Music Reviews

Artist: Ben Chatwin
Title: Altered Signals
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Village Green Recordings
After last year’s excellent original album “Stoccato Signals” and its companion/rework “Drone Signals”, the release of remix album “Altered Signals” could be accused of over-milking the source material. Such suggestions are quickly put to bed once you start listening though, because far from squeezing the last life from the ideas, this is an example of remix compilations at their best- taking excellent source material, sharing it around carefully selected and like-minded individuals who breathe new ideas into it, and curating it into 49 minutes of supremely high quality cinematic electronica.

Sevendeaths’ remix of “Castle” opens proceedings and gives shades of synthwave which are perhaps a slight mis-sell to an album which goes deeper and more atmospheric and doesn’t maintain the retro synth sound.

Visionist’s remix of “Fossils” or From The Mouth Of The Sun’s “Substrates” exemplify the album better- bringing the acoustic string and piano elements more to the fore in looser, more laidback environments that wear their hearts on their sleeves. The electronic elements are frequently just decorative icing, but worked sympathetically in.

Ital Tek’s take on “Silver Pit” is absolutely esquisite, revelling in Chatwin’s string sounds and playing them confidently alongside a piercing and dominating synth bass for a layout that’s unorthodox but captivating. Steve Hauschildt’s version of “Helix” with its rubbery speed shifting squeaks, and Konx-om-Pax’s “Claws” with its slow dubby synth stabs, are both a little reminiscent of some of the Orb’s more recent and more overtly digital work. The latter also gradually brings in an acid 303 pattern which is an inexplicable direct line to happiness for people with fond memories of early 90’s proper trance- people who’ll probably respond well to the perkier sounds of the Vessels version of “Hound Point”.

Pye Corner Audio’s remix of “Knots” feels like it may have been pushed to the back of the pile as it stands out slightly, with a synth-electro make-up and heavier kick that’s very strong, but feels like it’s the beginning of a different style of remix album.

Apart from the last track though, the sonic quality is generally so consistent- and so consistently high- that you could readily believe this was an artist album, all creatively drawn from the same source, and for the genre in question that’s a compliment.

Ben Chatwin’s managed to generate three high-quality albums for the price of one here, in a manner of speaking. It’s another mesmerising release that deserves broad attention.
Artist: Front Line Assembly (@)
Title: Wake up the Coma
Format: CD + Download
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
A bit late from my side but better late than never. Actually it was kind of hard due to some personal circumstances to find the right mood for this review. Bill Leeb and his long-years partner Rhys Fulber have finally released their new full-length album which once again demonstrates their exceptional position in the Electro/Industrial music scene. I think there is no need to further introduce this famous Electro/Industrial music-project as ther long-year activty and their integrity speaks for itself. This album also holds the last two tracks composed among others of Jeremy Inkel, who passed away in January 2018.

This album kicks off with the already previously released killer track "Eye On You" featuring Robert Görl of DAF to provide some sequencing works. Another track already released previously is the usual cover version of the Austrian Pop-music artist Falco. With "Rock me Amadeus" the far too early gone Falco has reached highest international chart positions in 1985 and people often forget, that Bill Leeb is a born Austrian citizen. So this cover version is actually meant as a serious homage to his countryman. As for the half-German / half-English vocals, Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Inguldence has been hired and he deserves respect for his performance. As it comes to rate this track, I was actually hoping for a bit more tougher and more Industrial-minded outfit of this cover.
But luckily "Wake up the Coma" offers enough mouthwatering stuff to satisfy your inner need for a raw Electro/Industrial experience. "Hatevol", "Living a Lie", "Mesmerized" and/or "Structures" are exactly the ones someone was hoping for: beat-oriented EBM-like tracks to bring some wild Pogo action back on the dancefloors of the dark clubs. Especially "Living a Lie" is that well composed with a catchy chorus progression and reanimates a quite compareable impression which we all had experienced with their classic smasher compositions like "Gun", "Iceolate", "Provison" or "Plasticity".
Asides these more upbeating tracks there are also some rather slow and ominous produced tunes which caught my attention. "Tilt" is a slow stalking, ultra-depressive track which describes lyrically the upcoming unavoidable nuclear worst-case scenario. Because of its brute and raw bass-line sequences this is to me one of the highlights of this diversified album.
"Negative Territory" has a related mood musically compared to "Tilt" but adds some more subtle layers and pads especially in the chorus part. Further guest appaerances to provide guest vocals can be noted in the title track (Nick Holmes / Paradise Lost) and the album closer "Spitting Wind" which features Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Cocksure).
All in all this new FLA album turns out to be a satisfying one. Not their best work for sure, but in times when it gets harder and harder to separate the good ones out of a mindblowing mass of mediocrity, this album acts like an oasis in the desert.
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Artist: Amnistia (@)
Title: Black Halo
Format: CD + Download
Label: 9XO Media
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
Sixth full-length album of this German Dark Electro/Industrial project consisting in their current line-up of Stefan Schötz and Tino Claus. All of their last studio albums they've released under the wings of the German Scanner / Dark Dimensions label but with "Black Halo" they returned to their very own brand 9XO Media with which they started in 2003 to release some early demo recordings as well as some of their related side-projects (Neukampf / TC75). Asides the usual availability via download (Bandcamp) this new studio album can be purchased as a physically CD pressing (300 exemplars) and also as a rare limited box-set of 97 already sold-out items.

