Music Reviews



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Artist: First Aid 4 Souls (@)
Title: Dark Tunnel
Format: CD + Download
Label: Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested (@)
Rated: *****
I'm trying to play catch-up with a slew of releases that have sat idle in Mr. Urselli's hopper for some time (Marc's a very busy guy) and this is one of them. Sometimes you need to play detective just to get the basics to prep for a review. In this case it's the label that's the problem- Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested. There's no website by that name, but the album is being sold (here in the U.S. anyway) on Human Vault's Bandcamp site which seems to serve as the label's website. (I could have just called the album "self-released", but where's the challenge in that?) Turns out Human Vault (from Brooklyn, NY) is the vocalist and lyricist on this album going by the name of Mortum. First Aid 4 Souls is the music project of Istvan Gazdag, from Budapest, Hungary where 'Dark Tunnel' was recorded. If you check Discogs you will find that First Aid 4 Souls has a lengthy discography going back to 2008, but Gazdag's musical history goes back much further than that, to 1992 with the band Vacuum, one of the most significant bands in the Hungarian industrial music scene. So obviously Istvan has a lot of cred it electro-industrial music. 'Dark Tunnel' is a concept album based on Dmitry Glukhovsky's 2005 novel, "Metro 2033". The book is set in the Moscow Metro, where the last survivors hide after a global nuclear holocaust. There communities settled within the underground train stations and developed into independent states over time, and various political factions emerged vying for power and control. You can see that this isn't going to bode well for the inhabitants, as conflicts turning into war eventually rages between them, with the added post-apocalyptic distress of mutation due to nuclear fallout. There's much more to it than that, but if you're really intrigued you should read the book. 'Dark Tunnel' does a good job of capturing the flavor of this dystopian work, and while Mortum's lyrics don't get specific about characters and plot, they are still in keeping with the dystopian tone of the work. You'll need the (enclosed) lyric sheet though as the electronic vocal processing and Mortum's somewhat raspy voice and accent often obscure the words. Unfortunately the lyrics to the first two tracks- "Her Face As An Angel" and title track "Dark Tunnel" are not included, so you'll just have to tough those out. Istvan's dark electro/EBM synthwork and rhythm programming and production is excellent throughout, old school but still never sounding merely two-dimensional. The album does seem to end inconclusively though, without a strong denouement, so perhaps a sequel could be in the FA4S's future? What really makes this album worthy though is its astronomically low price, at least on the label's Bandcamp site. Two bucks for the CD, and download for only $1.00?? It's almost like giving it away!
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Artist: Dicepeople (@)
Title: One From Many
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Syndicol Music (@)
Rated: *****
Finally, Dicepeople have released a new full album, very different from their previous one ('End of the Line,' ) but no less ambitious. The band has changed a bit too. Matt Brock (songwriter, electronic musician/programmer, producer) has contributed some vocals on 'One From Many,' Rafael Filomeno (visual artist) is still aboard, and (female) vocalist Zmora is now listed as a band member. Where Brock previously only used guest vocalists, now there is a permanent one. Still there are a number of guest vocalists on the album - Sara Dee, Atashi Tada, Darien Graham-Smith, and Hemiola. Additional guest guitarists include Roger Le Guin and Rob Ackerman. An overall description of the music would be dark electro with touches of EBM, techno-industrial, synthpop, darkwave and post-rock. It has a "grand scale," expansive, futuristic, cyber-sound with generally great production by Brock. Using different vocalists keeps the material from sounding too homogeneous, while not betraying the feel and theme of the material. There are 9 tracks all with single word titles running a succinct 47 minutes or so total. The odyssey begins with "Void," a track of mostly space ambient effects with a lengthy dialogue sample from the 1993 Aussie cult film- "Bad Boy Bubby". The dialogue is an existential rant on God, and seems to be a useful setup for what's to follow. "Gone" features Zmora on vocals with backing vocals by Atashi. For some reason she reminds me of Propaganda's Claudia Brucken here. A very spacey electronic ambience is woven between the beats, and the subtle chorus hook is beguiling. On "Multiplicity" Matt Brock speak-sings his way through this heavy electro track on the verses while Zmora sings the choruses. Okay, now I understand why he's used other vocalists. It's still a good track and also features a neat twisty instrumental section. "Celestial" (co-written by Darien Graham-Smith, who also provides lead vocals) is a bouncy number with Sara Dee also on vocals with vocoder processing. On "Nitro" Atyashi steps up into the lead vocalist spot for a song with a real EBM/technoir vibe. The angular bass synth motif of "Addiction" provides a stark contrast to the smoothness of the previous track with Brock on primary vocals, supplemented by the voice of Zmora. "Pigs' treads more traditional electro-industrial territory with vocals by Brock and Zmora. A processed (but unassimilated) Borgish vocal that opens "This" continues along electro-industrial lines with Hemiola's voice swimming against the slipstream of cosmic effluvia. If that track seemed like it was awash in an ocean of synthetic sound, it's nothing compared to "Duality". Zmora sounds like she's nearly drowning but somehow managing to cling to a liferaft, until it capsizes in the bitter end. This is one interesting and unusual album, brimming with cyber-vibes and wonderfully executed. I imagine that it's even more spectacular live when Rafael gets to work his visual magic. My only complaint is that the album is download only with no physical product. I'm kind of old school when it comes to that, but I'll save that rant for another time.
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Artist: Guilt
Title: Guilt
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Medical Records
Oliver Chapoy and Nathaniel Young, working together as Guilt, have put together a self-titled EP of fairly dark instrumental techno with elements of industrial relentless and just a slightest shades of elements taken from the underbelly of synthwave.

