Music Reviews

Artist: Traffic A.M.
Title: Left Behind Left Within
Format: 12"
Label: Seja Records (@)
Distributor: Seja Records
Rated: *****
Where the fuck have I heard about Traffic A.M. before? It isn't their debut because this Cologne-based duo has already released a CD signed to the German label Plastic Frog Records. The music of Michel Kissing and Stefan Gonser sounds like a long missed friend as they give a flying fuck on the recent efforts and inventions of the pseudo-Goth/Electro-kids. There is a huge amount of nostalgia and 80s-inpired mood integrated to their music, reviews of them often picked-up relations to The Cure and/or Joy Division. Here stands surely a fair amount of truth behind, but since we so-called music journalists are always searching for the right shelf to sort music-projects into, I was about to throw in additionally names like Poesie Noire and melodic-sounding Neon Judgement as possible quells of inspiration to the ring. To cut that short: Traffic A.M. play a sort of Electronica-driven Dark Wave music, which can find influences with already established projects, but it is far away of being a faceless try to copy. Signed to the Netherlands-based label Seja Records, this vinyl-only release (!!!) limited to 300 exemplars is a goody not to be missed. The attractive, mostly calm and Electropop-inspired synthesizer arrangements as well as the Wave-influenced guitar inserts got perfectly united with Stefan Gonser's natural and melodic sounding vocal performance. This duo knows the right registers to entertain: they avoid musically any hectic of the rushing times, although their lyrical content reflects pretty much socio-critical content. The Post-Industrial / Neo-Wave flame is alive and kicking with them, and even if they fall into the trap to get very close to already known EBM-related themes ('Subway Story (Repetition)'), they still proof to find an elegant way out of it. 8 tracks for you to consume pressed on high-quality vinyl and to me especially that warm, analogue sound of the needle of your record-player strengthens the overall good impression of this release. Traffic A.M. want their music to speak for itself - the music speaks wisely in this case, so hurry up and purchase this records - only 300 available exemplars are faster gone than you can think of...
Artist: Voide (@)
Title: Electric Jungle
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CDBaby
Rated: *****
After the teaser freebie 'Agents and Radios', the Swedish Electronica-producer David Almgren releases his all new studio album. With 'Electric Jungle', David continues to explore his vision to produce attractive, spacey, futuristic-sounding Synthesizer-Electronica music, which is still authentic enough to avoid a dangerous approach to any Pop-related meaninglessness. After a dark sounding introduction, the title track comes up and features all of David's talent discovered through previous 4 album releases. Also again involved is his female partner behind the microphone, Mrs. M. Craven, and she does her best to provide a smooth and warm sounding vocal performance to oppose with David's cold and mechanic Electronica efforts. Both, Craven and Almgren, have teamed up a while back and know each others talent well. Wouldn't be there such a huge distance between Sweden and Australia, they could have been united for a real band project. Also 'Haunted House' works excellent with both talents included and it isn't at all that 'haunting' as the title may suggests. This track can be counted asides the hit smashing tune 'I Am There' and the already known, earlier released 'Side By Side' to be the most important tracks available on this album. In between we have again David's own instrumental compositions. 'Green Solitude' impresses with its nearly Lounge-/Late-Night-Electronica inspired instrumentation, while 'For Savannah' could work well as being the title-melody of a sports TV-broadcast format. 'Electric Jungle' consumed as a whole album doesn't leave any wishes of the listener unfulfilled, in case that Synth-/Futurepop-inspired Electronica music with a Spacesynth-undertone counts to your preferences. Unfortunately this album ends abruptly after only 37 minutes, which is definitely a bit too short. 2 - 3 more tracks available on this well designed album (art/photos by Are Eidet, wouldn't hurt any of the listeners, because none of the featured 12 tracks sounds unattractive or provides boredom. Christmas we've just survived, but I still have wishes: more stuff and a lesser short pause for the next album, Mr. Almgren!
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Artist: Cold Design
Title: Ckopo Aeto (Summer Will Soon Be Here)
Format: CD
Label: Electrica Caelestis / Shadowplay Records (@)
Distributor: Casus Belli Musica
Rated: *****
This is a Russian release by the both labels Electrica Caelestis and the well-known Goth-label Shadowplay Records. This promotional package has seemingly had a bizarre course taken by snail mail, the stamps of the envelope are based from the first half of this year, but I received it a few weeks ago. By freeing the CD out of its unique packaging the surprise was on the side of the responsible art-worker for this release. It's a real goody with a high glossy, folded cardboard packaging including a huge poster with the both protagonists Al_Ex and Mar_La. The art is filled with black/white photos of tanks, soldiers, KGB officers, general Military, and related. So my expectations have turned to get another newbie producing Harsh-EBM/Hellectro or a rather Military/Neo-Classic/Dark Ambient producing project. Luckily they have included an information sheet, which actually offers English translations of the content including a track-list. They call their music style Combat Electro-Goth and are singing complete in Russian language, so also the lyrics printed on the back side of the poster are completely printed in Cyrillic letters. This is still a problem for us at Chain D.L.K., as we are not able to provide reviews in its original Cyrillic letters. The music is a fair mutation between Electro with a driving kick and snare work and a Goth-related pathos. Military elements can be noticed here and there too, marching snare drums, some war trumpets, or military voice-samples are the chosen ingredients. Most outstanding, but also most unusual element in the music of this Voronezh-based duo, is the vocal performance of band-leader Al_Ex. He sings like a classic-trained tenor and offers a full scale of emotion for sure, but since this isn't the daily routine of an often discovered vocal style, one needs to get used to it in the first instance. Cold Design offer a well constructed third album (limited to 555 numbered copies), which deserves respect for its kind and crafty progression, though it will be a hard cake to bite for them to score against international-based rivals.

