Music Reviews



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Artist: KTL
Title: IV
Format: CD
Label: Editions Mego
Rated: *****
So, I've never been a die-hard KTL fan, despite finding their recordings enjoyable, and often wondered what all that hype was about given that both Peter Rehberg (computer and synth) and Stephen O'Malley (guitar) had previously released much more groundbreaking and memorable albums. Whatever. "IV", produced by ubiquitous Jim O'Rourke, is both a confirmation of KTL's style and a welcome attempt at something more elaborate and complex. Out of its six tracks, clocking in at a little less than one hour, "Paraug" and "Wicked Way" are quite typical O'Malley ultrasonic rifferama mixed with Rehberg's digital clicks and synth washes. They sound ok, but at the same time they're exactly the stock tracks you'd expect, thus a little disappointing. "Eternal Winter", sharing their short run (around five minutes), is a dismal soundscape buried under a thick blanket of sizzling electronics, while in the closing "Natural Trouble" a handful of melancholic notes slowly emerges from synth debris and sparse guitar statics. Much the same can be said of "Benbbet", where O'Malley's desertic doom riffing reaches its emotional climax. The best track of the album is definitely "Paratrooper", which, I must say, is the least typically KTL-esque as well. Rehberg's synthetic throbs create a backbone for his partner's inventive, and more disjointed, guitar noises, until the massive drumming, courtesy of Atsuo (Boris), bursts in with the grace of a mammoth (those who find this track shockingly heavy should go and listen to some Sword Heaven, though). With "Paratrooper", KTL show a more daring approach at their digi-doom thing, and makes me think that in a way "IV", while nice as usual, is an unfulfilled album.
Jan 02 2009
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Artist: Uberbyte (@)
Title: SIC
Format: CD
Label: Crunch Pod Records (@)
Distributor: Crunch Pod Records
Rated: *****
When you’re last in line to receive a CD to review, it can be both easy and difficult to write about it, especially if most other reviewers generally had the same opinion. (Sorry, I can’t help but do a little background research, if only to inform myself a bit about the band.) And to some degree, I agree with some aspects of the reviews I’ve seen about this band’s debut album. It actually does BLAST its way on to the Industrial music scene, although I wouldn’t call it strictly Industrial.

Uberbyte is the brainchild of ex-Killing Miranda frontman Richard Pyne. KM was sort of a Goth-Metal outfit, fairly well known with a decent following. Pyne, apparently disillusioned with KM and went off in a different direction, re-christened himself as "Uberman" and started a hard dancefloor-oriented EBM/Industrial outfit called Uberbyte where synths and not guitars are at the forefront. Drawing on influences ranging from Apoptygma Berserk to Wumpscut or X-Marks the Pedwalk (I can’t think of any good well-known bands that begin with the letter "Z") and just about every male-fronted group loosely lumped into the Industrial Music category, Uberbyte pushes their way past the mosh pit to center stage in a bid to dominate the dark dance club scene.

From the anthemic opening track, "STAND UP [FOR UBERBYTE]" you know this music was made for live performance. While I try to ignore ghost of Jim Morrison hovering in the background ("Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin... ") I can’t ignore the BIG BEAT, and the crowd-rousing antics of Uberman ("front to the back, left to the right, everybody here STAND UP FOR UBERBYTE!"). It’s done with all the straight-aced tongue-in-cheek of Devo, and, believe it or not, these guys wear these futuristic black & white art deco uniforms when they play live! Holy shit! Now THAT takes balls. I think if the rest of the album had the same satirical bent, it might be right up there with Hanzel und Gretyl on the comic book industrial music scale. But... no, it doesn’t maintain that.

Not to say that SIC doesn’t have some excellent moments. It does. In fact, there are some really good memorable tracks, or memorable moments within some tracks. And the production is great. The synth sounds, sequenced programming and bells and whistles are spot on even if you’ve heard most it them before elsewhere. The vocal treatment is what you’d expect, dark, raspy and processed for the most part, although there are some tracks that have clearer vocals, and even a female vox on one track. My little bit of wincing were due to the overuse of sampled dialogue sound bytes, the counting (1, 2,3,4... eins, zwei ,drei, fier,... uno dos, tres, quatro, et al), the profundity overly simplified melodic hooks, and repetition, repetition, repetition. Some 5 minute tracks would have made better 3 minute tracks. But I guess that when you’ve got em dancing, you wan to keep em dancing. Lyrics are a bit light on substance but I guess you can’t have everything. The problem with SIC is, that an EP’s worth of good material has been expanded to nearly a full hour album. I’m sure it helps fill out the live show, but it’s the difference between a good album and a GREAT album. I think that if Uberbyte wants to be the iconic Industrial band they seem to be aspiring to be, they need less filler and more blow-away songs. Trim away some of the sampled sound bytes and ramp up the larger-than-life band identity. More humor too. (Yeah, I know it’s a grim, fucked up world we live in, but nobody said you can’t make fun of it.) But this is all MY idea of a good time, it may not be yours.

