Complicated Simplicity”. It’s lush without being cluttered. Well-crafted without being slick. Engaging without being overly-challenging. Shikhee has learned to master her craft without sounding like she’s working from a template. A truly extraordinary accomplishment wherein you can actually hear the work that went into each song.

PS. Fuck Trump.

Diamanda Galas - At Saint Thomas the Apostle Harem
Julian McAllister of Nexus Rasp on Diamanda Galás, All The Way & At Saint Thomas The Apostle Harlem
Diamanda Galás’s work has long been intended as a source of power and catharsis, not terror, for those who need it the most. And in 2017, we needed it the most. Here, with two new albums of self-described “death songs,” she embodies anger & loss with precision and honesty.

Shannon Hemmet of Actors on Null + Void, Cryosleep
I’ve been listening to Cryosleep by Null + Void (Solo project of producer Kurt Uenala) steadily while making artwork this fall. The cinematic instrumental, “Lost and Blind” is a dreamy synth gem, and the track “Where I Wait” featuring Dave Gahan, is a standout, recalling Depeche Mode’s Playing the Angel era. As a synth player myself, I’ve been so inspired by the sonic palette on this record.

The Belbury Circle - Outward Journeys
Michael Arthur Holloway of Dead When I Found Her on The Belbury Circle, Outward Journeys
I’ve spent the better part of this year exploring the catalog of Ghost Box records, a label featuring decidedly British-sounding retro-electronic artists. The Belbury Circle is a spin-off project of two Ghost Box artists—Belbury Poly and The Advisory Circle. ‘Outward Journeys’ is an unabashedly nostalgic affair, and that’s what I love about it. It’s mostly instrumental, analog-synth music designed to transport you back to the late 70s / early 80s, when synthesizer music was a way of exploring the undiscovered possibilities of the future. You know, back when visions of the World of Tomorrow still felt both mysterious and optimistic. John Foxx features on two tracks as well.

Street Sects - Rat Jacket
Kathleen Chaussé of The Outsider Collective on Street Sects, Rat Jacket
Rat Jacket sounds like a narrative of someone’s deteriorating mental state as they slip further between the cracks, and any hope that was in the first 3 songs of this EP was brutally crushed by its final track “In Prison, At Least I Had You.” Making a trip out to see their horror-driven performance was one of the most intense & visceral shows I’ve experienced this year.

Schwefelgelb - Den Umgekehrten Atem
Sarah Elizabeth Graves of HAEX on Schwefelgelb, Den Umgekehrten Atem
This EP by the Berlin Techno Body duo is unwavering in danceability, headspace and sex appeal. It basically lives on my record player and is flexed before hitting up most events. Heavy, droning, deep and pulsating. A good album to be tied up and beaten to.

Mr.Kitty - A.I.
Adam Jones of HAEX on Mr.Kitty, A.I.
This was one of the few albums that I’ve ever listen to for the first time, then immediately had to listen to it again. Forrest borrows sounds from the past and the future to wrap beautiful melodies around cerebral and heartfelt lyrics. I personally can’t wait for the next release.

Ash of HAEX on Boys Noize, Mayday Remixes Pt. 1 + 2
The Boys Noize Mayday Remix album would be my pick. It’s one of those remix albums that’s almost as exciting as hearing the album for the first time. You had no idea what you were getting yourself into, but it resulted in a nostalgic electro house dance party extravaganza.

Castle If - Plant Material
Jill Grant of Take It For Granted on Castle If, Plant Material
Toronto analogue synthesizer genius, Castle If recorded an ode to her beloved houseplants and it’s absolutely brilliant. Plant Material’s rich instrumental soundscapes are a pleasing intersection of her previous disparate pop and drone based styles. The warm and dreamy melodies are a bit otherworldly with a touch of lounge.

Samantha Urbani - Policies of Power
Wesley Mueller of Talking To Ghosts and The Blood of Others on Samantha Urbani, Policies of Power
What a total dogshit year. I mean, not for me, personally, but, broadly, in a social and political sense, it was just a real stinker of a year. This is why, I think, Samantha Urbani’s Policies of Power EP really stuck out to me when I heard it. The EP is a sort of throwback pop piece, reminiscent of Paula Abdul, and is a really pleasant collection of tracks. Pleasant things are in short supply right now, and the the danceable, upbeat tunes Urbani’s pulled together here offer a brief, 22 minute respite.

Carrie Deal of the Parallel Lives podcast on Liebknecht’s Produkt and Rhys Fulber’s Realism.
At least 2017 gave us a rare treat: a pair of tight, powerful twin EPs by undisputed masters of Our Thing. These releases are so in sync with each other, they’re like the A and B side of the same record (for my money, Produkt is the A-side, but you do you). They’re complimentary expressions of Our Thing:Produkt is harsh, industrial, and experimental. It sounds German as fuck, which… seems right. Realism is trancey, rhythmic, and smooth; a real “any mood” record. Both are compact, four-track albums clocking in under 30 minutes.Both are classic, instrumental-with-samples releases ready to tear up the fuckin floor with outta this world, beat-driven tracks.And both fit naturally in yr mix between yr Clans of Xymoxes and yr Sisters of Mercies, or even yr VNVs Nations, if that’s the wave yer feeling.

