Music Reviews

Artist: Nina Walsh (@)
Title: Bright Lights & Filthy Nights
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malicious Damage Records Ltd (@)
Distributor: Malicious Damage Records Ltd
Rated: *****
This is the kind of album we don’t usually get around here; a folky, predominantly acoustic little number more likely to found reviewed in the glossy pages of Alternative Press or Spin than the cold, grey post-apocalyptic landscape of Chain D.L.K. However this release is deserving of attention because it IS different in a quirky, oddball sort of way. It is the arrangements more than the songs or singer that makes it unusual; although Ms. Walsh’s vocal characteristics are notable for their dichotomy of innocence and world-weariness.
The same is true with the CD cover- a girl looking like Heidi, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (or an older version of the Sunbeam Bread girl) and the title, "Bright Lights & Filthy Nights," a contrived but charming contradiction. And so it goes with the music- simple and guileless in song structure most of the time, yet employing subtle (and some not so subtle) production techniques and instrumental touches lift it out of the banal. You don’t hear much theremin and synth burbles and atmospheres backing most folky artists, but you’ll hear it here.

The result is what you might get if you were a folk singer/songwriter and your album was produced by John Cale, Brian Eno AND Edward Ka-Spel. There is a bittersweet aura to the songs as Nina’s voice is soaked in Melanie’s "Leftover Wine" and the embers and ash of Marianne Faithfull’s last cigarette before she started singing in Broken English. Echoes of Hope Sandoval and pre-Marble Index’ Nico (sans the Teutonic drama)
haunt the halls Walsh’s musical manse. I also hear a bit of Lida Husik and Claudine Longet. Not only has Nina well absorbed some of these nostalgic influences, but has wrapped them in an appealing modern eclectic package.

Perhaps that’s due to her musical resume. She did a vocal track for Primal Scream. She created and co-managed two record techno labels (Sabres of Paradise’ and Sabrettes’) with Andrew Weathererall. She was involved in SLAB with Lol Hammond and co-wrote two track on The Orb’s Cydonia’ album with Alex Patterson. I’m compressing here; there’s a lot more that she’s done, including running her own experimental underground label, CPIJ Records. But now you know she’s not just some chick with a pleasant voice and an acoustic guitar who happened to get lucky with an inspired bedroom recording.

There are some interesting diversions on Bright Lights’ too. Her vocal compatriot, Gareth Thomas, conjures a less emotive and gentler Martyn Bates (Murder Ballads’, Eyeless in Gaza) on "Storms". "Love Leech" is straight out of Danielle Dax’s playbook of playful weirdness. And the wonderfully atmospheric track "Industrial Folk" could easily have been done by Bjork. In certain respects, I’m reminded of the SPELL collaboration with Boyd Rice and Rose McDowall by the overall feel of the album.

As good as the songs are individually, there is one standout track, appropriately titled "Strong". It’s anthemic with a killer chorus hook. This song has a lot of potential in the college radio market. While I don’t think Bright Lights & Filthy Nights’ is perfect, it comes damn close to being a classic. Audrey Riley’s fine cello playing also deserves some mention as it enhances the melancholy mood of many of the tracks. Bravo, Ms. Walsh for putting out a fine album. I think it might just be remarkable enough to pique some curiosity amongst the jaded.
Artist: VV.AA
Title: Black Snow - the compl etely different Xmas com pilation
Format: CD
Label: Black Rain Rec.
Distributor: D: Nova MD GmbH A: Rebeat Music Vertrieb S: Non Stop Music Records
Hiya (that’s how people greet each other in Scotland). It is Xmas time! It goes for the goths too. I don’t know whether any of you expected a gothic/electro compilation from Black Rain Records for Xmas or not, but it is out there. But it is not just another random compilation of songs thrown together from already released albums. No! This one is special.
Almost all bands covered songs from the 40s and 50s. I guess the only exception from these decades is "Hava Nagila" (let’s rejoice) covered by Hioctan. The original was written way before the 40s. I tend to interpret the presence of a traditional Jewish song on a Xmas compilation as a social statement celebrating the contemporary European cultural diversity. Besides, Jesus was Jewish and Xmas is his alleged birthday. So the Christians say.
Feindflug don’t sound that intense and militaristic as we know them, but rather atmospheric and mid-tempo danceable. No lyrics on this one.
"I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" by Dandelion Wine is sheer entertainment. I enjoyed every tact.
Novalis Deux offer another Hebrew title "Halleluja" (let’s praise?). A classic Xmas song people know not only in Christian countries. Great lyrics and Novalis Deux’s performance bears no signs hinting that this song too much for the band’s talents. Truly well done!
DyM’s "Little Drummer Boy" sounds like a disturbed radio transmission from a 50s heavy industry factory.
Jabberwock offer a number of extraordinary ideas what to do on a Xmas party.
What would be Xmas without cinnamon? Killed by Candy celebrate this spice in the lyrical, eh... "Cinnamon". Cookies and a cozy fire place. Awwww.
This Vale of Tears has a military, rhythmic touch for "Frozen Zone". Those guitar riffs will keep you listening, let me assure you.
Oil10 contributes a retro-oriented version of "Christmas Machine". Panic Lift sound like they are surely on Santa’s naughty list with their "Hourglasses". Very goth-danceable and yet evil sounding. Plane to Pia play a German classic Xmas song "Tousend Sterne sind ein Dom" in a very festive and truly Christmas-like manner with an electro touch to it. You could listen to it with kids without scaring them away.
Tyske Ludder made a mini medley of "Fairytale Of New York" and "Fairytale Of The North" with some criticizing lines like "Fuck your Christmas".
The Pussybats with Meli (Livid Halcyon) close the album with "A Wish". Kind of sad. May remind you of things that happened to you and touched you emotionally and make you think of what you could do to make the world a little better. It is not just about wishing, but also about doing.
A very very good and unusual Xmas compilation. I’m not going to wish you happy Christmas, Chanuka or Yule; this winter time should not be about dividing, but about uniting people, hence simply happy holidays!
Artist: In Strict Confidence
Title: My Despair
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Minuswelt
Distributor: AL!VE
Rated: *****
It’s been a while since we heard from ISC for the last time. The most recent release "Exile Paradise" is dated as early as 2006, but with "My Despair" the creative pause has come to its end. The new EP is the forerunner of the forthcoming album to come out in 2010.
There are several versions of the title track (club mix, extended version, slow dive and a Sono remix). Furthermore, there are two additional original tracks: "Feeling" and "Constant Flow". I do not know whether they will be featured on the next full-length album. And there is something for the eyes too; a video of "My Despair", also available in an iPhone format). Now, what’s the story with the leather tank crew or old fashioned pilot hat?.. Seven tracks + a video for a price of one MCD.
There is a new front lady Nina de Lianin convincingly performing on "Feeling". No doubt her style perfectly suits ISC’s style.
Long story short, the musical style of ISC has not really changes. This is an updated version of ISC and this is no reason for despair, but to expect a true quality product next year from Dennis and the co.
Artist: Schallfaktor (@)
Title: Sittenverfall
Format: CD
Label: COP International (@)
Distributor: COP International
Rated: *****
Another COP International hard EBM release... hmmm... I read that this one’s been around for a while but I only recently received it. We’re a little slow here on new stuff sometimes... anyway, Schallfaktor hails from Heidelberg, Germany and cranks out classic old-school hard EBM like there’s no tomorrow. (And maybe there isn’t, who the hell knows for sure.) Just two guys here (that’s really all you need for this kind of music), Drazen Sucic, mit den vocals und produktion; und Sascha Pniok, mit den keyboards und sampling. Sittenverfall’ owes a debt to acts like Leaether Strip, Wumpscut, et al, without which they might never exist.

