Music Reviews

Past the Mark: Hakhel Tribulation

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (6428)
May 16 2011
Artist: Past the Mark (@)
Title: Hakhel Tribulation
Format: CD
Label: Nu-Jazz (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
Many who frequent this site undoubtedly know the name Marc Urselli, so it is an honor to get to review his new CD. Just before Marc was leaving for a trip abroad that he let me know he had a 'surprise' in the packet of CDs he was sending me for review. Having no idea what that was, I hoped it might be tickets to cover Wave Gotik Treffen, but'¦no such luck. So obviously this CD is the surprise, and it is indeed surprising.

First, a little background may be in order. Marc Urselli is a three-time Grammy Award winning engineer, producer, mixer, composer and sound designer, and co-founder of Chain D. L. K.. If you go to his website ( you will find a resume that includes work with a boatload of big-name artists, among them- John Zorn, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Sting, Joss Stone, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards'¦need I go on?

I know less about Bologna, Italy based guitarist and co-creator Vincenzo Pastano, but I understand he's a highly rated in-demand guitarist in Italy, currently playing with Italian pop star Luca Carboni, as well as his own band, Pulp Dogs, among other projects. So, Marc is in New York, Vince is in Italy, how's that gonna work out? Well, it took seven years to write enough material for this collaborative instrumental album, while they were busy with their own projects. Not only that, but they were never actually in the same studio together; this album was created via transferring files over the Internet, but you'd never know it to hear it.

My impression is that Vince supplied the guitar and Marc did most everything else, but there is a LOT of guitar on the album, so Pastano's contribution is a major driving force in the music. Now here's the caveat ' 'Hakhel Tribulation' is not Goth, Industrial, Synth Pop, Ambient, or Experimental. Calling it Electronica would be a stretch, although there are elements of electronica, break-beat and world music. Nu-Jazz Jazz Rock would be a better description, but since Chain D. L. K. doesn't have a category for that, it's going to end up in the Electronica category, for lack of a better place to put it.

As for the performance, the playing and production is top-notch. Considering the talent involved, how could it be anything other? Metaphorically, the album could be described as a cruise down the jazz-rock highway in a convertible, with side excursions of veering off into the musical hinterlands in an ATV. 'Hakhel Tribulation' is a pastiche of so many genres and influences that it's really hard to pin down. Stylistically, Pastano's guitar work is like a multiple personality disorder- at any given time shades of Allan Holdsworth, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, Kitaro, Larry Carlton, Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny, Duane Eddy, Al Di Meola, Steve Vai, and numerous others emerge. Urselli's rhythm programming and backing tracks provide a superb sonic environment for Pastano's energetic and varied guitar style.

High points are the opening track, 'Oz on the Moon,' with its driving frenetic rhythm, and Holdsworth-meets-Kitaro guitar over a lengthy answering machine message I still haven't deciphered. Also- 'Tablasity,' where Marc makes good use of his tabla samples over a strong backbeat and spookier synth sounds and violin among other things, while Vince breaks out the Western twang guitar, which morphs into something much jazzier. (Who did the bass on this track? It's really good.) 'Big Red City Apple Souls' is another fave with some great guitar work (again in the vein of Holdsworth, with some other Beck, Vai, and I don't know what all else) and Urselli's rhythm on this one is slick too. It has a gritty down-'n-dirty urban vibe. This is one cool track. Love it! 'Tortellini Blues' is another burner with absolutely wild guitar and electronics, then shifts mood into something much softer before it heads back into the hinterlands. I'd love to hear a live version of this one. There is a lot going on here, an awful lot, ranging from absolute chaos to beautiful orchestration. Amazing!

Yet, there were a few things that didn't thrill me- one track -'Raggedy Beet Salad' with a reggae breakdown and southern-fried guitar licks I didn't care for at all. Other tracks had elements I felt did not serve the composition well - the heavy disco-beat throughout much of 'South Drowning Boot,' yet with stellar guitar work; the Pink Floyd space-sonics and voice samples on 'Dawn Moon Glow' invading a tender guitar lullaby. I suppose these are minor quibbles compared to the majority of the content.

