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Artist: The Blank Vrs
Title: The Idiots And The Envious
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Pale Music International! (@)
Rated: *****
Originally from Stockholm, Sweden and currently based in Berlin, Germany, Kalle Fagerberg is the mastermind behind The Blank VRS. Active since 2010 or so, he did a couple of releases (a tape for Color Triangle Recordings and a digital self produced release) before making his first CD EP "The Idiots And The Envious" for Pale Music. Based on a piece of poetry by John Wilmotworks, the EP contains six tracks which experiments with synths, electronics, guitars and melody. Listening to tracks like "Pigeon Song (for Sparrow)" and the following "Polygraph", I think about a raw mix of Placebo, early Gene Loves Jezebel (check the opening "Fig Head") and early Cindytalk. The sound is based on guitar riffs, synth melodic distortions, 4/4 upbeat drum machine beats and new wave vocals. Already having played a lot in Europe, The Blank VRS is now looking west and plans a NorthAmerica/Canada Tour in early 2014 and as many shows in Europe as possible. You can check the whole EP at this link http://theblankvrs.bandcamp.com/album/the-idiots-and-the-envious
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The Return
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: BIOS Recordings
Rated: *****
Before the barrage of beats and the warm blast of wind of the track which introduces this compilation, "Sirocco" by Raw Q and Thomas Amaning, who plays host, the first atmospheric seconds seem to evoke the arcane words of the magic formula by a necromancer who can resuscite dead and such an introduction for the official and well-appreciated return on the stage by Amaning's German dnb label Bios Recordings after five years of silence sounds right and proper. Bios comes back to fertilize the acquainted stylistical grounds where airy and liquid sonorities blend into quick-paced breaks and loops, an explosive concoction which is going to accelerate body movements and spin heads towards unexpected mental destinations or supposedly inside some hidden level of Wipe Out whose finish line got placed over the clouds by means of many interesting variations of the above-mentioned dynamics: the oriental scents of Indian summers of tracks like "Heaven Sent" by Simplification, Sunny Crimea and Scott Allen and the awesome "Bangra Nights" by another incendiary trio made up of Submatic, Dan-E and S.Finesse, the overshadowing popping of darker tunes such as Survey's "Chatter" - one of the tracks on the top of my personal liking rank -, Generic's "Get Away" and the spooky "Below The Down" by NotioN, the twinkling sub-bass rotations of "Nomad" by Savage Rehab and Physics, the holistic hyper-reality of "Love" by Locksmith, the balearic reverie of "Moonlight Piano" by NajeemS, the daydreaming junglism of "Blue Velvet" by Stereotype, the radiophonic hooks of "All Because Of Me" by Bassface Sascha, whose rubber bumps, pulsating whooshes and female singing could resemble Tali's style, the soulful protease of "All Wrong" by Random Movement and the flipping guitar which entwines on rolling beats of the final "Soul Prints" by Furney and Locksmith. A cruise on deeply emotional waves and top-notch sounds.
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Artist: Bitcrush (@)
Title: Collapse
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Anybody remember Gridlock? I do ( or did) ' from their first couple of releases back into the mid-to-late 90's. As I recall they were a competent electro-industrial band at the time, and very much 'of the time'. Mike Cadoo was ½ the band along with founder Mike Wells. I didn't follow Gridlock in the 21st century so I don't know the direction their music took prior to their dissolution in 2005. I imagine it wasn't much like Cadoo's Bitcrush though. The best way to describe Bitcrush is shoegazer-ambient with a metal edge. Of course, shoegaze implies slow, shimmery guitar, which of course Bitcrush has, but also an underpinning of sludgy MBV style distoro-guitar. Vocals (where they occur) are minimal and somewhat submerged. There are only 5 tracks on the 49 minutes of 'Collapse' and 3 are over 10 minutes long with others clocking in at nearly six minutes and about 9 ½ minutes. 'The Weight (Of a Future Mutation)' which begins the album has a somewhat conventionally song-like in structure after the extended intro. It's an achingly beautiful as well as melancholy piece. And yes, it sounds like a full band complete with keys, bass and drums. Following track 'To Collapse Into' (the longest on the album) has a kind of a doom metal sound in its sludgy density , but that's only the first half. The second half sounds a lot prettier. The sister track to 'To Collapse Into' is 'To Collapse Out Of' and is the shortest one. Even though it maintains the rhythm section it is mostly melodically ambient. With a title like 'All At Once It Was Erased' you might expect silence for the duration of the track but no, not here. After the extended intro (the tracks are full of extended intros and outros) this sounds like the closest thing to a pop song (the vocals are back), depending on what your definition of 'pop' is. Still, it is highly unlikey you'll ever hear this on conventional radio, unless you run across an adventurous college radio program. Pity, but who listens to conventional radio anymore? ''¦For A Void' begins placidly enough in an easygoing shoegaze rock band mode but keeps building and building with layers and layers of sound and intensity while the progression becomes more defined and heavier, but before it's over the track mellows out into shimmering effervesence. Powerful stuff. For me, I would have preferred more tracks, and more track with vocals. No doubt Cadoo can deliver, it's just a question of what he feels like delivering. Still, it's a pretty cool disc, and worth getting. Cadoo also happens to run the n5MD label. I just wonder, where does he find the time?
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Artist: Sonic Area (@)
Title: Music for Ghosts
Format: CD
Label: Ant-Zen (@)
Rated: *****
Sonic Area is the project name of electronic-industrial music artist Arnaud Coëffic (aka Arco trauma) from France. Sonic Area has been active since 1997-98 with a number of previous releases I haven't been exposed to, mostly on the Audiotrauma label. (This one is a joint Ant-Zen and Audiotrauma release.) 'Music for Ghosts' isn't just music for any old ghosts, it is music for certain types of ghosts, those that seem to have some style and creativity, if the music (or the cover) is any indication. Beginning with a brief series of sound effects, the album moves quickly into a slow, unworldly theme, light and mysterious at first, then heavy and ominous as it moves along. The listener is then presented with some dialogue about spirit manifestation taken from the final Houdini séance.

