Music Reviews



Visible Cloaks: Lex

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 08 2017
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Artist: Visible Cloaks
Title: Lex
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
Following on from their debut album, the Oregon-based duo Visible Cloaks offer up a 6-track mini album of soft, bright, energetic, avantgarde open-minded electronica built up from quirky glitched rhythms, soft pads and ahhhhs, Eastern-influenced percussive tones, spoken word snippets and some very squelchy synth work.

The first five tracks are all odd little sketches, cut-up and unpredictable and seemingly reveling in the defiance of expectations- just when you think you’ve got a handle on what’s happening, there’s an abrupt stop and something else arrives. Nothing’s allowed to breathe for long, which is a shame in parts as some elements, such as the Japanese Tangerine Dream-esque segments of “Keys”, could really have been explored in much more depth. “Frame” has hints of Susumu Yokota, and the title track has a subtly harder edge, it seems from that short piece that Visibles Cloaks at their most aggressive sound like Venetian Snares at his most mellow.

Final track “World”, at fourteen minutes longer than all the other tracks put together, is more coherent- a smooth, gentle bit of soundscaping with more than a slight echo of 1990’s era ambient house and what people called ‘trance’ before that label got attached to the club sound. Think Salt Talk, The Irresistible Force, FFWD, we’re firmly in that world and it’s lovely. Lush piano and harp sounds, water noises, gentle pad underscores, it’s pure loveliness. It’s not completely devoid of the skitty glitches of the first five tracks, but it’s a lot more settled. I could listen to this track extended to two hours, it’s like a familiar aural spa.

Personally I found the ambience of the final track more successful than the abrupt sketching of the first five, but as an electronica mini-album it’s certainly beautiful and attention-deserving. If they’ve done a properly ambient album, sign me up.

Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s: Cyborg Holiday Snaps

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 04 2017
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Artist: Justin Robertson's Deadstock 33s
Title: Cyborg Holiday Snaps
Format: 7"
Label: Paradise Palms
Under his well-established Deadstock 33’s alias, Justin Robertson offers up “Cyborg Holiday Snaps”. It’s a 4-track release, though with a full-length mix and bluntly cut 7” edit of each, in a way it’s only a 2-track release.

The title track has a driving electro bassline and rhythm with a sense of clockwork confidence, over which some slightly plinky synth notes trace regular patterns- a classic bass for your legs, treble for your arms piece of dance music that seems almost custom-made for breakdancing.

“Numerical Discord Swap” is much quirkier, decorating a steady single-note bassline with looping bleep patterns that morph into a sort of weird digital guitar solo that then reforms itself into rather a catchy, almost Jean-Michel Jarre-esque instrumental lead melody, before a real actual guitar solo of sorts. Being both more off-the-leash and more mellow than the first track works in its favour, strangely.

In a way Robertson seems to be harking back to his Gentleman Thief alias here, producing an interesting blend of house, acid and a sort of post-big-beat electro. It’s as well polished as you’d expect and a couple of lovely grooves (if I can call them that) that won’t rock your world but which just ooze entertainment.

Super Dragon Punch: Shatter

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 03 2017
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Artist: Super Dragon Punch (@)
Title: Shatter
Format: CD EP
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Super Dragon Punch? What's that - a martial arts move? An alcoholic party drink with a kick? Nope. It's Belgian artist Jérémie Venganza with the debut release of his synthpunk/8bit/industrial project, an EP titled 'Shatter,' and it does pack a bit of a wallop. Venganza won last year’s Dark Demons Night, scoring an opening slot for Belgium’s illustrious BIMfest festival, so he's not coming without cred to the scene. Vocally, he reminds me a little of Dirk Ivens (Klinik, Dive, Absolute Body Control) but musically this is highly polished dark dancefloor EBM. His vocal style is more on the punky side than aggrotech or hellectro, which is great because I'm really getting jaded on raspy/distoro/screamy vocals that everybody and their sister has been doing for a spell. Synthwork is very competent but nothing you haven't heard before. The combo of Venganza's enthusiastic rough and ready vocals juxtaposed with slick electronics punctuated with club-heavy beats, good hooks and just the right amount of repetition to drive the point home is surely a "winner takes all" formula. There are four songs and four remixes of two of them for a total of eight tracks. From the outset with "Core," SDP exhibit an urgency with mad fervor that can't be denied. It's a controlled sort of frenzy that is bound to drive goth stompers and riverheads wild. "Pure" sacrifices some momentum in favor of expanding SDP's sonic palette and settling into a groove. Okay, but certainly not the best thing on this EP. "Howl" gets even more atmospheric and I hear an even stronger Ivens influence here with a touch of Suicide Commando. Good stuff, but it even gets better on "Inspire." I didn't pay much attention to the lyrics until this song. Here everything comes together in an ultra-dynamic way with engaging verse and a compelling enigmatic chorus- "I forget how it is to resurrect the needles in my chest...emptiness, staring back to me, turn it off me in my chair" whoa, that's something you don't hear every day. This is a killer track, and not one of the remixes can sabotage it. Speaking of remixes, Assemblage 23 is first up remixing the aforementioned tune. Tom Shear does a credible job, and although not radically different than the original, it does put the vocals more upfront without sacrificing the feel of the original. Terrolokaust remixes "Pure" turning it into more of a heavier industrial stomper with a lot stripped out adding in some squinky effects but makes it sound epic 2/3 of the way through. An interesting job on this one. The Iszoloscope remix of "Inspire" is a distorto noise beat assault that struck me more as novelty than anything essential. Last up is WOTTW's technoy remix of "Inspire." For me, this was the most interesting remix on the EP, which is saying something because you know I'm not a big remix fan.

