Music Reviews

Artist: Ivan Iusco
Title: Transients
Format: CD
Label: Minus Habens (@)
Distributor: Family Affair Distributions srl
Rated: *****
I've been familiar with Iusco's name since the early '90es as the founder of Minus Habens, one of Italy's most prominent electronic music labels (which released things by Angelo Badalamenti, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode and a number of Italian artists). I was less familiar with Iusco as a composer, but it turns out he's moved operations to Los Angeles and has been working hard as a film composer scoring mostly Italian movies for the better part of the last 15 years.

"Transients" is his second album and showcases his evolution from electronic music tinkerer to full blown orchestral composer. The cover art work of the digi pack looks like a blurred version of a dutch masters painting or a Rembrant portrait but it's actually by the internationally-acclaimed artists Miaz Brothers.

The album starts off with tracks that are very cinematic (as is most of the record, really) and more orchestral. Layers of more than 20 real world wind, brass, string instruments and atmospheres that range from mysterious and melancholic to grand and majestic... When there is a real violin (like on track "Mobilis in Mobili", played by Pantaleo Gadaleta, who also played with the great Morricone and Antony and the Johnsons) you can really hear how the track is lifted to a whole other level, proof of what true musicianship can contribute to any computer generate music project! Then from the fifth track on Iusco pulls out his nails and teeth out and sinks them into the largely unprepared listener with some great mean-ass IDM/industrial/electronic sounds... Two tracks later the album takes another sudden turn and becomes a more vintage sounding, dare I say, almost nostalgic old-school electronica record (echoes of Clock DVA, maybe even Tangerine Dream...). On the eight track ("Circuitless") a female vocalist is introduced (it's Tying Tiffany, who's been featured on CSI, The Hunger Games)... Then Ivan dips back into ethereal ambient soundscapism that almost leaves you with a sense of uneasiness and peace at the same time. But obviously, he prefers to pick things up again and go out in a blaze of glory because the closing "Unconquered" track is what you'd expect from the end scene of some epic battle movie or even a spaceship battle sci-fi film: it's as victorious, dazzling and magnum opus-like as you'd imagine it, the perfect end credit music for this album, even though it almost ends too soon and abruptly...

If you are into soundtracks and epic movie music that is a mixture of electronica and classical music, or any of those genres taken on their own for that matter, I'd recommend you give this a spin, or at least preview it on iTunes. There's some really good stuff in there!

.-: eaux saines

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (9078)
Jan 31 2016
Artist: .- (@)
Title: eaux saines
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
From Bordeaux, France comes this cryptic project, ".-" in Morse code, or 'eaux saines' in French, which means "safe waters". I'm not sure these waters are so safe after listening to this debut album, but I'm jumping in anyway without a life preserver. Colin, the man behind this solo project has a background playing in noise/punk/hardcore bands, but this is something different. eaux saines is much more in the industrial/electro/darkwave/coldwave vein relying primarily on synthesizers and programmed drums and percusssion, and some (quite distorted) guitar as well as vocals. First track, "les eaux saines" is quite industrial and reminds me of John Bergin's C17H19NO3 industrial project. Lots of distortion, submerged ghostly vocals, basic heavy industrial beat, and a guitar wail. A simple melody line follows the progression, all pretty cool actually. Nice introduction, and the noise is a key component. Second track, "almost" is nearly in the vein of Signal Aout 42, an old school Belgian Electro/EBM band often compared to Depeche Mode. Here the somewhat monotone vocals (sung in English) are more intelligable and the synth sounds are dirty and gritty giving a fresh perspective to dark synthpop. There is a shoegazer quality to "drunk in your bed," channeling some of the noisier aspects of My Bloody Valentine in an electronica setting. The squinky electronics in the brief break and elsewhere lift this song well beyond the norm. "des mots," sung in French, is some fine Coldwave, and by this time I'm realizing that this melding of noise-electronica and synthpop is really paying off. When Brian Eno broke new ground on his first couple of studio albums utilizing some of these techniques it was considered revolutionary. This project goes even further into the noise aspect, but still retains a dark pop sensibility.

"one day, ten years" is an introspective yet harrowing piece that envelops you with the gloom of futility. The doom metalish "le chant des sirens" crushes all hope with walls of distoted guitar over submerged vocals. Yet again though things readically change on "lost sailplanes" moving squarely into synthpop territory. Gary Numan-esque synths and a great melody/hook make this an amazing standout track. The vocals (in English) are the clearest and cleanest on the album. The synthwork is stellar, the sound is modern, yet recalls some of the best things I've ever heard in the genre. Back to underground electronica on "unfalling", like Depeche Mode falling off the deep end into the dark abyss. It all ends with "this smile," an apocalyptic synth-heavy number that really crushes it. WOW!

For a debut, this is astounding. It is something you just have to hear. Unfortunately, the ones who need to hear it the most probably never will. Being released on cassette, and not until March 2016 (it's in pre-order now) may all but guarantee its anonimity. If there ever was something well worth seeking out, .-, or 'eaux saines' is it.

