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Artist: Horror Vacui
Title: In Darkness You Will Feel Alright
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records
Rated: *****
Horror Vacui are a band who formed recently in Bologna, Italy. The band members are coming from the crust/hardcore scene (see the bands Kontatto, Campus Sterminii and Sumo) and fascinated by 80s goth and punk rock, decided to "release the bats" and to play mixing elements of Sisters of Mercy, Lords of the New Church and a bit of Misfits, I'd say. Their first album "In Darkness You Will Feel Alright" has just been co-produced by Avant! and band's own Legion of the Dead (sublabel of Agipunk). Opening with the classic "Rosemary's Baby" theme, the album starts off with "Black Rivers" a powerful 4/4 track with tribal drums, strong guitar riffs and bouncing flanger bass guitar lines just to keep on going on a similar track until the end of the album. Personally I've nenver been a fan of goth aesthetic and I think that it's really difficult for a nowaday's band to succeed into re-defining a genre which is so rooted to a specific period and I don't see it possible to revive something like the Batcave scene or so. Horror Vacui, to me, sound powerful and melodic but I don't find them catchy. For sure it's my fault and it's possible that I'm missing something but to my ears their sound isn't fresh. Since it's only a question of taste, you can make your own opinion by checking their album at the label's Bandcamp page at http://avantrecords.bandcamp.com/album/horror-vacui-in-darkness-you-will-feel-alright-lp
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Artist: Kangding Ray (@)
Title: The Pentaki Slopes
Format: 12"
Label: Raster-Noton (@)
Distributor: Forced Exposure
Rated: *****
Carsten Nicolai's label Raster-Noton ends 2012 with a bang by means of David Letellier aka Kangding Ray, one of the most interesting scions from Berlin electronic music garden. In spite of the temporary restraint of the experimental vein he let palpitate on his previous releases, with the exception of the track on the ridge, "Plateau (A Single Source Of Truth)", which vaguely retraces the subtly ethereal haziness of "OR", and its temporal conciceness, "The Pentaki Slopes" could be properly considered as a mini-album due to its structure and conceptual framework. Named after the fabled Pentaki mountain, the fictional cypher of the releases focuses on its imaginary climbing: according to the tale, the troublesome hike from northern slope gets rewarded by the reaching of a place called the "single source of truth", all-desired destination for lonely sould and spiritual gurus, which cannot be reached by way of the most luxuriant southern slope, which represents the illusory path. Such an allegorical adventure looks partially mirrored by the tracks of the release: while the initial "North" sounds abrasive, steep, hypnotical and somewhat vertiginous and the following above-mentioned "Plateau (A Single Source Of Truth)", which has been blended seamless, sounds fuggier and somewhat mysterious, the precise 4/4 cuts, the suffocated bumps and the choo-choo-like electromechanical movement on "South" could let the listener imagine an endless train trip which stops on lower and lower altitudes even if their traveller made it to reach the summit.
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Artist: Laurel Halo (@)
Title: Sunlight on the Faded
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
Rated: *****
After the critically acclaimed Quarentine, American sound-artist Ina Cube aka Laurel Halo manages to boggle listener's by means of this little lovely plaything which seems to link the above-mentioned album with her previous repertory and a palette of sounds, which seems to bridge the gap between old-fashioned British chilling trance of the second half of 90ies (I could mention System 7, Weatherhall's Slab, Mark Pritchard's Reload or some stuff by Kirsty Hawkshaw and Hartnoll Brothers) and contemporary declensions of garage house, which some reviewers dubbed post-dubstep, a sonic synthesis which has been marvelously rendered on "Sunlight on the Faded", whose lyrics could sometimes sound like a caption of her sound. The computational process of such an emotional sonic translation starts with the jangling of digital bo-peeps and procedes by wobbly low-pitched burbling, refreshing pads, loops of airy percussive bubbles and sonic entities which look like mirroring sudden blossoming as if they were unforeseen memory glitches of rewarming past feelings so that it seems to resound Laurel Halo's repeated words "Only the best memories stay/ I just want those on loop forever". There's also a bright dub version on B-side with no lyrics, whose light and shade dynamics implement a surefire uplifter.
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Artist: Fazio (@)
Title: Élégie
Format: CD
Label: Faith Strange Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
I would have thought previous encounters with Mike Fazio's Faith Strange projects, A Guide For Reason and orchestramaxfieldparrish would have prepared me for 'Ãlégie' and I suppose in some way they did. But with Fazio's music, you learn to expect the unexpected. The CD consists of only three tracks ' 'Il Sognatore à Ancora Addormentato' (Behold, This Dreamer Cometh) 19:08; 'Dopo Tre Mesi, Tutto è Lo Stesso, Eccetto Un Piccolo Regalo, Quando Arriva L'inverno, Più Disappunti à Dispiacere' (Petey's Song) 8:08; 'Mélodia Per Una Memoria' (Faded Now And Half Remembered) 19:36. The first track consists of lines from Matthew Arnold's (1822-1888) poem, 'Longing,' with a musical backdrop of crystalline atmospheric guitar. The vocal recitation comes courtesy of Clementina Di Ciccolini while Fazio obviously supplies the nebulous atmospherics. I assume that Clementina's voice has been altered to reflect both the male and female perspective, 'Come to me in my dreams, and then By day I shall be well again! For so the night will more than pay, The hopeless longing of the day' (male) and 'Run away, run away with me, run away with me my love, for you are my one true love. Let's go where we can be that way forever'¦forever' (female). I'm not sure where the female part comes from; it isn't Arnold's 'Longing' poem, and sounds a bit Hallmark greeting-cardish. Plainly though, this is all a bit pretentious. Imagine Robin Guthrie setting his guitar atmospherics to love poems by Byron, Keats or Shelley. I'm sure a lot of people would buy it, but I doubt I would. I can't say Fazio's concept isn't well-executed; it's just a bit too arty for me.

