Music Reviews

Nov 01 2019
Artist: Gareth Davis & Scanner
Title: Footfalls
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah Recordings
“Footfalls” represents a fascinating first collaboration between the atmospheric contemporary electronics of Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) and the experimental free clarinet work of Gareth Davis.

It’s split into two twenty-minute pieces, classic LP style. “Towards The Door” languishes in waves of sonic ambience for quite some time before gradually introducing more pulsed and occasionally glitched synth elements, giving a sense of slow waking- but without any peak, a point is reached where these elements begin to wane, bringing us back to the warm luxuriant drone arrangement.

“Smokefall” is a slightly darker and busier piece, but only marginally. Steady, crisp and breathy snippets of high noise create a flitting rhythm, while throbbing effects added to the clarinet make it sound more like a didgeridoo at first. Underneath, a slightly rougher texture with guitar-like and wind-like tones, against which the purity of the clarinet sound is sparingly used for contrast and emphasis.

It’s an extremely natural match for the duo, blurring the lines of each sonic contribution and making it sound as though the duo have been working together for years. But it’s also built in a way that plays safe, relying on the alluring resonances of clarinet and drone to offer up something that comes from a position of comfort rather than challenge. The rich experimental texturing oozes confidence, quality and comfort, like a good sonic blanket, but with just enough detailing to keep the more attentive listener satisfied.
Oct 31 2019
Artist: Craven Faults
Title: Lowfold Reworks
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Lowfold Works
In anticipation of the new Craven Faults EP releasing later in November, “Lowfold Reworks” is a pack of three new mixes of tracks from the Yorkshire-based producer’s previous EP’s. While Craven Faults’ electronica is more spaced out, dipping into ambient and broad, understandably these three remixes have their sights set a little more towards the dancefloor- but still manage to retain that trippy and atmospheric tone.

Pye Corner Audio’s version of “Intakes” is a solid if slightly unremarkable bit of progressive spaced-out synth-house with a lovely bright tone. Don’t DJ’s take on “Foddergang” is much more low-end centric, especially in its powerful subbass opener, before it opens up into Tangerine Dream-esque melodic patterns fuelled by a fairly aggressive metallic percussive rhythm.

The President Bongo rework of “Eller Ghyll” is an indulgent 14-minute journey that has certain throwbacks to old 90’s progressive house in its structure, but with a crisp, fresh and almost polite modern production quality. There’s nice use of 3-note patterns performing an audio moiré pattern over the 4 beat underneath, a reliable trick for putting the intelligent and cerebral qualities into your body moving music. Maintaining interest over 14 minutes without major musical shifts is a challenging feat and it’s managed very strongly here, but in a competent rather than revolutionary fashion.

It’s a reliable and high-quality pack of remixes that recommends all three remixers, as well as boding well for the forthcoming new original material.

Steve Hauschildt: Nonlin

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 29 2019
Artist: Steve Hauschildt
Title: Nonlin
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Ghostly International
Steve Hauschildt’s second album for Ghostly International comes from the spacey and sci-fi side of synthwave and electronica, built on lush-sounding pads, super-gentle percussive sounds and thoroughly baked and polished in sonic elegance and reverb. At times it dips into slightly more esoteric and experimental territory, but not for long periods, as exemplified by the title track which rolls a deep rhythm with quirky squeaks and glitchier sounds on top, gradually introducing stuttering chords that unfold into calm, or the tempo-challenging final track “American Spiral”.

The gradually building pulses and arpeggios of “Subtractive Skies” will appeal to Tangerine Dream fans, while “Attractor B” has a more modern, techno-light flavour. “Reverse Culture Music” is an unexpected highlight, making strong use of real string plucking and bowing with a bubble-like electronic rhythm for something really quite captivating.

At times though, it does all sound a little bit too easy. A lack of cut-through melodies prevents any long-term memorability, and tracks like ambient workout “A Planet Left Behind” could, if cynical, be described as synth-electronica-by-numbers. At 42 minutes long though there’s nothing which overstays its welcome and the result is a successful collection of deeper synth work for your more philosophical electronic moments.

Nechromancer: Monochrome Dystopia

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
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Oct 28 2019
Artist: Nechromancer (@)
Title: Monochrome Dystopia
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Man, it’s tough to catch a break in the music business these days, especially if you're doing it all yourself, and most definitely if you're in some sort of fringe genre, like the kinds we cover here. For every YouTube "overnight" sensation, there are thousands of talented artists that get hardly any notice at all. The music press (and unfortunately I have to count myself among them) is notoriously fickle, highly opinionated, biased and often cruel, and sometimes don't even bother reviewing half the stuff they get sent. So when an artist or a band works their ass off and really delivers the goods to minimal acclaim, it can be really demoralizing. All I can say is you better be prepared to play live a lot and hope you develop enough of a following to sustain some interest and make a few $$ to defray your expenses. That's where our friends Nechromancer come in. I can tell these people really want to succeed, and put in the work to get there.

