Music Reviews

Swans: My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

 Posted by Marc Urselli   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Dec 06 2010
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Artist: Swans
Title: My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Format: CD
Label: Young God Rercods (@)
Rated: *****
At this point I'm sure everyone has heard that Swans is back. They've been touring and selling out venues all across the US. Unfortunately I missed them when they played in New York but everyone who's attended described it as an amazing and intense show (and one of the loudest ever!). Judging by the opening track of their new CD, I think I know what they are talking about. The sound of tracks like "No Words/No Thoughts" or "You Fucking People Make Me Sick" is just massive! The sonic attack perpetuated across the album is relentless and only at times it eases off to create more diluted and less aggressive, but still somber and intense, atmospheres.

Founding member Michael Gira on guitar and vocals is joined by original member Norman Westberg on guitar, mid period member Christoph Hahn on guitar, Phil Puleo on drums, percussion and dulcimer (who had been on the final swans tour and most angels), Chris Pravdica on bass and gadgets (flux information sciences / services/ gunga din), Thor Harris on drums, percussion, vibes, dulcimer, curios, keys (angels, now also with Shearwater).

The record also features a bunch of guests including Bill Rieflin (long-time Swans and Angels of Light contributor, also worked with Ministry and currently drummer for REM and Robyn Hitchcock) on piano, synthesizer, organ, acoustic and electric guitar drums/percussion and more; Grasshopper's (Mercury Rev) Mr. Grass on mandolins and Devendra Banhart on lead vocals (accompanied by Gira's 3 year old daughter too!)

Ater 5 years of Angels of Light albums, this should be the most welcome addition to any Swans fan's recprd collection and a great introduction to the band's wall of sound, regardless of whether you ever even heard one of their earlier records.

Available as Digipack CD, LP + MP3 download card or MP3 download only from Gira's lable

Death Cartel: Enemy

 Posted by Cristina Zuazua (@)   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
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Nov 16 2010
Artist: Death Cartel (@)
Title: Enemy
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Created by Frank Flitton in 2009 and initially a side project from his main musical focus, The Death Cartel emerged as a creative outlet with guitarist Sebastian Kozlowski. The momentum continued from there, and a carnival of sounds converged around angry lyrics as the album progressed. Self-claimed "sounds like Tetris from Hell," The Death Cartel adds a certain depth - in contrast to many monotone electronic records - to its sound by producing vocals at different levels, nearly in canon.

The way the slower, deep vocals contrast with the bounciness of the light-speed electronica is a fun combination, and though the range of the vocals may seem to be straining at points, the sound works well with the conflicted lyrical content. It's interesting to note that during the genesis of this album, the level of production and the band's "turning point" occurred with the creation of "Rebirth," where electronic backdrop becomes heavier and more serious, in contrast with the earlier, more experimental mood of tracks such as "Your Enemy."

The Death Cartel also turned around a series of remixes following the release of Enemy, so if accelerated EBM and throaty vocals appeal, you'll want to check those out as well.


 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
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Nov 08 2010
Title: Uberschleiss
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records (@)
Rated: *****
The first time I talked about the French duo Scorpion Violente was when I reviewed their first split 7" issued by Hex Grammofoonplaten (Enfant Terrible sub label) on the summer of 2009. On that record there were the first seeds of what we can find on their first album released by Avant! and titled "Uberschleiss ", which I summed with the phrase "Suicide playing electro punk". Well, the eight tracks of this release don't offer only that: the core sound is made of distorted analog synthesizers, drum machine and filtered vocals but if Suicide were based on synth obsessive loops and raving vocals, Scorpion Violente digested those sounds and made their own which is still son of 80s industrial electronic (Cabaret Voltaire, Chris & Cosey, etc) but processed following their twisted vision. Minimal electronic mid tempos run wild on the two sides of this record which finds also a bit of Kraftwerk echoes ("Trans Europe Express" on acid) on the synth melodies of the instrumental "Ray Ov Gold". I liked all the tracks but personally I loved the sick instrumentals (like the main title, the fore mentioned "Ray Ov Gold" and "Fugue De Pute Mineure") which are able to create, with few saturated chords, powerful nightmarish atmospheres without forgetting melodies.

