Music Reviews

Artist: Neon Rain (@)
Title: Of The Dead
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Rated: *****
French Industrial/Noise/Experimental project Neon Rain is Serge Usson (who also co-founded the Industrial/Post-Industrial Steelwork Maschine label with Kris G., aka Christophe Gales of Westwind) and David Delwiche (on this album) of Hyperbarich Yperite Therapy Chamber and The Groovie Goolies (both Industrial Noise projects, I think). Usson has also been involved with a number of other groups ' Acarus Scopt, Ligne Claire, Fin De Siècle, Storm of Capricorn (his neoclassical martial folk project), and likely others I am unaware of. Neon Rain came into being in 1998 with the release of a self-produced tape of Serge's recordings from 1992-1997, and has released a few CDs under the Neon Rain moniker since then, perhaps the most recent work prior to this triple-album being the double-disc 'We Are Meat/The Vultures' in 2008. 'Of The Dead' is a triple-disc set, a most ambitious undertaking dedicated to George A. Romero's first zombie movie trilogy ' 'Night Of The Living Dead,' 'Dawn Of The Dead,' and 'Day Of The Dead'. Consequently the discs are titled 'A Night,' 'A Dawn,' and 'A Day.'

I have to say that when I opened the CD package, I wasn't quite prepared for THREE CDs to review. (I don't usually bother with the one-sheet that would have clued me in to it being a triple disc until I'm ready to do the review.) So obviously this is a lot to take in. My impressions of the first disc, 'A Night' is of noisy old-school electronics intersperesed with movie dialogue samples (from NOTLD, I presume)>Lots of oscillators going wild, some spooky themes. Actually, the disc opens up with perhaps uncharacteristic stately piano chords but descends into weird world midway through the piece. By the end of the first track it turns industrial. I'm not even going to attempt to say how well it all relates to Romero's movie; been a long time since I've seen it and no real desire to watch it again for this review. Never saw the other two movies, so I can only relate how the CDs sound as electronic-industrial noise. Impression of the first disc was 'pretty interesting and atmospheric in places'.

'A Dawn' begins with movie dialogue samples morphing into droning background and noise, then higher pitched drone and various shades of gray background noises, settling into a morose sort of ambience. For the most part it is more placid than the first disc, although a bit weirder in a way. Thing's get quite strange on track 5, 'Entertain! Now!' which begins with something like a marching band sample and morphs into gothic calliope music. The rest of the disc is industrial noise electronics atmospherics, with the noisiest passages being on the final track. I suppose you gotta love the cliché movie music ending though.

'A Day' may be the most (conventionally) musical of the three, presenting a number of brief electronic compositions with rhythm tracks, interspersed with movie dialogue samples backed by a modulated drone. It doesn't get very experimental until track 7 ('Dr Logan & Major Cooper'), but that's not for long. Some of these ditties remind me of the kind of minimal synth & drum machine experiments I was doing in the 80's before I discovered really dark music. They're okay in a very retro kind of way but seem out of place for zombie movie music. Things get dark and noisy again for a while on track 11 ('Here They Come') but the old-school synth & drum machine creeps back in and it's an atmosphere killer. (Reminded me a bit of SA42 without the vocals.) Overall, this was the least appealing of the 3 discs, but some might like it because it's the most accessible.

