Music Reviews

Artist: Regis
Title: Collected Works 1997 - 1998
Format: CD
Label: Downwards Records
Rated: *****
Regis has been churning out stripped down deadly post-industrial Techno since 1994. As one of the co-founders of the Downwards Label, along with Surgeon aka Anthony Child, operating out of the Birmingham borough of Halesowen in the UK, he imported Detroit's rust-belt futurism, splicing it together with the recessive Throbbing Gristle mutant gene, to create a distinctive brand of lean, mean EDM that borders on Harcore, with Cabaret Voltaire electronics strobing in the margins; the soundtrack to some possessed warehouse party.

Karl O' Connor, the birth name of Regis, has just cherry-picked his output from the Golden Age Of Techno, between the years of 1994 - 2001, and compiled them into three volumes. The second, 'Collected Work 1997 - 1998', draws its source material from the 'Delivered Into The Hands Of Indifference' album and a series of 12"s, with a number of these tracks being made available on CD and digitally for the first time. One of them, album opener, 'A Necklace of Bites', sets the tone for the 13 tracks to come: VICIOUS trash-bin kick drums and disembodied flickers of amorphous electronics; churning insectile synths, planting their larvae at the bass of yr neck, rising up to masticate all thinking. Forsaking any pop trappings, such as melody or traditional structure, Regis' music is like a bio-mechanoid killing machine; a Terminator shark, rushing at you.

Most of 'Collected Works 1997 - 1998' continues along this trajectory, forcing the listener to listen closely to notice the nuances. With a nice pair of headphones on, you can really notice Karl O' Connor's progression as a producer, like time-lapsed photography, starting with track 6, 'Guiltless'. Its still the same format: monolith kick drums and swarms of synth, but there's a bit of a shimmer to it, it seems friendlier, more dance-floor accessible. There is even some slight syncopation and hand claps to compliment the 4/4 pulse that runs through 'Collected Works 1997 - 1998', but then disintegrates into puffs of static and blackboard scribbling; Karl O' Connor will not be pigeonholed or compartmentalized.

'Collected Works 1997 - 1998' finishes off with 'The Right Side of Reason, parts 1 and 2', Regis' collaboration with Robert Görl, from influential Neue Deutsche Welle misanthropes D.A.F. Amazingly enough, considering the experimental and antagonistic nature of both artist's back-catalog, 'The Right Side of Reason' brings out the best for both, to create something polished, perfected, revealing O' Connor and Görl at work, and the whole Downwards Record posse, to truly be a force to be reckoned with; masters of their machines.

