Music Reviews



Uberbyte: SIC

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 02 2009
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Artist: Uberbyte (@)
Title: SIC
Format: CD
Label: Crunch Pod Records (@)
Distributor: Crunch Pod Records
Rated: *****
When you’re last in line to receive a CD to review, it can be both easy and difficult to write about it, especially if most other reviewers generally had the same opinion. (Sorry, I can’t help but do a little background research, if only to inform myself a bit about the band.) And to some degree, I agree with some aspects of the reviews I’ve seen about this band’s debut album. It actually does BLAST its way on to the Industrial music scene, although I wouldn’t call it strictly Industrial.

Uberbyte is the brainchild of ex-Killing Miranda frontman Richard Pyne. KM was sort of a Goth-Metal outfit, fairly well known with a decent following. Pyne, apparently disillusioned with KM and went off in a different direction, re-christened himself as "Uberman" and started a hard dancefloor-oriented EBM/Industrial outfit called Uberbyte where synths and not guitars are at the forefront. Drawing on influences ranging from Apoptygma Berserk to Wumpscut or X-Marks the Pedwalk (I can’t think of any good well-known bands that begin with the letter "Z") and just about every male-fronted group loosely lumped into the Industrial Music category, Uberbyte pushes their way past the mosh pit to center stage in a bid to dominate the dark dance club scene.

From the anthemic opening track, "STAND UP [FOR UBERBYTE]" you know this music was made for live performance. While I try to ignore ghost of Jim Morrison hovering in the background ("Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin... ") I can’t ignore the BIG BEAT, and the crowd-rousing antics of Uberman ("front to the back, left to the right, everybody here STAND UP FOR UBERBYTE!"). It’s done with all the straight-aced tongue-in-cheek of Devo, and, believe it or not, these guys wear these futuristic black & white art deco uniforms when they play live! Holy shit! Now THAT takes balls. I think if the rest of the album had the same satirical bent, it might be right up there with Hanzel und Gretyl on the comic book industrial music scale. But... no, it doesn’t maintain that.

Not to say that SIC doesn’t have some excellent moments. It does. In fact, there are some really good memorable tracks, or memorable moments within some tracks. And the production is great. The synth sounds, sequenced programming and bells and whistles are spot on even if you’ve heard most it them before elsewhere. The vocal treatment is what you’d expect, dark, raspy and processed for the most part, although there are some tracks that have clearer vocals, and even a female vox on one track. My little bit of wincing were due to the overuse of sampled dialogue sound bytes, the counting (1, 2,3,4... eins, zwei ,drei, fier,... uno dos, tres, quatro, et al), the profundity overly simplified melodic hooks, and repetition, repetition, repetition. Some 5 minute tracks would have made better 3 minute tracks. But I guess that when you’ve got em dancing, you wan to keep em dancing. Lyrics are a bit light on substance but I guess you can’t have everything. The problem with SIC is, that an EP’s worth of good material has been expanded to nearly a full hour album. I’m sure it helps fill out the live show, but it’s the difference between a good album and a GREAT album. I think that if Uberbyte wants to be the iconic Industrial band they seem to be aspiring to be, they need less filler and more blow-away songs. Trim away some of the sampled sound bytes and ramp up the larger-than-life band identity. More humor too. (Yeah, I know it’s a grim, fucked up world we live in, but nobody said you can’t make fun of it.) But this is all MY idea of a good time, it may not be yours.

I read an interview with Richard Pyne, and I can tell he’s a pretty savvy individual. I also know he doesn’t give a fuck what I or any other reviewer says about Uberbyte. (Aw, c’mon Unberman, the good reviews have gotta stroke your ego just a little bit.) But I’m really curious what the next album has in store, and if Uberbyte ever plays Upstate NY, I’ll most likely be there.