The album is mostly geared towards the dance-floor, with a scant few atmospheric diversions for variety’s sake. It’s dark and edgy, well-produced, with good continuity and enough variation to keep things interesting. Who cares that most of the vocals in are in German (processed, but not over-processed so you actually could understand them if you spoke the language); it’s the mood they set that are important. There’s nothing like the German language for this type of music anyway. The beats and song structures are simple but effective; absolutely perfect for club-play.

Stylistically, this isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. I don’t think Schallfaktor is trying to re-invent the wheel on Sittenverfall’. Sometimes the layered synth sonics recall Gary Numan, but most of it is everything you’ve ever heard in (insert EBM band name of choice). Arrangements are sparse enough to breathe, yet effective enough to get the point across. If I had to refer to one band/album I was reminded of, it would be the more uptempo tracks on Seelenkank’s somewhat fetish-obsessed Silent Pleasures,’ from a few years back.

Best tracks for the dark danceclub DJ to integrate into a set are "Promiskuitiv" and "Mir" (with German vocals) or "Suicide Confession" and "Malfunction" if you’d prefer vocals in English. You just need to audition intros and outros before you spin them. If you want a good sexy fetish track, try "Aroused" (with its suggestive female samples) but a lot of the track is atmos before it breaks into a beat.

I have to say I like this CD, even though it’s derivative, it is very well done derivative. If you’ve been looking to get a new EBM music fix and other bands just aren’t doing it for you, try Schallfaktor. You won’t get bogged down in bullshit or clouded by concept. EBM just the way Mom used to like it, if mom was a rivethead or gothic dolly.
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Title: Hel
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
Rated: *****
Already active with different projects as All Sides and recent live member of Troum, Nina Kernicke is releasing her first full length All Seits album on Cyclic Law. HEL is the title of the CD and it is a sort of concept album based on the Norse tradition and describe the the voyage through hell. The tracks "Yggdrasil", "Gjöll", "Modgudr", "Garm", "Fjalar" and "Hel" represents the different steps of this experience and from the release info we know that: "The journey begins at the foot of Yggdrasil, the world tree, under which the entry to Hel is hidden. We then ride the river Gjöll, that flows along the human world before it runs down to Hel. Gjöll is spanned by the bridge Gjallarbrù which is guarded by Modgudr, a female giant, who decides who can pass the bridge. Leaving Gjallarbrú behind, the large dog Garm that sentinels the gate to Hel is waiting and at his side sits Fjalar, a rooster that will crow to signify the beginning of Ragnarok, the end of the world. After passing Fjalar Hel is finally reached". Musically most of the tracks remember me something of Lustmord or Inanna and I think that this isn't a bad thing as Nina is proposing her personal version of those kind of sounds using drones, filtered rhythms here and there as well as strings. I enjoyed this album and I found its atmosphere intriguing and involving. Check it!
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