Music Reviews

Cynical Existence: A Familiar Kind of Pain

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7275)
Nov 08 2012
Artist: Cynical Existence (@)
Title: A Familiar Kind of Pain
Format: CD EP
Label: Engraved Ritual (@)
Rated: *****
Cynical Existence is the solo dark-electro project of Fredrik Croona, ex-Menschdefekt and currently of the aggrotech/industrial Project Rotten. Not much of a fan of Menschdefekt...something just wasn't working for me there with their sound. Project Rotten seemed somewhat better to me, although there seems to be a harsher edge there. Although prior to receiving this CD to review, I never heard of either band before. (I live in a dark closet, don't you know.) On the first listen to 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' I didn't quite care for it. Old-school harsh EBM I thought, complete with raspy processed vocals...haven't I heard this a zillion times before? Leaether Strip, Hocico, Suicide Commando, et al, so many bands have been down this road sounded so...90's...

But on the NEXT listening, I noticed something. There is an elegant simplicity here. Sure, those analogue synths are sounding familiar; it's the staple of industrial music we all grew up on to a great degree. And the music is oh so simple, but that's the beauty of it. What really makes it work though is Croona's vocals. He growls, he yowls, and wrings every shred of emotion he can possibly muster out of his tortured pipes. In fact, I don't know if I've ever heard this much variety in the harsh EBM vocal style. If this album (well it's an EP really) had come out in say, 1995, it would have been an absolute classic! Still, even now it stands up because no one is doing quite the exact same thing as this nowadays. Besides, the songwriting is top and to the point. No meandering intros, no extended dialogue samples, just pure, delicious dark-electro.

Cynical Existence is well-suited for stomping around the dancefloor. It can't be helped, the beat is compelling. If your DJ ain't playin' it, you ought to tell him (or her) to get on the stick, or beat 'em with a stick, Punch & Judy style. I think Croona has hit on something special here, something so basic it's primal. The music is sinister and menacing even though the melodies can be a bit puerile. The controlled collapse remix of 'Dead Eyes (see no future)' really points that up with sing-song insanity. I preferred the original anyway, and really liked the use of vocoder as the followup vocal.

As I mentioned before, this is an EP (limited to 100 copies worldwide, 50 in Europe, 50 in the U.S.), but a generous one with 8 tracks and (thankfully) only one remix. If I were you, I'd pick one up before they're gone. I really hope Mr. Croona continues his Cynical Existence, and doesn't get fancy with it, because the world really needs a kick in the ass with a pair of stompy platform boots, and 'A Familiar Kind of Pain' goes a long way in reminding us just what our roots are in this scene.

Unitcode:Machine: Nosophobia

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7269)
Nov 06 2012
Artist: Unitcode:Machine (@)
Title: Nosophobia
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I know no one wants to hear me rant about the mechanics of a review but rant I must. Before you can even post a review here you've got to gather ALL the info which includes artist and label websites and email contact and get a pic of the cover of the release and resize it to Chain D.L.K. Specifications. The pic is the least of the problems; it's email and website addresses that are usually the problem, artist's email contact usually being the toughest. I got lucky with this one; others...not so much. It's very time-consuming and my time is quite limited. I'd rather spend the bulk of it listening and evaluating the recording rather than playing 'contact detective'. (Note to band: this ain't about you; you had it covered.) So with that out of the way, I know I'm waaaayy behind on reviews, part my fault for all the other things in my life that cropped up that had to be dealt with by the time I got the review batch, and of course, the review package is always late.

Unitcode:Machine (heretofore U:M) is the EBM/electro-industrial project of Eric Kristopher from Fort Worth, Texas, I believe, and he does it all (almost) ' vox, synths, sampling, percussion programming, production. Helping out on a few tracks is Katrin X (Tears of Arria) on vocals. It's all very well done, and Eric's vocals are gruff enough for the music without resorting to distortion, screaming, excessive raspiness or too much electronic processing. Lyrically, pretty standard for this kind of music...I detect a bit of Assemblage 23 with more of an edge. Melodically U:M is nearly on a par with that outfit as well, although more noise-pop than future-pop.

As for danceability, U:M rocks! You won't be moping around the dancefloor at the Goth Club when any track from 'Nosophobia' comes on, and there's a decent amount of variety. Trouble is, no tracks seemed to have that certain 'killer hit potential'. I found myself liking the tracks Katrin X sings more than some of the others, especially 'Ghost' where she's the sole vocalist. That track really showcases her pipes, which are formidable. The constrast between the two vocal styles serves U:M well, and separates them from the pack. Maybe I should mention that Eric and Katrin X are also involved in a Neo-Folk project called Awen under the leadership of Erin Powell (guy, not gal) which is obviously very different from U:M. Even though Katrin X sings on only three tracks I think she adds a lot to this band, and on the track 'Imperfect' the vocal interplay between her and Eric is scintillating. On the CTRL remix it becomes much more evident just how vital her vocals are (some of the other elements are stripped down and the vocals are more clear) and it would be a big plus if she became a member rather than just a guest artist.