Nechromancer is a group of four, and they all have band pseudonyms, which some might consider pretentious, but I find fairly amusing. There is Vile Heathen (Vilarya Marceline) - Vocals/Guitar/Lyrics; Wreythe (Aislynn Taber) - Keyboards; Johan (John Elwert) - Electronic Drums/Percussion; Vetica (Matthew Binginot) - Keyboards, Backing Vocals. The band is from Burlington, Vermont, not the first place that comes to mind for this type of music, which is EBM rooted in old school, with nods to acts such as Nitzer Ebb, Xymox, Leæther Strip, Front 242, etc., so you get the idea. This isn't usually the path that modern dark electronic acts follow these days, at least not here in the U.S. I find more bands leaning toward the harsher end of the spectrum- acts such as Combichrist, God Module, Hocico, etc. That wasn't always the case for Nechromancer. Their debut album, 'Intersect' (2017) was a harsher, rawer affair, with a good number of songs that are also on 'Monochrome Dystopia'.

Truth be told, 'Intersect' sounds like a so-so demo, although there is a glimmer of promise in some of the songwriting. Nechromancer cleaned up their sound on the greatly improved 'MD,' leaving behind what didn't work so well and adding some better material as well. Interestingly, three of the best tracks - "Unhallows Grieve," "Vampire Queen," and "Blood and Teeth" appear on both albums but the ones on 'DM' sound better. ("Unhallows Grieve" and "Vampire Queen" appear twice on this album, the regular versions and a remix of each which is fine; they're worth hearing again.) Other highlights on 'Monochrome Dystopia' are High Tech No Life" and the atmospheric "Punish Me." Vile's voice, which compares to Andrew Eldritch trying to imitate Type O- Neg's Pete Steele (or visa versa) on 'Intersect,' comes into its own on this album, but still in the gothy baritone vein. His strident guitar playing (a little too dominant and invasive on the debut) is effectively employed here lending a sharp metal edge to the electronic base. Synths/keyboards are well orchestrated and having a live drummer instead of just drum programming is a big plus. The two killers - "Unhallows" Grieve" and "Vampire Queen" should be guaranteed to motivate the dark dancefloor crowd with solid beatwork and great hooks. (Favorite line from "Unhallows" Grieve" - "Those awakening from this slumber speak to me in curse, and the inquisition of my disposition makes it")

‘Monochrome Dystopia’ sounds like the work of a seasoned band and not of a group that’s been kicking around only a few years. These folks look pretty young from their videos, and from what I understand they're already the big fish in the small pond of the Burlington, VT. If they can hook up on a national, or even international tour with a bigger fish, the exposure gained is likely to substantially enlarge their fanbase and maybe prompt some good dark music label to sign them. Meanwhile, you can revel that you heard about them here first when you turn your friends on to Nechromancer.
Artist: Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or
Title: Sex and Dead Cities
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Boring Machines
This eighth album from the duo of Laura Dem and MSMiroslaw is more ‘Dead Cities’ than it is ‘Sex’. Predominantly it’s a rich hybrid of thick atmospheric rumbles and drones with muted and distant-sounding reverb-laden slow percussive rhythms, a mixture of acoustic and synthetic that’s so thoroughly effect-washed that origination starts becoming irrelevant. Rather than the sound of a dead city, it’s generally quite busy, with these soundscapes throbbing to sounds of distant machinery and conversation.

After a mostly ambient humming opener “To Die In A Decayed Country”, the sex of the title appears suddenly in “River Flows From Incinerator”, a plaintive slow pulsing drone spontaneously interrupted by orgy sounds that disappear as quickly as they arrive, resulting in one of the strangest breakdowns I’ve ever heard.

At times this release even recalls the Future Sound Of London track “Dead Cities” as well, but darker- most notably in “Ruins And Shell Casings”, but also throughout.

“Seven Minutes Of Nausea” is not unfairly named, but it’s also not unbearable. It brings in woozier tonal shifts and more rapid fluctuations onto the established patterns in order to raise the discomfort level towards, but not over, the edge of bearability. It’s quite discombobulating. As it fades, it leaves just looped thumping industrial hits behind, which follow nicely into repetitive and angsty final track “Fear Of The Living” which feels like a call to arms- or a clarion call for zombies.

It’s a strong, tightly packed 34 minute package of post-industrial darkness and contemplative wallowing, a thick aural body scrub that’s oddly refreshing.

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