Music Reviews

Artist: A Spell Inside
Title: Loginside
Format: CD
Label: Dark Dimensions Labelgroup
Rated: *****
This album was scheduled to be released earlier than it actually was. The reason for the delay was a defect of the hard drive. The problem was overcome and the long awaited album was released just before the WGT festival opened its gates of darkness. The Neussian synthpop-electro unit showed vital signs with a new exciting album and there is just one thing for me to say: I’m excited. It is still a riddle for me why Michael Roeder and Peter Kirchmeyer do not count to the greatest artist of the darker scene.
The compositions range from genius over danceable to "cannot-get-enough-of-it". The 12-track album does not pall even after the 10th listening to it. There is something new to find out every time. The catchy melodies have a strong potential to "haunt" your mind for the whole day and lift your spirits.
A synthpop fan will totally dig "Your eyes","Secrets"and "Chase" due to dreamy melodies and the lyrics that invite you to ponder. The DJs in their turn have all the reasons to embrace "Keener", "Reveal", "Reality" or "Not enough" and "I will" thus those possess a high potential to cause some behind-shaking in the darker clubs of the planet. The only German song "Stärke 10" certainly belongs to the strongest numbers on the album as well. What really makes A Spell Inside an outstanding act is Michael’s vocal manner which is unmistakable from swarms of other electro artists. The whole release sounds more electronic and more sophisticated than their previous albums and "Someone (is waiting)" makes this point especially visible; I mean audible.

All in all the album has a good chance to gain popularity beyond the darker scene as well, due to lack of immature lyrics about cyborgs, demons under your bed and aliens that come after you to grab your ass, like we get to hear from numerous other acts. As far as I’m concerned, A Spell Inside has got to keep it this way and I’m grateful for this album.
Artist: Troum (@)
Title: Eald-Ge-Stréon/ Abhijňâ
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
I have never met anyone who was into experimental music who did not like Troum, and for good reason – they are the quintessential drone band. Rather than saying that Troum sounds like someone else, people generally say that someone sounds like Troum. For example, the Tjukurrpa trilogy is a pinnacle of drone music. But what would you expect from the man who runs Drone Records? Troum consists of Stefan Knappe and Martin Gitschel and came forth out of the ashes of Maëror Tri. Where some of the other Troum stuff I have seems to focus on building a specific mood, this album is rather varied. On reading the liner notes, we find out why: "This is a collection of strange songs and odd jewels. Most basic versions were recorded years ago on analogue 8-track and some later reworked & re-mastered over and over again. Pieces that were not ready’ when they were made, are pieces that developed and mutated further over the years. Most of them were originally used for live performances. We still don’t know really what it is, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from producing these little hymns." In some ways, I would say that this is a perfect introduction to Troum in that it showcases the variety of styles that they use to build their dreamlike states (Troum is German for "dream")some are peaceful dreams, and some are nightmares, but all are memorable. There are some songs that I am at a loss to describe because I know that I cannot do them justice, and "Elation" is one of them. Deep rumbling bass and synth that create a stunning orchestral piece. This is one of those songs that must simply be experienced. "Usque Sumus Lux" combines pulsing rhythms and majestic synth, making skillful use of crescendos and quiet passages to build and release tension. "Eolet" moves at a glacial pace; nothing but smooth, dark, shimmering drone here. "Ecstatic Forlorness" has a nice tribal feel to it with constant percussion running throughout, building in intensity. It then abruptly shifts halfway through and the drums and drone vie for attention until it all combines into a chaotic wall of sound at the end before briefly giving way to the soothing atmosphere and what sounds like sampled voice. "Dh'nu-H" is a lush wash of drone that has an almost mournful quality. Track 6 is a cover of Savage Republic’s "Procession," but not having heard the original I can’t really comment on the differences or similarities. All I know is that it sounds like something that Militia would do if they had more atmosphere. The lyrics are unintelligible to me because they are overpowered by the music. This gives it a chant-like quality that enhances the atmosphere. At 16.29, "Crescere" is the longest track on the disc, which allows it to evolve more fully thought the track than the other shorter pieces. Slow heavy bass tones and that become more ominous as the melody becomes more spastic. On to disc 2, we have "Abhijň'," a monster of a track at 33.30 minutes. Unlike the other disc, this track was created specifically for this release. This is a great track of drone that builds slowly throughout. The best comparison I can give would be The Anti-Group’s "Burning Water," not so much in content, but in feel. The changes throughout the track are minimalist, but enough to keep it from getting dull. I’m sure my upstairs neighbors are wondering if there is an earthquake happening as a result of the heavy bass that holds the track together. This 2XCD set is, like all BLR releases, nicely packaged, with artwork by Stephen O'Malley of Sunn 0))). The double CD release is limited to 500 copies, so you will want to act fast on this one. If you like ambient and drone, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. If you haven’t picked up anything from Troum but have been meaning to do so, this is a great place to start. Disc 1 weighs in at about 58 minutes and disc 2 weighs in at about 33 minutes.