For all those of you readers out there who still haven't heard of Amnistia I try again to find the right shelf to sort their musically outfit into. They produce classic arranged Dark Electro music which often flirts with the works of prominent global players of the Electro/Industrial scene of the 80s/90s music era. Puppy, FLA, 242 or some famous European projects like early Evils Toy, Sleepwalk or Abscess in the mid-90s have left without doubt musically impact on Stefan and Tino. But Amnistia and their way through the years until 2019 are by far more than copycats of above mentioned projects. This is post-modern Dark Electro music far above the level what people still call and compare to that repetitive Harsh-EBM / Hellectro-formula.
After the usual start of any Amnistia album with an instrumental track entitled "Init" here in its 7th version ("Ini7"), the mid-tempo based "Package of Regrets" catches easily all recognition. Be it the epic synth pads or the pleasant distortion effects of Tino's vocals this track is to me one of the oustanding tunes, somehow in that direction how I would like to hear it on an imaginary, never-released third Pulse Legion- or din_fiv-album. "The Itch" increases the pace and adds some distorted guitar undertones to boost the synth bass-lines - quite effective and aggressive produced, this one should be able to set fire on the dancefloors.
"Through The Night" points out the most difference of Amnistia to the above mentioned influence of the Canadian veterans: These bass-line sequences combined with a steady kick-and-snare work represent that typically the mid-90s era of label releases provided by Celtic Circle Productions (Sleepwalk, Page 12) or Gothic Arts Records (Paracont, Splatter Squall). This is quite European infected Dark Electro out of those glory days with its unavoidable EBM influence - and this influence also separates Amnistia to the Puppy-related kingdom, because their EBM roots are still included. Actually and as long as it comes out that well and professional produced like from Amnistia, it is stylish - it is their signature.

The scenario changes again with the title track. The multiple chosen voice samples at the beginning and the interupted bass lines evoke a stronger Puppy-relation than any other track on this album. "Crowds Cheer Verdict" with its integrated Trump voice-samples proves that the protagonists actually think about messages in their lyrics and its politically meaning - and at least they aren't afraid to turn the knife in a wound. "Misery" is another hot knife which cuts through the butter with its elegant synth pad programmings to lead Tino's vocals. "In Between" turns out to be a mid-tempo monster with more than 6 minutes playing time and reanimates a nearly comparable impression like with "Package Of Regrets" - what an epic arrangement.

After nearly 57 minutes of this top-notch produced Dark Electro masterpiece I for me personally had enough sense of duty to press the "repeat"-button on my discman once again (yes - the physically product RULES - just look on that cool looking spine-radiograph...). "Black Halo" is without doubt their most matured album so far, a true gem of real Dark Electro/Industrial music. Pick up this beautiful flower in the snow!
Artist: Paracelze
Title: Ptérodactyle
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Cheap Satanism Records
With a set up of violin, bass and drums, Paracelze are a Swiss trio who set about making highly post-produced, electronics-heavy instrumental avant-rock without any guitars in it. And although they firmly brand themselves as metal or rock, the result is sometimes more of an experimental electronica package than perhaps they want to admit. Over steady, assured and sometimes Silver Apples-ish drumming are laid dark concoctions of twisted sound, broken found sound samples and growling fury. Meanwhile the distorted violin and bass work is a more than adequate substitute for a standard electric guitar.

