Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Terror Night Vol. 2: Sounds of the Dead Future
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Insane Records (@)
Rated: *****
Are you ready for some Aggrotech? I mean, are you ready for A LOT OF AGGROTECH? Well, if not, you'd better move on and read something else because this massive 2 CD compilation from Russian label Insane Records and Terror Night radio show is loaded with it, and 100% exclusive tracks at that. This is the second compilation in the series, the first being Terror Night Vol. 1: Industrial Madness'. Thirty bands from over the world appear here with their maddest synths, harshest vocals and most aggressive beats ever to pummel the dark dancefloor. Okay, well, to be fair not ALL of the bands/tracks are in this style-
there are a few less-agressive, non-distoro vocal acts, and that might not be such a good selling point for Aggrotech-heads. A good number of these bands you've probably heard of, and some are undoubtedly going to be new to your experience but that's what compilations are all about eh? Discovering something new. Space and time doesn't permit a critique of every band on the comp, but they all deserved to be named at least, so here they are- Reactor7x, Encono, Hell:Sector, Alien Vampires, 00tz 00tz, PreEmptive Strike 0.1, Angels Of Suicide, Kill The Sleeper, Asdeandare, Larva, Archazard, Psyborg Corp., T3rror 3rror, Schwarzblut, Technolorgy, nolongerhuman, DYM, God Destruction, Bleeding Corp., Reaxion Guerrilla, Viscera Drip, C-Lekktor, Thornsectide, Shadow System, Cygnosic, Benjamin'sPlague, Sleetgrout, Chamaeleon, Okkulta, Vault 113. Seven of these bands ware on 'TNV1' but obviously not with the same tracks. Seventeen of these tracks are remixes or special edits/versions.

Now Aggrotech or Hellectro never used to be my favorite sub-genre of EBM or dark electro, mainly because of the harsh/distorted/raspy vocals. I had a thing for actually understanding what the vocalist was singing. Lately though, I'm finding that I care less and less about the words and and more about the feeling when it comes to this style of music. I also believe there has never been a more appropriate time for Aggrotech, especially in light of recent events. Over all, it's a very good compilation. Still, considering personal tastes, some bands/tracks are going to resonate more with some people than others for various reasons, whether it's creative synthwork, beat danceability, or vocal style. I'm only basing my observations on personal tastes, so what really grabbed me may not be what grabs you. First, let's start with the best stuff on CD1- as expected,

Alien Vampires make a great showing with "Harshlizer" (Disorder Faith Remix), nasty but catchy; 00tz 00tz surprised me with "Ouroboros" (Vocal Terror Mix) as Krysta shows she can hold her own vocally with any other rasper and Nicky channels Velvet Acid Christ in a real dancefloor stomper; Cretan band PreEpmtive Strike 0.1 impress with some fancy keyboard work; really liked Kill The Sleeper's "I Am The Ocean, I Am The Sea" with harsh vocals that weren't difficult to discern and great synthwork to boot; T3rror 3rror's "The God Of Fire" (Terror Night Mix) was a cool change of pace with a neat creative mix, just what the
DJ ordered. Now for the dogs- Dutch band Schwarzblut's "Vogala" is just too weird with vocals that sound like they belong in a cough drop commercial; Technolorgy's "23" (Club Mix) has a good mix but vocals (in German) just sound too synthpoppy. Let's move on to CD2.

Best stuff first again- DYM's moody, but dancefloor friendly "aDeiu" (Terror Night Edition) is something to chew on; Reaxion Guerrilla's "Sacrifice" (Asinaptico Remix) is about as fine dancefloor fodder as you'll ever find; Viscera Drip offers up an equally appealing dark dance tune with "Aggrosex"; Sleetgrout's "I Bought Coffins" (featuring
Cygnosic) (Destructive Noise Remix by Nero Bellum of Psyclon Nine) is just about the most twisted track on this compilation; Chamaeleon's "Suppression" (Hard Balls Remix by [Sin.thetic Squad]) has a huge sound and a really great remix. The two tracks I couldn't get into at all on CD2 were God Destruction's "Redentor" (A.D.R.O.N. Remix), a nasty piece
of business with relentless machine gunning percussion and mental ward harsh raving vocals; and Vault 113's "Ami Go Home" (Original by Ernst Bush) which must have been some sort of joke. It's a European (sung in German) anti-American political song done in the old style but with a pounding beat. It's not the anti-American sentiment I have a problem
with, but this style of music just does not belong on a dark electro compilation, no way, no how.

So there you have it, a mostly pretty damn good comp with a few missteps. Limited to 300 copies, so get yours before they run out.
Artist: v01d
Title: Greeted As Liberators
Format: CD + Download
Label: Artoffact
“Greeted As Liberators” is Toronto-based v01d’s second album, after 2009’s “Burnt Upon Re-Entry”. Seven years has been v01d plenty of time to create something accomplished, polished, with very rich production- but potentially over that time, also slightly watered-down.

Though branded as industrial metal, this is an accessible album which respects pop music- think the harder side of Pop Will Eat Itself, Blue Stahli or Celldweller. The vocoded vocal sections on tracks like “All The Rage” are even Hyperbubble-esque. The cinematic flavours of “Veils Will Fall” and “Exit Strategy” could pass as a bit of Tom Halkenborg film score.

