Music Reviews

Artist: Tonikom (@)
Title: Found and Lost
Format: CD
Label: Hymen Records (@)
Rated: *****
As some may know, Tonikom is the project moniker of New York City based electronic music artist Rachel Maloney, and 'Found and Lost' is her most recent release since 2009's 'The Sniper's Veil' also on Hymen Records. Apparently the 2009 European tour for that album knocked the wind out of her creative sails for a while, but there's no question she got it back for 'Found and Lost' released in September of 2012. Yeah, I know, this review comes very late, nearly a year after the album came out but we're mega-backlogged here and we get to 'em as soon as we can; to put it in the faux-Latin ' 'beta laten evah'.

On first listen I didn't much care for this album at all, so I put it away for and worked on other reviews. Coming back to it though after a while with fresh ears and a new perspective, I found myself hearing the album in a whole new light. Another thing I noticed is that the CD contains a Haujobb remix (how on earth did I miss that??) I think the reason I didn't care for it much the first time was that it seemed scattershot and too diverse. 'Found and Lost' is really hard to pin down. There are all sorts of things going on here, with the music staying in no one (or two, or three, or even four) particular electronic music genre.

For the opener, 'Across its glass surface,' you've got percolating electronics, syncopated tap-dancing percussion, and a cute little melody with icy background ambience. Break-beating drum programming with gated and effected snare and wild synth electronics is the modus operandi of 'Along the rail,' but even that's not a complete description. 'Stumble' is a slower number that changes tempo and time signature within the framework of the rhythm track while spacey streaking synth pads hold down the ambience. 'Detector' opens with old-school modulated electronic oscillations, ethereal synth piano (and other supporting synth-work) before it hits its percussive stride with some snazzy breakbeat programming and heavily processed drum track. This track in particular is reminiscent of artists from the Tympanik Audio label. 'Eternal Internal' sounds like what you might get if you threw Kraftwerk, Knife Party, Delerium and Massive Attack into a blender ' simple melody, wobbling dub-steppy bass, ethereal chorus and a lot of moodiness. 'Hope' harkens back to early (but not too) early Kraftwerk for the simple melody line and electronics but the percussion is straight-ahead drumkit. Rhythm-wise it has a clockwork feel. 'Interlude' is a mish-mosh of all sorts of electronic weirdness and sonic effluvia in the beginning, but becomes dark, dense and lower frequency dwelling by the middle. An echoed brief spoken word sample shakes you out of your complacency toward the end.

'Orbit' is one of two pieces that employs a (broken, beat-up) piano Rachel found in the greenroom of a club in Rostock, Germany on the 2009 European tour. It sets the mood with its wistful melody. 'Lost to the Flames' reminded me somewhat of Haujobb once it got going, in form, progression and style. 'Insense' (redux) once again reminds me of instrumental Delerium, more for its feel and pacing than anything else. 'This is what she felt' is the other track that uses that Rostock club broken piano but not until the middle where it changes the entire mood of the piece from a pleasantly melodic mid-tempo piece with full rhythm to something more melancholy sans rhythm.

