Music Reviews

Celadon: Bitter Sweet

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jun 07 2010
Artist: Celadon (@)
Title: Bitter Sweet
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CD BABY
Rated: *****
Celadon is back with a new release titled 'Bitter Sweet'. The last I heard from this Seattle project of Eria Maia's was his 'Post Industrial Delicacies' CD a while back. As I recall, it was kind of a scattershot, unfocused affair that left me scratching my head. There were some good ideas and signs of talent but it seemed buried in the effluvia of excess with a lo-fi veneer. I'm happy to report though that Celadon has solved most of these problems and added a few new twists.

Beginning with 'Dark Decorum: The Gothic Charm School Theme Song' (polite mix), Maia shows that he can pull off an instrumental track with some complexity and panache. It is sort of pleasantly melancholy neoclassical little tune with a spritely pace. I get the impression that Eric didn't write the song, as it is 'based' on the music from the Gothic Charm School video. I went to check that out, and had a good chuckle, not because of the music. 'The Lady of Manners,' Jillian Venters, who started this Gothic Charm School thing (book, website, videos, etc.), is a hoot! Well, I suppose Goth needs a spokesperson to defend its poor maligned image, and she's as good a choice as anyone to take on the job. Anyway, Celadon carries off the track with aplomb, and I suppose the association can't hurt in the publicity department.

The next track, 'Passageway' features vocals by Sataray backed mostly by harmonium and percussion. Sataray's witchy voice sounds like she's invoking some kind of ancient ritual magic, and it sounds pretty spooky. 'The Deepest Sea' is a remix of an older Celadon track with a shoegazer flavor submerged in an ocean of sonics without being shoegazer music. 'Fuligin' might be what Tuxedo Moon would sound like if they were an Industrial band and had a progressive rock guitarist guesting. Somewhat slow and heavy with atypical percussive accents and a lot of background ambience. 'Sinister Device' has Balinese-like percussion rhythms, a dark bass undercurrent and a variety of other dense sonic elements that weave in and out of the music. We get another mix of with 'Dark Decorum: The Gothic Charm School Theme Song' (subversive mix) that is a bit heavier than the first, but to me, it's a case of 'too much of a good thing'. Moving on, 'The Long Walk Home' features Vanessa Skantze on wordless vocals that aren't quite in the Lisa Gerrard category, but still present a sorrowful wailing lament. Celandon's musical backing keeps it from getting buried in tragedy. 'Wisteria' follows, with Sataray again lending her voice, and this time it's an actual song with lyrics. The song is enshrouded in a ghostly musical atmosphere with quasi-trip hop beats. Nice track; Mr. Maia ought to work with this lady more often. 'Last track, 'A Stately Decline' was done live as a solo bass improvisation for butoh dance, but it doesn't sound much like a bass solo to me. It does feature the lower frequencies enmeshed in a wailing wall of noise, but I couldn't really get into it. Overall, 'Bitter Sweet' is a pretty decent release; it certainly has some good things going for it. I think Celadon needs just a wee bit more tempering, and maybe a full-time creative co-conspirator.
May 30 2010
Artist: Tonal Y Nagual
Title: La Sierra Mecanica
Format: CD
Label: Confusibombus/UMB (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
Departing from the unseen desert ' the title of their very first debut in 2007 - with the bare necessities and a musical rescue kit lovely prepared inside UMF (acronym of United Manipulation Broadcasting, the industrial label managed by Daniel Hoffmann aka Dan Courtman) as well as from the shamanic teachings by Carlos Castaneda as Sandro Salaris aka Giueseppe Tonal and Timm Rambuscheck aka Tikki Nagual mediated their aliases from the vision by Don Juan, partially reflecting the anatomic detachment of human brain between rational and irrational emisphere, these interesting creative minds slightly alter their musical course: from the primordial neo-folk experiments of their previous releases Tonal Y Nagual ' I warmly recommend to listen The Hidden Oasis, licendes by Thonar Records two years ago -, luckily inspired by wicked spirits met in the above-mentioned desert as well as by some intelligent pop acts and industrial rock legends , moved towards a style which is not so easy to describe, as ingredients borrowed from dirtiest blues, hypnotic rhythms, medieval, shamanic hymns as well as from the repertoires by different bands and projects such as Cabaret Voltaire and Interpol have been overcooked in the same cauldron! The final result, even if somewhat paradoxical for the intertwining of a certain lo-fi feel and a modernist appeal and technical tricks which comply with contemporary music lovers' wishes, is really enjoyable.