Strip In Midi Side: Your Stripping Experience

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Oct 28 2010
Artist: Strip In Midi Side (@)
Title: Your Stripping Experience
Format: CD
Label: New Model Label (@)
Rated: *****
Eight months after my review of their debut MCD, here are again the Strip In Midi Side with their first album. They got signed to New Model Label and they just released YOUR STRIPPING EXPERIENCE. On this album you'll find the five songs of the MCD (with the same running order) plus five new tracks. Well recorded and mastered (they chose Streaky Mastering, people who worked with Nitzer Ebb and Depeche Mode) the album shows well the multifaceted soul of the band: goth, industrial, new wave and pop are all elements that the four Strip In Midi Side are confortable with. On different tracks (for example "Art is insanity" or "I want") the band pass from rock industrial obsessive riffs/distortions, to British pop melodies creating an effective contrast where energy and irony coexist. "Bring me down", song that we already know, starts like a Apoptygma Berzerk tune just to turn into a melodic Peter Murphy one and follows playing with these influences adding a personal touch here and there. "You don't know" mix Nin Inch Nails to the best melodic moments of Foo Fighters (some melodies recall me "The pretender"). Like a giant sponge they four Italian guys absorbed the best sounds of those genres just to digest and spit them in your face. Upbeat, irreverent, energetic, YOUR STRIPPING EXPERIENCE is only waiting four your judgement...

Totakeke: On The First Of November

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Industrial Music / Industrial Metal / Aggro Industrial / Electro Metal
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Oct 17 2010
Artist: Totakeke
Title: On The First Of November
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Rated: *****
Here's another Tympanik Audio artist, Frank Mokros under the moniker Totakeke. Totakeke also happens to be the Japanese name of K.K. Slider, the black and white guitar-playing dog in the anthropomorphic Animal Crossing video game. Totakeke has had several other releases out going back to 2003 (none of which I've heard), so he is no newbie in the electro-industrial music biz. Tympanik calls him 'one of their most revered and iconic artists' and 'On The First Of November' 'His most focused work to date'. Oh boy. This is gonna be difficult'¦

There is no doubt there is an awful lot going on in 'On The First Of November' but I'd hardly call it focused. The majority of it seems to be constructed of scattershot percussion and bursts of dull beats with meandering synths. I am hard-pressed to elicit any cohesion from this. Mokros has his moments of percussive programming brilliance, but it is all so overwhelmed in the miasma of the synth-work that it only rarely comes together with any real presence or conviction. There is a lot of complexity here, even melodic complexity at times, but it is often difficult to follow. Only now and then do themes develop that are at all memorable, and a lack of vocals don't help either. I think when you're doing this kind of electro-industrial (mostly) instrumental music you really need solid thematic definition to make an impact. For me, it's not happening on the 1st of November, or any other day of the month for that matter.

One problem is Totakeke's heavy-handedness and nowhere is that more apparent than on track 4 (they're all untitled) where a (synthetic?) acoustic guitar plays the opening part in the track with minimal string backing and lacks any delicacy or finesse. A lot of the synth-work has a melodic randomness about it that leaves little for the listener to hold onto. There's a theme in there somewhere, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.

There are actually some passages that sounded potentially interesting, like the heavy jungle beat on track 5. It was very atmospheric but utterly sabotaged by the synth-work. Track 6 begins with an ominous dark ambience with creepy processed vox, and then gets into a pretty cool sequenced techno-synth groove, but is soon broken up by stutter-beat breaks and a diffuse battery of other percussive elements that derailed its impact. With so much abstraction and diversion, and way too much going on, it's really difficult to process.

On a positive note, the piano on the last track reminded me musically of LOST (the TV show), and its simple chords and melody seemed the most lucid concession to a real theme on the entire album, and the rest of the instrumentation supported it. There is a difference between 'challenging listening' and 'a listening challenge'. There is a lot more of the latter than the former on this album. I'm sure 'On The First Of November' must have been incredibly difficult to put together, and the painstaking programming effort shows, but the end result just doesn't do it for me.

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