'The Living Carousel' is demented calliope music dredged up from some long decayed and abandoned amusement park with touches of Danny Elfman fairy dust. 'The Infernal Clockwork' screams STEAMPUNK, but yet something more. 'The Endless Staircase' has a stuttering beat and melody and no matter how high you climb, you never reach the top, always back where you began. Real or illusion? Who can say? 'Eureka' has maniacal cartoony orchestration and we're back in Elfman territory again, maybe scoring for some Tim Burton animation. That's 5:37 of crazy intensity! After a brief interlude ('Dead Muse') that sounds like an old phonograph recording, the listener is thrust into the thick of the spirit world with 'Inframonde' ' lots of wordless voice choir, sequenced electronics and orchestral backing. Very dramatic. If you thought that was fun, just wait until 'The Haunted Hall Motel Ballade' which follows ' a stately, ghostly march, Ennio Morricone style!

More heavenly (or ghostly) choir with grand orchestration follows on the brief 'Those Eternal Seconds,' leading into 'The Magic Storyteller,' a pastiche of card-shuffling, disembodies strange voices, snake-charmer music, orchestral stabs and accents, broken themes, percussion and more over relentless sequencer loop. The basis for 'Once More into the Breach Dear Friends' is an unconventional concertina sequence built upon by strong percussion, bass and orchestration, and eventually, those ghostly voices. It sounds a lot heavier and more industrial than you'd imagine, yet there is a melodic theme woven throughout. 'Middle Night Ballet' could be some ghost plunking out some lost tune on the old piano in a cobweb filled room ending with (wood) creaking and echoes of a long gone vocalist and orchestra down the hall. Leading into final track 'Funeral March for an Empire' are vocoder vocal, a transmission from the spirit world. The 'Funeral March' itself although nicely done with harpsichord, strings, bass, percussion, and more elaborate orchestration and voices toward the end, was not as compelling as I'd hoped. It ends with a dialogue sample from 'The Twilight Zone' ('Walking Distance,' 1959).

There are parts of 'Music For Ghosts' that are absolutely stellar, and parts that are just okay, but taken as a whole (as it should be), this is one very engaging work. Not just for Halloween, but it wouldn't be out of place on October 31st.
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Artist: Mr. Kitty (@)
Title: Life
Format: CD
Label: Engraved Ritual (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
I have nothing against people loving cats. Actually I like cats too. But regarding Forrest Carney, the man (cat?) behind Mr. Kitty, I have the impression that he may tends to overtax his dedication if you check with his photo works in bio and web resources. I also do not see too many common things with cats related to his smooth, surprisingly catchy produced Synthpop/Electronica music generally, but however, what finally counts is his music itself. And here it starts with all further surprises surrounding this release. First to mention is the publishing label: Engraved Ritual is best known to be a full-scale resource releasing Harsh EBM / Hellectro music (just remember Bestias De Asalto or Say Just Words...) - this all new release by this Dallas-based Electronica-musician differs to anything you've discovered of this label so far. Second surprise is Mr. Kitty himself - although 'Life' stands for his fourth full-length already, I have to admit, that his music as well as his project is new and undiscovered so far to me. His further, previous releases are all available to the "Name your price"-procedure via his Bandcamp web resource - what a good chance to pick up nearly the complete discography of Mr. Kitty. But back to "Life" and its content. 15 tracks in all filled with a darker minded of form of Synthpop / New Wave music, which draws pretty much relations to classic, renowned music-projects like O.M.D., Heaven 17, Human League and of course the almighty influencing Depeche Mode for the Synthpop-related side of the project, but also The Cure or Joy Division as being the quells of the rather Post-Punk / New Wave-related outfit of Mr. Kitty. For a few critics surely another unnecessary reanimation of the 80s inspired nostalgia, but it needs to by said, that Forrest proves on all tracks his compositional skills and he services surely pretty well the needs of the elders of us. Of course his chosen sound outfit fits pretty much in this direction. Synthpop-/80s-nostalgic fans will be completely satisfied with such smooth tunes like the starter 'Insects', 'Heaven', or 'Scars'. Personally I enjoyed the darker sounding 'Sacrifice' and the usage of some well worked out vocoder effects on the vocals as being the best and most valuable point. Also the last track, 'Father' with its heart-felting content and the intention to provide a track with an alternative rhythm foundation has to be pointed out. This album brings back a lot of remembrances of the good old past and Mr. Kitty offers excellence to produce in this style. It is also an ideal soundtrack for the younger generation to pick up a glimpse of the colorful, artistical variety this era had to offer.

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