Music Reviews

Artist: Benfay (@)
Title: Replay Life
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Everestrecords (@)
Distributor: Godbrain/Finetunes
Rated: *****
Out of the baker’s dozen of CDs that I have just received for review, Benfay is lucky number one on the dissecting table. I visually scanned all entries including the accompanying one-sheets’ and decided Benfay would make easy pickings based on the music description. I should know by now that reading one-sheets for anything else but titles, discography, web addresses, distribution and biographical/factual info on the artist is a mistake. Also, failing to consider the strange humor of the Swiss (Swiss artist, Swiss label) and already knowing Swiss people with musical inclinations similar to mine, I completely let my guard down. The convoluted description of the work summed up in a quote by the artist (in an interview given to his cat, no less!) – "Replay Life is the reliving of myself in my own music" led me to believe I was in for an unparalleled session of repetitiveness and monotony. Such was not the case. I should have known by the track titles, like "The Partygoers Yelled", and "Tonight the Police Got an Anonymous Hint" that there was a little tongue sticking in the cheek.

Song titles aside (I think only Benfay can reconcile them with the music), what the listener is in for here is an interesting experience in the instrumental electronic IDM, often in the semi-glitch vein. It was described as abstract hip hop’ back on the one-sheet, but I don’t see it that way. Benfay likes to play with off-kilter beats and rhythms, so there tends to be less conspicuous repetition. Also, the compositions on Replay Life are held together with enough melodic sonic glue to make them appealing. Just when it skirts dangerously close to New Age mellowness, Benfay changes it up with dirty beats and a dark jazzy tonal placement. There is generous use of old school plinks and plunks, but somehow Benfay manages to make something new in the mélange.

Some tracks, like "Universal Time" add a heightened sense of drama, while others like "Befuddled Floorshow" have a laconic minimalism. There are tracks buzzing with busy notes, and others with riff ideas that don’t seem fully realized. Replay Life is a very mixed back. Not unpleasant though, and certainly never boring. I think this might be one of those odd little gems you can go back and listen to a year later and discover something else about that you didn’t appreciate at the time. In spite of coming across as a sketch-pad of musical ideas, it still has merit. I’ve heard the work of a lot of other artists in a similar vein who didn’t do nearly as well. Available on 12" vinyl and mp3 download only. Interesting... and sometimes intriguing.
Artist: Excubitors
Title: Operation Observation
Format: CD
Label: Lukotyk Records / LR013
Distributor: Rough Trade
Rated: *****
Four years ago three brothers from the idyllic province of the German countryside founded Excubitors to watch and spread the truth about the system we live in. The first album Aufstehung aus Ruinen brought the trio a certain degree of exposure and positive response from critics and synth music fans at least in the less commercially- oriented circles. Sascha, Stephan and Thomas combine English and German rather tastefully in their songs. Every language has its melody and thus fits better for this song or another. The usage of German samples is usually a good idea in songs sung in English. That leaves some place for wondering about their meaning, or just be a kind of spice for those who speak no German.
Among other topics the album takes loneliness as a theme; the isolation of an individual in the contemporary society in particular (Alleine, Isolated, Different; the last slightly reminding of Namnambulu’s sound).
Operation Observation deals with political issues as well. Steh Auf and Fehler im System criticizes the norms of our democratic system, not the least the fact that the deputies in the German parliament decide themselves whether to raise their own salaries or not. Such practice is common for many other countries too although it can be only compared with putting a cat in charge of watching the milk. The album discusses the practice of governments to accumulate data about its citizens. We are told that it is for security purposes and safe from falling into the wrong hands however the reality proves that things are not 100% so. Every now and then governments and large corporations star in various scandals of foul storage or sheer misuse of such data.
The title song is dedicated to the probably most important event of the post war Germany; the unification and the outburst of emotions that it caused especially among the eastern Germans who suffered under the inhuman regime in the DDR. Those who wish to live in freedom must be vigilant to make sure the human rights and the civil rights are not violated. Indifference to those rights was one of the factors that made Nazi dictatorship possible.
Im Visier was written about a youngster who ran amok in his former school in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. Short time ago Germany was shocked by another massacre at school thus I believe the reactions to the release of this song may be ambivalent. The timing for a release of a song about such a charged topic may not be fortunate now and be a fertile soil for numerous misinterpretations. As you remember M.Manson was made responsible for the Columbine shooting. Alice Cooper was the first to put violence against children and women in the spot light and demonized by the critics who totally misunderstood him.
As a guest artist Anne Goldacker known for her work in Wintry and Obsc(y)re contributed with her talents to Observation as a counterpart to Sascha’s clean male vocals. A remix by a rather renowned combo Lost Area for Isolated closes the album.
I’m sure this album will bring Excubitors broader, well-deserved acknowledgement.
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Title: Autraumaton
Format: CD
Label: Synthetic Sounds (@)
Rated: *****
The Rabid Whole are coming from Regina/Saskatchewan/Canada and their first album AUTRAUMATON has been released by the Canadian label Synthetic Sounds. The ten tracks of the album offer a good mix between genres which could interest a wide audience. Rock (Andreas Weiss vocals remember me Sound Garden as well as some of his guitar chords), industrial e.b.m. (check their way of using sampled rhythms and blasting drum sounds just like Front Line Assembly did) and electronic (they often use pumping synth bass lines just like on the catchy "Harder to be true" or on the following "Selfish nature") are used to pack a convincing mix of melodic riff based industrial electronic music. Sometimes vocals are too rock sounding but the whole result works well and the songs sound granitic and melodic at the same time. Production is cured and functional. Just check some tracks at their myspace page
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Subvert Punx 4-way Split
Format: CD
Label: D-Trash Records (@)
Rated: *****
In the 6 or so years I've been reviewing underground electronic music, D-Trash Records has been one of the few labels that I've received material from consistently, and it's been rather cool to track the development of the label. My opinion of their records is often varied, but I have a ton of respect for them and their aesthetic, and it's rare that I don't like at least a few parts of each record.

