Music Reviews



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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
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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.

CRIMINAL ASYLUM: Zeit

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
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Dec 03 2008
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Artist: CRIMINAL ASYLUM (@)
Title: Zeit
Format: CD
Label: Rustblade (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece Distribution
Eight years after their debut album released by Radio Luxor titled "Choice", Cryminal Asylum are back with a new full length titled ZEIT. Released by Rustblade, the new album sees Criminal Asylum presenting thirteen tracks (one of them is a cover of Suicide's "Rocket USA") where the music become more minimal and extreme track after track. If the opening "Erased" is a good cold wave track with Mirosa's vocals in evidence, already with "Fear Of Life Eat My Soul" the band change the atmosphere by using obsessive rhythms and heavily filtered whispered vocals (Italian recitative lyrics about the difficult of living). "Ladies And Gentlemen - Welcome To The Violence Mk I" and "Ladies And Gentlemen - Welcome To The Violence Mk II" are even more obsessive and create a cold effect where the treated "Faster pussycat! kill! Kill!" samples are mixed with looped electronics which get an industrial e.b.m. treatment on the second version. The same goes for "Paranoid Disco Dance III" and "Paranoid Disco Dance IV", where the first one sounds more analog electro (but always keeping a repetitive structure) and the second one more industrial. The Suicide's cover is really extreme and it sounds almost disturbing because of its distorted high frequencies based monophonic sounds. With "Seeing Your Pain Again" we have an electro industrial tune a la Die Form while the following "Spear Of Life" is a little more dancey (a relief after all the previous cold hypnotic atmospheres). "Die By The Code (The Way Of The Samurai)" mixes analog dance sounds with a semi improvised structure where dissonant melodies clash creating a particular background for a spoken word taken from the "Ghost dog" movie. "The White Empty" and "When the gods call" close the album keeping always alive that sensation of uneasiness that permeates most of the album.

VV.AA.: Cracknation: Artifacts II 1990 – 1994

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (4791)
Dec 02 2008
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Cracknation: Artifacts II 1990 – 1994
Format: CD
Label: Crack Nation (@)
Distributor: DSBP
Rated: *****
"No guitars! No Jungle! The glory days of Industrial Dance Music revisited, Chicago style!" True nostalgia stands behind this new release of the Cracknation label. As the title announces it, this "artifacts" are taken out of the very early years of Jason Novak’s musically career, when his music projects ACUMEN, DJ ACUCRACK or the IRON LUNG CORP. have satisfied the needs of the Electro purists. Yes, it’s nearly unbelievable that these notorious and mostly quite Metal/Industrial-Crossover infiltrated acts can rely on a musically past with a straight Electro/EBM-minded sound outfit, pretty much fitting with the first licensing releases of the legendary Wax Trax-label. And indeed, this Artifacts collection is dedicated to Jim Nash, the founder of Wax Trax. As for a European EBM user, I tend to rate this album as a typically American-sounding Electro-album featuring a lot of voice samples ranging between strange and already too often heard, fast-forward moving beats and rotating bass lines and Jason’s vocal performance between angry with at times extra-ordinary effect manipulations.. The days of the REVOLTING COCKS, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, SISTER MACHINE GUN, 16 VOLT get definitely re-animated, although this release seriously doesn’t includes guitar sounds. Please note also the last not mentioned track "Oh Cynthia", which is sort of a fun track featuring some moaning female voice samples. Make also sure to visit the MySpace account www.myspace.com/cracknationrecords to download some further b-sides out of this era. An era in which acts could create and define styles with some refreshing ideas. This collection is the valuable proof in your hands that this counts for the different acts of the Cracknation label too.

Crisis Mode: Firstborn

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (4789)
Dec 02 2008
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Artist: Crisis Mode
Title: Firstborn
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: TriTech Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is a debut by a US-based newcomer act hailing out of New Jersey, which drifts musically very near to that still marching-forward Harsh EBM/Hellectro-movement. Aptly signed to the British TriTech Records label there has been lately occurred rumors about business inactivity, that’s one the reasons why Syn, so the pseudonym of the fellow behind CRISIS MODE, has decided to offer this full-length album as a free download-able item for your entertainment. So far so goo, the talent is quite convincing and here and there I tend only to recommend to increase with some minor things like a better balancing of the vocals in the mix. A bit more punch on the bass kick drums would do good as well, while the vocals itself got drastically manipulated and reminds very much on Nero of PSYCLON 9. Some do like this, some do hat it – this vocal penetration sounding like the dirty neighborhood-kid is rather a matter of your personal preferences. The additional integrated percussive work comes out raging and impressive, a good point which needs continuation. Best tracks can be named with "Virus" and "A Taste Of Sorrow", since both offer the best straight produced bass lines to keep a body in motion. "Firstborn" is generally a damned good debut release for this one-man act although it doesn’t revolutionize the genre. By erasing the above mentioned minor flaws – maybe through the assistance of an experienced expert (Jan L. of X-FUSION and his notorious X-M-P-studio comes to mind...) – Mr. Syn could be able to storm to a higher level of recognition. A new album probably entitled "Sacred" is already in the works. Be prepared for more of this act.
This debut album is freely downloadable under this link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=KCRF69L6


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