“Hoof To The Sky” has all the regular ingredients- heavy guitar loops with attitude and screaming two-note solos- yet you find yourself wondering, “what would happen if he had turned all this up to 10? Because right now it feels like he’s turned it up to 7.” The skills are all there clearly but it feels like the shackles have been left on. This is perhaps most true in the vocals- the arrangements lend themselves to heartfelt screams and full-on throat-wrecking passionate rock vocals, yet vocally it’s often understated, almost polite. “I question your commitment” is a lyric from “Exit Strategy”, and there’s a certain irony in that since that’s the strongest vocal on the album.

The gentler sections of “Abhor A Vacuum” and much of the closing track “The Sun Is Late” drift towards drone and shoegaze sounds, and it would have been equally interesting to hear an extended journey in that direction, but as it stands “Greeted As Liberators” unfortunately feels like it’s not quite enough of any one thing to really stand out.
Artist: Ab Intra
Title: Henosis I-V
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
The title of this release is the Greek term for unity and could be even considered as a single work in five parts where there's a single transforming process per track using parameters as timbre, intensity and frequency to show e.g., how a loop can evolve in a drone or individual lines can form a coherent musical whole.
"Henosis I" opens quietly this release and evolves quietly as a pulsating loop where small modifications on every iteration generate a sense of equilibrium. The thick masses of sound of "Henosis II" surround the listener and are used to cover the small details unfolding during the evolution of this track while "Henosis III" use subtler layers of sound and a more clear uses of noises. "Henosis IV" is a more focused effort on the same structure of "Henosis II" and "Henosis V" juxtaposes a drone and a loop with a sense of equilibrium just a step away to stillness.
This album is a release so focused on structure and equilibrium to be a little too difficult to listeners which are not fans of minimal music in his broadest sense but the others will enjoy the formal qualities of this release.
Artist: Slam (@)
Title: Machine Cut Noise
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Soma (@)
Rated: *****
Scottish techno label got out of my radar for a long time, due to the plenty of releases for new and old labels and artists that regularly saturates the grid, but I'm glad it traces a route by the new album (their sixth one) by Slam, the well-known duo consisting of Stuart McMillan and Orde Meikle, who founded the label as an offshoot of their intense activity as techno party organizers. Less "vaporous" but likewise obscure than their previous album "Reverse Proceed", "Machine Cut Noise" comes with the declaration about the primary source of inspiration by their forgers, who said it's going to explore "the everyday workings of what makes us human" and got mostly composed in and inspired by hotspots of mass transportation and transit such as airports, train stations, and hotels they visited during their frequent globetrotting. The "human" element got supposedly mirrored by moments where the sound seems to render the humanely (entirely justified) grave concern and rising fear of being just a gear of a large and seemingly chaotic mechanism. The rising digital brass and the piercing whisper over the first storm of mechanical beats in "Viginti Quinque", the ghostly kind of choirs grasped in the emptiness dug by square-shaped sequences and whirling electronic punches of "Ecclesiastic", the likewise ghostly entity (sounding like a dilution of the sound that precedes an announcement about some departing train in a station) smoothing the relentless step of "Evite", the sonic particles slowly flowing in the chaotic order of the rhythmical pattern in "Obstacle" are just some samples of such a bipolarity. This output is nothing revolutionary against some of their previous releases, but it could be considered a sort of maintenance task on the already stable tunnel joining Berlin and Detroit techno sonorities.
Artist: Antoine Chessex, Apartment House & Jérôme Noetinger
Title: Plastic Concrete / Accumulation
Format: CD
Label: Bocian Records
This pan-European collaboration, recorded live, has an almost traditional avantgarde feel to it, if that’s not a contradiction in terms. It follows a mould of loose, improvised and wilfully unpredictable experimental jazz and classical music that has existed for decades, and manages to be both classical and jazz in parts. Noetinger’s electronics bring additional modern digital surprises, but these are twists of lemon in an otherwise fairly familiar cup of tea.

After a spiky first five minutes, “Plastic Concrete” settles into suspended drones reminiscent of György Ligeti, with the cello and brass performances being pushed to their natural limits. The electronics return to the fore towards the end, with more use of what sounds like radio signals and everyday foley blended into something unrecognisable.

Recorded over a year apart, the Apartment House ensemble is a different line-up between the two pieces, with only the cellist in common. On the second and longer piece “Accumulation”, the brass and bass have gone, and the extra violins and a viola added give things a more familiar avantgarde-string-quartet-like sound. The super-slow glissandos and fluctuations and the wavering between chord and discord are hypnotic, treading a fine line between mesmeric and uncomfortable. The abrupt stabby staccatos make a brief return halfway through, before a staggered extended outro of arpeggios gradually descending in energy to an unexpectedly soporific close.

This is an unusual and enjoyable collection of two very cultured, semi-improvised pieces of music that’s “avant-garde” and “post-modern”, but in ways that resurface the old naive question, is it truly avant-garde if people have been doing this for decades?
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