If there is one thing Past the Mark might be guilty of, it's too much stylistic variety, although some may view this as a big plus. But if the goal was really to present a wide stylistic variety, I would have liked to have heard a real industrial stomper, and a super jazz-fusion number, replete with some unusual timing changes. I know Pastano and Urselli are capable of that, but here they've chosen to not to get too far afield of the mainstream. Whether this will ultimately work for or against them remains to be seen. In the right market with proper promotion this album ought to do pretty well.

DVS NME: Begin Sequence

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (6425)
May 14 2011
Artist: DVS NME
Title: Begin Sequence
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Transient Force
Rated: *****
At times sounding mysterious, then robotic or atmospheric, DVS NME delivers on Transient Force his debut album 'BEGIN SEQUENCE'. Blending Detroit techno and electro, DVS NME succeeds in creating nine catchy instrumentals where light distortion, melody and filter tweaking are the core of the sound. The release sounds minimal and rich at the same time. If you check tracks like "Astrogate", you can hear at least three melodic lines (pads, leads and synth arpeggios) coupled to a robotic upbeat tempo. Sounding a bit like Dopplereffekt on "Anthropomorphism" and "Atomic Number 54" or with echoes of Vangelis on the pad lines of "General properties", DVS NME's rich rhythm section give way to sci-fi atmospheres that take you on a journey through cybernetic lands. The album closes with "SCSI", a track sounding like a bug in your software, thanks to 8bit like sounds and obsessive pounding beats. Nice one!


 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 11 2011
Title: Solar Flare
Format: CD
Label: Avant! Records (@)
Rated: *****
Formed by Amanda Eriksson and Hannes Norrvide, Lust For Youth are duo coming from Goteborg, Sweden that during the latest two years have already released six tapes and a split 7" with Blessure Grave. SOLAR FLARE is their first album and it has been released on vinyl and CD, both by Avant! and on tape by Jartecknet. The album contains twelve tracks that mix distorted guitars, analog noises, dark atmospheres and unintelligible lyrics/vocals. Try to imagine My Bloody Valentine playing Cabaret Voltaire covers using broken keyboards, basic drum machine 4/4 rhythms and mumbling voices. You can find dark wave and also sparse dance elements (like on "Sickness") here and there but the effect created by Lust For Youth is comparable to a constant flux of sounds where you can find melodies, noises, rhythms and emotions. You can check it here

END: the DJ: Fires On The Shore

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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May 09 2011
Artist: END: the DJ (@)
Title: Fires On The Shore
Format: CD EP
Label: Nilaihah Records (@)
Distributor: Nilaihah Records
Rated: *****
This isn't exactly new, but I don't seem to get stuff to review until well past the release date. It's like I'm living on some kind of remote island'¦in upstate New York!! Okay so I've never heard of END: the DJ before. Apparently on the Goth-Industrial dance club scene he's a pretty well-known guy. Then again there are hundreds of Goth-Industrial DJs I've never hard of. Having only hit the scene in 2008, END: the DJ has apparently made his mark opening for such acts as Panzer AG, Assemblage 23, FGFC820, Slick Idiot, Angels On Acid, Man + Machines and a host of others. END is also a part of Komor Kommando with Sebastian Komor, and Northborne with Christian Lund, both of Icon of Coil fame, some pretty impressive Goth-Industrial credentials.

Anyway, credentials aside, 'Fires On The Shore' is a collaborative effort of END, Tom Shear (Assemblage 23), Richard 'Uberman' Pine (Uberbyte), Clint Carney (System Syn), and Miss FD, along with a bunch of others but we'll just keep it simple for now. The song is an indictment of not only the BP oil spill, but of all corporate heedless destruction of the environment for the sake of profit. On this EP (really a maxi-single, in my opinion) you get six versions of the track.