Maybe in order to suggest the idea of continuity between their past releases and this new work, TyN wittingly introduce their journey throughout La Sierra Mecanica with an ideal outro for their last album and The Hidden Oasis potentially summarize the style of the same-titled record, including the conceptual starting point for their further explorations, impressed on listener's mind through the 'racist' fake statement according to which 'Whiteman got no riddim', title of the second track in which these guys begin contaminating their sound with electro-pop poisons and a pulsating blues vein. The following Another, the most relevant crossbread between their usual bizarre folk and Interpol, is worthy of praise as it definitively debunk any possibility to say La Sierra Mecanica could act as the typical album to throw away the past. Their bastardized sense of humor resurfaces in Honey, an eccentric debris of lyrics standing as the silliest and strategic declaration in order to survive in the mechanical Sierra, cranky dance beating and a disorientating melancholic touch, and the following Mister Cranky Tree, whose harsh computerized beats, violent scratchy sound, wispy guitars and cheeky cut melody perfectly fits to the portrait of 'the monster in the universe' the lyrics refer to.

Lux Cypher and Grave are maybe the most touching episodes of the whole record, being the first based on guessed lyrics playing on the contrast between the apparent lightness of a feather and its catching request to release its burden (whimsical!!!) and travelling on a musical locomotive, snorting mechanical rhythms close to electro-house experiments by Joakim ' concentrate on details, including the stifled mocking laughter in the beginning of the track - , and the second a sort of self-portait by Genevieve Pasquier, whose gothic groaning has been wonderfully translated into a velvety music language, totally muddled by the disdainful Get Out OF Our Way, by Tonal Y Nagual! The Loneliest Place commutes the folk song into a structure which reminds to me that kid of circular rhythms superbly explored by Allerseelen, while the disembodied glam rock of Dirty Maiden could evoke the most irreverent side of Nina Hagen. Machines go angrier and angrier on Tribes Of The Night, a violent jolt of industrial punk ' I personally like the way TyN modulates the voice when shouting 'It's oveeeeeer!'-, and after the scornful and messy parenthesis of Der Bergkonig ' how terrificly mechanical that flying bumble bee appears here! -, the process of assimilation to biomechanical forms seems completed on the stomping Cog In The Machine, a morbid technoid/EBMish mutant close to the most furious and provocative language by Thrussell's Black Lung and Front Line Assembly as well. The album closes with the intriguing and illuminating reading of The Real Outro about the crisis human being's experiencing nowadayas, even if it closes with two nice winks to frenziest dancers, the wild 'telektronicpronky' remix of Proud To Be by Die Perlen ' old codgers will rejuvenate after listening! ' and the grazed version of Cog In The Machine by Zero Degree, wisely re-entitled Kaputt Maschine!!! Will TyN a new way of composing or a sort of alien language in the industrial scene? In my modest opinion, they presented all credentials by delivering this album!!! Have a listen!

CURL: We Are Complex

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 28 2010
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Artist: CURL
Title: We Are Complex
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic
Formed in the mid nineties from an intuition of FranKA, Corpus Delicti's former guitarist, Curl are releasing in 2010 their third album titled WE ARE COMPLEX. With this new project FranKA wanted to create new wave influenced songs where electronic sounds help enriching the formula. Formed by him on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Harly Alker on vocals, Yves Pleiser at drums, Manuel Acqualent on bass guitar and Wil helping them live for the additional guitars, the band composed a sensual album where alternated male and female vocals create involving atmospheres. Most of the songs are mid tempos where the electronic sounds are well balanced with guitars and a punching distorted bass guitar. Sometimes you can hear echoes of The Cure thanks to clean guitar arpeggios alternated to distorted riffs or Curve, but you can't reduce Curl's sound to that, because also pop and trip-hop find place into their dna. WE ARE COMPLEX is a good blend of all these elements and if you like energetic riffs and seducing atmospheres you should check this out...

SWEET WILLIAM: Brighter Than The Sun

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 25 2010
Title: Brighter Than The Sun
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic
Active since the mid eighties, Sweet William during the years released albums for labels such as Big Noise Rec., Dion Fortune, Hyperium, Datakill, etc. Their latest album has been recently released by D-Monic, French label which is a subdivision of M-Tronic. The fourteen tracks of BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN mix goth rock melodies, electronic arrangements and new wave melancholy. Passing from the mid tempos of the opening "Be around" arriving to the psychedelic dark ballad "Nowhere rd." Sweet William pass through the electronic wave of "Lonely bedroom" (maybe the song I preferred) and the pulsating goth electronic of "So long". Using different approaches for every song the band sound is characterized by a sort of melancholic energy thanks to the warm voice of Oliver Heuer and to the electronic rock wave atmospheres created by Frank Breuer and Markus Gerlach.