This recent offering from the label comes in the form of a 4 way split album, all more or less breakcore/ digital hardcore themed. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time I've heard from any of these artists, but I definitely want to hear more.

The anarchistic fiesta begins with 4 tracks from Belarussian project Clip, who have a nice and harsh style, by far the harshest sounding of the four projects here. There are some nice guitars and distorted sample usage to accompany the spastic ADD beats, which is nice. The overall focus seems to be raw power via distortion, and that is definitely achieved here. Good stuff for sure.

Up next we have 4 tracks from the brilliantly named US project Midi Fister, which take us in a comparatively more polished, glitchy direction that is definitely enjoyable. The breaks are very much still emphasized here, but there is a ton of stuff going on, with lots of nice textures and cut ups thrown into the mix. At times I can see elements of Contra at play.... By far the best produced effort of the projects here, and possibly the most diverse.

Russian noiseters Distonn are up to bat in the third round, offering yet another set of four tracks is a pretty straight forward breakcore style, with the addition of punk guitars and various sample abuse/ plunderphonics, at times a bit grindcore influenced. At times the material is more raw, at other times, more polished, but the beaks and samples are in from most of the time. I wish there was less emphasis on the samples, because some of them just aren't that strong. I enjoy the usage of the foreign pop songs, but I don't really need to hear a high pitch Papa Roach sample over and over. Overall it's good stuff though.

Disbreakz close the show with their 4 tracks, and this Croatian project continutes in a similar vein as their predecessors, only with even more emphasis on samples, again in the form of foreign pop (which likely isn't so foreign to them, maybe.), and less guitars. The samples are used a bit more effectively by this project, but I do think it's a bit of a crutch. The beats are nice, as are the other sounds used, and it's definitely okay stuff.

All in all, this 4-way split is pretty solid, and it offers up enough variety to please most anybody who digs good breakcore. If you dig you beaks fast and broken, check this sucker out! I definitely recommend it.
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Title: il tempo... tra le nostre mani, scoppiaaaaa!
Format: CD
Label: Wallace (@)
Rated: *****
I was really looking forward to giving a listen to this new Shipwreck release since after repeated listenings to their debut 3" mcd I’ve to admit it gradually grew on me, I liked it from the very first play, but I’ve to confess after many heavy rotations it brought me to think it was a great debut. This new effort by the dynamic duo featuring Xabier Iriondo on guitar, mahai metak, taisho koto, bandonion, banjolino, field-recordings, electronics and Roberto Bertacchini on a minimal quasi-skeletal drum kit plus vocals, has been nothing but misleading, while the music in someway reflects deeply the perfect combination of Iriondo’s string-style plus Bertacchini’s Starfuckers/Sinistri alike drumming, on the other hand the vocal add some new unexpected elements. Looking at the pictures and listening to the music it’s hard to stay away from the idea Bertacchini has probably seen the light and Iriondo is helping a visionary to ascend thus we can say he’s part in the process has been that of a shaman while Bertacchini is the holy spirit. Here and there you’ll have the chance o catch some blues, American-music splinters, some deviant free-rock/free-folk/free-whatever extravaganza and some experimental field-recording, documentary/home-recording sort of combinations. Bertacchini’s vocals are even freaker than his crippled epileptic drumming, how to describe the outcome?!...hhhmmm... imagine Captain Beefheart and Dave Moss (ok, shame on you if you think I’ve mentioned him just cause he’s both a drummer and a weird as fuck singer!) and maybe a little bit of Massimo Volume’s Emidio Clementi diminished of his theatrical emphasis. Don’t expect it to be a release full of songs, all you’re gonna have are tracks, mostly skeletal, crippled tracks with that characteristical beat style on which Iriondo seems to move comfortably with his post-kraut-bluesy-rock-folk rifforama. Sometimes this music sounds vintage, sometimes it just sounds crippled and out of time, post-bomb rural crippled free rock from somebody who’s seen the light? can bet it.
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