Tracks: May 23rd, 2017

Big shouts out to Queen Victoria, the British monarch in whose honour we Canucks got to take Monday off. Pretty sweet deal if you ask us. At any rate, we’re rapidly approaching the midpoint of the year, a time when we traditionally take stock of the current trends and look to the future for what albums are still to be released before midnight on December 31st. Our list of the latter is not inconsiderable, and that’s even before we take into account all the stuff that has already come out but we haven’t had time to look into yet. All of this is a lead-in to remind you gentle reader, if there’s a record you dig or think is interesting that we should look in on, please post it in a comment here or on Twitter or FB. We sure do appreciate being made aware of good new music, insatiable as we are. Lets check in on this week’s Tracks shall we?

TSTI don't need World Goth Day as an excuse.

Architect, “Shadow of Eve 2017”
Daniel Myer’s Architect has had a few different identities sonically over the years, with the catalogue being unified more by the artist and producer’s approach to sound design and composition than genre markers. We weren’t able to catch Herr Myer on the recent Architect tour, but his recent posting of his live 2017 version of 2010’s “Shadow of Eve” has been a real pleasant revelation; where the original found a commonality in techno and industrial programming, the new version shows influence from his latter explorations of bass music. “Same song, same artist, new ideas” is always an appealing combination to us. Grab it for free on Soundcloud.

Rhys Fulber, “Effigy”
We were totally not expecting Rhys Fulber to come out with a techno-ebm record for Adam X’s Sonic Groove label, but lo and behold, that is exactly what has transpired. You probably don’t need us to put over Rhys’ bonafides, so we’ll suffice to say that the idea of one of the best programmer/producers in industrial history trying his hand at the current hot flavour is absolutely a thing we are into. Check the lead-off song “Effigy”, with its rolling bassline and wicked good stereo placement for a taste of what the Realism 12″ has on offer. Available now on Bandcamp.

Violet Poison, “Syd”
Some super-stripped down fare from Italy’s Violet Poison comes to us from new German label Smashing Tape. The Pareti insanguinate EP has a lot more roots EBM (with a helping of acid) than the last dose of Violet Poison we caught, but it’s pulled off just fine. Maybe a little bit of vintage Klinik around the corners?

TSTI, “Naïveté”
Oh boy is this exciting. We’ve been craving the next LP from TSTI since we heard “Things I Would Do” almost two years ago, and the announcement of Endings impending release has us in a proverbial tizzy. If you’re unfamiliar and wondering why, check out new song “Naïveté”, how many people stick the landing on that kind of melodic early-to-mid Depeche Mode sound like this, while delivering a catchy song to boot? Not very many artists we can assure you. Look for us to be talking this one up a bit, it’s been a long time coming.

The Shyness Of Strangers, “Wrong”
One-man Toronto outfit The Shyness of Strangers’ debut is out on France’s Unknown Pleasures in a month. While this is the first we’re hearing of Vadim Kristopher’s work, it’s comfortably straddling the goth/post-punk line in a style we very much dig. Moody but propelling, this might appeal to folks who’ve been digging Forever Grey.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, “La Mitrailleuse”
Finally, the first hint of what’s to come on undisputed synthpop legends OMD’s latest, The Punishment Of Luxury. The two albums which have been released since Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys reunited have been super solid, wedding their early experimentation to later pop-craft. With something this brief it’s tough to say where they might be headed next, but the mixture of harmonic vocals and sample-assembled rhythm is classic OMD.

Tracks: September 12th, 2016

We were saddened this weekend to learn of the death of Paul Von Aphid, the producer behind numerous industrial projects, most notably Zex Model. We enjoyed his work, and like many of the people mourning his passing this weekend, we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss music and art with him over the last few years. A number of his peers have come forward to talk about what an ardent supporter of their music he was, and how inspiring his enthusiasm and passion were in working on their own projects. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.

Numerous Zex Model releases are still available on his Bandcamp. The best thing any of us can do to honour Paul’s memory is to continue to listen to and share them, so that his work might continue to find the audience it deserves.

Prosaite Paul.

Phase Fatale, “Your Love Will Not Save the World”
We normally associate Phase Fatale with the contemporary techno-body scene, but this rough and tough number feels more akin rhythmic noise than EBM. The washes of noise and high, keening lead give it an unnerving feel, moving the focus from the kick drum to the fabric of its construction. Pulled from the Cønjuntø Vacíø #4 compilation, it should pair suitably with some of the recent work by Blush Response and SΛRIN on your local dancefloor.