Die Warzau: Vinyl 88

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Jan 02 2009
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Artist: Die Warzau
Title: Vinyl 88
Format: CD
Label: Rose Hip records (@)
Rated: *****
Chicago-based duo Die Warzau is one of those electro-industrial bands that can probably be considered to be among the original movers and shakers of that scene, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Similar in sound to bands like KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Marylin Manson, Gravity Kills, Front Line Assembly, Conjure One, Headcrash, Stabbing Westward, they have a great sound, great production and the ability to sneak in a pop sensibility that makes them more average-listener-friendly while still maintaining the quality and characteristics of the authentic bands of the genre. It might very well be this skill which lead them to be on the Billboards Top 25 Dance Charts 10 times already (six of those chart toppers are included here, remixed and remastered). "88 Vinyl" is their newest greatest hits. It features 16 tracks total, 6 of which previously unreleased. Among the guests featured on the tracks are Chris Connelly and P-Funk's George Clinton. The album is a great introduction to those who are not yet familiar with Die Warzau and a notable addition to your discography if you're a fan already. It well portrays the long path of this band and is a window on their multi-faceted production and the evolution they've undergone throughout the years. Die Warzau is and remains one of the more versatile and eclectic bands from the golden era of electro-industrial. Even though their fame might not have reached the peaks of NIN or KMFDM, in a genre overcrowded by clones of the real thing, this originality is probably what set them apart from the pack.
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Artist: Doomsday Virus (@)
Title: Drink the Kool-Aid
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****

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Albany-based industrial-metal/EBM trio Doomsday Virus rose from the ashes of a band called Twilight Mistress and they embrace the philosophy of a full throttle sonic attack of Die Krupps-type industrial beats and electronic bass lines supported by heavily distorted Rammstein-like guitars. Of course, as many bands of that creed do, they mention as influences the untouchable gods of the genre (Skinny Puppy, NIN, Ministry, KMFDM, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and so on and so forth) and although they are pretty good at what they do, I have to say I'd still rather go back to the classics (few bands of today even come close). Nevertheless if you are tired of the classics or looking for some new blood or a new spin of the old, their self-released "Drink the Kool-Aid" gives you 11 tracks of just that, packaged with a cool looking and original black&white&green artwork.
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Artist: Apell (@)
Title: Reconstituted
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****

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I recall reviewing Apell's previous record "Beaver Street & Byond" a while ago and thinking it was a quite cool, fresh and original disc, so when I saw his new record in the pile, I was compelled to give it a spin. My feelings are re-confirmed and even though my exact memory of the previous record is blurry, I am pretty sure this one is a slight departure from it. "Reconstituted" is still as eclectic as it gets and very influenced by 70's funky grooves and bass lines. I can't help it but to think this would be great music for yet another Shaft remake or something like that. The spirits are high and even though he's an Aussie it would seem like he grew up on the streets of the city of angels.
Apell loves to mention two of his biggest musical influences (Brazilian DJ Amon Tobin and the colorful Parliament-Funkadelic leader George Clinton) but obviously the amounts of electronic music, trip hop grooves, downtempo vibes and pop/rock hints and references (there's a cover of a Neil Diamond tune and one of a Beatles tune) are a pretty clear indication of the fact he's drawing from a lot of places and influences (Massiva Attack, Prodigy, Miles Davis, King Crimson etc).
Mostly an instrumental record, there are a couple of vocal tunes featuring his long time collaborator Rachael Hawkins and some Australian Idol 2007 dude singing about Bush.

The Azoic: re:illumination (the remixs)

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (4831)
Dec 24 2008
cover
Artist: The Azoic (@)
Title: re:illumination (the remixs)
Format: CD
Label: Nilaihah Records (@)
Distributor: Nilaihah Records
Rated: *****
RE:ILLUMINATION is a remix of selected tracks from The Azoic’s 2004 album, ILLUMINATE. I should probably state upfront that I’m not big on remix albums. Oh, they serve a purpose- usually to give club DJs more dancefloor variety. As far as The Azoic go, I’ve been familiar with them from the late 90’s where they were more Darkwave Goth-Industrial to their transformation into a Goth Club friendly EBM/Futurepop outfit. I’ve enjoyed both aspects of the band, and although I think there are too many bands gravitating toward the latter, The Azoic still manage to do it well. ILLUMINATE was a good album. In fact, most of it was already geared towards the dancefloor with solid driving beats sounding about as club-friendly as it could possibly be. So how do you improve on that, or why even try? The puzzler is, I really don’t know.