I read an interview with Richard Pyne, and I can tell he’s a pretty savvy individual. I also know he doesn’t give a fuck what I or any other reviewer says about Uberbyte. (Aw, c’mon Unberman, the good reviews have gotta stroke your ego just a little bit.) But I’m really curious what the next album has in store, and if Uberbyte ever plays Upstate NY, I’ll most likely be there.
Jan 02 2009
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Artist: Die Warzau
Title: Vinyl 88
Format: CD
Label: Rose Hip records (@)
Rated: *****
Chicago-based duo Die Warzau is one of those electro-industrial bands that can probably be considered to be among the original movers and shakers of that scene, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Similar in sound to bands like KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson, Gravity Kills, Front Line Assembly, Conjure One, Headcrash, Stabbing Westward, they have a great sound, great production and the ability to sneak in a pop sensibility that makes them more average-listener-friendly while still maintaining the quality and characteristics of the authentic bands of the genre. It might very well be this skill which lead them to be on the Billboards Top 25 Dance Charts 10 times already (six of those chart toppers are included here, remixed and remastered). "88 Vinyl" is their newest greatest hits. It features 16 tracks total, 6 of which previously unreleased. Among the guests featured on the tracks are Chris Connelly and P-Funk's George Clinton. The album is a great introduction to those who are not yet familiar with Die Warzau and a notable addition to your discography if you're a fan already. It well portrays the long path of this band and is a window on their multi-faceted production and the evolution they've undergone throughout the years. Die Warzau is and remains one of the more versatile and eclectic bands from the golden era of electro-industrial. Even though their fame might not have reached the peaks of NIN or KMFDM, in a genre overcrowded by clones of the real thing, this originality is probably what set them apart from the pack.
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Artist: PHIL MAGGI
Title: Blue Fields In Paramount
Format: CD
Label: Idiosyncratics (@)
Rated: *****
Already member of Eve And The Sickness, Idiosyncrasia and Ultraphallus and Idiosyncratics label's boss along with Yannick Franck, Phil Maggi is releasing is new solo album titled BLUE FIELDS ON PARAMOUNT on the aforementioned Idiosyncratics. The album contains a 39 minutes track that is formed by totally different mini suites made with loops, fields recordings (he did his sessions in a church and in the streets of Zagreb) and sampled contemporary classical music. The track starts with a dark ambient drone mood with tones inserts and follows with Zagreb sounds mixed with backward classical music. Suddenly anxious atmospheres take a hold thanks to synth sounds coupled with an orchestration of sampled/treated breaths. The tracks changes skins different times and each one is renewing like a phoenix born from its ashes and Phil succeeds into keeping the listener's attention high thanks to interesting sounds, light melodies and tension. I liked it...
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Artist: BRIAN CARES
Title: FINGERPRINTS
Format: CD
Label: Bar 25
Rated: *****
Born in the 80s in East Germany Brian Cares is an artist or the Bar 25 roster and after several years of 12"s and E.P.s the next February he will have his full length out. Teaming up with Justine Electra, Raz Ohara and Jake The Rapper and Howard Katz, whom helped him on vocals, Brian's album is also the first release of the FINGERPRINTS series. The project is inspired by the format of a radio-show playing songs of no particular style but held together by the "fingerprints" of the producer and the participating artists. The nine tracks of the album are fitting really well the original intentions of the project: Brian made tracks that span from the jazzy house of the opening "Conclusion" followed by the electro soul of "No more play" just to pass through a particular electro latino spoken word titled "Saysay" with the charming vocals of Justine Electra. "Trust" instead is a mix of shoegazer pop song and house while "40 degrees" and "Dissolve", thanks to Raz Ohara vocals, seem a minimal techno soul cover of Prince songs: sensual and electronic sounds for you to dig. Electro/hip-hop is on with the cool Jack The Rapper performance on "Hey dj!". The bonus track "Sensational" is an electro mysterious one while the closing "The beginning" is a particular blues track with Howard Katz singing on treated beatbox samples. You can preview some songs on Brian's myspace page.
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