Music Reviews

Xander Harris: Snow Crash

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7401)
Jan 18 2013
Artist: Xander Harris
Title: Snow Crash
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Mishka NYC (@)
Rated: *****
This 6-track EP, available as a free download from Mishka NYC, is based upon the influential cyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. Snow Crash predicted the rise of the Internet, and the way it would shape our lives, as well as tripped-out musings on reality hacking, artificial intelligence, corporate warfare, and the building blocks of reality. At the time, it was merely cool gritty dystopian Sci Fi, but the themes the novel explored are becoming our daily lives. It is appropriate that Austin, TX electrician Xander Harris puts out this homage, in honor of the books 20th anniversary.

Cyberpunk always seemed antiquated and futuristic at the same time; the cities were all rusted and rundown, ancient tribal warriors would mingle with data hackers, under the glittering chrome and burning neon of the wasted cityscape. Xander Harris' retro-futurism emulates this sensation admirably. On previous albums, Harris explored neo-Vangelis kosmische synth etudes, the clinical image of white-suited inquiry. Pure radiophonic fury; but here Xander Harris has created a dancefloor miniature, full of rippling synth arpeggios and thudding kick drums, the better to help you get that pizza to its destination on time. Its like he's distilled every overhead driving scene made in the '80s, and mainlined the serum. The EP brings to mind the time when studios were full of tangled cables and flickering sequencers - a remarkable update on proto-industrial EBM. It is a fine ode to the dystopian, futurist '70s-'80s, an intimate emulation of analog grit. But there's no hiss, no fuzz, no linenoise; its a THX soundtrack, cleaned and polished, but i miss the grit. One main distinction, which is not a fault, is that the original purveyors of technological sounds had no way of knowing what they were doing was special, that it would go down for posterity. They were hacks and innovators, mad grandiose DIY wizards, trying out everything. There was a sense of wacky adventure, on all those private-press synth LPs and old Dr. Who episodes. Xander Harris, and the current era of recreationists, know what they like and know what works. Its a clean, polished, streamlined dancefloor mechanism, but you won't find a moment of stream-of-consciousness revelation.

The one thing that Xander got right, that he's always gotten right, is the attention to the SOUND, the TONE. The drums kick like DeLorean backfire, and the synths come straight out of Detroit, sparkling rich and robust. Like the recent movie Beyond The Black Rainbow, Xander Harris (and a whole generation of analog fetishists) show what is possible, selecting the bits of 80s culture that we love, and updating them with 30 years of additional technology and production wizardry. Say what you want about modern culture or music: we know how to make music sound good in 2013. Its such a valuable service, to have Xander Harris and ilk drawing attention to works of early sci fi innovation, showing it to a new generation in a way they can understand. Cyberpunk was daydreaming the future, before we fell into a decade of gothic decadence and decay. Now, perhaps, it may be time for Cyberpunk, early '80s hardware techno, and other lost genres, to rise like a skyscraper made of black glass, for all to see.

This is a free download, available here ( If you like dance music, synth exploration, sci-fi literature, or supporting new and interesting music, there's no reason not to hear this. Get back to the Metaverse!