Legend: Fearless

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
 Edit (7360)
Dec 21 2012
Artist: Legend (@)
Title: Fearless
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Distributor: Storming The Base
Rated: *****
Fearless is the debut long-player from the icelandic duo of Krummi Björgvinsson and Halldór Ã. Björnsson, together known as Legend (named after the Ridley Scott movie.) They've been together since 2009, and have also played together in the 'murky country band' Esja. They've been taking their time, waiting to strike, and its clear they're gunning for the big time, with reviews starting to creep in from all over the globe, garnering comparisons to some of the biggest names in blackened electronic music. It becomes the task of the harried listener to seperate wheat from hyperbole, and decide for themselves if the music stands up against the one sheet.

The first question, and perhaps the most important, is do you like Industrial dance music (the esoteric genre known as EBM)? For people that like their beats martial, like to stomp combat boots on concrete and dye their hair blonde, this may be a treasure trove for yr next goth night. If you are pre-disposed to like this style of music, it may help you to listen deeper and find the merits. First of all, the production on this record just slays! The beats are tight and punchy, and will probably sound amazing in those strobe lit warehouses. The synths are warm and full-bodied; everything is levelled and mastered to glimmering perfection. As dance music, its a 9.5 out of 10. The lyrics are occasionally cringe-worthy, like the line 'We are from a bloodline/lost in times of chaos,' which reads like an outtake from an Underworld movie. Or 'I want to be the weekend warrior for you,' from 'City,' which sounds almost exactly like Maynard Keenan's cyberpunk pimp shaman persona in Puscifer.You most likely have heard something like this before; Legend is more interested in mastering the style than forging ahead. The record gains strength as it goes along, and as you get sucked into the drama, the vocals start to gel with the rest of the music, making a more fully realized package.

Reading other reviews of this record, it is clear that it has a polarizing effect on listeners, sometimes contradictory. One reviewer claimed that Fearless was 'Dark as in heavy gothic shades of decaying grandeur dark,' whereas another reviewer claimed 'Speaking of darkness, it's actually a mood that Fearless largely avoids, and I think it's a stronger LP for that.' I chalk it up to someone's opinion on goth/industrial style going in, but i would like to ask the listener to try a little harder. As someone who hears vast continents of electronic music on a daily basis, it is clear that Legend are brilliant producers, and i could imagine Fearless' nocturnal reverie scoring many neon-lit night drives and sweaty ecstacies. Its got some of the fiercest, smoothest, sexiest low-end on record this year. The synths are innovative and unique, which is one of the hardest battles to win in this 'in-the-box' day of digital production. The occasionally cheesy lyrics are about the only detractor, to be honest, they are clumsy and obvious, when a more subtle metaphor might be more suitable. Legend are epic and passionate; Fearless is a modern re-imagining of Teutonic giants and elder gods, transplanted to glittering streets of polished chrome and broken glass.

Apparently Iceland has never had much of a goth/darkwave scene, so Legend are to be applauded for importing the style and doing something different. With bands like Raime and Regis and Brooklyn's Rosenkopf revitalizing the hard-hitting, black lit club groove, Legend may find their place in the global spotlight. They should keep doing what they are doing, and perhaps read a few volumes of poetry in the meantime.
Dec 18 2012
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Artist: Sarth (@)
Title: The Book of Sarth
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: The Gralbum Collective
Distributor: Apple iTunes
Rated: *****
Brooklyn-based electronic musician/composer/improviser Sarth Calhoun a.k.a. Sarth has spent the last few months working on what at first sight looks like just any other iPhone/iPad app but actually has a lot more to it than that: it's a book, it's a story, it's an illustration, it's an album, it's a graphical album (hence the name "The Gralbum Collective")... and it might even, potentially, be a new way of distributing music all together!