Artist: Volcano The Bear/La STPO (@)
Title: The Shy Volcanic Society At The Bear And Bird Parade
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Volcano the Bear is one of those bands I had heard of but never had a chance to check out. I had not previously heard of "La Société des Timides à la Parade des Oiseaux" (La STPO). Let’s look at each track. "Our Number Of Wolves" is like the soundtrack to some demented cartoon, with music that sounds like slowed down ragtime (think 78 records played at 33.3). "The Boy With The Lips Inside" is a minimal tribal drumbeat with odd chanting and moaning. "The Open, The Closed" is the sound of a toy store gone amok until a penny whistle and drum enter on the scene a little over halfway through. I have a feeling that this would be far more interesting in a live setting, but as it exists on the disc, it just doesn’t hold my attention. It sort of reminds of some of the tracks on Zoviet France’s Loh Land. "Death Sleeps in My Ear" keeps the recorder/whistle theme going, but this time the drums are much more intense. "The First Circle is the Eye" is much more structured that the previous few tracks, with a middle eastern feel – like if the Residents collaborated with Muslimgauze for a track. The Jew’s harp and the trumpet in the track is a nice touch. Thus concludes the Volcano The Bear segment of the disc. On to La STPO. "Guayak" brings in a man chanting and sometimes yelling things (I assume in French) over some noisy improvised music. This is still odd like Volcano The Bear, but much less minimal. As for the vocals, imagine if the Tasmanian Devil sang at an open mic night for experimental music. "Les Oreilles Internationales" continues the yelling over the improvised music theme. There is a kind of scat singing here, which is at least engaging. "Invalid Islands" is a much quieter track musically, but still keeps with the singer demonstrating a considerable range of voice over drums and xylophone. This abruptly changes a little over halfway though and gives way to slow woodwind tones and moaning and screaming. "Colonies" is a bit of a departure from the other tracks in that it has a crunchy metal riff which gives way to singing and xylophone which gives way to a bass riff and clarinet with strained singing which gives way to yelling and drums which gives way to quietness. For me, this is the most interesting track on the disc because it is more complex than most of the rest and much more varied. I have to admit that this album was not really my cup of tea, and I’m certain that neither band would be offended by this assessment. After all, this album seems to be an acquired taste, which I do not have. Volcano The Bear was just a bit too minimal for my taste, although the high points for that segment would have to be "Our Number Of Wolves" and "The First Circle is the Eye." I found La STPO to be more interesting in general, and for me "Colonies," was the high point. I do get the sense that both of these bands would be interesting to see live, however, especially La STPO. You can almost see the vocalist flailing around the stage screaming. This disc weighs in at about 55 minutes and is issued in an edition of 500.
Artist: Locrian (@)
Title: Drenched Lands
Format: CD
Label: Small Doses (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Locrian, but this seems to be their debut CD release. The label explains that they have been active since 2005, "finding the right blend of noise, power electronics, dark ambient, and black metal to work into their sound." OK, with track titles like "Barren Temple Obscured by Contaminated Fogs," you can see some of the black metal influence. I must admit that I am not a huge fan of black metal, but I am a huge fan of noise, dark ambient, and power electronics, so three out of four shouldn’t be bad. Overall, I would have to call this one a mixed bag. Locrian does a pretty good job of trying to build an atmosphere, but in some places it becomes a bit cheesy, for example, the screaming throughout "Barren Temple Obscured by Contaminated Fogs," which I find to be overdone in most tracks like this. However, on others, such as the 30 minute long "Greyfield Shrines," they do a great job of building tension and atmosphere without resorting to horror movie samples and the like. Moreover, this seems to be the only track that really approaches anything I would call noise, as the guitars and voice blend into drone and feedback. I would say it is way too long, but nicely done. This would be a decent start for someone into metal who was looking for a bit more slowed down guitar oriented experimental sound, although those who are looking for noise, power electronics, or dark ambient in the vein of Lustmord or anything coming out on the Cyclic Law label will be disappointed. This disc is limited to 1000 copies and weighs in at 64 minutes.
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Title: Self Titled
Format: 7"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Rated: *****
Limited to 300 copies the Scorpion Violente / The Dreams 7" is the second of the newest Enfant Terrible releases focused on the bands that played during the Hex Nights events in Amsterdam. The two bands of the 7" share some members and are coming from Metz, France. On the platter we have two tracks for Scorpion Violente, the first is "Force de Droite" and it is a sort of introduction to the band's sound: it is based on two notes and repetition but during its 2:42 it is able to ooze analog distortion while the band adds little by little more sounds. "Saignement Hallal" is a minimal obsessive 4/4 distorted tune with vocals and it sounds like Suicide playing electro punk. The Dreams' "Tropique du Cancer" has a different atmosphere with electronic instruments roughly recorded with the add of a maniacal guitar/synth duet. Psycho electro post punks are here... and we like it.
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