Music Reviews



VV.AA.: Berlin Insane IV

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 23 2007
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Berlin Insane IV
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Pale Music Int.
Distributor: Neuton
Rated: *****
This fourth volume of the Berlin Insane series has been a real surprise. Pleasant? Somehow, dunno if for you it will be the same. It depends how much are you fond of r'n'r/punk sound. To cut a long story short, the fist CD opens with the beautiful "Gott sei's getrommelt" by N.U. Unruh, a track made using metal percussing sounds that reminded me Polynesian folk sounds (if not from Polynesia you have understood what part of the world I am referring to) but after that you find a crescendo of r'n'r'/punk tracks/bands that make you question if you are listening to the right record. Some bands like Electronicat, Mount Sims (his new track sounds a little different from his previous ones but it don't changes his style. It is a little more r'n'r because of the melody chosen) or Boys Of Scandinavia have a oblique approach to the r'nr' verb (i.e. they use a lot of electronic stuff and in the case of B.O.S. the singers remember a little Jonny Rotten). The same goes with the following bands but little by little their sound is more and more based on the bass/guitar/drum sound and it surprised me to see Kid Congo Powers (ex Cramps or Gun Club) on Pale Music. A little exception is T.Raumschmiere Vs. Motor which uses samples from an old Cypress Hill song (it is "Insane in the brain"). Wow, man, listening to these tracks it was like listening to a particular Crypt Records compilation. There's also space for indie a la Bloc Party with Rich & Kool's "A 13". Also Neonman sound different from the album they released... I'll write it again: wow. This is innovating a genre, for sure. It is all about audience: if you plays to techno/electro guys, danceable punk rock this is something new for them... Anyway. The second CD is opening with a semi rap track, "Crime scene" by Stinkmitt and at this point I thought: "No! I'm not ready for this!". He, he. Luckily enough the following tracks are top electro tracks thanks to Glamour To Kill, Jake The Rapper, Mark Moore & Kinki Roland, Waldorf (their "a touch of glass mix" of "Get ready for your last dance" sounds like a 70s/80s mix. Do you remember the early Phoenix songs?). Also on this CD there are little exceptions like The Scandals or Crack Whore Society, Pink Grease and Grizzly that mix r'n'r/punk and a little of electronics. Noblesse Obliges is something totally different, because you must mix a chanteause with a bass guitar and a cool atmosphere. It was a surprise also to see Punx Soundcheck (featuring Gene Serene) dealing with a semi punk tune a la Suzi Quatro. The CD closes with Jammin' Unit's "Ich bin punk", a track that sounds like a drunk ragamuffin playing a rock song (the track I like less). Approaching to these 38 tracks compilation you have to remember that this is the document of an event that take place each year in Berlin and that shows that many faces of a city and of its music. Don't take it as an electro compilation of cool tracks as you won't be satisfied...

SERO.OVERDOSE: Heading For Tomorrow

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jan 10 2007
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Artist: SERO.OVERDOSE (@)
Title: Heading For Tomorrow
Format: CD
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Soulfood
Rated: *****
Already the third album for this German Synth-/Futurepop trio, which features asides front man Andre Hartung (vocals) Mike Johnson and Oliver Senger of AGONOIZE, INFEKKTION or the deleted VIRTUAL EMBRACE project responsible for the sounds and production. So this release of course got mastered under his reliable hands at his Mao-Music studio in Berlin. There are no relations to Mike’s harsh EBM projects of course, musically this release lives and dies through the charismatic voice of Andre Hartung. Somehow he reminds me a bit on some MESH tunes while managing hard to give the rather cold, but also very modern sounds of Johnson some own identity. Andre does well for sure, also from the side of production there can’t be any failure, but I miss a bit more of a catchy content. Tracks like "Fire" or "Your Road" will storm the hearts of the dancefloor-junkies for sure, but a lot of other pieces simply leave your brain and ears unimpressed. This Synthpop-bomb doesn’t ignite - with that only one very sentimental arranged exception "Du" providing thoughtful German lyrics and deep-sad message. May this album would work better with 3 – 4 tunes of this kind. I think this album tries hard not to fall into that melancholic or romantic-inspired field. If the music and sounds are really modern enough has to be proven.
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Artist: LOST AREA (@)
Title: Dare To Dream
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Official debut album for this German/Swiss Electro-Goth quartet, which is self-produced, self-released and also self–funded. This fact I would like to point out in advance, I’ve seldom before received an own produced debut album, which features such an enormous professionalism into the press sheet, a printed and glossy info sheet with clear introduction of the band, its members, the music style and the audience they would like to reach with it. A strong effort which sets the existence of some labels in question. You wanna hear facts? Well, 1000 pressed copies is along the line, but DJ and club support through Hardbeat Propaganda is mostly only possible with the help of a solvent label, a full-color glossy booklet featuring lyrics and band photos is also not the cheapest thing on earth, furthermore there are some well-known scene acts doing some remix works for this newcomer, from which – I guess – only a half got done thanks to a good friendship. Thumbs up for the management – in person of band member Jan Bertram - professional work should pay off somehow. But what counts is the music – and so the matter of subject, on which I’ve got some things to nag at. It is obviously that the current scene lacks of new influences and ideas. Besides that still euphoric celebrated Hellektro-virus I’ve got the feeling that the success-promising formula to combine Synth-/Future-/Electro-Pop with a deep sea of Goth-like sadness and an 80-ties Pop/Wave-inspired portion of Romantic spreads out some new flowers. You know it, the BLUTENGEL syndrome – not very new and a unique style or what can be called an innovation, but at times with some remarkable bitter-sweet results. If LOST AREA like it or not – their intention to combine "Electro with Emotion" somehow throws this band stylistically into this bucket. The music itself plays along the expected lines, pseudo-aggressive or distorted sounds are left out to make sure a decent Electro-Pop imaginary. The problem hides moreover in the provided male/female vocals. While I’m quite impressed by the performance Daniela Dietz (ex-ILLUMINATE and so experienced...) is able to offer, ranging between smooth and emotional up to devotional and dramatic, I have some doubts on the quality of Jan Moser’s voice. A bit too theatrically and too obviously the try to hide some weaknesses, his voice often seems to fight instead of being a unit to his female partner. Compositionally good pieces like "Vengeance Of Nature" so go down the drain, I’m rather impressed by "Stolen Child" featuring Daniela’s solo voice. This CD features 7 original recordings and 8 remix works – as I’ve said including some big names like BLUTENGEL, CEPHALGY, ACCESSORY or UNHEILIG, but also some underrated acts like the Accession-Records-recording act SPEKTRALIZED and some up and coming talents like RE:\LEGION or EUROCIDE. All remix works depend on previously recorded tracks of the band, I guess taken out of their limited 2K5 release "Gabriel". So I don’t know the original compositions, but some good tunes I’ve discovered here. The CEPHALGY remix of "Penhesilea" features an addictive bass line, also both works of UNHEILIG and A FLOWER FOR TUESDAY on the track "Deconstruction" are worth to listen to. Strange-wise – or should I say obviously – these tracks offer again the sophisticated vocal performance of Daniela Dietz, "Deconstruction" alone features diversity thanks to the use of French lyrics. Well – it has to be proven, if LOST AREA are the next big thing for this genre – too many try so with a similar quality. But good promotional efforts and the continuation and belief in what they are doing here should pay off. I wish them the best.

