Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Some Tunes 4
Format: CD
Label: Basserk (@)
Rated: *****
Three weeks after the release of the third chapter of the SOME TUNES series, Basserk proudly give birth to a new volume! The fourth CD compilation of the SOME TUNES series does what you're expecting from an album that on the rear cover reports as genres: electro, pistolpop, fidget and bass... it beats you hard with bass frequencies, distortions, catchy tunes, loud 4/4 or syncopated drum beats. As usual, along with bands that already released E.P.s or participated to old volumes of the series, this fourth chapter presents to the Basserk lovers some new names: from Belgium Vecho ("Who you calling" is a good grime techno tune with funny phone samples), Trashing Teenagers ("Freakz on 66" is a classic Basserk tune with obsessive distorted bass lines and bouncing rhythms) and Depuis91 ("Body" is a distorted melodic instrumental with hard beats and traces of pop melodies), from Germany Ita Atari & Rampue ("Space rocket" is a fun upbeat electropunk tune a bit a la B-52s) , from UK Narsti ("Not as strong as the machines" is a nice instrumental mid tempo which mix two step, electro and pistolpop) and Boemklatsch ("Noisy" sounds like a retro videogame acid tune) from Netherlands. Along with them you'll have the chance to dig new classics like the ones of Petr Passive ("Ganz sticky" is a classic grime dance song with dub rhythms and electro vocals) or Rawfare ("Floor luv" mix house vocal samples and grime sounds).
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Artist: KEIKI
Title: Waltham Holy Cross
Format: CD
Label: Cheap Satanism (@)
Rated: *****
Presenting themselves like a satanic pop duo, the Brussels' band Keiki are bringing to the attention of our readers their second album titled WALTHAM HOLY CROSS. Dominique Van Cappellen-Waldock (voice and theremin) and Raphael Rastelli (guitar, programming and theremin) packed their album with noisy guitars, drum machine beats, theremin screams and above all, the distinctive Dominique's vocals which will make you recognize Keiki into a bucket full of CDs and not only because for how it sounds but also for what she sings. On WALTHAM HOLY CROSS you'll hear about Andy Warhol's mother ("Andy's Candy"), homosexual love between a mouse and a dragon ("Rainbow Cheese"), an English seaside town for the elderly ("Skegness)", the love of a butcher for a prostitute in an US mining town ("Lottie Johl"), cancer ("Forest Fire"), stalking ("Glue") or dissection ("Vital" ' a tribute to Japanese film-maker Shinya Tsukamoto). Musically Keiki mix 80s punk, 90s noise and alternative pop. If you like early Sonic Youth and early Siouxsie & The Banshees and you aren't afraid of a bit of originality out of control, you can check some tunes at their myspace page.
Artist: VOIDWORK (@)
Title: Horror / Forsaken
Format: CD
Label: Black Drone
Rated: *****
Released by the Australian label Black Drone, HORROR / FORSAKEN is the first proper CD album for Voidwork, musical project composed by Xavier De Schuyter and Ann-Mari Thim (member also of Arcana and Seventh Harmonic). Inspired by early 20th Century horror literature and modern horror cinema, Voidwork is willing to create haunting atmospheres and by listening to the double feature album HORROR / FORSAKEN, I can only record that they succeeded into their aim. The first part (the one that sounds more immediate also for an occasional listener) is focused on folk melodies but without proposing the usual guitar / percussions based sound, the duo, mixed dark ambient atmospheres with chants and litanies creating a sort of dark ambient version of early Dead Can Dance. Tracks like "Marble steps" or the obsessive cyclic melodies of piano and percussion duet on "The serpent's lullaby II" and on "The descent" for sure will convince you. The second part (FORSAKEN), starts with "Akhenathon", an acoustic song that sound like a malediction and follows with "Ghostlight", "Forsaken", "Pillars", "Circle", "Nightmare" and "Crave", tracks which are focused on cinematic dark ambient atmospheres with piano inserts here and there and minimal melodic lines. Personally I found the first part really great (various, personal and enchanting), while the second creates a good hypnotic ambience but a bit usual for dark ambient music.
Artist: Everything Goes Cold (@)
Title: Vs. General Failure
Format: CD
Label: Bit Riot Records (@)
Rated: *****
Well, this is something else...surely not what I expected, caught me completely by surprise, and I wouldn't want to give everything away by spoiling all the surprises on this album, but surely the truth must be told. Although Everything Goes Cold is led by former Psyclon Nine member Eric Gottesman, the people involved in this album are a veritable potpourri of industrial music luminaries, from the players now in the basic band (Kenny Pardo ' drums; James Webb ' guitar), to former member Conan Neutron (keyboard), and additional players (James Perry ' guitar; Daniel Myer ' vocals; Steev Dinkins ' guitar & programming). I shouldn't even have to mention where most of those guys are from; if you have a decent working knowledge of industrial music, you should probably already know. The music on Everything Goes Cold Vs. General Failure is no less of a potpourri, but the kind that sneaks up on you from behind like a thug in a bad neighborhood at night, smacks you upside the head with blunt object, kicks your punk ass to the curb, all the while spewing hilarious anecdotes about how fucked up the world is. He didn't want to roll you for your dough, he just wanted you to listen.