Null Device, “Maker”
Oh dag, new Null Device! From a quick pass at While You Were Otherwise Engaged the Madison outfit’s serving up another sculpted and atmospheric plate of synthpop with some oddball garnishes and ace production. Digging the swing on this tune in particular.

Marc Heal, “Adult Fiction (Rhys Fulber Mix)”
Not gonna lie, we’re excited to hear that Cubanate is going concern again, with Marc Heal is making some new music under his own name to boot. Debut album Hum is forthcoming from Armalyte Industries, with the single “Adult Fiction” to be released October 7th digitally and on 12″. The latter record will include remixes by Leaether Strip and Rhys Fulber, whose string-inflected take is embedded below. Thanks for coming back Marc, we missed you.

Forever Grey, “The Style Is Death”
A recent discovery at the HQ, Michigan’s Forever Grey have releases an astonishing slew of coldwave releases in the past year and a half. The first track from new LP Alabaster Chamber gets their ethos across: sparse, echoing, and utterly fatalistic. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “gee, I link these Din [A] Tod records, but they’re a tad chipper…” you should probably breathe against a mirror to confirm you’re not already dead, and then cop Alabaster Chamber.

Spit Mask, “Skin On Skin”
Hot on the heels of copping their tape, we’re bumping the new track from Houston raw EBM duo Spit Mask. There’s a nice combination of midi-esque sequences and an even patina of static which nestles the blasting vocals right into the fuzz on this one. Glad to see they’re keeping right at it.

Beborn Beton, “Who Watches the Watchmen (Daniel Myer remix)”
You know, we could probably do a weekly feature on fresh Daniel Myer remixes and never run out of material, or interest for that matter. You may recall that Beborn Beton released their first new music in more than a decade last year, a record that highlighted the group’s capacity for sticky synthpop goodness. This Myer remix of “Who Watches the Watchmen” from the new She Cried EP captures the original version’s slowburn, albeit ornamented with all the hallmarks of Myer’s exceptional remix work, a welcome treat for early fall indeed.

Front Line Assembly, “Echoes”

Front Line Assembly
Metropolis Records

The success of Front Line Assembly’s excellent 2013 album Echogenetic was largely attributable to effective use of modern electronic music ideas, and their integration with classic FLA tropes. An extension of that concept is promising enough as an idea: allowing a variety of remixers to pick up the various strands of genre, sound design and production that informed the record, and then carry them through to new places.

Of course the strength of that plan is in the selection of remixers, and above all else it’s in the curation of Echoes that Bill Leeb and the Front Line camp have shown how forward thinking they are. The LP has without a doubt one of the most head-turning collections of artists seen for a project like this in years, going well beyond the bog-standard “labelmates and hired guns” remix album model and tapping into some of the more interesting artists in the orbit of present-day industrial.

The characteristic depth and lushness of Echogenetic is well served by a number of the mixes on Echoes. Video game music production house Sonic Mayhem (of Quake II and Mass Effect III fame) inject “Leveled” with strings and sustained chords that amp up the drama, bringing the track in line with FLA’s own recent soundtrack effort Airmech. Similarly, the instrumental “Prototype” is thoughtfully recast by Ben Lukas Boysen of HECQ into a massive cybernetic overture. The considered and ever-changing arrangement of drums, sound effects and programmed squelches are allowed to bounce off one another in the stereo spectrum, with the song taking on forms inverse in size and shape to the spareness of each element.

Conversely, some excellent moments come from complete reinvention. Blush Response and Comaduster delve deep into their individual own production milieus (modular synth workouts for the former, emotive shoegaze and bass glitch wizardry for the latter) for their tracks, while Youth Code invoke earlier incarnations of Front Line with their rigidly sequenced take on Echogenetic‘s title track, all tightly programmed bass and bitcrushed kicks and snares that bash their way through the mix to sit out front with Leeb’s vocals. It’s an exercise in classic electro-industrial aesthetics that is especially effective when placed next to ex-FLA member Rhys Fulber’s ultra-modern EDM reinvention of club-stomper “Killing Grounds”, the legacy and present of Front Line Assembly existing comfortably side by side.

A large portion of Echoes is spent exploring the personalities of its various remixers (like the characteristic work of Necro Facility’s Henrik Backstrom and Daniel Myer representing as both his solo-project Liebknecht and as part of Haujobb with Dejan Samardzic), but it’s not without some hints at the future of Front Line. The brand new tracks “Contagion” and “Next War” written with Sneaker Pimps lyricist Ian Pickering suggest a more song-oriented ends for Front Line’s current style of production, a hint reinforced by the carefully arranged Hijacker mix of “Exo” by FLA’s own Jeremy Inkel and collaborator Sasha Keevill, two of the architects of Echogenetic‘s distinctive sound. A remix record might seem a strange place to find these sorts of clues, but in the context of Echoes it adds to a global view of Bill Leeb and company’s current status. As a remix record, it gives us a broader view of where Front Line is, what went into getting them here, and quite possibly where they’re going.

Buy it.