SD6: Between Noise And Transmission

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jan 10 2007
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Artist: SD6 (@)
Title: Between Noise And Transmission
Format: CD
Label: 23 DB (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Records
Rated: *****
A new release for Tom Shear’s 23DB label – well, I’m a bit surprised by this. I rather thought he would release acts near his friendship (LOST SIGNAL) or projects in which he's involved in like his fine and underrated NERVE.FILTER project. But by listening to the offered quality which the originally Portland-based SD6 is capable to bring on, I can totally understand him that he couldn’t resist to give this talented act a home. SD6 is a two female/one male-project consisting of Brendan Jerwa, Jessica Blackshear and Nicole Edmonds and has been built up already in 2002. Being the survivors of the ADSR-recording artist OMNIBOX, Brendan and Jessica could pick up Nicole with a move to Seattle and so enter new inspiration. Thanks to the fact that Brendan could break-through as a comic book author, this debut release has taken its time. Tom Shear was chosen to do the production and mastering of this release, which offers for a debut an amazing routine placed into all components like arrangements, sounds and lyrical content. Of course, it is musically based on Synth-, Future- or Electropop, very much influenced of Tom’s ASSEMBLAGE 23 project, or COVENANT, or SEABOUND – but I guess any other style would be surprising, wouldn’t it? Brandon’s well suited vocals are coming clear and understandable through the mix, also conspicuous is the kind of their rhythm and drum pattern programming featuring several Breakbeat or D’n’B influences ("Fallen" or the amazing final track "Free") – a strong preference for them against to some comparable European acts. Danceable tunes like "Believe" or "Timestream" should animate the dancefloor-junkies to some action, while the highlight can be named in the sentimental "The World Divide", one of the best pieces ever written and arranged in this genre!!! Not to forget the only one track featuring female-leaded vocals "Untruth", another fine example of the transformation ability this band can offer. Congrats to both, band and Tom, for a release which would be a jewel in the stable of every label around. With more upcoming releases in this quality, 23DB will grow to be the elite label this genre has to offer.

TECHNOIR: Deliberately Fragile

 Posted by Marc Tater (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
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Jan 08 2007
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Artist: TECHNOIR (@)
Title: Deliberately Fragile
Format: CD
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Soulfood
Rated: *****
The German male/female duo of TECHNOIR, presents us here their new full-length CD after their appetizing EP release "Manifesto", which got released in August 2006. Like you may expected, they play a catchy sort of Synthpop/Electronic dance music. While this EP scored enormous and could enter the German Alternative Charts thanks to the included club hits "Manifesto", "Silence" or "Liar", the expectations in between have been grown. TECHNOIR globally manage hard to satisfy this expectations and offer a quality release mostly driven by Julia’s melodious vocals well integrated in Steffen’s constant good synth play. With the track "Dying Star" they’ve also created a piece which can follow the way "Manifesto" has taken. Also included are some rather ballad-like arranged and heart-felting tracks like "Near You", a mysterious piece thanks to some ominous placed synth layers like "Darkest Days" and with the instrumental work "Beatitudes" Steffen’s abilities as a musician are asked for. Catchy and melodic Synthpop – yes - but Pop music, which can drive them near to some major chart positions – I guess rather no! Like with many releases this genre has to offer, it doesn’t really wonder that this album has found open ears at the Alfa-Matrix headquarter. Music along the expected line...


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