While not a landmark achievement, 'Of The Dead' has its moments, with a few really creepy bits, and moments to satisfy electronic noise junkies, and maybe even fans of Romero's zombie flicks. (There's plenty of movie dialogue passages.) The album sounds like it was recorded a long time ago though, even if it wasn't. Maybe if it was, it would be a retro classic. For those who can't get enough, there is also another disc (which I didn't get) titled 'More Of The Dead' dealing with Romero's second zombie trilogy. It's supposed to be quite different, more in a lo-fi noise-folk style.
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Artist: Velvet Condom
Title: Stadtgeil
Format: CD
Label: Cymbeline
Distributor: Pale Music
Rated: *****
I already had the chance to listen to the second Velvet Condom's second album titled "Stadtgeil" as it has been already release by their personal label Cymbeline the last year on vinyl and digital format (which I bought). To tell the truth I didn't know them and Valentina Faith Guida, a dj from my city Torino, pointed them out to me when their "Menace" video was running on the screen of the place where we were drinking. I wrote down that name, because their mix of electro and cold wave intrigued me. The day after I checked their album and I realized that there was more to find out as the opening song "Funeral For My Love" is already different from the song I already knew as it's a bit more shoegaze sounding with cool dreamy atmospheres sustained by bouncing bass lines, noisy guitars and hard drum machine beats. Already by listening these two tracks, you can realize that the French/German duo is aware of how taking care of production: they are alternating bass guitar to deep synth bass lines while guitar riffs cross tiny melodic parts that will stick into your head. The album is balanced from electro wave hit singles like the aforementioned "Menace", the following "Rouge City", the dancey cold wave influenced "Samt Und Stein" or synth based sensual "Ice Disco" and noisy guitar shoegaze influenced tunes where Jesus And Mary Chain meets early My Bloody Valentine like on "Funeral For My Love" , "Separ-Hate", "Faint-Hearted", "A New Fall" (this one recalls me a by "Just Like Honey") and "Scars Shine". This new edition released by Cymbeline and distributed by Pale Music has as bonus track "Little Death", a song that has a bass line which recalls me Suicide, the guitar is building a reverberated distant wall of noise which on some parts sound almost rockabilly while the vocals are cold and and quite tense. For me this album is a must have. Check it!
Artist: 2kilos & More (@)
Title: kurz vor5
Format: CD
Label: Audiophob (@)
Rated: *****
Audiophob is one of those labels that have been consistently putting out interesting work, and this is no exception. I had not previously heard of 2kilos &More, which is a French duo from Paris created in 2003 and consisting of Séverine Krouch and Hugues Villette of Von Magnet. I listened to this several times to figure out how to review it and it occurred to me that it reminds me somewhat of Recoil's work (specifically Liquid) or the Golden Palominos. For me the standout tracks on the disc are the two featuring Black Sifichi, a spoken word artist out of New York. The first, 'User OK Feelings Rejected,' is an engaging story of racial prejudice on tour in the Southern states as a black man with a white wife and white bandmates. I'll note that this is not something that you would want to listen to at work. The second, 'I Decided to Lie,' is a bit of weirdness about a romantic interlude with a woman he seems to have just picked up. The tone of the vocals have a kind of malevolence that make it that much more interesting. Overall, this is pretty good IDM/electronica, but 2kilos & More are at their best as storytellers. The music blends incredibly well with the story to the point where it seems natural for the vocals and music to be together, which is quite a feat where often either the spoken word or the music seem forced into the mix. Dark and enjoyable and well worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 59 minutes.
Artist: Xisix
Title: Ghost Knife
Format: CD
Label: Symbolic Insight (@)
Rated: *****
OK. It's time for a walk down memory lane, because this reminds me of some old school stuff. Start with a bit of 'Belief' era Nitzer Ebb with The Orb and a bit of Orbital thrown in for good measure. In some places it reminds me of Ipecac Loop. But towards the end it is somewhat reminiscent of the kinds of stuff Instinct Records was putting out in the late 80s to early 90s - think Cabaret Voltaire's 'The Message.' If you remember all of those, you're probably as old as I am. There are no vocals to speak of, but there are the obligatory random samples which sometimes seem to detract from the music (although the old 'I've fallen and I can't get up' made me laugh mainly because I remember the commercials from back in the day). Overall, it isn't too bad, but then again it isn't too exciting either. I could definitely see this making it into a DJ set and working well in the club. After a while it grows on you though. For me Raverobber (D Gross Remix) was one of the high points on the disc. Frenzyhole was a bit too much of a mashup with a bunch of familiar riffs put together a la Negativland, but not quite as clever. Overall, this was decent, especially in the nostalgia department. This album weighs in at around 55 minutes.
Artist: Blue Sausage Infant (@)
Title: Manitou
Format: CD
Label: Alrealon (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Blue Sausage Infant's 'Negative Space' album, so I was interested to see how this one would turn out. With guest artists wielding 'turntable bacon shortwave,' 'fire extinguisher,' and 'beer glass,' we should be in for an interesting ride. Here's how the label describes this: 'Following the long-form kosmische excursions of 2011's 'Negative Space', Blue Sausage Infant's new CD recalls the ruthless energy and shorter attention span of BSI's cassettes from the 1980s. 'Manitou' is a wild ride: a patchwork of huge analog drones, mutant caffeinated space-punk, musique concrete, krautrock-style jams, distorted industrial stomp, and deep electronic mind candy. This collection includes a new remake of the classic BSI track 'The Moss Takes Over' which first appeared in the 1990 cassette 'Infinite Sky.' Guest musicians include members of Insect Factory, Pilesar, Violet, Tag Cloud, and Timmy Sells His Soul. The result is an hour-long celebration of reckless improvisation and joyful nightmares.' I have to admit that I was not sold at the beginning. To me, 'Afflicted by the Wind Disease' and 'Hosebag' were a bit dull. However, it does get better from here. One of my favorites here is 'The Moss Takes Over,' which sounds like a cross between 80's buttrock and a videogame soundtrack from the same era (think boss phase). 'Aphid's Lament' is a nice slab of slow moving distortion and feedback. 'Catoctin' is almost mellow. 'Abdominal Frost' is an interesting cinematic soundscape. For me this is more of a mixed bag, although some of this may be by design. As he goes from style to style, there are sure to be hits and misses. For the most part, the hits outweigh the misses though. I would definitely see him live though, as it seems like it would be a good show. This album weighs in at around 57 minutes.
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