Bestias De Asalto: Homenaje A La Violencia

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7396)
Jan 14 2013
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Artist: Bestias De Asalto
Title: Homenaje A La Violencia
Format: CD
Label: Engraved Ritual (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp / Engraved Ritual-Digital
Rated: *****
There have been several followers out of the Mexican Harsh-EBM/Hellectro-camp trying to sound like their idols and countrymen Hocico. Hocico themselves have never ever been sounded again that raw, aggressive and intense like on their debut 'Odio En El Alma' and/or on their early demo recordings. Classic Hocico-tracks like 'Sexo Bajo Testosterona' or 'Self-Destructive Path' are still counting to the favorites of them through their speed and energetic song progression. This attitude they have unfortunately lost more or less in the years between. But here comes the Southern-Mexican duo Bestias De Asalto presenting us their debut 'Homenaje A La Violencia', which actually picks up this long-missed, raw and adrenaline-driven energy. More than this, because Bestias De Asalto aren't just copy-cats who try to focus on the latest audio results of the Hellectro-camp. Their aggressive sound-outfit rather seems to be a reflection of the daily life reported out of a socio-critical / economical-influenced crisis happening around them. Their daily life and fight to survive has seemingly made an impact on them, as they are capable to produce a soundtrack designed for the apocalypse of humanity. Always remember that there are places on this world where people are unable to sit still in front of their home entertainment being perplexed by the pseudo-aggressive noise assault sounding out of your loudspeakers. The starter 'Matalos A Todos' is maybe their most outstanding tune in a row of straight, pummeling and speedy produced tunes thanks through the changing and diverse installed, but always forward-punching kick- and snare-work. 'Que Reine El Terror' maybe stands for the second most outstanding tune. And if you doubt, that these both Mexican gauchos won't be able to produce any more matured and opulent produced haunting instrumental tunes like their above mentioned idols, then I advise you to check with 'Hacia La Guerra' as a proof to change your mind. Four remix contributions by mostly musically related projects (Sin D.N.A., Larva, Angels of Suicide and X-Fusion) are providing almost a different, but always a dancefloor-oriented view of the original compositions of these Mexicans. 'Homenaje A La Violencia' is like a loaded gun pressed into your face, its raw and uncontrollable rage will leave you breathless! Bestias De Asalto have produced a fine debut with the beat-driven energy of a raw and unpolished diamond. I want them raw and unpolished also for the future with upcoming releases. Let's hope and keep the fingers crossed that they are able to present us a follow-up release with the same amount of blood, filth and energy like on this promising debut.
Artist: Traffic A.M.
Title: Left Behind Left Within
Format: 12"
Label: Seja Records (@)
Distributor: Seja Records
Rated: *****
Where the fuck have I heard about Traffic A.M. before? It isn't their debut because this Cologne-based duo has already released a CD signed to the German label Plastic Frog Records. The music of Michel Kissing and Stefan Gonser sounds like a long missed friend as they give a flying fuck on the recent efforts and inventions of the pseudo-Goth/Electro-kids. There is a huge amount of nostalgia and 80s-inpired mood integrated to their music, reviews of them often picked-up relations to The Cure and/or Joy Division. Here stands surely a fair amount of truth behind, but since we so-called music journalists are always searching for the right shelf to sort music-projects into, I was about to throw in additionally names like Poesie Noire and melodic-sounding Neon Judgement as possible quells of inspiration to the ring. To cut that short: Traffic A.M. play a sort of Electronica-driven Dark Wave music, which can find influences with already established projects, but it is far away of being a faceless try to copy. Signed to the Netherlands-based label Seja Records, this vinyl-only release (!!!) limited to 300 exemplars is a goody not to be missed. The attractive, mostly calm and Electropop-inspired synthesizer arrangements as well as the Wave-influenced guitar inserts got perfectly united with Stefan Gonser's natural and melodic sounding vocal performance. This duo knows the right registers to entertain: they avoid musically any hectic of the rushing times, although their lyrical content reflects pretty much socio-critical content. The Post-Industrial / Neo-Wave flame is alive and kicking with them, and even if they fall into the trap to get very close to already known EBM-related themes ('Subway Story (Repetition)'), they still proof to find an elegant way out of it. 8 tracks for you to consume pressed on high-quality vinyl and to me especially that warm, analogue sound of the needle of your record-player strengthens the overall good impression of this release. Traffic A.M. want their music to speak for itself - the music speaks wisely in this case, so hurry up and purchase this records - only 300 available exemplars are faster gone than you can think of...
Artist: Voide (@)
Title: Electric Jungle
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CDBaby
Rated: *****
After the teaser freebie 'Agents and Radios', the Swedish Electronica-producer David Almgren releases his all new studio album. With 'Electric Jungle', David continues to explore his vision to produce attractive, spacey, futuristic-sounding Synthesizer-Electronica music, which is still authentic enough to avoid a dangerous approach to any Pop-related meaninglessness. After a dark sounding introduction, the title track comes up and features all of David's talent discovered through previous 4 album releases. Also again involved is his female partner behind the microphone, Mrs. M. Craven, and she does her best to provide a smooth and warm sounding vocal performance to oppose with David's cold and mechanic Electronica efforts. Both, Craven and Almgren, have teamed up a while back and know each others talent well. Wouldn't be there such a huge distance between Sweden and Australia, they could have been united for a real band project. Also 'Haunted House' works excellent with both talents included and it isn't at all that 'haunting' as the title may suggests. This track can be counted asides the hit smashing tune 'I Am There' and the already known, earlier released 'Side By Side' to be the most important tracks available on this album. In between we have again David's own instrumental compositions. 'Green Solitude' impresses with its nearly Lounge-/Late-Night-Electronica inspired instrumentation, while 'For Savannah' could work well as being the title-melody of a sports TV-broadcast format. 'Electric Jungle' consumed as a whole album doesn't leave any wishes of the listener unfulfilled, in case that Synth-/Futurepop-inspired Electronica music with a Spacesynth-undertone counts to your preferences. Unfortunately this album ends abruptly after only 37 minutes, which is definitely a bit too short. 2 - 3 more tracks available on this well designed album (art/photos by Are Eidet, wouldn't hurt any of the listeners, because none of the featured 12 tracks sounds unattractive or provides boredom. Christmas we've just survived, but I still have wishes: more stuff and a lesser short pause for the next album, Mr. Almgren!
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Artist: Cold Design
Title: Ckopo Aeto (Summer Will Soon Be Here)
Format: CD
Label: Electrica Caelestis / Shadowplay Records (@)
Distributor: Casus Belli Musica
Rated: *****
This is a Russian release by the both labels Electrica Caelestis and the well-known Goth-label Shadowplay Records. This promotional package has seemingly had a bizarre course taken by snail mail, the stamps of the envelope are based from the first half of this year, but I received it a few weeks ago. By freeing the CD out of its unique packaging the surprise was on the side of the responsible art-worker for this release. It's a real goody with a high glossy, folded cardboard packaging including a huge poster with the both protagonists Al_Ex and Mar_La. The art is filled with black/white photos of tanks, soldiers, KGB officers, general Military, and related. So my expectations have turned to get another newbie producing Harsh-EBM/Hellectro or a rather Military/Neo-Classic/Dark Ambient producing project. Luckily they have included an information sheet, which actually offers English translations of the content including a track-list. They call their music style Combat Electro-Goth and are singing complete in Russian language, so also the lyrics printed on the back side of the poster are completely printed in Cyrillic letters. This is still a problem for us at Chain D.L.K., as we are not able to provide reviews in its original Cyrillic letters. The music is a fair mutation between Electro with a driving kick and snare work and a Goth-related pathos. Military elements can be noticed here and there too, marching snare drums, some war trumpets, or military voice-samples are the chosen ingredients. Most outstanding, but also most unusual element in the music of this Voronezh-based duo, is the vocal performance of band-leader Al_Ex. He sings like a classic-trained tenor and offers a full scale of emotion for sure, but since this isn't the daily routine of an often discovered vocal style, one needs to get used to it in the first instance. Cold Design offer a well constructed third album (limited to 555 numbered copies), which deserves respect for its kind and crafty progression, though it will be a hard cake to bite for them to score against international-based rivals.

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