These 'Collected Works' volumes are a real god send to help navigate the labyrinth of pseudonyms, collaborations, singles, EPs, and albums that Karl O' Connor has produced over the years. He has done a lovely job sequencing the 'Collected Works' series; these records are a nice introduction to his work, showing himself to be ahead of the game, but the world is starting to be ready for his dystopian daydream. For those that like stripped down, aggressive Hard Techno, this is essential listening, a wormhole into Regis' mouldering universe.
Artist: Northern Sadness (@)
Title: Riddles of Lunacy
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
Many reviewers associated Northern Sadness' style to the one by Sisters Of Mercy, an association which sounds like a pique on Andrew Eldritch's band as even if SOM took part to the most important festivals of the scene, such as M'era Luna, they repeatdly tried to discourage any possible link with Goth movement and they tried to reach this goal even with contractual clauses. Such a clarification doesn't want to belittle what these Belgian musicians - singer Koen De Brabander, former member of Dead Poets, and bassplayer Philippe Lefief - bring about to the scene, even if many songs could remember a period of SOM's production, the one when Eldritch (and Doktor Avalanche of course, id est the notorious nickname given to drum machines, which were so important that Mr Eldritch considered it like a person!) supposedly was influenced by bassplayer Patricia Morrison, the most "unguitared" one of SOM history, coinciding with the issue of Floodland, but their decision to record an electronic dance cover of their fellow citizens Red Zebra (hailing from Bruges, a lovely Flemish city, whose notorious Stadsschouwburg Theater also known as La Bonbonniere for its red and gold seats - I think it's that at least! - has been picked up by Northern Sadness as the ideal setting for artwork), which are considered one of the most influential post-punk and new wave band of Belgian scene gives a more precise outline to their sound. Although many tracks are not real gems as their dynamics could sound too bare - but it's better repeat that it is a peculiarity of this genre -. there are some interesting moments, such as the hypnotic stepping of "All This Noise", the juicy minimal synth of "Out Of Mind" (a really good darkwave song), the bittersweet uptempo mood of "2nd Hand Girl" (imagine Visage's atmospheres dressed with electro acid brine), the sticky bassline of "Hollow Eyes", which recalled to my memory some stuff by Clock DVA and Vomito Negro, and the obscure atmospheres of the final "Poets And Angels".
Artist: Lakobeil (@)
Title: Strange Encounter
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
Self-titled introduction, which portrays this strange character ("juggling with a carving knife/while on his bald head a tiny penguin slept/from his grinning mouth/he spewed out a great black spider/like a scream right into my face"...according to some b-side psychologists who try to interpret dream, a penguin represents disorientation, contradictions or ambiguity, while spiders are normally associated with paranoia, illusions or boring relations but I don't want to take a stab at this kind of "science" for fortune tellers...!) the author met in his dream, could be a little bit misleading for the grim aspect evoked by Andi Sexgang (a legendary voice of the primordial Batcave scene with his Sex Gang Children) of such an encounter, but I can ensure listeners that Lakobeil are not the umpteenth dogsitters of Cerberus, even though I cannot say their lyrics are totally lacking hints about religious stuff (maybe the most self-evident of the album, whose "sacrality" sounds highlighted by a church organ, alternated with electropunk outcrops, is "Sebastiane", supposedly referring to Saint Sebastian's martyrdom. After the above-mentioned intro, Lakobeil, who are not newcomers at all - besides being member of In My Rosary (as well as part of the darkwave band Griffin's Fall, a collaboration between IMR and Martin von Arndt), Dirk Lakomy has been producer of Derriere Le Miroir, while Tobias Birkenbeil is the main head behind German EBM band D.N.S. and has a remarkable experience as composer of movie scores -, exhibit a good paraphernalia of sonic cartridges, whose spinal cord is supplied with synth-pop and electronic new-wave blood, which sometimes containes traces of clashing dance ("Amygdala"), EBM's square waves and regular patterns ("0815" - a song who sounds like a self-ironic act of intellectual honesty -, "Contemplation" and many other ones), punkey syncopations ("Push it to the MAX"), instant electro-pop glues (such as "Sleeper" and "That's All" - my favorite song - with backing vocals by Stella B.). Lakobeil are aware they've not issued something revolutionary, but I'm pretty sure they know their sound is somewhat winsome.
Artist: Haujobb (@)
Title: New World March
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Well, finally got the new batch of review CDs and Haujobb's 'New World Market' is up first. A little while ago I reviewed their 'Dead Market' CD (maxi-single or EP, depending on how you look at it) and at that time I recall saying 'I can only hope the whole album would be as good as 'Dead Market'.' Haujobb has given listeners a double-dose of 'New World March' in the form of an additional CD with a remix of each of the 12 tracks on the album. I believe this works out favorably for the most part (exempting 'Dead Market' but we'll get to that later) and actually enhances in some ways by presenting complementary versions of the original tracks.

It is no surprise that this was going to be a moody, dystopian future album; just look at the cover. If 'Dead Market' was the harbinger of what was to come, 'New World March' is the apocalypse fulfilled. Lyrics (predictably) are abstract-expressionist for the most part, carried out vocally by Daniel Meyer in alternating currents of brooding despair and helpless rage. The words come from a variety of sources - Daniel Meyer & Dejan Samardzic on some tracks; Susanne Thiele, Joakim Montelius, and Michael G. Stone on others. (I don't get why Thiele was credited for the lyrics of 'Dead Market' on the maxi-single but Meyer & Samardzic credited for the words of the same song on the album, but oh well'¦) They all work well together to paint a frightening picture of not only where we are headed, but where we stand NOW.

As for the music, but Meyer and Samardzic get a boost from some guests - Achim Farber (Project Pitchfork), Ben Lucas Boysen (Hecq), Andreas Meyer (Forma Tadre), Manuel G. Richter (Xabec), Sebastian Ullmann (For A Space), and Joakim Montelius (Covenant). Still, it sounds like Haujobb. The opening track, 'Control' sets the tone coming on like a dream (nightmare?) with a harp-like arpeggiated sequence over dark pulsing ambience before it gets into the meat of the track. It seems to build but ends inconclusively. The remix (by Xabec) is more to the point subbing out a more electronic sound for the (still arpeggiated) harp, and brings in Meyer's vocals earlier with more presence. Overall, I thought the remix was perhaps less subtle but stronger, and did not seem to end inconclusively.