Lead track “We Thought We Were”, with its processed vocals as fills, is at times reminiscent of Josh Wink on an angry day. Both “Cult Leader Of My Youth” and “Demiurge” carry on in a similar vein, thicker kicks underpinning mesmeric, gradually twisting short synth patterns that are at times slightly Underworld-esque, at other points relentless like the first CNSNNT release, decorated with occasional spoken-word noises for added texture.

The Løt.te Deception mix of the lead track doesn’t fall far from the tree, with a slight increase in staccato urgency and a more pneumatic percussion but staying firmly in the centre of the same ballpark.

It’s a purposeful techno 12” which rolls well but doesn’t harbour any real surprises or highlights.
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Artist: Phaedrus
Title: Game Of Tones
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Transfusions (Medical Records)
Seattle-based Joris Kamma’s new EP has a clear and simple vision- classic-sounding minimal techno in its purest form. Steady kicks and short percussive patterns do their work underneath two-note analogue-sounding synth lines while filters and knobs get slowly twiddled to twist each track gradually for six minutes a pop. No shocks, no sudden movements, just steady rhythm-and-synth exercises aimed at your feet. And provided the mood is right, it’s a total success.

There’s enough variation between tracks to give each a slightly different texture, but everything’s in the same ballpark. “Bender’s Game” puts the attention on the (appropriately slightly bendy) lightweight synth sounds. “Encyclopod” has a little more attitude, with some nice muted-explosion-as-cymbal effects. “Violet Dwarf Star” ups the squeaky bleep factor and “Xenotaph 3” adopts a slightly harder, somehow more American tone with backwards FX, thumpier kicks and crispy noise-based snares.

It’s a nicely focused bit of well-made minimal techno with nothing up its sleeve.
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Artist: Ekin Fil
Title: Maps
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Ekin Fil continues to expand her discography of soft, gentle near-ambient dream-pop with “Maps”. It’s a succinct, 9-track, 36-minute work that’s so consistent it’s often hard to notice where one track ends and the next begins, and it melds into one continuous piece of reverb-drenched keys, soft breathy vocal noises, warm ambiences and super-long echoes.

Fittingly for an album which describes itself as a reflection on small island life, we occasionally get waves, beach and running water noises to further enhance the mood, and it’s interesting to hear how this sometimes evolves towards white noise and develops an interesting counterpoint against the purity of the piano and key noises- a statement about the bustle of everyday life, perhaps. It’s invariably tinged with a tired melancholy throughout, that runs without any grounding in geography or specifics.

It’s an album with a clear vision, and certainly deserves a place on many people’s chill-out or go-to-sleep playlists.
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