Okay, maybe that's a far-fetched analogy, but by the time EGC is finished with you, you WILL feel like you've been bruised, battered and wised-up a little. The first encounter, 'Defrosted,' lays down some drama piano chords over a hip-hop beat and a cold wind a blowin' with a loop of the appliance delivery guy's chorus from Dire Straits's 'Money For Nothin'. It doesn't exactly prepare you for the chaotic industrial metal of 'Abort' but when the vocals come in, it's like Devo on steroids, and then some'¦.a whole lot more pissed off and aggro than those spud boys ever could have been. It's manic, frenetic, raucous and chaotic. Blast-beats everywhere, machine-gun guitar, and balls to the wall. I should mention (for those who care) that EGC lists the BPM of every track on the CD, which ranges from 72 to 190 ('Abort' was 190.) 'Don't Quit Your Day Job' is the anthem of everyman who works a shitty job. Daniel Myer of Haujobb is credited with vocals on this one, but I couldn't determine exactly where. Anyway, it's a strong and solid track that has crossover potential into the alt market.

When I first saw the title of the next track, 'I Sold Your Organs on the Black Market for the Purchase of a Used Minivan,' I laughed my ass off before I even heard it. Gotta love an industrial band with a sense of humor like this. The song is almost as funny as the title in a warped sort of way. In an indictment of the relatively small value of human life vs. money in society dumbed down for Joe Sixpack. Eric Gottesman rants and raves over a background of guitar-enhanced electro-industrial chaos-mosphere. Imagine Nine Inch Nails on an STP/meth cocktail. There is a LOT of shit happening here'¦and then'¦out of nowhere, a Tex Avery cartoon with little singing and dancing owls transitions into 'The Droids You're Looking For'. I'm not even going to cite the Family Guy sample that makes up the bulk of this track (with appropriate electro-industrial backing), you're probably familiar with it anyway. Well, somebody had to do it I guess.

'Bitch Stole My Time Machine' has a nifty ostinato string section intro before the guitar charges in and sets the pace. This is a very cool, if a little sample-happy (well, the whole album is a little sample happy, to an extent) tune about how too much tech really might not be such a good idea. You get the appropriate samples on 'Unleash the Kraken,' but at least it isn't overdone. Usually, I'm down on, rather than down with dialogue samples in industrial music, just because they're so overused, but somehow they work on this album and enhance rather than detract. Just the way it works out, so don't get worked up about me contradicting myself.