Track 2, 'Petey's Song' (I'm not repeating the lengthy Italian name) is primarily a piano piece with some atmospherics. While the composition is not without interest, the execution is heavy-handed and somewhat jarring. Harold Budd it definitely is not. The piano tonality sounds kind of harsh, which doesn't help. Track 3, 'Faded Now And Half Remembered,' has the best abstract ambient atmospherics of the three, and I didn't much mind when Enrico Caruso's operatic tenor voice briefly drifted in and out a few times as it seemed fitting in a ghostly sort of way.

As far as art projects go, 'Ãlégie' has all the hallmarks, right down to the elaborate packaging- a limited, edition of 200 in a matte finished digipak, handmade booklet (signed by Fazio in gold ink) & vellum wrap; recorded and mastered in 96K / 24 bit audiophile audio CD. If you're going to go the 'art for art's sake' route, you might as well pull out all the stops, and Mike Fazio does that with aplomb to realize his vision. Whether this will resonate with you or not may depend on your capacity for lofty musical conceptualism.
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Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: Remixen: 20 years of Hardcore
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Industrial Strength Records (@)
Distributor: More-Music.com
Rated: *****
Industrial Strength Records was the world's first Hardcore Techno label. Founded by New York native Lenny Dee in 1991, and he still heads the label. At its inception, Hardcore Techno was the fastest, most abrasive form of electronic dance music and ended up spawning a lot of hybrid genre offshoots. Often sounding like a stuttering synth & sample machine gun paired with a piledriver on meth, there is so much frenetic, manic energy in the music, it sometimes comes off as cartoonish, for surely no human being could keep up with this on the dance floor'¦but wait, not really true, because I've seen these ultra-rivetheads take over a dancefloor like a swarm of locusts when an adventurous DJ spun some of this stuff. Hardcore Techno, Gabber, and related styles are by far not my favorite genres of electronic music, but I'm game. What the hell, lay it on me!

The album is called 'Remixen' for a reason: most tracks are remixes. As to how the remixes might compare to the originals, I have no clue; I've never heard the originals. Unless you're a real genre purist though, it shouldn't much matter as these remixes certainly get the point across and probably add some spice to the tracks as well. As for tracks by the artists, Lenny Dee has 5 (one with DJ Gizmo), ISR has 3, English Muffin has 2, Tymon gets 2, Temper Tantrum 2, DJ Skinhead 2, and the rest (Marc Arcadipane, Stormtrooper, Wavelan, Disciples of Annihilation, Strychnine, UVC, Nasenbluten, Manga Corps, Satronica, Mindcandy, Jappo & Lancinhouse, Delta 9, FUHD, and Dirty Fingers Licked) have one each.

One of the hardest most brutal tracks on the album comes courtesy of DJ Skinhead - 'Extreme Terror' (Neophyte Mix). But if it's speedcore you're looking for check out the Akira Mix of DOA's 'Wanna Be a Gangster'. While Strychnine and UVC is really just Sal Mineo from DOA, Wavelan is Carl Carinci & Tony DiLorenzo, the other guys from DOA. A good part of the first CD is dominated by them as their boot-prints are all over the ISR Live tracks (mostly mash-ups), and if you don't like it, I guess that's too fucking bad. Regardless of the remixes, it still sounds rather old-school.

Lenny Dee charges right out of the gate on CD2 setting the pace with 'Forgotten Moments' (Ophidian Rx Re-edit) and things get more interesting at this point. You're still going to get bludgeoned, but there's a good deal more going on and some nice pacing in the process. Maybe it's just me, but I felt that the tracks on CD2 seemed a bit more creative and less old-school than the first one overall, with less speedcore elements. Not to say that some of the tracks didn't get tiresome quick; some certainly did, such as Lenny Dee's "Tranzformer" (Attic & Acesome Remix), but in Mr. Dee's defense, his other tracks on this CD were pretty cool. A lot of the hip-hop elements used in some of the tracks weren't exactly my cup of tea, especially evident on tracks like FUHD's 'Koncrete Jungle' (FUHD Re-edit), and Dirty Fingers Licked's "Sex Fiends" (Lenny Dee Mix) just sounds like a bad hardcore punk band.

Overall it will be a testimonial to your stamina if you can make it through both CDs in one sitting (I did, multiple times, and that has to count for something), but maybe a little at a time goes a long way. Some DJ's might find these tracks useful for shaking things up a bit, but like chile peppers in a spicy recipe, a little can go a long way. In case you're interested, the album is also available on vinyl (3 records) and digital download with bonus tracks. I can't say 'Remixen: 20 years of Hardcore' is the be-all and end-all of hardcore techno, but it is quite relentless, and has enough creativity (for this genre anyway) to keep things interesting in spite of some tedious moments.
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