Pankow: Throw Out Rite

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (9076)
Jan 31 2016
Artist: Pankow
Title: Throw Out Rite
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Artoffact is the reissue of the first cassette by Pankow which was never reissued and it documents the first steps of this important band while stating how, with few means, they were pioneering a genre that will be fully developed only years later. The development of the first industrial style with the new wave influence generated the seed of what will be later known as EBM when the band would follow other territories in the '90s.
The drum machine of "Das Wodkalied" introduces the listener into a sound field which is as outdated as legendary as it prefigured some development that will become codified only years later. The structure is almost simple: drum machine, synth and the voice that don't sing a text but rather speak catch phrase. "Rendez-Vous Dans Un Bois" is instead a more experimental track focused on the vocal experiments of Alex Spalck and featuring a cameo of Blixa Bargeld speaking almost inaudible phrases. "Wait And Search" and "Zz Walhalla" are instead focused on the rhythmic impact while "Destiny" returns to a path where Spalck's voice is fundamental for the creation of the atmosphere. "I'm Food For You" closes the original cassette as a balance between the rhythmic urgency and the atmospheric research.
The bonus part is made out by four track: "Voce" a track where the voice follows the rhythmic path, "Satellite" featuring a sax that is symptomatic of the way out from the genre's cage which will be explored in the masterpieces of the band. "Spinnen" is an experiment into almost noise path while "Senza titolo" closes this release with an atmosphere constructed with a beat and a synth conscious of their cinematic properties.
As this is their first cassette, obviously it's far enough from the mature releases that has erected the myth of one of the most important bands of italian new wave, however it's a document of historical importance as it revealed how they searched a personal way into a genre well codified from the beginning. An essential reissue.

Dead When I Found Her : All The Way Down

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (9051)
Jan 03 2016
Artist: Dead When I Found Her (@)
Title: All The Way Down
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Michael Arthur Holloway's project is at the threshold between industrial, in his most EBM oriented variant, and pop so it's presented in the liner notes as "a meditation on your deepest fears and most private, desperate moments". Even if this could sound scary, it should be noted as this genre has a reputation to depict dark moment for cathartic ends.
"Expiring Time" opens this release with a mid-tempo track that situate the title in a territory between synth-pop and EBM evading the traps of both genre. The structure is a song with synth and drum machine as almost only instruments, the overall result is based on the careful layering of all elements. "The Unclean" is an interlude based on sample dialectic. "Threadbare" is a track which reveals how the ear pleasantry is important in this field as it triggers emotions. "Gathering Fear" is instead closer to some industrial oriented form as it's focused on the rhythmic impact. While "Downpour" is more oriented towards the dance floor, "Misericordia" and "Blood Lesson" are more focused in the development of a pop form with a certain sound impact. "Seeing Red" is perhaps the more impressive track of this release as it layers samples and synth lines to create a cinematic sound field using vocal samples from films rather than a proper vocal line. So, even a brilliant track as "The Noise Above Us" sounds as a filler to close this release with "At Rest" and his pop allure.
The bonus edition of this release features a bonus cd, "the bottom, which explore the most EBM and industrial oriented side of this project, so with tracks like "New Drugs", the title-track and "You Know Who You Are", a Ministry cover, it will be enjoyed by the fans of this genre.
At an aesthetical level, this is one of the most important release of the year as, because it's not ground-breaking, it takes a codified form to an astonishing technical level. Truly recommended.

6Comm: One Mans Hel

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
 Edit (9038)
Dec 08 2015
image not
Artist: 6Comm
Title: One Mans Hel
Format: CD
Label: Kenaz
Rated: *****
Active since 1986, they released the first album "Content With Blood" the year after. Now, after about thirty years of life, 6Comm is no more. Patrick Leagas decided that it was time to focus his energies on his other projects of the likes of: PatrickL (Spring 2016 will see released "Godlesstate 1", the first album under this moniker), Schrage Musik and Godlesstate. "One Mans Hel", then, will be the last album containing unreleased or new songs by 6Comm. Released as a six panel digipack with an 8 pages booklet containing lyrics and photos, the album contains eleven tracks written during the 1984-2015 period and never released before under this form. The album is reflecting how the project was sounding live during the last three years and it's musically split into three parts. The first part is made of four songs rhythmically driven which sound really powerful, thanks to pounding drums and bass. "One Mans Hel", "Angel Scream", "Red Cloak" and "Othila" sound angry and energetic and, the latter one, almost "rock", thanks to guitar arpeggios and distorted guitar riffs. I think that probably the lyrics focused on war and religion needed such atmospheres and they work really well. The second part is opened by a classic Death In June "Nada" song here revisited: "Doubt To Nothing", here is called "Doubt To Death" and it's sounding intimate and heartbreaking. Male and female vocals duet on a piano/strings background while the drum lines little by little are doubled just to end into a grand finale which slowly ends into silence. "What Time Is It", is sounding experimental and its looping synth droning sounds function as a background for layers of treated vocals, hisses and nightmarish atmospheres. "Kalashnikov Vodka Bar Mix" is a nice rework of "Kalashnikov Is My Friend", track coming from "Headless". This version is more focused on percussions and the different elements are better balanced. "Rosewood Cuts" alternates ambient synth sounds with Easter folk ballads atmospheres, creating, in this way, a particular dreamy effect where the lyrics sound like a poem ("You and we are lost / We'll find our kingdom at some cost / Our way is blocked by shiny things safe all locked / you want a taste of what you have been waiting for / The ring you kissed beneath the goats foot tail / Awaiting those finest thingstake your harvest from the woods"). "This Must Be Love" is another track which is sounding like a dreamy trip in balance from spoken word and a lysergic atmospheres. The last two songs, are forming the third part of the lot and have an acoustic arrangement. The effect created by the passionate way of singing the lyrics and the acoustic elements dueting on "Twisted Love" and "Dream 39" made me feel dizzy and immerse into a fluffy cloud. A nice thing about the photos of the booklet: the one you find on the first page, reveals how the "Content With Blood" cover born as, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the image reflected into the water is what Patrick used for cover. This, maybe, is only a way to close the circle and to go on with renewed energy. Only a note: reading my review you could think that the album is a collection of found tracks gathered here only to greet 6Comm, well, let me say that "One Mans Hel" doesn't sound nothing like that, as it sounds like an inspired album where Patrick wanted to experiment and succeeded into creating a convincing album full of fresh ideas. So long 6Comm and thanks for all the years of passion and music!

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