Grimm: Kalt Wie Dein Herz

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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May 24 2010
Artist: Grimm (@)
Title: Kalt Wie Dein Herz
Format: CD
Label: Danse Macabre Records (@)
Distributor: Danse Macabre Records
Rated: *****
From Hamburg, Germany, comes Grimm, a Goth-Electo-Industrial band to be reckoned with. Not surprising since Germany has produced some of the finest dark electronic music in the world- Funker Vogt, Wumpscut, Die Krupps, Haujobb, D.A.F., X Marks the Pedwalk, Wolfsheim, Beborn Beton, Terminal Choice, Bigod 20, Das Ich'¦the list goes on and on. So what does Grimm have to contribute to the electro-industrial music scene with 'Kalt Wie Dein Herzd'? Well, some pretty good things in my estimation, with just a few caveats. First, for the non-Deutsche-speaking readers, the title of the album roughly translates to 'Cold Like Your Heart'. The great thing about German EBM and electro-industrial music is that you usually don't have to understand the language to appreciate it. In fact, sometimes it's better that way as you pretty music get the drift for the expression and tone; its more of a feeling than an intellectual exercise. So it's good to hear a band like this sing exclusively in their native tongue (which fits most of the music anyway) rather than in English just to be more accessible to sell records. The band consists of Andreas Hellmanzik: Keyboards, Synths, Programming, Mix - Jan Sörensen: Voice, Lyrics with additional musicians- Marc Bargmann: Guitars and Carina De Jesus: Vocals, Backing Vocals. Although Andreas and Jan seem to be the core of Grimm, the music is so integrated that neither Marc nor Carina seem like side-musicians.

From the first 30 seconds or so of the opening track, I thought I might be in for a hard industrial EBM ride throughout, but such was not the case. (Note: if you're looking for four-on-the-floor monotony, you'd better look elsewhere because you won't find it here.) First track 'Konsumier Mich' (Consume Me) has a galloping beat and a cool synth sound like one of those plastic whirling 'singing tube' toys (remember them) run through some electronic processing. Jan's diabolic vocals sound like a combination of Rudy Ratzinger and Klaus Larsen. Marc's industrial guitar appropriately fills in the gaps and adds rhythmic impulse but doesn't override the proceedings. The first surprise occurs on the chorus when Carina's voice descends like an angel from the heavens. A neat contrast that really makes the first track special. I guess if there had to be a single from the album, it would be this track.

'Parasit,' the track that follows is harder; very KFDM and Hanzel und Gretyl, mit den guitarren und heavy metal beat. Once again the vocal duo of Jan and Carina works fabulously with Jan's hard voice raging on the verses and Carina's breezy vocals in the chorus. Of course, the music changes appropriately for each. Quite a cool contrast. 'Fuerio!' sounds like a real anthemic stadium fist-pumper on the chorus (sung by Jan, not Carina this time) that even Rammstein would have been proud if they came up with it. On this track he shows that he has a more versatile voice than either Klaus or Rudy, even though sometimes (on later tracks I'll mention) he pushes it a little beyond his boundaries.

'Tanzen' treads on Reznor territory with its deliberate pacing, heavy piano chords and monster guitar. A brief little reggae rhythm break with Carina's wordless melodic vocals really hits the spot too. The following track, the slow-moving 'Schon' didn't work as well for me, as Jan's moaning, groaning vocals sounded like he had a touch of indigestion, although the little Cure-like guitar riff was a nice touch but not enough to make it interesting.

'Ameisen' reminded me of Type-O Neg without really sounding like them. Carina comes back to croon a few syllables, which is welcome. Personally, I think their vocal tradeoff works better for them than a band like say, L'Ame Imortelle, simply because there is more contrast. This interplay resurfaces throughout most of the rest of the album too, and on 'Energie' Carina really shows off her pipes.

Much credit must be given to Andreas for his inventive arrangements and programming. This guy is as good as it gets for this type of music, creating just the right mood and rhythm, and melodic support for every track. Bargmann's guitar is just right too; these 'additional musicians' shouldn't be considered auxiliary; they're an integral part of Grimm's sound and what sets them apart from the slew of bands making dark electronic-based music. The only other downside for me was the bonus track, 'Gute Reise,' kind of a farewell power ballad. I think you really need to be German (or understand the language better than I do) ro appreciate the emotional impact it was striving for.

All-in-all though, 'Kalt Wie Dein Herz' is a surprisingly mature and varied work for a relatively new band. I think their music defies categorization; elements of Goth, Electro-Industrial Metal, Darkwave, and more come into play, and some songs might trip your trigger more than others, but it's absolutely worth putting in the shopping cart. This is something I'd definitely be interested in seeing live. Just buy me a plane ticket to Hamburg.

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