I have no basis of comparison for Angina P's remix of '29 degrees' (32 degree remix) not having heard the original, but it's rather rapid percussion programming (approximately 172 BPM) with wailing, moaning, slow pitch-shifting synth in the background, some brief sampled (female) dialogue phrases and a subtle bass and chord progression. It was okay, but nothing thrilling. Haujobb's remix of 'Detector' is a radical departure from the original turning it trance-techno with a pulsing fast sequenced synth pattern, a slower repetitive sequenced synth pattern and other electronic sounds out of the Haujobb tool box. The melodic theme is altered in both melody and instrument, from piano (in the original) to string synth. Also, the rhythm is accented with TR-808 cowbell, a sound I don't particularly care for. Although I liked some sonic elements of the remix, I liked the original better. (Sorry Mr. Myer.) Overall though, 'Found and Lost' is an interesting addition to Tonikom's oeuvre despite its unevenness, and IDM enthusiasts are sure to find worthy material here.
Artist: Controlled Collapse (@)
Title: Babel
Format: CD
Label: Machineries / Alchera Visions (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
I promised to start this review as follows: once more a review I should have written months before (cheers kr-lik!). Poland's most prominent Electro/Industrial project Controlled Collapse returns with this all new studio album and likes to invite us to their vision of 'Babel'. It's a musically journey through cleverly arranged EBM/Electro tunes, which are luckily far away from the early beginnings of this Polish talent. Once started as Poland's answer on Suicide Commando, it was in the early years (2003 - 2007) Johan van Roy himself taking care of this project and signed it for his NTP label under the Dependent wing. Controlled Collapse got established in 2003 by the young Electro-musician Wojciech Krol (a.k.a. kr-lik) as a solo-project, but nowadays he receives support from his brother Piotr as well as the two live-musicians Tomasz Krawiec (keys) and Paulina Lewek (drums). Somehow it is a pity for kr-lik to get reduced on the Harsh EBM/Hellectro formula, because he has already proven with the self-released follow-up album 'Things Come To Pass' in 2010, that he is able to develop regarding arrangements and compositions. Same counts for this new album, 'Babel' has several nice examples to offer. The opener 'Pain' with its edgy guitar riff inserts, the vocoderized vocals of kr-lik, and a typically US-Industrial related kick-and-snare-work marks a decent shaking-up tune for all those expecting the usual harsh introduction. The mid-tempo, very old-school-EBM-like track 'Numb' convinces with a deep-synthesizer badass-bass line (ha-ha), which reminds me on some earlier Croc Shop tunes ('Beneath'/ 'Metalwerks'-era). 'Change The World' counts rather to the more melodic pieces on here, while the speedy 'Dzien Sadu' with some biting guitar drops represents the only one tune with lyrics in kr-lik's mother language Polish. 'Fragment of Time' features a dual vocal performance Aleksandra Burska and it represents again the more catchy side of Controlled Collapse. Another favorite is 'Cube' with its tricky percussion elements asides the normal kick-and-snare-work. Also the cold, Dark Electro-like track 'Alone' with its sinister synthesizer pads as well as kr-lik's impressive vocoder fx-manipulations on his vocals should leave the listener impressed. Finally there's to mention 'My Fault' as being the one and only tune acting a bit like a blast of the past with some distortion fx-elements on the vocals, rhythms and a generally harsher EBM outfit. All in all is this new album not the soundtrack to discover new shores for the Electro/Industrial genre. It also won't win any imaginary 'produce-the-hardest-album-around' contest. But it generally services all needs and expectations you would have on a solid, crafty and still modern sounding produced EBM album. A bit more than this, because kr-lik provides diversity and shows different possible directions in which he and his fine project could develop. 'Babel' isn't definitely the end of the rope, so keep it on!
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Artist: tEaR!doWn (@)
Title: Clouds Cover The Sun
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Electro Aggression Records (@)
Rated: *****
Third stroke for Electro Aggression Records brings us this DCD set of a young German/Swiss duo. tEaR!doWn consists of the German Electronica musician Charly and his prominent partner, the Swiss vocalist Oliver Spring. Oliver has already made himself a good name in the international scene as being the vocalist of Sleepwalk for more than 15 years until his engagement ended surprisingly in 2007. tEaR!doWn has been established earlier in 2004 and the first recordings have been mainly instrumental tunes. In 2007 Oliver met Charly and they decided to add Oliver's vocals to the compositions. A first CDR entitled 'Mind!Kick' was the result and since these days they are composing together on new tEar!doWn recordings. Musically this duo works too in the field of authentic Dark Electro music, but differently than their label comrades. If it was obvious to name the inspiring quells of Object, Terminal State, and Pyrroline with Puppy, FLA, or Mentallo & The Fixer, the things are more difficult to figure out with tEaR!doWn. I am equally surprised because this duo stands for a Dark Electro sound with typical European influences of the mid-90s during the heydays of labels like Celtic Circle Productions, Cyberware, Hypnobeat or Gothic Art Records. Let's pick up names like Splatter Squall, Page 12, Fuze Box Machine and - I need to name them - Sleepwalk, to get an idea how the music of tEaR!doWn sounds. It's also obviously that this album deserves much more names to get compared with, but especially the comparison with Sleepwalk amazes, because Charly hasn't had further relations to them until Oliver joint his project. This album offers musically a wide spectrum and it is filled with lots of hidden effect-elements in its Electronica music. Their best ability is surely their intention to vary the moods of each single track. 'Sign From Above' is your typical floor-compatible smasher for some body movement, while the scenario changes completely with the only 90 bpm slowly tune 'Lost' with its opulent, flute-like synthesizer pads. 'Disploded Visions', a collaboration track with Nine Seconds, which is a project by Thomas Kowalzik (NoComment) surprises with smooth, nearly Electro-Pop-like structures. 'This Cold Room' marks their return to the hard and shattering EBM formula, while 'Burnt By The Sun' with its slow tempo and some well-known, sinister 'Babylon 5' voice-samples falls again into a completely different mood. So it turns out on all 14 tracks of the main album: Just if you think you have identified a typical signature of their sound, they come up with some completely different content.
The second CD entitled 'Torn Down & Reconstructed' out of this opulent DCD set stands for 14 track remix companion album and got compiled by the E.A.R. label manager himself, Nader Moumneh a.k.a. 'Il Grandre Padre Della Vecchia Scuola Elettronica'. Nader could once again hire a lot of promising projects of the old-school league and some of the remix works are standing itself for own and authentic sounding interpretations of the tEaR!doWn track. Seriously, to have names like Jihad, Amnistia, MC1R, Brain Leisure, Second Disease, or Mr. Al of Sleepwalk in the line-up to receive remix contributions, can make an Electronica-musician proud of. The results of their work, as well as for the further contributors (Soillodge, Framework, Pyrroline, Terminal State, Synaptic Defect, To Avoid, One Eye Wanders, and Red+Test) are breathtaking and you as being the listener can be assured to get quality interpretations. Since the music of tEaR!doWn and their composing style personifies a special era of EBM/Dark Electro music with typical European roots, they may do not fit with everybody's tastes. To me their album offers a lot of pearls from which some of them can be only discovered after several more spins than usual. The most diverse sounding album of the E.A.R. label so far.
Artist: Earth Leakage Trip (@)
Title: Authorised Leakage
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: NexGen
Rated: *****
I could introduce "Time For Disclosure", the introductive track of this new release by EDM pioneers and Downbeat surfers Earth Leakage Trip by means of the words of a notorious vocal sample they grabbed from "Happy Monsters - An Adventure in the Land of Ooog" childplay and inserted in their famous track "No Idea", released by legendary Moving Shadow in 1991: the doors are where the windows should be. You can believe what the supposed revelations about extra-terrestrial beings and related matters Dreddmarc toasts about or you can ignore them so that you can quietly enjoy your refreshing toothpaste or bottled water without caring about fluorides and their effect on neural system or follow your favorite newscast and believe that smiling news anchor is telling you the truth, but the conceptual framework ELT which embraces the omnium-gatherum many followers of conspiracy theories and some possible variations of the theme daily chews feeds an interesting stylistical upgrade, which sounds quite far from some chilling and somewhat easylistening downbeat Tony Lobue and Neil Sanford made. On this EP, they melt what "humans called Dubstep" and sci-fi accurate sonorities, which cannot but sound somehow disquieting, dusky and intriguing due to the above-mentioned premises: they combined unearthly exhalations with skyrocketing dubstep devices on "Space People", gargles and dim adumbrations on "Reptile" - evoking old and new hearsay about reptialians or maybe their supposed noisy digestion -, overstretched sinister frequencies, heavy clunks and other sonic gashes on "Hyperdimension", which got inspired by the reports of strange loud eerie siren-like noises being heard all over the world (alien invasion or just tinnitus?). This bunch of amazing stylistical variations could let you surmise the most persuading secret file ELT disclosed lies in the "augmented dubstep" they roll on this good release. If they managed to awake or soothe your consciousness in the bargain, that's a far cry from a listening experience, but...beware of my presumed skepticism! I could be a reptilian!
Artist: Evestus (@)
Title: No God
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Apparently no stranger to Chain D. L. K., Estonian Electro-Industrial rock group Evestus (named after leader, singer, composer Ott Evestus) explodes into 2013 with their 'No God' EP released at the tail-end of 2012. (The wheels turn slowly here at Chain D.L.K.) On this release Evestrus (besides Ott) is HK on keyboards, Jan on Guitar and Tanya on drums, surely the live lineup. In the photo on the inside of the CD digipak the guys look suitably menacing and Tanya in her mini-skirted sailor outfit looks beautiful but deadly. The EP is 5 tracks ' 'Dirty,' 'Voices,' 'The Fall,' 'No God,' and 'Sleep Forever.' (Actually on my copy I got additional radio edits for all of the above tracks, but they didn't sound a whole lot different to me'¦some of the 'fucks' removed, whatever.)

