Music Reviews

Artist: Remora
Title: Scraps & Scrapes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
When Silber Records, who often send EP’s that are only five minutes long in total, offer you an over-six-hours, 98-track compilation of leftovers and studio floor scrapings, from an artist whose twelve previous albums you’re not familiar with, do you dip into it and treat it like a sampler? Or do you listen to the whole collection in a single sitting and see if it can stand in its own right as a listening experience? I tried the latter, and six and a half hours later, have mixed but mostly positive feelings about it.

Remora is Brian John Mitchell’s solo project, blending guitar drones, feedback, effects, soundscapes and heavy atmospheric processing into an output that’s got a slightly familiar avantgarde feel to it. Sonically it’s not a revelation. Sometimes the slowly-evolving industrial textures are like a comforting yet dissonant bath, an opportunity to take a relaxing holiday mostly far away from structure or rhythm.

The decision to include what feels like every single leftover that could be found on tape or disc feels like an almost arrogant refusal to assess each piece’s merits, resulting in a mixed bag. Pieces like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and the excellent “Framb” are fully realised post-punk atmospheres, flirting on the outskirts of white noise in a slightly Resonance Association-like manner, easily deserving of expansion in their own right. “Slow Ghost” is a hypnotic mood that could have been taken on its own hour-long evolution.

Other tracks however are failed dead-end experiments that understandably didn’t earn their place in any of the previous ‘proper’ albums. Tracks like “Nemo” are harmless noodling, while tracks like “MB1” are cathartic messing-about-after-a-bad-day-at-the-office pieces- we’ve all done that and enjoyed slapping discordant sounds and painful distortion as a way of relieving tension, but most of us would rather delete the results than share them. Vocal snippets like the rather daft “Hangin’ Tough” (the weirdest New Kids On The Block cover you will ever hear- seriously) and a liberal smattering of fairly awful but mercifully short bedroom-style song recordings (among them “For The Love Of Ravens”, “Love Song”, “The Running Man”, and “Hope For Christmas”) frankly make you wish the collection was entirely instrumental.

Towards the end of the collection there are a range of much longer drone pieces, some of which are seemingly live in front of an audience, such as “The Heart That Kills” and “When The Blood Has Turned To Dust”. Four or five of these gathered together could easily have formed a solid hour-long drone album in their own right, and if you can be bothered to playlist them into a workable order, you can build your own tracklist with them. While I might not revisit the whole six-hours-plus collection in a hurry, I’d happy repeat-listen to an hour’s worth of this drone material.

Other oddities include “They Feed At Sunrise”, which feels like an exceptionally long intro to a prog rock concert, and the semi-synthetic Americana tones of “I Need New Pedals For Christmas”. “Headkick” sounds like it’s itching to break into EDM, but never quite starts, and “Dance Anthem 116” is the sound of somebody messing around with synthpop keyboard presets for a few minutes. “Improvised Tinkering” is a rather neat bit of sound design that, again, would have been worthy of a longer independent life.

With a bit of thoughtful curation “Scraps & Scrapes” could have been made into a seriously impressive three- or four-hour package (preferably an instrumental one!). As it is, its formlessness and slightly over-frequent dead ends and very rough-edged vocal ideas leave it feeling a bit underbaked. That being said, at time of writing “Scraps & Scrapes” is a ‘name your price’ offering on Bandcamp, so if you only choose to pay a price equivalent to a regular album, there’s easily enough quality material in here to make it a worthwhile listen.
Artist: Santa Muerte
Title: Cicatriz EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
On this short EP, the Santa Muerte duo and a different collaborator on each of the three tracks roll out three short slices of dystopian horror-dubstep.

The first two tracks segue so neatly together that they could almost be considered a single nine-minute-long work. “Void” (with WWWINGS) is a short slice of heavy industrial synth-dubstep with thumping kicks, synthetic scream FX and oceans of reverb. “Hollowed” (with Tomas Urquieta) is an angrier take on the same tone, juxtaposing explosive furious tribal percussive noises against squeaky semi-random arpeggio melodies.

Third track “Dangerous Scenarios” (with Rules adding both vocals and production) is an oddity, adding vocoded vocals that sound like a mediocre r&b track has been brutalised and glitched with glee. I’d like to compare it to Funkstörung’s take on pop music, but unfortunately it’s not quite up to that standard. It’s an ear-openingly unusual slice of anti-pop but not completely successful.

At under ten minutes in total it feels like a sampler, that you could play on a post-apocalyptic radio station broadcasting post-dance music out into barren wastelands.
Artist: Chamaeleon
Title: Evil is Good
Format: CD
Label: Insane Records (@)
Rated: *****
Chamaeleon is an Greek/Russian aggrotech/techno project now relocated to London, U.K. consisting of Alex - vocals and Azie - synths. 'Evil is Good' is their second album, their first - 'SicK|perVerTed,' was released on the Artificial Sun label in 2013. They were one of the better bands on the 'Terror Night Vol. 2: Sounds of the Dead Future' Insane Records compilation. I know you're probably thinking the CD cover of these guys looks like a fashion ad you might find in Gothic Beauty magazine, but hey, it's a look. I don't know the significance of the Asian scripts (and I couldn't tell you if they're Chinese, Japanese or Korean) but I guess they serve as decoration. Enough with the cover though, let's get to the music.

For the most part it's what you might expect from an aggrotech/techno combo- beat heavy dancefloor friendly hypnotic synthetics (mucho repetition) and (mostly) raspy vocals. I was never much good at trying to decipher the words in the rasp so lyrics in the CD booklet were helpful. After reading them though, I decided it really didn't matter anyway. Opening track "Penetration" is a well orchestrated number with porno samples as the only vocals- moaning and groaning. Title track - "Evil is Good" offers two kinds of vocals- the raspy Gollumish ones (by Alex) and clean vocals, presumably by Azie. I thought that was a nice touch. The song has a very hypnopop groove and might seem like the obvious choice for a club hit. "Outcasts" is a workhorse staple track with only the raspy vocals; nothing really special. "Kill Yourself Again and Again" features the same vocal motif as on the title track with the raspy vocals juxtaposed with the clean ones. I'm really liking this contrast. A few more songs in the aggrotech mode - "Deadend," "Taught to Hate," "Suicide," "Suppression,"and I'm noticing that the synthwork is not nearly as abrasive as some bands in this genre, in fact, it's kind of pretty in places. However, a certain sameness is beginning to become evident in the music. Track 9 - "Forbidden" is a real highlight though. With guest vocals (in a sort of duet with Alex's rasp) by Maria Xoniki of Aftereffect, a song in which her spectacular pipes steal the show. Now this is the REAL hit of the album. Don't know how they'd pull this off live without her (maybe prerecorded, but it wouldn't be the same) but that's not my problem. "Safe In The Dark" has mainly clean vocals, a nice change-up, and those vocals are pretty good. It takes it out of the aggrotech realm a bit (even though you can hear a few raspy vocals along with) but it's a good move in my estimation. Final track before the remixes - "Fall Apart" is a real stomper. As for the remixes, Amduscio's remix of "Suppression" was probably designed for pounding on the dancefloor but all it gave me was a pounding headache. On the other hand, C-Lekktor's remix of "Fall Apart" is right on the money for club fodder. I think it takes Chamaeleon in a direction they ought to follow, dispensing with the pretty hypno-riffs and providing an urgency that's lacking on much of the album.

In total, not a bad outing at all, but succumbs to a certain sameness on too many tracks. Still, there is enough variety in ways I've pointed out to make this better than your average cybergoth dancefloor fodder.
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.
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