RE:ILLUMINATION is not a remix of the entire ILLUMINATE album. It has several different versions of only four tracks: "Going Under", "Ever", "Illuminate" and "Let Me Tell You Something". Seems to me to be more of an EP than a full album but at over an hour in length, I guess it could hardly be called an EP. Taking the remixes song by song, "Going Under" gets the treatment by Conetik, Internal Dialogue and Cesium (Fatalist Mix). Internal Dialogue’s version is the heaviest (and also the longest) but the Cesium version has more going on really propelling the song both rhythmically and instrumentally. The dark, hypnotic futurepop treatment worked well on this number. I didn’t think much of Conetik’s version. A loopy, quasi-hip hop beat with a lot of padding and vocal treatment made the song seem off-kilter. Creative, but not very effective in my opinion. I didn’t care much for Internal Dialogue’s mysterioso synth lines nor the sequenced 16ths. Throwing in a bit of occasional breakbeat was a nice touch, but the track got boring quickly.

"Ever" is tackled by DJ Delobbo, Liquid Devine, Hungry Lucy, Rich Ratvaski and (E) A+D (Skyscraper Mix). DJ Delobbo spends the first couple of minutes building the track into a heavy trance beat with only an echoed phrase from Kirsty’s vocals. A verse comes through when the beat dies down and then the beat picks up again. The synth treatment is pretty routine. The longest track at over 8 minutes, it’s kind of boring but a dancefloor stomper in places. Liquid Divine has a whole different take on "Ever", not ramping up the tempo and pushing it into dance domain. I actually like this version better than the original. There’s a good variety of sonics, musicality and beat elements. It works nicely. Hungry Lucy makes "Ever" more of a darkwave ballad, actually quite commercial sounding. Ratvaski brings the song back to the dancefloor in an even more trance-oriented version than Delobbo’s. I don’t think this enhances the song at all. (E) A+D’s Skyscraper Mix’ throws the song down into a well. I guess the idea was to make it dreamy but I didn’t find it very compelling either sonically or rhythmically.

"Illuminate" is remixed by GASR, Null Device, Distorted Reality (Recognized Mix), and Invisible Ballet. The title track of ILLUMINATE is a bit of a stomper in its original state. GASR rearranges the beat and adds some sequencing but the overall effect seems to make the track trudge rather than pulse. Null Device begins with an exotic approach, plucked string instrument (mid range harp?) leading into a kick drum and bass pulse combo. Kirsty’s vocals glide over the top with little intrusion save for melodic string accents. A synth line picks up the counter melody but it’s still rather minimal with the vocal being the dominant element. Distorted Reality’s Recognized Mix’ samples the word "recognize" out of Kirsty’s vocal over a pedestrian dance beat turning the track into something completely different, like a throwback to the 80’s. Well, that’s Distorted Reality for ya. Invisible Ballet uses a completely different approach – slower, more ambient and IDM with the vocal track pushed back for much of it and the beat with staggered bass up front. A very spacey feel, sort of the Boards of Canada approach.

Caustic (Riesling Mix), XP8 (Deep Mix), and Interface (Subliminal Message Mix) al have a go at "Let Me Tell You Something". Caustic’s Riesling Mix’ uses distorted beats and processed buzzes for a good part of the track along with side stick, and is fairly minimal. Nothing much happening here. XP8’s Deep Mix’ makes The Azoic sound more like what you’d expect to hear in a typical dance club. (That’s dance club, not Goth-Industrial Club). Heavy, with the stutter treatment on vocals and synth. Not really my cup of tea but hey, maybe they’ll get some crossover play with this one! And finally, Interface builds the track with sequenced synth-work before bringing the beat to fore in the Subliminal Message Mix’. This is actually a pretty good remix of the track with elements that may elude you on a first listen. In fact, this is one of the few on this CD I like better than the original.

So how essential is this remix of selected tacks off ILLUMINATE? Not very, really. The Azoic haven’t put out a new album since 2004. RE:ILLUMINATION should have probably been done a couple of years ago. The Azoic are overdue for something new. I think it would have been a better idea to package RE:ILLUMINATION as a double disc with some completely new material. Buyers would feel like they were getting more bang for the buck, and it might even rekindle interest in ILLUMINATE for those who missed it.


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