Evestus has been described as sounding like a combination of Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy, (or a fight between Marilyn Manson and The Prodigy) and while that isn't too far off base I wouldn't say that sums up their music. 'Dirty' is well, pretty dirty in terms of synth sound, overdriven guitar and processing on the vocals. It's a very catchy track, with just the right amount of everything- squinky synth, ballsy guitar, good drum programming, punchy bass and nasty vocals. Straight and to the point. In short, a minor hit. 'Voices' is where the Nine Inch Nails comparisons may come in, but that's vintage NIN, not Reznor's latest, where he seems less angry and more spooked. Money can do that to you. It's more of a stylistic thing in the arrangement. It's really a great track; probably the best on the EP, and very memorable. With a few exceptions (the drum programming, string arrangement, some of the synth work) I didn't care much for 'The Fall'. Rap, even industrial rap doesn't do it for me. Title track 'No God' may actually have you believing 'THERE IS NO GODDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!' when Evestus screams it in your ears. The verse is kind of spoken meandering in the beginning backed by a mystery piano riff, but when it's chorus time Evestus belts it out. Nice rock-out section too. I'm sure that goes over well live. More mystery piano in 'Sleep Forever,' a kind of down and brooding track with Reznor-style whispered vocals and gated snare drum pushed back in the mix until ¾ the way through when the chorus (also the outro) jumps to life, albeit briefly. It was okay.

Some may argue that the music is derivative but what's not derivative in some way or other? Overly derivative? No, just using some of the most effective techniques to make the music exciting and engaging. Hey, Evestus is a ROCK BAND. An electro-industrial-metal rock band, but a rock band nevertheless. Why not use every trick in the book (and a few that aren't) to make yourself stand out from the crowd. As proven on this EP, Evestus have already got a leg up on a lot of American outfits in their genre. There are a lot of people who are going to like this (exempting the Christian Right) once they hear it, but I feel Evestus's best work is yet to come.
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