'Crossfire' is actually where the 'March' seems to begin presenting a vigorous cadence and brings in some old school Haujobb sounds. A powerful chorus accented with pull-out-the stops synth-orchestra amps up the drama. Before you know it though, it's over. Dryft's remix forsakes the martial cadence and arpeggiated sequences in favor of staggered beats and a dreamlike atmosphere. Well, there is some old-school synth sequencing but I wasn't knocked out by this version, preferring the original as the more substantial track. 'Let's Drop Bombs' features a big beat, muscular synth sequencing interjected with an atmospheric overdriven guitar phrase and a generous helping of electronic sonics. The track builds but then just ends with a couple of piano chords. Dupont's remix is drier with a stripped-down beat and mono sequence at first and still using that overdriven guitar phrase. Meyer's vocals seem to have more presence in this version. The synth sequencing gets a bit of a boost as the track progresses. Electronic sonics still come into play, albeit more subtely. Dupont ends it with a repeated rat-a-tat snare cadence on the last few bars. Both versions have their own merit.

The differences between the original and the remix are more readily apparent on 'More Than Us,' a modern take on Kali (the multi-armed Hindu Goddess of destruction), mostly in the beat department. While the original is a nightmarish run, the (Continues) remix employs a shuffle beat making it more like a dance. Either version is pretty cool, in different ways. I think there is more tension in the original of 'Machine Drum' than in the (Unknown) remix, but the remix adds a better rhythmic component which I believe essential to making this track work. Chalk up another score in the win column for the remix album. 'Dead Market' is arguably the most memorable track on the album and the original works just fine with its pulse bass and industrial percussion and synthwork. The Ah Cama-Sotz remix adds a Worldbeat (Globalization?) component and downplays the industrial aspects which really doesn't work so well in my estimation. Chalk up a win for the original.

'Lost' has an undercurrent bass pulse running through most of it on the original but not on the Somatic Responses remix. Beats are quite industrial on the remix and the whole effect tends to retitle the track as 'Really, Really Lost'. I prefer the original. The beginning of 'Soul Reader' is reminiscent of NIN at Reznor's moodiest, before getting into squinky Haujobb electronics backed by a solid beat. This Morn Omina's remix employs a clubbier beat and female vocal (sans Daniel) to nice effect. Much better dance potential here on the remix, and I dig it!

'Little World' adds a touch of melancholy violin (or is that viola?) to a predominantly beat-driven industrial tune. The Binary Park remix is more subdued, and a better vehicle for Meyer's vocals on this track. It has a dreamy quality to it, more appropriate to the lyrical content. Remix wins on this one. There are certain little touches on 'Membrane' that are unmistakably Forma Tadre (yes Andreas had a hand in it) and it is a solid track full of a lot of interesting elements. The Acretongue remix adds a steady bass pulse and more consistency in the rhythmic elements. It's a toss-up on this one; they're both good, although I think the melodic aspect of the track in enhanced in the remix. Title track 'New World March' is the most understated and subdued track on the album; full of fatalism and resignation. The original ably carries this theme out sounding itself like a deconstructed remix. Shades of Depeche Mode and Gary Numan at their bleakest. More of a dirge than a march. Can the Anklebiter remix improve on this? Well, no'¦but it's a nice instrumental take on the track omitting the vocal. No substitute for the original though.

So if you've been keeping score, you'd know that it's dead even so far between the original and the remix. Four in the win column for each, with three ties. 'Echo' could be the tie-breaker. It's an eerie instrumental track that is beatless for first half. Dramatic percussion enters for the final phase. The Incite/ remix adds pulsing beat and sort of a distorted bass and pulse. Talk about shredding the low end! I liked it, but I liked the original just a little bit better. So the original squeaks by on one!

Okay, it wasn't a competition. Both are very good, and both have their merits. It's great to have a Haujobb (double) album this good after an 8 year wait. For me, in certain ways, it took me back to the industrial days of 'Freeze Frame Reality,' although it sounds nothing like it. Let's just hope we don't have to wait another 8 years for Meyer & Samardzic to come up with the next new Haujobb album.
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Title: the final solution
Format: 7"
Label: Wallace (@)
Rated: *****
While Zu are floating in a undefined Hiatus and the ex members of this wonderful band sometimes appear here and there, Massimo Pupillo gets involved in this Germanotta Youth affair. I've really enjoyed Germanotta's debut cd but I think on this vinyl the band has given its best, infact here we go with four shots of pure electronic, grinding, neurotic mayhem. I think this time the maelstrom has been produced even better than before and the resulting magma has become even more refined so here you're gonna have that speed freaks drumming, crappy electronics synths-samples-whatever and the dirty-fast and furious-mindblowing bass of Pupillo. This power trio has gone back to the metal-punk roots to come back with this heavy pounding, ass kicking 7" where you're gonna meet this sort of hybrid that barely reminds of The Locust meets James Plotkin's Phantomsmasher but at the same time you can get one of them was involved in the rind and roll heroes Inferno. Four killer tracks for this new episode and I think the 7" format is really suitable for the Germanotta guys.
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