Gottesman's harbinger of post-apocalyptic doom voice usually operates in rage and enraged mode as well it probably should, but sometimes takes on a different, more processed tack for effect's sake. The music isn't all guitar-heavy either. There are plenty of synth electronics to glue this juggernaut of dystopian diatribe together. Just before the finale, you get a brief respite from the onslaught on 'Refrozen'. 'Fail' subtley reprises and incorporates the short 3 note piano riff from the prior track which sums up all the cynicism and disgust from the past 40+ minutes. What have we become? How did we get this way? What are you going to do about it? What CAN we do about it? This is the REAL rage against the machine, not some watered-down rap-rock commercialized pile of crap. Buy it. You won't be sorry.
Artist: Gary DiBenedetto (@)
Title: Twin Towers
Format: CD
Label: Electroshock Records (@)
Distributor: Electronic Music Foudation/CDeMusic
Rated: *****
Gary DiBenedetto is an electro-acoustic composer and kinetic sculptor from New Jersey, who specializes in interactive installations. He has an impressive international resume going all the way back to the early 1970s, and Twin Towers is his latest audio work. While most Electroshock Records artist are European (with a high concentration of Russian) artists, Gary is not, but his music is no less avant garde. As you might expect from an electro-acoustic installation artist, the music is abstract, resembling more a sound-sculpture than any traditional musical format. I have read the intellectual explanations of the pieces on 'Twin Towers' on Gary's website (and also on the CD liner notes), but I won't be rehashing them to any great degree in this review. The nine pieces on this CD are intended to represent different things, and only the final title track refers to the 9/11 tragedy.

The opener (no pun intended) 'Knock and the Door Shall Be Opened,' is based on the sound of the men's room door at the State Library Complex in Berlin. It doesn't get any more obscure than that I suppose. There are some electronics, and mechanical sounds that must be the men's room door. An interesting sound-sculpture for sure. At one point, it sounds like somebody's having a little trouble negotiating said door. 'Walden Pond' is both liquidy and creaky with random sample and hold electronics, buzzes and burbles. 'A Question of Principle' (in 3 Movements) begins with some bellish tones and seemingly randomly played synthetic strings and other sporadic percussion for the First Movement. Not my cup of tea at all. It's those artificial synth strings that really leave me cold. Perhaps if more realistic strings were employed it might have come off better, but it just sounds cheesy. Second Movement dispenses with the obnoxious string ensemble and concentrates more on a clatter of electro-acoustic effects. Not bad, pretty interesting. The Third Movement brings back the obnoxious string ensemble again, much to my chagrin. The other elements of this track are engaging enough, but I can't get past those ersatz strings. This piece is supposed to have some political-religious implications regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador, but it is a stretch to glean that from just listening without reading the text of the artist's vision.

'Oh You're So Adollorable' employs some squinky electronic sounds and rumbles with an occasional repetitive vocal sample stating the obvious ('one dollah') in the background. The temporarily electronics morph into a surreal Star Spangled Banner melody. There is another repeated vocal sample by what sounds like a chorus of Third World children upping the ante to 'three dollah'. The piece sort of reminds me of Joe Byrd's (Field Hippies) music, perhaps an obscure reference that only 'old heads' are likely to get.

'Petroleum Complex' is a brief but interesting piece with perhaps the most currently relevant title, but it doesn't sound very oily to me. Its juxtaposition of high, bright tonality with random percussion elements and low ominous tones seems perfectly in balance. This is classic avant-garde electronic composition. 'Self Portrait ' employs a number of squiggly-wiggly sounds, and further into the piece, processed voice. I am thinking now, that from a strictly audial standpoint, the theme of this CD could just as well be about a colony of alien insects as its intended subject matter. The final track, 'Twin Towers' (the longest track at 10:46) begins with the solo recitation of poems by Meena Alexander that lasts for the first 3:40 of the piece. After that DiBenedetto simulates the flights and explosions of the planes crashing into the World Trade center. What follows is a surreal aftermath, occasionally punctuated by manipulated kettledrum samples (played by high school students). The piece is supposed to condense the 101 minute tragedy into 1/20th of its time frame. It makes me thankful that Gary didn't do it in real time.

As a whole, 'Twin Towers' is an interesting, if somewhat perplexing listen. There are parts that I liked a lot, and some things I didn't care for at all. So it goes with the avant-garde. If you love abstract electronics, especially on an intellectual level, you will probably enjoy this, and even if you don't like all of it, there are elements that make it worthwhile.

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