Music Reviews

Borghesia: Proti kapitulaciji (Against Capitulation)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 23 2019
Artist: Borghesia (@)
Title: Proti kapitulaciji (Against Capitulation)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Moonlee Records (@)
Rated: *****
Bogrhesia is a Slovenian band I have heard of (all the way back to the early 1990s) but never actually heard as I could not find any of their albums in the pre-Internet commerce era when you had to find a record shop that carried product. I can attribute my discovery of them to the Trouser Press Record Guide, a book I consider responsible for awakening my interest in many non-mainstream artists such as Current 93, In The Nursery, Legendary Pink Dots, X Marks the Pedwalk and many, many more. Borghesia have been around since 1982, formed by members of the alternative theatre group Theatre FV-112/15. As you might imagine they've amassed a sizable discography over the years, none of which I've heard previously, unfortunately.

'Proti kapitulaciji' (Against Capitulation) appears to be their 13th album after 'And Man Created God' (2014) and 'Better Live Than Dead' (2016). According to the label-provided one-sheet, this album "is a free-floating rock epic based on Srecko Kosovel's modernist poetry that sits somewhere between an alternative soundtrack of 'Blade Runner,' the uncanny ambience of Coil, melancholy Berlin era David Bowie and the immediacy of Nine Inch Nails. After giving 'PK' an initial listen I can understand why the label stated those things, but I don't necessarily agree with them. Yes, this is a very unusual album with industrial and electronica elements, but it doesn't sound anything like Blade Runner, Bowie or NIN.

The first thing you need to know is the album is sung entirely in Slovene, and while that may be off-putting to some, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, because there is still much of value here. However, one caveat - there are more than just a few tracks where an English translation might come in handy. (You can get one at Borghesia's website.) The first track, "Odprite Muzeje," equates "Open Museums" with dead ideas and tombs haunting Europe. (How's that for inspirational tourism!) Vocals are dual male/female, as often done on this album. This is set to a backdrop of vintage analogue electronica. It has a somewhat surreal, trance induced quality as the lyrics almost seemed almost chanted. It is no less surreal on the following track, "Kons," about a hollow, empty, culturally dead Europe with an overwhelming aura of melancholy. Musically everything is well-integrated with a chugging rhythm, and instrumentation of guitar and electronics which support rather than detract from the melody of the vocals. "Na piramidi" (In A Pyramid) is where the album really comes alive though and all elements seem to be on an unstoppable dark track. Things only get stranger after this one.

The deeper you go, the more intense and wacky the songs get. There is absolutely nothing mainstream about this album, even though much of it is in a (sort of) rock format. It becomes evident that Srecko Kosovel's poetry, used as the song lyrics, is the most important element of this album. Thematically it speaks of how Europe is dead, art and culture are dead, and it all needs to be destroyed. Good people got sold out, civilization has no heart, capitalism ruins everything, and nothing can save you. Yes, it's a potent sort of pessimistic misanthropy more aimed at the collective than the individual, society in general. I'm sure a little gets lost in translation because even following along listening while reading the English translation at times it seems there is something missing that might be better expressed in the original Slovenian.

What I find interesting is that Kosovel lived way back in the first few decades of the 20th century (1904-1926), died quite young at age 22, but managed to complete 500 poems. He was labeled an impressionistic poet and a political poet, often compared to Rimbaud, and is now considered a Slovenian poetic icon. When you realize the time during which he lived was dominated by World War I, you'll understand better the reason for such pessimism and misanthropy. Kosovel's poetry still seems pretty relevant today (when I first read the lyeics, I thought they had been written recently!) and Borghesia's execution in the music makes it seem all the more contemporary. Although Borghesia are well-versed in the musical idioms of EBM, synthpop and industrial, there is no one genre they subscribe to here. Instead, the presentation is much more theatrical, is if in an electronic a musical. The closest prior work of theirs to this one is 'And Man Created God,’ but even that only hints at the full-bore of 'Proti kapitulaciji'.

This is an album sure to have only limited appeal outside of the Slavic region of Europe, partly because of the language, and partly due to unfamiliarity with Borghesia and Kosovel’s poetry. It’s a worthy venture for the intrepid explorer though, discovering a near century-old major modernist poet filtered through the more modern musical lens of his countrymen.

Surachai: Come, Deathless

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 22 2019
Artist: Surachai
Title: Come, Deathless
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: BL_K Noise
Chicago-based Surachai’s seventh album- the first on my radar- is a melting pot of thick industrial, raw electronica and brooding synth work, a deep and dark hour long journey that manages to be both relentlessly abrasive and uncomfortable, yet also engaging by virtue both of being very well constructed, and by being very difficult to pin down.

The initial forays draw comparisons to artists like Aphex Twin, with opening track “The Shedding Of Useful Skin” exemplifying that style of manic glitchy fast-cut electronica that revels in its own anti-structure. This digital micro-management and subbass playfulness, also reminiscent of acts like Autechre, reappears in milder form in tracks like “Articulation Of A Dead Tongue” and the steadier, slightly acid-303-tinged “Splinters And Thurst”.