The book is an easy 10-15 minute read of one-liners distributed across 8 short chaptes. It tells the tale of two children who find a device that generates transmissions which create mass hallucinations that the government wants to suppress. The story flows easily and is well augmented by the visuals. I have to say I am not sure I liked the ending though, which felt a bit inconclusive and open-ended (unless of course Sarth is setting it up for a sequel).

Graphic novels and comics are not my strong suit so I won't be commenting much on the visuals but I can tell you that there are several styles interacting to tell this story, almost as if it they came from different pens. You start with the Pixar-style cartoon type images with soft colors and round edges (think Toy Story) and you get to the more stylized, straight-lined and vectorial asian-inspired comics that in the app get filled with colors in stages and get various other photoshop-filter treatments. Reality then shifts once again and takes the shape of black and white pictures that have been treated to look like drawings. Then the black and white gets slowly colored in and eventually, by the Epilogue, you have pixellated, vectorized and almost art deco new modernist minimalistic paintings. The cool thing about all of this is that you can interact with these images by tapping, zooming, swiping and thus re-ordering the 80+ page animated novel with your touch.

Musically speaking, "The Book of Sarth" is an interesting album of experimental electronic music which draws from a number of inspirations... At times it sounds like Clock DVA, at times like Brian Eno, at times it reminded me of some '80s avantgarde electronica and kraut. The album is instrumental for the most part, but there are several tunes where vocals are pretty front and center... Sarth has a beautiful voice, especially when he does spoken word stuff in the lower register, and my only criticism is that having spoken word parts on top of music that is playing while you are reading a book that is also a graphic novel can be a bit distracting... Inevitably, when the words of the songs came in, my mind started listening to those and forgetting the words my eyes were reading... Unless Sarth is trying to create some kind of state of confusion on purpose, or unless the words in the music are supposed to somehow interact with the words on the screen (which, if they were, wasn't clear to me), I would have opted for some entirely instrumental music to go with this kind of release.

Design wise the app doesn't feel as polished as it could be (at least not when it comes to controls, buttons, scrolling etc)... As much as I am a fan of small text, I have to say I felt the text is a bit hard to read, especially when the unfortunate choice of colors makes it even harder (think light green font on light yellow background... seriously!?!?!). A black Sans-serif font instead of a colored Serif font would have way easier on the eyes, or even increasing the font size a little bit would help on the iPhone version (it almost feels like the app was programmed on/for iPad and then just downsized for the iPhone).
In my opinion, navigating the app is not very intuitive and could be re-designed a bit better, with function in mind. The good thing is that you can navigate the images and the story separately from the music. The bad thing is that if you want to listen to the music again after having read the book (which I found myself wanting to do) there is no way to do that with the app running in the background (if you quit the app or switch to another app, or even if you lock your screen, the music stops). Also the stop/play/skip/rewind button on my headphones (which by the way is highly recommend you wear to enjoy "The Book of Sarth") as well as on the Apple earbuds doesn't work with this app, which is a pity. Allegedly it's possible to download/extract the tracks from the app into iTunes so that you can listen to them while doing something else, however it is not sufficiently clear how that is supposed to be done and that too should be made more obvious/functional. Other than that the app works pretty well and except for one crash while swiping quickly to skip ahead it's been stable for me.

Aside from the fact that the title sounds a bit pompous and pretentious, I think calling it "The Book of Sarth" is almost a bit misleading, since I'd argue that it is more of an album and/or a graphical novel than it is a book. What I think is the most impressive and admirable part of this whole thing is that by delivering his music and his ideas in this way, Sarth has handed us (the general public) and the music industry at large an exciting and potentially lucrative new way of distributing words, music and images. With the music industry in a deep state of crisis, the publishing industry in an even deeper financial black hole and the creative industry always looking for new ways of being creative and deploying and distributing creativity on a large scale, the Gralbum could really be an amazing and entirely new way for artists to make a living. We've seen some isolated instances of artists releasing apps that contain their music or their videos, but the Gralbum, could be a platform for everyone to release albums with liner notes, lyrics, cover art work and so much more!! The Gralbum could be the album of the 22nd century! As a hardcore music fan who is deeply concerned for the future of music and unhappy with the current state of things, that is truly very exciting to me! My hat goes off to Sarth for having come up with this brilliant idea!

At $7.99 it might be seen as expensive when compared to the rest of the apps in the Apple ecosystem, but the price is right when you consider that you spend at least $9.99 for a new album from the iTunes store, which will be just music and no graphic content.

I give it 4 stars because I think the implementation deserves 3 stars, the content deserves 4 stars and the vision behind this entire project deserves 5 stars!

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