Within the song itself there are four vocalists on duty trading verses and choruses- first Tom Shear, then Miss FD, Uberman, and finally Clint Carney. Uberman is the raspy-voiced guy, in case you didn't know. It makes for interesting stylistic variety, and works well within the framework of the song's lyrics. Although the original version of 'Fires On The Shore' is attributed to the band Souless Affection, it sounds a lot more like an Assemblage 23 composition than anyone else with straight ahead four-on-the floor club beat, throbbing bass and wall 'o sequenced synths orchestration. The Northborne Version (longest of the bunch) has an early (but not too early) Front Line Assembly feel to it with sparser orchestration and a definitive sequenced synth line. Miss FD opens with melodic wordless vocals then a verse. Then it's Toms turn, followed by Clint. I like it that Shear Carney and Miss FD share the chorus vocals. There is no Uberman in this mix.

The Erektor Version picks up the pace and adds crunchy percussion and electro-distortion. It's my least favorite version on the CD; it sounds rushed and abrasive. Takes the humanity right out of the mix, which was probably the intention. Uberman's treated vocals sounds like he's drowning in Correxit fluid. Somebody is going to love this warped version though; just not me. The Touched by Stahlnebel & Black Selket remix seems to stripped-down version of the original. For some reason, Uberman's vocals work best in this one. It's a good beat-forward club mix.

The Angels on Acid Version introduces different synth lines and mixes up the vocals in a cool creative way. It's moodier, more dramatic, and even drops the beat to allow some breathing space. It may not be the best version for the dancefloor but still has a lot of merit. The Shiv_R Version begins with throbbing bass and Miss FD's wordless vocals, followed with only kick drum and eerie synth on the verse she takes. Uberman takes the choruses. Things pick up as the song progresses. It's a strange version you'll just have to hear. My personal favorite was the Angels on Acid remix, but there is something here for everybody. By the way, it's a really good song too; it will stick in your head after only a couple of listens and should be excellent for the dance club as well.

There is a little something here for everybody on this max (or EP if you prefer), and here's the best part- the money spent by you on this CD is going to benefit the Gulf Waterkeepers. In case you didn't know, they were the first line of defense against the BP oil disaster, and they're still working hard to salvage what they can from this terrible mess, but they need your help. Just because the media seems to have forgotten the debacle at the Deeepwater Horizon oil rig, that doesn't mean it's gone, or problem solved. It will continue to impact the environment for a long time to come, and if you think that BP or the government is going to make it all better, guess again Batman. This is a fine effort of the Goth-Industrial community pulling together and I commend END for spearheading the project, assembling the talent for this collaborative effort, and Nilaihah for putting it out, along with everyone else involved. I'm awarding 5 stars (a rarity for me) not only because it is great, but also because it was done for a really good cause. I think you should buy it; you will have some great music, and you can feel good that your money is going to a worthy cause.

CONTREPOISON: ...Until Next Morning

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (6414)
May 02 2011
image not
Title: ...Until Next Morning
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records (@)
Rated: *****
Countrepoison is the personal project of a guy called Pierre-Marc Tremblay. Coming from Canada, he self-released a four tracks tape and did a split C10 tape with Vatican Shadow on Hospital Productions. Avant!, always looking for good minimal electronic acts, noticed him and now it is re-releasing on vinyl ...UNTIL NEXT MORNING, the first Countrepoison tape. Mixing basic rhythm lines focused on bass drum beats (they recall the sound of an heartbeat) with few analog monophonic distorted synth lead sounds, Pierre-Marc is creating post punk intimistic electronic songs which talks about love disillusion: "It's coming back again, because you went away. It's going back again, forever it may stay. It should have been forever but it won't be" he sings on "Never forever" mixing melody to moanings. His music is full of phatos and, it is strange to say so, depression never sounded so catchy. You can check the whole songs and purchase the digital files here

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