As it progresses more subdued darker qualities are allowed to come to the fore, with “Deciphering Whispers From Wind” a captivating longer piece of distorted black synth work with a rigid sense of suspense, while “An Unfamiliar Reflection Activates A Gate” is a prime example of the industrial underbelly on show.

Overall it’s not perhaps as dark and gothic and brutal as the artwork or some of the track titles suggest, imbued with an energy that does at times feel genuinely positive, particularly expressed in final track “Time Splits Every Second”.

This will appeal to a wide range of listeners for its accomplished melding of electronica and industrial darkness, and even though it’s only January, it’s got a chance of staking a claim as one of this year’s strongest electronica album offerings.

Angelo Bello: GENDYN Suite

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 15 2019
Artist: Angelo Bello
Title: GENDYN Suite
Format: CD + Download
Label: Elli Records
This suite, deriving its name from GENerative DYNamics, is a short EP of entirely computer-generated sonics with quite an analogue feel, offering up high pitched squeaky sine waves, crisp and abruptly-edged noise patterns and sci-fi bleeps and bloops in a way that might, if you hadn’t read up about the concept behind it, seem to be totally random. It’s a busy collection, often with multiple elements crashing into each other, and it’s not without its ebb and flow, but the overall effect is a harsh and appropriately short-lived aural assault, like a deep facial scrub but for your ears.

The most successful piece is certainly “Ricercar”, which expands in a presumably deliberate manner from low electronic rumbles out into a more sinister-sounding cacophony that’s strangely both relaxing and tensing in equal measure depending on which angle you hit it at, before the lower notes depart and leave us in a more fragile, bubbly, electronic-underwater environment to close.

Blurring the lines between music composition and computer programming and electrical engineering, it’s a curious and somehow quite old-school work, but if you like your electronics sounding genuinely experimental, raw and avant garde, this is an 18 minutes you’ll appreciate.

Kretz: You Have To Pay

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 03 2019
Artist: Kretz
Title: You Have To Pay
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Ukonx Recordings
Rated: *****
Jonas Lund a.k.a. Kretz born in Stockholm and has a long history in the music industry. He has a past as a record company A&R and as a label manager but as musician, he started making music on the C64, Atari and Amiga. He released stuff for a lot of record labels such as: Svek, Loop records, Skint Records, Good looking, Mo´wax, React, Paper Recordings, Why Not, Reco-Nice, Plump House, Sub-Stance to name a few. On the electronic music scene he had releases under three different monikers: Anode, Rex 42 and Kretz. With the latter, he released stuff since 2012, all digital releases and the last one is a single for Ukonx Recordings. "You Have To Pay" and "Get Dirty" are two fast tempo (140 and 135 bpm) tracks that mix electro funk vocoder vocals with robotic rhythms and dancefloor attitude. We have few pads here and there and many synth lines that help building the rich rhythmical bone, creating in this way, syncopated intervals into the 4/4 main structure. Also melody is making its part into the creation of two cool tracks that for sure will get the attention of the electro heads willing for good tunes. The single is closed by the Deemphasis remix of "Get Dirty". On this version the Ukonx label boss is focusing on the bass parts and is adding 808 drum sounds, new pads and 303 acid sounds. Nice!

Alina Kalancea: The 5th Apple

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Dec 21 2018
Artist: Alina Kalancea
Title: The 5th Apple
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Störung
Alina Kalancea’s debut album is a rich collection of analogue synth and electronica layering, a brooding collection of slow pulses, artificial heartbeats and atmospherics that is certainly not a new recipe in itself, but which is well prepared and confidently produced so that it will certainly draw you in.

Built in waves, both micro (as in sine waves or sawtooth waves rather than literally microwaves, that would be terrible), and macro, as layers and elements meander in and out of presence with an assured languidity. In pieces like “Fears” you can practically feel the gradual knob-turning as you wallow in a rich sound, with plenty of long slow bass and subbass tones that wash over you in a strangely luxuriant fashion. The title track is the most coarse of the collection, but textured rather than sharp.

As the release progresses, it starts getting both wider and colder. “Poisonous Girl” raises the bar and is a definite highlight, bringing in sparse and perfectly measured string orchestration and a sorrowful sung vocal. The result is powerful and has a cinematic breadth. The string sounds fold back nicely into the established synth elements nicely in “Behind The Curtains” before the sinister lullaby notes of “Limbo” offer up another texture of soundtrack-style work. “Devil’s Lullaby”, despite the title, is a rather calm and natural conclusion.

The whole release is pitched as electronics framing a spoken word core, but in actuality many of the pieces are at least partly if not wholly instrumental. For me personally the whispered, sleepy text readings may be the weakest link here, with shades of a half-asleep Yoko Ono but not, unfortunately, in a good way. The poetry of opener “Imbalance” almost mis-introduces the album, while the “listen… shhh…” layer in “Poisonous Girl” feels faintly unnecessary and “Insider” an interlude which wasn’t necessarily required.

For a debut it’s very assured, and with good reason. While it would be a stretch to call it innovative, it’s got a polished and clear sonic vision to it that deftly draws you to repeat listens.

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