Super Dragon Punch really has the potential of muscling its way to the top if 'Shatter' is an indication of what Jérémie is capable of. I think he has a handle on what needs to go into making compelling EBM (live though, a little more melodicism and a little less shouting in the vocal dept., as evidenced by the live YouTube vids) and if SDP can keep on cranking out great tracks like this, it will be unstoppable.

Amp: Q Factors (A Mixtape)

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 26 2017
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Artist: Amp
Title: Q Factors (A Mixtape)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Ampbase
Though to the casual observer this would appear to be a diverse 10-track electronica album, the “a mixtape” distinction is here to justify this as a ‘bits and pieces’ collection of remastered and remixed material old and new, but not a ‘real’ album which is still forthcoming. But frankly if it looks like an album, walks like an album, quacks like an album… let’s review it as an album, albeit an album that’s almost absurdly diverse.

The opening “Drowning Mind” is a cacophonous bit of cut-up sample layering which gradually opens up into something that’s a sort of electronica prog rock of warped guitars, oddly time-signatured bassline and drum patterns that start simple and gradually get crazier. This set-up is revisited somewhat in “Waiting Room Blues”.

Tracks like “Hownow” and “Just Get It” use a similar palette with a more laidback and far more jazzy attitude, frittering around on the quirky side of lounge music almost. This is brought into darker territory with “D’Espoir De Mourir” which stays downtempo but adds just a hint of both industry and threat.

A little less appealing to my taste, “Loveflower” ups the guitar content with shades of UNKLE, and feels like a throwback to the 90’s guitar-based-trip-hop bands if I’m being generous (State Of Grace were one of my faves), or like a limp Noel Gallagher instrumental if I’m being harsh. It’s the slightly Delerium-esque vocal that makes this one worth a listen. Again this style comes around again on “Push ‘n Hold”, this time rounded out by a near-ambient intro and spoken-word male vocals that keep things rolling very nicely.

“Lost Love Cries” is particularly notable, taking a liquid drum’n’bass approach, the familiar arrangement of rolling bassline, mellow piano, crisp drums and melancholic female vocal but done to an extremely high standard and definitely a track for fans of soft d&b to check out. Final tracks “When & Where” and “Ombres Sur La Lone” drop firmly into ambient territory with lovely use of female vocal tones, a very comforting wrap-up- hypothetically, let’s say, a very good way to wrap up an album, if this were an album, which apparently it isn’t...

It’s difficult to know where to put this release. The closest comparison I can think of is Future Sound Of London, but that’s because their material (including under aliases) is so diverse as well that it barely qualifies as a comparison. It’s rich and deeply interesting electronica with a massive variety of sounds and influences and if this really is a prelude to an album rather than a ‘real’ album, it bodes extremely well for the material to come.

To highlight the ‘remix album’ status of the release, each track has a remix title, though I’ve only mentioned the central titles above for brevity.

COH: COHGS

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Nov 18 2017
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Artist: COH
Title: COHGS
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
COH, more commonly found putting out instrumental releases, here gathers together 8 vocal tracks, some previously released, some unreleased. But rather than showcasing vocalists, these works include mostly quite modest, often spoken-word vocal elements into a soft-edged downtempo electronica of pulses, clicks and pads.

“Sleepwalker” is a particularly engaging oddity, a beatless and spacious arrangement with a lovely sub-bass pulse under Anna Yamada’s long pure notes, then an totally unexpected organ crescendo. “Alcohol”, with Noriko Taguchi, plays like a drunken child’s lullaby and final track, and “Curious Yellow” a sparse, melancholy piano ballad.

The sonic flipside of those tracks is “Love’s Septic Domain”, a darker and distorted affair with screaming and allusions to dirty hospitals, there to ensure you don’t confuse this release for a chillout album.

Don’t expect a pack of eight full-on pop performances, to put it mildly. Little Annie’s “46 Things I Did Today” is a beat poem set to blipping arpeggio patterns. Peter Christopherson’s whispered spoken-word on “Silence Is Golden” is barely intelligible under a bubbling bed of acid-tinged bleeps. Ann Demeulemeester is barely present on the light, piano-centred opening track “Exercise In Colour”.

It’s an interesting collection, diverse in a way that doesn’t necessarily imply incoherence, and should appeal to fans of Susumu Yokota et al.


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