Oh, did I forget to mention the album contains seven remixes? (9 basic tracks to the album, three of them remixed by geeky c, CTRL, vvulgar, Void Prototype, Tokyo Focus, LKERR, and Awen, for a total of 16 tracks. I've never been wild about remixes, and these don't change my mind on the issue, although there are a few creative twists. I guess I didn't need to hear those three songs again, and would have preferred one more stab at a new killer tune.

Be that as it may, Unitcode:Machine is a band to keep an eye on. Eric's programming skills are solid, his vocals strong, and if Katrin X stays with the project, this band has the potential to rise to the top. A couple of catchy, memorable numbers with dynamite hooks may be all they need to make their mark in this uber-saturated genre. Nice effort, and one well worth checking out.

Candida Kandinskij: Obliquium

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7268)
Nov 05 2012
Artist: Candida Kandinskij
Title: Obliquium
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
"Obliquium" is the newest single by Candida Kandinskij, the personal project of Giovanni De Benedetto. I reviewed his first single one year ago and I must say that this new contains some improvements as the sound production is more powerful and the overall feeling is that this isn't only a demo. The new release opens with the main track, a tune which starts slowly with a grinding monophonic sound coupled to whispered vocals, just to explode with crashing glass samples, synth manipulations, drum machine hard beats and, as for the first single, a distorted guitar which sounds more punk than else. "Existenz" is more experimental as opened with feedbacks, echoed synth noises, sampled cello and then develop into an instrumental 4/4 nice pounding track with nice melodies and blasts. "Dobermann" closes the release with a blend of electro industrial and ebm. Do you remember Velvet Acid Christ? A bit more slow and atmospheric but it reminded me those sounds. You can check all the tracks at the Candida Kandinskij page.
Artist: Outworld (@)
Title: Hidden Evolution Path
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CDBaby
Rated: *****
Some might say that the unbelievable success of projects like Alien Vampires would animate several projects to express their musically path in a similar way. Also Outworld, a trio hailing out of the very south of Italy (San Severo / FG) have a past, which has its roots in a Metal-related sound-outfit, until the members decided in 2002 to establish this music-project to storm the dimension of a more Electronica-/Industrial sound-design. So far this plan has been followed with limited success and to be fair enough, I need to say in advance, that their music mixture isn't free of the notorious, nearly hatred 00ntz-00ntz attitude ('Distant Future'), which still infects authentic EBM / Dark Electro with Trance-/Techno-driven virus internationally. But - and not to lead this review in unnecessary negativity - these Italo-gentlemen have some good and own ideas plus they come up here and there with attitude, which could help them to reach a wide audience and to bridge mediocrity. 'Hidden Evolution Path' is already the fourth album of this band-project and offers some satisfying tracks with 'Scarring Memories' for example, this tune present crafty EBM bass lines and a sound-design knocking at VAC's door for entrance. Also the opulent arrangements of 'We Fall All Alone' bring a smile on the face of the listeners - dancefloor-compatibility included. Constructive criticism should be mentioned too: I would recommend them to continue generally in this direction, while a little bit help regarding professional mastering / polishing of some sound ideas wouldn't be a wrong idea. The vocals are following a bit too often that 'cookie-monster-through-whisper-box' attitude, also here a bit more own initiative can be helpful. There is nothing to complain regarding their artwork which features a text-/lyric-book and their overall dark and haunting presentation. I must admit that haven't heard of them before, so all I can rate starts with 'Hidden Evolution Path', but since they are a three-men-outfit, how are the things and reactions regarding live performances?

Titans: For the long Gone

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
 Edit (7257)
Oct 29 2012
image not
Artist: Titans
Title: For the long Gone
Format: CD
Label: Progress Productions (@)
Distributor: Broken Silence
Rated: *****
A 3-men-collective from Sweden/USA and I remember to be quite entertained by their first EP 'All There Is', which came out nearly at Christmas day 2010. Musically they can be generally sorted into the Synth-/Electropop-genre, although they here and there like to give some harder dancefloor-compatible stuff more focussing to present straight old-school EBM-like bass line sequences. Globally I like their skilful sound programming and the calm, nearly sedating vocal performance. That 16tel bass-line programming is one of their most remarkable abilities and more or less always present - it allows them to enter a more late-80s/early-90s-inspired Pop-/Wave-/ Romantic-affiliation instead to be inspired by too often repetitive newer hypes - and that is not a bad reference in my book. The production of course fulfils all needs of Audiophiles. 'All There Is' may also here counts to the more calm and melodic highlights asides 'My Sorrow' - while that compilation appearance ('Born/Evolve/Progress 3') 'Dried Out' deserves a mention as well. Titans are far away to be a renovator of the scene but I would recommend checking their album out at a long car trip - their calm and unobtrusive sound programming, the well sounding male vocals, the crystal-clear production with a top-notch mastering by Hakan Ãkesson at Mutidstudio results in a good album worth a check.

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