Music Reviews

Artist: Monopol
Title: Weltweit
Format: LP
Label: Medical Records
Fans of synthwave and attempts to recreate those halcyon synthesizer days of the early 80’s must lap this up- a genuine and forgotten 1982 LP, the sole album by Monopol. This is the real deal- synthesizer pop music, close to the cutting edge for its time, revelling in the synth sounds and phrases that so many producers now try to recreate. Motorik drum rhythms, warm analogue basslines and whistling lead lines are a classic combination but this is a really good example of its kind.

Predictably Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze are cited as influences on the press release, but the German-language pop sensibility is arguably more MOR than that, with melodies and structures more reminiscent of bands like OMD, Propaganda, and very early Depeche Mode. The mixture of male and female lead vocals keeps things interesting and each track is a radio-friendly length, with only one track, the slightly more indulgent "Weisses Haus", passing the four-minute mark.

From my UK point of view, if Monopol had had a single strongly-hooked English-language radio hit, or managed to get Trevor Horn's attention, I'm sure they would be a great deal more remembered than they are now. The standout tracks include “TV”, the almost prototype acid house tones of “Elektrischer Stuhl”, and “City-Nacht” which is just crying out to be used on a soundtrack. The track “Gib Liebe Her”, the only track issued as a 7” single originally, is strangely ‘oompah’ and borderline cliché, an unrepresentative choice as a single.

