Music Reviews

Antwood: Sponsored Content

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Sep 05 2017
Artist: Antwood
Title: Sponsored Content
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
Canadian Antwood (not to be confused with Die Antwoord- or is that just me?)‘s second album is a 12-track, 42-minute collection of mostly instrumental ‘cyborg pop’ combining the energy and tight production of EDM and drum and bass with a cinematic and thoughtful aesthetic, and liberal doses of synthwave-style chords and thin melodies. Throughout there’s some bold and bizarre sample choices, built around the album’s concept of subliminal advertising explained in the interlude track “Sublingual”, that fill the whole release with character, a dash of politics and just a hint of tongue-in-cheek humour.

Opener “Disable Ad Blocker” is an epic opening that sets the tone boldly and it’s only one final crescendo and boom short of being the perfect four-minute album starter; “ICU” pulls a similar trick to open the second half. “The New Industry” is an odd dubstep versus hardcore hybrid of rapid gunfire-beats underpinned by a strangely tempered beat, with odd processed crying noises joining in halfway through to make things just a little weirder than they already are.

Things calm down substantially for tracks like “FIJI Water” and “Wait For Yengi”, which still have a rapid underlying data pulse rumbling inside them but which are dominated by purer, warmer chords and sparser moments. “The Hyper Individual” plays with the shock value of sharply interrupting these calmer times with gut-punching kicks.

“I’m Lovin’ I.T.” is an exercise in stop-start and double-speed rhythms with some quite chiptune-y flavours, while “Commodity Fetish Mode” and interlude “Derealization” are more laidback soporific bits of post-dubstep that give the second side of the LP a more sombre average than the first.

“Don’t Go” is a slightly daft self-contained mini-drama that starts with a monologue about teaching future generations to program computers and ends with an evil robot that decides it will wipe out humanity, before final track “Human” throws the kitchen sink into the production values with a frantic, multi-styled and quite enjoyably jazzy but of sharp glitch.

This is a fantastically polished, top-notch bit of cutting-edge electronica with barely an ounce of fat on it- sharp, focussed, dynamic, and sometimes hard to follow. It’s as striking and odd as the artwork suggests and it’s yet another hard-to-fault release from Planet Mu.

STCLVR: Predator

 Posted by Marc Benner (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
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Aug 24 2017
Artist: STCLVR
Title: Predator
Format: Tape
Label: Chthonic Streams (@)
Rated: *****
This album reminded me of late 90's / early 2000's dark electro bands mixed with some of today's abrasive power electronics projects. The vocals are gritty and the beats are dirty but catchy.

Less polished than a lot of the dark electro bands and I don't mean that as a put-down, it adds something to the tracks and makes them darker than what usually comes out of that genre.

This is a short but sweet release and as always with the Chthonic Streams releases, this one has some beautiful graphic design and packaging.

Dreams Divide: 5 Years

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Aug 22 2017
Artist: Dreams Divide (@)
Title: 5 Years
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Analogue Trash (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
This is a compilation release of the British Synth-/Futurepop-duo Dreams Divide, which compiles both previously released albums "Puppet Love" and their rare 2014 album "Tears from the Night Sky". It also marks the beginning of a new chapter in the band history of David Crout and Gemsy Davison, because they're now one of the new kids of the block of the hard-working Manchester-based label Analogue Trash.
Their upcoming new studio album is already in the pipeline for a release in autumn. Asides from re-releasing the bands' earlier discography it is also a clever promotional stunt to give these recordings free to the listeners with a "name-your-price" initiative via Bandcamp. Since both previous albums have been released in quite limited editions by now defunct labels like Glory & Honour and Juggernaut Records, this collection should be an ideal introduction as well as a teaser of their new recordings.
This duo unites musically an energetic mixture of Synthpop-like sensibilities with the drive and dancefloor-compatibility of up-to-date sounding Futurepop results. The tracks itself provide for the most part a high dancefloor-compatibility and should the ideal soundtrack to support their engaging live performances. As for personal favorites I tend to name with the catchier tunes like “Due”, “Wise”, “Tears Form the Night Sky” or “Heaven Comes to Get You”. Nice first overview especially for listeners who haven’t seen and heard of this duo before.
Aug 20 2017
Artist: PIG
Title: Prey & Obey EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The creativity of Raymond Watts, the man behind the PIG moniker and the mixing desks as a sound engineer of many well-known names of the scenes (Einsturzende Neubauten and Psychic TV) and also known to be one leg of KMFDM, is experiencing a real state of grace: he released a brand new album - "The Gospel" -, a collection of remixes - "Swine & Punishment" and a couple EPs. "Prey & Obey" is one of them and maybe the most interesting for a set of reasons: the eye (and the ear) could be immediately caught by the inclusion of the remix of the title track by another big name of electronic industrial and synth-rock scene as Leather Strip (...and certainly the remix by Claus Larsen - LS's birth name - is amazing, and IMHO I think he noticed - as I did - that the way of singing sometimes could resemble - it sounds unbelievable - the one of Pete Burns in "You Spin Me Round"), but the track could be a very interesting starting point for forthcoming musical blossoms, as it comes from the collaboration between Raymond and an important portion of industrial-techno band Cubanate (Marc Heal and Phil Barry). This is not the only collaborative track of the EP. Actually, the other two tracks came out of collaborations as well: the more atmospheric "The Cult Of Chaos" got handled by former Combichrist member Z.Marr (he also dropped an electronic remix of "The Revelation"), while the cheekily rockish "The Revelation" (many would be tempted to misspell the title as "The Revolution", as Raymond managed to pour the word 'revelation' into a set of common lyrical constructs where the word 'revolution' gets typically matched..) got forged together with Ben Christo (Ghost, S.O.M.). Furthermore, the Berlin-based producer En Esch pushed an interesting remix of the title track by pushing it towards the boundaries of easily chewable adaptation of electronic dance to soundtracks for those series full of murderers, vampiresque entities or zombie killers.

Ikonika: Distractions

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Aug 08 2017
Artist: Ikonika
Title: Distractions
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hyperdub
Taking sounds from synthwave, the attitude and groove of dubstep and grime, and a bright production quality that’s radio-friendly pop, “Distractions” treads its own distinctive path. It’s packed with unusual sharp-cut rhythms, echoey synth arpeggios, and long rolling bass notes, yet it manages to avoid the arrogant swagger that plagues some modern pop.

It’s mostly instrumental, but with a handful of vocal tracks that end up being highlights. “Noblest” features Andrea Galaxy and is just missing a strong chorus hook, otherwise Ikonika would have a pop hit on her hands. Jammz’s somewhat languid rap on “Sacrifice” has a good synergy with the track.

A few too many of the instrumentals sound like they are craving a vocal or a rap on top, as though the space has been left for that missing part to be applied. Tracks like “Manual Decapitation” and the potentially great “Lossy” don’t quite have enough going on otherwise to make them complete somehow. However there are a handful of others, such as the quirky, slightly 80’s-soundtrack titled “435”, that feel more well-rounded.

It’s a well polished and inventive set of tracks with a lot of polish, but “Distractions” maybe needed a couple more out-there ideas or guest vocalists on board to make it stand out.

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