“The Mystic Ride” shows off the balance nicely, ploughing a common but effective interplay between innocent-sounding xylophone-ish tones and gritty distortion underneath. It also demonstrates the band’s ability to “go pop” and step into more familiar-sounding arrangements that are accessible, and whilst they’re certainly not in the middle of the road, they are at least on a fairly major highway with it.

This dynamic persists for the half-hour duration, exemplified by tracks like “Sand Cloud”, with laid-back wig-out sections initially pulling you one way before a dark distorted second half throws you in the opposite direction- immediately followed by the title track’s very short-lived headbanging crescendo.

It’s an accomplished and nicely laid-out, compact little experimental album that is perhaps not as distinctive or unique as the publicity may lead you to believe, but if you like your rock both heavy but thoughtful, this is worth putting in your ears.
Artist: Anita Brevik conducting the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir/TrondheimSolistene (@)
Title: Lux
Format: SACD (Super Audio CD)
Label: 2L Records (@)
Rated: *****
When I receive a "new classical" music CD I always feel some anxiety; I'm often a bit out of my element and feel that I won't adequately be able to review and convey the work(s) as well as those who've had years of acquaintance with modern classical under their belts. 'LUX' allays that anxiety by presenting works that do not fall into the avant-garde, and speak more to the heart than to the intellect. Three works are to be found on this album, two by Norwegian composer Stale Kleiberg - "Hymn To Love," and "The Light," and one, "Requiem," by British composer Andrew Smith. The artists involved in realizing these compositions are the Norwegian artists, the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir, under the direction of Anitak Brevik; TrondheimSolistene (strings); Ståle Storløkken (organ); Petra Bjørkhaug (organ); and Trygve Seim (saxophones). The real stars though are the glorious voices of the Nidaros Cathedral Girls' Choir. Through much of this it was difficult to keep tears from welling up in my eyes, and as jaded as I am, that doesn't happen very often.

'Lux' was commissioned from the composers to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Nidaros Cathedral Girls’ Choir (Nidarosdomens Jentekor) in 1992. The centerpiece (sandwiched in-between Kleiberg's compositions) is Smith's "Requiem," loosely based on the Roman Catholic mass for the dead, which takes up almost 46 out of 70 minutes of the album's length. Some of the texts in the traditional Requiem Mass have been replaced with biblical references to children in dire circumstances, in order to reflect modern tragedies in which the young are innocent victims, such as terrible massacres at Utoya and Oslo in 2011, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and the 2018 massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. "Requiem" may seem like an odd choice for a 25th anniversary celebration, but once you hear it, you'll be enraptured by its beauty and sadness. Although the musical material in the Requiem takes its inspiration from Gregorian chant, Trygve Seim's emotive saxophone lends a modern touch that does much to contemporize the work, and even the organ parts played by Bjørkhaug have a more modern sound than traditional "churchy" solemnity. The choir sings in Latin, but there are English and Norwegian translations in the booklet. The girls' vocals are glorious and in combination with the splendid saxophone are sublimely moving. Anita Brevik must be commended on her excellent arrangement and conducting skills as well, synthesizing the voices of these young women into something heavenly and ethereal.

Kleiberg's "Hymn To Love," which open the album takes its lyrics from the biblical 1st Corinthians 13, 1-13 - "If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love..." and is sung in English. The Trondheim Soloists strings are pervasively expressive in this piece, and the composition is the perfect opener for 'Lux,' where an uplifting sense of hope and joy (which it most certainly conveys) is needed for what follows. Kleiberg's "Light" which closes the album features more of the Trondheim Soloists than the Girls' Choir, as it is nearly six minutes before the voices come in, and the piece is less than 10 minutes long. For me, this was the weakest part of the album, but it was still in keeping with the concept.

The sound of course is superb and gorgeous, even just on the SACD which I listened to for the review. The second disc is a part Blu-ray audio, part data disc. It contains a 2.0 LPCM mix, a 5.1 DTS mix, a 7.1.4 Auro 3D presentation, and a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos version that will play on home theaters that support a normal 7.1 configuration. Audiophiles should be in ecstasy over this.
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