A mint copy of the original LP will set you back the best part of €100 but it’s now been remastered and reissued on vinyl by Medical Records. Seemingly it's still vinyl-only and limited edition, a bold but faithful move, but one which might unnecessarily limit its audience which is a shame as this LP is definitely ripe for a revival.
Artist: Synoiz (@)
Title: The Forbidden
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
The last I heard from Synoiz was back in 2011 with his 'Shock! Horror!' release which was an interesting and varied dark ambient effort. Synoiz is the project name of Graeme Donaldson from Sunderland in the North East of England, and in the interim from what I last heard, has put out a few releases which I haven't heard. Donaldson says 'The Forbidden' "is a far darker work than 2014's sci-fi concept album 'Frontiers' with a much more minimal approach than the debut album 'Ambients'. 'The Forbidden' combines sinister drones and field recordings with artificial choirs and synthesizers to create an album of dark oppressive atmospheres." No kidding. It's plenty dark, and frequencies are definitely at the lower end of the spectrum nearly throughout. This is about as gloomy as you could imagine, primarily using low frequency drone textures, but other elements subtly combined bleed through allowing each piece its own identity. 'The Forbidden' is not an album you can listen to just once and expect to reap all of its uncanny rewards. Yes, there is a certain amount of sameness running throughout, but it seems like more of a thematic cohesiveness than monotony. While seemingly minimal, subdued sonic events that crop up here and there that add to the flavor. Deserted, decrepit mansions and dusty crypts come to mind. The two tracks that sound nothing like the rest of the album are title track "The Forbidden (Below)" with its heavy sinister choir-like pads, whispers and moaning ghost, and the bonus track, "Inside the Ship" with a watery ambience, creaking wooden masts, and block & tackle clanking. Kind of like being aboard the Flying Dutchman. I think the album is a worthy one you're likely to find yourself returning to again and again because it's not intrusive and could serve as good background ambience for a variety of activities. Available at a number of outlets, but purchasing directly from the artist may be your most economic option.
Artist: God Destruction (@)
Title: Redentor
Format: CD
Label: Insane Records (@)
Rated: *****
From Mexico City comes God Destruction, and their fourth album, 'Redentor' since 2009. My first experience with GD was on the 'Terror Night Vol. 2' compilation by Insane Records, and honestly, it was not a good one. It was the A.D.R.O.N. Remix of the title track on this album, and I think I described it as "a nasty piece of business with relentless machine gunning percussion and mental ward harsh raving vocals". Perhaps that was a bit harsh, but then again, so was the track. For this band, God Destruction is not just a name, it seems to be a way of life. Their motto is "God Destruction, praising the evil since 2009," and they mean it. This is true Hellectro - harsh EBM tinged with black metal. The album opens on the title track with gothic pipe organ, but quickly turns caustic and brutal. There's a lot more going on here in the original than the remix I previously heard. Although I can't make out what the hell the scratchy-screamy vocals are saying (a lyric sheet would have been nice) or even what language they're in, the delivery gets the point across. The band creates apocalyptic atmospheres without ever losing potency in cinematic side excursions. "The Machine" is driven by a relentless beat which is sure to kick your ass all the way around the dancefloor, and then some. There are actually two harsh vocalists in this band with different shades of malice. For what they do, they work well together. I'm not sure whether "Ratzinger" is a tribute to Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) or Wumpscut's Rudy; perhaps both in different ways. Clever, eh? A good club tune without a doubt though, especially made for heathens, heretics and hooligans. "Bullshit" offers more of the same with a different pacing. I am noticing now just how dirty and overblown God Destruction's sound is, as if they're compelled (maybe by Satan) to load up on EVERYTHING all at once. Granted, they do hold back a little on "Corpus Satani" but by then you're getting kind of numb. "Kakuma" (The Unholy Land) relies heavily on sampled dialogue and atmosphere to tell its story, but there is a fair amount of musicality to it. "Thunderthrone" begins promisingly with moaning horn and a rapacious riff, but somehow gets lost in the sauce tripping all over itself in an attempt to be epic, but comes across as more epileptic. "Exterminio" is full of organ and pounding beats but sounds more like filler than anything of substance. "Ultraviolencia" is quite a different story. A well-crafted hellectro-aggrotech number that really packs a wallop. "Rotten" is just a lot of rap-ranting over typical harsh EBM and it really left me cold. Final track before the remixes "Antevasin" begins with a series of processed guitar chords before the music, beats and vocals come in. This to me is the closest this band comes to sounding like Wumpscut, and it's actually pretty good. Low key when compared to the rest of 'Rededentor' but it does show these guys can sound quite musical when they want to. Not quite epic, but almost. The two remixes are "Redentor" by Nero Bellum of Psyclon Nine and "Ultraviolencia" (SIN D.N.A. Remix). On the former, Bellum allows for a 40-sencond scratch 'n' tap intro before steadily driving the track across the dancefloor like a Zamboni on steroids. The second remix is a stripped-down and chopped-up affair adding in a lot of sonic garbage that kind pof kills the tracks potency. Creative perhaps, but effective? Nah. 'Redentor' is kind of an uneven album in my estimation but there are still people who are going to really like it. Not quite up to the level of Hocico, but given time, this band could get there.
Artist: Czernie (@)
Title: s/t
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Czernie means "blackness" in Polish, so this aptly named audial project of a musician known only as M. from Poland is his self-titled debut project, on cassette no less, and we don't get a whole lot of those to review. (Good thing I still have a couple of cassette players.) This is noise with a capital "N" and as Czernie puts it, "...tracks are ALL my sonic influences chewed, digested, filtered and put on tape." Sort of all at once I might add. These five tracks clock in at 23 minutes total, with the same tracks on both sides. These are largely static environments; in other words, constant and consistent throughout with very little variation. The opener, "Korony," sounds like a tape recording of a helicopter where it was recorded too close to the whirling blades and distorted. It is punctuated at several points with squealing feedback. "Kalabas" utilizes a deeper wall of noise with what sounds like the crumpling of cellophane bleeding through and the occasional feedback squall. My favorite track, "Raka," sounds like barrels being rolled or tumbled on some kind of wooden platform, or down endless wooden planks. There is also some crackling distortion in there. "Jadowe" at first seems to sound like massive amounts of water falling close up (say, the thunderous effect of Niagara Falls at full capacity) but there are other semi-subtle noises at work here as well giving it a more sinister ambiance. "Semuta" seems to be the most sonically varied piece having the atmosphere of a factory or manufacturing plant, but what's being made there I couldn't tell you. It is a richly textured piece though, and towards the end sounds like a swarm of electronic bees. Although this album is a lo-fi effort, it should be of interest to noise enthusiasts, but likely not so much to others. I would have like to have heard more variation within the individual compositions but it is what it is. If power noise is your thing, you really ought to visit the artist's website where you can play all the tracks and buy the download for only $2.00 or the cassette (hand-numbered, limited to 50) for $4.00.
Artist: Meho (@)
Title: Another Crappy Day
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crna Zemlja (@)
The latest by prolific ambient-drone producer, Meho Grbic, based out of Bosia and Herzegovina, produces dark/deep ambient and drone, often as a musical response to post-war Bosnia and its ongoing political, social, and economic malaise. Grbic works in mainland Europe for half a year and lives as an artist in Bosnia, where employment is scarce, the other half. However, he always brings his microphone and music production gear everywhere he goes to absorb and musically respond to the world around him. In Bosnia, Grbic finds no shortage of inspiration as his environs are frequently the source for his album and track titles, not to mention the very title of his label, Crna Zemlja, which means 'black city'. For all the bleak vibes and darkness that inspires Meho, the music itself is meditative, darkly beautiful—in a dreamy sort of way and recalls some of the early work of Thomas Koner. “04:00AM Wake-up Call” is an example of the way a Meho track is crafted, starting with a sustained ring, either from an alarm clock or an actual wake-up phone call, then processed and melded with ambience until itself seems a kind of illusion. “Grey Communist Buildings” feels more space ambient for all its vast, resonating feel despite its title. “Third World Train Ride” starts with reverb-drenched creaks and shuffles of busy movement, leaving a train station before it plunges into drone world, with continuous, lulling clickity-clacks and echoes, perhaps emulating the half-sleep state of drowsy commuters. “Vertigo” is the darkest drone piece of the lot, where amidst sustained, menacing tones it seems a demon is trying to speak through a nether-portal. “Sandman” is gorgeous, likely the respite of the “Crappy Day”, evoking the dreamlike feel of the music of Celer. Each track here has unique textures and tones so you really feel as if you are listening to a full album rather than mere variations of a theme. Pretty much all Meho albums are worth immersing yourself in, but this one is not a bad place to start. Pity about the title, because listening to “Another Crappy Day” makes my day anything but.
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